Thursday, January 30, 2003

This is a letter I wrote to a reporter who wrote about a domestic violence incident. Ms. Jameson is the Charlotte Observers pop music writer

On guilt & abuse...

Ms. Jameson,
I no longer live in Charlotte, but I grew up there & in between gigs it was my home for a long time.
I still have family & friends out there & to tell ya the truth I still miss the Double Door on Monday nights. Assuming Les Moore & the gang are still there, I'd recommend going if you haven't already.
I tell you all this for no apparent reasons that I can think of, except to explain why I happened across your story & that I'm familiar with the area & its people.

I understand from the tone of your article you are glad that the victims' were able to get the better of their attackers, but feel guilty because it resulted in their deaths.
This is something I have felt at times & have noticed in others. As a human, subject to all the emotional twists that come with drawing breath, I can understand how you feel. I can't say I didn't feel the same way myself, especially when I was younger.
One of the biggest problems I see though, with peoples views about this kind of thing is that sometimes one misplaces pity & that more or less tricks you into feeling sorry for the aggressor, or feeling guilty if you don't.
It is the same kind of emotional response that causes many people to oppose gun ownership or use: the rationale being that since guns are used to kill women in domestic violence that they should be outlawed.
But as you pointed out restraining orders don't help. Usually if the man doesn't have a gun that doesn't make him any less lethal than if he had a firearm. As your story pointed out, the one man had a baseball bat & it could have just as easily been a large stick he found. The point is as equal as women may be when it comes to most things, physically few women are equal to men & any contest of strength is usually going to favor the man.
The obvious solution seems to escape most people, that being that women should be armed & trained in the use of weapons as this is the only thing that can equalize the odds. In all honesty, a 200lb 6'2" man with a gun is usually no more of a threat than a 120lb 5'2" woman with a gun. & to tell you the truth if I was on a battlefield & had to choose between the two to face as an enemy I'd pick the man - he'd make a bigger target.
But arms are only tools & the real determining factor is not who is better equipped, but who has more desire. You can have the most reliable, accurate pistol available but that won't do you much good if you hesitate to use it when you have to.
This brings us back to the main reason I wrote you: attitudes.
I believe what you feel is a modern phenomenon. I'm sure it happened here & there but I doubt many people 100 or 1,000 years ago would have felt any guilt over being glad an attempted murderer was dead. I have not delved too deeply into the reasons, but the guilt over defending yourself seems to be much more common now, & seems to grow more common with each new generation.
Another thing I feel is different is best exemplified in a quote from your article

"An S.C. law allows the use of deadly force to protect your life or that of another, said Detective Marc Kitts."

Now this has varied a bit over the centuries, but it is also a fairly recent attitude. Not that the State grants permission for defense, but that the State would presume it was in a place to grant that permission.

I spend a lot of time trying to defend my rights. It started several years back when I noticed all the gun laws & prohibitions & from there it grew to a deeper understanding of rights & power & a whole bunch of other topics I wish I didn't have to deal with.
Basically what I have learned is that the concept of inherent rights, or natural rights, or God-given rights started to evolve a few thousand years back. The idea is that they exist naturally in humans but only become noticeable when they are threatened, & it wasn't until governments started governing did many people notice their existence, let alone what they meant.
To make it brief (or as brief as I can) the people who started this country placed a lot of value on rights. Some were collective true, but some were individual & of these are the inherent ones. The governments they set up attempted to restrict governmental interference with these inherent rights, to a point & for a while at least.
Self defense is one of those inherent rights. It is necessary to defend yourself, your family, your community, your state as well as your country. Even if that means the taking of life, & even if that life is human.
An integral part of this right is being able to own, possess & use weapons. To an extent they are the great equalizers. They make a 72 year old woman as formidable to attack as a 25 year old man. Until we reach a point where not only criminals are eliminated from society, but governments are incapable of oppression or war, then weapons will be necessary.
So my point is that it is disturbing to see it reported that government allows you to defend yourself. Self defense was a right long before any governments sprung up, & the general idea is that government cannot regulate or prohibit a right it did not create. & it burns me up to see anyone presume to dictate the terms of you being allowed to defend yourself. NC's requirement of a permit with a fee to carry a weapon is of a particularly insulting nature to people who value freedom. It's depressing that people would try to justify that particular practice & ones like it, but such is the attitude of people today.

I know how you feel because I have felt that way too. But you shouldn't feel guilt over being glad that man is dead. Neither should you feel exuberant joy over his death. Be glad that his victims lived. & take hope that maybe this will spark a revolution in attitudes.
From the time I was an early teenager I had women friends who would get abused in some form. It'd always break my heart when they'd go back to the guy & get beat up again. & occasionally when they'd try to get away the guy wouldn't leave them alone.
Part of the solution would be in educating women to see what their situation is & to learn the warning signs, or at least (as there sometimes are no warning signs) get the hell out when things go downhill. But most importantly I would hope women would learn that they must take care of themselves. Even when it comes to self defense, & even if it comes down to deadly force.
Women who defend themselves & kill their assailant may feel the guilt that you do. They may have a tough time dealing with those emotions. That I'm afraid is probably a by product of the generations that we have, which are in some cases a bit too pampered in my opinion. But I guarantee that it is easier to deal with those emotions than it would be to deal with the emotions resulting from being raped or maimed. & it is definitely preferable to deal with those emotional difficulties resulting from self defense than it is to die.
& there are some positive effects for the community as well as the individual if women were to start fighting back. How many of those domestic homicides you referred to in the article would have happened if the women would have been armed & mentally prepared to defend themselves? Probably the same number, but the difference would have been that not all of the victims would have been fatalities. Face it, if the Klan knew they'd have had two or three of their 'cross burning social club' riddled with buckshot every time they lit a match on someone’s' lawn, cross burnings would have been a short lived fad. It’s the same with domestic violence. Granted, it'd take a complete social evolution to totally eliminate it, but start treating the women who do defend their selves as positive role models & have every other session of the support group put in some time at the range & the guys ( & women ) who do feel the urge to beat up their ex will think twice about it.

So while I do understand what you feel, I thought you should know of an alternate viewpoint. I don't sympathize with the assailant & my only regret is that a potentially decent human being made some very wrong decisions & justifiably ( in many senses ) met his demise. Yes, it'd be nice if he had gotten some form of rehab & started making more intelligent decisions, but 'what ifs' & "contemplation" & "wishing it didn't happen" & "wishing it'd just go away" & "marches" & "vigils" & "restraining orders" & "having 911 on speed dial" won't save your life if your ex-boyfriend decides to take out x years of some complex out on you. Being prepared mentally & physically to defend yourself will. Being armed wouldn't hurt. Understanding it's your responsibility & no one else’s will help. Understanding it's your right should be mandatory.

I hope you see that killing in & of itself isn't wrong, or even right. It just is. & sometimes, as in the example you wrote of, it's necessary. I don't think I'm callous for feeling the way I do. I just think it is sometimes better to over-ride emotions with logic. Not all the time, but sometimes it is necessary for our own survival. Emotions after all do make us human, but it is logic that allows us to survive.

Forgive the rambling nature of this. I am too used to explaining very simple concepts in very elaborate terms for the sake of clarity to even pretend being capable of writing a short letter.

I think you for your time & if explaining any part of my particular viewpoint in more depth would help you in any way, feel free to write.

Take care,

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