Never mind that the officers should have been tried instead for assault, a charge for which they almost certainly would have been found guilty. They got off – so somebody had to pay. One somebody was Reginald Oliver Denny. Several assailants pulled him out of his 18-wheel truck, kicked him in the stomach, hurled a five-pound piece of medical equipment at his head, hit him repeatedly in the head with a claw hammer, and tossed a slab of concrete onto his head. As he lay unconscious, passersby rifled through his pockets and threw beer bottles at him. Several bystanders took pictures but did not attempt to help him.
When Denny was finally rescued and taken to the hospital, his skull was fractured in 91 places and pushed into his brain. His left eye was so dislocated it almost fell into his sinus cavity. Surgeons patched him up as best they could, but today he lives with a permanent crater in his head.
In Phoenix, Ariz., on Sept. 15, 2001, just four days after 9/11, gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed because he looked Middle Eastern. Never mind that he was from India and a member of the Sikh religion. Sodhi “looked” Muslim, and a bunch of Muslims had just flown planes into the World Trade Center – so somebody had to pay. Within 30 minutes of Sodhi’s murder, Phoenix police reported four other attacks on innocent people who were or looked to be of Middle Eastern descent. Sodhi’s murderer was eventually apprehended and convicted and is now serving a life sentence.
In Austin, on June 18, 2007, David Rivas Morales and his co-worker, Victor Medel, were on their way home. As they pulled into Morales’ apartment complex, Medel accidentally struck a 2-year-old boy who had wandered into the driveway. Medel jumped out to see if the boy was OK, and he was immediately confronted by a group of onlookers. A child was hurt, and somebody needed to pay. The mob attacked Medel. As the situation escalated, Morales got out of the car and tried to protect his friend. The crowd turned their animosity away from the driver and toward Morales. Medel fled. The crowd beat Morales to death and then disappeared back into the neighborhood.
The little boy was not seriously hurt. Despite the presence of several witnesses, information on those involved in Morales’ murder is only now coming to light – almost eight weeks after the attack.. Mob justice. Black, white, brown. L.A., Arizona, Texas. The details are almost irrelevant. A mob felt that it, or one of its own, had been wronged, so someone had to pay. Someone paid, all right. And someone is still paying. But the mob is still at large.
It’s hard not to loathe the bystanders, the passersby, the witnesses who watched these crimes or crimes like them take place without lifting a finger to help. You wonder if such things could really happen. Especially here. But you’re being selectively perceptive. It is happening here. Right now. And you and I are letting it.
We know all the facts. None of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis. There was no connection between Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. But after 9/11, we allowed the Bush administration to use our rage, misdirect it, and then expend it on an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. We didn’t want to know the facts. We just wanted someone to pay.
We got our wish. Along with an obligatory handful of truly bad guys who had to die for regime change and the thousands of Muslim extremists who are bent on taking control of Iraq, expelling us, killing the other Muslims they disagree with, and dying in a jihad for the glory of Allah, we’ve disenfranchised, displaced, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Reginald Oliver Dennys, Balbir Singh Sodhis, and David Rivas Moraleses.
So what if they had nothing to do with 9/11? So what if they were opponents of Saddam Hussein? So what if they were or are harmless or innocent or children? Somebody had to – and has to – pay. And you and I are still just watching. The guys who we know incited this abomination are still at large. Still stoking us, pushing our buttons. Still in office, running our country.
‘d love to condemn the folks who watched while Reginald Denny was brutally beaten, David Rivas Morales was murdered, and people like Balbir Singh Sodhi were threatened or killed, but how can I? How can you?
E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth-area freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.