'Well hey, Im sick of playing games'
Too right, O my brother. You behaved with dignity.
It has been over a day since I watched this distressing video and I haven't been able to put it out of mind, particularly the poor lad's harrowing pleas for his father, for life. The video does not capture a uniquely brutal event but we don't choose those things which affect us deeply and if we were so affected by each horrible thing we read about or see we would surely become mad. The last time I was so depressed by a news story was about ten years ago reading a brief article about a psychopath who had handcuffed a young girl to a burning hot radiator and in addition had gouged out her eyes presumably to make her escape even more unlikely. I went around in a daze telling anyone who would listen what had happened. Of course I have heard about worse things in the meantime but have not been deeply depressed by them. I don't claim to know how the mind works.
I do believe though that these are moments of clarity rather than over-sensitivity and yet, as I have said, the mind could only be harmed in seeing so clearly at all times.
News reports keep mentioning that Kelly Thomas had been diagnosed as schizophrenic as if he reacted in an inappropriate way to Manuel Ramos's initial mild bullying and goading. I see nothing in the video but a regular guy with some dignity deciding after a while he is not going to play Yes-Sir-No-Sir-Three-Bags-Full-Sir with a cop who has threatened to punch him in the middle of the game. Perhaps I sympathise with Thomas because I could see myself reacting no differently. The beating that they gave him arose entirely from cruelty and cowardice lurking in the minds and character of those police.
One time when I was visiting LA, walking home after a few beers through a quiet neighborhood I noticed a garden centre with a low outer hedge with many potted plants arrayed, invitingly it seemed to me, on the inside against the low hedge. I reached over plucking a slender, ten foot specimen with many fronds from its pot, and dragged it along the pavement singing, laughing and joking. Up ahead, the cops parked dramatically in the centre of a wide crossroads, arms folded and uttered some laconic remarks. Nothing happened. If Thomas's behaviour in the slightest degree mitigates any of the police actions, even the initial baton swipes as he tries to run away, then I deserved to be beaten to death on that night.
The perfectly natural reaction to the video - Rage, which looks for any excuse to out, is a false friend here. That is not to say that these police officers and the medics too should not be punished in an imaginative way to serve the spiritual health of the community. I think these images and stories broadcast a different baleful effect than is usually accepted. For example despite what others say I believe the images released from Abu Graib will have done more to quell than fuel Islamic fundamentalist volunteers. I think anger and mistrust are indeed stoked for a while but the more powerful lasting effect is an increase in Fear of police authority in the hands of brutal irrational morons. This Fear breeds servility and that leads to further abuse from people who don't deserve authority over civilians. Punishment? I recommend a ceremony televised live where the six police and the medics are flogged. They are not stripped naked but flogged in their uniforms until the uniforms are ripped to shreds. In the nature of rituals it is not very important that those scourged are actually badly hurt but the hope is the symbolic power of the spectacle would help redress the widespread Fear of authority over us misplaced in the hands of the cruel and the stupid.
I haven't said much about the actual beating. I can't. I don't want to watch the video again and when I recall the images and Kelly Thomas's voice I feel sick. I distinguish between fascination with cruelty, which we all share as adults when we are drawn to the theatre to see The Oresteia, The Night of the Hunter or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the fascination of cruelty. The fascination of cruelty is what is felt as a participant or witness in the presence of cruelty. In the presence of cruelty some behave with lust, some with detached scientific curiosity and many become hypnotised to passively enjoy some free entertainment. All praise the foolish interfering busybody. The indifference of the late arriving police and medics to Thomas's clearly articulated despair and the pools of blood (for fuck's sake) is chilling and surreal and I feel like a child because I can't understand it, I can't process what happened there as real. Those final minutes have dreamlike quality which has a more powerful effect on me as I may confuse the event with those very rare nightmares which leave one awakening to a morning full of dread.
I feel very sorry for you, you poor dude.