L. Neil Smith's
Number 331, August 7, 2005

"Stop meddling in other people's business"

A Tale of Two Stonings
by Chris Claypoole

Exclusive to TLE

For the several weeks, many of us have followed the tale of Maribel Cuevas, an 11-year-old girl who lives with her Spanish-speaking parents in a poor section of Fresno, California. Back in April, she was being tormented by a group of boys, teasing her (name-calling, etc.) and throwing water balloons at her. Allegedly, one or more of the boys had been teasing her at school for some time. She then picked up a rock and threw it at the group, hitting one of the boys in the forehead, causing a wound that started bleeding. An ambulance was called; it responded with three (3!) police cars and a helicopter, who arrested Maribel (who speaks little English) with what could conservatively be called excessive force. (see http://tinyurl.com/9f7el and http://tinyurl.com/b6smv for details)

She was held for five days without seeing her parents for more than one 30 minute session. The authorities were treating this as a violent felony. Violent? Sure. She threw a rock at someone's head. Was she provoked? Also surely. Was it an appropriate response? Maybe not, but she is eleven years old! The police tackled her, handcuffed her and read her Miranda rights (in English), preventing her mother from coming to her aid, etc. Up until recently, the local prosecutor was planning to try her for felony assault. That, at least, has ended. (see http://tinyurl.com/dtaex)

This story prompted a lot of criticism, even ridicule. Fred Reed had one of the better rants on the topic (http://tinyurl.com/bp3gb). The point being that far too many Americans have seemingly lost the ability to take matters into their own hands, and use common sense in dealing with situations that involve anything more heated than a discussion about who is the hottest diva on the pop music scene. Many, if not most, Americans, at least from the news I get (mainly from internet and a news-talk-sports radio station in Baltimore, MD), don't want to have confrontations with people that step outside the bounds of what they consider acceptable behavior. Instead, they call the police or demand that another law be passed. (There is even some fool legislator in Pennsylvania who is considering a law proposed by an 11-year-old constituent, as part of a contest, to mandate restraining dogs in cars. See http://tinyurl.com/czf9c)

I know, from the same news sources referenced above, that there are still those that will act as adults in control of themselves and their surroundings. Many Americans still act in self-defense when threatened, and laugh off non-threatening behavior even if it is annoying. But too many have lost their sense of perspective. Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote two essays on the subject of growing up (or not) and the effect that the ownership of guns has on that process. (http://tinyurl.com/c5xf2 and http://tinyurl.com/dn2gc) Too many alleged adults in some sections of the U.S. and most of the large cities, have not had the maturing presence of guns around while they were growing up, and it shows.

As a counterpoint, there was a story from Israel on August 4 (see http://tinyurl.com/a2gx6) about an Israeli soldier that opened fire inside a bus. He was upset about the upcoming forced relocation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. The passengers killed him, and the evidence of his bruised body on the floor of the bus, surrounded by stones, indicates that he may have been stoned to death.

Now, there is a huge difference between throwing stones at someone who is shooting at you (or even others in your proximity) and someone who is throwing water balloons and taunts at you, even if the harassment has been ongoing. My point derives from the different reaction of the authorities to those throwing the stones. In Fresno, and I would bet in many other urban areas or in states that restrict the right of self-defense of their subjects, the police would react in a similar fashion. We have all heard several dozen Zero Tolerance horror stories; these are part and parcel of this attitude. In Israel, even those that are against the settlers being relocated out of the Gaza Strip were deploring the shooter and giving credit to those that killed him.

Taking responsibility for your own defense, your own actions and reactions, the results of everything you do, is the sign of an adult. Too many Americans are still children. I guess that is why so many stupid laws can get passed when the sponsors assure us that it is "for the children."

The Israeli bus passengers took responsibility for their self-defense. No one suggested they hunker down and call 9-1-1 and hope for the best.

The situation in Fresno should have been handled by parents. Maribel went to the home of the boy she hit with the rock and tried to apologize. When I was a kid, this kind of incident was handled by the involved parents. (Yeah, yeah, I know writing things like that are a sure sign of age.) What should have happened, IMO, was that Maribel got a stern lecture about the dangers of throwing rocks at someone's head; the boys got at least as stern a lecture about ganging up on a girl, and the families put their heads together to find a way to defuse the situation. The fact that Maribel's family speaks little or no English and the boys' families don't seem to speak much Spanish complicates matters, but shouldn't be a permanent roadblock to a resolution. And at least the prosecutors (persecutors?) are backing off the felony charges.

Hopefully, with about 2/3 of the states having some variation of concealed carry allowed for most of the population, Americans can re-learn self-reliance and personal responsibility. I certainly do not wish to have a situation like Israel has, but that crucible has molded some very self-reliant people, with the exception of their economic system and politics. Do Americans need more adversity to become more self-reliant? I'm not sure; but most of us (me included) have some improvements to make in this area. I know people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, so just consider this tale as a pebble thrown into a pond, with the hope that the ripples will provoke thought on this subject.

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