OPINION – How is it that we are losing our sense of outrage over things truly outrageous, things like a woman driver being subjected to several body searches after simply failing to use her turn signal early enough?
It’s one thing to find ourselves in trouble because we missed a crucial indicator of an impending problem. It’s another thing to willfully ignore the warning signals that are flashing in our faces.
With a veritable blizzard of information swirling around us each day, it’s understandable that we might miss something now and then. For some things, it’s not that big of a deal – like the guy who shows up in public wearing two different shoes: He might draw a few chuckles, but he’s not hurting anything.
What’s tougher to understand is how respectable people, when presented with compelling evidence that something is dangerously wrong, can choose to either ignore it, shrug it off or attempt to justify it.
This kind of ignorance, coupled with the perceived legitimacy of state power, paves the way for an outrageous new normal to take hold.
Consider the case of Kimberlee Carbone:
In November 2013 Carbone was stopped by a police officer in New Castle, Pennsylvania, for allegedly failing to activate her turn signal at least 100 feet before an intersection. A minor traffic technicality became the basis for five hours of sadistic treatment.
According to the account by blogger Jacob Sullum, the traffic stop was a pretext for the officer to begin a fishing expedition for drugs he wrongly suspected were in her car. Claiming to smell marijuana, the officer arrested her on suspicion of DUI but did not administer a roadside sobriety test.
Carbone was subjected to a pat-down. The search turned up nothing.
Her vehicle was later searched. The search turned up nothing.
Carbone was taken to jail, where she was subjected to the standard strip search that the Supreme Court has deemed acceptable for all incoming arrestees no matter how minor the offense. The search turned up nothing.
Two correctional officers weren’t satisfied that Carbone’s orifices were free of drugs and instructed her arresting officer to take her to nearby Jameson Hospital for further examination. A doctor was enlisted to sign off on a medical order for “internal examination” of Carbone’s body cavities as treatment for a “possible overdose, rectal packing and/or oral intake of a controlled substance.” She was strapped to a hospital bed by her wrists and ankles and Dr. Bernard Geiser performed internal inspections of her most private places. The search turned up nothing.
The doctor then ordered her subjected to an involuntary CT scan. The scan for drugs, like the searches, turned up nothing.
The doctor performed yet another internal examination and then ordered two nurses to perform a third. Carbone’s vagina was swabbed for testing, and her urine was also tested for the presence of drugs. The additional searches turned up nothing.
After five hours of abuse, Carbone was told she was free to go.
For those keeping score at home, let’s see what all this fuss added up to.
A woman was stopped on a traffic law technicality, falsely accused of DUI, essentially kidnapped, stripped, humiliated and repeatedly violated by law enforcement and medical personal who were determined to find out if she possessed any quantity of a plant.
No drugs of any kind were found.
If our first inclination is to angrily insist there must be more to this story than the facts stated, we’re officially part of the problem.
What “facts” could possibly turn five hours of official captivity and sexual abuse into a moral action?
Incidents like what happened to Kimberlee Carbone have happened before. The frequency with which they happen is irrelevant. The fact they are happening at all, under the color of law, is what’s outrageous.
They are happening because our government has enacted laws that place a higher value on escalating searches to enforce them than on the natural rights of the people they are supposed to be protecting.
Was it worth it to inflict irreversible trauma on an innocent woman on the off chance that police might find a measurable amount of a naturally occurring substance?
Sneering that we should “just obey the law” doesn’t quite cut it when those enforcing the law are more willing to engage in criminal aggression than they are willing to admit they were wrong.
The only person in this sad story who did nothing that victimized another person was Carbone. The same cannot be said for the professionals who clicked their heels and simply did their jobs.
These folks aren’t likely monsters in their day-to-day lives, but their lack of moral perspective allows them to participate in acts that can only be described as monstrous.
This is what’s been called “the banality of evil.”
Hannah Arendt, commenting on this tendency stated:
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Reasonable people can still agree that substance abuse is the source of many societal ills. That alone does not justify the kind of lawless aggression we’re seeing.
Where are the reasonable folks who can see that enabling experiences like what happened to Kimberlee Carbone isn’t solving the problem but compounding it?
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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