Just about every third show on television features a cop. Unfortunately, what the police actually do in today’s country isn’t reflected in entertainment. In case anybody hasn’t paid attention, the cop of the old days, the crime fighter and community servant no longer exists. Instead, your local beat walker is now just an enforcer.
I cannot make this distinction enough. There’s a difference between a cop and an enforcer.
A police officer is a guy or gal who protects you, your friends, and your family. They serve you.
An enforcer is a bureaucratic creature that protects and serves the law. Not you.
Now you probably think that the law serves and protects you. So if the police serve and protect the law, they’re doing the same for you. This used to be the way it was. It no longer is.
I want you to look around for a moment. Then realize that right now, this very second, you’re a criminal. There is at least one, if not several laws you are currently breaking. You don’t know what they are. You likely aren’t doing anything wrong. But you’re still breaking the law.
It used to be, and those not in touch with reality still claim, that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. This is literally no longer possible when the law is so widespread and convoluted that even the wisest minds in the legal profession cannot agree on what it says. Every single person in today’s America is ignorant of at least some, if not a substantial portion of the modern legal code.
And added to this problem is that we now ask an increasingly numerous and empowered enforcement arm to implement this law book. Once upon a time your local beat cop made sure you weren’t murdered or robbed. Now a deputy-assistant-agent-investigator from your state’s department of labor is after you for violating section 4.b.#.1 of the legal code.
Since the government needs your obedience to such a wide variety of laws, the government makes sure its enforcers are commanding said obedience. Your local police officer is in service to get the law obeyed. You’re not the objective anymore. The law is.
Add added to this problem is a completely risk adverse culture where folks are unsatisfied, outraged, and demand action at the simplest of deliberate or accidental mistakes. You can’t even say anything that offends somebody without being accused of making love to Stalin’s ghost.
In a world where it’s considered a fatal mistake to even say something wrong, you can only imagine the fury of the laws we’ve written to prevent actual actions that result in errors. Common sense and learning from our mistakes has given way to punishment, justice, and the brutality of hindsight.
And so a law book twelve feet thick, with a government that still demands you know & obey it all, enforced by enforcers who are empowered and demanded to enforce it all, and guided by a society that does not tolerate risk or mistakes. Well, here we are folks.
This is how battle armored attack teams end up kicking down doors to point machine pistols at illegal flower growers. Or why ten year old girls are handcuffed for acting like ten olds. Or why unarmed citizens are shot dead by police for crimes worthy of a fifty dollar citation. Or why there are twice as many Americans behind bars than serve in the military.
Think you’re free? You’re not. You’re just lucky. Lucky that you haven’t been arrested for violating one of the many laws you’re currently breaking. Lucky that your number hasn’t come up.
It might be your time eventually, your turn in the enforcer’s meat grinder. But until your day comes, maybe you can ignore the problem? Just about everybody else does. So why not you?
All of this has been on my brain lately. But then an incident happened that reinforced this mindset. So why do I belong behind bars? Because I drove ten minutes without my driver’s license. My driving record is impeccable. I have a license. I just didn’t have it on me.
I was at a blissful family event. I was completely unplugged. I intentionally brought neither my keys, cell phone, nor wallet. Later on, I volunteered to drive home given the inebriation of the car’s five occupants. I had three beers over three hours in me, so I put my paw up.
Only as I was getting behind the wheel did I remember I didn’t have my wallet. My options at that point, I guess, were to call us a cab, hand the keys to an intoxicated individual, or hang out for five hours until somebody with a physical license was sober.
Instead, with the above thoughts in my mind, I said fuck it. I knew what I was doing. I did it anyways. I drove us all home. I decided I was not in the wrong. The law says I was wrong. But I say I was in the right by the laws of what’s good with all humanity.
In the old days (maybe as recent as fifteen years ago), if I’d been pulled over under these circumstances, and explained the situation to the cop? Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d hope he’d have looked at me, checked his computer, used his best judgment, and sent me on my way with a wag of his finger.
I think today the enforcer, without the training, authority, or desire to use judgment would have arrested me, impounded the car, I’d have been fired from at least one of my jobs, lost my license, paid thousands in fines, and so on.
How would society have benefitted from this negative outcome?
What does the culture lose with handling it the old fashioned way?
Maybe you think my original argument and/or the circumstances of this situation are wrong. That I’m just a bad person. Or made a dumb decision. Maybe. If you do, I completely understand. But I use this as an illustration of what I think is so very wrong with where our society has gone.
Agree or disagree with me. I don’t care. Just promise me you’ll think about this.
All of this is happening around us. You’re either good with it or you’re not. I’m not. But for now, as long as you’re thinking about this. Even if we disagree, we’re good.
I say, “To protect and serve” no longer exists