The horror was hers; as her son Henry was dying following an assault and drug overdose he made a terrifying and heart rending confession:
My painfully shy teenage son, hospitalized for the previous 13 days had earlier that afternoon summoned every ounce of courage in his battered body and mind, and had revealed something horrible, dark and evil that had been done to him, and was likely still being done to other young people struggling with drug addiction.
Haltingly, through tears of terrible shame, but in graphic detail, my son Henry explained to me from his wheelchair that the two middle-aged drug dealers who had nearly succeeded in killing him were also dealing in teenage boys. Henry shared with me that these two people were preying on kids in Knox County who were sick and desperate, and were pimping them out to men.
They had done it to him.
Unbelievably, the story gets worse. When she went to the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the DA with the story, they did nothing.
That's the indifference.
Because Henry was a drug user who also sold drugs to support his habit, the KCSO and DA's office apparently doesn't care that he was severely assaulted at least once, given a lethal overdose of drugs, and prostituted by the people who gave him the overdose. They don't care that these people who did all this to Henry stood by for a period of hours, watching Henry's life slip away rather than calling for help.
The KCSO and the DA are not interested in pursuing this case, and the reason is simple as far as I'm concerned. They don't give a damn what happens to drug addicts. They think of them as somehow less than human, less worthy of their full efforts.
And you know what? There's a lot of people who agree with them. Read through the comments at Katie's place and see all the wonderful people of Knox County who believe that Henry's death was justified because he was a drug addict. Their comments are hateful, and often mean, and while I'm certain that the Knox County Sheriff and the DA would never sanction such comments publicly, their actions, or lack thereof, speak just as loudly as the comments of the comment worst troll.
You might even be one of those people. You might believe that anybody who sells drugs, whether they only sell to their friends to support their habit, or sell millions of dollars worth to finance the reconstruction of Market Square, deserves to die a horrible, lingering death. You might even call it justice.
You would be wrong.
The rule of law is based on two pillars, that no man is above the law's requirements, and that no man is beneath its notice. The commitment to those principles is what gives the rule of law its power, what sets it apart from the rule of men. We can place ourselves under the law willingly, knowing that we will be treated the same under that law, regardless of our status.
What happened to Henry was a crime, one specified as such in the Tennessee Code, and it should be treated accordingly, regardless of Henry's status as a drug dealer. To do otherwise would be to exchange the rule of law for the rule of man, giving our government the authority to treat people differently based on their status. And while that may be fine as long as we agree with their judgment of the relative worth of the victim, what happens when we don't?
What happens when the guys in charge decide that if you belong to the wrong political party, you aren't worthy of the full effort of law enforcement and the legal system? What happens if they decide that you are part of the wrong religion? Or let's get even closer to Henry's case. You're driving on the Interstate, doing 70mph in a 65 mph zone and you get hit bu a drunk driver, but the government declines to prosecute the drunk driver because you were speeding.
Does that make sense?
Not to me it doesn't.
Yes, Henry was a drug dealer. Yes, he broke the law. But that doesn't mean that he becomes fair game for any predator out there, just waiting to take advantage of a strung out kid. When we make a commitment to being a nation ruled by laws, it is people like Henry that test the level of our commitment. Everybody wants to see justice done for the attractive victim; that takes no effort or character at all. It's when the victim is not attractive that our true level of commitment is measured. That's when we prove that we are ruled by laws instead of our own prejudices.
In Knox County, our law enforcement and prosecution have demonstrated that their commitment to the law is shallow, and governed by their own prejudices, and that should be unacceptable.