“the list of symptoms really reads: resisting arrest, resisting arrest, resisting arrest, resisting arrest.”
You don’t have to be Foucault to see that superhumanity functions as subhumanity; it allows the nonhuman to be eliminated while releasing the perceiver from having to answer for seeing someone as nonhuman. Like last spring’s “bath salts” hysteria itself, the phrase “superhuman strength” reflects police discomfort with mental illness–or even just “irrationality”–on the one hand, and with the unaccountable phenomenon of resisting arrest on the other. People who are on drugs or mentally ill are more often “resisters” by default, since they are less likely to understand what’s happening. Laudisio-Curdi had taken LSD, stolen cookies from a store, and was not wearing a shirt when he ran away from police. The man in Georgia was “half naked” (i.e., not wearing a shirt) and delirious, and was an African-American waving a golf club around on a golf course. We don’t know what Bartholomew Williams was doing or saying, but it has been called “irrational behavior.” The two seriously violent incidents above (in SC and Maryland) involved actual armed criminals resisting arrest. In their case, superhumanity is invoked to explain their choice not to give themselves up, making it sound less like an ability and more like an involuntary condition. (Police officers themselves never show superhuman strength, even when they’re agitated by adrenalin in struggle; they show fortitude and tenacity–at least when they don’t cut matters short by shooting.) From the perspective of the police, resisting arrest is necessarily irrational: they perceive irrational people as resisters, even if that isn’t their intention, and resisters as definitionally crazed.