What If It Was Your Daughter?
Updated: May 17
They called her Ginny. That was not the name she was given by her parents upon her birth in Senegambia (present day Senegal and The Gambia). Ginny was twenty-two years old and the mother of two children, the product of being raped by her owner. She lay in bed near death from the second whipping where she had been tied naked to a tree and lashed fifty times. Her crime: not picking enough cotton to meet her required daily quota. The local or state government legally supported the slave owners right to discipline his property in such a manner.
Whatever one might think of Sylvester Stallone and his movies (and I am not recommending this one), Last Blood is built around a disconcerting issue. In this movie men are kidnapping young women, drugging and torturing them, and forcing them into prostitution. One of the pimps, Hugo, says: “These girls mean nothing to me or my customers. In my world, they’re nothing. They’re not people. They’re just things.” Stallone, as the uncle of one of those kidnapped and with no legal recourse, rescues his niece. You might guess that numerous of the trafficking gang do not fare so well.
If an individual or group is suffering extreme injustice and the institutional authorities are either powerless to help them and/or are conspirators in maintaining the status quo, is corrective action outside of the rule of law ever justified? Can vigilantism, or taking the law into one’s own hands, ever be condoned? The answer is complicated, and the internet flooded with attempted answers. I posit that vigilantism in general is negative and often produces as much or more injustice than the wrong it intends to right. Given that, I would also posit that there are situations where vigilante action is warranted. In fact, scenarios can be concocted where anyone in their right mind would take action if established authorities could or would not.
The origins of the United States began with vigilante action when colonialists rebelled against the governing authorities by smashing open 340 (46 tons) chests of British East India Company tea and dumping them into Boston Harbor the night of December 16, 1773. Even prior to the Civil War, many vigilante actions were carried out in the south by people “unlawfully” helping slaves, such as Ginny, to escape and protecting them.
In the 1940s in Germany, many individuals defied the Nazi regime with actions that absolutely contravened the established authority. Call it resistance or rebellion or whatever, but these were vigilante actions taken to rescue or protect others when there was no other recourse.
In 1985 I was in Namibia where the South African government ruled the colony with draconian laws enforced by military might. Many Namibians, including white people, regularly broke laws in an attempt to thwart the manifold, imposed injustices by the government. Indigenous churches were in the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement. While my group visited the headquarters of the northern Lutheran church in Oniipa, a local pastor was dragged from his home in the middle of the night, killed, and left in a ditch.
In my book, Bazo, Jedediah engages in what is rightfully called vigilante action. The reader is left to ponder whether he is justified or not. My own position is that if my daughter was kidnapped for sex trafficking purposes and every legal resource had been exhausted to no avail, I would be there right alongside Jed.