This weekend two good police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were gunned down in cold blood while sitting in their squad car in New York, apparently in revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police. This incident should give us serious pause and cause us to reflect on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between law enforcement and civilians in America.
As a nation we strive to be free. Yet freedom comes with a responsibility to be civil towards our fellow citizens. Respect for law enforcement is a vital part of that. It is not (as one person glibly opined on social media this weekend) a "social norm of submissive behavior towards authority" but a social contract that makes us a civilized nation. We follow laws because that is the only way that a sane society can function without constant friction and possible violence.
The alternative is anarchy.
In the aftermath of Ferguson, we have heard the chant of "No Justice, No Peace" incessantly. That may be true, but there cannot be justice in an environment of anarchy either, which is precisely what we are creating right now. While many protestors have been peaceful and have a right to question the laws governing our nation or individual police officers who abuse their authority, others have escalated from conscientious objection to hateful rhetoric directed at the entire law enforcement establishment.
Such rhetoric is extremely harmful to the relationship between police and civilians and will ultimately lead to even more distrust, over-reactions, and violence. The painting of the entire police establishment as a malevolent force does not protect anyone but provides a convenient excuse for criminals and mentally unhinged people to target officers with impunity. This also includes an extremely disturbing trend of provoking cops for no reason whatsoever just to make a point.
All this creates mindless hysteria and encourages needless aggression on the part of citizens in their dealings with the police, making the latter's job harder and increasing the likelihood that a cop will react more forcefully than he/she should in any given situation. It is not hard to see why this is counter-productive to the cause of social justice in America.
Law enforcement exists for a reason. Our police officers work hard and risk their lives every day to keep us safe. The fact that crime rates in New York City have fallen precipitously over the last few decades is not a coincidence or because those with a criminal bent of mind have had a miraculous change of heart. It is partially the result of rising economic prosperity but it is largely because of increased police presence and the tireless work of the NYPD.
That doesn't mean that police should not be held accountable for misdeeds, but without recognizing the important contribution of the men and women in uniform to our safety and well-being, it is an incomplete and biased discussion. Simply stating that all police aren't bad doesn't cut it and is actually a disingenuous way to excuse any type of assault people want to hurl at cops, which is what has happened recently.
Outrage should encourage thoughtful discussion and a quest for solutions, not hysteria or blind rage.
There is also the view that the backlash against cops should not distract from the real issue of social injustice, but even that perspective is part of the problem, not a solution. All lives matter and therefore all issues are as real as others -- whether it be police abuse or the abuse of police. Just ask the families of the two latest victims.
What is needed now is calm and thoughtfulness, and a real willingness to engage in dialogue on both sides. But respecting law enforcement is a critical part of that equation. After all, if you don't believe in the law and despise law enforcement, then on what basis do you expect the law to protect your rights?
We do have a violence problem in America, but it is not just a police problem.
It's time for all of us to take responsibility for our views and our words and to measure them carefully for there are people out there who will find inspiration in them to commit unspeakable acts. A breakdown of law and order will be a disaster for everyone and destroy the very fabric of our civilization.
And for all those people who say "Yes, but..." , I would like to remind them that is the same reasoning applied by the NRA on every shooting, and is really just an excuse that should not be condoned.