Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obligation

In the process of writing this post, I said to myself, "Damn Mike, those are some pretty strong words for a chubby guy in a recliner. Maybe you should tone is down some."

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?

Dear God.

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.

15 comments:

Tam said...

So, taking the king's shilling invariably makes one the king's man?

Mike said...

Not invariably by any means, but you run the risk of ending up as the king's man one step at a time -and each step is invariably easier than the last.

Anonymous said...

I think your posts are spot on. I was married to a police officer for a few years. He was a very good one and a good man, but I saw a us v. them attitude develope in which us was LEOs and them were everybody else. I'm still disturbed by that and have seen it in many other LEOs in the intervening years.

Mike W. said...

As someone who lives in a family of cops, I tend to agree with Anonymous. Their "us vs. them" mentality often gets stronger the longer they've been on the force.

Tam said...

Mike W.,

There's some of that.

More importantly, however, is the "corporate culture", for lack of a better term, of the department, combined with how separated they are from the communities in which they serve.

A cop in a big metropolis probably drinks at cop bars, plays on cop softball teams, votes as the FOP says, and is entirely immersed in, for lack of a better term, department culture. He carries a gun, and nobody else does who's not a cop or a robber; he is a man apart.

A cop in a small town, where there aren't even enough guys on the force to form a softball team, is going to have a different view of his relationship with the community. Especially when his neighbor, Cletus, has more guns than he does.

Mike said...

Tam, I think you are on to something there. The more isolated in their own culture anyone becomes, the easier it is for them to develop an us/them outlook.

It is probably unavoidable with big-city police who see bad stuff every day, but it is disconcerting to see nice suburban officer Jones all buffed out from gym time, head shaved, wrap around tactical sunglasses, and tactical pants bloused into tactical boots (black of course). I'm sure he is a fine officer, but it looks like he has succumbed to early onset thinblueline-itis.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous again. My police officer husband and I lived and worked in a small Texas town with a population of 2300.The half dozen officers still had the us v. them attitude. It's gotten so it doesn't matter where you live. I now live in another small Texas town. It's a little bigger at 3600 pop., but this force is no different. I've seen it first hand since my best friend dates the Chief of Police.

Chris said...

People tend to be tribal. Not all people; some of us are just too contrary, or ornery, or whatever to buy into the "us" thing. "Us" can mean co-workers, or fellow fans of a sports team, or bikers, or cops, or officers in the military. (That last I can speak of personally, even though it was only 4 years, and over 30 years ago.)

These are your friends, the people who not only think like you do, but FEEL like you do. Some researcher should look into testing to find out if such groups like the smell of each other at a sub-conscious level. It's hard to go against folks that you have so much emotion invested in.

It can be done. There are stories from the history of every nation of such turning away. But it is seldom done without agonizing about it. The choice typically won't be made in the heat of conflict, whether that battle is with bullets or subpoenas.

I would hope that a small, but significant, number of people will, upon reflection, make a choice like those in Oath Keepers have done. Whether it's the Constitution (in it's original meaning) that one chooses to hold to, or what used to be called common decency, humanity, and respect for the rights of others, I sincerely hope enough people make the choice against tyranny.

Ragin' Dave said...

I don't know how much this works into your calculations, but the chances of any pension I might have actually making it into my pocket becomes slim to none the more the government turns socialist. It's all well and good for the paymaster to ask me if I want my pension. But when that pension is essentially worthless?

Take Social Security - we all know it's part of the reason our country is bankrupt. Anyone with half a brain knows that it can't continue in it's current form; reality won't let it. Something's gotta give. Were some government money goon demand that I follow his orders, or lose my Social Security payments? I'd laugh in his face. As the economy begins to crumble, any pension I may have from the government is invariably going to be worthless, and I'll end up supporting myself in the end no matter what.

So threatening my pension really doesn't scare me all that much. By the time it got to that point, there would be a lot more for me to worry about than my pension.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point Ragin' Dave, I hope the majority realize that too.

Will said...

As far as the "us vs them attitude", a percentage of them act like it was issued with their badge.

I suspect that some become a LEO to obtain/stoke that "tribal" mentality, and the associated benefits of belonging to a powerful group. Similar to the dynamics that drive gang affiliation. There is a reason that the LAPD refer to themselves as the biggest gang in Los Angeles.

It would probably help if most officers were only part time cops, with the exception of a few specialists. Being forced to work in the real world with the rest of us would aid in combating that attitude. Not sure how practical it would be to force them to work multiple jobs. No, actually, it should be looked at as a side job for regular people, not as a primary occupation. Ah, well, dream on...

Justthisguy said...

I have a cousin who married a policeman. I put it to her that one cannot be a really effective policeman unless he has both a criminal mind and a very strong conscience to keep said criminal mind under very tight control. She agreed with me, and said her husband did, too.

I think this is one of the reasons policemen tend to drink too much.

sofa said...

