The thin blue line has been a metaphor for the imaginary line between civilization and lawlessness. Anyone who's worked in Law Enforcement for any period of time knows the truth is a little deeper. The thin blue line is a trench through which the most vile things flow.
At no time in American history has the profession of Law Enforcement been more polarized. While we don't suffer from delusions of grandeur bold enough to think that any article we produce will change the way people think, there's something more than tired sheepdog analogies that needs to be talked about: the executive branch of the government - and it's law enforcement officials - are the last line of civil recourse between an increasingly polarized citizenry and political class.
Typically, no one thing inspires us to write an article. It's a culmination of issues that blend together in a way that creates an opportunity for deeper understanding. In the case of this article, that's not the case.
A month or so back, there was an American veteran and 'patriot' on Instagram chastising law enforcement as being oath-breaking pigs. A tyrannical boot of the government used against the citizens, to enforce oppressive laws. His case was heard around the interwebs as a monument to the danger of false flags.
As it turns out, in the fashion of Jussie Smollett, the guy was full of it and had a history of alcoholism... and as the story goes, stalking his significant other. The silent supporters who were calling for the lynching of the cops responding to the situation were left blank faced and without anything intelligent to say.
While the knee jerk reaction of the mob is always "break out the torches", our initial reaction was something a little different.
"Why aren't these guys addressing the police as people?"
If living life has taught me one lesson, it's that telling someone to shut up elicits the exact opposite response - they get louder and more obnoxious. Good leadership, then, redirects this energy in a way that actually makes sense.
That got us thinking and talking among ourselves... the topic?
"What would we say to the officers if we could talk to them?"
The profession of law enforcement, as mentioned, sours its employees in short order. Dealing with the worst situations and people imaginable, day in, day out, for 20 years forces you to redefine yourself. Police mostly befriend police.
When you get accustom to seeing the dredges of society, it's much harder to step back, breathe, and look at the millions of citizens that aren't causing any problems at all. In a similar way, when we sensationalize things like mass shootings or terrorism, they become this massive, overblown specter of the worst case. We forget just how rare they are - a statistical zero.
Most citizens are statistically unlikely to need police assistance, and without community policing initiatives, there's an emotional and intellectual distance between the citizen and the officer.
Let's return now to what we'd say to the officers who are jaded and burnt out from dealing with society's worst:
"Don't forget us."
What to Remember
While you don't often see the citizens that cause no trouble, they are the overwhelming majority of citizens in the U.S., and most Western nations. Just as we would tell citizens not to judge all police by the outrage body-cam footage show on social media without context, please don't forget that most citizens aren't just cattle. They're serving other essential functions in society and most of them aren't in need of firm guidance from the government.
To quote Cormac McCarthy, from his book "No Country for Old Men";
"It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all. Or if they could, I never heard of it."
When it comes to laws and governance, you might seriously consider something before using the authority you've been given:
"Is there a victim?"
If there isn't, well... let's peer into a largely ignored corner of American Government structure.
Branches of Government and Limitations
Speaking directly to our police out there - when a law is unconstitutional, you have exactly no obligation to enforce it. You're part of the executive branch of the government, and the Legislative and Judicial branches are separate, equal forces in the government. Just as you can't force a lawmaker to go pass a law, he can't coerce you to enforce one. Neither can the Judicial branch *force* you to serve a warrant.
There's a common theme in the police community; that you're the 'thin blue line'. More often than not, that's viewed from the perspective that just beneath the calm surface of society, chaos is about to erupt.
Let's take a second and call that what it is: a falsity. It grows from the recognition that there are some really terrible people out there doing really terrible things, but we ask two things:
- That you look at this from *our* point of view, one that sees and out-of-control legislative and judicial body that refuses to accept justice when one of it's own is caught committing a crime, and;
- Don't forget us. For every horrible person you deal with, for every unthinkable nausea inducing scene you respond to, there are hundreds of thousands of people living otherwise normal lives who aren't doing those things.
Said another way, the Legislative and Judicial branches put you at risk by asking you to enforce laws that make the public resent you, and they sit back and collect fat checks while you're out there putting your life on the line... and the only condolence they offer you is the illusion that nothing stands between the citizen and chaos other than that thin blue line.
If you don't take anything else from this article, think about this:
You're the only thing that separates THEM from chaos. There is only so much state involvement that the citizen requires before it really, fairly, has to be assessed as oppressive.
This article was started a couple days before the Miami hostage situation in which a UPS driver and citizen were killed by police gunfire in an attempt to stop the perpetrator from getting away. Now, it's being published on the eve of a major protest in Virginia that has the Governor clamoring for emergency controls after trampling the constitution with funding from NYC billionaires and legislative control.
When it comes to things like this, criticism immediately becomes personal. The problem is citizens paint with a broad brush, and as you know, not all of them are informed enough to make good criticism. Just try and consider that from their perspective that this applies to police as well, and when an officer makes a poor assessment about a citizen, it can end in gunfire that will ultimately have little to no consequence. Now imagine you've created no victim, but overnight, you're a felon simply for exercising a constitutional right.
As a final thought on the matter, a Sergeant I had one time told us that when in uniform, serving as police, that we had to be 'beyond reproach' if we were to earn the trust of the citizens.
Be aware that as the scope of infringements on the rights of citizens continue, you may be forced out of your profession for standing beside your oath.
The easily made decisions are over, and harder times are coming as government and citizens increasingly disconnect from the social contract that binds them.
As with all things, to identify the true enemy, the first step is finding who benefits from your conflicts.
It isn't the citizen.