Prof. Marc Bousquet who teaches English at Santa Clara University wrote an opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education “Sympathy for Eichmann,” in response to an article in The Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal about the evolution of police tactics in various kinds of demonstrations.
That’s the sense I was looking to convey Lt. John Pike’s attitude was not merely casual. His actions were banal.
CONAN: The - some might say that the comparison to Bull Connor and cattle prods took it to another level. You, though, go even further. You cite Adolf Eichmann, the Nazis, by reference to Hannah Arendt in her famous essay on the banality of evil. But when we’re going from, OK, an outrage, somebody spraying students in the eyes from three feet away to the Nazis?
BOUSQUET: Well, that’s, you know, I’m so glad you raised that point because most people get Hannah Arendt exactly backwards. I mean, the point of Hannah Arendt’s characterization of Eichmann, which not everyone agrees with, but what is most persuasive and what is most enduring about Arendt’s portrait of Eichmann in Jerusalem is not that Eichmann is a master villain but quite the opposite, that Eichmann is an ordinary person, that Eichmann is very much more like Baldwin’s Alabama trooper or very much more like Davis’s own Lt. John Pike, that he’s an ordinary person, that not particularly bright, not a master villain, not horrendously ideological, although certainly ideological but not horrendously so, and someone who, in other circumstances, might actually have simply been an Alabama State trooper and not the architect of the Final Solution.
The point of individual responsibility is salient as this caller, aformer police officer and current campus police officer points out.
[KEITH from Gainesville] …Obviously, with my background, I’m going to tend to want to side with the officers, but I was - somebody came up to me who knows my background last night and said it’s not about whether they can legally use the force because law enforcement policies make it so they can legally do what they did, but was it a humane thing to do? And having been sprayed with this stuff, it’s inhumane. And having been placed in the position of making that difficult choice, do I conduct a search - my particular case was a search - or do I refuse and take the consequences? That, in certain circumstances as a law enforcement officer, you may have to choose to place your job at risk in order to do what’s right. That’s not fair, but it’s what you signed up for. [emphasis added]
But the last point is the best.
BOUSQUET: Personally, I think that the issues here are ultimately much larger than those of the officer. I think we have to hold the University of California system responsible, and I think we have to hold administrations across the country responsible for the larger clampdown on the Santa Cross(ph) campuses, both for faculty and students.
Ultimately we need to have a conversation in our colleges and universities, and on the national state about how and with what goals are protests policed.