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Letters to the Editor

Just what did you expect?


It’s a tough time to be a cop.

If you play it tough and aggressive, the political left will crucify you. If you play it compassionate and tolerant, the political right will crucify you, not to mention that in certain circumstances being nice might endanger both yourself and your fellow officers. I’m not sure why anyone would want to be a law enforcement professional right now, and I admire those many who do continue to serve and protect.

Cops are caught not only between left and right, but between two ancient human reactions to any kind of oppression. First, no individual and no group of people has ever, ever lived happily under someone else’s thumb or, in the most recent case, someone else’s knee. Surely Americans, of all peoples, must understand this. And secondly, as history repeatedly demonstrates, wherever there is oppression there will predictably and inevitably be resentment — and eventually rebellion.

Furthermore, history shows us that out of the struggle between oppressed and oppressor, heroes and scapegoats and martyrs (deservedly or not) will rise, that the oppressed will take to some kind of guerrilla tactics, and that the oppressor will demand the use of more force to hold its position. We know all this.

But history also demonstrates the uncomfortable fact that, as Brazilian philosopher Paulo Friere wrote some years ago, “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.” It’s another trait that seems wired in. Thus we have burning and looting, actions that born of perceived immoral oppression, but also themselves immoral, and certainly irrational because the perpetrators must surely be aware that these actions will bring calls for further oppression. To roughly quote Martin Luther King: “Every time there’s a riot, George Wallace wins.”

So, toward those who perpetrate the damages to property and social stability but then cry foul when aggressive power is sent to oppose them, I can’t help wondering, “Just what did you expect would happen?” Toward those who perpetuate a tradition of racial oppression and then cry foul when rebellion comes, I can’t help wondering, “Just what did you expect would happen? Are you just stupid, in addition to being narrow and mean and un-Christian?”

And toward whomever it is that originates the kind of unsolicited e-mail I received right in the middle of the worst riots, an e-mail pretending to be humorous but made up of sneering, racially-offensive photo images, I can’t help wondering, “Do you not understand that your attitudes perpetuate the injustices that cause rebellion, and that you are and have been for centuries, the cause of the whole mess?”

With any luck some good changes will happen over the next few months. I’m pessimistic about the chances, but at the least maybe some good cops will not so often be made vulnerable by politicized or institutionalized bad attitudes and bad policies. And I’ll predict there will be a pretense of overcoming human nature’s flaws, including some new (but not really new) rules, probably a new vocabulary, certainly some new spending. Yet knowing what we know, I’ll also predict that some citizens will feel the formerly-oppressed are climbing beyond simple justice, beyond equality, and rising to a kind of oppressive power.

But again toward those who might think either openly or secretly that they have a right based upon skin color to go on forever sneering and discriminating and holding others under a malicious knee, and toward the cop who made a suspected petty criminal into a national martyr, I can’t help wondering, “Just what do you expect will happen?”

Ron Rude, Plains


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