If people kneeling on a piece of fabric to protest against police officers murdering people with virtual impunity pisses you off to your core, but police officers murdering people with virtual impunity doesn't - which we all know is a pretty safe assumption to make about the kind of people sharing this kind of meme - you need to take a really, really long, hard look at your priorities. Because they're wrong.
Look, I personally would never disrespect an American flag like this, but it is a symbol, and a symbol is not more important than human lives, and enough is enough. Again, my apologies to the world for taking longer to get pissed off to my core about systemic racism and police brutality, but I'm young and naive and millions of others have no such excuse. This should have been addressed long before now a lot more than it has been. People have been protesting for a very long time and people like the kind of people who shared this meme have been ignoring them for about as long, except to sometimes complain about how they're protesting the wrong way, and why can't they be nice and gentle like Rosa Parks, even though she actually broke the law and thus according to your arguments elsewhere the police would have been justified in killing her on the spot. If pissing you off to your core is the only way to get you to acknowledge them, I'm not going to pretend I have a major problem with it.
I never wanted to become one of those evil liberals who hates America. But on this Independence Day, I can't help but think we don't deserve to celebrate and it's just as well the you-know-what has ruined the larger events. It's not that I don't recognize how blessed I am to live in this country. I do. It's just that I don't feel I have a right to just sit here and be grateful for that fact while millions of others in the same country are not so blessed. The United States has always been great for some people... and terrible for many others. And we recognize that. We acknowledge how various demographics who aren't straight white rich neurotypical Protestant males have been treated through the years and we say "That was wrong, but we fixed it, and we're not perfect but this is still a great country." But all those people for whom it wasn't and isn't a great country are more than caveats or footnotes of history. They were and are living, breathing human beings with hopes, dreams and fears as real as mine.
Was the United States of America a great country when it was built on stolen land by the horrific oppression and abuse of black people? For some people, yes. Was the United States of America a great country when black people were segregated, discriminated against at every turn, and regularly lynched? For some people, yes. Is the United States of America a great country now when black people daily experience the systemic racism embedded in its very fabric, and are disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent crimes and murdered by police officers? For some people, yes. And those people have the luxury of pretending these problems aren't relevant to anything anymore, and getting annoyed when others complain about them. I have that luxury but I'm choosing not to use it. (Make no mistake, things are hardly perfect for me either, but I think my white male privilege usually outweighs my asexual autistic non-privilege. Un-privilege? Anti-privilege?)
And for another thing, the astonishing level of narcissism from those who purport to love this country the most has absolutely floored me in the last few months. I mean, if you know me at all you know I don't have very high expectations for humanity to begin with, but I've just been shocked. And this is almost exclusively an American problem. I refer of course to the people throwing temper tantrums about having to wear masks in public spaces because they think they have a God-given constitutional right to not give a damn about anyone but themselves. They make me sick. Voluntary natural selection is one thing but when your self-worship is an active danger to this entire country and especially its most vulnerable, I have a problem with you. Look, I'd rather just catch the thrice-damned virus and get it over with too, but I'd like to avoid giving it to anyone else if I can help it because, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I'm not a sociopath. I also have this radical belief that people over sixty and people with compromised immune systems matter. Kind of like you would if you actually meant it when you say "All Lives Matter", instead of just saying it to dismiss and invalidate the grievances of black people.
And for another thing, this country's fundamentally broken healthcare system is an international embarrassment and a crime against humanity. I don't doubt there are spots reserved in hell for many of the people running it who place their love of money above human lives. People who make insulin impossible for diabetics to afford (just as one example) are every bit as much murderers as the cops who killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Stephon Clark, Ronnell Foster, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and many others. American healthcare is not a minor shortcoming, it's an abysmal, inexcusable failure that ruins and cuts short thousands of lives. I hear sometimes from Americans that the universal healthcare systems in other developed nations are worse, but mostly what I hear from the actual people in those nations is how grateful they are not to live in a country where an ambulance ride costs thousands of dollars and GoFundMe is an insurance provider.
