I sent my 5 year old off to kindergarten today. It wasn’t my first time, I did the same thing with my oldest son two years ago. I left him in the care of a teacher I know well, with the potential to be influenced by many that I know not at all.
I left him in a room with a few dozen other children. Some of those children come from families packaged in a similar demographic box as my own, though many do not.
I left both of my sons in the care of teachers, some that I know well, most of whom I know not at all. I left both of my sons in a school with hundreds of other children, each one affected by an ever-changing series of external, uncontrollable influences.
I left my both of my children at school with the understanding that I am trusting the lives of the only two people whose protection would see me gladly tossing aside all ethical and moral barriers. In my deepest, darkest heart I accept that there is not a single boundary I would not cross to see to their safety.
Five days a week, I decided to place the lives of my children in the hands of strangers based on nothing more substantial than the trust I have assigned to the institution of public education.
I’m trusting their lives to strangers, and I do so despite the growing number of arrests for pedophilia and/or child molestation offenses in education professionals.
Nods, I know. Stay with me for a minute.
You see, there are teachers arrested for child molestation. And some types of child molesters (acquaintance molesters) choose jobs to deliberately maximize and legitimize their access to children.
I sent my children to school despite this potential risk for sexual abuse, because I know that the most of those working in public education are neither pedophile, nor child molester.
But when a teacher is charged and prosecuted for those criminal acts against children? Hmmm.
A recent op-ed in the New York post attacked the criticism of police officers, stating:
- “We support the cops. Unequivocally.”
- “Are there police-related tragedies in a city where 35,000 uniformed officers interact with 8.5 million residents 23 million times a year? Who would expect otherwise?”
This is just one example of dozens of similarly held opinions I have read over the past month. I have to admit that announcing unequivocal support for each police officer, support that by its definition is “given in a way that is not subject to conditions of exceptions” strikes me as an effort both nobly offered, and disingenuous.
On the one hand, I understand that many of those expressing support live in a sub-community of officers and families of officers where violence is a daily occupational hazard.
However as a non-member of the law enforcement sub-community I have to ask, on behalf of the public: Unequivocal support for all cops? No matter what? Really? What about the Connecticut state trooper that robbed a dying motorist? Or this Oklahoma City serial rapist whose day job included law enforcement?
As a member of the “weak” public whose very safety is determined only by those in law enforcement (an attitude with which I kinda disagree), I am expected to demonstrate my regard by unequivocally supporting even those officers? I should excuse the extraordinary violence of a few police officers as one of statistical expectation?
Or is this unequivocal support limited to only officer-involved shootings?
See, not all cops are good people. Some people seek a profession where they will be afforded a position of legalized power. Some cops might even deliberately choose law enforcement to feel that legalized power over a certain social/economic demographic.
Are all teachers undercover child molesters? No. Are all cops undercover murderers? No. Should the public attack an entire profession based on the criminal actions of the few? No.
Should the organizations employing the people with whom we place our trust for our children’s safety, and the enforcement of laws react with swift authority over those that deliberately abuse that trust?
To use a huge example as my reference point for criminal opportunists– Penn State. I could not have picked Sandusky out of a line-up before 2011. The news of his crimes made me sad, as it always does when I read about child abuse. But as the story unfolded to include the at least 9 years that the athletic department chose to cover Sandusky’s actions, as support for the abuser unfurled from Penn State fans that had decided to ignore the taint on their chosen hero, my sadness transformed into rage. Who had we become when we stood proudly defensive of the abuser, rather than in support of his victims?
To Protect and Serve.
Some police officers are not good people. Some of them do not see their job as being about community protection. Some of them become cops for the same reason a child molester might become a teacher.
Some teachers are not good people. Some of them do not see their job as being about community education. Some of them become teachers for the same reason a psychopath might become a cop.
I do think that society’s dismissal of the value in these professions erodes the culture required to attract compassionate people. Examples of that lacking compassion hit our news-feeds every day.
However just as most schools are probably not full of pedophilic teachers, most police stations are probably not full of racist psychopaths. And even then, not all pedophiles are molesters, and not all psychopaths are murders.
