They beat a 14-year-old child to death for a minor offense and the law says they did no wrong. Emmett Till was 14 when he was beaten to death in Mississippi back in 1955. He had supposedly whistled at a white woman but that minor offense carried a death sentence. Martin Lee Anderson had stolen his grandmother’s car and was sentenced to boot camp where he was executed for his crime.
Remember the outrage in the white community when OJ Simpson beat the murder charges against him? The evidence was compelling and appeared overwhelming yet the prosecution did not have the smoking gun of the murder weapon. They jury acquitted Simpson because they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had committed the crime. Imagine the outrage if Simpson had committed those murders on videotape and the jury still allowed him walk away.
Maybe then you might understand how the black community feels about the Martin Lee Anderson verdict. How ironic it is that parents can be brought up on charges for striking a child yet the state can beat a child to death and a jury decides there was no wrong doing. If the court had given Martin Lee Anderson a death sentence he might have received some assistance. The state will defend inmates it plans to execute there is no safer place for an inmate in prison than on death row.
The state would have dealt harshly with these officers had they murdered someone the state had condemned to death. The state maintains that it is their right alone to execute prisoners and will brook no interference from amateurs. But Martin Lee Anderson was sentenced to a boot camp modeled after American military style boot camps. Can officers hit the recruits in American military boot camps? The answer is no, can they shove ammonia capsules up their nose and sit on their chests? The answer is again no.
The purpose of boot camp is peer group training the breaking down of personal patterns to be remolded to fit into the peer group. Identical hair and clothes and hazing routine until the boot learns to fit in with the group think. The difference is the military has a message and a goal for its recruits the prison inmates in boot camps only goal is to get out. We use that word boot camp to describe such institutions because it is an American term and we are comfortable with it.
In Russia they would call this a reeducation camp or a gulag in Nazi Germany a concentration camp. In Iraq they would call it a terrorist detention facility in Cuba they would call it Guantonomo. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet and a camp by any other name is just as cruel. Oh, but I can feel the outrage from here, How dare you compare our prisons to gulags and death camps! Well, the results are the same aren’t they? After all you beat a 14-year-old child to death and your legal system ruled no harm done.
I think of the film Twelve Angry Men how Henry Fonda stood up to the other eleven jurors in defense of a young man much like Martin Lee Anderson. How the other eleven had to be convinced point by point of the suspects innocence. Despite the premise innocent until proven guilty it was far easier to just go along and trust the system so that they could get back to their own lives. But there was no Henry Fonda on the jury in Florida, no details about alibi’s or pocket knives but eyesight, put your prejudice aside and open you eyes for just one minute and watch seven officers beat a 14 year old child to death on a videotape.
It is easy enough to look away to say, it wasn’t my child. To say, well he deserved it he resisted just as the young man at the University of Florida resisted and got tasered for resisting assault and not shutting up. Or the woman police say strangled herself on her handcuffs or the young girl who was tasered and pepper sprayed for a curfew violation. We live in the age of the hidden cameras but what good do they do if they only see what we want to see?
We are taught to respect authority but in turn as innocent until proven guilty we are to be respected as well even inmates in a boot camp. I’m sure some where it says in the boot camp manual don’t kill the inmates. But power is intoxicating; history has shown it so again and again. People in authority with no check or control become progressively crueler
I am reminded of an incident in World War 2 an American had been rounded up and sent to a concentration camp, the American was outraged by his treatment.
Each camp was designated by nationality and the American was put in with the Poles. He yelled to a passing German officer "I am an American and I demand to be taken to the American camp!" The officer nodded and told a soldier, "take this man to the American camp." The soldier with out a word took the man and headed for the woods a few moments later a gunshot was heard.
He had indeed been taken to the American camp when you give unchecked power and authority to armed men this is the result. Not sometimes or most of the time but every time. The taser, the club, the fist, like the video camera we look in the mirror and see only what we want to see to justify the Gitmo’s and Hiditha’s and Abu Ghraib’s as necessary.
We are all the victims here and we are as well all to be condemned for we have become callused and conditioned to brutality and misery done in our name and the majority will gladly explain it away and trust the system. We ask ourselves, how could the German people have allowed such atrocities to be committed but now we need only to look in the mirror. When Emmett Till was murdered there was a national outcry for justice in both the white and black communities. It was considered beyond the limits of humanity to murder a child for a minor offense.
In 1968 the Mie Li massacre in Vietnam brought outrage and condemnation on the US forces involved. The American public was outraged that American troops could behave so barbarously and demanded justice. Yet in Iraq the public is content to trust the system and let the military handle these things quietly. Even the President has said about the recent Blackwater shootings, "we will investigate and if any wrong doing is found those people will be punished." What do you think? Are the Blackwater employees losing any sleep?
Or as Prime Minister Al Maliki said, "There is nothing so cheap in Iraq right now as our blood." Like wise the value of American blood goes down precipitously as well.