You watched as your uncle was gunned down in the street by a robber. You clearly saw the man’s face. It’s indelibly etched into your nightmares.
The police get involved, but they hold out little hope that the perpetrator of this act—which, it turns out resulted in your uncle’s death—will ever be caught much less undergo a proceeding to determine his guilt or innocence.
You’ve been more or less assured (not that you can always trust such things), that “justice will not be served.”
That man—your uncle—was a stand-up human being. If you talked to his “enemies” you’d be unable to find any of them who would say otherwise.
He stood up for folks who needed stood up for. He had no criminal record (and not just because he didn’t get caught, he was “blameless before the law.”).
You have a mother and father, they’re good people. They raised you right. Your uncle though, was the “icing on the cake.” He was a role model! He was the one who showed you on a ongoing basis, what a person should look like.
You go and do all you can to aid the police in their search for your uncle’s killer. You find out who he is, you know it was him. In fact, he admits he did it and laughs about it.
With all your work, with all you’ve done, nothing ever results.
You follow the individual at times, trying to find some way to get him off the streets.
One day, while you’re pursuing him (unofficially, of course), he pulls a gun and brandishes it at an unarmed older lady. This is too much for you. You descend upon him and beat him.
He ends up in the hospital, and later dies. As far as the hospital is concerned, he died of the injuries sustained in the beating.
Nobody but you and the woman he was robbing were around when all of this happens. You tell the police, but they ignore you. They neither arrest you, nor applaud you.
For all intents and purposes, you are a vigilante. You went after the person in question, with the intent of serving justice—regardless the level—upon him. When you caught him acting as he did in his final moments, you took action, not by calling the law, but by dishing out your own “justice.”
You may’ve “escaped justice,” but you were guilty of vigilantism just the same. You know this to be the case.
It can be argued this is one of the “prettier” pictures of being a vigilante. Even so, the general pattern is the same.
A crime or crimes is or are committed, the criminal walks free, some one or ones seeks or seek justice “outside the system.”
You can also make the case for the idea that certain riots are “vigilante justice.” A person or some people are done wrong in some fashion, a mob of, essentially, vigilantes forms. They exact their revenge on those they see to be guilty of the wrongdoing.
But there’s a more common form of “riot.” A group of people gets together usually of like mind. They go about wreaking havoc on anything that “stands in their way,” be it person, car, building, whatever.
For the majority of people and things damaged or harmed in this type of riot, they had precious little or nothing to do with the supposed reason for the riot. They just “happen to be” the “outlet for the rioters’ rage.”
I don’t support vigilantism. I don’t support even pointed riots, either. That being said, I abhor riots and other violence that serve as nothing more than a “vent” for the people doing the damage and harm.
Vigilantism is understandable. Pointed rioting is understandable. That doesn’t make either of them correct or proper. Undirected rage—whether in the form of rioting or not—may too be understandable (I maintain often, it is not), but it’s even more wrong than pointed rage.
At least it can be argued that directed ire is intended to cause whatever result to the person against whom the anger is directed. That’s true whether the “perpetrator” is a lone vigilante, or a group of people, seeking what they see as some sort of “remedy,” in fact, whoever it might be.
Even so, the first understanding must be that it’s virtually never beneficial to seek that kind of “justice.” It doesn’t tend to make one feel better, and even when it’s pointed, others who caused no intentional harm are often affected to the bad.
The man who killed your uncle? He had children, and amazingly enough, he was a caring, supportive father. The mother was long gone.
You may not be responsible for his children, but you surely didn’t help them by your actions, as bad a person as the killer might’ve been.
Of course, there’s another point that should be obvious. You were sure it was the man you ultimately dispatched, who killed your uncle. Later, you’re walking down the street and see a man who looks exactly like your uncle’s killer. He has some distinguishing mark that flashes back to your memory the moment you see it. You realize you “killed the wrong man.” That the other person “confessed” doesn’t matter, it wasn’t him.
Maybe you can still rationalize. Perhaps you can still say the man who was robbing the lady who you beat “deserved to die.” Even if that were true, you taking that man’s life didn’t even serve to get your uncle’s killer off the street.
This is even more true of riots. You may or may not “serve justice” on the one or ones who “did you or others wrong,” but rioting seldom ever occurs in a vacuum. Put another way, vigilantism affects the “wrongdoer,” and a few others as a rule. Most of the time, the others affected, are related to the one having acted badly.
In the majority of instances, rioting involves “collateral damage.” People who had little or nothing to do with the things that “incited the riot” are affected by the outcome in varying degrees.
You may equate rioting and vigilantism, I disagree. Even if you do, where I don’t agree, both are wrong in any case. Fact is though, rioting tends to be the “worst of all worlds” because of its fairly consistent bad effect on unrelated people and property.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.