Man’s first sin was his decision to seize power that was not his; nor did it belong to some syndicate godfather. It belonged to God the Father. As a result, weeds grow, men hate, batter, murder one another; they ingest drugs that destroy the reason that made them men. We wish certain species would die out—starthistles, earwigs, toddler slappers—but they remain with us, for one thing, to remind us of our connection to our heritage: our heritage of original sin and our fall from original grace.
I was thinking about the toddler-slapper incident in this context, trying to understand why the slapper’s conduct was so thoroughly reprehensible, and why it deserves judicial penalties and societal censure. I can’t read the man’s heart, but only assess his alleged actions based on the reports I have read at some internet news sites I consider generally to be fairly competent, notwithstanding their pronounced liberal bias. I’m not going to use the man’s name, because it’s been in the news enough, and because I’m not writing about him personally, but citing the incident in which he was involved as an example.
Very briefly, for my marmot friends just emerging from under their rocks, a flight passenger slapped a two-year-old boy on the face, with his hand, while pronouncing a racial epithet as he instructed the child’s mother to “shut that N. baby up.” The child is the adopted African-American son of two obviously adoring white parents. The boy’s father was not on the flight with his wife and son. The assailant was determined to be inebriated.
As a preliminary matter, I have to confess some personal biases.
First, I consider it very wrong, and possibly criminal, ever to use corporal punishment on a child who is not specifically misbehaving. Crying in pain is not misconduct. The toddler in this case, according to his mother (whom I regard as necessarily the world authority on his behavior), was experiencing ear pain due to changes in the plane’s altitude and air pressure. If you don’t know how much this can hurt, even without being slapped hard enough to leave a bruise on your face, consider yourself very lucky.
Second, I admit to not wishing to share a planet, much less an airplane cabin, with a hostile drunk.
My take is that all sin re-enacts the original sin of seizing power which is not rightly one’s to seize. The unmanly male passenger in this case seized parental authority to discipline a child who was not his, without permission from the child’s parent who was present, when discipline was not an appropriate remedy under the circumstances. The man failed to act as an adult and endure the sounds of the helpless child’s suffering.
The passenger used inflammatory language of the basest order, as it pejoratively alluded to a trait over which no human has any control. But I think it was more and worse than that.
This is just my scenario. Again, I don’t know this man’s heart. I know a baby crying can be very irritating—but there are things you just don’t get to do about it. To cross the line the way this passenger is alleged to have done, is a power raid.
The unwarranted strike, combined with the epithet, emboldened the passenger with a self-justified right to use force, even though it was not reasonable. The striker’s own magical thinking conferred a fictive power on the word—and on himself. He seized God’s power over the order of creation and re-ordered it his own way. He made himself a higher-order man, and a small, suffering child an “N.” He believed he could treat the N as he pleased. Perhaps the slap, fortified with the word, confirmed his fictive power to reduce the child’s rights, to put him in his place, according to his own sense of order. Maybe to put all “Ns” in their place—but I won’t impute broader motives from the scant evidence I have. The man’s lawyer says his client is not a racist.
I don’t see this as a case about political correctness. I distrust and dislike the growing obsession with political correctness. I see political correctness largely as a power raid, designed to assign entitlement to categories, rather than to individuals. The more we secularize our thinking, the more we need artifices like this to conceal the template of creation and the Law of God. We keep believing in the five-legged donkey when we count its tail as a leg.
The airplane incident is about real individuals, one with a torqued sense of reality, irrationally abusing another who is 1/30th his age, and who is learning all about reality, good and bad, in leaps and bounds, every day. The striker’s alleged action offends the sense of order of all reasonable people.
I really see this as a case of hardening in a pathetic individual who wants control over everything in his midst but his own life. I assume he has the benefits of an expensive education; he was a division head for an aerospace defense contractor. This incident cost him his job, and I think his employer’s response is creditable. When a person’s private thoughts leave a mark on the face of someone else’s child, we rightly just don’t like it.