I was told by a coworker years ago about his time as a police officer. Some guy was getting mad at this officer, so the officer shoved his shoulder patch into the guy’s face and asked, “You know what sheriff means?”
The guy didn’t know. He’s not an etymologist. Besides, it was rhetorical. A setup for the punchline.
“It means closest to God,” the officer stated.
“Sheriff” doesn’t mean that, by the way. But it offers a peak into America’s relation to Authority.
Authority is God in this country. They are infallible and must never be questioned. They are perfect and must never be doubted. If God has a plan, then the Authority is surely a part of it. Make no mistake: this is a bad thing.
Let me be clear: when I say Authority, I am talking about those who have legal powers over others, namely law enforcement. I’m not talking about scientists or experts in specific fields. This is going to be more of an indictment on the culture surrounding the Authority rather than Authority itself. Law enforcement are a vital part of almost every society. No, this is about a culture that enables the unjust to abuse their Authority. Any criticism trips over the Thin Blue Line.
The Thin Blue Line, to me, are groups like Blue Lives Matter and Police Lives matter and those who share the same thinking. To them, it is the line drawn in the sand. It is the liminal threshold between civility and savagery. At the same time, it is a defense. The Authority, they would say, are risking their lives every single day protecting you from thugs and criminals. They liken police to warriors. They compare law enforcement to Marvel’s The Punisher. There is a war being fought and we don’t have time to second guess the Authority.
I have a problem with this kind of thinking and I hope that you do, too. Police are not warriors. They are not embattled soldiers behind enemy lines fighting an endless war against the barbarians. Policing is not war. Let Major Colvin put it better:
Wars need enemies. If police are going to war, who are the enemies? Criminals, you say. Most would be inclined to agree with that. However, I think you have to look deeper. In every war, we dehumanize the enemy. It’s easier to fight them. It’s easier to justify our actions against them. So if a criminal is the enemy, it’s easier to disregard their rights. Beating them becomes justified. Eventually, the ends justify the means. If someone criticizes the Authority, the line gets bolstered and reinforced.
This happened with the rise of Black Lives Matter. Almost immediately, you had groups such as Blue Lives Matter and Police Lives Matter appeared. I have an inherent problem with the Blue/Police Lives Matter: they already do.
If a cop or anyone in law enforcement is attacked, their attacker is usually caught. A lot of times, it is almost instant. Then, that suspect is almost always (Honestly, I don’t even know of any times it doesn’t happen. I’m sure if it had, we’d hear how unfair it is how a murderer got off so easily) found guilty. Then they are sentenced to prison for a long time.
Despite this, you have some states expressing desire to effectively make law enforcement a protected class. They want to make the assault or murder of a police officer a hate crime. As a black man, I have one small problem with this: a police officer can always take off the uniform; I cannot take off my black skin. A cop can quit being an officer, but a lesbian woman can’t turn straight.
Really, the Blue/Police Lives Matter “movement” is just a reaction to Black people asking for help mitigating systemic bias within the Justice system. There is no real grievance from the Blue/Police Lives Matter groups. There is no real goal other than them muddying the situation. Like I said, they are reactionaries. If something negative is said about law enforcement, they come with a counter. Meanwhile, they ignore actual police abuse such as Marcus Jeter, Tamir Rice, or Walter Scott. It hurts the narrative they have built up.
I don’t know exactly when the Authority became as gods in this county, but I consider it a big step towards fascism. The outrageous will become normal and boring. What surprises us will be an everyday occurrence. Rights will erode slowly. We already have our tools to fight against this encroaching specter.