Yesterday the militants in Oregon who were involved in a stand off with federal government agencies got their first taste of state-sanctioned violence when the FBI opened fire on several of its members, wounding many and killing one. The militant who was killed appeared to be unarmed with his hands in the air at the time that he was shot. Yet despite the fact that an unarmed man who was complying with law enforcement was shot and killed by them in cold blood, many in mainstream and social media were quick to blame the victim for getting murdered.
The most common argument I have seen so far coming mostly from those champions of peace, love and understanding in the statist-left just boils over the pot with malicious hypocrisy. The claim they are making is that since the man had explicitly claimed, in earlier statements, his intention and/or willingness to die before being captured by government thugs, that his death should be ruled a ‘suicide by cop’ and is therefore justified and totally cool. Now let us take a look at their logic.
First of all, even if it were a ‘suicide by cop’, is it morally and/or legally ever justifiable for government agents to assist someone with a suicide if…
- they do not pose a direct and immediate threat to them
- the intent to assist is based on being hurtful rather than helpful
- the method is cruel, undignified and without compassion?
I don’t really think that it is, but I often find myself parting ideological ways with the ignorant, incomplete, hypocritical and often maligned morality of the state and its supporters. Suicide by cop is often used to justify killing by agents of the state. Yet the justification rarely meets the ethical, moral and legal standards that anyone worth associating with strives to maintain. Further, since assisted suicide itself is illegal in pretty much every other state in the nation outside of Oregon, wouldn’t federal agents assisting with a suicide be breaking suicide laws on top of everything else?
However, to rule the death a suicide because of an earlier statement ignores some pretty critical factors. Human beings are complicated. Our desires, wishes and whims are subject to change at any given moment. Even in the moment when we are about to receive what we wished for. To define the victim’s intention and desires at the time that he was killed based on previous statements is not at all rational. None of us has access to the inner states of others. Their subjective experience can never be guessed at with anything even approaching objective knowledge. So unless Uri Geller, Sylvia Browne, John Edwards, Miss Cleo and Rasputin’s well-hung ghost were all on the scene to verify this man’s desire to die, we have absolutely nothing to justify an intention to commit ‘suicide by cop’.
His statement that he would not ever be taken by government officials to be put in a concrete box also never explicitly states that he wanted to be killed by government agents, even in a situation where his capture appeared imminent. He may very well have been stating his intention to kill himself should it appear he was going to be caged up. And since he committed no crimes for which it was unthinkable that he may have posted bond between his arrest and his sentencing date, he may have planned to commit the suicide on his own terms. Perhaps in his own home with a bottle of champagne and valium in a bubble bath while listening to Neil Sedaka, and not in the streets in a moment of instant panic.
Okay, probably not, but you get the picture. He never professed a desire or interest in dying in the specific circumstances that he was in when killed. In fact the confrontation in which he was murdered took place on a highway, not at the compound. He had recently made statements about the need to return home. He was, in fact, a rancher first and foremost and had cattle affairs to tend to. If he was in the process of leaving the compound to return home, he was no longer principally concerned with defending the place, especially not with his life. It is incredibly likely that if he had decided to return home, getting arrested along the way was a possibility he had considered. Since his priorities might have changed since his earlier statement, there is no reason to apply them to his killing. None of us can ever know what went on in his mind that day or in the moments before his death. We certainly have no basis to ascribe his consent to be killed.
The Oregon dispute was essentially a property dispute. What are the moral implications in killing other human beings over property? Is it okay to kill somebody over property when…
- whenever they are violating any property at any time by anybody
- when the property being defended is one’s own
- when the property being defended is one’s own and contributes directly to their health, safety and/or livelihood?
If you are okay with anybody killing somebody else for violating anybody’s property at any time then your justification for the murder on the grounds given by the government are at least ideologically consistent. But you are an insufferable asshole and please never speak to me ever.
The FBI did not own the property which they killed on, nor could they own property in general according to the alleged narrative that they are public servants whose property actually belongs to the public. So they could not have been justified according to any of the logic being employed by those making these claims, although it is doubtful most of them have unpacked their logic and seen it for what it really is.
However, if you are okay with any or all of the first three choices above, then it can be argued that the entire situation was one in which the militant ranchers were protecting property that contributed to their health, safety and livelihood. Personally I begrudgingly accept the third choice as a basic matter of reason and morality, but I find killing aesthetically unappealing no matter what the reason is. And I have an intuitive sense that all killing detracts from our collective well being as a species, regardless the reasons. I cannot imagine the mental gymnastics it would take to use property rights to justify this killing, but I can imagine that bogus reasoning used as rational justification for the militia’s agenda.
The most spurious claims of all pertain to objections against the militants based on Native American land claims and artifacts. The same people now justifying the killing are generally the same ones who were recently disguising their ideological discomfort with straight white capitalist males with right-facing politics as a concern for native issues and politics. And that narrative has been used as a mindless catch-all for fomenting and cementing liberal consent. The insinuation became that if you don’t hate those militant ranchers then you hate all natives.
Yet absolutely nothing percent of these same people who hated the ranchers to love the natives gave two swimming shits about these same natives and their issues until this whole debacle occurred. The concern for native rights was not an authentic concern, it was only a seemingly safe moral and logical highground from which to exercise their own bigotries. It was blatant patronizing opportunism and a co-opting of others’ issues in order to fortify one’s own agenda. It was dishonest and disrespectful to natives. Far more so than making a few roads that could potentially have harmed artifacts, even though nobody knows this to actually have happened beyond theory. And of course the federal government has never destroyed anything in building Muh Roads! No way, never. And neither were they responsible for far greater crimes against the Native Americans at any point in our history than the egregious sin of making roads committed by the militant rancher coalition.
The blatant hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and clumsy mental gymnastics of those celebrating the death of a fellow human being through their bigotry-gratifying justifications are a frightening indicator of the current ideological zeitgeist. The Us-vs-Them false dichotomies predicated on team sport logic have overtaken our reason and compassion. They have eroded our intellects and morals alike. The masses have lined themselves up in an ideological game of Red Rover…to the death. As they fire their self-righteous hate speech at one another and cheer the deaths of their ‘opponents’ the rest of us are stuck in the middle watching this nightmare unfold.
What is there left to appeal to in people who have already given their reason, morals and lives fully to the same authoritarian structure that threatened them most to begin with? From what angle can we recapture our trust in one another and optimism for the future when people cannot self-identify without gloating in the misery of others? Will I ever see a unicorn again or is it really all just hopeless bullshit?
Written by Joshua Scott Hotchkin, January 27th, 2016