Raul Rodriquez, a Houston ex-fire fighter, is now on trial for shooting and killing a neighbor, Kelly Danaher, an elementary school teacher, and wounding two other people with multiple gunshot wounds in May 2010.
Rodriquez, disturbed by the noise of Danaher’s party, picked up a flashlight and his gun and went over to complain. Packing a gun and brandishing it, naturally, is going to make people who have been drinking and partying in your neighborhood take you more seriously and make them turn down the music. Pulling out a gun also makes for good neighbors.
Before opening fire, Rodriquez, who was videotaping this and speaking to the 911 operator as he was confronting his neighbors at their house and therefore on their ground: “It’s about to get out of hand sir, please help me. Please help me, my life is in danger now…,” Rodriguez told police over the phone. “Now, I’m standing my ground here. Now, these people are going to try and kill me” (emphasis added).
But I don’t actually want to talk about this vigilante-cum-neighbor.
Nor do I want to talk about the good folks at the NRA who created these “Stand Your (sic) Ground” laws in two dozen states beginning around the mid 2000s.
I want to talk about how the logic by which Rodriquez, George Zimmerman, and others who have escaped prosecution for chasing after people who offend them and killing them – claiming that they were the ones who were in fear for their lives when they actually turned the incident into a fatal encounter by chasing after their alleged adversaries – matches our government’s rhetoric and behavior. These murderers and our government are all invoking a variant of the infamous “Batterer’s Defense”: “She made me do it.”
This is what the US government has been doing to Iran, building a case to justify their cyber-attacks (personally authorized by Obama), assassinations (by Israel and/or by US secret agents) of Iranian nuclear scientists, crippling economic sanctions, and open military attacks on Iran, including the possible use of nukes to destroy the nuclear energy program in Iran. You might, after all, have to use nukes to destroy the nuclear energy program because that nuclear program could turn into a nuclear weapons program. And who better to teach this lesson then the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons on anyone – the USA – and Israel, which has hundreds of nukes themselves?
Remember the woman at Walmart’s Black Friday sale who used pepper spray on other shoppers so that she could get an edge on the super deals? This happened exactly a week after Sgt. John Pike infamously pepper sprayed UC Davis students. When officials use unwarranted, brutal or deadly force against innocents, what lesson do citizens draw from their leaders’ example?
As Gareth Porter revealed on June 5, 2012 (“U.S. Rejected 2005 Iranian Offer Ensuring No Nuclear Weapons”), Iran offered to guarantee that their nuclear enrichment could not be converted into weapons, a promise backed up by snap inspections, an offer that would have averted the sword rattling and worse against Iran by the US that have occurred since. That, the US, did not want. The British negotiator told Iran that the French and German governments were willing, but the offer had been nixed by the US:
Iranian negotiators submitted a proposal that included a “policy declaration to convert all enriched uranium to fuel rods” and “committed to getting the Additional Protocol”, which would allow the IAEA to make snap inspections on undeclared facilities, ratified by its parliament.
Conversion of low enriched uranium (LEU) to fuel rods only usable for power plants could have provided a guarantee against using the enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. Iran did not have the capability to fabricate fuel rods, so the implication was that the LEU would have to be shipped to another country for conversion or would have to be done under international auspices within Iran.
Once the fuel rods were fabricated, it would be practically impossible for Iran to reconvert them for military purposes.
Peter Jenkins, then the British permanent representative to the IAEA and a member of the British delegation to the Paris meeting with Iran, recalled in an interview with IPS, “All of us were impressed by the proposal.”
While the US complains bitterly that Iran might use – or is using – its nuclear program to create nuclear weapons and might subsequently use them against Israel and others, including the US, the US has been in fact creating the conditions that necessitate their engaging in attacks on Iran by refusing to allow this issue to be settled diplomatically and dismissing out of hand Iran’s offer to guarantee that their nuclear energy program would and could never be used to produce nuclear weapons.
The temper of the times is set by the actions of those who establish the norms from which others take their cues. When greed, material riches, and selfishness are the norm and when the law becomes whatever the leaders say it is, then the whole society suffers. When a society’s system endangers the lives of its people and the viability of the planet, and when that system’s leaders refuse to take the steps that must be taken to avoid disaster, then new leaders, representative of a different system, must step forward and create a new norm. They must set the standard and call on other people to adopt and adhere to that new standard. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 345)
 See this story about nearly 200 documented incidents in Florida alone, in which the charges or lack thereof have been affected by the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law. In almost 70% of these cases, the defendant went free. From the ProPublica story is this very telling example from Texas: “In November 2007, a Houston-area man pulled out a shotgun and killed two men whom he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor’s home. Joe Horn, a 61-year-old retiree, called 911 and urged the operator to ‘Catch these guys, will you? Cause, I ain’t going to let them go.’ Despite being warned to remain inside his home, Horn stated he would shoot, telling the operator, ‘I have a right to protect myself too, sir. The laws have been changed in this country since September the first, and you know it.’
Dennis Loo is Professor of Sociology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is a Harvard honors graduate in Government and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of “Globalization and the Demolition of Society” and Co-Editor/Author of “Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney”. Website: Dr. Dennis Loo