'Oathkeepers' has become a feelgood hypocrisy; continuing to carry out unconstitutional and illegal actions and support criminal coworkers, while claiming they will one day stop.

Every day they 'just follow orders' is another day they pay the mortgage by violating their oath. Not just the 'enforcer' community, but also the Sheriff, Mayor, Prosecutor, Judge, Legislature, Governor, and supporting staff and bureaucracies. Nuremberg Trials?

People violating the constitution call themselves 'law enforcement'.
People "Just following Orders" call themselves "oathkeepers". Orwellian.
Immoral.


Another signpost on the road to hell.

aughtsix said...

aughtsix said...

(I posted this below on the previous installment in this series. Seems I should have read this post first. I can't stress this enough. No one will escape the Hard Choice... not "them" and certainly not "those who will not be ruled.")

As to the fear that "law enforcement" has force sufficient to crush those who will not be ruled...

There are less than 200,000 police, fed, state and local, in the entire country. (My stat may be off but not to any significant degree.)

There are seven million deer tags issued in the State of Pennsylvania alone, every year.

As per Mike Vanderbeough, even if "only" three million of us resist (3% of gun owners), "law enforcement" are hopelessly outnumbered. They are also outgunned.

And if they know they aren't getting paid or paid in worthless scrip, and if they also know that in doing their master's bidding they are likely not to come home that night?

"All it takes for Evil to triumph..."

Buck up.

Jon III

Addendum: How many cops are there in your Texas town of 3600? How many are there of you? Express that as a ratio... Within those 3600, are there even three times as many truly free people as there are cops?

There are what? 40,000 cops in NY City and 9 million "citizens"? Yes, those "citizens" are largely brainwashed and disarmed but desperate people find ways to overwhelm their outnumbered oppressors. Stop sweating the small stuff. Once you have accepted the reality and chosen the side of Liberty, things are much simpler and more clear.

RegT said...

As a former peace officer in both big city and small town departments, I have to take some of the people who responded to task.

As Mike stated in response to a post about small town police:

It is probably unavoidable with big-city police who see bad stuff
every day, but it is disconcerting to see nice suburban officer Jones
all buffed out from gym time, head shaved, wrap around tactical
sunglasses, and tactical pants bloused into tactical boots (black of
course). I'm sure he is a fine officer, but it looks like he has
succumbed to early onset thinblueline-itis.

I guarantee you, having not only worked in two small town departments as well as at the California Highway Patrol and as a San Diego police officer, many of today’s young officers have indeed succumbed to “them vs us”. Being members of the community, small and local as it is, does not define them. They revel in their position of “authoritah”, shaved head and heavy badge and all. The time of the Andy Griffith style f police officer is long gone.

I saw this just a few weeks back, when my flight instructor was yanked out at gun point of the Cessna I was preparing to taxi from the apron to the runway. He had had a non-violent domestic disagreement with his wife for which she had pressed charges, and the young city cop treated him as if he were a piece of filth, instead of the patient, compassionate, and friendly man that I - and all of his friends in town - knew this 65 year old man to be. The deputy sheriff who was backing him up (an older, more mature man) was polite and professional, but not this young town cop.

Those who responded here, claiming they always supported and defended the Constitution are not being honest, with us or with themselves. If they enforced the laws that are on the books, they have gone counter to the Constitution. If they have arrested anyone for any sort of weapons violation - gun, knife (too long, double-edged, concealed), billy, loaded firearm, etc., they have violated the Second Amendment. If they have arrested anyone for drug use, they have violated the Constitution, for wherein does it give the government the right to legislate a private activity such as self-medication? If an arrest - and a ticket is an arrest with a promise to appear in place of being taken into custody - is made for lack of insurance, driving without a license, driving without a seat belt or helmet, then again, the Constitution has been ignored. [Yes, the states do have the power to pass various laws, but I submit that those such as being forced to purchase insurance - automobile, as opposed to healthcare, but both are wrong - and I believe the seat belt and helmet laws are equally wrong.]

I was as guilty of this as anyone else, although I did let a _lot_ of people go on these violations of “law” when I was in law enforcement. In California, it was a felony to ignore a felony, so there were times when I had a partner and my choice was to arrest or be arrested myself if that partner snitched me off, so I took the safe route (rather than the Constitutional route).

I’d bet a month’s income that these folks responding here to Mike’s post are as guilty of this as I was, hence my statement that they are not being honest. As far as military folks go, their ROE _used_ to be broader than those of the police, although I understand that isn’t the case anymore, thanks to the Pretender-in-Chief and those he has running the military. The former ROE were reasonable and necessary, given what the military was tasked to accomplish. I have no argument with that.

However, given the psychology of those sworn to obey their orders, trained to obey without thinking (for the most part, though most military folk do think in spite of such training), and the psychology of those acting in a group, thoughts of rights and Constitutionality are almost always far from their minds. Recall Tom Baugh’s brief essay on “The Colonel’s”.