By Christopher Cudworth
A few weeks back I posted the photo shown in the featured image with a joking comment that it was good the police had the porta-potties protected. One of my conservative “friends” on Facebook went ballistic. He shot me a terse lecture about respecting the police with a warning that I should thank them for their service, not ridicule them.
As it so happened, I had already done that. I politely stopped during the running of the Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon to thank them for working for the race.
Taking note of the assault rifles hanging on front of their bodies, I also regaled them with a story about the time my family and I had were on an archeoastronomy trip in southwest Colorado. Early on the morning of June 21st, we rose before sunrise and drove through the cool desert night to arrive at Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah. Our goal was to arrive before sunrise and station ourselves at an ancient native American (Anasazi) astronomy site to witness a solstice event that has been taking place for an estimated 1000 years.
Armed and dangerous
We were joined on the trip by a trio of armed federal agents wearing assault rifles over their shoulders. Their presence was deemed necessary because a few weeks before a pair of armed criminals had gunned down a cop in nearby Cortez and escaped into the wilderness near Hovenweep.
As the sun rose a sliver of light shone across a spiral shape carved in the face of a rock. Only once a year does the light reach that petroglyph. It once told the tribes who lived in the area that the time was right for planting. That was back when the desert was perhaps a bit more verdant and growing crops was possible.
Of course I didn’t tell all those details to the police working the Naperville Half Marathon. I simply told them that we appreciated the guards that morning in Hovenweep. The idea that there might be armed criminals roaming the Utah desert was the least romantic notion on our minds at the moment.
I asked my children that morning of the solstice event if they minded the presence of the armed guards. “What guards? What guns?” they asked innocently. That taught me that not everyone has the same sensitivities and sensibilities about guns. But how can we expect children to understand such concepts? Kids don’t necessarily understand what guns can do, or why they’re necessary. But neither do so many adults, who engage with guns at a childish level, believing as fact what they’re told that guns lead to a civil society and protect our freedoms better than rule of law.
Because… why are assault weapons necessary for cops to carry? That was the point I was trying to make with my ironic post on Facebook about cops protecting the porta-potties. Of course their mission on race day at a marathon site is much broader than that. We all know what happened in Boston a couple years ago.
But then again, we need to keep asking questions about this growing militarization of society and the need for police to use grenades and tanks to do their jobs. That’s what’s happening, people. It’s an arms race and the police believe they are either going to win or die.
Thanking police for their service
I’ll never state that police presence is not helpful at races. At every race I’ve attended I’ve thanked police for their service. Frankly I get the feeling they sometimes see the frantic stupidity of it all and keep their mouths shut. Police have to look at society a lot differently than those of us who never work in public service. They see the ugly side of human nature every day. Domestic violence. Rape. Murder. Robbery. Car crashes. Vandalism. Heartbreaking cruelties even to animals and children. It’s hard for a policeman not to be a cynic about the very foundations of society. Bigotry. Racism. Protests against social injustice. Campus rape. Drunken driving. Bar fights.
Our police operate in a different universe, and on a daily basis that universe spins around while the rest of us go about our merry business. The police are no different from the characters in the movie Men In Black. The dialogue goes like this between J and K:
“People are smart, they can handle it.”
“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.”
Cops are also people. Yet the person who is a cop is also capable of dumb, panicky behavior. I was once leading a 10K in a northwest suburb of Chicago. The police officer driving ahead of me on the course approached an intersection and suddenly hit the brakes. Flying along at 5:00 per mile pace, I could not stop and wound up flopping over the back of the trunk of his car.
Obviously in the moment I was a bit upset. I yelled at him but his real goal was to make sure there was no traffic that was going to plow through the intersection. Ramping back up to speed, I waved and shrugged in thanks.
It was an interesting moment of human interaction. The policeman was doing his job but so was I, in a manner of speaking. (I was sponsored as a runner by a running shop at the time). I still won the race but had to tell the story of how the police car almost cost me the victory. If I’d hit my knee on the bumper, for example…
Not so easy
Nothing about being a police officer is easy. I have friends and associates who work in law enforcement. I also wrote an article about Conservation Police Officers and learned that they are not only responsible for wildlife but are also fully commissioned and trained state troopers. One of the officers interviewed had related that it was highly necessary to compartmentalize what he daily saw in his job and the need to come home and function as a father. The two worlds were dichotomous.
