February 21, 2006

Friend Or Foe?

A lot of people, if not most who come here would be self identified as pro-law enforcement. It's ingrained in us from childhood. When we're little our parents tell us to find who if we're in trouble or scared? Cops (among others such as teachers or firemen). Who do we route for in the movies when the drug dealers are shooting at them? Cops (well except for that one Gibson/Russel movie & that one Murphy/Pryor/Foxx/Reese movie). When there's a stand-off whose side do you automatically take? The folks inside the building? Nope. You pull for the cops. Ditto for chases & most any other conflict.

Now for the $64 question - if you were armed & happened to be at a vantage point with a cop on one side & an unknown non-cop on the other & they're both shooting at each other then whom would you try to help? Odds are it'd be the cop.

My gut would tell me to back the cop. Not even so much my gut, but years & years of reinforced ideas about good & bad. But I wouldn't lift a finger unless I knew the facts for myself. K, there are some cases where good assumptions can be made, like if a cop has his gun drawn in a convenience store & a man 3 aisles away in a mask is shooting at him. I'm pretty sure I'd not regret helping the cop in that situation.

But what about a guy with a gun drawn on a cop at the side of the road? It could be that he's a wanted child molester/murderer/rapist who got the drop on officer friendly. Or it could be someone like me who refused to acquiesce to an unlawful order (such as a demand to disarm) & drew quicker than the cop did.

A stand-off could be because a guy beat/killed members of his family & is holding the rest hostage while he tries to come down form whatever high he was on. Or it could be someone like me who refused to let unidentified strangers enter his house armed.

I could go on but you get the point; except in a few situations there's just no easy way to tell if the cops are worth supporting or if you should help out the person(s) they're confronting.

Why do I type of such dark dilemmas? a few dozen reason. The most immediate is that last night I watched a movie called The Great Raid. It's about the 6th Rangers liberating a POW camp in the Philippines in 1944. It had some scenes in downtown Manila where the Japanese military & the Japanese Secret Police were doing rather nasty things.

Sitting back watching a movie I thought that they looked like punks. Punks with rifles with very long bayonets, but punks nonetheless. & yes it was a movie & I was sitting in my chair in my home. I'm sure that whether their appearance was punk like or not the civilians they were pushing around were scared as hell of them. They'd go in force in a building & take out as many of the occupants as they wished. Once captured they'd do anything they wished to them.

& I thought "how are they different from any police or martial force?". Yes; their objective is much different than say the Wichita PD, but their tactics weren't that different (except in the conclusion &/or severity perhaps). A group would enter an area & take as much control of the inhabitants as possible &/or needful to accomplish their purpose. Now I'm not saying the Wichita PD is going around dragging folks in the street for smuggling quinine to prisoners then shooting them in the back of the head but that's a matter of goals, not means.

In short the tactics that the police & martial forces of the u.S. could very well be used to implement the same sort of oppression that the Japanese used in WW2.

Am I saying we should disband the police & martial forces of the u.S.? Nope. Not at all. Though I'd be all in favor of a serious reduction in professional soldiers & cops to be replaced by militia that's another (regrettably hopeless) argument.

This is about cops raiding a Manassas Park, Va. pool hall (via Countertop).

This is about hearings on "misconduct" by the ATFU & local law enforcement.

I have a category section called "Government Abuses" which is full of similar stories. I have a category by the same name on my old blogspot site with more tales of LEO wrongdoing scattered throughout.

Note the part played by cops in this story.

Let's not forget what happened in New Orleans in 2005.

Let us also remember the ATFU & let us remember again.

Now tell me how there is any difference between them & those police & martial forces we've historically associated with wrong doing? True, in most cases it was isolated abuse & only in a few instances was the victim killed. But aren't the methods similar? Aside from technological differences didn't they basically use the same tactic - move in force & intimidate someone into submission or use force to achieve compliance?

But also I note that the reactions of the victims are similar. A Filipino who was raided by the Japanese Secret Police reacted very much the same way that an American raided by the ATFU reacted - they complied.

That compliance is damaging. Not just to the individual but to society.

In New Orleans cops (& allegedly certain National Guard soldiers) were going house to house confiscating firearms. In no case have I heard of armed resistance being attempted. Perhaps it was the smart thing to do for them (the victims in New Orleans) as they were being met with a large amount of force. For society though it may have been a bad call.

Now we have court cases pending concerning the confiscations. But I've lost track of their status since the media hasn't said a damn word about it. A few blurbs as it happened but the mention was in passing; like confiscations were to be expected & welcomed in such an event.

Self Help, as Hugh Hewitt refers to it, is a dangerous thing. But so is freedom. I have no question that had any homeowner in New Orleans opened fire on the cops &/or National Guardsmen who were there to disarm him that he'd be dead right now. so would the next homeowner. But by the fifth or sixth I'd assume that the losses of the confiscators would start to degrade the efficiency of the mission. The press would have picked it up as more than just a half sentence in a story about something else & most importantly cops in Illinois & California would have thought about how much resistance they'd have in their neck of the woods should they attempt confiscations en masse.

But the folks in New Orleans complied so it's hypothetical at this stage. Those cops in Cali & Illinois are more worried about the legal questions than the practical ones they should be worrying about should they contemplate such a measure (i.e. how many body bags will we need for our cops?).

Why though? Why didn't the New Orleans confiscations turn into a shoot out? Because we err on the side of caution. We view any cop or soldier as an authority figure & any resistance as being uncool even if we know that an order is unlawful &/or immoral.

