The tendency in recent days has been to lump together several different well-publicized cases. Most Americans by now have heard of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Because both these cases involve a white police officer and a black citizen who died, that particular similarity has been emphasized in an attempt to show a racial bias in policing in America. Many politicians (not to mention professional grievance peddlers) have been quick to try to ride the coattails of these events.
Some who are dissatisfied or believe this narrative incomplete, add the case of Dillon Taylor in an effort to broaden the issue to that of violent police responses to minor infractions. Still others include the initial response in Ferguson, Missouri, several months ago to highlight the militarization of local police departments. All too often it’s not Officer Friendly in a blue shirt and badge who shows up–it’s armor-clad, jackbooted sentries whose humanity is concealed behind an anonymous facemask. Instead of “protect and serve,” these teams appear ready to “occupy and oppress.” Such tactics can hardly be expected to encourage ties between those policing and the policed.
There is no doubt that in the complex world of law enforcement, racial and other personal biases can come into play. Because of that complexity, I don’t think it’s a good idea to simply lump all these cases together: from what I’ve read, Mike Brown and Eric Garner were different people, despite a similarity of skin tone. But a much larger, fundamental issue is being overlooked… one that might possibly, finally, rise above the background noise due to Eric Garner’s case:
Was Garner killed deliberately? No, of course he was not. Whatever the protesters might be chanting today, intent matters a great deal, and we are quite obviously not dealing here with a premeditated murder. Nevertheless, we should all be willing to acknowledge that Garner would never have been so much as approached had the city not wanted its pound of flesh in the first instance. (emphasis added) Because there are consequences to all laws — however minor — it is incumbent upon us to ask if those laws are worth the risks that they yield. What, I wonder, would the anti-tax rebels who threw off the British Empire make of the news that a man had lost his life for peacefully selling a “loosie?” Once again: Is this why governments are instituted among men?
In short: a man is dead because a swarm of police responded to allegations a husband and father might have been selling cigarettes that had not been “properly taxed.” The more laws are passed (many without the concurrence of the majority of those upon whom they are imposed), the less respect the average person feels for this micromanagement of their lives.
Washington warned us at the outset: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” I’m of the opinion we would all be better off if the start of every legislative session, and the introduction of any bill, required the reading of that quote, followed by a period of silence for contemplation. Maybe then it would become easier to see the connection between the “War on Drugs,” and the now all-too-frequent instances of fatal SWAT raids–sometimes of the wrong residence or in circumstances that turn out to be unfounded. Perhaps we would anticipate that having a law means enforcing a law, which means the application of force. And any time one human being is authorized potentially to use force against another, there is the inherent risk of misuse, abuse, and unintended consequences — like Eric Garner’s death over an allegedly untaxed cigarette.
To quote the Founders again, “that government is best which governs least.” It’s time for a wholesale reset on the regulatory state. It’s time to return to the idea that government exists to keep one person from abusing their freedom at the expense of others… and that short of that standard, the State has little to no business intruding into our lives. Living in a land where one can unknowingly commit multiple “crimes” through simple actions each day is NOT the definition of freedom. It’s the definition of Statism, where your very act of living subjects you to automatic government suspicion, intervention, and, in all too many tragic cases today, government-sanctioned death. While everyone is up in arms about racism, real or implied, this larger truth is going largely without examination. And there are those in power who are only too happy to see it continue that way.
Something to think about, America…