In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, you can read about it HERE.
Summary: A 23 year old father returned home to find that the babysitters he’d hired to watch his infant daughter were drunk and partying. The baby was okay, but the father, enraged at the apparent neglect, attacked the sitters, placing one of them in the hospital. The father was then arrested and sentenced to 17 months in jail for the assault.
Immediately, people began to rise up in defense of the father, claiming that they deserved what they got, and that, if they’d been in his place, they’d have done even worse. This sort of rallying around justified violence isn’t new, and I think people who live comparatively non-violent lives like to live vicariously through these “justifiable” situations. Let me establish that I am in no way a pacifist. If you know me well at all, you’ll know that I’m quite the connoisseur of violence as sport, or in situations where I can rationalize it as unfortunate but necessary. I decided to write this article to explain why I don’t think it was necessary in this case. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand why the father was driven to violence, nor do I believe this makes him a bad person. I believe that he made an unwise decision, and that there are/were better options available. This discussion, and the fruits of it, are applicable in many situations in life, and this is just one more opportunity to apply a philosophy that I dearly espouse: Identify your goals, and ensure that every action is conducive to that goal.
There’s a reason that the law differentiates between neglect and intentional harm. They’re two different things. In ANY situation in life, not just this one, you have to ask yourself what your goal is, and what actions are conducive to that goal. Immediately upon finding out what was happening, this father had every right to be angry. He also could have, depending on the ages of those involved, called the police to report underage drinking, or trespassing, or criminal negligence – any number of things. By engaging in a violent confrontation he not only endangered himself (which, in turn, could affect his ability to care for his daughter should he be injured or killed), but landed himself behind bars, which DIRECTLY affects his ability to care for his daughter. Those actions are clearly not conducive to his goal of protecting and caring for his family. Do I understand his anger? Absolutely. Do I understand how he lost his temper? Absolutely, and I don’t “blame” him. However, do I condone his actions? Absolutely not, because they aren’t conducive to the goal, and aside from sating his immediate need for violent catharsis and punishment, they helped no one – not him, not his daughter. As I mentioned above, some people think it’s cool to see a justified violent reaction, but you have to stop and ask if it was really the BEST course of action – did it benefit anyone? Probably not. You might argue that it “taught those darn kids a lesson”, but what it most likely did was turn them into enemies who now have a bone to pick with a family whose primary protector is now behind bars – not a very wise strategic choice.
Others have claimed that my opinion, in this case, is invalid because I didn’t know what it’s like to have children. This implies that identifying the best course of action in this scenario is somehow subjective. True, my reaction to the story might be stronger, and I might better identify with his reaction, if I knew what it was like to have children, but it doesn’t change the objective fact that his reaction was not the best possible reaction given his goal of protecting his family. What those people were debating was my understanding, or lack thereof, of his loss of self-control. That’s not under debate. The debate is whether or not his actions were the best course of action. It is not subjective – it is OBjective. His actions were not conducive to his goal.
Those same people then claimed that I was a pacifist, and that what he was doing WAS protecting his family. As I’ve stated, I’m no pacifist, and what he did was not protection, it was punishment. Don’t confuse the two. Protection is the prevention of harm. His daughter had not been harmed, and the fastest way to remove her from potential danger and ensure her protection would’ve been to immediately remove her from the situation. Instead, the father escalated the situation. Reckless endangerment IS a felony, and thus, he could have let the law handle it and remained at home where he could protect his family instead of endangering himself and, by proxy, his family. I’m not hating on the father at all, as a person – I’m analyzing and criticizing his actions. I don’t believe that having this discussion, and using his actions as an example, is in any way disrespectful of him. To FAIL to have this discussion means that we, as a people, don’t care about doing better – about taking the best course of action in the future, given the unfortunate possibility of being in the same situation.
I was then written off, and told that I must believe we live in a big fuzzy surreality where no one calls anyone names and we all get along. No, we don’t live in a big fuzzy surreality where we all live together no one calls anyone else names, but by using that argument to write off my “we can do better” claim, you’re implying that the reality that we live in currently is the best one that can exist. I disagree, and while we may never exist in a “big fuzzy”, we can certainly live in a better reality than we do now, pending people taking the time to have discussions like this, and choosing to make decisions that take us, by small steps, toward that better reality. That’s what I mean by being aware of your goal, and ensuring that your actions are conducive to that goal. It’s a macro philosophy as much as a micro philosophy.
But, then again, what do I know? I’m just some guy.