Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Culture of Violence Makes Tasering 8 Year Old Okay? I Blame the Becks and Palins of the World

My interests are the intersection of sociology and politics, and as such, I've been watching the growing use of tasers. I have to wonder at a culture that believes that violence is the appropriate solution to, well, everything. Yesterday, the Anti-Defamaton League (ADL) announced that Glenn Beck is the most toxic hate monger operating in the U.S. today. He and Sarah Palin and the extremist fringe of the far right preach a brand of violence that is cloaked in religiosity that they believe makes it acceptable. Palin did not quit her job, she stopped to "reload." Citizens are reminded that Thomas Jefferson himself said that "the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots." As do most fundamentalists, quotes are cherry-picked from the original source to support whichever claim is needed at the moment. In this culture of violence, more and more extreme behavior becomes acceptable, and becomes not the behavior at issue, but the individuals involved.

Now, the police have tased an eight-year-old girl. Unable to get her child to go to bed, unable to stop her tantrum, mom called the police. Compounding that stupidity, they responded. Attempting to carry the child to bed (I wonder if the officer has any children of his own, otherwise he would have known better), kicking and screaming, she kicked him in the groin. So of course he tased her. Does he think she kicked him in the balls on purpose? Does he think an eight-year-old knew the best place to kick for maximum effect? Doubtful. The child, of course, became quiet and obedient immediately. Did mom and officer then put her to bed? Maybe take her to the hospital to ensure that she had sustained no damage from the taser (she weighs 65 pounds)? No. He arrested her for assaulting him and took her to youth detention.

In statements the mayor and police chief say
"People here feel like that he made a mistake in using a Taser, and maybe he did, but we will not know until we get an impartial investigation," McDaniel said. The state police declined his request Tuesday, saying it only gets involved if the officer in question was accused of misconduct or targeted in an internal investigation.

Police Chief Jim Noggle said no disciplinary action was taken against Bradshaw. He said Tasers are a safe way to subdue someone who's a danger to themself or others. "We didn't use the Taser to punish the child - just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else," Noggle said. If the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg, Noggle said. He said a touch of the stun gun - "less than a second" - stopped the girl from being unruly, and she was handcuffed, he said. "She got up immediately and they put her in the patrol car," McDaniel said."

I'm sorry, but are there any parents reading this? I cannot imagine ever, ever calling the police to resolve a tantrum. Sure there were times when things got out of control. Fortunately, I like to think I was a pretty good parent - my kids tell me I was - and we rarely had those kinds of problems, but I think every parent has at least one story to tell... But seriously. What do you do when your child is kicking and screaming and yelling and refusing to go to bed? You walk away. You go into the other room, shut the door, and ignore them. I guarantee it, they will stop. It may take a little while, but you have to wonder at the parenting skills of a mother who has those kinds of problems with an eight-year-old. By the age of eight, bedtime is not normally an issue. I would guess that bedtime was the least of the reasons that child was screaming.

I know that our police have a difficult job and have to face scary situations every day. They never know what will happen when they walk up to that car they have just pulled over or what they will encounter when they respond to that domestic violence call; two of the most potentially dangerous situations police officers encounter. But an eight-year-old? There was no weapon reported. The child was 4' 6" tall, obviously a clear threat to a male police officer. Right. Violence has become too easy as a response to every situation. It is preached to us in the media, every day.

Within the police culture, there is a growing use of force to respond to verbal abuse, passive resistance, and the failure to instantly cooperate - even if that failure to cooperate is the result of a disability caused by a health condition or intoxication. Many times, police officers are unable to judge the cause of the resistance and discover later why the individual that they tased was not cooperative.

I am not certain when it became illegal to behave towards police officers with anything other than immediate courtesy and respect. Certainly resisting arrest is illegal, but in every definition that I could find, resistance was defined as assault and battery on the police officer or running away. Not hesitating to jump into the police car or offer one's hands out for handcuffs. Verbal abuse? Swearing? Anger and raised voices? Not pleasant. But dangerous? Life threatening? Requiring the use of physical force? I do not think so.

I could devote this blog to cases of police officers using tasers on persons who were on the ground, in handcuffs. Persons who were sitting in their vehicles unconscious. High school students who were in the hall without a hall pass. A paraplegic who had been pulled out of his wheelchair to the ground, then tased. But I won't. Other instances are detailed in a post I wrote here.

Beyond the actual use of tasers, is a culture that sees their use and shrugs, and turns the page. Of a media that listens to the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins preach a message of hate, of death, and of division, and simply "reports, you decide." Journalism used to be about questioning, researching, and pointing out errors in what our national figures were saying. Now we have our national media figures angry because the citizens notice the lies and reject the message of hate. These figures feel attacked and threatened and incite even more violence. They claim religion as their guide, and wave a stern, vengeful God who evidently approves of a culture that would tase an eight-year-old child.

Why do I connect Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and tasers? I write about the sociological intersection of politics and culture. Our society has become more and more violent. In the past forty years, we have embraced a law and order mentality and move away from a rehabilitation model. The behavior of our police is becoming more and more reactive, and they are less and less often expected to take responsibility. 

