When my reason, such as it is, leads me to a conclusion, and that conclusion is disturbing, I turn around, walk back and try again. If my best attempts still lead me to the same conclusion no matter what direction I come at the problem from, I write it.
Besides, I thought, who except me is ever going to read this stuff? It is not like reactivating a dormant blog so I have someplace to put the things which have been bottled up inside me for the past two years is even going to create a ripple on the surface of the internet.
So, along comes Tam and links to my post - thank you Tam.
With the attention came comments from good and honorable people who felt I was selling them short. Since the commenters took pains to point out they were on the side of the angels, and since I would like to be counted on that side as well, I am obligated to respond as clearly and honestly as I know how.
One comment mentions Oathkeepers, and they were in the back of my mind as the exception to my conclusion that all but a small percentage of those who do the day-to-day work of governing long ago decided they serve not the republic, but whoever signs their paycheck. I cannot guess what role the Oathkeepers and those like them will play in the coming years. But simply saying out loud that they intend to honor the promise they made when they put on the uniform causes enemies of liberty to explode in rage, and thus self identify. That means they are doing good right here and now.
And, I hope the commenters are right and I am wrong. I hope I am just some internet blabbermouth, and when the time comes, the country's public servants, and not just those in uniform, will take a stand on the side of people they serve and not their paymasters. I can live with knowing I am just a loud mouthed jerk with a computer, because that will mean all sorts of other, darker consequences will not have come to pass.
But I don't think so. I think my conclusion still stands.
Read this article from the New York Times. There is enough in a few column inches to make any decent person ill. If the picture accompanying is no longer linked to the article, here is the caption:
Hundreds of off-duty officers gathered on Friday at the Bronx County Hall of Justice, backing 16 colleagues in a ticket-fixing case.
And, if you can no longer see it, the protesting police are carrying signs reading "Just Following Orders".
Just Following Orders?
Looking at the picture I can imagine I am seeing, fathers, husbands, little league coaches, and church goers. I know I am also seeing men who participated in the establishment of a feudal fiefdom.
I can think of no other term for it. The rulers of the city and their servants granted one another exemptions from the laws they enforced on the lower orders. You might call it privilege of rank, or benefit of clergy, but it is feudalism in its purest form. The police provided service for those above in return for their protection. Read closely and you see their anger is directed at those above who violated the oath of fealty - one of their own estate, a prosecutor, betrayed them.
Do you think they made their choice just that day? That the sight of their comrades being arrested turned them from honorable men to thugs in one moment? Nothing I know of history and human nature tells me that is how it works. Their choice was made in bits and pieces over time - theirs was a hand dealt years ago, and the day the picture was taken was merely the day they turned their cards over.
In New York, hundreds of police came out at the request of their union to protest what they believed to be a stab in the back by someone on their own side - if there were any who had second thoughts about the justness of their cause - I could not see them.
If a real crisis hits, and I believe it will - I believe we are heading for a convulsive time, and the mayor, police commissioner, and police chief need the support of the rank and file, do you think they will hesitate to reinstate old privileges in return for that support?
The question will not be who do you serve, it will be what is your price?
Not just in New York, but in bankrupt cities and states everywhere, the consequences of decades old decisions are going to be played out. And it won't be just the police who will be revealing the choices they made, every person who is paid from the public treasury will be laying their cards on the table.
Republics fail the same way people go bankrupt - slowly at first, then all at once. I do not pretend to know where we are on that continuum, but I know when those who must rule need to ensure the loyalty of those who carry out their will, a man in a black uniform with a deaths-head badge is a lot less effective than an accountant asking if you would like to keep your pension.