And for another thing, this country has a chronic mass shooting problem that other countries don't share. Now because I acknowledged that fact, some will jump to the conclusion that I want to ban all guns everywhere even though I said nothing of the sort. I merely pointed out that this country has a chronic mass shooting problem that other countries don't share. Many Americans insist on pretending that this is just a price we have to pay for freedom, that the children and other civilians murdered or scarred for life are acceptable collateral damage of the Second Amendment, that there's just no way to prevent this problem that other countries aren't having. So in the wake of every mass shooting they fall over themselves to blame mental illness, violent video games, atheism, and other factors that also exist in other countries where mass shootings are almost nonexistent, and doing whatever they can to ensure that nothing changes and mass shootings continue to happen. Granted, closing elementary schools and prohibiting large public gatherings seems to have drastically reduced the problem in recent months. This conveniently allows us to focus more on police murdering black people instead.
And for another thing, the laughable political system and voters of this country chose a vulgar, narcissistic, misogynistic, rabidly xenophobic, pathologically dishonest, senile toddler as its public face and dictator, I mean president. I don't share the belief of some that his being given an office for which he is in no way deserving or qualified suddenly makes him entitled to respect he's done nothing to earn and has never shown anyone else. On the contrary, his being given an office for which he is in no way deserving or qualified makes the office itself as much of a sick joke as he is. It's an entirely artificial, manmade office. It was never sacred and now it's not even admirable. Of course, the polarization and rhetoric of American politics, the deep-rooted fears and prejudices that he exploited to obtain that office, and the decades-long erosion of constitutional checks and balances that leave him with almost unlimited power are much broader problems of which Mr. Trump is only a symptom. The kind of symptom that makes one think, "I should really, really see a doctor about this but I can't afford to because I live in the United States and my insurance won't cover it."
Of course I realize virtually all parts of the world have historically sucked and many are still worse than this one. People just suck. The Founding Fathers had a pretty low bar to step over. The cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing now is a taste of what I've long imagined Germans must feel, living as they do in one of the best countries in the world that, within the lifetimes of some still living, did some of the worst things imaginable. (Of course, eugenics was invented in the United States, not Germany, and remained alive and well here long after Hitler blew his brains out, but never mind that.) Last year Rammstein released a song titled "Deutschland" that grapples with this cognitive dissonance beautifully, and though its simple lyrics mention no specifics one can probably guess what they're referring to even without the video that I decided against embedding in this post because of its graphic but probably justified artistic choices. One recurring perfect line summarizes everything: "Will ich lieben und verdammen" - "I want to love [you] and damn [you]." Couldn't have said it better myself.
I guess the love I have for this country is like the love you have for a family member that you know perfectly well doesn't deserve your love but you have to give it anyway because DNA. I was born and raised here and I'll be here for the foreseeable future and that's that. But if I really love this country I must want it to be the best it can be. It may have spectacularly failed to live up to its founding ideals of equality and justice for two hundred forty-four years - okay, there's no "may have", it has, period, but those of us who live here should never give up on trying to make the reality match those ideals. That - not deifying a piece of fabric - is true patriotism in my book. It means using our God-given constitutional rights to vote, speak out, and yes, protest. If it also means kneeling on a flag now and then, I'm not going to condone that as such but I'm not going to pretend it pisses me off to my core either. Besides:
Now, to lighten the mood and give this country some credit for at least trying, I'd like to share for at least the third time another Rammstein song, this one far less ambivalent in its approach to issues of national concern. "Amerika", as the name suggests, is a love song from Germany to the United States, a heartfelt tribute to the global proliferation of the rich tapestry of American culture and beneficence that is in no way snarky or satirical at all. You all know that snark and satire piss me off to my core.
Back at the beginning of April I heard some of my neighbors having a birthday party and said something to the effect of "It must suck to have a birthday right now." I was referring, of course, to the pandemic going on and my delusion at the time that conditions would improve at some point. At least in Utah, things have only gotten exponentially worse since then and the isolation kills me a little more every week, but it turned out not to effect my own birthday much at all because I don't have enough friends to throw a huge party anyway. So with six other people and my sister's pet chicken that she brought for unclear reasons I got Panda Express and ate it outside. I soon got over the guilt of eating chicken in front of a chicken because she clearly didn't care, if her adorable snuggling in my armpit was any indication.