We hear the same thing from soldiers returning from war. The blood, gore and destruction are too much. Add in personal injury and massive disability caused by war injuries and it is almost criminal what we ask our soldiers to do, and we too often treat them like aliens when they come home. It’s an almost impossible split between war and civil society.
So when we blithely throw soldiers into action for political causes that are either ill-defined or unnecessarily aggressive, it should make the nation question why and how we view imperialistic violence as so necessary to achieve our national goals. The same goes for our police officers. Why is America so content to force these people to live with the threat of unnecessarily dangerous weapons?
Working with police
As a former race director I have worked with multiple cities and numerous police officers. That’s why I stop to thank them for their service.
But the abiding concern I have for police officers is not the nature of their service or even the mistakes they sometimes make. I’m far more concerned that their jobs as civic peacekeepers have been made untenable by the proliferation of weapons in American society. My legitimate question depends not on some liberal agenda. And I am a known and proud liberal and progressive thinker.
Instead my concern focuses on the natively conservative opening line of the Second Amendment, which begins, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…”
That makes me think deeply about what many police officers now face on the streets of America. It’s an arms race out there. While the rest of us occupy the streets one day at a time for a merry little run through neighborhoods or cities, the cops are out there literally fighting for control of the property they are commissioned to protect. Now we’re looking at the full militarization of police forces in America. It’s necessary because America has no commitment to live by the first line of the Second Amendment. Conservatives lie when they claim to support the police and then refuse to hold anyone accountable for the crazed and unbridled “militia” now wielding guns at will and at large. We clearly no longer have a well-regulated militia. The NRA is the absolute worst enemy of the police here in America. There, I’ve said it. Now deal with it. Because it’s true.
Shooting up with ammo
There have been more than 400 school shootings since the Newtown massacre. It’s also a lie to say that all these shootings were the premeditated acts of people who are insane from the start. The plain fact is that high-powered weapons make people insane. With the pull of a trigger, an average citizen can unleash hell on people sending them into panic and fear. It’s control that insane people with guns are after. They can’t control their personal lives so they use force to exert some sense of manic control on the world they’ve grown to hate. And it repeats itself over and over again.
In response gun advocates promote the insane idea that average citizens need to get more guns to combat not only criminals with guns, but the government itself. That’s the same as telling a heroin addict they need more drugs to cure their habit. We’re talking about addiction to the idea that war on the streets is the natural course of American history.
Armed with bigotry
Sure, the bigots among us like to blame black people for all the crime, and black on black crime is a problem. But many of those wingnuts shooting up schools and shooting at police on the streets are far from black. Race isn’t the issue with guns in America. Guns are the issue with guns in America.
The police are the people who pay the price on the frontlines. They’re being forced to become soldiers in order to survive the onslaught of insanely liberal gun laws. Yes, you heard me right. Conservatives typically love guns, but the liberalities with which they interpret the Second Amendment by completely ignoring the opening lines of that troublesome bit of law, are responsible for a lot of bullet holes in a whole lot of human flesh.
Irony lost on America?
That’s why it’s important to use irony when pointing out the fact that police are armed to the hilt and commissioned to do an impossible job. That dialogue from the movie Men In Black is absolutely correct. “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky animals and you know it.”
That especially applies to people who feel insecure walking around in public without carrying a concealed weapon. It applies to people who think the government is coming to steal their home or property. It applies to people who vote for Republicans on the sole grounds that the GOP is in bed with the NRA, and frankly taking it in every imaginable political orifice as a result.
It’s not that I disrespect cops or their service to America. It’s that I disrespect people who pretend to idolize police officers for their service without any consideration for the real reason their lives and occupations are at risk. Those people are deceiving all of us about the Second Amendment and what it really means to respect the police.
I have readers who love guns and who love to tell me that I’m nuts and anti-American for my so-called “liberal” stance on such things. But the unspoken and ugly truth of the Ferguson incident, the Trayvon Martin shooting and a host of other cop-versus-civilian shootings is based on the whole idea of a kill-or-be-killed mentality underwritten by the gross proliferation of guns in American society. You can play any conservative tune you like to cover it up, but the cops are the ones who really face the music.