Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A defense of police brutality in general

Dear Hannah,

If you ever happen to watch Game of Thrones, you'll get to know a character named Stannis Baratheon. What's most interesting about Stannis is that he's been burning innocents to death since his appearance in the first season; but if you hadn't seen the show, the popular media might have convinced you that he burnt his first victim in season five. And the reason nobody has said anything about it is because until this point, with the exception of Mance Rayder, he had only burnt people nobody had really been too acquainted with. Which is interesting because the outcry nearly exactly parallels the Democratic Party's position on killing children.

A little hypocrisy in everyone's life is to be excused, but most of us can agree that a line can be crossed in which it becomes unbearable.  It's only natural for someone to be upset over losing someone they love -- more upset than over losing someone they've never gotten to know, or never really even seen.  Though they result in some moral inconsistancy, you might even call the tendencies of familiarity healthy -- humane -- our sanity; which is why the apostle Paul said that men who don't take care of their families are worse than infidels, and why requiring women to have ultrasounds before getting abortions is the most humane step forward in the attempt to protect children from vivisection.  But if you begin to lump this in with the innumerable and flagrant hypocrisies in the world of leftism, it quickly goes from understandable and begins to get unbearable.

For instance, the fact that everyone is upset about Columbus but nobody is upset about the Vikings seems a little strange -- until you realize that nearly the same inconsistency magically pervades their indifference toward pirates and their hatred of slavery (which is probably why nobody has plantation-themed children's parties).  The leftist claims to hate McCarthyism -- until Christians and Republicans are getting fired from their jobs over ideological disagreements.  He calls the global trend toward Islamic terrorism isolated, while trying to link every white psychotic to the Republican Party; and he hates the murderous "right-wing" totalitarian known as the Nazi, while being practically indifferent to the murderous leftist totalitarian known as the Communist.  And if all these examples weren't enough, he's ready to defend Bruce Jenner to the death because Jenner's pretending to be a woman, and then suddenly throws Mindy Kaling's brother under the bus when he's pretending to be black.  In other words, the leftist's indignance is more people than principle.  It has little to do with what's being done, and everything to do with who's doing it.

But my favorite instance of hypocrisy is the one in which people are very comfortable applying one set of rules to black people, and completely reversing them when it comes to police officers. That a policeman isn't a racial minority is a matter of fact; that his characteristics and miseries closely parallel one is a matter of curiosity.  Aside from the professional jargon you might almost call jive, a series of nicknames which you might almost call slurs, and an ethnic cuisine so unhealthy it borders on the soulful, he wears a little yellow badge reminiscent of nobody other than a Holocaust-era Jew.   Like the impoverished immigrant, the police officer spends his time in horrible neighborhoods; and like the black man, he's scrutinized more seriously than nearly anyone else in American Civilization.  One could almost wish Americans would watch the people who write our laws as closely as they watch the people who enforce them.

This leads us to a series of very uncomfortable questions, such as whether, if black violence supposedly happens because black men live in black neighborhoods, the same might be true of white policemen who patrol them. Perhaps we might give police officers a kind of Section 8 pass to keep them from criminals.  Or maybe we might wonder, if black violence happens because black men aren't given enough economic opportunities, whether maybe we should be giving the police force a massive raise and better benefits. If negative expectations are responsible for driving black men into pathological patterns of violence, maybe we ought to have a Police Recognition Month to think about all the obscure police officers who haven't shot anyone for a bad reason, and grant the police the right to shake down organizations which don't openly appreciate them. In other words, if anyone really wanted to draft a defense of police brutality in general, he might do it along leftist lines and suggest that the policeman is only a brute because the ghetto has made him one.  In other words, he is a victim.

If any of these solutions seem ridiculous, it is only because they are -- regardless of whether they are applied to black men or police officers.  And their ridiculousness highlights a very serious divide between the ways leftists and right-wingers approach their problems. And this is because the right-winger, like the ancient Roman, believing in the dignity of all men as free agents capable of making real choices, overwhelmingly places all the responsibility on the man at the moment; while the leftist, believing that behind every man lies a history, is more interested in understanding where we came from, to explain and address the things that make us do.  In other words, if things go very good or bad, the right-winger is more likely to call a man a saint or a devil.  The leftist prefers to call him privileged or a victim.  At least, he calls him a victim unless he's a police officer, in which case he is only a racist.

That both history and moral agency should be taken into account in any racial controversy should be obvious, but it isn't.  In a certain sense it's almost the same fight we'd been having for ages between Calvinism and Arminianism -- the fight we always thought was religious, but was actually bigger than religion.  On the one hand you have someone who says you are a product of many things, and the other side which says you always have a choice.  And most of us -- at least, those of us with any kind of self-awareness and humility -- know that both of them are in a very great degree true.  Our histories make our choices easier or more difficult; and the difficulty determines the amount of praise we receive for our successes, and the level of lenience we receive for our failures.  The fact that we haven't struck a balance is forgivable.  The fact that the leftist ignores the balance and applies both philosophies prejudicially is not.

It has yet to be proved whether the immense responsibility placed on a policeman is an insult to the officer or a blessing to the black man.  You might say, like with many other things, that it depends upon your point of view.  On the one hand, the human tendency is to explain away the faults of our friends, and quickly condemn our enemies.  But the highest compliment given to man was never our friendship itself: it was our respect of his dignity -- of what a religious man might call the image of God.  A man who's all accident may be our friend, but he's even moreso a pet.  A man who's responsible is free, and capable not only of self-mastery, but of rule.  That we sympathize with men in their distress means our humanity; that we blame them means nothing other than theirs.

Your father,

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