Then we went home and I blew out twenty-seven candles with a hairdryer to avoid getting spit particles on the cake, a hazard I learned about years ago from one of Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" books where some snobby girl was all grossed out about spit particles on Ramona's cake and convinced everyone not to eat it until they grew up and realized that ingesting minute traces of someone else's body fluids isn't that big a deal. But times have changed. It also conveniently happened to ensure that I would get all the candles at once so my wish wouldn't be ruined. I can't help wanting to believe in that sort of thing. I'm a little stitious by nature. It just would take a lot of pressure off me if, for example, God guided my life through fortune cookies and timely internet memes rather than the vague feelings and impressions He usually prefers. Here's a picture of me even though I hate pictures of me.
Four of us remained for the highlight of the evening; a viewing of "The Lost World" (1925) because I was in the mood for something old. It's available free on YouTube because anyone who could possibly make a copyright claim is dead, and I recommend it both for campy charm as well as just being legitimately cool. I had confidence that everyone would like it but what I didn't count on was Katie and Steve reading the dialogue out loud and adding a lot of their own, which created an altogether different and admittedly superior experience.
Of course, I was cognizant throughout of my luck in being alive to celebrate in the first place. Prior to that day I was twenty-six and so was someone I've never met named Breonna Taylor. I don't know when her twenty-seventh birthday would have been, but I know she didn't or won't reach it because police officers at the wrong address looking for someone who had already been arrested broke into her apartment and murdered her in her sleep. After more than three months of national outrage, one of them was fired and none of them were arrested. Instead, Breonna's boyfriend was charged for shooting one of the officers whom he had no reason to believe were anything other than common robbers, but those charges have been dropped at least for now in a rare moment of sanity. A local law against no-knock warrants now bears her name but it would be nicer if she were still alive and the law just existed anyway.
To be frank, if you hear stories like this and your first response is to feel bad for police officers, you're a sociopath. And if you hear stories like this and continue posting crap like "The police will leave you alone if you don't do anything illegal", you're also a liar. And if you hear stories like this and just don't care and want to move on with your life without the nuisance of hearing about yet another black person murdered by police, you're every bit as much a part of the problem as actual out-and-out racists. But you can change. I know you can because a few years ago I was more like you than I care to admit. The first step is being honest enough to realize you're wrong.
The differences between me and Breonna Taylor, besides the obvious ones, are that she was making a positive contribution to society and I wasn't murdered by police officers. Why am I alive while she isn't? I feel like I should spend a few paragraphs waxing philosophical about that fact but it's really about all I can think of to say. I was lucky and she wasn't and in this world that's often all it comes down to. A future life with God is the only hope for a shred of meaningful justice but is hardly an excuse to be complacent about justice now.
Racism in the United States and police abuse of power in the United States are both really hot topics right now. They are separate topics, though they very much overlap. And I'm not sure right now how to handle that overlap. I'm not sure how to teach police officers not to be racist when this is something they should be able to figure out on their own by 2020. So today I'm going to focus on more generalized solutions to everything that's wrong with the police. I didn't think up most of this stuff on my own but it's the stuff that in my judgment I believe would work and absolutely should be implemented yesterday. I'm sure some of the other proposed solutions would also be effective but I don't feel qualified to comment on them. Let me be clear that while the law enforcement and criminal justice systems in this country are a festering cancer for which I have very little respect, I do not condone harassing, threatening or attacking random police officers, most of whom are probably decent guys and gals. If someone had shot Derek Chauvin, that would have been nice, but it's a bit late for that. So anyway:
Give police officers more and better training
A popular performance piece about George Floyd's murder points out that police officers in the United States undergoes fewer training hours than freaking barbers. Maybe that explains why barbers have killed fewer people. (Sweeney Todd notwithstanding.) They, the officers I mean, are also required to know surprisingly little about the actual laws they're supposed to be enforcing or about de-escalating tense situations without violence or threats of violence. I recognize that violence is sometimes necessary and justified, but thanks to the support of mindless right-wingers in this country who for decades have insisted that violence by a police officer is by definition always necessary and justified, it's become their default tactic far too often.
Screen police applicants better
Some people absolutely should not be cops, and some people who absolutely should not be cops are becoming cops anyway. We'll never be able to catch all the "bad apples" at the beginning, but surely we can do better. Most people don't become power-hungry fascists overnight.
