The Killing of Kasandra Perkins by Jovan Belcher, Cont.

Just a quick update from yesterday on the events leading up to the murder of Perkins. It was reported that that the couple had argued after Perkins stayed out late. Sports Illustrated reports that it's more complicated than that:

According to a law enforcement official close to the investigation—and contrary to published reports—Belcher spent Friday night "partying" with another woman at the Power and Light District, a bar area in downtown K.C. He returned home between 6:30 and 7 a.m., at which point he and Perkins argued. Then, with his own mother in the house, Belcher used a handgun to shoot the mother of his baby girl nine times. He then drove to the Chiefs' practice facility in a Bentley so new it had temporary plates.

At the facility, Belcher jumped out of the car holding a different handgun and encountered general manager Scott Pioli, who was heading into the building.

As a small aside, it was asserted by a few commenters yesterday that it was wrong of me to say that Jovan Belcher's actions were inconsistent with the notion that he "cared about" his girlfriend. I implied that this remark was made by a family member, which was my error. It was made by a police officer.

I am not sure if that makes a difference or not. But the point was made that I can't see into Belcher's heart. If one accepts this line of reasoning, then one must also say that neither can the police officer who claimed "He cared about her." If being able to see into someone's heart is the standard, then the claim itself is wrong.

But my argument rejects that standard. There is no verifiable way to know what's going on in someone's head. And so we tend to judge them by their actions. If I say "David hates his mother," and you ask me why I think that I will generally list a series of actions that evidence such hatred. If I say that "David loves his mother," presumably I can list actions evidencing that love, or at the very least offer up the general sense that this is normal for mother-child relationships among humans. When people try to assess how someone feels about them, they generally look at the person's actions.

I am not immune to notions of complexity--that people can do both uncaring and caring things at the same time, to the same person. But there are some things that assume a kind of weight that they can't be counterbalanced. I would say that killing a human being by shooting them nine times qualifies.

What bothers me here is the attempt to somehow erect a standard for domestic violence that we do not use anywhere else. If someone said that Osama bin Laden actually loved the victims of 9/11 we would generally object, in a way that we wouldn't if someone said he hated the victims. That assessment would be based on action

There is a notable difference.  In relationships we often feel violently angry toward those we profess to love. Sometimes we act on that anger. We say things that hurt, or we do things that hurt, and we do sometimes do them intentionally. I think it's fair to say we are being "unloving" when we do those things. And should we intentionally kill the person we claim to love (or care about) I think it's fair to say that this ultimate act of unlove, makes all other acts of love irrelevant.

Words must have practical meaning.  "What you do speaks so loud," wrote Emerson, "That I cannot hear what you say."

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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