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About three weeks into Basic Training, one of the bigger, cockier guys in our platoon had enough of the drill sergeant barking at him, and told him that he could “take him.”
“That’s unwise, son,” the drill sergeant said.
“Let’s go outside and find out who’s the tough guy,” the recruit said.
“Mess around and find out,” the drill sergeant told him (although he did not use the word “mess”). My fellow platoon member had six inches of height and about 70 pounds on the drill sergeant. Everyone held their breath.
Ever since that incident, I’ve seen people use similar words to tell foolish people to feel free to engage in foolish acts at their own peril, usually in words similar to that drill sergeant. A frequent contributor on YouTube, Salty Cracker, has been using those words repeatedly, telling the violent Antifa mobs that they had better be careful what they wish for. Some of that rhetoric became prophetic yesterday in Jefferson City, MO.
For those of you who didn’t pay attention in fourth-grade geography class, Jefferson City is the capital of Missouri. The town has a population of about 36,000, but swells to over 45,000 when the legislature is in session due to lobbyists, etc. But the actual police force is not that large, about what you’d expect for a town that size.
But, the Cole County Sheriff’s office and the Highway Patrol also have a strong presence in Jefferson City, and the Capitol Police are also active there. With the Highway Patrol headquarters in town, and Troop F just slightly out of town, the number of police officers that can be mobilized in a hurry is fairly large.
Jefferson City sits on the Missouri River and is about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. It’s served by daily Amtrak service and it isn’t uncommon for large numbers of inner-city folks to bring their complaints to Jefferson City by arriving on the morning train and leaving on the evening train. On Thursday evening, however, there were a few seats that weren’t filled on the evening train.
By now we know the tricks of the “peaceful protesters.” Unsatisifed with sit-ins, they have now resorted to “die-ins” by laying in the roadways and pretending to be dead. Apparently all that teaching in second grade about looking both ways before crossing the street, and not playing in the street, was wasted on these people. Perhaps they fail to understand the danger of short drivers with limited visual fields and 3,000-pound vehicles.
Now, to have a really good protest, you need a really good cause. You need something that makes people want to rise up! How about putting 12-year-old children in adult jails? That sounds like something that might upset even your basic cub scout mom – which is pretty much what city folks believe inhabits the town of Jefferson City. So they brought a protest claiming that the state was trying to lock up 12-year-olds in adult prisons, and brought with them their “die in” strategy. Their goal: get arrested on television.
Except, they know that the state isn’t trying to develop a pediatric wing at the state prison. The issue has much less to do with where someone is held as where someone is tried for their crimes. The juvenile system is designed to be forgiving of youthful indiscretions. Steal money from the candy store at 10 years of age, you go to Juvenile Hall (or its equivalent) and your parents have to come down and take you home. The system is designed to encourage parental responsibility. Similarly, if you’re beaten and abused, the juvenile system is there to help rescue and protect you. Because sometimes parents are not really parents, they’re simply biologic materials donors. They don’t care if little Johnny steals, but if he does, he better damn sure bring them a pack of smokes. The juvenile system only works if you can get the juvenile away from the kinds of influences that lead to anti-social behavior. If you can’t, it just amounts to a get-out-of-jail card for criminals.
In short, the juvenile justice system proceeds from the analytical predicate that it is possible to intervene in young lives and turn them around. And that system has many success stories.
It also has many failures. Alyssa Bustamante was one. She killed her nine-year-old neighbor just to see what it felt like. She was 15. A hearing was held to determine if she should be tried as an adult. She was set to be tried for first degree, but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got life with a possibility of parole. She was housed in a juvenile facility until she turned 18. She’s now in the women’s prison.
Under Missouri law, a child between 12 and 16 who commits a murder is currently required to have a hearing to determine whether they should be tried as an adult or a juvenile. The bill signed by the governor in Missouri simply states that the same type hearings that courts are required to have in murder cases also apply to cases of gun violence and certain other significant violent felonies.