Yet those truths don’t necessitate that I default to a “with us, or against us” type of support for a police officer–or a teacher– that deliberately abuses their position of trust. For every amazing teacher, how many are like the two I show below, taken from The Conservative Treehouse? How many students do you suppose were influenced by the attitudes of these teachers?
If I were to demand unequivocal support of all teachers because they work in a thankless, under-compensated field, that would require that I support the obvious racists. Or the child molesters. Or the apathetic.
Participation in that “with us, or against us” thinking allows these fungal pockets of abusers to surround us with their mushroom forests.
With us, or against us thinking has suggested that I must excuse a police officer that shoots badly, because all cops are underpaid and disillusioned.
Okay then, where is the hard-line limit for my understanding and excusing? I’m certainly not supposed to extend that line beyond the cops, and into the low-income communities where criminality might be motivated out of necessity, proximity, or accident. Oh no, because those are the thugs that don’t deserve any compassion.
I am mostly law-abiding, but I will not stand here and suggest that this makes me morally superior to those that are not. I can conceptualize the lines I would blur, if not outright erase, to provide care for my children. I can think of at least five crimes that I would commit without a smidgen of remorse to prevent my children experiencing homelessness, or hunger. I can consider the contempt I might feel for the cop whose job it is to keep the ugliness of my existence away from windows of those that prefer the scenic view to be filled with rainbows and unicorns.
And in truth, I can also understand the contempt I might feel as a cop, repeatedly seeing the same criminals committing the same crimes. I can understand the rage I might feel as a cop when arresting a gang banger whose bullets killed a toddler during a fight over a city-owned street corner. I can admit that it might be difficult to maintain the objectivity required to avoid defining individuals by their stereotype.
I can conceptualize both perspectives, because I’m trying to, because I am interested in listening. No, I don’t think it’s right to seek out Darren Wilson for vigilante justice. But it’s just as wrong to decide that Michael Brown’s life ceased to matter because he stole a box of cigars.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to defend each police officer that engages in unnecessary force. And I sure don’t think it’s appropriate to murder police officers in protest. In truth, the “hate all cops” and the “hate all black people” occupies are defined the same to me–as Westborian extremists that add a lot of shouting, and no quality, to any given conversation.
But. BUT. As I wrote before, the events in Ferguson are multi-dimensional, they exist outside of the realm of simplicity. Maybe Darren Wilson is just a young cop that made a bad decision, marking his actions as the tipping point for a public growing more concerned about the unlawfulness of those responsible for enforcing the law. It seems likely that a growing number of police officers are suffering from a war-like combat fatigue (militarized weapons came with psychological side effects, free of charge).
Perhaps this idea of war is where those of us that don’t fall to a Westobrian extreme should focus; those that demand accountability for criminal cops, and safety for good cops. If I might offer a gentle suggestion? I watched Ferguson unfold, and, yes, I felt deeply angry about the crowd-control methods being used. I wanted it to stop, but I never defaulted to chanting “all cops are killers” because that’s just not true.
And conversely, those that continue to dismiss the importance of racial bias in all areas of the legal system? Also, not the truth. Institutionalized racism is well-documented by those that study that sort of thing. Frankly, the only people that I have ever heard say the phrase “playing the race card” are rich, white people. Which, in effect, means THEY are the ones playing the race card. Technically.
To the race card players I say: Stop it; please, just stop talking. Your stance is based on distanced misinformation, In other words, don’t talk to me about thugs in the ghetto when you’ve never stepped a shiny loafer into a housing project. Read the tone and language of some of the conversations on the St. Louis cop talk forum (below), and tell me that racism isn’t a legitimate part of the conversation. Tell me if you think cops with attitudes like these below are at all invested in protecting that community. I cannot think of a way forward that doesn’t include acknowledging that 1) these attitudes exist– and diversity training doesn’t fix them, and 2) that these are the attitudes of cops that see themselves more as prison guards to criminals not-yet-in-prison, rather than participant members of the community.