If we have needed proof that violence has become an integral, if disgusting, part of culture in America, we now have it courtesy of the Philadelpia police department. One of Philadelphia’s finest, or maybe not so fine, tazered a seventeen year old boy as he ran around on the field during a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. You can see the full story here . The young man wasn’t threatening anybody, there was no evidence of mental instability, he was just doing what many severnteen year olds do – something stupid. Onto the scene rushed Officer Squarenuts and the Phillies security people to apprehend this young felon-in-the-making. Sin of all sins, the young man was faster than those trying to apprehend him – especially the rather portly Office Squarenuts, who only got within range to tazer the young man because he doubled back.
I’m not condoning what the young man did. It certainly is illegal and disruptive to run onto a baseball field while a game is going on. What I can’t get past is that I do not see justification for the force used. He was running away from people, not toward them in a menacing way. While it’s rare, a tazer can be life threatening. I have absolutely no argument with tazering, or for that matter shooting, a violent offender who is resisting arrest, but clearly this situation does not fall into that category.
As a culture we have increased the public’s exposure to violence exponentially over the past few decades. I believe we did a great disservice to the public at large back in the 1980s when we said that we could show as much shooting on TV as we wanted, we just couldn’t show anyone being shot. Television shows like The A Team fired off hundreds of rounds each episode without anyone actually being hit. The obvious question is why anyone would retain the A Team when it was clear they couldn’t shoot the broad side of a barn from inside the barn. The relevant issue is that we unwittingly taught young people that you could shoot at people without hurting them.
Add to this absurdity the reality that both television and movies are replete with violence – violence directed both at humans and at animated characters. We have become desensitized to the point where a young man on a baseball field makes Officer Fatnuts work too hard he just whips out his tazer and shoots him. How long will it be before we just put a sniper on the roof of the stadium with instructions to shoot anyone who runs on the field?
On this issue, as with so many social problems, spiritual people must lead the way. We must speak out against violence where ever it takes place, regardless of who perpetrates it. The Philadelphia police commissioner, Carles Ramsey, believes that his officer was justified in using his tazer. Let’s send him a message that we find it unacceptable. His address is:
750 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
It’s time we take our streets back. How odd that we have to look not only at the usual suspects, but at the police as well.