Part 3—Concerning who got to apply: It would be a better world if no one ever got shot and killed, including or perhaps especially by police officers.
It would also be a better world if police officers never got shot and killed. That would be better too.
In part for these reasons, the issue of police shootings began to take on a higher profile in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown, age 18, in August 2014.
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012 had already sparked large amounts of political activism and media coverage. In this case, however, Brown had been shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, not by a civilian.
The issue of police shootings has been in the news ever since. Stating the obvious, this is perfectly appropriate, though commentary and analysis have at times been imperfect.
We interrupt our current program to offer a quick observation. In a recent column, the New York Times' Ross Douthat referred to what he perceives as “the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies.”
We often feel we don't quite understand what Douthat is talking about. In this case, we thought perhaps we did.
Do we the modern liberals really have an "increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies?” We'll offer two familiar stances which may not quite align:
A pair of familiar reactions, perceptions or claims:Newsflash: In a nation which is awash in guns, police officers will sometimes use their guns. Sometimes they'll do so in ways which are plainly criminal. Other times, they'll use their guns in ways which, alas, seem to make perfect sense.
1) Our nation is awash in guns.
2) It shocks the senses to think that police officers ever use their guns.
Statistic-citing liberal savants will rail at their horrible conduct. At such times, as Douthat suggests, we liberals may not fully be able to grasp the way we look Out There.
We return to our regular programming:
Police shootings have been in the news since the death of Michael Brown. This led to a slightly puzzling part of Hillary Clinton's 2017 book, What Happened, in which she gives her account of the disastrous 2016 White House campaign.
We refer to the unnumbered chapter of that book which begins on page 173. The chapter is called "Turning Mourning into a Movement." The chapter starts like this:
CLINTON (page 173): They radiated strength. They were proud women who had seen a lot, cried a lot and prayed a lot. I walked around the room, introducing myself one by one to the dozen mothers who had come from all over the country. I listened to their stories and took in their quiet, fierce dignity.Clinton met with a dozen mothers that day. Later in the chapter, she says that "many of them had never met [each other] before" that day in Chicago. She says they began bonding that day, and that, in that way, "The Mothers of The Movement were born."
It was November 2015. We were in the homey Sweet Maple Cafe on Chicago's West Side. Each of the mothers around the table had lost children to gun violence or to encounters with police officers. They had come to talk about what happened to their kids and to see if I would do something about it—or if I was just another politician after their votes.
Some of what follows will involve something which resembles criticism of Clinton. None of what follows is meant to suggest any criticism of the seven women, from that dozen, who apparently formed that group.
In that opening passage, Clinton's description of the connection between these mothers is already perhaps a bit fuzzy. As Clinton says, each of the mothers had lost a child to gun violence or to an encounter with police officers.
In some cases, those encounters did involve a police officer's use of a gun. In other instances, no police officer was involved at all.
In one case, a young person lost his life in a police shooting which Eric Holder, Barack Obama's attorney general, declared to be fully justified in a formal report. In another incident, a 15-year-old honors student was shot and killed in a park by a random shot fired by a random teen-aged gang member.
Already, the nature of the movement these women formed may be a bit unclear. For starters, though, we want to consider Clinton's question:
Was she just another pol looking for those women's votes, perhaps for their public support?
Was Clinton just another pol? Everything is possible! Indeed, when Clinton begins describing the deaths of these women's children, it's almost possible to be almost shocked:
CLINTON (page 174): The Mothers' stories, and the stories of others who lost children to gun violence, deserve to be told and heard. We've got to keep saying their names. In that first meeting in Chicago, there was no press and no audience—just us. I was accompanied by my senior policy adviser Maya Harris and Director of African American Outreach LaDavia Drane.Clinton starts that passage by saying that the stories of these women's children "deserve to be told."
Sybrina Fulton, whose unarmed seventeen-year-old son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed outside a convenience store near Orlando, Florida, in 2012, kicked things off. "We're just regular moms," she said. "We don't want to be community activists, we don't want to be the mothers of senseless gun violence, we don't want to be in this position—we were forced into this position. None of us signed up for this."
