So many people do not understand this.
If you point a firearm at me and threaten me there is a one hundred percent chance one of us will not survive the encounter. It will probably be me – but do you really want to take that chance?
If a group of you catches me by surprise, carrying guns, moving quickly and aggressively, yelling over each other so I can’t tell what you want, the last thing I would ever do would be to disarm myself. I will feel safer with a weapon than without one.
If I have a weapon in my hand, there is a good reason for it. You yelling at me at me is not going to make me put it down any more than me yelling at you is going to make you put your weapons down. Pointing a weapon at me is likely to get you shot or worse. I will point my weapon down if you promise to keep your weapons pointed down. Then we can negotiate.
Robbing me is easy. Simply make clear what it is you want, make clear what will happen to me if I don’t comply, make clear what will happen to me if I do comply, and let me make the choice. Chances are, I will give you what you want.
If I ever get the impression that I am no better off cooperating than resisting, I am going to resist. This will happen even when my demise is virtually certain. I will consider it my noble obligation to martyr myself in the act of injuring or scarring you to make you think twice about ever hurting anyone else again.
If you attack first without giving me the choice to cooperate, there will be no other conclusion to draw but that I am no worse off resisting. There is nothing you can say afterwards to redeem the situation. Actions speak louder than words.
On the other hand, if I can’t even understand what you want, you will certainly not get any cooperation from me. If I ask a question, it is to clarify what I am supposed to do, not to make your life harder.
These principles are valid even in non-violent situations. My entire life I have had parents, teachers, students, employers, coworkers, customers, and idiots in orange vests directing traffic (poorly) yell at me for no discernible reason. Often, they contradict themselves or order me to do something so crazy I think for sure that I have misheard or misunderstood. Whenever I try to clarify what is expected before I make an irreversible decision, they only seem to get angrier and I never get answers. This has caused me in some situations to simply follow dictates unquestioningly only to discover later that I indeed had misunderstood. Other times I have guessed at what they really wanted and obeyed in a way I thought would be good enough, but it was not.
All this brings me to policing policies, but first a couple disclaimers are in order:
Disclaimer: I am not going to get bogged down in a debate over the facts of any particular case. I don’t know better than anyone else what really happened. Too many times there have been those with an anti-cop prejudice who have taken up a specific case to further their cause only to find out when the facts were revealed that the cops had actually done no wrong and those injured or killed by them were true thugs in the act of attempting to murder the police. Instead, my points are based on the policies. I have heard numerous people both inside and outside of law enforcement voice support for every one of the policies I illustrate in this post. This is what I have a problem with.
Disclaimer: Anytime I bring these points up, there are those that declare my opinion worthless because I am not an expert in police tactics. I might not be an expert in police tactics, but I am an expert on human psychology and how people will react to police tactics. I have been living as a human among other humans for 34 years, so I think I know what I’m talking about.
Just as with criminals, if a group of cops catches me by surprise, carrying guns, moving quickly and aggressively, yelling over each other so I can’t tell what they want, the last thing I would ever do would be to disarm myself. If you identify yourself as cops, I will likely miss hearing this in the chaos. Should I happen to catch this information, I will not believe you; any criminal can claim to be a cop. I will also likely be too nervous to notice what you are wearing. If by some miracle I see that you are dressed as police officers, I will discount this; any kid can be a cop on Halloween.
If I have a weapon in my hand, there is a good reason for it. You yelling at me at me is not going to make me put it down any more than me yelling at you is going to make you put your weapons down. Pointing a weapon at me is likely to get you shot or worse. I will point my weapon down if you promise to keep your weapons pointed down. Then we can negotiate. Also, don’t give me a reason to think I am no better off cooperating than resisting.
I have good reasons to be leery around cops anyways:
I once heard about a man who was sitting outside at night and was approached by four police officers. The police were not in uniform and had no probable cause to detain him. It is not known what the man thought at this point, but the theory is that he believed these four men might be the same gang that had robbed a relative of his. He ran and the police pursued. They verbally identified themselves as police officers at that point, but this man barely knew English and was by this point probably scared out of his wits. As the cops closed in, the man reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet, likely hoping the men would take it and leave him alone. In the night, the police mistook the wallet for a gun and killed him.
Another time I heard about a man who had his girlfriend and baby in the car with him who was suddenly surrounded by flash-bang grenades, which are meant to disorient people. Quite understandably, he defended himself against the attack by firing his gun as the police closed in. The police fired back and killed both the man and his girlfriend, miraculously missing the baby and everyone in the surrounding neighborhood. The man had been suspected of murder, but had never been convicted.
