When I was much younger, there was a sticker, commonly seen sharing bumpers with the sentiment "America, Love It or Leave It," which read, "If You Don't Like Cops, Next Time You're in Trouble, Call a Hippie."
Actually, not the worst advice, as I've seen many tense situations defused by the calm words of nonviolence advocates, but there is a truth worth contemplating in that intended insult: society needs police. Despite the best intentions of educated, fair-minded citizens, shit, as they say, sometimes gets real. Much more often when such citizens are in scarce supply.
Even in the absence of malice, people often make bad assumptions, pull jack moves, try to defy Newton or otherwise gum up the works. And, from the time we gathered 'round the fire in caves, society has found it useful to appoint hall monitors whose authority is accepted by all to resolve disputes, offer assistance to the injured or aggrieved and quickly quarantine dickheads. "You kids settle down back there or I'll turn this society right around and go home! Is that what you want?"
Such authorities, like the governments described by Mr. Jefferson, derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that consent is offered in exchange for two perceived attributes: capability and fairness.
Today's night watchmen are certainly capable. Kevlar and camo, APCs and gas, bullets rubber and more dense. SWAT drills, drones and cameras on every corner.
Fairness, on the other hand, the perception that our protectors and servers perform their duties without consideration of a citizen's background or circumstances, is demonstrably, objectively absent. No honest person can seriously claim that protection and service is enjoyed equally by those with less money or more melanin. Far from being blind, justice don't even wear shades.
This blatant racialization and classification of protection seems, to me, part and parcel with the larger trend of discrediting and destroying the power of government. Candidates campaign on the claim that government can't do anything, then win office and proceed to literally not do anything. Faith in common cause and equal treatment erodes. Frustration grows and a few lash out, prompting even more repression and disparity until only the fairest and flushest can expect a respectful "sir" from those with power over all.
The events in Missouri this week demand explanation and redress. The parents of Michael Brown, who raised a son to be everything society claims to ask of young men, deserve to know why his life was stolen as if he were a crazed madman or murderer.
But I believe they also beg a larger question of us all: Why are our police no longer our police? Why do our governments serve only a tiny few of us, while demanding obedience and their very paychecks from all?
And why is it that the more money and compliance we provide, the more our "protectors" and "servers" and "leaders" seem to be the source of our land's discord and disorder, not its solution?
I like hippies. I like Anonymous. I don't mind calling them when they're needed.
I really would like to feel the same way about cops.