Look, people, it’s not just the police as tools of oppression vs. young black men, it’s the police as tools of oppression vs. everybody. At issue is not the color of your skin but the how quickly and thoroughly you comply — comply with trivial and insignificant regulation, ordinances, and instructions, all of which are created not to expedite any particular process or achieve a specific end but rather to reinforce your sense of complete subordination to local, state, and federal authority. Their purpose is to further drive home the message that has been presented to the American people by their government since October 2001: you, collectively and as individuals, are expected and required to OBEY. No matter how absurd or illogical or openly counter-productive the commands and instructions given to you, OBEY THEM, because “we, The Government” (and this attitude is becoming more and more openly and completely embraced by state and local governments, not just the Feds) “have decreed that you must do so.” Common sense has gone out the window, as empty compliance, coupled with a fanatical devotion on the part of civil servants to “go by the book,” dot every “i” and cross every “t” ad infinitum ad nauseum, coupled with dire threats of punishment and retribution should anyone not do so, has become the norm.
There’s a pervasive pattern here, one where confrontation is the default behavior, offering scenarios where displays of petty authority almost inevitably escalate into situations where the application of force, up to and including deadly force, is deemed necessary, all the better to make the point to those not involved but witnessing the situation that it is in their best interest in the future to simply OBEY. Whether it’s the TSA pointlessly harassing travelers with vague and ridiculous travel restrictions which arbitrarily change from airport to airport (and sometimes from minute to minute), a clerk at Animal Control who simply can’t say “Whatever…” to someone dropping off a stray at a shelter, or some “well-intentioned” private citizen whose hysterical phone calls to police results in an unarmed man being shot and killed by a police officer without so much as a warning, the standard of conduct by and the default attitude of government employees has become one which seeks to escalate, rather than de-escalate, any potential confrontation. Why? To reinforce the the lesson: you must OBEY.
The proof of this can be found in this news story out of Dothan, Alabama, as reported by the local paper, the Dothan Eagle, on 31 December 2014: “Police say [Robert] Lawrence had gone to the animal shelter to turn over a stray animal, but became disorderly when told he could not leave an animal without showing identification. Police say Lawrence was a sovereign citizen, which is a group of people whose political ideology often leaves them at odds with the government. Lawrence was told repeatedly to calm down, according to police, then was advised he was being placed under arrest. An altercation then occurred and Lawrence was shot in the abdomen…. Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said the 30-year-old Lawrence…died at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday.”
Apologists for the police will emphasize that Lawrence was “confrontational” and that the personnel at Animal Control may have felt threatened as a result — that is not an unreasonable position. The perceived threat, real or not, provoked a physical response from the police, who at some point came to the conclusion that it was necessary to resort to lethal force. That is where the situation becomes surreal, and demonstrates that the sense of confrontation between police, as the representatives of authority — and hence, the tools of repression — and civilians is rapidly expanding across the country. It is no longer simply an inner-city, or major city, or police vs, blacks problem any longer. The surreality stems from the fact that the individual at Animal Control in Dothan, when Lawrence refused to show identification, in turn to refused to simply say “Whatever…” and take in the stray animal Lawrence brought to the shelter. Instead, that person felt it necessary to initiate a confrontation over compliance with a meaningless regulation: it’s not as if Lawrence was trying to pawn stolen jewelry or a handgun with its serial numbers filed off. Let’s apply a modicum of common sense here, people: what difference does it make — really — whether or not someone dropping off a stray animal produces identification? That requirement was probably introduced into Animal Control’s SOP without anyone bothering to think much about it — and probably rightfully so, it’s a trivial thing. But what would happen if that self-same employee at Animal Control had been confronted with a 12-year old child who brought in a stray dog he’d found on the side of the road? I know of very few 12-year olds who have identification. So what does the clerk at Animal Control do in that case? Detain the child until he or she somehow produces the ID they don’t have? Lock them up in an empty office until their parents arrive? (There’s a legal term for that — it’s called “kidnapping.”) Do you see the point that I’m driving at here? A departmental regulation so insignificant that it doesn’t even aspire to the level of “minor” was invoked by an equally insignificant departmental employee enamored of their own imagined “authority,” which needlessly escalated into a confrontation, and then an altercation, which cost a man his life. What could have been — should have been — a situation where the clerk said “Yeah, don’t worry about it, it’s not that important” and taken the animal, which is Animal Control’s primary responsibility, instead became a fatal situation when the police, already mentally and emotionally “geared-up” for a confrontation, arrived on the scene. Take a few minutes to contemplate not just how this happened, but why.
Then think about this: you see fewer and fewer police cruisers displaying the motto “To protect and serve.” This decline is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the truth (in theory and in fact). And let’s face it, replacing “To protect and serve” with “Professional Law Enforcement” or “Proud to Serve!” is far less provocative than what would be an embarrassingly honest motto: “To shoot to kill — anyone.”