July 16, 1993

He Was Only a _ _ _.

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.

Louis D. Brandeis

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana a 16 year old Japanese exchange student, dressed as John Travolta, was looking for a Halloween party that he was going to attend. He was at the wrong house and was looking for the entrance. The owner came out with a large caliber hand gun and shouted "freeze!" The kid didn't understand and pointed his camera at him to take his picture. The man shot him dead at point blank range. In a trial in May, 1993, the man was acquitted of all charges against him. There is nothing illegal about stupidity in Louisiana, nor in any other state or nation. If there were, he would have been found guilty of first degree idiocy. This is the kind of person who should not be allowed to own a gun. He is a menace, not because he is mean, but because he is a fool.

Would he have been acquitted if the boy had been an American? I doubt it. At the very least, he would have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter. It could hardly be described as self defense, because the kid was unarmed. He would have been sued by the parents (this may still happen) and deprived of everything that he owned and would be making payments for the rest life. That would have been justice. But the boy that he killed was a foreigner, someone who is somewhat less than human. Even to people who see Japanese as human beings, he is still not "one of us."

If an armed intruder came to my house, I would shoot him and not lose any sleep over it. But he would have to be armed and constitute a real --not imaginary-- threat. Owning a gun entails a heavy responsibility, even more so than owning a car. But there are no laws that require someone to understand the responsible use of it. Some states have requirements for a hunting license, but not for the ownership of a weapon. It seems to me that requiring a course in gun safety would be a good idea, but even that would not be FOOL proof.

I suspect that many cops might be more afraid of armed jerks who think that they are defending themselves, than from the professional criminals.

There have always been different standards of justice for Americans than for foreigners. Foreigners included all people of color, even those who were here before The Pilgrims, orientals, and people who speak with an accent. This is not peculiar to this country; it exists in all countries of the world. In our country, we pride ourselves at being a country that is tolerant of all people. That tolerance is more honored in the breach than the observance.

After two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, a number of people questioned the wisdom of that decision to drop those bombs on Japanese cities. One of the arguments raised was the question of whether, had the war in Europe not ended, would we have dropped such a bomb on a German city? Many, including me, believed that we would not have done so. We would not have done it because the people in Germany were considered people, while the Japanese were considered a somewhat lower form of life.

It is amazing how time has changed things. That incident in Baton Rouge could only have happened here, not in Japan. The Japanese aren't free to bear arms. Had it happened in Japan, it is impossible to say what kind of justice would have been administered to the perpetrator of a crime against a "foreigner."

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