Talking with a friend the other day I learned something I had not previously understood. The people of the NYPD want the support of the community the same way we support soldiers who are or were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. They want "Support Our Troops" to apply to them as it applies to soldiers fighting overseas.
The people of NYC are horrified to see what we are supposed to excuse in this support. The video of the murder of Eric Garner, and that's the only word for it, was totally incriminating. The thought that the perpetrators of that crime would go free is something we can't accept. Not when the evidence is so clear and overwhelming.
Two local papers, the Daily News and the Post communicate directly to the people of the NYPD and tell them they deserve total support of the community no matter what they do. And they apparently believe them.
This is a huge disconnect, and we let it happen. The problem isn't with the NYPD, the problem is with the blanket total support we give our military when it fights in Afghanistan and Iraq. The price of placing zero value on the lives of the people of these countries is that our lives in turn become worthless. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. There are dozens of adages and fables that explain this phenomenon. The lives of the people of the foreign countries are worth exactly as much as ours. We overlooked the behavior of American soldiers in these countries. Now the cops want to know why we treat them differently.
And they're right to ask. Why? If the army can arbitrarily kill thousands in Iraq, why can't they kill a few people in Staten Island, Missouri, or Ohio? You "support the troops" why don't you support us, they ask.
Fair question. There is an answer. We made a bad mistake. Now we understand. We have to unwind this. We have to tell the police that they are us and we are them. When they kill us they are killing themselves. Eric Garner was a real person, with a life, a family, he clearly had ideas, felt entitled as an American citizen to be left alone by the cops. So he was breaking a law. Yeah, it happens. There's no way what he did justified the penalty. The people who killed him must pay for what they did, so that everyone in a position of similar power understands that we do not tolerate murder, even if you have a badge. Our support of the police has limits.
We can support the troops by honoring their sacrifice. By caring for them when they come home. Or caring for their families if they don't. But don't expect to get a pass when you break the law. Police must be held to a higher standard, because of the power we give them. Certainly not a lower one.
Net-net: Let's stop singing God Bless America at our sporting events. Let's stop lying about what our military does (I see the recruiting commercials during basketball and football games, they are disgusting). We have to remove this culture of honoring the invasion of countries on the pretense of liberating them when we're actually protecting the economic interests of the rich and powerful. We allowed this to happen. Now if we want it to stop, we're going to have to be strong. It's going to involve a lot more than marching in the streets. We're going to have to remain seated when we're asked to stand and honor our imperialism which devalues the lives of ordinary people, like us. That way maybe the police will get the message that we won't tolerate them killing us.