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Gun Deaths of / by Police Officers

July 8, 2016

Our cultural propensity to violence makes us all responsible for the deaths by gun in America. We know what’s going on. That propensity is a major psychopathology of our democracy, and gun violence has long been a feature of our justice system.

In 2016, before the Dallas attack, in 21 police officers had been shot to death while on duty. Police officers had shot 500+  “civilians” to death (990 in 2015). 123 of the civilians were black (roughly double the AA % of the population), and some number of those shootings were murders, including executions that we have seen on film.

We use guns as a major means for expressing, and trying to resolve, our psychological struggles. With guns our psycho-propensity to violence fuses with two other “psychopathologies of American democracy” (the subject of this novel):  our psycho-racism, and our psycho-sexism (e.g. domestic violence).

Mostly we meet justice, first-hand, in the form of daily sightings of police officers, or sometimes (very rarely, in my life) encounters with them.  Maybe we’re stopped because we have a tail light that isn’t working.  That’s worth pointing out.  It could cause an accident.

Our system of justice should be the institutionalization of a concept that provides both a perspective and an overarching structure within which we can deal with our socially inherited psychopathologies, nonviolently. Like placing a person with a physical illness within the healing structure of a hospital, we should be able to enfold our inevitable psycho-social illnesses within the larger, rational, mutual effort to live in a just society.

“With justice for all, and [thereby] malice towards none.”

Instead, we enfold society within a death-wish. We want too kill. The death of someone will put an end to our troubles. We maximize the availability of guns, fetishize them in the hands of (white) men, and let people shoot it out. Well, that’s what it feels like. At any rate, we give individual agents of the state the ability to legally take a life, either on impulse or by plan.

In the West, we’ve been struggling to clarify what justice is, and how it relates to governmental power over the life and death or citizens, famously since at least Greek tragedy (Antigone), ca. 2500 years ago. We have been trying to work out, on the one hand, the rights and responsibilities of the state, in wielding physical, even lethal, power to provide healthy civil order, and on the other hand the rights and responsibilities of the person to construct a healthy private and public life.

We have figured out the concept that it’s a matter of psychological health, the needs of both the individual and the community, with the purpose of enhancing life against death.

I’m trying to imagine Antigone with guns on stage. Open carry by Creon’s police officers. Black people selling CDs, driving cars. Just like in Athens, hell to pay while we work it out.

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