Vigilantism, self-defense and child abuse. Right or Wrong?
Trigger Warning: This blog deals with my thoughts and feelings stemming from a news story about a man murdering the molester/rapist of his daughter. I briefly discuss vigilantism, and self-defence. It's not a deep blog, but it's sorta all over, meanders a bit, and might be difficult to read if you're the victim of molestation or rape.
If you have been abused, please seek help. See your school counsellor, call the police, or go to the hospital. You don't have to face it alone, and there are people who can and want to, help you.
About a week ago a father in Texas beat a man to death. We heard about it, nationwide, because he walked in on a man molesting the man's daughter. Like most parents, the man freaked out and intervened. The molester was beaten to death-- one of those almost trite "beaten about the head and shoulders" things.
The father was very contrite, and seemed to feel genuinely sorry for killing the man. As of last Friday, the grand jury had not yet been convened; the Sheriff's office wasn't going to file charges, but the grand jury might still. We have to wait and see.
Which brings me to today's blog. I have been thinking about this case since I first heard about it. I went away for part of the weekend, and still thought about it. I thought about it as I meandered down the Salt River in a big rubber tube on Saturday, looking at the birds and the beautiful dragonflies. I'll write about that trip another time, though. And when I go again, I'll take a waterproof camera! It's the one thing I wish we'd had that we forgot.
The point I'm making is that such a thing sticks with you when you hear about it. Bad news often does; I have read many articles and studies that prove our brains remember bad things much better than good-- and hearing about things like fathers beating molesters to death is certainly a bad thing. when I should have been basking in the run-off from the mountains, the cold water and warm sun, my mind kept creeping back to the little girl, and her family. One part of my brain just can't shut off about that situation... even when I wanted to put it away for awhile.
So, I'm unpacking it today. We'll meander down this thought-path and see where we go.
Part of me understands why the father did what he did. Most people would spring into action to save a child from rape or molestation! Even if that action was to bodily injure the molester. It seems to be instinct, and I don't know how many people, normally very rational and non-violent, would have acted in exactly the same way, with the same result.
I really don't know.
I would like to think I'd be threatening enough that the molester/rapist would stop and then hold still til the cops came.
I'd like to think that if I did hit, punch, or smack the molester/rapist that it would be enough to help the victim and subdue their attacker.
I'd like to think that I'd act immediately, but leave someone alive for the cops to arrest.
But I don't know if I would. Leave someone alive, that is.
I don't believe the father is guilty of vigilantism. There were a lot of accusations of it online-- but most people automatically see any kind of civilian law enforcement as vigilantism. It wasn't. Under the law in Texas, it's being called "self defence of a third person" or "self-defence of his [the father's] third person." You're the first person; the attacker is the second person-- so the kid is third. Or anyone, actually. If he'd acted to protect a stranger, or another guest at their party, that could still fall under self-defence.
Self-defence is a ticky-tacky thing, really. Yes, it's necessary, and yes, we humans do act in defence of ourselves and our families and friends. We should be able to do so without worrying about the law punishing us for that! Otherwise we're best off laying down and dying, and that is not right.
But at the same time, we have these stupid "stand your ground" laws in many states that allow you to pretty much go Wild West on anyone, and claim self-defence. That's wrong! I remember hearing some adult say something along the lines of, "Well, they finally changed the law; if you do kill someone, and they fall outside, just make sure you drag them back in."
Otherwise it would be self-defence back in the 80's. Now, well, I can just about chase the asshole down and shoot him in the back and still claim I felt "threatened"... that's bullshit. That isn't self-defence. That's murder. And unfortunately there are several states that can't prosecute that-- and won't change the law to fix it, either. Arizona is one of them. My state Reps think we're still in the Wild West, and that Wyatt Earp is going to show up any time and start another shoot-out... so we all have to be prepared with our assault rifles and such. Can you hear my eyes rolling over that one? I'm afraid I'll have to smack myself in the head to get them pointed straight forward again!
However, and here's where this part gets stickier... I think the father was in the right to try to protect his daughter. I think he was right to act-- but he was wrong to kill.
If it's OK to murder someone who is doing something we don't like, and find immoral, than it's OK for people to suicide bomb churches; it becomes OK for people to fire bomb women's clinics; it would then be all right for people to randomly start shooting people for not being in church on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It'd be moral and just to kill people for eating shellfish, pork or maybe meat altogether. I can think of several things that offend me that are perfectly legal-- but if it's OK to murder people for offending us, it'd be OK to machete all those dude-bros for being pricks, and all those duck-faced women for being fucking stupid!
