Angry Punishment for Anger

This one hits me deep in my childhood — a furious reaction to anger. What do we learn from this lesson? The larger, more powerful party has the right to anger– you fucking don’t.

I’d never seen this maddeningly cruel dynamic set out more forcefully, or with more clarity and restraint, than Robin Givhan did in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Who has the right to be angry?

Anyone who has been hurt by someone they trusted has a right to be angry. The party who hurt them might be able to reassure them afterwards, placate them, apologize, make things right, but that is not the usual course of things — in my experience. An angry reaction seems to cause defensiveness and even more anger in most cases. Then it is a pure, adrenalized struggle for who will prevail in their right to be angry. This struggle is generally “won” by the more violent party, as when peaceful, shouting protesters against police violence are met with the overwhelming force of militarized anti-riot police violently dispersing them. Anger is explosive, your anger can ignite the adrenalized rage of someone who can bludgeon or even kill you to carry out their oath to protect the peace. You got a problem with that?

The defense in the Derek Chauvin murder trial has a very hard job. They need to convince somebody on the jury that Chauvin acted correctly when he kept his knee on the neck and back of a handcuffed man long enough for the prone man to lose consciousness, after the man pleaded for his life for seven agonizing minutes, and who kept the pressure up once the man stopped moving, then didn’t allow the dying man to receive medical attention. On the other hand, the defense only needs to convince one juror.

How do you do show that Chauvin acted correctly, according to his police training, when his actions seemingly killed a subdued misdemeanor suspect? By showing it wasn’t his fault, that things got out of hand, as well as by establishing arguably reasonable expert witness introduced doubt about whether Chauvin’s seemingly depraved actions contributed substantially to his victim’s death.

To show George Floyd’s death was not Chauvin’s fault, the defense needs to pin the blame on somebody else. In this case, a crowd of random bystanders, who were angry and abusive, and threatening, yeah, they were menacing, they refused to disperse when they were told the slow, torture death of yet another unarmed Black man was NOTHING TO SEE. Chauvin’s colleagues, who will be tried separately for their roles in killing a handcuffed civilian, prevented anyone in the crowd from intervening, prevented CPR on the seemingly lifeless man who was probably already dead on the street. The story their lawyers need need to sell is that the police feared for their lives, feared violence from an angry mob that gathered and surrounded them, and because of that reasonable fear, may have made innocent mistakes.

Leave aside the obvious fact that the police had the guns, the police had the ability to arrest people, call in reinforcements, helicopters and every manner of militarized support. But the angry crowd had them so rattled, you understand, that they didn’t realize they were actually killing the big handcuffed guy who had stopped breathing after they kneeled on him long enough. And as for the victim, he died of other causes unrelated to having the air supply to his heart and brain constricted for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. All you have to do, if you’re the defense, is establish a little doubt in the mind of a couple of jurors, even one.

If anyone had the right to be angry, the defense could argue, it’s Chauvin and his colleagues who were being disrespected by this irrationally angry, abusive crowd as they merely performed their duties the way they’d been taught to in the academy.

It reminds me of that bagpiping piece of shit Bill Barr’s smugness in continually blaming, and provoking, victims and protesters for their anger over regular “justified” police killings of unarmed citizens. It reminds me of anyone who provokes, out of their own rage, and blames the victim for being so fucking angry.

It reminds me of my own dear mother, shaking me by the shoulders when I was small, snarling “what did anybody ever do to you to make you so fucking angry?!” If I’d had the presence of mind as a kid, I’d have said “I don’t know, mom, maybe it’s my mother angrily shaking the shit out of me and demanding to know what I was so angry about?”

“She never laid a hand on you, you lying prick,” says the skeleton of my father. And as the doors open, I hop off this train, it’s become a bit stuffy in this car.

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