Killing Kids is So American
According to news reports, 15-year-old eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit at least two times: in the chest and once “from the back of the head.”
Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out, at least according to the police, to be a "realistic-looking" pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye at close range, does not pose a serious threat to life.
There is now a national discussion going on in the media about whether police used excessive force in the incident, and there is, in Brownsville and at Gonzalez’s school, and of course in the Gonzalez family, both anger and mourning. The boy had reportedly been a victim of bullying.
Let me say unequivocally from the outset that, yes, whatever police authorities may say about "justified use of force," the cops in this instance used excessive force (American cops these days are in military mode, and justify just about any firing of an officer's weapon). Unless there were other children who were being held hostage by Gonzalez (there were not), or who were near him and being threatened (there were not), the police had no reason to kill him. For one thing, a pellet gun has such a tiny muzzle opening it would be pretty hard to mistake it for the muzzle of a Glock, as police are claiming, unless Brownsville police have very low vision standards. Furthermore, there is the question of why three shots were fired, why they were fired at the chest of a child with clear intent to kill, and of course, there’s that shot to the back of the head, which is simply unjustifiable under any circumstances.
But having said that, I want to call attention to another point, that gets beyond this one case of overkill by police: the double standard of concern when it is an American kid and when it is foreign kids who are killed.
I’m referring here to Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands of kids even younger than Jaime Gonzalez, most of whom were not even armed, have been killed by American bombs and by the guns of American soldiers, and whose deaths evoke not the slightest word of sympathy or regret from either the killers themselves or the leaders, military and civilian, who issue the orders that led to their deaths. Nor is any concern about this slaughter of innocents expressed by the millions of Americans whose taxes pay for this ongoing atrocity.
Take Fallujah, a city of 300,000 in Iraq that in 2004 was the scene of one of the most brutal and brutish fighting of the US invasion of Iraq.