Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Victor: Your Answer is Here Because I'm too Long Winded For My Own Browser
Oh, bloody hell, lost my own very long response.
Basically what I want to say is that its clearly not as simple as all that--and maybe it shouldn't or can't be. There are all kinds of places where we as a society privilige the privacy and separation of the home sphere and we permit to parents and siblings a lisence that we don't to anyone else,and we take into consideration needs that they have (for support, for companionship) that are not taken into account with respect to other situations. Although its true that the law comes down pretty hard on certain kinds of crimes and removes parents from the household and jails them for committing those crimes it is not the case that children are removed from the custody of the parents because the parents have committed a crime. And the state should be leery of removing children from parents because the need of the child to maintain a stable family relationship with a parent supersedes what we might consider even the right of the child to a more perfect parent.
In the case of negligent homicide and accidental death its also clear that people who identify with the negligent parent tend to see the incident as "accidental" and people who do not identify with the negligent parent, or the idea of negligence and error as human conditions, see the incident as falling under a kind of strict liability in which intentions don't matter. In addition, people (on all sides) resort to a kind of ethnotheory that mashes together theodicy, chance, guilt, probability, and identity to produce a kind of bastardized combination of a "just world" theory of the event. If you identify with the gun owner racially, ethnically, politically you find a way to see the incident as "just an accident which could happen to anyone. Couldn't have been prevented. They have suffered enough." If you don't identify with the gun owner racially, ethnically, politically, regionally or at all then you prefer to see the accident as something that is their fault--almost deliberate and criminal. They should have known not to do those things because they should have known not to be the kind of person who would end up in this situation. That's why I say its a variant on the "Just world" theory--both sides prefer to see the world as just and things like tragic deaths not being wholly destructive to "good people." When you identify with the parent you seek to see them treated as victims because if it were happening to you you would want to be treated as a victim, not a murderer, because you are a good person and bad things like punishment shouldn't be meted out to good people. If you don't identify with the negligent parent you want them to be treated as a criminal because its obvious that bad people are wholly responsible for the bad things (like the death of a child) which happen to them. There are no accidents when it comes to the lives of bad people--in a sense the death of the child and the punishment that comes after is wholly expected and wholly justified.
Southern Beale posted a link to a long article about what happens to parents who accidentally kill their babies by leaving them in the backseat of the car on a hot day. This happens horribly more often than one would like to imagine, and it happens to good parents who get distracted and forget the child is there, or think they've dropped the child off. Sometimes these people are charged as if they committed intentional murder. Sometimes they are released because the police decide that they have been "punished enough." As a parent who had to drive two children lots of places when they were infants and toddlers I have always known that it was merely a matter of luck that I never made that crashing mistake. In fact for years after my children left car seats entirely I still take a panicked look back into the car as I leave it, just to check. But I'd say that the attitudes of the commenters and police officers in the article Southern Beale linked to split along pretty much the lines I laid out above: if the person is adjudged a "good person" then the accident was an accident and out of their control. If the person is judged a "bad person" then they could have avoided the accident (in some way) and the death is more or less wholly attributed to their actions and their (perhaps even unconscious) intentions.