Thursday, four young children, aged between four months and ten years old are marking their first days without the loving embrace of their police officer fathers. After the bagpipes go silent and the flags are folded and presented, what message will we as a society leave for these babies and children as they grow up without the guidance, love and comfort of a father?
Some have a twisted unconscionable message to send, that somehow their fathers and the children were simply disposable collateral damage in the pursuit of a more grand just cause, or worse yet deserving of their fate by being heartless oppressors.
I have heard this kind of revolting diatribe before. When sociopathic narcissists or psychopaths spill blood of innocents or destroy, there are always their vocal advocates lurking behind memes and keyboards.
Subculture of Ignorance
There is simply a subculture of imbecile enablers. They line up on the Intenet or elsewhere, falling all over themselves to promote the latest killer celebrity or conspiracy theory. It's not just with the recent revenge killings of police in California. When Mulegetta Seraw, a young Ethiopian immigrant father was murdered by bat wielding neo-Nazi skinheads, hatemonger Tom Metzger spread the word on phone banks that it was a public service. When murderer Eric Robert Rudolph bombed Atlanta's Centennial Park, an abortion clinic, and a gay bar, Internet postings, bumper stickers and signs from anti-government loons cheered: "Run, Eric, Run." One website posted abortion provider personal information and proclaimed that those who do violence against them are doing G-d's work. In some parts of the Earth Liberation Movement, the Unabomber is deemed a hero. On the now-defunct Revolution Muslim, its cofounder got giggles running a mock execution of Daniel Pearl. Bigots in Tennessee vandalized a mosque building site in Tennessee during a time when the Internet was rife with warnings about the connection between it and a nonexistent Sharia law takeover. Nazi Bill White took to the Internet against President Obama with a picture of the president in a rifle sight under the headline "Kill this N---er?"(dashes inserted). And of course there is Alex Jones' insightful idiocy about the role of the government in 9/11. Even the victim families from Newtown were not spared the brush of conspiracy theorists.
Narcissists Validate Personal Revenge With a Greater Cause
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism is wholly opposed to censoring free speech on the basis of content, but we feel no compunction about exposing stupidity. Moreover, while rightly protected, speech that condones violence in the abstract must be countered in the marketplace of ideas. As a criminologist I can tell you there are many narcissists who scapegoat personal failures into the intoxicant of violence for some higher cause and the validation they get from news and social media attention. Forensic psychiatrist Michael Wellner recently warned on CNN about the danger of catering to violent narcissists who validate their violence by branding it to a cause. Despite disclaimers, HuffPost's own Mark Lamont Hill lost me when he delved from explaining why some people regard SoCal's latest spree killer as a "superhero," into becoming a bit of a cheerleader: "It's kind of exciting."
To be sure, institutions and the people in them can fail and do terrible things. When I saw a problem with racial profiling I didn't blow up police cars, I worked with police and others across California to produce better training and implement standards. When I found homeless people were being murdered, I didn't shoot legislators, I presented research to them so laws could be changed.
What this spree killer did -- murdering a young couple, an African-American young man and his Asian fiancé, as well as two white fathers of young children -- accomplished nothing for any cause other than violence and his own vendetta.
Violence Stains The Cause For Equality
To equate him with the best our civil rights leaders stand for is to stain the cause we continue to strive for.
Civil rights advocate Connie Rice, who has sued the LAPD, made the point well:
Nothing justifies his murder of innocents or his threats against LAPD personnel and their families ... Anyone who can't see the difference between a chief who callously defended the brutal beating of Rodney King and a chief who leads a majority of color police force that seeks the trust of the poor black and poor Latino communities has lost his way.
When Martin Luther King accepted his Nobel Prize in 1964, he said:
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
On the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy said,
[T]he vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
So the message I would have for these beautiful young children of Riverside Officer Michael Crain and San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah McKay would be that your fathers are the best America had to offer. That our freedoms are advanced by those who use persuasion, and that our liberty is protected by those brave ones who stand between us and violence. Your dad was one of those few special people, who perished safeguarding that and now has a special place in G-d's embrace for doing so.