If you follow the media you may have heard of James Boulware. James bought a van outfitted for a zombie outbreak on eBay, parked it outside of the Dallas Police building and began firing rounds into the windows of the police HQ. James also dropped at least two bags filled with homemade explosives, one of which detonated and destroyed a police anti-IED robot. This obviously attracted the attention of the police, who chased Boulware into a Jack In The Box parking lot. A sniper shot James and the police detonated his van with his body still inside.
No one was hurt, except for James.
The police told us that James had called during part of the standoff and that James said he was upset because the police had accused him of being a terrorist, and because he lost custody of his child. And if you’ve been following the media reports, you would be excused for thinking that James was a child abuser and a terrorist.
The media has played up the “record” of domestic violence, as per police reports. In 2013 James was indeed arrested for assault and possession of marijuana. This was a factor in losing custody of his child, although Judge Kim Cooks said the accusations of family violence were not against his child and that “he truly loved his child.”
It doesn’t look like James was actually convicted of even half of the crimes he was accused of. Although he was certainly convicted in the eye of the public – the 2013 report was plastered all over the Internet for anyone who wanted to search his name during over the past two years – it isn’t clear if he actually made it to a criminal trial before the zombie van incident. This would mean James was fucking innocent, or at least should be presumed so, because he was never proven guilty. But the media is not even going there. We’re not told that James was merely a minor offender. His exceptionally small criminal history is being used to explain the van incident.
And it does explain it, but not in the way the media is leaning. We’ll get to that in a moment.
More attention has been paid to the fact that James was mentally ill. Unfortunately his political beliefs, many of which don’t conform to the mainstream narrative, are conflated with actual signs of mental illness. James’s mother said he heard voices. His family also said that the system fully failed him in supporting him in his struggles with mental illness.
If James was hearing voices and if he experienced delusions, he may have been a schizophrenic. However, schizophrenia does not explain what happened here. Schizophrenia is not associated with violence. The risk of violence is small comparable to the general population. When violence does occur it is associated with sporadic, unplanned and disorganized incidents in the home environment. Essentially, violence related to mental illness does not resemble the well-organized, well-planned van incident at all.
The liberal press has used the mental health angle as an explanation. The Guardian has a very good example. The narrative is that the resources were not in place to help Boulware. If they were, he would have never acted out. This is a half truth. While Boulware may have been mentally ill, and while that may have contributed to the way he behaved, it does not fully explain it. The liberal narrative ignores why he targeted the police. It ignores the initial motive. It fails to explain why Boulware is different from the rest of the mentally ill, potentially schizophrenic, population.
In short, it fails to address how capitalism and the state caused this.
The most significant element, the factor with the strongest explanatory power, is what James Boulware’s father, Jim Boulware, said. And I’m surprised that CNN was allowed to print this:
“He said, ‘Dad, I have lost my house, my tools, my son. I’m going through every dime I’ve got. I can’t find a job because I got domestic violence on my record.’ He said, ‘I’ve lost everything.’ “
The reason James “snapped” was directly related to the fact that he was pushed into the ostracized criminal subclass of unemployables. James couldn’t be hired. James’s finances were failing. James was pushed into a corner with no hope, no escape. Now, this explains things.
James’s father seems to get it. He said “they pushed him past it.” “They” being the police, the courts, the wage economy, the system in general. Jim also said that James “did not get justice.” While The Guardian played up the mental health narrative, the same article reported James’s brother Andrew Boulware as stating that James was upset by the abuse of a black child at a pool party by a white police officer.
The media has barely reported that James had reasons – good reasons – for targeting the police. The very same reasons that have motivated many of us to speak out against police right now. James simply chose violence. Most of us do not. James had no future so he decided to go out with a bang. The media narrative, however, has James as angry because of his own treatment at the hands of the police. But we’ve all suffered from police abuse and its side effects. The emergence of people like James Boulware is a direct consequence of abuse and its side effects.
The side effects may have hurt James most, because they prevented him from having a viable economic future.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever interacted with people who have been arrested. There’s a common misconception that all criminals hate the police. It’s intuitive, after all. It’s natural to assume that anyone who breaks the law dislikes the police. We’ve got a “natural enemies” paradigm.
I’d even go as far as to say that people who have been arrested should hate the police, because most arrests are illegitimate.
But most people who have been arrested don’t think that way. People who break the law largely accept its legitimacy, as well as the legitimacy of the police in “doing their job.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that criminals, in general, do not have a lot of political awareness. This is why Karl Marx grouped career criminals into the lumpenproletariat and claimed that they would not achieve class consciousness.
It’s also true that most people, criminal or not, lack a strong political perspective. I don’t intend to single out people who have ran afoul our bad laws. What I am saying is that people who have been arrested share the same beliefs and misconceptions as people who have not. Actual criminals – who I am defining as people who have been arrested for simplicity – are not the scary men and women of Hollywood crime dramas. And while I do believe that the lumpenproletariat has significant revolutionary potential, and thus I disagree with Marx, the point is that it isn’t uncommon for people who have been arrested to be uncritical of, or even to defend, their captors.
The exception is when the police are abusive, or when they bend the rules. Thus you may hear from one arrestee, “he was a nice cop,” typically meaning that the cop was not rude or did not beat the suspect. “He was an asshole,” on the other hand, means just that: the cop was abusive, be it verbally or physically.
This in mind, how do you think the police treated James? James wasn’t upset at the law being applied. I’d wager he was upset at how it was applied. It’s almost certain his personal interactions with law enforcement were bad, that he was manhandled, that he was treated in an unfair, if technically legal, way. I’d be interested in hearing from Jim Boulware on how the police treated James during his previous arrests. It’s those events, the way the police alienate the public, that foster justified animosity toward cops. “Asshole” cops are responsible for the kind of environment that produced the zombie van incident.
Let’s revisit what James told his father: “I’ve lost everything.” The criminal justice system must take responsibility for the violence. The capitalist economy must take responsibility for the violence. If we wish to punish or prevent domestic violence, fine. That is one thing, at least abstractly. No radical supports domestic violence. But if our solution is ruining a man’s life socially and economically, well, why are we surprised when that person lashes out like a wild animal?
Do we really expect people – millions of convicted felons – to be socially ostracized and forced into an impoverished and umeployable underclass?
They wont. I am telling you, they will not. It’s a situation with no viable future. As long as this system exists, a system that does not reintegrate offenders fully and equally into society, you’re going to get people like James Boulware. They’re going to “snap.” And the blood will be on the hands of the capitalists and the state.