Sunday, June 14, 2015

Should we "support" or "oppose" law enforcement?

If you live in the United States, you have no doubt as of late been inundated with stories of police brutality from around the country. Whether there is a real increase in police brutality or whether these sorts of incidents are just getting more attention I could not say. But this discussion has spawned some really stupid knee-jerk reactions from both the Left and the Right. By way of reminding the mainly Catholic readership of this blog that Traditional Catholicism does not exist on the Left-Right spectrum - and that points of agreement with one side or the other tend to be merely incidental - I want to try to inject some sanity into a discussion that is rapidly degenerating into pure stupidity.

It has now been over a generation since the end of the Civil Rights movement, and the cadre of dying septuagenarian progressives on the Left are trying to stretch the momentum of the 60's to every possible corner of American society. This is what is behind trying to hand the mantle of the Civil Rights movement on to the perverts in the LGBT community (despite the protest of many African Americans).

This is also what is behind the liberal "opposition" to "police" as they attempt to make every engagement between a white office and a black person an issue of racism - which of course gets a bit muddled when the officers are black, as in the Freddie Gray case. It is a classic case of playing the race card, which consists essentially in viewing every social interaction solely through the lens of race and nothing else.

There is also a tendency on the Left to fail to sympathize with the difficult situations police officers are in. In the now infamous pool party arrest, the officer was surrounded by a hostile crowd. It is understandable why he drew his gun. Officers are asked to do a very tough job, and that job will inevitably at times involve them "getting tough." There are certainly some bad apples; but the Left's crusade against police brutality too often becomes a broadly ignorant "opposition" to any police action whatsoever and results in police who are afraid to do their jobs because they don't know if they will get in trouble for using force, drawing a weapon, etc.

As we will see with the Right, the Left can be schizophrenic on this issue. The same people who hate America, hate the police, etc. have no qualms about calling 911 or running to an Embassy when they get in trouble in a foreign country. Of course, not everybody who protests against police brutality "hates cops"; but if the Left would have us grant this, let the Left grant that not every police officer is a secret racist. This is way more complex than "Who are you with? Police or black people?"

Okay, so the Left is stupid. No big surprise there. But the Right has some equally stupid positions on this question; in fact, I think the Right's approach is equally schizophrenic.

One thing I have never been able to comprehend is how the conservative Right promotes a cult of law enforcement by its excessive honor of police officers and military personnel whilst simultaneously nurturing fears of a police state. One would think a constituency that demonstrates such anxiety over the establishment of a police state would be a little more reserved in the lauds they heap upon law enforcement? After all, you cannot have a police state without the police. Yet, the opposite is the case; they worry about the establishment of the dreaded American police state whilst simultaneously claiming that no honor is too high for our law enforcement and military.

The Right professes to abhor and fear the establishment of a police state but never misses and opportunity to engage in a public love fest with law enforcement. This is inconsistent and weird - just like conservative fear of "big government" goes hand in hand with reflexive support for a bigger and greater military, the very thing which ultimately makes "big government" possible. I know conservative fear of a police state is directed more towards liberal politicians and  not law enforcement as such, but any police state, liberal or otherwise, would require the cooperation of the police. I don't see how one can profess to fear a police state while simultaneously empowering the police consistently.

This is the major case of double-think regarding law enforcement in the conservative right, and the reflexive cult of law enforcement it engenders leads to another canard, which is the "I support police" campaign going around social media.

You know what I'm talking about. All sorts of images of police officers with their families or officers helping people with tags like "support our police" or "I stand with the police" and so forth.

It is the goofiest thing in the world to take a position as broad as "I support police." Not because I have anything against police qua police, but because its not rational to simply "support" an entire profession as if it were a political position.

For example, what if I were to sport a bumper sticker that said, "I support realtors." What? That would not make any sense. Or, "Stand with our accountants." "Support plumbers." Who talks like that about any other profession? I don't have anything against plumbers, but I certainly don't support plumbers qua plumbers, I support an individual plumber when he does a good job, and I do not support an individual plumber when he shows up late or screws me over.

I support an accountant who is competent. I oppose an accountant who is incompetent. Ditto with every other profession. People who do certain professions are judged according to their skill in that profession, so we are ultimately talking about the competence of individuals. I cannot simply "support realtors"; I support intelligent, hard working realtors and I oppose dumb, lazy realtors.

But with police - and I would argue military and teachers as well - we are supposed to either "support" them or be "against" them. I do not "support the police." Like anything else in this world, I support a police officer when he does good and oppose him when he does evil. To the degree that that evil is systemic, I oppose that institutional evil. To the degree that quality public service and self-service are systemic, I support that. And I understand that the two contrary qualities may be present in one department or even in a single officer, because even the best of us still do evil. So insofar as a particular officer does good, I support him, and insofar as he does wickedly, I oppose him.

Now, some will respond, "But the reason people speak of 'supporting' police, teachers, etc. is because these very professions have in fact become politicized and taken on the character of a political position which can be supported or opposed," to which I respond, if one or both sides in the stupid Left-Right dichotomy have politicized a profession, that is no argument that I need to. If one side has made a political platform out of "supporting" teachers, I will not allow myself to up the ante by adopting the knee-jerk political position of "opposing" teachers just because Party X supports them and I belong to Party Y. I support effective teachers and oppose ineffective teachers.