Another time another man was rushed from behind and thrown to the ground because he was suspected of some crime. Fortunately, this one did not fight back. As it turned out, the police had the wrong person. He merely looked like the one they wanted. If they had approached him quietly and asked to see identification, he might not have been injured.
Another time another man fully cooperated by stopping his car when pulled over. The police officer asked to see identification. The man fully cooperated by reaching for it. The police officer then shot him in the leg because he thought he might have been reaching for a gun. The man didn’t even have a gun.
I’ve also heard of police officers being extremely rude and threatening to a man with autism who was only suspect because of a misunderstanding pertaining to his autism. I’ve heard of them chasing down a man with schizophrenia when he was too paranoid to answer their questions, even though they had no probable cause to detain him. Even a perfectly healthy person would have been right to be paranoid under those conditions! I’ve heard of them shooting people who ignored their orders to stop, who were no threat to anyone but were likely so high on drugs that they didn’t realize they were in danger. I have not yet heard of anyone shot by cops because they were deaf and didn’t know they were being ordered to halt, but it would not surprise me.
It doesn’t matter whether every fact as I have heard it is true or not because there are actually people both in and out of law enforcement that support these types of actions. I’m only debating policy. They say that if you don’t comply with police orders immediately and to the letter the police have the right to shoot you. Do they forget that we have a bill of rights in the constitution to protect us from just this sort of tyranny? They tell me that police have to rush in and make surprise attacks because otherwise the suspects might get away – or worse – kill one of the cops before they can subdue him. Do they forget that these are only suspects not yet convicted and might actually be innocent? They tell me that one has to always move slowly and keep their hands visible at all times when talking to the police. Do they not understand that there will always be some people that get nervous and forget this? Do they not realize that most people will not even have this occur to them? Police often ask for car registration, but I and most people keep it in the glove box where I have only just recently been told is a place you should never reach. I’m scared for myself. What should I do if pulled over? Since these stories are widely known, can anyone be blamed for fleeing the scene or refusing to open the car window? Can anyone be blamed for pulling out a weapon just in case things go bad? It may be stupid to pull out a gun, but under the circumstances isn’t it equally stupid not to pull out a gun? If it is okay for police to point weapons at you, isn't it equally okay for you to point weapons at them?
I have heard two separate accounts of those who were confronted by police, cooperated fully, and now endorse cooperating fully. They actually claim it is perfectly sane behavior to point guns at people who are just reaching for ID and to search for and seize any weapons without a warrant during a routine traffic stop. It seems to me to be awfully reckless behavior to provoke people you don’t know. Even if it were true that the right thing to do in that situation is cooperate, there are always going to be some who do not, and by provoking those people the cops will have started a conflict that would not have otherwise existed. Isn’t it the job of the police to keep the peace and protect us? Why do they escalate things? Because it is known that some will react to aggression with aggression, the cops should not be acting aggressive, and it becomes wrong to allow them to get away with it. I wish more people stood up to the police. I have zero respect for those who will not stand up to bullies. If we don’t stand up to bullies, nothing will ever change. Somebody needs to do something. I’m not at all saying that we should shoot police officers, but I am saying with deliberate firmness that any police officer that behaves in such a manner deserves to be shot; I can’t in good conscience condemn anyone who does shoot police officers under those circumstances. That I feel compelled to say something like this proves these are very scary times for our country.
This isn’t just a policy dispute. We’re playing with people’s lives here. These policies are so perversely misguided that there can be no compromise with them whatsoever. There is no point in debate and we can’t wait for a vote. This has to end now. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that whenever any government becomes destructive of these ends (i.e. protecting our rights) it is the right AND DUTY of the people to abolish it. I greatly fear we could be heading into a civil war in the next four years and yet I see most people pushing for more.
This only makes it harder for the good officers who are only trying to protect us, who joined the force out of love for their communities, and have children at home to provide for. Unfortunately, they will not be spared. If you put on the uniform of the enemy and hang out in the bases of the enemy, you will be mistaken for the enemy. No matter which side wins the war, there will be tragedy.