Surely, no one can doubt that. She proceeds to offer a strikingly inaccurate account of the death of Sybrina Fulton's son, Trayvon Martin.
As everyone knows, Trayvon Martin was not "shot and killed outside a convenience store near Orlando, Florida." As everyone but Clinton surely knows, that simply isn't his story.
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed inside a gated community in Sanford, Florida, where he and his father were visiting a friend. That story had been told a million times by the time Clinton wrote and published her book.
In another remarkable moment, Clinton refers to Martin's shooting death as a "murder." A duly constituted jury had of course ruled that it was no such thing.
It's a remarkable breach of custom for a major American pol to overturn due process that way. It's also, perhaps, a part of the way our liberal culture has strayed.
Let's return to that puzzling factual error. It's amazing to think that such an obvious error could appear in such a high-profile book, perhaps the most high-profile book of the entire year.
Everybody makes mistakes, but Martin's story had been told a million times by the time Clinton's book appeared. The fact that the error appeared in her book does make us wonder about her.
More precisely, it makes us wonder if she really was "just another politician" making an especially insincere play for a batch of votes, and later for tribal respect. In our view, it wouldn't be the worst idea if you took a moment to wonder about that too.
Nothing we say here is meant, in any way, as a criticism of any of these mothers, who aren't professional pols. We do mean to criticize Clinton—for this later passage, for example, again describing that meeting at the Sweet Maple Cafe:
CLINTON (page 180): Lezley McFadden was direct with me. Her eighteen-year-old son, Michael Brown, was shot and killed in 2014 by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. "Are we going to see change?" Lezley asked. "Once again we're around a table, we're putting our hearts out, we're getting emotional, we tell you what we feel—but are we going to see any change? Are we going to see action?"As noted above, the attorney general of the administration in which Clinton served had ruled that Brown's death resulted from a fully justified shooting.
Whatever one thinks of that assessment, it didn't make the cut in Clinton's heartfelt book. In the current climate, which may be unwise, it seems that no such official finding needed to apply! As with that jury verdict!
As Clinton's chapter proceeds, she wanders the countryside, flirting with an elephant in the room. At one point, on page 175, she says "the common theme that ran through all the stories was race." But two paragraphs later, she tells the story of Hadiya Pendleton, who "was randomly shot in a Chicago park" by a local teen who had lost his way in a way which had nothing to do with "race" in the sense a person might think from reading Clinton's chapter.
In this chapter, Clinton tells a bunch of stories, some perhaps a bit less honestly than some others. Personally, we think every progressive should deeply resent the way she toys with these stories.
Having said that, let us also say this about the notion that says "the common theme that ran through all the stories was race:"
The women Clinton names in her book had lost children in a wide array of incidents. It's never entirely clear, in Clinton's telling, why it seems that, among the nation's many mothers, only one demographic needed to apply to membership within the circle of Clinton's concern, in which she couldn't even manage to tell Trayvon Martin's story right.
Gun violence affects people from a wide array of groups. When it comes to our nation's police, police officers have shot and killed people from various groups, sometimes in plainly criminal ways, sometimes in ways which are justified.
Believe it or not, sometimes they've even shot and killed the others!
Clinton paraded around the country talking about gun violence. But when she offered her examples of same, individual stories were often mistold, and it almost seemed that only one group needed to apply for membership within her circle of concern.
Trust us! Those mothers would never have thought that way, of that you can be sure. Clinton, a politician who was seeking votes, rather frequently acted as if she did.
When we liberals behave that way, we turn our backs on centuries of American moral ideals—on the moral ideals which were advanced by giants of various "races." When we liberals behave that way, we seem to say that only one group need apply. To cite one example, we turn our backs on Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot and killed while driving away while being Iranian-American.
There have been other glaring cases in recent years. But if the cases involve the others, nobody says those names.
Is it possible that this conduct has us drifting in an unhealthy direction? Or do we get to invent and disappear facts, while stressing evocative points of total irrelevance? Shall we limit, as prehumans always have done, which groups get to apply?
Tomorrow: Examples and statistics