The Thinking 

A Young Woman’s Death and the Need for Rage

September 18, 2009



Kristor writes:

Just read your entry on Annie Le, and I have to say that the photo of her with her fiancée just about broke my heart.

Laura writes:

A beautiful woman. It’s such a sad story.
Despite all the attention given to it, I think many people in their heart of hearts think, ‘Well, it is just one woman.” But this kind of thing scares so many other young women for years and has such a widespread effect. There are few things a woman fears more than dying violently in the arms of a man who hates her.
Besides every violent death is much worse than the death of someone, even a very young person, who gets the chance to say goodbye.
Kristor writes:
When you say, “every violent death is much worse than the death of someone, even a very young person, who gets the chance to say goodbye,” I think you’re onto something. But there is a scale of horror: from the young person who has a chance to say good-bye, to the young person who dies suddenly in an accident, to the young person who is murdered. The first is tragic, the second 100 times more tragic than the first, and the third is simply off the charts, horror-wise. Think of the difference in how you would feel if you accidentally broke your car window, as compared to how you would feel if some thief or vandal broke it. Violence intentionally inflicted is incomparably worse than run-of-the-mill accidents.
Laura writes:
Good points. There simply is no worse death than a violent death at the hands of someone filled with hatred. Even death in a war, where a soldier is hit by another soldier, is not the same – as awful as it is – because it’s an impersonal thing. With rape and murder, it can only seem intensely personal at the time. It’s the most intimate form of violence.
There is definitely a scale of horror and it’s right for a community to rise up in anger, not only to gather in candlelight vigils.
Kristor writes:
Yes. The soldier’s death is tragic, but beautiful, because in going to war he offers himself a sacrifice. Annie Le’s death is tragic and supremely ugly.
The great predators of our planet fear and loathe us, and avoid us if at all possible. This was true even before we had sophisticated weapons. It was true because predators had learned that what happened when you poached a baby from a band of humans is that all the men of that band hunted you down and killed you, no matter how long it took. It was this same behavior that tamed the Wild West. My daughter went to college at Carleton, in Northfield, MN. That was where Jesse James met his Waterloo, at the hands of the local men. He and his gang tried to rob the bank. The men of the town, seeing their money being stolen (there was no FDIC in those days), started shooting, killing one of the gang outright. When the James gang fled they followed in hot pursuit – for hundreds of miles. That was it for Jesse James.
Nothing less than this sort of vigilance will ever work to keep the predators in check. They must be hunted down relentlessly, and then ruthlessly exterminated. Nature abhors a vacuum, and this law holds everywhere. In particular it covers vacuums of lethal force, whether among nations or among men. The lethal force will, certainly, be possessed and used by someone or other; the only choice is whether it is possessed and used by the community in its own defense, or by predators upon that community.
Laura writes:
“The lethal force will, certainly, be possessed and used by someone or other; the only choice is whether it is possessed and used by the community in its own defense, or by predators upon that community.”
That’s very well-said. It needs to be repeated again and again for it to sink in. Although as a woman, I’m more cut out for standing on the sidelines and weeping.
It’s unnerving when families of those who have been killed in these terrible crimes express no anger. Only the most deadened among them don’t feel anger. Those who do feel it have a duty to express it, as does the community at large.
What’s the answer? Vigilante justice as with Jesse James? I think there’s a reasonable form of that, such as people in large numbers gathering outside crime scenes and courthouses agitating for justice. Public mourning and candlelight vigils, piles of stuffed animals and altars of mementos are important, but not enough. There must be some form of public protest. Protest against a single evil man? Yes. A single evil act of this nature sends waves through a community for years. Un-resisted, it leads to a climate of tolerance and more violence. Let’s face it. We live in a remarkably violent country. We need to recover our innocence and our sense of shock.
Tocqueville said that when he visited America in the 1830’s, there was hardly any need for professional crime detectives. When there was a murder, the people in a town were so hot about it, they did all the investigation themselves and then handed the guilty party over to the law.  Obviously there were lynch mobs too, the majority of them seeking white outlaws, I believe. We’re not allowed to do the rounding up today and obviously we need professionals and trials. But, professionals only investigate. It’s not their role to react and to abuse the conscience of the guilty. I’ve been to a number of murder trials. Gruesome, brutal murders. I can tell you this. Those court rooms were virtually empty. The community wasn’t there.
Kristor writes:
This social change, this degradation of our moral fiber, has overtaken us in the space of only a few decades. I was stunned to learn last year – from the San Francisco Chronicle, no less – that in the 1920’s a popular young scion of one of the big men of San Jose was kidnapped by two klutzes. So stupid were they that they managed both to kill their victim inadvertently, and to get themselves quickly apprehended. The stunning thing was that as soon as word got out that the killers of the popular young man were in custody, a mob of men, hundreds strong, gathered outside the police station, boiling with rage. The article included a photo of that crowd, milling about in their business suits and fedoras. The mob insisted on immediate justice, and began to yank and pull at the doors and windows. The chief of police, fearing what might happen if he did not, released the prisoners to the mob, who instantly lynched them. I hasten to add that the kidnappers were not black; it was not a racial thing at all. It was sheer outrage.
Now, there is nothing pretty about a lynch mob. But a lynch mob is a lot prettier than the state freeing a man who has served time for chopping off a kid’s hands, as California did a few years back. Righteous wrath is not nice, in any sense of that word; it is cruel, and ugly, and sloppy; but at least it is righteous. And even in its cruelty and sloppiness there is political virtue: for, knowing that the wrath of the men of the town is sloppy, those who find themselves tempted to evil know that it is dangerous even to appear to their fellows as if they might possibly offend against their laws, for fear that, a crime having been discovered, they will as likely suspects be wrongly swept up in a general outrage and destroyed.
Laura writes:
For further discussion about violent crime and the lack of public reaction, I highly recommend Lawrence Auster’s View from the Right. The many articles there on the murder of Patrick McGee, a man beheaded in his home in England, are a good place to start. 
This article in the New York Times on the question of whether applications to Yale will be affected by the Le murder is the most tasteless news item I have seen on the killing.
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