Reflections on Unforgiven
The titled film is one of my favorites. In the latter part of the film, the nearly-blind dimwit who read too many dime novels laments the fact that he assassinated someone while he was taking a bowel movement but then adds that the fellow probably “had it coming.” Clint Eastwood’s character responds, “Hell, kid, we all have it coming.”
Ashli Babbitt, whose parents didn’t know how to spell Ashley, was a 35-year old former airman who, from every account, was never a member of any organized “extremist” groups. I’ve placed the word extremist in quotations because the definition of that word (apparently) depends on one’s particular political point of view. Ashli and her husband owned a pool business in California.
Ashli flew to Washington DC on 5 January to participate in the “Stop the Steal” rally on 6 January. One of the hundreds of people who pushed their way into the US Capitol. There are videos of Ashli standing behind others, grasping poles to attempt to breach a barricaded set of doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby. It was behind the lobby where several members of Congress were sheltering and, we could assume, were peeing themselves. When Ashli attempted to climb through a broken window, the first to do so (it is claimed), a police officer fired a single shot, struck her in the shoulder, and she apparently bled to death.
I don’t know Ashli Babbitt. She may have been one of those mouthy young people who talk more than listen. She may have been the impetuous type … going off on adventures without giving much thought to the likely consequences of her actions. In fact, Ashli may have been an idiot. What she was not, however, was armed. I’m not sure how a police officer is justified in killing a mouthy person. It does not appear to have been the “least amount of force necessary to place someone under arrest.” That would probably be physical restraint or the use of a taser if she were too rowdy.
But at no time did Ashli give the police officer a reasonable belief that she endangered anyone’s life or cause them injury. She did not have a nuclear weapon or any explosive device. Nor, given the fact that Ashli was shot “while entering” the Capitol building, could the police officer reasonably conclude that the use of deadly force was justified to prevent serious injury or imminent death against other persons (cowering members of Congress).
I suspect the individual who shot her was likely unsuitable for police work — someone who gets rattled easily, is always afraid of others, someone incapable of “taking charge” of a situation or employing the least amount of force necessary to effect an apprehension. We might understand this, particularly if the shooter was a young officer, inexperienced, or a bed-wetter — but it doesn’t mitigate the fact that he murdered an unarmed demonstrator.
What should concern us about the Babbitt murder is that a citizen was shot and killed and that the police shooter was exonerated. He’s become the hero (even if we don’t know his name), and she’s become the bad guy. I think Ashli used poor headwork in her part of this episode, but she’ll not be learning any lessons from it. She’s dead. She’s unforgiven. The question remains: did this potentially mouthy, reactive, dim bulb deserve to die? Apparently.
And so too does anyone else who participates in demonstrations against a totalitarian government. The capitol policeman and Speaker of the House of Representatives fired a warning shot. Not at Ashli, at the American people who won’t do as they’re told. You have been warned. I think it was author/former police officer Joseph Wambaugh who once wrote, “Never take a stick to a gunfight.”
Unforgettable Scene – Unforgiven. “Hell of a thing…” ….“Hell, kid, we all have it coming.”
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