The phrase “involuntary manslaughter” came to my attention today when I heard on the news that Michael Jackson’s doctor may be so charged. The definition of this act of killing a person, includes the act of negligence. However, “involuntary” means that there was no intent to cause harm, as opposed to “voluntary manslaughter” that does include the intent of malice and forethought.
I am not interested in Michael Jackson or his doctor, but I did start thinking about this principle as applied to our elected officials and corporate sector. Lo and behold, I do believe they are guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Maybe not in the strict, direct sense of the phrase because no specific murder had been laid in their laps. But certainly, due to a lack of an effective social net plus the abusive, penalizing policies of the insurance companies, somebody some where must have lost their life as a result of the paralysis of our governing and corporate orders. The comparison of our government and industry to this legal term is an example in principle.
With their hands tied on every single issue before us, this Congress is paralyzed. Only 17% of Americans think that the Congress is doing a decent job. I will not rehash this issue: all of our politicians and each and every citizen is well aware of the lack of action, the failure to fulfill their job descriptions and their gall of ignoring the needs of the people. Our system is broken from top to bottom. If the legislation that we so desperately need never gets past our Congress, the mechanism that provides solutions for our country does not work anymore. While the GOP is obstructionist to each and every program that President Obama suggests and the Democrats withholding enactment power due to a lack of guts and the desire to get the best deal for their personal selves, our government and capitalistic framework is busted.
The only question that remains is: when does the “involuntary” significance go over the line and become “voluntary”? When does an “accident”, with no premeditation of harm, become “murder”? Is the line crossed when no national health policy is enacted because our politicians are thinking of their own careers before they consider the lives of Americans? Is the line crossed when health insurance companies refuse coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and/or withdraw coverage from their current policyholders who actually become ill? Is the line crossed when pilots of our major airlines receive a beginning salary of $40,000 while our investment bankers receive bonuses on the average of $400,000?
The American citizenry is not totally blameless either. They also crossed a line of decency when they accepted mortgages that they knew they could not afford, when they solved their over-extended credit card problems by having their credit limits raised and by expecting all the material wealth as an entitlement. The sword is double-edged, but certainly our leaders, both in government and industry, are not setting a respectable standard.
So I ask you: have we reached the tipping point in our values? I cannot imagine that we have not yet hit bottom, and that the situation could actually get worse. Still, I am not seeing any politicians or corporate officers making the effort to reign in their narcissistic behavior. The same holds true for ordinary Americans. Monkey see, monkey do. The time has come to rescue the very foundation of our country and ourselves from our own homicidal tendencies.