Under the New York Penal Code, what is the sentence for committing a tragedy?

(And what’s the difference between the sentence for first degree tragedy and second degree tragedy? And what about felony tragedy? Negligent tragedy? Tragedy by depraved indifference? And what if it’s a mass tragedy?)

Here are statements about the mass murder in Binghamton, New York from seven liberal and pro-immigrant organizations. The organizations are: the Sanctuary, National Immigrant Justice Center, America’s Voices, United Farm Workers, Center for New Community, National Council of La Raza, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The words “tragic” and “tragedy” (as in “the tragic shooting”) appear a total of 14 times in the seven statements. The word “crime” appears zero times. The word “murder” appears zero times. The word “kill” appears once, in the statement from the United Farm Workers, in the only phrase in the entire collection that sounds like normal moral language: “the violent killing of innocent people.”

Of course we would expect liberal, immigrant-activist organizations to emphasize the tragic, as distinct from the criminal, nature of the event. But it’s not just such organizations that speak this way. It’s the police, it’s government officials, it’s the leaders of society, who routinely and without exception use the non-judgmental term “tragedy” to describe terrible crimes. And I say that every time the representatives of our society speak of a murder as a “tragedy” instead of as an evil, criminal act, they are permitting and licensing and opening the way for further murders. Such a society is telling its members that it does not regard the violent taking of human life as wrong and wicked, that it does not care about their lives, and therefore that it cannot be counted on to protect their lives..

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Adela G. writes:

You write:

And I say that every time the representatives of our society speak of a murder as a “tragedy” instead of as an evil, criminal act, they are permitting and licensing and opening the way for further murders.

Of course. Control the way language is used and you control the way thought is formed. The left has employed this tactic with a success both phenomenal and ubiquitous.

Within just a few decades, we have moved to thinking of murder as an evil act for which the murderer deserves punishment to thinking of it as a tragedy committed by a victim who deserves our sympathy—unless the murderer is white, in which case, the old thought process may apply.

We traditionalists should choose our words carefully and not allow duplicitous word choices by the left to pass unremarked.

Hannon writes:

This reminded me of something I read recently where morality has been commandeered by psychology with terms like “unhealthy” vs. “healthy” in place of good vs. evil or right vs. wrong. I think this is a root cause of the societal corruption you speak of in our surface level gauging of terrible crimes.

A. Zarkov writes:

Overuse of the label “tragedy” comes from the desire to avoid appearing judgmental. Liberals, especially liberal women, frequently complain that conservatives are too judgmental. When a people stop believing in themselves, they don’t want to make judgments because they are afraid they might be wrong, and this leads to a kind of moral agnosticism. Look at what’s happened to the British. At one time they didn’t hesitate to make judgments, and act on them. During the Raj they largely abolished the sati (satee). British Major-General Charles Napier is supposed to have said,

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

No multiculturalism for the major here. He believed in himself, his country and his Christian faith. He was certainly not afraid to be “judgmental.” Neither was Sir William Henry Sleeman who suppressed India’s murderous cult, the Thugee (first syllable pronounced “tug”). Sleeman used (gasp) profiling. His operations executed (double gasp) 1,400 murders. How many people were killed by the Thugees remains in dispute, but it’s certainly in the thousands, and might be as high as a million. Not trying to stop the cult would have been the real tragedy.

I’m not the first to notice the change in the British. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee notices it too—“Limp liberals fail to protect their most profound values.”

April 6

Dimitri K. writes:

I like your observation—everything is a tragedy now. For example, if a fox catches a rabbit, is it a crime? No, because it is its nature. But for the rabbit it is certainly a tragedy. So, if we all are nothing but natural phenomena, there can be no crime, only occasional tragedies.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 05, 2009 09:30 AM | Send

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