The protesters pretend the governor is out to get the kiddies. In fact, he’s out to stop the kids from being used as catspaws in gang violence. If you have an 18-year-old gang member who wants to eliminate a competing drug dealer, he simply gets his 14-year-old cousin to go do the deed for him. If the 14-year-old is caught, he goes through the juvenile process. He might do only 4 years in confinement in a juvenile detention facility and then be released because he was tried as a minor. His criminal record (or at least that part that could be disclosed) is wiped clean.
Tried as an adult the 14-year-old defendant gets all the same protections of due process he would otherwise get, but instead of having the slate wiped clean at 18, that’s when he gets sent to adult prison to finish out the remainder of his sentence.
Is that overly harsh? Should we be protecting these 14-year-olds who don’t know any better? I was 14 once, and I was old enough then to know that killing was wrong. In fact, when I was 14, people were still be executed for those kinds of things. Now that 14-year-old, thanks to a forgiving Supreme Court, will be able to petition for parole at some point. He won’t get Dr. Kevorkian’s magic cure for misbehavior. But he will spend a significant amount of time in prison for what he did. Just as Alyssa Bustamante will, and for good reason. At her sentencing a forensic psychologist read from her diary entry on the day of the murder:
I just [expletive] killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throats and stabbed them. Now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel ATM. It was amazing. As soon as you get over the ‘Oh My Gawd. I can’t do this’ feeling it’s pretty enjoyable. I’m kinda nervous and shaking though right now. Kay, I got to go to church now LOL.
Is that the kind of person you want out on the streets?
The studies show that it is not the severity of punishment that deters crime, but rather, the certainty of apprehension and punishment. Perhaps, knowing this, that is one reason why the “defund the police” rhetoric is loudest in the communities with the most crime. Victims want to be victimizers and mete out their own punishments. If there is no certainty they will be arrested and prosecuted, why not?
But, to be clear, the only thing the bill requires is a hearing to determine how the juvenile should be tried. It does not require they be sent to adult prison as a child. The protesters knew that. They understood that. They just don’t like the idea of accountability.
In Jefferson City yesterday, the protesters decided to hold their die-in protest in front of the governor’s mansion. The video shows police called the assembly unlawful and ordered them out of the street. The protesters said they wanted to lie there for two minutes. They didn’t move. The police again gave them notice. Again they didn’t move. It wasn’t until the police started moving in toward them that protesters, moving in slow motion, decided to get up and amble slowly out of the street. They were blocking the street. They had blocked the street previously near the Capitol. And now they were trying to block the road in front of the governor’s mansion (which was stupid considering he wasn’t even there).
Then they whined when they got arrested. One of the screech owls in the group yelled “don’t touch me!” That might work in St. Louis. It didn’t work in Jefferson City.
Contrast this with what happened in Memphis and Washington DC in the past two weeks where motorists were stopped and their cars were vandalized because they wanted to navigate the streets that their tax money pays for. And understand it was just this kind of stupidity that led to the shooting of Garrett Foster, who pointed his AK-47 at a sergeant from Fort Hood, and who learned right away that pointing a loaded firearm at someone who’d been to Afghanistan was not a smart thing to do. Police understand that stupidity like blocking roads and laying down in them is exactly the kind of thing that leads to violence. And, when cars drive through, as in Washington DC, protesters act surprised to learn that they are at fault.
This is what protesters of all stripes need to understand about protesting. Everyone’s fine with you taking your message to the legislature and marching peacefully along. When you start trying to inconvenience the citizenry, or try to purposefully impeded traffic, that’s when the gloves are going to come off.
No Jefferson City police officer is going to be disciplined for what happened. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They protected the public from people who would put them at risk. The messed around, and they found out.
Oh, and the recruit who had 70 pounds and six inches on the drill sergeant. He had to go see the dentist that evening. That wiry drill sergeant laid him out with two punches when he missed with his first one.
What happened in Jefferson City is what rural people mean when they say mess around and find out.Published in