Then there is Black Lives Matter, a thoroughly evil, racist organization who casts every misdeed of the police (real or imagined) as a conflict between all black people and all white people. Those of Asian, Hispanic, or mixed heritage are caught in the middle, never knowing which side they will be considered to be on. They distract us from the real issues that affect all races and help to prevent any real reform from ever happening. Numerous pundits and politicians repeat their rhetoric and millions of gullible sheep believe it. One quarter of the people I know support the current police policies, while one quarter of people I know are ensnared in the ridiculous worldview of seeing racism everywhere. They are just as much bullies as the police. My friends are very evil people. I hope they aren’t representative of the country. I have tried to make new friends but haven’t had any luck.
I have better things to do with my time than fight a war. I have books I want to write and places I want to visit. I want nothing more than to find a (not evil) wife, start a family, and maybe have a cookout in the summer. However, I see no way out of this one. If a civil war begins I will certainly be caught up in the fight and I will feel morally obligated to fight both sides. I don’t expect to survive a day, but with any luck I will take out a few of you morons with me.
Your move, America.
P.S. Just so that we are clear, I am not the one advocating war by writing this post. I’m the one trying to avoid war by writing this post. Maybe if I wake some people up we can make peaceful reforms. If you decide to take my words as a threat and attempt to intimidate me into silence, you are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely when the war finally comes. The fact that I feel I have to add this last part to protect myself when exercising my first-amendment rights is additional proof of how scary our country has become.
The media elites in America are always trying to divide us. They divide us by age, sex, religion, and race. They divide us into extroverts and introverts. Most of all, they divide us by political party affiliation. They use misleading labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” to make us believe there are two distinct groups of us with a large gulf in between. The reality is that no two people agree on everything and there are often more differences within groups than between them. Independent individuals exist across the political spectrum as one large, sprawling group.
How people are classified depends much on the questions asked and on how such things are framed. It is entirely possible to believe the death penalty is sometimes justified, but to still believe it to be bad policy. It is entirely possible to believe the wars in Iraq and Libya were justified, but to still believe them mistakes. It is entirely possible to believe that drug use and extramarital sex are unhealthy without considering them immoral, and possible to consider them immoral without believing they should be made illegal. It is entirely possible to be deeply suspicious of big corporations and yet even more suspicious of big-government attempts to reign them in. The same person taking two different surveys may seem very liberal to one and very conservative to the other. Depending on which points candidates emphasize, the same person could vote either Republican or Democrat.
Sometimes people will support the same policies for very different reasons. One can support anti-capitalist economic protectionism not to protect the jobs of American workers, but to protect national security and self-determination. Some people may oppose affirmative action not because it divides us and perpetuates unequal treatment based on race, but because they are secret segregationists.
Whether one supports particular policies often depends how the policies are applied. One might be perfectly happy to let the state decide to legalize or criminalize abortion or drug use, but not believe it is the role of the federal government to tell the states how to rule. One might believe it perfectly permissible for government to fund with taxpayer money things such as health care and education, but not the federal government. One might believe that the congress should pass a law to define marriage to include homosexual unions, but still call foul when unelected judges impose their own will on the people.
Sometimes what policy someone supports depends on what the given alternatives are. The same individual might support a flat tax when the alternative is a complex income tax with multiple brackets, exemptions, credits, deductions, and different rates for different types of income, yet support a sales tax over a flat tax, and a tax on the states over a national sales tax, allowing the citizens of each state to decide how they will be taxed. This is what gets politicians into trouble more than anything else. They will support one policy one year and another policy another year because the given alternatives have changed, not their principles. The media will still cast the change as a flip-flop. Sometimes the problem is one of pragmatism. On one hand, one might support democracy over anarchy because of the political reality that without government there is no protection from criminals or foreign governments, though in an ideal world without such threats they would support anarchy. On the other hand, one might support separation of powers, a bill of rights, and term limits that thwart the will of the voters over pure democracy because of the political reality that most voters are easily manipulated and too willing to impose their will on each other, though in an ideal world without such things they would support a pure democracy. On yet another hand (How many hands do people have again? I’ll use a foot.), one might not support term limits or separation of powers because of the political reality that such things are not politically viable.
Over and over I see people that actually agree or have very similar positions argue with each other – and this phenomenon happens outside of politics as well. Sometimes two people who are both moderates on abortion and can see merit in both the pro-choice and pro-life arguments will misinterpret where the other is coming from. One person might react to recent pro-choice extremism by repeating a pro-life argument and another person might assume the first to be pro-life and respond with a pro-choice one, in turn leading the first to assume the second is a pro-choice extremist. They can go back and forth for hours and never realize that they agree. We aren’t as far apart as the media would have us believe. I encourage everyone to be patient and tolerant and really listen to each other. We are more alike than most people know.
