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Law Enforcement’s Kent State Moment
There is a growing rift between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
This week’s newsletter is an expansion on some of the ideas I introduced when writing about my own experience as a law enforcement officer several years ago.
On May 4th, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students protesting the Vietnam War, killing four unarmed students and wounding nine. This clearly unjustified use of force by the military against US citizens protesting an ongoing war lit a powder keg in an already intensifying anti-war movement.
Part of this escalation in anti-war sentiment was an extreme hostility toward members of the military. Protesters believed the Vietnam War was an intensely immoral conflict. They projected that sense of immorality onto the soldiers returning from the front. They were called baby killers and pigs, and held up as indiscriminate killers whose depravity embodied an ugly and racist element of western imperialism.
Since then, American society has realized that it was wrong to project political disagreements on the soldiers who served in Vietnam. Our collective guilt over how America treated these soldiers when they came home is a big reason why soldiers in recent conflicts have been supported and honored by most Americans despite the conflicts being intensely divisive. As a society, we can now debate the morality of military conflict without projecting those questions of morality onto the soldiers themselves.
Today, law enforcement faces a moment very similar to the one that faced the military many years ago. Terrible tragedies have shocked the nation, several of which have involved clearly unjustified uses of force against African Americans. Disturbing videos of these tragedies have lit a powder keg in an already intensifying sense of ethnic unrest.
The cry for social justice has focalized into extreme hostility toward law enforcement. Protesters see the justice system as an intensely immoral institution. They’re projecting that sense of immorality onto everyday police officers. Officers are called racists, pigs, and fascists, held up as indiscriminate killers whose depravity embodies an ugly and racist element of American society.
Just as activists in the Vietnam Era projected their political disagreements with the war and the criminal acts of the few upon the soldiers of that period, today’s police officers are facing the brunt of the hostility and vitriol over problems that are far beyond the average officer’s ability to fix.
In other words, we are failing police, not unlike how our country failed the generation of veterans that served in Vietnam. And we as a society need to wake up t the fact that we are repeating history and causing severe damage to another generation of selfless servants who are simply answering a call. Whatever problems there are with the system, laws, or institutions of justice, the individual officer does not encapsulate these problems.
First, we must reject the premise being embraced by far too many that significant numbers of law enforcement professionals hold racist attitudes or that many officers remain silent when they see abuse from fellow officers. Anyone who has spent considerable time with law enforcement professionals knows how true the maxim is that “no one hates a bad cop more than a good cop.”
Second, we must understand that a significant factor in what we are seeing is the growing rift between officers and the communities they serve, a rift often worse in communities where historical racism in law enforcement has existed or where historical poverty along ethnic lines is most acute. If we allow this rift to grow, it will only lead to more and more confrontation as officers and those they interact with become increasingly distrustful of each other.
And finally, we have to come to grips with the reality that the ongoing violence and the calls to defund the police only worsen the situation. Demonizing the law enforcement profession, removing positive portrayals of law enforcement in media, increasing the negative interactions between police and their communities through constant and hostile confrontation, and stripping agencies of their resources and manpower will only succeed in turning this growing rift into a deep and dangerous chasm.
Here’s What’s Happening
To Get You Thinking
The Never Trump Temptation - Nick Catoggio: “The thing to understand about the coming Republican presidential primary is that it’s a referendum, not a choice.”
Is Ron DeSantis Just Scott Walker 2.0? - Jonah Goldberg: “The 2024 primaries are potentially shaping up for another collective action problem. It will only play out differently if Republicans learn from Walker’s cautionary tale.”
How? - Noah Rothman: “It is incumbent on nationalist critics of America’s strategy to explain how it is in U.S. interests for Ukraine to have a weaker hand at the negotiating table by giving Russia greater capacity to dictate the tempo of the war.”
In Search of Civility - Hans Zeiger: “I was not surprised by an occasional nasty email or social media response. For those who left a phone number, I would try to call them personally. We usually would have a very pleasant conversation. They would often apologize for the brusque tone in the initial communication—they would say they weren’t expecting anyone to actually pay attention.”
Cause for Hope Amid War and Authoritarianism - Michael Mazza and Shay Khatiri: “After almost a year of fighting, Russia’s superior economy and military expenditure, as well as extreme cruelty, have failed to force the Ukrainian people into subjugation. Polls consistently show that Ukrainians support their government’s policy of defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Ukrainians had the option of a life under tyranny, but their choice has been to live free or die.”
America’s North Korea Strategy Has Failed - Robert Joseph: “North Korea ‘is building new missiles, new capabilities, new weapons as fast as anybody on the planet.’”
