Typically I avoid discussing real-world stuff on this blog. This is a science fiction (and some fantasy) blog, an author blog, etc; … The world is coming apart at the seams, though, and I need to get some thoughts out. Fuck you if you don’t like it.
Almost thirty years ago, my father had a conversation with me about police. We were in the car. He was driving me to school. We passed by another car which had been pulled over. We lived in a quiet town with a crime rate more than 80% lower than the national average. This is a southern town with only three churches – you know from that it’s a small town. More cops per capita, at the time, than nearby Chattanooga. In gentler words given my tender years, he explained that All Cops Are Bastards.
My dad came of age in the Sixties. He graduated high school at a time when everything seemed to be coming apart. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Vietnam took personal friends. An uncle came back with severe and permanent mental damage. Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse Five, which ends with what might be the best anti-violence essay ever. And three American men shot into space and danced with the Moon. It was a weird time.
It’s a weird time now. Two Americans went to space yesterday, launching from US soil for the first time in 9 years, launching in a privately built spacecraft for the first time ever. We’ve got these unpopular wars and we’ve got people clashing in the streets with cops and it kinda feels like we haven’t made any progress at all.
California had a little problem a few months after my Dad told me the cops were the bullies who peaked in high school and never amounted to anything. In the spring of 1992, I was nine years old watching news coverage of riots. I didn’t fully understand it. Seems like I wasn’t alone in not understanding it, because a lot of people this week still don’t seem to get it.
They didn’t get it in 1968. They didn’t get it in 1992. They didn’t get it in 2014. They don’t get it now. And so it goes.
The mechanisms of state are not infallible. That was kind of a big deal to a group of fellas about 244 years ago. Some of them had a bit of a riot. Some property was destroyed and later they had a whole damn war over it. All my childhood years, teachers told me these men were heroes. The lionization of these men in American history is absolute. Of course, they were white dudes.
These guys had some good ideas, though. I think we can agree on that, yes? One of the big ones was that of governmental power deriving from the “consent of the governed.” They didn’t like that the government sent armed men into their communities, armed men who abused the citizenry without consequence. Indeed, standing up to that abuse could get you killed.
“We hold thse truths to be self-evident,” they wrote in a fancy letter to the King of England, “that all men are created equal.” That was a pretty good idea, too. But T.S. Eliot had it right when he wrote, “Between the idea/ And the reality/ … Falls the Shadow.”
All right, but surely not every Law Enforcement Officer in the United States is a wannabe fascist thug and white supremacist. Surely not, right? I mean, there have been warnings for years about white supremacists “infiltrating” police departments across the country, but there must be good cops right?
And there are. The Chattanooga police chief tweeted the other day that any officer who didn’t have a problem with the video of George Floyd’s death should turn in their badge. Other high ranking cops across the country expressed similar feelings. Atlanta’s police chief went out amongst the protestors and spoke with them, listened to them. There are good cops, men and women who wear a badge because they believe in the words on the side of their cars: protect and serve the community.
My experiences with cops – and I’ve had a lot of them, actually – have generally been pretty all right. I’m a white dude, after all. I very drunkenly called a cop the R-word one time and nothing happened. I got in my friend’s car, flipped him the middle finger, and we left. And that was that. I have run from the cops and not ended up in cuffs.
Meanwhile, a person of color I knew when we were kids got his car searched once. This was that same small town outside Chattanooga, in the parking lot of the brand new McDonald’s (our first fast food joint). They ripped the upholstery out, smashed through the dash and door panels, determined to find the drugs. His car was literally totalled by a police search. They found his Bible.
I’ve also personally known a lot of cops. I went to a cop’s birthday party one time. It was a great party, lots of fun. I’ve worked with off-duty cops, moonlighting as private security. I know a guy right now, one of the best people I know, who wears a badge every day. I am always happy to see him.
But the thing is, my personal relationships with LEOs do not equate to what they do on the clock. Because I know them as people. On-duty, they’re not the same. They cannot be. That doesn’t mean they are automatically bad cops, far from it. But here’s another thing: cops are like apples. And that thin blue line? It means they won’t throw out the bad ones, but rather allow them to ruin the bunch. And so it goes.
The police chiefs speaking out this week – the cops who are joining protesters rather than senselessly attacking them – are an amazing ray of hope. That they are willing to hold their own to a standard of accountability we simply have never fucking seen before.
The fact that the latest murderer has actually been arrested and charged – all within days! – is simply incredible, because this is not how it normally goes.
The others – those who arrested journalists, blinding one in one case; those who drove their cars through peaceful crowds; those spraying tear gas indiscriminately; those kicking and beating civilians even when they are down on the ground – these images, these videos are ghastly, horrific, and the only thing remarkable about this is that we are seeing it this time. Live, as it happens, all over the country. And so it goes.
Sure, it’s not all cops. But it’s some cops, and they are brutalizing the citizens they are “sworn to protect” because those citizens are angry that cops are brutalizing the citizens…. And on, and on, and so it goes.
This must be stopped. Unfortunately, too many people are focused on the property damage. They focus on people out after curfew, well they should have followed the rules, well they should have listened.. These fucking people won’t see, when it’s right before their eyes. And they keep saying the same fucking bullshit they said every time an innocent Black man has been killed for the past twenty years, thirty years, sixty years… And on, and on, and so it goes.
And they keep refusing to understand that when the machines of state fail to serve the citizenry, the citizenry gets angry. That a rising police state which continually guns down unarmed people of a specific group will not be accepted by any sane populace, and that the legitimacy of the police – as an arm of the state – is dependent on the communities they serve, on the consent of the governed.
The rest of us, the ones who see what is happening and care more about human life than a fucking Target? We never consented to this shit.