[August 29, 2020] I live in a 55-plus housing development as part of a Home Owners Association. Residents are older, generally conservative politically, culturally homogeneous, and nearly all are retired. Despite their age, most live with a spouse and are physically active. They are what most folks would call, solidly middle class. They also support the police and are advocates of protecting the Thin Blue Line.1
Recently, there have been several disruptions to our little community. A small number of our residents publicly expressed their opinion that supporting the police is a “racist act.” They claim that police officers practice systematic racism by “unfairly targeting blacks and other peoples of color” and do so, not indiscriminately. Proof, they argue, is the fact that blacks are over-represented in our prison systems and are more likely to be stopped on the streets for no reason. We are told by them that supporting this discriminatory police practice is racist.
One of my neighbors was called a “Nazi” for distributing blue ribbons for those who want to show their support of the police. He was also called a racist and accused of wanting to “put black people in chains.” Hyperbole? Yes. But this line of thinking has quickly deteriorated the quiet and friendliness of our community.
Why then, do I say I support the police? Why would I want to publicly stand out as a target as someone who supports the police and subject myself to the anger? I have a family who could just as quickly become the target of hate, as my neighbor has been subject to.
Here are a few reasons I have taken a public stand with the police:
- I refuse to blame all members of any group for the wrongs of a few. Sure, there are bad cops, like there are bad politicians and bad military members. Each institution has rules and regulations designed to ferret out the bad and punish them. I believe that it is also intellectually immature to blame everyone for the faults of a few bad apples.
- I question who is next on the political hit-list. The famous confession of Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller in Nazi Germany that begins with, “First they came for the socialists ….. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” is apropos. What group will be next? I adamantly oppose the targeting of any group for perceived wrongs where there is little proof of systematic immoral behavior.
- Disrespect is contagious. Emotions run high when we see ourselves as being morally superior to others. Bad things follow. When a group is targeted, it gives those who oppose them an emotional high to be on the “good” side and to be there to win the war on “evil.” Disrespect can easily lead to bitterness, deceitfulness, and destructive behavior. Disrespect of groups is a radically dangerous form of thought. Look to the 20th century, where the bodies are piled up high in that social experiment.
- The idea of a police force is the result of social consensus across time. When we find any social condition that has evolved over long periods of time and are found across cultures, there are some powerful arguments for their intrinsic value. The police perform a pragmatic role of preventing crime against people and catching those who would violate the trust and confidence on which our society is based.
Humans seem to have an innate desire to be part of a group and part of the winning group. But modern societies tame these primitive needs. We voluntarily give authority to specialized institutions like the police, the military, and political systems to act – based on tested and approved rules – in a way that benefits us all. Attempts to attack those institutions will only end badly, not unlike the Communist and Nazi ideologies of the 20th century.
- Origins of the term can be traced to an allusion to the British infantry regiment, The Thin Red Line, during the Crimean War in 1854. The “blue” in “thin blue line” refers to the blue color of the uniforms of many police departments. More of the origins can be found in a Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin_blue_line