Another Perspective

Why Is This Not a National Tragedy?

A troubled young mother is shot dead and our ruling class applauds.

By 10.7.13

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An unarmed 34-year-old woman suffering from postpartum depression is surrounded by the authorities while sitting in her car, and gunned down in cold blood. She is blocked in. She cannot move. And yet she is killed by heavily armed security officers. Her one-year old child witnesses this from the back seat. Why is this not a national tragedy?

Miriam Carey was a young African-American woman who wanted to better herself. She went to college and graduated with a BA degree in health and nutrition science. She became a dental hygienist. One of her neighbors noted that it was obvious she was educated. She gave birth to her daughter a year ago and began to suffer from postpartum depression. She displayed some irrational behavior and was put on medication.

Thus far it's not an uncommon story. About 50% of women who give birth suffer from postpartum depression. A friend of mine was on medication for more than 8 years after her daughter was born. This might conceivably happen to my daughter. Or to one of Obama’s daughters, come to think of it.

Then, on October 3, Miriam crashed her car into a security barrier near the White House. She was surrounded by security men shouting at her and pointing high-power guns. Was it so irrational to try to escape, to protect her daughter from men pointing pistols at her? A chase ensued, and she then crashed her car into a median somewhere in the vicinity of the Congress. She was blocked by security forces from several agencies. She could not move. She was unarmed, and alone save for her daughter. In her car, unprotected. And then she was killed.

After the Boston Marathon killings, Boston police spent over 2 hours in a stand-off gun fight with the surviving bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They threw flash-bang grenades to disorient him. They brought in a negotiator to talk him into giving himself up. Eventually he did, and he walked out alive. But Miriam was not given that chance. She was trapped in her car, just sitting there. And they killed her. They emptied multiple rounds of ammunition before dragging her body from the car, her one-year old child witnessing all this from the back seat.

Are we so dead to any instinct of what is owed a mother that we are not shocked by this? We have read of police who kill without asking questions, and are inured to it. But a mother? I would have thought that ordinary Americans would be revolted by this. And then the murdering police get a standing ovation from the men and women of the Senate. Yes, kill Miriam. Take no chances. Our lives are precious. Her life and the life of people like her are not.

And immediately the sycophantic hangers-on come out to justify the actions of the police and to slander the poor victim. The newspapers print with absolute certainty that Miriam was intent on breaking into the White House and then Congress. Where’s the evidence that would stand up in a court of law? A lecturer on security from one of our institutions of higher learning says that this situation was special: the young woman threatened the vital nerve center of our country, the whole world even. Yes, the nerve center that has been shut down for the past few days. And a helpful psychologist, who never met Miriam, pronounces that she was suffering from postpartum psychosis rather than depression and that such psychosis couldn’t possibly last for a year. I’d welcome the opportunity to cross-examine him on the witness stand.

The thing is, the senators are different from you and me. They are part of the ruling class that has insinuated itself in the folds of a republic where everyone is said to be created equal. In most states, an ordinary citizen is not permitted to stand his ground when threatened by thugs. He may not use deadly force to protect himself from intruders in his own home unless he has no possibility of escape. Fine for them, but we need special rules for the ruling class. Their lives are more valuable, and they must be protected at any and all costs. Even from an unarmed young woman, alone in her car with her young child.

What has happened to us, that Miriam Carey’s death is not a tragedy? How does a democracy justify valuing some lives over others?

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About the Author

Esther Goldberg is a lawyer in Alexandria, Virginia.