These days it’s hard to keep up with all the stories about official government misconduct and police brutality. So what is it that makes so many “law enforcers” treat the rest of us like vermin to be stomped upon? If ours is a “servant government,” as the Founders stated, why is it that those in positions of power act so much like our masters?
It is both easy and appropriate to blame the individual megalomaniacs who abuse their power, but the world has never had a lack of nasty people. So why is it that symptoms of a police state seem to be showing up more and more often in this country? A major cause is something which probably wouldn’t occur to most people, and which most people don’t want to hear:
They treat us like we are their slaves, because we treat them like they are our masters.
When people so often play the role of obedient serfs, bowing to authority and unquestioningly doing as they are told, it should come as no surprise that those doing the commanding and controlling will begin to treat the rest of us as inferiors. When we humbly treat “law enforcers” as our superiors, instead of our employees, it’s no wonder they start to acquire god complexes. Our own behavior and words tell them that we ACCEPT their dominion over us, and that we CONDONE the oppressive and degrading treatment we receive at their hands.
Consider the example of a routine “sobriety checkpoint,” where the police stop all traffic on some main road, to ask everyone if they have been drinking. How does the exchange usually go? (Since the police have a habit of doing them right in front of my house until all hours of the night–complete with blazing spotlights illuminating the inside of my house–I can tell you exactly how it goes.)
Several guys with badges are standing around, directing traffic, herding people around like sheep. A driver is stopped, and rolls down his window. The cop walks up to him, and asks the driver if he has been drinking. The driver politely says, “No, sir.” While asking a few other questions, the cop turns on a flashlight, and shines it around in the car. If nothing government-unapproved catches his attention, he lets the person go.
(Heaven forbid that there be a firearm, or even a gun case, in plain view in the car. Even if it is owned and possessed “legally,” the officer will almost certainly question the driver about it, detain him even longer, and likely will want to inspect the gun. In other words, the “law enforcer” will again treat the person like a criminal by default, and the citizen will have to prove his innocence.)
With very few exceptions, the recipients of such indignities accept them as necessary, maybe even noble. When treated like criminals for no good reason, most Americans respond as timid peasants, implicitly condoning their own subjugation. But what would happen if the people really did view the police as “public servants,” instead of public masters?
If the cop saw himself as a servant of the people, and respected the Constitution (the Fourth Amendment in particular), he would refuse to participate in the stops at all, and either get reassigned or fired. Randomly hindering people, interrogating them (even briefly), and snooping in their car for anything suspicious– when you have no reason to suspect them of committing any crime to begin with–is the act of a totalitarian fascist, not a Constitutional protector. One who took seriously his oath to uphold the Constitution would refuse to violate it, regardless of what “laws” the politicians might spew out.
(Once upon a time, cops were called “peace officers,” implying that their job was to enforce peace. Now they are called “law enforcers,” implying that their job is to enforce the will of the politicians–i.e., the “law”–whatever the law happens to be, and whether the law is conducive to peace and justice or not.)
Now consider the question of how a driver who viewed the cop as his servant might act differently. How would it go if the victim had a little righteous indignation at the inconvenience and implied accusation of such a random stop at a “sobriety checkpoint”?
Driver: “Why are you stopping me?”
Cop: “We’re just doing a random check.”
Driver: “Do you have some reason to think I committed a crime?”
Cop: “No, this is just a random stop, so we can…”
Driver: “You stopped me just for the heck of it, so you can ask me whether I’m a criminal? I don’t really appreciate the implication. Am I free to go?”
Cop: “This is just a routine stop. If you haven’t been drinking, you’ll be free to go.”
Driver: “I don’t care how routine it is. You’re treating me like a criminal suspect for nothing more than driving down this road. And get that damned flashlight out of my car.”
Cop: “If you have nothing to hide, why do you mind my giving your car a quick look?”
Driver: “For the same reason you would mind me barging into your house to have a quick look around to see if you have anything suspicious lying around.”
Cop: “I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the car.”
Cop: “I said step out of the car.”
Driver: “Actually, you said you were asking me. The answer is no.”
You can imagine how that would turn out. (Or you can do a video search on the internet for “police brutality,” and see how it turns out.) Sadly, the rare American who doesn’t “cooperate” with arbitrary, unjustified intrusion and harassment is not only treated badly by “law enforcement,” but is often viewed as the “bad guy” by the general public as well. Why? Because the general public believes that obedient, subservient subjects is what most people SHOULD be. As a result, that’s how they are treated.
Ironically, when it comes to dealing with law enforcers, being polite and cooperative begets oppression, rather than peace and justice. Granted, in an individual case, doing whatever the police officer wants you to do may cause less trouble for you short term, but the long-term result of everyone behaving that way is a lot more ugly. Tolerating oppression tells the oppressors that it’s OKAY to oppress us, that their actions and attitudes are legitimate and justified, and therefore that we deserve to be treated that way. And, in one sense, if we allow them to treat us that way, we DO deserve it.
Our words and actions stem from our view of reality. If we view ourselves as submissive slaves, we act like submissive slaves, and as a result, are treated like submissive slaves. That is inevitable when people ACCEPT their slavery, their subservience, their oppression, as being how things should be.
And if only a few people think and act like free men, they are often crushed by the powers that be, to the cheering of the subservient masses. What has happened to that rebellious spirit which led the American colonists to engage in open “lawlessness” in response to a puny little tax on tea, of a few pennies per pound? It has been trained out of us. And unless we get it back, the future holds nothing but injustice, oppression, and tyranny. History makes that perfectly clear.