We don’t like our children killing aliens on video games. Some of us don’t even like our children fighting those mean spiky-shelled turtles in Super Mario Brothers.
We don’t like it when our kids hit each other. We don’t let our kids watch the local news—too many murders and natural disasters. We have an especially hard time stomaching what happened to Trayvon Martin and Caylee Anthony. We get antsy and annoyed when our kids point toy guns at us. We’re okay with zombies and ax murderers only on Halloween. In short, parents don’t like violence and death. Not that anyone is okay with it, but for moms and dads—life factories that we are—death is our antithesis.
Which makes the sad story out of Shiner, TX, even more disconcerting. Following the sound of his 5-year-old daughter’s cries, a 23-year-old dad finds her behind a barn, being sexually assaulted by a man named Jesus Flores. The dad pulls Flores off her, and begins pounding Flores’ face, head and neck. The dad composes himself long enough to call 911 (“Come on, this guy is going to die on me!” he yelled to the 911 operator). When the emergency crew arrived, Flores was behind the barn, dead, his pants and underwear down around his legs.
The dad was never arrested. And last Tuesday, less than two weeks after the incident, the Lavaca County grand jury found the dad innocent. He was within his rights to use deadly force to protect his family.
This was a scenario that dads have considered since time immemorial. It's something that lingers in the back of our minds. At some point in a father’s life, he has said to himself or to someone else, “If anyone were to hurt my child, I would kill them.” No father says, “If anyone were to hurt my child, I would beat them up.” No father says, “If anyone were to hurt my child, I would report them to the authorities.” The sentence is, has been, and always will be, death. Just like the dad in Shiner, TX, we would kill, maim, or injure first, and everything else second.
But there is a strange stillness to the aftermath of this incident. When we all heard the Lavaca County grand jury’s decision, we all looked at each other and said, “Fine by me.” Then we went back to work, back to folding laundry, back to Facebook. Save for Osama bin Laden, I can’t think of another death in recent memory that we’ve all been more at peace with.
Wait a second. We’re the people who don’t like Modern Warfare 3. We don’t let our kids say, “shut up.” We get nervous when they're skateboarding or kicking each other at karate school. But this kind of violence we’re okay with. At least I’m okay with it. I’m almost too okay with it.
For everyone who felt the justice system did the right thing, keep this in mind: Be glad it happened in the small town of Shiner, in rural Southeast Texas. Had this father been in Stamford, CT, or Detroit, MI, or New York, NY, or Los Angeles, CA, or Seattle, WA, or Chicago, IL, or any other metropolitan area, this would have become a long, arduous journey through the legal system. Press conferences. An endless rotation of talking heads on cable news. ACLU attorneys. A media encampment along the two-lane country road leading to the family’s farm. I'm thankful the Lavaca County grand jury shut this down in less than two weeks.
Who knew: That place in the back of a father's mind, that place where he considers what he'd do to someone who hurt his family, looks a lot like Shiner, TX.