The issues raised by Miriam Carey’s death

I do not live in the United States so I just got to read a small snippet with a headline saying “Suspect shot at Capitol Hill” and nothing more about Miriam Carey. But reading the NYTimes online did raise a number of flags. I am not going to re-tell what happened but what I am going to do, is just tell you what is it that makes me so uncomfortable about this.

1. There was really no need to shoot and kill this woman. Yes, she had to be stopped. But was shooting the only way to do so? I do not think so. This was just a trigger happy reaction in the name of ‘security’. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said. “The people who protect the White House and the people who protect the Capitol are not thinking about your everyday criminal. They are thinking about a terrorist.” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, defended the officers in a speech on the Senate floor on Friday. He said the decision to shoot Ms. Carey was “understandable” because the Capitol and the White House were often targets of attacks. How is it “understandable” that 5 to 7 law enforcement officers shoot at a speeding car without knowing if the person was armed or the car rigged with a bomb?  Was there intel of an imminent terror attack by a black woman and her baby in a car? She was driving fast and crashed into a median, there was absolutely no way she would have made it to the White House, then why was there such a level of reaction from the officers? What kind of delusional paranoia affects people working in Capitol Hill and around the White House, to assume that the world is out to get them? Was there no way to engage her and talk to her as it was done in the previous 5 “attacks” which have occurred over 40 years?

2. The vilification of Miriam Carey after her death because of her mental illness just shows how awful the media is when it comes to talking about issues of mental health and post-partum depression. Quotes about how she believe Obama was stalking her or her and headlines screaming  how she was delusional and emotionally disturbed implicitly linking violent behaviour to her does nothing more than perpetuate lies about mental illness and justify the senseless killing. There was even a televised interview where a doctor spoke about how post-depression can lead to women killing their children. 1 in 7 women suffer from post-partum depression. Miriam Carey was one such woman. To air an interview in which post-partum depression is spoken of with a stroke of a brush while discussing a few exceptions does nothing to show what Miriam was going through like millions of other women across the world. Why should we discuss about baby killing when she did not kill her baby? Are we implying that post-partum depression can make anyone a killer? They found pills for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in her shelf. How does that justify the thinking that she could have done something and as a preemptive action she is better off dead?

3. The media’s portrayal of a “crazy, deranged, black woman who could have bombed the White House” without actually saying it in so many words. The DailyMail of UK captured attention in bold letters about her hallucinations and how she had been taking medicines for schizophrenia. The Washington Post has quotes from her boyfriend saying Miriam thought Obama was bugging her apartment. The NYTimes article ends with a hanging statement from Miriam’s boss saying, “When we confronted her about certain situations within the office, she had a temper” followed by a disclaimer saying Ms. Carey did not appear to have any previous criminal history. The final thought they want to leave us with is that Miriam was mentally ill, she had a temper and while she did not appear to have any criminal history, who knows what she was capable of.

This is another case of painting a character of a woman in a way to imply that she asked for what happened to her. This time, it wasn’t rape – it was a reckless murder committed by law enforcement officers and we are told to believe that it was done to protect the seat of power in the most powerful country in the world.

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