Joe Patrice is assistant editor of AbovetheLaw and a New York attorney. This article relates to an earlier piece on the Stand Your Ground law.
A tried and true trope of conservatives faced with the grim outcomes of their cockamamie schemes is to attempt to shame everyone into ignoring the human cost of their policies — ironically — out of respect for the people hurt. Something horrible happened, but it’s unseemly to try to explore why it happened, just sit back and let the moment pass and enjoy some bread and circuses until you forget.
We’ve seen it countless times before. It’s rhetorical standard operating procedure. After Sandy Hook, the usual suspects from Senator Rand Paul to the Washington Times decried the “cruel” and “shameful” “exploitation” involved in pointing out that putting military assault rifles on the street makes it easy for someone to kill a lot of kids very quickly. The tactic worked as it always does and time passed, people forgot, and nothing happened. It was only a week ago that Senator Ted Cruz suggested it was disrespectful of Trayvon Martin’s mother to lobby for changes based on her son’s death. I guess it was disrespectful to… Cruz? One would have thought his mom would be the right barometer of how to honor her son.
Now this trope is the subject of Tamara Tabo’s criticism of my article yesterday regarding the recent shooting of Renisha McBride because I noted the uptick in the “shoot first” culture brought on by Stand Your Ground laws (regardless of the fact that the law isn’t technically at play here).
Let’s unpack this and also look at some other misdirection being flung my way, shall we?
The tactic of casting shame on those who see shootings and say, “Hey, maybe we should do something about this,” comes from a place of immense privilege. It comes from the privilege of basing a political philosophy around aggressive inaction in the face of injustice. Delaying action and hoping the pressure of the moment subsides works when someone has the privilege of either not caring about injustice or is at least more interested in preserving the status quo that favors them than in redressing social ills.
I have no doubt that Tamara’s criticism is sincere, but it is also programmatic. This was a predictable response because it fits the rhetorical procedure. Hers will not be the only article to avoid the hard political questions about the empirical evidence of increased killings in jurisdictions boasting Stand Your Ground laws and instead try to draw the discussion off into calling for respecting the dead. A call that is so categorical that — as we saw in the Cruz instance — it extends to scolding the families of the dead for not “properly” grieving. Which is about the most privileged thing one can do.
The second misdirection in the post is sowing the seeds of character assassination. Not directly, because that would be uncouth. But “where was Renisha for a couple hours after getting into an accident?” It’s an actual question. It’s also irrelevant to taking a gun to your front door and shooting someone. But foregrounding this “question” makes you wonder what she was doing in that time, or more precisely, it implies she was up to no good. Just because it’s a real question doesn’t mean it needs to be contextualized to cast doubt on the victim’s motives. This is all part of building the case that everyone should forget about this incident. This time not because it’s unseemly to talk about it, but because the victim might have done something to bring this upon themselves, negating the ethical obligation to do something about the larger issue.