Friday, February 22, 2013

Matthew Cunningham-Cook: The Christopher Dorner Complex

The Christopher Dorner Complex
by Matthew Cunningham-Cook


The initial response to the Dorner phenomena — like most phenomena involving madmen — has been to isolate it as an individual event, extrinsic to our society. Why does he hate us? Indeed, the presentation of most criminality is as something monstrous. This formulation ignores something crucial: it is impossible to arbitrarily separate some parts of our lives from the others. It is as foolish to presume that criminality is monstrous as it is to presume that the leg operates independently of the hip.

And so the Dorner incident, like all incidents involving madmen, requires us to consider the madness that structures life in America.

Baldwin’s midcentury injunction still holds today, absent the male normativity: we do need to take a hard look at ourselves. Why has Dorner attracted such support online, especially in communities of color? Why have two more LAPD officers, at great risk, come forward to address the free-flowing racism that characterizes their worklife? The questions we might ask will be fraught with peril, but there could be great positives: one of the key things that this experience has exposed is that a broader social consideration of what it means to live life ethically is gravely absent.

In Dorner’s case, the allegory of life to a furnace takes literal weight — he has died, consumed by fire. The police will celebrate, the chorus will quiet, the lives of his victims mourned. It is unlikely that the fire that burned away Dorner will burn away any illusion: this is unfortunate, and disturbing. His allegations will be dismissed as the rantings of a lunatic, things will return to normal. Until the fire, next time.

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