Make police officers carry liability insurance
Most doctors are required to carry malpractice insurance to protect them from the brunt of massive lawsuits when something bad unexpectedly happens to one of their patients. Cops are already largely protected from lawsuits by qualified immunity, but if this method were used instead, their rates would skyrocket after they murder someone and they couldn't just get hired by the next police department that doesn't care about their record. "Don't hire police officers who have murdered someone" is too big a no-brainer to put on this list, yet not big enough to actually hold true in reality.
End special police protections
Everyone knows that police officers are held above the law through means both de facto and de jure. I'm sure it hurts their feelings to hold one of their friends and colleages to the same standard as normal people, and I'm sure it looks great on paper to give them some leeway for potentially controversial split-second decisions, but they've abused this privilege much too often and for far too long. Reform may already be gaining traction, as this week a federal appeals court cited George Floyd in a case against five cops who shot another black man twenty-two times in 2013. Police unions seem to exist for the sole purpose of protecting members from consequences for their actions, so they should probably be abolished if they can't come up with a really darn good reason not to be.
Make police officers wear body cameras at all times
George Floyd's murderers would still be free men if the murder hadn't been caught on a passerby's cell phone and a nearby restaurant's security camera and uploaded to the internet. Even knowing this, they still had the audacity to lie and claim George Floyd was resisting - which, again, if four cops can't restrain one man already in handcuffs without one of them kneeling on his neck while the other three do nothing, that's almost more embarrassing than being murderers. I see no reason whatsoever why every police officer in the country isn't required to use a body camera so they can't lie their way out of trouble. Literally the only thing I can think of is that it might make them hesitate more to use deadly force even when it is justified. Well, so what? They should be a lot more reluctant to take lives than they currently are. They should be afraid of the possibility of killing someone who shouldn't be killed. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops.
End ticket quotas nationwide
Perhaps a small issue compared to the overall corruption and brutality, but nonetheless, it's pretty messed up that some police departments require officers to issue a certain number of tickets regardless of what people are actually doing, so they get to waste their time harassing and fining people to generate tax revenue instead of solving real crimes. Don't get me wrong, traffic laws should be enforced, especially in Utah, but it's a matter of priorities. Maybe if cops spent less time prowling for people to give tickets to, they could respond faster to actual crimes. Some parts of the US have already abolished ticket quotas but the whole country needs to follow suit.
End no-knock search warrants nationwide
These warrants allow police to just barge into somebody's property, instead of announcing their presence before they barge into somebody's property. As you know, one such instance recently ended with police officers murdering 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her sleep after her boyfriend exercised his Second Amendment right to defend his home from intruders. They were at the wrong address looking for someone who had already been arrested, but whatever. If they had handled their idiotic mistake a little differently nobody would have died. They do claim that they did announce themselves before barging in, but the neighbors disagree, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a no-knock warrant in the first place, and police officers have a pretty consistent track record of lying their butts off every time they screw up. So I'm not buying it.
End civil forfeiture nationwide
If you have in your possession an amount of cash that the police think is suspiciously large, they can just take it from you and never give it back. They don't have to charge you with a crime. They can literally just take it from you and never give it back. Of course, there are very good legal constitutional reasons why the police have this power, and they understand the burden to use it responsibly and never abuse it, and I'm the Queen of Sheba.
Decriminalize all drugs
Portugal implemented this policy nearly twenty years ago and it's objectively been a phenomenal success in reducing both drug abuse and law enforcement expenses. The people who warned that it would be a disaster have admitted that they were wrong. Literally nobody claims it isn't working - so in other words, it's the opposite of the U.S. war on drugs. Law enforcement in this country wastes an obscene amount of time and money trying to punish people for having addictions, in the process creating far more crime than it stops and diverting resources away from much worse problems like sex trafficking and child pornography. And the war on drugs disproportionately ruins black men's lives just like Richard Nixon intended, so while this is admittedly be a band-aid solution, ending it would resolve that racial injustice as well.
Stop giving the police surplus military weapons
Back in the nineties, someone had the brilliant idea (that was sarcasm) of giving extra bayonets and hand grenades to police departments. In a sane country, an excess of bayonets and hand grenades might have raised some questions about budgets and priorities, but that's not the American way! So instead we decided to outfit cops like they're literally at war with the people they're supposed to serve and protect, further stroking the egos of the "bad apples" who now get to play with even more cool toys, and making all cops thus outfitted look like somebody a normal person would want to stay the hell away from. And, as their behavior has demonstrated, for good reason. Tear gas? What's up with that? Not okay in actual war zones, but okay to use on peaceful protesters?
