I feel torn between concerns as I watch the rioting around the country as well as the police marching the streets. On one hand, the rioters are wreaking havoc, destroying people’s businesses and lives, and severely injuring and killing people. This is unequivocally wrong and has no justification.
In other words, while what happened to George Floyd was terrible, it does not justify unlawful behavior in response. Two wrongs never make a right. Never have, never will.
So, I am vehemently against the rioting, violence, looting and vandalism. It is evil and should be treated as such. We need law, we need government — because without it, there truly is chaos and anarchy. And the police should never ever stand aside while people break the law. Remember, we need government because of the Hobbesian “state of war” that humanity exists in without government. All Americans should find common ground here.
All of that being said, I am at the same time very very wary and concerned about the power of the police. All Americans should also find common ground here.
I respect our police. I think the police are essential. They are critical to our society. No, I do NOT think that our police should be de-funded. I am infuriated that they are being targeted, killed, yelled at, disrespected and pushed to their emotional, psychological and physical limits, when their very mission is to serve and protect us.
BUT we have to remember, as Madison said, if men were angels, we would not need government; and, to take it a step further, he said, if government (all aspects, from the President to Congress to the local police) were angels, we would not need checks and balances. The key point being, that NO humans are angels. That means that the same humans that warrant the need for police are also part of the police. So, something must police the police (must govern the government).
So, with this short post I’m speaking directly to my specific group of readers. As individuals who fall on the right side of the spectrum, perhaps we can bridge the growing partisan divide with our left leaning fellow Americans by realizing that we both do NOT want a police state. We don’t want abusive police. We don’t want police that will violate our rights. I have seen some very troubling pictures and videos of rioters over the past week. I have also seen some very troubling pictures and videos of the police overstepping their place during the riots and during the coronavirus.
Can we all agree on this?
So, this is where I struggle. The media has led us to believe that everything is starkly black and white. In other words, if I say I support the police, that means I hate minorities and support a police state and a tyrannical government. BUT if I say, I don’t want a police state and always will fight for liberty equally for all, suddenly I want chaos and anarchy and want the police de-funded.
Friends, we have to show our fellow Americans that we actually agree on more than the media would have us believe. We can reject a police state and police who break the law while at the same time supporting a strong respect and reverence for law and order and those who are commissioned to keep and protect that law and order.
Here’s the thing. When I see videos of the police using excessive force against an American citizen who does not appear to need such excessive force, I can’t help but wince and wonder how far our police are willing to go. (Hey, not long ago they were arresting people who were peacefully at a park or beach). But, during these riots when I see an instance of excessive force, I also think, “Well, we’re kind of bringing it upon ourselves aren’t we? We’re asking for it by rioting and brutalizing the police. They’re on edge. Their nerves must be frayed”.
So, yes. In some ways, we’re partially responsible for the mental position in which our police now find themselves. It would be one thing if the police went around shoving people excessively on a peaceful street with people going about their daily lives; it is another when people are actively burning police vehicles, polices stations, all the while berating and insulting them. So, when the police overstep in this type of environment, we shouldn’t be so surprised and we should take some responsibility.
That being said, the police, the military, the national guard or any other formal arm of the executive exist for one reason and one reason only: to protect us and our private property from each other and if necessary from the government. How? By enforcing and protecting the law of the land.
I find myself amazed how in the blink of an eye, I can feel so disgusted and frustrated at the police state that I was seeing emerge as a result of the coronavirus—with police seeming to enjoy having the power to stop American citizens from doing perfectly normal, healthy activities (like going to the beach) — only to feel outraged and completely befuddled as the police refused to stop actual crimes from happening in their cities. In one moment I wanted less police force and the very next I wanted more.
Then I realized what I really wanted. In both cases, I really just want a police force whose primary goal is the protection and enforcement of the law. And no, I don’t mean any law, but the supreme law, the Constitutions of the state and federal government. That is their job. Imagine if all those involved in enforcing the law refused to enforce any law that was not Constitutional and instead fought to protect the Constitution and the rights protected by the Constitution at all costs?
What if, rather than simply following orders, all forms of military and police realized their primary role was not just to protect citizens from themselves but also from an abusive, lawless (creating laws outside of the Constitution) government? Instead of being the enforcement agent of an abusive, lawless government, they realize the truly honorable and precious position they hold. They are not the final source of law but they have the privilege and sworn duty to protect and serve the Constitution.
Let’s not forget this as our emotions get stirred up and thrown in a variety of directions. We should always step back from our emotions and look at things through the lens of the Constitution.
Because if we don’t, our government apparently never will.
This article originally appeared on The Liberty Belle and is used by permission.
Christin McMasters is a South Carolinian now residing in North Carolina and has a Ph.D. in political science. She is a budding blogger and political science instructor, and her passion is politics.
Using her keyboard as her weapon of choice, Christin imparts some of her excitement, passion and knowledge about American government on her website, TheLibertyBelleNC.com.