Sunday, May 22, 2011

"It is not God who kills the children..

Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It is us. Only us"

The tragic death of Iraq Veteran Jose Guerena was brutal, pointless and absurd.

First, the basics of who Mr. Guerena was; a 23-year-old former Marine with two tours of duty in Iraq, husband of seven years, father of two boys (six and four), currently working night shifts at an Asarco copper mine.

According to Ellen Tumposky's reporting, Guerena had returned from the mine, and was resting "when his wife, Vanessa, saw the armed SWAT team outside her youngest son's bedroom window."
Vanessa Guerena thought the gunman might be part of a home invasion -- especially because two members of her sister-in-law's family, Cynthia and Manny Orozco, were killed last year in their Tucson home, her lawyer, Chris Scileppi, said. She shouted for her husband in the next room, and he woke up and told his wife to hide in the closet with the child, Joel, 4.

The confrontation resulted with 5 SWAT officers firing, according to KGUN9's initial report, 71 rounds over the course of approximately 7 seconds.

This tragedy would be grimly hilarious if it weren't so cruel. The man was employed, paid and trained by the state to travel thousands of miles to fight against terrorists. He survives and returns to his family; only to be gunned down in his own home, with his wife and child present, by state authorities waging a separate terror campaign.

While this story would be galling enough on it's own, the Pima County Sheriffs office has treated this disaster with an appalling nonchalance. The sheriff himself is bristling at how reporters is characterizing the story, specifically "scold[ing] the media for 'questioning the legality' of the shooting."

Hannah Arendt wrote a report on Adolf Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker, and eventually adapted it into a book in 1963, titled Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The central thesis of the book, per Edward S. Herman
was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats. (emphasis mine - JG)

While there can be no comparison between the monstrosities of Germany's Holocaust and America's War on Drugs, Arendt's framework provides an excellent tool to help us deconstruct how the two polices produce similar effects on official's charged with executing them. Why Pima county's sheriff; who's responsibility is to the citizens of his county and is charged with protecting and serving them - expresses more concern over the media's 'questioning' than the fact that his officers have violently killed a (currently) innocent father, husband and veteran - is best understood in light of the idea that they were just following their orders and training. And unlike the Holocaust, these orders and trainings ultimatly emanate from our choices as an electorate.

The War on Drugs, and specifically the violent raid tactics that in this instance resulted with the death of Jose Guerena, are products of very conscious decisions made by every politically active (that is, voting) American. As H.L. Mencken wrote, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." The politics of our Drug War is skewed so heavily for our representatives to support more violence, harsher sentences and greater brutality because we make it so. The violence and brutality of our Drug War continues because, like Eichmann, we choose not to fully engage the ramifications and consequences of our political choices. Instead we hide behind a notion that this kind of engagement isn't our responsibility. It may have been the Tuscon District Court that signed a warrant for Jose Guerena's address, and it may have been Pima County's SWAT team that served it. But government polices - polices that we all have a say in - that created this tragedy. We cheaply extol on the virtues of our democratic system and how our government serves the people. But the good must come with the bad, and the failures of our polices must be confronted by every citizen, we are all complicit; either through our support, our opposition or our negligence.

It wasn't God that killed Jose Guerna, or fate that fed him to the dogs. It is us. It is only us.

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