Stop making police deal with mental health cases they aren't qualified for
In January, as I previously discussed at length, I was privileged to learn firsthand that the Logan Police Department knows less about mental health than a dog. They gave me the worst day of my life, but I was lucky. Some people out there have worse mental illnesses and/or disabilities than mine, and they constitute almost half of the people killed by police because neurotypicals have for some reason defaulted to using police to take care of everything they don't want to deal with, including problems much better suited to therapists or social workers whose skill set encompasses more than bullying. Not that the social worker I had to talk to afterward did a stellar job either, but at least she tried to make me less suicidal instead of more.
Make police undergo stress and anger management tests at least once a year
The stress of police work and the constant exposure to the ugliness in the world can really take a toll on one's psyche and desensitize one to basic human decency. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops. Police departments should check in periodiodically to weed out the "bad apples" who slip through the initial screening process, and the "good apples" that are starting to rot. Frequent psychological checkups could even prevent them from rotting in the first place. I realize that the crappiness of this job has skyrocketed in the last couple weeks, and I legitimately feel bad for the good cops dealing with pressure and stigma they don't deserve, but it has to happen. That pressure is the only thing that can force the necessary changes to the godawful system they belong to.
You've probably seen the Martin Luther King quote going around that about sums up how I feel right now: "But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity."
He was not, obviously, speaking in favor of violent rebellions. He was just saying that they're basically inevitable when a group of people is screwed over and ignored for too long. And that's why, though I don't support violence or destruction of property either, I believe this nation thoroughly deserves it. Not that most affected individuals deserve it by any means, but the country as an institution does a hundred percent. I only woke up to these problems in the last few years, but I'm in my twenties and not in any decision-making capacity on any scale whatsoever. Millions of older, wiser and more authoritative people have had ample opportunity to listen and change things but they haven't. Of course black people and their allies are incandescent with rage. Of course they're going to start breaking things when their peaceful protests and pleas have consistently been mocked by white conservatives and accomplished nothing. If this nation had at some point made the radical decision to hold police officers accountable for their actions, and maybe even screen out testosterone-fueled fascists from being hired in the first place, riots wouldn't be happening right now. But it didn't and they are and it deserves it.
I apologize to the world, better late than never, for my past ignorance about race relations in the United States. I drastically underestimated the problem, miscalculated the necessary measures to correct it, and failed to adequately listen to people with different skin colors about their experiences that have differed from mine. My heart has always been in the right place and I've never deliberately said or done anything racially insensitive, but like everyone I've grown up with certain cultural and political blinders that I've had to learn to shake off over the years. Like in school, I was never explicitly taught "Racism is over", but from my early years onward I was taught about slavery and the civil rights movement and the narrative seemed to be, "White people used to mistreat black people but now things have changed and we know better", and there was no discussion of the lingering effects of those things and since the equality of white and black people was a no-brainer to me, I never guessed that there were any. And when I did start hearing about them, it all seemed like a political ploy to harass and delegitimize everyone who didn't support Obama, which I didn't, so of course I would resist.
I'm grateful to my handful of black friends for being patient with me as I've evolved into less of an idiot, which really was just a process of time, growth and having things adequately explained to me. For example, I didn't used to believe in white privilege. I felt personally attacked when people told me I'm "privileged" even though I've been marginalized in ways large and small my entire life because of my autism. But I accepted the reality of white privilege as soon as I had a college professor who explained what it actually is and what it isn't. Right now, despite posting about this on Facebook multiple times a day, I'm actually really sick of hearing about it. My life would be a little more pleasant if I could go back to not constantly hearing about racism and police brutality. Because it doesn't affect me virtually at all. That's white privilege. The privilege of being annoyed by someone else's oppression. I think it's actually the most stark and succinct evidence of white privilege I could give right now.
Most white people are in the same situation, so each of us has a choice between trying to ignore what's going on or wading right into it and speaking up for what's right. Anecdotally, it appears to me that for the first time most of us are making the right choice. Of course I've still seen some idiots. I unfriended my own cousin on Facebook for sharing a meme of a Jeep plowing into stick figures, with the words "All Live Splatter: Nobody Cares About Your Protests". Okay, first of all, claiming that "nobody cares" about something that millions of people demonstrably care about very much just makes you look pathetic, and second, what the crap? She's always been a few fries short of a Happy Meal and I was mostly ignoring her coronavirus conspiracy theory posts, but this was too much. I was also dumbstruck by this gem I saw by chance on a Deseret News article the other day.
