Perhaps one of the greatest casualties of a polarized society is the allowance and appreciation for shades of grey. Tyranny of the mob requires black and white thinking and when the mob doesn’t get what it wants, well, the pitchforks come out. Fortunately for shades of grey, this is a blog titled Unprecedented Mediocrity and I get to say what I want, pitchforks be damned. To all of the law enforcement officers protecting across this nation, I want to say that I love you and thank you for what you are doing to keep us safe. I also want to say that I get to have expectations of you. If I were speaking corporately to you all as a fraternal order of police, then you let us down in Minnesota. Beyond disappointment, a man was murdered through force of state with summary execution while a pleading crowd begged for mercy. If this were a cartoon and you could shade out the color of one’s skin and transport the scene into another cultural context, this would be a public execution in medieval times designed to calm the peasants. No Libertarian has any excuse justifying such actions of state. No conservative gets to turn a blind eye and no liberal gets to champion it like a trophy. My brothers in blue, I do love you, but I get to have expectations of you and so does America.
The Thin Blue Truth
As a Marine, I served with many men who are now in law enforcement. My brother is a cop in a very dangerous city and some of my closest friends have worn the shield. So while I’m not a cop myself, I have perhaps an insider’s look, or at least as much as a non-cop could. Now, not being a cop, I might have some reservations about judging the actions of a law enforcement officer. However, I get over that quickly because I’ve had drinks with many of you and I’ve heard you mock and malign your own. I’ve even heard you use Super Trooper names to describe them.
You see, cops are not confused about who is a piece of crap in their department. They know who the Blue Falcons are, they know who they can’t rely on, and they know who takes it too far. For every incident on video, there are 100 that are never captured. Consequently, cops have ample evidence to judge their own and they are not shy about calling them out. At least after a few drinks anyway.
I know that many of you reading this right now are law enforcement officers. So as the saying goes, if you don’t know who the turds are in your department, then it might be you. So yes, I get to have expectations of you because I know you have them of your own. Sadly, you just don’t always share it publicly or with the people that matter. There is an esprit de corps that will cause you to risk your life to save one another, but sadly, that causes you to protect far too many who you know should go. Again, you might not tell those that matter, but after a few shots of whiskey I’ve heard you tell me. In a world where grey thought is allowed, I empathize with you. I really do.
Confidence and Courage in Chaos
For those of us who deployed and those of us who stepped outside the wire, if you didn’t see your fellow Marines or soldiers do something that made you feel uncomfortable, then you probably didn’t go anywhere and you likely didn’t do much of anything. Whether it was an incident with casualties or simply the inappropriate treatment of others, I saw things that bothered me and I didn’t say anything. Why? Well, because it was war for one. The other reason is that the same esprit de corps puts you in a position where your loyalty is torn.
Now, to clarify, I’m not saying I witnessed war crimes. Not even close, but actions that were immoral and unethical even in the face of war, yes. I absolutely did and you did too if you are willing to admit it. War is a hell of a thing and they ask us to do some crazy stuff. There’s no way that goes textbook every time. That’s partly why I find it amusing when every restaurant offers free chicken strips to veterans on Veteran’s Day. Little do they know that among the fine men and women who rightfully earned a little respect and free fried chicken, they are feeding some of the worst pieces of crap in humanity. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I’ve known some terrible dudes and they wore the uniform too.
That’s why when I see the scene of the fatal incident in Minnesota, I’m bothered by the cops that stood by. I know that they likely had an urge or an inkling to say something, but I also understand the pressure they were under to go with the flow. When an angry mob surrounds you and adrenaline is high, it is natural to lock arms with those that you know. However, it is not natural to strangle an unarmed man on the streets.
This isn’t a war zone. These are the streets of America and cops, I get to have expectations of you. You failed us in Minnesota and what’s worse, you put the public in a position where the moral and ethical duty may have been to interfere with your actions. They didn’t and they watched a man die right in front of them. That is something that will haunt the crowd to the day that they die. They pleaded for reason and yet, the summary execution continued. I love you guys, but if you can’t make better decisions then you need to find another trade.
Listen to Your Friends of Color
When incidents like this take place, there is an obvious narrative that speaks to the role of race in America. I can’t impute racism on the cops that are involved as I don’t know them and one can be terrible at their jobs for many reasons. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement where protesters wore shirts saying “I can’t breathe”, cops really only had one job in America. That was not to strangle an unarmed black man while he was pleading with you that he couldn’t breathe. Not while you had numerical and tactical superiority. Not while a crowd pleaded with you to stop. You had one job and for whatever reason, you failed that job in Minnesota. Once again, if you can’t make better decisions, then perhaps it is time for you to find another trade.
So while I can’t impute racism on men I don’t know, I can tell us white people to listen to our friends of color that we do know. Right, I mean that’s the defense we all like to run to with incidents such as this in that we point out “I’ve got black friends” or “I served with dark green Marines.” Well, if they are your friends, then listen to them. They are not being silent on the matter and they are trying to tell you something about the black experience that we don’t get here in America. Could you sit back and watch one of your dark green Marines get strangled to death because he got a little rowdy on a night out? Could you really sit there and hear him plead that he can’t breathe after all you’ve been through together?
I’m writing here on this blog because I likely can’t make the next white peoples of America meeting and it needs to be said. If you have black friends, please listen to them. If you can’t do that, then listen to your white friends who have adopted black children when they tell you their children are treated differently. Is it really hard for you to admit that the black experience in America may be something different than our white minds have wanted it to be? Just listen to them and if they are your friends, try to hear what they are saying.
Once again, to those who are serving in uniform and protecting us today, I thank you. Honestly, I don’t know who would want to be a cop these days. But I do know that if you continue to be a cop, then I get to have expectations of you. The citizen in me gets to have expectations and the Libertarian in me says that force of state cannot kill a man as took place on the streets of Minneapolis. My friends in blue, you know who the bad cops are and there has to be some way to get them out before they do you all harm. Remember a few years ago when a cop shot an unarmed black man with his hands in the air begging cops, “Don’t shoot.” You had one job cop, one job.
The cops who stood by and watched this incident wish they would have said something, I know they do. Yet, it’s too late. I don’t care if Cops of America have to create a universal safe word, there has to be a way for one cop to intervene in the actions of the other. Basically a word that means, “I’m not going to jail because you are terrible at your job” word. Because we as citizens get to have expectations of you and that will start with you having and enforcing higher expectations of one another.
You know what it’s like to wrestle a naked crackhead and thank you for doing what I don’t want to do. Then again, you also know what a bad cop looks like because I’ve heard you laugh and joke about it. Once again, it is a dangerous precedent to put the public in a position where the moral and ethical thing to do is intervene in your actions. This crowd watched a man die while they pleaded for his life. Don’t put your fellow citizens in those positions. That’s not a future I want for America. I love you guys, but we get to have expectations.