Putin’s Political Prisoner Refuses to Stay Silent - Matthew Continetti: “Kara-Murza is no oligarch. He is not a foreign agent. Nor is he a saboteur. He is a writer and a filmmaker who holds British and Russian passports. He’s an activist who committed the "crime"—one flinches at calling it that—of stating his views in public on a matter of global concern. In Russia today, voicing a dissenting opinion makes you an enemy of the state.”
Are public employee unions unconstitutional? - Michael Barone: “Private-sector unionism is adversarial but with both sides understanding the need for profitability. Public-sector unionism, in contrast, is collusive. As longtime New York public union head Victor Gotbaum explained, ‘We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.’”
The Continuing Relevance of Frederick Douglass - Ilya Somin: “Both Douglass' denunciation of slavery and hypocrisy and his praise of the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence are relevant to current debates about how we should teach and think about American history. The former is a rebuke to those on the right who seek to minimize or ignore America's wrongs. The latter to those on the left who claim its liberal ideals are insignificant compared to those wrongs, or even contributors to them.”
Systemic Disadvantage - Brent Orrell: “If we were to focus more heavily on the socioeconomic roots of poverty rather than on racial categories, it might be possible to fashion policies better tailored to the needs of the diverse populations that make up America’s poor.”
Learning from Publius - Steven B. Smith: “Far from being an occasional document written for the limited purposes of securing ratification of the new Constitution, [The Federalist] initiated nothing less than a revolution in political thought — one that fundamentally redefined how we understand popular government.”
Human Nature and the Constitution - David A. Eisenberg: “Implicit in every political ideology is a conception of human nature, even if it is only the conceit that humans have no fixed nature.”
Debt-Ceiling Crusaders Are Ignoring the Entitlement in the Room - Marc Short: “They’re demanding…that Speaker McCarthy take us to the brink of default to reduce less than 1 percent of overall spending.”
Prioritizing money over marriage, today’s parents are making a big mistake - Brad Wilcox and Alysse ElHage: “What these parents don’t know is that a large body of research shows that money and a career are not the keys to happiness. In fact, the No. 1 predictor of overall life satisfaction is marital quality — how happy people are in their marriage.”
The rise of the Congressional Progressive Caucus - Suzanne Bates: “Under the leadership of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the Progressive Caucus has grown in power and influence over the past few years. By tightening membership rules, Jayapal has led the coalition to vote more as a bloc, making them more formidable.”
Ranked choice voting will cause more election doubt - Helga Fleischer: “Hard for some or easy for others isn’t the point. Fairness and getting the true winner of an election is the point. If an election is between two candidates, it’s fair to say the winner must achieve more than 50% of the vote.”
My annual State of the Union address - Boyd Matheson: “No nation is more compassionate or ready to assist in the face of natural disaster or human suffering. I am asking that we make kindness the ultimate American superpower.”
Unserious People in a Serious Moment - Noah Rothman: “[The Chinese surveillance balloon was] a serious moment. It’d be nice if we had some serious people in government capable of navigating it.”
And Now for the Local Stuff
Romney Confronts Santos - Deseret News: “Sen. Mitt Romney had sharp words for embattled Rep. George Santos on the House floor before President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.”
Andy Reid has Chiefs in another Super Bowl, but he's never forgotten his BYU roots - KSL: “In many ways, Reid's populating of the West Coast offense across the NFL came from his Cougar roots.”
Idaho lawmaker wants to amend state constitution - Deseret News: “The Blaine Amendment is a relic of religious bigotry that prohibits funds, state funds I should say, from flowing to sectarian organizations.”
Cellphone Ban Fails - Deseret News: “A bill in the 2023 legislative session banning cellphones in classrooms has failed in committee.”
New Mexico considers making roasted chile the official state smell - The Hill: “Sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, Senate Bill 188 seeks to adopt ‘the aroma of green chile roasting in the fall’ as ‘the official aroma of New Mexico.’”
Utah lawmakers expected to debate full-day kindergarten funding - Salt Lake Tribune: “Proponents say it’s about time lawmakers allocate more funding for broader expansion of full-day kindergarten, or FDK.”
Utah company is developing a flying motorcycle - KSL: “You won't be flying very high with this futuristic invention, but rather the idea is to get you over rooftops and create more of a straight line to work.”
Satellite images compare Utah's 2022 and 2023 snowpack - Deseret News: “The end result is a state covered in much more snow.”
Cooking my way through ‘The Essential Mormon Cookbook’ - Hanna Seariac: “The staples of Latter-day Saint cooking were heavily represented. Potatoes. Cheese. Butter. But other flavors were present. Through cooking my way through the cookbook, I believe that I learned what Latter-day Saint cuisine looks like in a more complex way than I had before.”
Utah social media bill with parental consent requirement advances despite privacy concerns - KSL: “An effort to prevent kids from using social media without parental approval cleared a House committee last week, despite concerns from both sides of the aisle that the bill is a potential violation of privacy.”