Al: People like Ray Rice and Tom Brady are disgracing the sport of football.
Bill: You obviously hate football.
A: Huh? I love football. I watch twelve games a week, I play in six fantasy leagues, and I bet the kids' college funds on the game. Football is my life.
B: If football is your life, how can you say you don't like Rice and Brady? They're football players.
A: Brady is a cheater and Rice beats his wife.
B: Yes, but Rice and Brady are football players. If you don't support them, you obviously hate football.
A: Actually, that's horseshit. They're a disgrace to their uniforms and they're supposed to be role models to little kids. Their bad behavior is degrading the entire sport.
B: Do you know how hard it is to get out there every week and let huge men tackle you? You bust your ass training, then every Sunday, like clockwork, you get out there and you get your ass handed to you. That's hard work. As long as they're doing that, who cares if they're behaving badly on or off the field?
You will never in a million, billion years hear two sports fans have this conversation. Because it's insane. Al doesn't like Tom Brady because he cheats by deflating footballs and he doesn't like Ray Rice because he beats his wife during his off time.
There are conversations which could be had about these matters. Does it matter what a football player does in his off time? Does a person we encourage to be aggressive and get head injuries get a little leeway when he gets angry and aggressive off the field? Is deflating a ball really that big of a factor in winning a game? Is lying about knowing about the deflated balls worse than deflating the balls in the first place?
There are a fuckton of issues which could be discussed, and debated with various levels of merit. But Bill immediately derails the conversation by saying if you don't support every football player, you must hate football. This totally wouldn't fly between two sports fans. But almost this identical conversation has been taking place in our country's politics recently. And I'd venture to say that, for good or for ill, Americans are much more passionate about their sports than about their elections. So why do we get away with this?
A Metaphor (Obviously)
Obviously I'm talking about the false dichotomy of the Black Lives Matter/Cops Lives Matter talking heads. On the left we have people talking about crooked cops: cops who shoot people in the back and harass and generally abuse people for racial reasons. Which is stuff that police are not supposed to do.
The left says, "These bad cops disgrace all cops. Cops should be role models, their behavior should be impeccable. They should be serving and protecting."
The right says, "If you don't support bad cops, you hate law and order."
It's insane. It's derailing. It's identical, if not in the particulars, to the crazy sports metaphor I made above. The entire point is there is no law and order when there is corruption in the police. And then out trots the argument, "Well, even a crooked cop has thrown himself into the line of fire and puts himself in danger to protect us every day, so we should cut him some slack."
A Movie Quote
In the criminally unappreciated 1998 movie "Fallen," Denzel Washington plays John Hobbes, an honest cop in a corrupt police department. Another cop asks Hobbes how they can trust him not to turn them in if he doesn't take "cream" (graft) when the rest of them do. Which leads to this memorable exchange:
Hobbes: You take any cop on the force, cream or no, ninety-nine percent of the time they're doing their job, aren't they?
Jones: Ninety-nine five.
Hobbes: Point five. So he or she, cream or no, is doing more good out there every day than any lawyer or stockbroker or president of the United States can ever do in their lifetime. Cops are the chosen people.
A Final Thought
I generally try to avoid hot-button issues on my blog, as my readers know. I guess I've been doing it more and more lately, but it's less the issues that bother me as the way we talk about them. If we were willing to sit down and have an earnest conversation about institutional racism and police corruption in this country, that would be nice. Everyone I know who's ever been to Afghanistan has talked about "functional corruption" - the level at which corruption is understood to exist, but an agency still more-or-less completes its appointed task. Understanding that you may have to, say, bribe a policeman to get a crime solved is better than, say, a police force that acts as a factional militia.
But we're not having that conversation, are we? We're having people make essentially the Nixon argument: "When cops do it it's not illegal." We're talking at cross-purposes. The left wants to talk about tackling police corruption, and the right just wants to pretend it doesn't exist. They want to shut that conversation down because it would mean slaughtering some of their sacred cows and admitting that institutionalized racism might actually be a thing and maybe their bootstrap plan for poor Americans is not quite so cut-and-dried.
I don't know how things really used to be in the old days. I know bullshit is as old as politics, and the ancient Romans were the ones who came up with bread and circuses, although probably the cavemen had some similar concept like mammoth meat and cave paintings. So I may be pining for a democratic ideal that never really existed, but I feel like even in my lifetime there was a time when we approached elections based on which side had the better solution to a problem. Now it feels like we approach elections based on which side can better prove that a problem exists or not.
That shit doesn't bode well for the future. Of course, given my 'druthers, I'd rather that our society had no problems. So there's always going to be a natural inclination to pretend problems don't exist, but that just gives them space to grow to insurmountable proportions. You may think police corruption isn't a problem now, because it doesn't affect you. But what are you going to do when the corruption runs so deep even you can't ignore it? Wish you could've gone back in time?
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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