Violence is everywhere. We see it in the news daily, it’s in our TV shows, our movies, our video games and sometimes a part of our lives. Recently we’ve read multiple news stories about police violence against unarmed individuals. In some of these stories the innocence of the alleged victim is dubious. In others, video seems to prove beyond doubt that the police used unnecessary lethal force.
As Issac Newton’s Third Law observed in physics, so we are seeing in society; an equal and opposite reaction to ever increasing levels of police violence and brutality. Most recently, two members of the NYPD were shot to death while they sat in a patrol car. Anti-police sentiments and protests are on the rise everywhere. Some of the outcry is the result of perceived racism. Some stems from a recognition that the police – once known as “peace officers”, have become something quite different.
This isn’t Mayberry. Today your average hometown police squad has a cache of automatic weapons, body armor, tear gas, grenade launchers, armored military vehicles and perhaps even a weaponized drone.
I have yet to meet someone who expressed a feeling of comfort, safety or peace upon seeing one of the boys (or girls) in blue in their rear view mirror. Instead, I think we share a nearly universal moment of panic at the sight that we might have done something illegal. There is something profoundly wrong with a society in which the average citizen finds themselves struck by fear at the sight of those who profess to “protect and serve”. I believe this response is two-fold:
First, there are so many laws on the books that it’s been estimated that the average person breaks 3 federal laws every day without even knowing it. Our own federal government doesn’t know how many laws are on its own books! At any given time we are at risk of breaking one or more of them, which is enough to put us in harm’s way should we encounter a member of law enforcement.
Second, conditioning has much to do with public perception of the police. Admittedly this is an assumption on my part, but I would think that when most people encounter the police, it is not a positive experience for them. I suspect that the majority of this contact comes from traffic stops, checkpoints, and other invasive instances that involve legalized extortion for an alleged crime without a victim or interrogation about ones recent travels and eating habits. Similar to Pavlov’s dog that would salivate at the sound of a bell, our palms grow sweaty and our pulse quickens at the sight of police. We respect them out of fear or indoctrination, not because they’ve done anything in particular to earn it.
We’re now seeing the fruits that state violence has sown. The public is beginning to recognize the police for what they are – the operators of the state’s monopoly on “legal” violence. Government is force, and the police are the enforcers. Without them, and others who wield force in the name of the state, government is powerless. Its life-blood flows from the financial and physical wounds it deals out to its subjects. Without extorting their labor and violating their persons and properties it would not exist. This is the true nature of the state and the professions that serve it. While the masses are not yet fully cognizant of this realization, they are beginning to sense that something isn’t quite as they were taught to believe. Unfortunately some are turning to violence in response.
As a libertarian and a Christian, I see violence as a tool with a very specific use. Only in defense of a direct threat to the person or property and only at the minimum level required to repel the threat is it rightfully used. Anything more is unjustified, immoral and criminally liable.
The shooting of individuals sitting in their car does not, in any way fit this definition of rightful violence. The two NYPD police officers killed were not doing anything that justified them being killed. It was not justified, it was not moral, it was an act of evil.
Some who claim membership in the libertarian philosophy have taken a different view of this double murder. One particularly vocal individual has stated “As far as I’m concerned, his [the shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley] death is good news same as the death of the cops he shot.” (emphasis mine). He comes to this conclusion based on a tortured and warped view of morality in which a police officer is stripped of their individual humanity and which finds all police collectively responsible for the wrongs committed by any one of their members. I only bring this up so that I can take the opportunity to publicly disavow any perceived association with this reprehensible self-proclaimed “asshole” and his supporters and apologists. Christopher Cantwell, I’m looking at you.
I’m no friend of government, or particularly of the police, but I see value in human life. I see the death of police brutality victims as a great tragedy just as I see the death of these two NYPD officers. It’s easy enough to call out unjust violence used against citizens, but if we are to stay consistent we much also point out illegitimate violence used against those we may view as oppressors. Life is precious. One’s career does not discount their humanity, though I would suggest that their own actions might. Simply put, let not the innocent pay the price for the guilty. We should recognize bad cops for what they are – bad people. Further, we should recognize that the good outnumber the bad.
If we want a better world, we need to stand up to senseless violence in all of its manifestations. Blind hatred, bigotry, and violence, regardless of their target cannot bring us the freedom and liberty we seek. Those who would use such aggression are not on our side and must be soundly renounced.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of senseless violence everywhere, particularly during this Christmas season.
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Based on a work at http://www.considerliberty.com.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.