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Crimes of the NYC cy­clist killings kind are only re­warded by out­bursts such as the US Pres­i­dent’s.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - JOANNE BLACK

Joanne Black

It has been re­ported that the per­son charged with de­lib­er­ately run­ning over cy­clists on a New York bike path, killing eight and in­jur­ing 11, had planned his act for up to a year. That seems sur­pris­ing.

Even if he spent 24 hours rather than 24 sec­onds form­ing the bru­tal in­tent – “I’m go­ing to run peo­ple over, maybe cy­clists, in New York” – the plan­ning re­quired is lim­ited. “Will need truck.” It was not a ­so­phis­ti­cated crime, but nei­ther did it need to be. Be­cause so many peo­ple are paral­ysed by the word ­“ter­ror­ism”, the crim­i­nal does his deed then some politi­cians and of­fi­cials over­re­act, mag­ni­fy­ing the im­pact and ­in­ad­ver­tently di­min­ish­ing the ­im­por­tance of the vic­tims.

In the New York case, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would like to see the of­fender ex­e­cuted: “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”, he tweeted, in cap­i­tal let­ters. “Should get fair trial first,” I say, with the caps lock off.

Trump’s mes­sage went to his 43 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers and the me­dia pub­lished it so that even those of us sen­si­ble enough to go nowhere near Twit­ter can share Trump’s ­in­ner­most thoughts. Or per­haps share his most su­per­fi­cial thoughts, if there is any dif­fer­ence.

Now he would like to kill off the green-card lot­tery, a quirky sys­tem that al­lows 50,000 peo­ple a year per­ma­nent res­i­dency in the US. Its aims are no­ble – to en­hance di­ver­sity – but be­cause the al­leged as­sailant in the cy­cle­way killings en­tered the US via the lot­tery, al­beit in 2010 when there were no signs of his men­tal ill­ness or evil in­tent, Trump would like the sys­tem thrown out.

The ten­dency to pick out a crime such as this and call for changes to im­mi­gra­tion, whereas the ­slay­ing of 58 peo­ple at a Las Ve­gas con­cert brought no pres­i­den­tial calls to ac­tion, ex­alts the sta­tus of so-called “ter­ror” crimes and their per­pe­tra­tors. Be­ing at that con­cert in Las Ve­gas would have counted as ter­ror to me, but we have handed the word over to a cer­tain type of crim­i­nal, given it new mean­ing and un­der that ban­ner, some ­politi­cians and some of­fi­cials think any re­sponse is jus­ti­fied. It is not.

The of­fender is ei­ther a crim­i­nal or men­tally ill or liv­ing in that half­world be­tween the two. Ei­ther way, he can be tried and, if guilty, locked up for life without any change in Amer­ica’s laws. Th­ese types of crimes and th­ese types of crim­i­nals should not be re­warded by hav­ing statutes rewrit­ten.

This week, I went to my first es­tate sale, a com­mon way for ­Amer­i­cans to get rid of ­house­hold pos­ses­sions, usu­ally after a fam­ily mem­ber has died.

Th­ese items are poignant enough when they end up in es­tate ­sale­rooms, but here, to walk through the home is to in­vite even more con­tem­pla­tion about the things large and small, use­ful and use­less, cheap and ex­pen­sive, that most of us col­lect in a life­time.

Although I am ­some­times ­per­plexed at the things ­Amer­i­cans buy, I do not scoff at their ­con­sumerism be­cause as a col­lec­tor of china and books I am in no po­si­tion to cast the first stone when it comes to ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions.

I do not ad­here to the school of thought that ­pos­ses­sions can­not make you happy. On the con­trary, I de­rive much hap­pi­ness from my ­col­lec­tions, but I get that it’s strictly per­sonal.

Long ago, I gave up ­yelling at my kids, so now if they cross me I just smile to my­self and think, “Ha, one day you are go­ing to have to deal with all the china.”

I am in no po­si­tion to cast the first stone when it comes to ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pos­ses­sions.

“Can Emily come out to ab­stain from hav­ing sex?”

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