I just have a few things to say to that.
1. Whether George Floyd was a "saint" or not is entirely irrelevant to whether the police had any right to murder him while he was safely in custody. Also, a recent study found evidence that drug addicts are still people.
2. Derek Chauvin already had eighteen complaints against him, which is almost one for every year he's been a cop. And for reasons known only to God, he was still a cop. Why exactly would he be concerned about compromising it now?
3. George Floyd was unarmed, in handcuffs, on his stomach. Derek Chauvin had three other cops with him. By no possible stretch of the imagination did he need to "protect himself" or anyone else from anything, you illiterate cretin.
4. It's sad his wife left him? Wrong. It's sad his wife just realized she was married to a murderer. You're praying for the wrong person and it says a lot about you.
5. "I also know Blacks are causing more and more problems in this country. If we have a civil war we're locked and loaded at home." I can't - I don't - I just - what? Did you fall into a coma in 1963 and just wake up without realizing it?
But like I said, most people are in clear agreement that Derek Chauvin is scum and what he did was unequivocally wrong. I really believe and hope that George Floyd's death is the tipping point that will bring about difficult, painful but oh so necessary and long overdue change. Today I participated in only my second protest ever (I wore a mask and was pleased that virtually everyone else did too), and the atmosphere and the honks and waves and raised fists from hundreds of cars driving past just reinforced that feeling. Very, very few people flipped us off or yelled at us and only one middle-aged white guy showed up to let us know that he isn't racist but he doesn't support Black Lives Matter because it's violent. I don't feel up to going into a ton of detail like I did last time, but maybe I will next week or whenever. If I happen to see any pictures of myself I'll pass them along even though I hate pictures of myself.
No American deserves the luxury of ignoring what's going on right now. The rest of the world isn't ignoring it. They've seen the George Floyd video too. When my friend in Kenya mentioned it, I felt profoundly embarrassed for my country. I wished I could distance myself from it. But as long as I'm here I have a responsibility to change it from the inside. I'm not promising anything great or earth-shaking but I'll try to be a useful contributor to this movement and not let the few people within my sphere of influence pretend it isn't a thing. Undoubtedly I still have a ways to go and will say more ignorant things in the future despite my best intentions, so I'm sorry in advance for that too. Please be patient with me.
Not too long ago, when I heard reports of police brutality, unjustified killings etc. as a conservative, my impulse was to be dismissive. I can't speak for all conservatives but I think most of them would fall in the same proverbial boat I did: the government is completely untrustworthy, but this country itself is above criticism. Any claims that racism is still widespread and/or that police systematically abuse their power must be rejected or explained away at all costs. If the police incarcerate or murder a disproportionate number of black people, it's not because of racism, it's because black people are raised in bad environments. Police rarely do anything wrong and if they do, it's just a few of them and shouldn't be blown out of proportion, and anyway, who are you to judge them when you don't know how hard and stressful it is to be a police officer? Government authority is bad but police authority is good. Even though the police are actually useless which is why you need to own a gun.
I figured out a while ago that I was wrong to think that way, and if I've never made that clear before I am now. Probably the biggest turning point was a class discussion about police brutality a couple years ago which can be summed up with one exchange. The most obviously and consistently conservative guy in the class was like, "Maybe they just had a hard day..." and he almost seemed convincing until someone else was like, "If I have a hard day at work and I'm rude to a customer, I'll get fired!" Yeah, good point. The teacher capped off that exchange with something like, "Can we agree that some people just shouldn't be cops?" Yeah, that seems reasonable. I know I shouldn't.