That is not all right. It's not OK. It's fucking wrong!
Murdering someone is wrong. You are taking their life from them-- someone no person has the right to do.
Murdering someone who's committing a crime is still wrong. Remember we tell our kids, two wrongs don't make a right? [Please no moronic jokes about wrong turns and driving; that irritates the shit out of me, and completely disregards the truth of the phrase. It isn't clever, and makes you look like a fuck-face.]
In the same way that I find capitol punishment morally reprehensible, I find the father's actions also immoral.
He was both very right, and very very wrong. Humans fuck up, and he fucked up.
That man, in his anger and attempt to protect his kid went too far.
But I don't know if he should be punished for it. He technically did not break the law. Technically he acted with an appropriate response-- at least until the grand jury comes down, and being Texas, if he'd burnt the molester/rapist to death and roasted marshmallows they'd probably let him off... it's a weird place, some times-- Texas is.
What needs to happen, in my opinion that isn't worth a shit to these people-- is that the little girl and her father need some profound therapy. I mean twice or three times a week, for the next few years. He needs to work through his guilt; guilt for not only inviting a man to his house who hurt his daughter, but for killing someone. This man has a lot of guilt.
The little girl needs therapy because not only was she violated, she saw her father beat someone... to death. The news says she's 4; even four year olds know what death is. Maybe it's hazy, but they know dead means "never waking up", or "never coming home", or "going to heaven" or whatever way it's told to them. Four year olds aren't stupid-- I started Kindergarten at 4, millions of us do that. Some of us can read and write a bit by that age; we can tie our shoes, and know our colours and how to count. I could do all those things... and I had a very vague idea that dead meant "living with Jesus up in heaven".
Over all, though, I can't say I'd have acted any differently. I consider myself a logical, thoughtful, open-minded and loving person; I am non-violent, and anti-authority. I have morals, and keep them, and one of those personal laws is: Protect those weaker than I; no matter what.
That personal moral causes most adults to cross their eyes at me and shout a collective, "Duh!" And it should! It should be completely normal, the thought of protecting people weaker than I. Not just kids, but old people, ill people, disabled and mentally handicapped, too. Animals as well. Anyone who needs someone to stand with them, they are who I mean. This means that weaker isn't a physical characteristic-- it's not a physical state; it just is. Some times, I'm the weaker, and I need help. And that's how it ought to be. We're humans right? And we're all we have.
I say that over and over, but I always mean it. We are humans; we have different shades, but we're all humans. And on this Earth, in this galaxy and endless universe, We are all We have! We have to take care of each other.
This means that some times people like me, who are logical, liberal and over-think things, will struggle with the knowledge that we probably would have done the same thing. And we hate ourselves for it. I know that I would have done the same thing. I would have wrapped my hands around that man's neck and held on til he stopped moving. I would have yelled to the little girl to "Go get your Mummy and tell her call 9-1-1!" I would have held on for everything I had, until the man was dead, and then I probably would have spit on him.
I would have killed in her defence, and I don't even know her.
Let alone the ease of which I'd act the same way for someone I do know, and love.
And that knowledge-- that knowing my inner murderer-- that makes me hate myself.
Aren't we supposed to be more evolved than that? Aren't I supposed to be better than that?
The internet has been lit with the question "is it moral to murder a child molester?" Some say yes, and other's say no. It reminds me of the ethics thought-problems you hear about, the "if there were only four parachutes and five people" or "if you were in a boat and only had food for so many people but had an extra". I don't like those questions, because I'm the kind who would try to save everyone. I'm an idealist that way.
I don't know the answers though, my idealism might be way off base, and totally out of line. I just know that some times humans are still barbarians, and act like the animals we are. We really haven't evolved very far past being afraid of predators in the dark, just outside our cave openings-- even if we do have flush toilets now.
Doesn't make it right. And it certainly doesn't make it celebratory.
It just is. Reality is like that. Fucked up as it might be-- reality just is.
You can see two stories about it here. I'm going to keep an eye on the HuffPo story, as they tend to update as often as they have information.
Huffington Post: Father allegedly kills man who molested his daughter, Texas cops say