Sunday, December 11, 2005

Maybe He Never Said "Bomb"
Was the Death of Rigoberto Alpizar a War-Crime?

I'm a little late posting on this topic. When I first heard about it on Friday night, I'd already had my own personal mental health crisis to deal with all day long. In the course of dealing with that, I'd done what I usually do, which is to touch base with a few select other patients for support. We're a loose network of folks that can often provide better advice for each other than our doctors, and I'm on the phone with mine rather constantly.

Gregg returned a call of mine from earlier in the day and I phoned him back as I was leaving Albuquerque with my meds securely in my pocket. We spoke of meds and their retail prices - I hope to do a piece about that later - and then the topic invariably turned to Rigoberto Alpizar.

Mr. Alpizar was the man shot by federal air marshals on Flight 924 from Medellin, Columbia to Miami last Wednesday. Initial reports held that Mr. Alpizar had announced that he had a bomb in his bag, though in fact he did not have a bomb. It was also widely reported that Mr. Alpizar was a manic-depressive off his medication and that his erroneous claim of having a bomb may have been due to an off-med induced anxiety attack. On the day the event occurred, I posted on it twice, here and here.

Given my natural propensity to believe any conspiracy theory that comes down the pike, I had to fight off the feelings that this was a completely unnecessary killing - I wasn't the only person on the Internet, however, who "had a funny feeling" that there was more to this than just a routine discharge of a weapon.

I fought back those feelings and accepted the initial reports, that a man had yelled "bomb" on a crowded airplare, certainly the relative equivalent of yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater, a breach of common etiquette that any child is aware is the wrong thing to do. Even though the experience would hit closer to home for me than most, I also forced myself to quickly accept the conventional wisdom that he was a manic-depressive off-med and that the moral of the story was not, "We're too fucking paranoid in a post-9-11 world," but was instead, "People need to take their meds."

The fault, in other words, would not be laid at the feet of the federal air marshals, however much I might abhor their supposed "necessity." As one news source put it, "this is a cut'n'dried case. Man says bomb and marshalls are trained to protect everyone else, not play conselor." The fault would lie with a patient who didn't take his meds, didn't take care of himself, and put himself at risk with his ill-timed statements. End of story. Not their fault.

As The Furious Seasons blog put it well:

Moral: take your meds. Find the right ones. Take them all the time. If you have very severe bipolar disorder, then be self-aware and know when you are getting psychotic and knock that shit down with an atypical antipsychotic. Be responsible for your own life. It will help the lives of others around you. And your own.

And I bought that, because I wanted to give that man who shot Mr. Alpizar a way out of what I imagined was terrible guilt and shame. Who was I to compound the tragedy by being among the voices demanding an inquiry into a situation that seemed so clear? That marshall is a trained killer without the power to negotiate or the skills to talk someone down. I had read that. It seemed reasonable to believe.

And so you can imagine my surprise, dismay and fear when Gregg told me over the phone that AirAmerica had been reporting all day long that Rigoberto Alpizar had never said he had a bomb.

I hung up the phone and began to cry. I pulled over to the side of the road and made myself stop. I knew nothing yet, hadn't seen a shred of confirmation that this was the case, but suddenly, I knew that my desire to believe that there was nothing "unusual" or incorrect about the scenario was dead-fucking-wrong no matter what the situation. An innocent man had been killed by a trigger-happy rent-a-cop weaned in a violent environment where everyone is the enemy. And they tried to pass it off as a necessity by saying he said he had a bomb - and he didn't even say it, at least according to my friend, and the links below.

The story of Rigoberto Alpizar is not a longer a story for the mental health community - it now belongs to everyone. Federal agents are like anyone else - they'll lie to protect the fact that they decided to kill someone for no justifiable reason. The war has finally come to home to roost, and it's probably safe to say that NO ONE is safe on an airplane from the forces they've placed there to protect us.

Time magazine: Thursday, December 8: Eyewitness Says, "I Never Heard the Word Bomb."

Brisbane Courier-Mail: Saturday, December 10: Bomb Claim Unravels

Taser exec asks why Marshals don't have Non-Lethal Choices

Department of Homeland Stupidity: December 8 - Shoe bomber alert prior to Miami Shooting

J-Ultra blog: December 10 - Rigoberto Alpizar Shooting

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At 1:10 AM, Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Great post gregoryp(tm), how many more innocent victims of the war on terror do those profiting from it need ?

What happened to Rigoberto Alpizar and Jean Charles de Menezes is horrific and sadly there are a lot of people out there who rush to justify and rationalize these events as a sign of their 'toughness' before the facts are known. I remember immediately after the shooting here in the UK a lot of people leapt forward immediately to say 'we got a terrorist' and 'he shouldn't have been running from the police' and 'he shouldn't have been wearing a bulky winter coat in summer' when none of these things were true. I remember arguing with some guy who said 'it was good they shot the terrorist', and I said how do you know he is a terrorist ? It is just frightening that there are people like that in the world


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