Alas, by now I'm hopelessly biased in the opposite direction because of my own experience with Officers Hansen and Nelson of the Logan City Police, which traumatized the hell out of me and irreversibly destroyed most of my respect for law enforcement. I now see most police officers as narcissistic asshats who think they're gods because someone gave them a badge and a gun. That probably isn't a fair, charitable or accurate view and I probably shouldn't talk about this subject. Nonetheless, some do fit that description and because the consequences they face for their abuse of power range from laughable to nonexistent, crap keeps happening. I'm not sure if it's a mostly American phenomenon like mass shootings - I mean, the frequent racial aspect obviously is, since no other country has had such an impossible time getting over its leg-humping obsession with skin color, but I don't know what cops in general are like elsewhere. It's possible that the Australian police are even worse and it just doesn't make the news here. But I doubt it.
Until the recent national outrage, one police department in Georgia declined to take any action whatsoever against Ahmaud Arbery's murderers because one of them is a former member of it. Elsewhere, a group of officers in Kentucky murdered Breonna Taylor while executing a "no-knock" search warrant (which shouldn't be a thing) at the wrong apartment in the middle of the night. She was black, but I don't think the police were necessarily racist this time because it sounds like they just barged in and shot at anything that moved. Here in Utah, Officer Miguel Deras is in trouble because the public found out that he downloaded and shared explicit photograpraphs submitted as evidence by Lauren McCluskey - days before she was murdered because the police did nothing when she begged them for help, but that part is old news. I'm really pissed off and yet at the same time I feel a selfish schadenfreude every time the reputation of American law enforcement justifiably suffers. Lord forgive me. In fairness, I should note that by now even my conservative friends are pissed off. That's how bad it's gotten.
I am somewhat familiar with the police's side of things from reading a compilation of newspaper columns that Robert Kirby wrote as a cop in the early nineties (under the pseudonym John "Blitz" Krieg). He mostly wrote about what a crappy job it is and how stupid most citizens are. No argument here. He once wrote something to the effect of "Excessive compassion is why we have rapists and serial killers getting fat on macaroni and cheese and daytime TV instead of hanging from lampposts where they obviously belong." I completely agree in theory but there is the small matter of all the wrongful convictions that don't get overturned for decades. He wrote about the Rodney King riots and suggested that maybe the police beat the crap out of him not because of his skin color, but because he was low-life criminal trash. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm curious if and how any of his opinions have changed, as he's long since left police work and now writes humorous pieces about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Salt Lake Tribune, and generally seems more liberal nowadays.
His book, in any case, gave me a sympathy and respect for the police that I'm trying to remember now as a counterbalance to my current hatred. But as far as I'm concerned the actual percentage of police officers abusing their power, or whether these instances are representative, is hardly relevant. Pointing to the majority of good cops and non-incidents to downplay or rationalize away the others is just a way of pretending the problem doesn't exist. The police officers who got into law enforcement to make a positive difference in their communities should keep doing things the way they're doing things, and the police officers who are massive dicks in uniforms they don't deserve should be held accountable and put in their place. That won't happen as long as a substantial number of people want to pretend nothing is wrong with their behavior. It's true, I don't really know what it's like to be in their shoes, but I know the difference between right and wrong, even if it took me a while to figure out.
ADDENDUM: Of course it comes to no surprise to me or anyone that two days after I posted this, yet another black man in the United States was murdered by white police officers. George Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground - in other words, not an active threat by any stretch of the imagination - when a grim-faced fascist in a blue uniform slowly crushed his windpipe as he begged for relief. The part that does come as a surprise is that all four cops involved, the murderer and the accomplices who stood by and did nothing, were fired shortly after instead of the usual "paid leave" bullshit. So maybe this country is making a modicum of progress that makes glaciers look speedy.
Alas, I fell into my old habits and argued with a Cro-Magnon on the internet who insisted that the video didn't show us the whole story and we didn't see whatever George Floyd obviously did to deserve what happened to him. (One guess as to his political leanings.) I struggled to explain to this waste of skin that literally no possible context could justify what the police did to him. Even if he raped a baby, shot his own grandmother and listened to Nickelback, the police had him safely in custody and he was entitled to a fair trial under the laws of this country, not a lynch mob. But if he didn't want to die, said this boil on the anus of humanity, he should have been more cooperative. Good hell. Police officers are not above the law and they do not have a right to kill harmless people for not showing them the respect they think they deserve, full stop. I know Nazi comparisons are passé, but I can't escape the thought that if a similar regime were to arise here, this poor excuse for a sapient being would be one of the guys enthusiastically torturing people to prove his blind worship of authority. I pray that day never comes but it wouldn't come as a surprise.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.