The truly scary part of the events in Boston, and by extension the events like it over the last few years, is how it brings out the absolute worst in an unthinking public.
The news that 2 suspects had been identified and one of them had been killed by police was actually greeted with cheers by co-workers of mine. One of the coworkers said mockingly to me “Would love to hear your take on their so called ‘civil liberties’ now.” His position , reiterated to me multiple times over the recent past is that ‘terrorists’ have no civil rights, no right to a trial, just kill them. He has used this mental blind spot towards his own horrific statements to celebrate the drone bombing of innocent people in faraway lands. He has actually made the statement “It serves them right for living so close to the bad guys.”
So let me make myself very very plain here. A human being accused of a crime has the right to a trial regardless of what crime he is accused. Notice I did not simply say ‘a citizen’ has that right, and I did that on purpose. My rights, and yours, do not come from a piece of paper, even if they are enumerated by that piece of paper. My rights and yours come from our humanity and a fair society will honor the rights of whoever happens to be under its jurisdiction at the moment, whether they be a ‘citizen’ or not. To do less is to commit a crime against the accused.
The state enjoys a monopoly on violence in many areas, and a monopoly on the ability to incarcerate. I cannot lock my neighbor up in a cage if he transgresses against me, only the state enjoys that privilege. In theory, to counterbalance that privilege, the burden of proof rests upon the state to make their case before a jury of my peers that a crime was committed and that it was committed by me. If they cannot make that case, then I go free, even if everybody ‘knows’ I did it.
When we cast that aside and we seriously contemplate extra-judicial killings for certain offenses, a couple of things happen. First of all we sacrifice a piece of our humanity by our crimes against the accused. Secondly, that list of crimes where it’s acceptable to just ‘take them out back and shoot them’ always grows larger over time. Trials are expensive, and the system is cumbersome. It’s hard to get a conviction, and it should be, because an out of control police state is far more dangerous than an out of control bomber.