Premature Preemptive Destruction

Used by permission of http://www.forwallpaper.com/

Used by permission of http://www.forwallpaper.com/

My friend Martin Giles posted this:

A burglar breaks into a family home at 2AM and helps himself to a couple of mobile phones, an iPad and a wallet. Unfortunately, the seven year-old daughter is in the kitchen getting a glass of water at the time, and the burglar surprises her. She screams, waking the parents.
The burglar has a knife and pulls the girl in front of him, putting the knife to her throat as he makes for the door. Mum is already on the phone to the police (and luckily there’s a station two doors down), so armed officers are on their way within a few seconds, while the dad, with loaded pistol in his hand (it’s America) blocks the burglar’s exit.
The burglar is a desperate man however, and though he now has several armed men pointing guns at him, he’s got his trump card – the child. A human shield. The police officers arrive, and father and police don’t hesitate. They shoot the burglar, the bullets ripping through the child’s body first.
Everyone is sad that the girl is dead, but all agree that they are innocent of any wrong-doing. The burglar was using the child as a human shield, so it’s entirely his fault that the girl is now dead. No question. Little bastard.
But wait. Isn’t the point of a human shield that no person in their right mind would shoot through it? Perhaps it’s only in the movies where the snipers wait for a clear shot.
 

I responded:

Can’t like this Martin Giles, but you point out one of the deepest, most serious problems I see in human culture today: imbalance. The burglar was wrong. There was a need for action to curb his behavior in the moment, and also to discourage him and others from similar acts. However his use of the child limited the options available to the others.

The only quick way they could counter his bad behavior was to threaten or perpetrate violence which risked an innocent life. Instead of keeping a focus on the innocence at risk, they focused on the evil in progress, and escalated to destruction of an entirely higher scale. They fell into what I see as a common, (and perhaps increasingly so) error which costs many of us our very lives. I call it Premature Preemptive Destruction. It is like jumping off a cliff to avoid falling.  Almost all of us have experienced that alarming feeling at the edge, looking down and sensing that we may have an urge to jump, to “just get it over with,” and though we almost universally resist it successfully, it can often set our pulses racing, our hands shaking, and occasionally… precipitate disaster.

It is in those adrenaline-soaked moments that we must draw on a reserve of prior consideration, of preparation, to withstand the unwise, ineffective, course of expedience. It is at those times our race can end or continue, individually or quite possibly one day in an unnecessary world-wide disaster. I believe that our evolution to that capability, and our either overcoming it or falling to it, constitute a turning point in the story of life on this planet. Even if we do mature and survive as a race, I weep for those individuals whose lives are ended too soon, or severely diminished, by the haste of Premature Preemptive Destruction.