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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Voice of Thy Brother’s Blood

The death of a leftist underlines the savagery of an America with too few executions, let alone incarcerations.

carson twitter
(Twitter)

Monday morning, very early, a 32-year-old activist was stabbed to death on a New York City sidewalk.

Around 4 a.m., Ryan Carson and his girlfriend were headed home from a wedding. They were waiting at a bus stop on the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard in Brooklyn when a young man passed by them and began to knock down scooters parked on the block. He then turned his attention to Mr. Carson. 

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The assailant screamed “What are you looking at?” and “Imma kill you right now” before he stabbed Carson three times, once through the heart. The entire incident was caught on video, and the suspect’s sister can be heard just after the stabbing saying, “I am so sorry”—calmly, as if they had just bumped shoulders on the sidewalk. Carson’s girlfriend, seemingly in shock, simply told the woman to “go watch him,” apparently referring to the man who had just left her life partner to bleed out on the concrete. 

Carson’s killing drew more national attention than any of the other 300-odd murders reported so far this year in New York City. Some of the appeal, no doubt, was schadenfreude. Ryan Carson spent much of his life advocating for just such urban decay. He was a prominent agitator for government facilitation of drug use on the streets, and his girlfriend—who stood silently beside him as he was murdered—was a radical of the “All Cops Are Bastards” variety. The Christian character of the right has been dramatically degraded, and so a great many critics seemed convinced that Carson’s killing suggested the nonsensical pagan concept of “karma.”

I had never heard of Ryan Carson before his murder, although I learned afterward that we attended the same small Catholic grade school; he would have been in 7th grade when I was in kindergarten, so I suppose we spent most of two years down the hall from one another. I will not celebrate his death. To merit celebration would require far graver offenses by the dead than those of Ryan Carson—more on that later.

Still, we should not let decency obscure the facts of the situation. Carson bears part of the blame not just for his own death but for those of countless others killed by the chaos he defended. Andy Ngo, a center-left digital journalist known for his coverage of the late disorder of America’s big blue cities, shared a number of posts from Carson’s now-locked Twitter accounts. Their contents are vile, but they are hardly uncommon on the American left today. He identified himself with “antifa,” a loose collection of amateur terrorists who have spent the last half-decade hacking at the roots of American order. He openly celebrated the violent riots and looting that rocked Minneapolis in the months after George Floyd died. (We know of at least twenty-five people killed and billions of dollars in property stolen or destroyed during this unrest.) He urged fellow radicals to attack police officers, mostly by hurling projectiles at them while they did their jobs. Such bloodlust makes sense in light of another post in which Carson described cops bluntly as “subhuman.” In an ironic foreshadowing of his own post-mortem treatment, he reveled in the death by cancer of Rush Limbaugh, a man whose greatest crime was sometimes speaking too loudly on the radio. 

The great deficiency of any left-winger is the absolute lack of any moral realism. It is why Carson could hold such evil beliefs without any guilt, and it is why he could approach a raving madman at 4 a.m. on Malcolm X Boulevard without any sense of impending danger. It is why his friends have already excused the murderer as a “victim of a broken system.” Vast blocs of this country live in a world without stakes or consequences.

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This same deficiency explains the bizarre behavior that followed the identification of the murderer, and of so many other criminals who rise up from these blocs. After his arrest for the murder, friends and neighbors described 18-year-old Brian Dowling variously as “a great kid,” a “very, very sweet guy,” “the sweetest boy,” and “just an average, normal teenager.” When Carson lay writhing on the ground after Dowling’s knife attack, the latter kicked him in the chest, spit on his girlfriend, and threatened to kill her too. These people are simply not equipped to grapple with the savage reality of society in 2023. 

But are the rest of us?

Earlier this year, TAC’s own Micah Meadowcroft surveyed the successes of El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele in reducing the violent crime of a nation recently considered among the worst in this hemisphere. As Micah noted, Bukele restored order to El Salvador only by taking extreme measures that included the incarceration of more than 60,000 criminals. He ventured that we may require similar, albeit less extreme measures. This is true, and at this point it is undeniable. There is a massive minority of the U.S. population that ought to be locked up for the sake and safety of the great silent majority. 

Still, this will not be enough. Justice and order both require a will stronger even than Nayib Bukele’s. Let us assume—rather optimistically—that police and prosecutors get their respective houses in order. There is still the matter of whether the gravest crimes—murder, rape, blasphemy, etc.—will continue to be met with lawless lenience at the time of sentencing. When will we get serious? Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God. Forget for a moment the under-incarceration problem. America has an under-execution problem.

Here again, the problem of moral realism arises. The day after Brian Dowling left Carson lifeless on a New York City sidewalk, the state of Florida executed a man named Michael Duane Zack III. In a public statement clearly meant to elicit sympathy, Zack claimed to be “filled with remorse and a wish to make my time here on earth mean something more than the worst thing I ever did.” Whether Zack considers the “worst thing [he] ever did” to be the killing of Laura Rosillo, whom he strangled and dumped behind a sand dune on the beach, kicking dirt on her face before he left her, or the killing of Ravonne Smith, whom he raped and robbed before he butchered her with an oyster knife, is unclear.

A criminal defense attorney named David Menschel posted the statement online, charging that “so many people in our prisons, even those on death row for murder, are so much more healthy and healed than our politicians who viciously and sadistically kill them.”

Such grotesque lies are likely counterproductive, if only because they prove the central point: there are people beyond our power to redeem.