Harsh statement? Certainly. It does not make it less true – like an accurate terminal cancer diagnosis. Pretending otherwise doesn’t alter the reality.
Whether the cops themselves are conscious of their badness is immaterial.
No doubt, many cops (as distinct from peace officers) believe in their hearts (and perhaps even their minds) that they are “good men” doing righteous work.
It does not make it so.
The average Nazi functionary was not a frothing fanatic, either. He was a good German with a wife and kids he doted on, who – in his own mind – believed he was doing the right thing.
The East German Stasi man believed this also.
Just as buzz cut Officer 82nd Airborne believes it today.
Most cops are probably not conscious sadists – though of course, many are.
They enforce the laws. It’s what they do. It does not matter what the law is. Merely that it is the law. Many will tell you so themselves. The law is the law. I’m just doing my job. The same things were said in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, everywhere that authority rather than right was reverenced.
Or where the two were confused and regarded as the same thing.
As has become the case in the U.S. today.
Most of the laws on the books (as in Nazi Germany, as in the Soviet Union, as in post-war East Germany) criminalize innumerable actions (and even non-actions, such as failing to buy now-mandatory health insurance) that involve no harm to other people or their property – but rather constitute “offenses” against the state and its statutes.
It is the job of cops to force people to submit and obey – period.
Cops are not expected to consider the rightness or wrongness of an action as such; only whether a given action (or non-action) is illegal. It is the same mentality expressed by a genuinely bewildered Adolf Eichmann at his trial in Israel for war crimes.
He was merely following orders.
Inevitably, as this corruption of the soul takes hold, any challenge to the state’s limitless authority becomes – in the minds of those charged with protecting the state’s authority – the essence of wrongness.
Evildoers must be punished. A Manichean – but morally subjective – worldview takes hold. Ordnung muss sein.
It rapidly takes on the fervor of a crusade, becomes strident and militant, harsh – a sickening admixture of obeisance to and worshipfulness of the state.
There is talk of heroes. Not in reference to people to people who risk their own lives to try to help save another person’s life. But in reference to those who take other people’s lives (or merely ruin them) in order to enforce compliance with the state’s authority.
They talked about heroes in Soviet Russia, too.
And there was the cult of the soldat in National Socialist Germany – where the highest honor was to wear a uniform and to “serve.”
Does it sound familiar?
Echoes from the past, unheeded.
But there is this crucial difference between cops in the United State (singular, on purpose – in the interests of editorial accuracy) and the enforcer class in the Union of Soviet Soviet Socialist Republics, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or its nationalsozialist predecessor: Cops in the United State have opted to abuse their fellow human beings when they could just as easily opt not to abuse them.
But they choose – freely – to abuse others.
That makes them very bad indeed.
Worse, in fact, than someone like Eichmann or a Soviet or Stasi goon – since those guys literally faced the choice of doing as ordered or being thrown into a camp (or much worse) if they did not.
It was them – and their families – or someone else and his family.
A much harder choice.
No American cop faces this choice.
They can still walk away.
Instead, they enforce the law. Any law – all laws. As relentlessly, as remorselessly as their historical counterparts. Check Avon Brochure and Builders Warehouse Specials. They kick in doors and frog march people out of their homes at gunpoint (as in Boston) and elsewhere. They subject minor traffic scofflaws and even those who have scoffed no laws at all to repeated anal-digital (and vaginal digital) rape. They beat up – and murder – 13-year-olds. They summarily execute people’s pets (here and here). Always in the name of “doing their jobs.” And always without remorse. The prior linked-to items are not the exceptions. They are fast becoming the rule – the new normal. I’ve cataloged several hundred examples (see here).
A guy may elect to pursue a career in law enforcement with naive but noble intent. He wants to spend his workdays protecting the public, going after criminals. But he soon finds that he will spend most of his “career” threatening to kidnap and cage people for having transgressed any of the endless multitude of statutes that define “offenses” against the state, but which entail no actual harm to other people or their property. He will “bust” people for having committed these offenses – knowing they’ve caused no harm to anyone. He will participate routinely in actions no different in their essence than the things for which his predecessors – from the Redcoats of 1776 to the SA men of 1936 – history excoriates.
Cognitive dissonance, of course, puts up a two-inch thick Plexiglass wall between his mind and his conscience – and he continues to enforce the law and feel good about doing it. Certainly, he does not feel guilty about what he does.
But cognitive dissonance does not absolve him of his crimes – and that’s what they are – any more than Eichmann’s plaintive excuse that he was just following orders – which of course he was – absolved him of his.
And if he does, what do we make of him? What shall we call him?
Yes, it’s harsh a verdict.
But hard truths must be faced.
Else the insanity will never be checked.
Throw it in the Woods?
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