On Wednesday afternoon, in Louisville, Kentucky, it was the determination of a grand jury that an apartment deserved the protection of the law more than did the woman who was killed next door. A police officer named Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. This is the kind of charge you bring against an idiot who fires one off on New Year's Eve and wings a passerby a block away. This is not the kind of charge you bring in connection with a fusillade from police officers that results in the death of a 26-year-old woman named Breonna Taylor in her own apartment. Hankison will stand trial for firing into the apartment next door. Nobody will stand trial in the death of Breonna Taylor.
Nobody will stand trial in the death of Breonna Taylor because that's the way things work in the world created by our misbegotten "war" on drugs, a world in which very few of us live, and that even fewer of us understand. It is a world of body armour, but not body cameras, of no-knock warrants and the presumption of guilt, and a world in which racism and violence too often are blessed by the colour of law, a world in which Black lives do not matter as much as the shelving units next door.
Two other Louisville police officers, the ones who likely shot Breonna Taylor and shot up her apartment, will face no charges and will go back to the streets of Louisville, back into the "war" on drugs. I am increasingly convinced that unless you live full-time in that world, you cannot possibly understand events like those that transpired on the night of 13 March in Louisville, Kentucky.
Last month, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Kentucky's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, mentioned the killing of Breonna Taylor only in passing, saying:
"But even as anarchists mindlessly destroy American cities by attacking police and innocent bystanders, we Republicans recognise those who work in good faith for peace, justice and equality. In fact, it was General Dwight Eisenhower, future Republican President, who said: 'Democracy is a system which recognises the equality of human beings before the law.' Whether you are the family of Breonna Taylor or David Dorn, these are the ideals that will heal the wounds of our nation. Republicans will never turn a blind eye to unjust acts, but neither will we accept this all-out assault on Western civilisation."
On Wednesday, at a press conference, Daniel Cameron told the world that Taylor's killing was justified, and his explanation was that, "Sometimes the criminal law is not adequate to respond to a tragedy." He also went on to chastise "celebrities, influencers, and activists" who will "try to tell us how to feel... Our reaction to the truth is the society we want to be. Do we really want the truth? Or do we want a truth that fits our narrative? Do we want the facts? Are we content to blindly accept our own version of events? We, as a community, must make this decision.”
In 1963, German political philosopher Hannah Arendt published a study based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps. In Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she concluded that Eichmann was not an amoral monster, but rather that his evil deeds were connected to his "thoughtlessness" and an "inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else". She explores the idea that the most ordinary and shallow of people can commit the most heinous crimes, thus coining the term the "banality of evil".
Arendt was very, very smart. Sometimes, the banality is fucking breathtaking.
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