After all, it is not the behavior that is at fault any more. It is the label worn by the individuals involved. The President is good/bad depending on the label. The victim is good/bad (or even a victim) depending on the label. Someone is a murderer or not, depending on the label. Police always good, Republicans always good, Conservatives always good, Christians always good. Ignore sex tapes, adultery, ethics violations, bribery, murder, lying, any of the sins mentioned in the Bible, or laws on any of the books. Wear the right label, and it does not matter. Do good, be good, but wear the wrong label? Bad.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.


  1. Talk about one fool thing after another. Since when do police go to homes to put unwilling children to bed in the first place? A license to parent and bear children is required in this instance.

    I think the condoning of police using force beyond any reasonable measure for any reason comes from the top down. Then the covering up and circling of wagons begins.

    Canada has a [in]famous case in the courts currently, when they tasered Robert Dziekanski, who had arrived from Poland, landed in Vancouver, who was in a cleared security zone, but was tasered to death.

    If it wasn't for Paul Pritchard's video, there would be no proof. His video was seized by the RCMP [police] and it was only through a lawyer, he got the video taped evidence back! [tasering starts @ 6:45]


    So it isn't only a made in America and right wing crazy's that lead a police force unable to deal with any confidence, the day to day.

  2. I minored in criminology (victimology) and the progression into a law and order, punishment model in our culture is fascinating. It follows the rise of the influence of the Christian right on politics. The brand of Christianity that sees God as a vengeful, authoritarian one that demands punishment. The more violent our society becomes, and the more acceptable the message of hate preached by the Becks and Palins, the less notice is paid to inappropriate actions taken by those in authority. After all, in a Christian society, it is top down, undemocratic. You give your life over to God (or father, or authority figure) and questioning and critical thinking are seen as wrong. Children are possessions that must be trained to be good adults. They are born inherently bad, vulnerable to bad influences and must be punished for transgressions (spare the rod and all that), so by extension, police (authority) brutality (necessary punishment) is normal and natural.

    When good Christians are raised not to question, they are vulnerable to people who are unstable who are then place into positions of seeming authority. It doesn't matter what message, anything Beck or Palin wants to say, their followers will believe it because of who they are. All they have to do is say the right buzz words and they can do anything they want after that. Very disturbing.

  3. Oh boy, yeah, get me going regarding Catholics. Or the US Catholic Bishops' paternalistic twaddle. Imagine the tax free church, lobbying against women, basically.

    I say tax their ass to hell.

    The criminal code of Canada has a hate speech section. I remember they sent Ernst Zundel, a Holocaust denier packing.

    I'm wondering how this may apply to the Beck's et al.

    Broadcasting Act

    Regulations under the Broadcasting Act prohibit any licensee from broadcasting or distributing programming that contains abusive comments about individuals or groups – comments that would expose an individual, group, or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on discriminatory grounds.

    These regulations apply to radio, specialty services, broadcast television and pay television. However, as it now stands, Internet-based communications do not readily fit the definition of "broadcasting."

    Just thinking out loud....

  4. Quetzalcoatl,

    Interesting that you immediately think of Catholicism. It fits, but I was thinking of Christianity in general, but particularly the fundamentalist protestant churches that are turning more and more to the evangelicals, the pentacostals, etc.

    What disturbs me, is the blatant lawbreaking by churches - politicking from the pulpit beyond what is allowed to maintain tax exempt status, truly vile speech broadcast over our airwaves, and lies read into the Congressional Record with no one standing up for the truth. I blame the Democrats as much as anyone. They're too afraid to speak out. The media does no real journalism, they just repeat what they are told, and most of the country doesn't care, it's just politics as usual.

  5. I guess one perceives things through their own experiences. I suppose I started out as a Roman Catholic and went to such a school, but when my Mother got divorced in the 60's, I believe they excommunicated her, well. She didn't have too many nice things to say about the church.

    I don't blame her and agree.

    I've been vindicated! It's a cult, I daresay.

    Regarding main stream media. I used to believe the printed word was god [although, I don't believe gods]. Then I learned about spin and editorial bent...and who pays the bills for the newspapers....and what they do to, ah, retain clients, shall we say.

    All of that is changing though. Especially among the younger generation. MSM is dying off, not keeping up with the changing times... same old same old thinking is sinking them. Rightfully so. They fear change and are stuck in mud.

    Here's to the new media and change.

  6. I used to have great respect for many, although certainly not all, of the political pundits, especially the ones on NPR and even a few on the networks. There were a few in the print media writing from both sides of the aisle that were good.

    I have no problem with a conservative point of view as long as it is honest, but it is pretty hard to find anymore. I am a pretty die-hard liberal, but I also believe that debate is healthy and necessary.

    What is happening now, and over the past 20 or so years though, is not healthy debate, it is Christianist ideologically driven politics. It is all about power, and the accumulation of wealth to support that power. (You have to remember, before becoming a counselor, I was a sociologist, and that will always inform my way of seeing the world).

    Unfortunately, our political system is arranged in such a way that to achieve a national political office, one must accept corporate dollars, and those corporate dollars are no longer spread across many companies, but rather concentrated in the hands of a very few, thus making the pressure brought to bear that much more intense.

    The concentration of our media into the hands of 2 or 3 companies has also meant that our "journalists" and commentators report only the stories their masters think we need to know, and parrot the positions they want us to hold.

    I am surprised that the internet continues to be free, that we still have access to content, and that as bloggers, we are finally beginning to be respected as writers and jouralists and not just the pajama-clad unemployed working in our basements.