Weird Scenes #107: Seditious or Insane?

Trouble with you is / The trouble with me / Got two good eyes / But we still don’t see / Come round the bend / You know it’s the end / The fireman screams and / The engine just gleams — Casey Jones, written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, 1970

People really are little more than complicated machines. We’re made of a different type of material, but we are the result of an assembly of various parts that combine to create a unit. Now that we’ve got robots making robots, this analogy is all the more appropriate.

Eventually, all machines break down. Some vital part is going to go blooie just when you’re changing lanes on the highway. Your keyboard is going to meltdown when you’re on deadline for Pop Culture Squad. Your scalpel is going to break when you’re half-way through posterior cerebral artery. I am not trying to minimize that pain when I quote the most famous bumper-sticker of all time: “Shit happens.”

When a machine breaks down we take it to a mechanic. When a people breaks down we take it to a doctor. These days, the major difference between is the amount of liability insurance they each needs to carry.

In Manhattan yesterday, a subway train derailed after a 30 year-old man allegedly tossed metal tie plates, a.k.a. D plates, onto the trackbed right before the A train pulled into the 14th Street Station. Thankfully, no one was injured and the approximately 150 passengers were able to exit through the rear car. The front cars wound up looking like an accordion after a Gallagher concert. The miscreant was seized on the platform and held for the police to take him into custody.

Tens of thousands of passengers throughout the subway system were inconvenienced, many massively, due to the rerouting of the four different lines that use that station and the resulting back-ups on other routes. Were it to have happened today, Monday, hundreds of thousands would have been late to work at the very least. Since I’m writing this on Sunday, it’s possible repairs won’t be complete by Monday’s morning rush, so this could happen anyway.

The New York Daily News, which appears reasonable only because the other daily New York City newspaper is owned by Rupert Murdoch (the New York Times is a national newspaper having about as much to do with NYC as the Wall Street Journal has to do with Wall Street), referred to the suspect as “a laughing homeless saboteur.”

I’ll concede the “laughing” part as there were witnesses. “Homeless” was a label hanged around his neck by his appearance; there was no way to know his status at the time of arrest but “homeless” is often seen as evidence of a crime. Perhaps he was homeless, but at the time of the incident that was a presumption. The issue of who he was went unanswered.

But “saboteur?” Really? Are we being told when this man woke up Sunday morning and decided to go to the subway station at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue with the intention of screwing up people’s lives by tossing loose D plates onto the tracks? If so, why? Are we certain of that? What do we really know? Where are the confirming quotes from those who could knowledgeably comment on this seditious behavior?

The seditious part would please Trump’s weasel-shill William Barr, but the claim he was a saboteur was without justification. Did he look like the stereotypical late-19th century bomb-tossing anarchist that’s all the rage these days?

All this is very presumptuous and that’s not the way I was taught back in journalism school. Then again, very little of what I read today follows that training. Who-What-When-Where-Why? Feh. It’s so much easier to jump to clichéd conclusions. There are few fact checkers left to tell editors what a fact checker does.

Let’s take a different look at this. Perhaps this guy was not a saboteur. Perhaps he was suffering from a mental illness. His actions indicate that possibility, and rather strongly. But we rarely treat mental illness unless the patient is white and at least fairly well-off. We just toss them in prison to satisfy our morally bankrupt sense of justice which is merely a euphemism for revenge and does little to make our planet safe.

According to the American Psychological Association, at least half of those in our prisons suffer from mental health issues, and between 10% and 25% have serious mental health issues. We’ve got 2.3 million people incarcerated; you do the math.

Between our lack of journalistic ethics and our lust to jump in order to pass judgment without the tedious tasks of due process and fair play, we have reduced America to a gaggle of nattering nabobs of negativism; busybodies who want to lock our problems behind bars instead of dealing with them.

The saddest part is, this analysis explains a hell of a lot about what’s going on in America these days.

Thoughts?