Ferguson and Baltimore are raw blisters on America’s hindquarters, the boiling symptoms of a festering disease that has infected America’s thin blue line. I was thinking, however, it may be related to a basic birth defect.
Americans have heard since the very beginning that they are a barbarous and uncivilized society. It was a criticism during the Cold War from European Soviet Russia that stuck in European ears: we are gangsters, lawless cowboys. Ronald Reagan purposefully embodied the criticism, going so far as to dress the detachment of American athletes to the Sarajevo, Yugoslavia-hosted 1984 Winter Olympics as cowboys. We were still under the threat of Soviet nukes, so the sentiment of lawlessness under that kind of lawfulness was beautiful.
It calls to mind however, the inculcation of lawlessness in American society, that we are a barbarous society from birth, shooting people only when we can see the whites of their eyes, which requires hot and cold blood at the same time, driving the seven-hundred year old throne out of his own colonies. What was on TV in the afternoons, and with cable awaiting in the near-future so that we all watched it together? What sold soap and candy bars?
It was Little House on the Prairie, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and a handful of other TV shows that were set in the Wild Wild West, not to mention all the weird outer space shows (before we realized how boring space actually is), which were just projections of the wild, lawless American character onto a starry black canvas. Lawlessness abounded, and civilized individuals moved and breathed within it, dealing with it one-on-one, head-to-head, with the occasional hired law man with deputized posse rounded up. Good people even sometimes died in the swirling maelstrom of lawlessness, wherein towering individuals advanced with strength against the cosmic fury to carry out the revenge demanded by flesh and blood.
By chance, I have two cop neighbors. Not by coincidence, ours is a very quiet street, and considering that a retired cop lives further down the street and the judge lives on the corner, it is also always plowed first during the winter. This is convenient. One officer is my friend, and I am in awe of him, toeing the blue line in my behalf. He’s a big guy, too, of Greek or Turkish decent, tall and solidly built, casting a more solid shadow than I do, darkened, I think, with that olive Mediterranean complexion. He’s pretty imposing when he approaches you at hockey speed on ice skates, but when he puts on his cop outfit, completing it with the reinforced Mylar bullet proof vest, he’s downright fearsome.
I’ve talked to him a bit about policing, and I have the impression that he does not think philosophically about his job. Further, he earnestly believes that it is his calling to stand between civilization and barbarity.
I have seen the time-series charts which show that policemen in the United States have killed more people in the line of duty, on average, per year than in all of Germany, England, France, and Italy combined since World War II. Well, yeah, but they’re civilized.