We've hit a point that Jefferson warned us of (in a letter to William Smith on Nov. 13th 1787 concerning Shays' Rebellion):

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two..."

Many people (most lately gunbloggers) have lamented the seeming loss of individualism & desire for freedom once thought to be common in this country. I'm not going to tell you that the lethargy Jefferson spoke of us upon us or irreversible. What I will say is that for most people they've lost either the desire or ability to distinguish friend from foe. Not that it's always easy. But most seem content with being wronged rather than risking an action that may be based on an incorrect assumption. Even worse some seem to refuse to act even in the face of a known wrong because of any number of reasons.

Threat recognition. You may have read about it when it comes to individual encounters. But how many of you have read anything on political or societal threat recognition? How do you know when a cop is just doing his job honestly or when he has something vile in mind? & worse; what if his job includes something morally reprehensible & potentially threatening to you (such as the forced disarmament in New Orleans)?

I submitted a few days ago that the ATFU by its actions & its very nature is the natural enemy of gun owners. but how many of you understand that? How many of you still see the cops in New Orleans going door to door stealing guns as people just doing their jobs?

That is one of the biggest problems we gun owners (& just about any pro-freedom folks) face - understanding that the boys in blue (or camo) aren't always our friends. That's a very big advantage. It'd be like a black man in the 1960's inviting a klansman over for dinner but not realizing he was a klansman.

I don't have many answers. The ones I do are troubling. I just think we should spend a bit more time thinking about how to know when a cop or soldier is a friend or foe, or at least likely to act like one or the other. Then we can start making decisions about the best course of action. But if we keep regarding them as I think we have been then we're at a big disadvantage. It's not like the press is going to break into American Idol to let you know gun confiscations are happening in your neck of the woods. Conversely there could be a legitimate reason to ask you to hand over your firearm (albeit such circumstances would be extremely rare).

Cops are taught to view every one they encounter as a potential threat. I see neither harm nor insult in viewing them the same way. But to do so requires shucking off years or decades of mental conditioning to view the "boys in blue" as the good guys. Not an easy or pleasant task, but I fear it's a necessary one.

Course that's a default assumption. How would you tell friend from foe?

Posted by Publicola at February 21, 2006 07:06 AM | TrackBack

The same thought occurred to me as I was driving in this morning and noticing all the cops sitting on the side of the road looking for some revenue for the city. They aren't protecting and serving. They are collecting taxes. That is when I reminded myself that a cop is not my buddy. When the cop is friendly to you at a stop, he is just trying to see if you'll say something stupid.

They are agents of the state, and the state is not my friend. Hell, I can't even let them be my buddy when they are off duty. The courts have decided that nothing is off the record, so I have to always suspect them.

Posted by: Phelps at February 21, 2006 11:56 AM

Your right. If gun owners are unwilling to take firearms ownership seriously, (seriously to the point of life and death), why should judges, politicians and neighbors?

In some ways the internet probably doesn't help. We can voice our opinions and relieve the anger that should be directed and properly released on tyrants.

And until shooting back becomes the norm, they will keep pushing.

Posted by: FishOrMan at February 21, 2006 08:15 PM

Most Americans were educated in state schools.

In a religious school, what is the main secondary purpose (secondary to pure education)? It is promoting the ideals, principles and interests of the religion.

It follows then that in a state school, the main secondary purpose (it could be argued that it is the primary purpose) is to promote the ideals, principles and interests of the state.

So, we are taught from the youngest age that the government is good, that it is always looking out for our best interests, that the police are the good guys and are there to protect us, that we should always acquiesce to governmental authority and never take matters into our own hands etc, etc, etc.

We are taught from the youngest age that safety is the paramount concern. Therefore, it is right and good for the government to protect us from ourselves (must wear seatbelts and helmets, can't smoke, can't use recreational drugs, must be licensed and approved before practicing a trade, must only hire licensed practitioners, can only buy or sell government approved merchandise etc. etc. etc.)

Most people are either too apathetic or too narcissistic to put much thought into these issues. It's all about having the fancy car and the plasma TV and two weeks vacation at Disney World.

That is why it is unthinkable for most people to even contemplate opposing the police. That is why there is no cry of outrage at the man on Death Row right now because he shot a cop during a "no knock" warrant execution on the wrong side of a duplex. That is why, when you, or I or any other of the relative few who understand that liberty is more important than an individual life, die opposing tyranny, we will be seen by the general public as a nut-case at best and a heinous criminal at worst.

And because the vast majority value their life and security more than liberty, there will be no large movement of freedom loving people to duplicate our self-less act and force the government to reconsider their tyrannical behavior. It just won't happen. At least not until the government becomes so tyrannical that a large enough group rebel against it. But that probably won't happen in our lifetimes.

"A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
--John Stuart Mill

"The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave."
-- Alexis de Tocqueville

"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
-- Samuel Adams

"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grand-children are once more slaves."
—D. H. Lawrence

Posted by: Sailorcurt at February 22, 2006 06:53 AM

On a related note, I've often wondered which government jobs I could hold in good conscience. IRS job: no way. DEA, even less. (I have an impossible fantasy of Nuremburg style trials for the fed agents and lawyers who are arresting and prosecuting medical pot users.)

Public schoolteacher, OK. Minor bureaucrat for the unemployment office or somesuch, distasteful but OK.

City cop, that would be a tough call. Some, like Bill Masters, manage to have some honor while holding the job. But too many are just randomly collecting revenue for the city and jailing people for offences against laws which should never have existed. That should be too much for a functioning conscience to bear.

Posted by: Walter at February 23, 2006 01:46 PM
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