Similarly, if the Left is mobilizing against law enforcement (while simultaneously trying to establish a Leftist police state somehow?) in a move of crass politicization, I do not see how it helps anything by closing ranks "for" law enforcement in an act that is equally politicized. Those who are unable to get off the Left-Right paradigm will have a difficult time with this.

So no, conservatives, I do not "support" police. Nor do I "oppose" them, Mr. Liberal. I look for individuals to act in accord with their duty and the common good according to their office. If they can do that, I support them; if and when they fail (which clearly happens) I oppose them. I have known a lot of good, wonderful cops in my life; I've even had to make decisions regarding management of police officers. But I've also been totally shafted by cops and seen some really terrible things done by police officers, things that were so unjust that I couldn't think of them without trembling in rage. And I think if the Left suffers from an inability to recognize the difficult situation police can find themselves in, the Right suffers from a knee-jerk defense of law enforcement and often fails to recognize real abuses when they crop up.

Let us judge each instance - and each person - on their own merits and not get caught up in the stupidity of the Left-Right paradigm.


jack said...

Might I suggest that the right's position is not as contradictory as you make out, the tendency to honour law enforcement and the military (so far as I can see) comes from the sacrifices that those in the profession are expected to make and the ideals which they are expected to uphold. The threat of a police state is one they see coming from liberal politicians (who are anything but liberal) rather than the law enforcement agencies themselves.

Boniface said...

Well like I said you cannot have a police state without police. Even the most draconian liberal politician would not be able to enforce his ideas without the cooperation of some form of law enforcement or military.

Eric Brooks said...

Instead of talking about "supporting police" it would probably be more useful to talk about supporting some specific policy relating to the police. E.g. do you support such an such a program to further train against implicit bias (a clearer term than racism)? Do you support body cams? Are there types of community events that can be arranged to facilitate better communication between law enforcement and minorities?

I'm not asking you these questions, but offering examples of the kind of things people might ask instead of "who are you with, police or black people???!!!!!!?!?!?!"

Boniface said...


Hm said...

"The Left is at least consistent. They tend to mistrust the police, and they act accordingly."

This isn't correct. The leftist youths who demonstrate against the police and consider them monsters are the same people who call 911 at the drop of a hat, who expect them to take care of any trouble.

The kind that goes abroad hating their own country, get in trouble, and have no qualms about going to the embassy on their knees to get help.

Boniface said...

I will grant that point.

Boniface said...

Actually, Hm, that's a really good point. I'm going to change the article to add that. Deo gratias.

Anonymous said...

I was rather shocked to see you using the word 'retarded' as a common adjective, and apparently equating it with the word 'stupid' (for the 'Left' and 'Right' respectively). You appear to be an educated man, teaching homeschooled high school students, holding public office, etc. Very disappointing (and hurtful) to see you use that word in that way.

Boniface said...

Sorry. I do have a low brow side to me at times. But I have always used the word "retarded" and plan to continue to do so. I think the campaign against it is merely political correctness run amok.

Anonymous said...

You are mistaken. I am about as un-PC as they come. It is uncharitable to use the word in that way, and it is offensive and hurtful to those of us who know and love people with actual cognitive disabilities. (although you apparently don't care)

Boniface said... I don't know or love anyone with a disability?

I just know that in all my life when either I, or others I knew, have ever used that word, nobody ever took it to mean it was insulting disabled people.

Hm said...

I suppose we should all watch our tongues only when you might be offended, un-PC Anon.

Glad to have contributed to the blog after reading for four years, Boniface. I enjoy your "low brow" or "normal person" side.

Boniface said...

Well you know what, this is not journalism here. It's not precise theology. it's not peer reviewed material. It's simply some guy writing whatever comes into his head. I can respect that some people may disagree with the manner in which I do it at times. This is the reality of blogging, eh?

Anonymous said...

The left loves law enforcement as long as they are the right kind of people-those who can be trusted to support the revolution against making crimes by their favored victim groups punishable.

Boniface said...

I think perhaps the key is that the strongest supporters of any given law enforcement agency will simply be those in power.

Anonymous said...

Me again -the one your reader has so kindly referred to as 'un-PC Anon'. Frankly, I'm startled by your attitude regarding my comment. Your choice of word is uncharitable, and you refuse to admit it. You are using the word 'retarded' (which is short for 'mentally retarded') as a synonym for stupid. It has nothing to do with whether your blog is journalism, theology, or peer reviewed. It has everything to do with common courtesy and charity, which is the responsibility of every Catholic.

Boniface said...

I understand very well how I'm using the word. I just disagree that it is insulting to people with special needs. I guess we will just have to disagree here.

Boniface said...

un-PC Anon-

I was just thinking about this all day, and while I am not changing my fundamental position on the word, I think if it really upsets you that much I'll just change it. Why should I give my brother (sister?) offence over something as minor as one word which I could easily change?


Anonymous said...

I feel the same way when conservatives who think those against net nuetrality and pretend free markets is the only moral economic system. Somehow having large corporations decide that unpopular websites don't deserve equal bandwidth seems like a bad move for a conservative. Was the economic system immoral before Capitalism? What about the current usury crises with banks?

James Joseph said...

One of my favorite words is 'gaytarded'.

Boniface said...

Oh I love that one too. I probably wouldn't use it in writing but I am prone to say that.