What is the difference between liberals and conservatives anyways? I find that what I am told by pundits, politicians, and even scientists does not make sense to me. We are told that liberals support big government while conservatives support small government. Is this true? There are many different ways to measure the size of government. It can be measured in the number of agencies, the number of employees of those agencies, the fiscal costs of running the agencies, the number of individual laws and regulations, the expansion of the ability to enforce the laws (e.g. greater punishments, greater surveillance), the tediousness and intrusiveness of those laws into realms that many consider private (e.g. how many ounces of soda one can order), and the expansion into realms not directly related to governance (e.g. spending money on welfare or corporate subsidies rather than on law enforcement). It is very difficult to find data on these things except for spending, and spending has been increasing under both Republicans and Democrats since the forties.
I am sometimes told that conservatives value tradition while liberals are for change for the sake of change. Is this true? There are different ways to measure change. Liberals keep proposing new policies all the time, but from my perspective they seem like only tiny tweaks to the same top-down, one-size-fits-all, all-in, big-government model that they have been using since The New Deal and The Great Society. In contrast, conservatives propose many creative new ways to order public life, such as partial Social Security privatization and school vouchers. It is only a tiny minority of them that propose tearing the whole system down.
I am sometimes told that liberals are idealists and conservatives are pragmatic. Is this true? While it makes sense to say that the free market is a practical alternative to failed liberal welfare-state policies that only create dependency and it makes sense to say that training and equipping good citizens in gun use is a practical alternative to failed liberal gun-control policies that the criminals don’t follow anyways, conservatives are idealistic in that they cannot see that neither the free market nor repealing the gun laws are politically viable. When the majority supports an impractical ideal, the practical thing is not to fight it.
Some students of political science classify people in two dimensions – one pertaining to the degree of economic freedom they support, and the other pertaining to the degree of personal/social freedom they support. Others use three dimensions – one for economic issues, one for personal/social issues, and one for foreign policy issues. I have even seen models using four and five dimensions. With all of these models, there is the problem of classifying which issue fits in which dimension. Are school vouchers a personal issue or an economic one? Is participation in NAFTA an economic issue or a foreign policy one?
Just to make things even more confusing, the way pundits and politicians arrange possible positions on a given issue into a political spectrum often defies logic. It is highly misleading. There is a school of thought popular among Republicans that we must meet every potential threat to our national interest with overwhelming force before they become big problems. There is another school of thought popular among Libertarians that the best way to avoid wars is by not being so quick to escalate. The best policy is probably somewhere in the middle. Where do the Democrats fit on this spectrum? Listening to the politicians, they would have you believe that they are Libertarian-esque when running against Republicans, but as soon as they get into office they get us into wars everywhere even when there is no compelling national interest, instead citing “humanitarian reasons” – but humanitarian reasons exist in every conflict!
Spectra can be divided up differently depending on how an issue is conceptualized. Purely pro-choice people obviously go at one end and purely pro-life people obviously go on the other end, but who goes in the middle? Those otherwise pro-life who make an exception for rape and incest, or those otherwise pro-life that make an exception during the first trimester? There exist those that dislike verbal obscenities but have no problem seeing them in print. There exist those that dislike written obscenities but have no problem hearing and using them verbally. Some people prefer an income tax, some prefer a sales tax, and some prefer a property tax. What fair way is there to arrange those people onto a political spectrum?
Among those who are called moderates there can be larger differences than between the most radical liberals and the most radical conservatives. Some are called moderates because they are radically liberal on social issues and radically conservative on economic issues. Others are called moderates because they are radically conservative on social issues and radically liberal on economic issues. Some are called moderates because they are right in the middle on nearly every issue. Still others are called moderates because they don’t care much what happens on many issues of little importance to them. There are those that care deeply about the environment but have little preference whether gay marriage is legal or not.
Even on a given issue there are at least three different ways to be a moderate. One can hold a position that is an equal distance from the extremes in potential positions one can have, one can hold a position that is identical to that of the average voter (mean, median, or mode?), or one can hold a position that is an equal distance between the official positions of the two parties in Washington at the moment. One extreme school of thought is to grant the federal government complete power to overrule the state governments. The opposite extreme school of thought is to give each state the complete power to rule without interference from other states. To some, the perfect compromise between the two is to grant the federal government only those powers explicitly granted to it in the constitution, leaving everything else to the states, and prohibiting from the states only those powers explicitly prohibited from any government. As far as they are concerned, they are moderates, but because this puts them out of step with the majority who clamor for more federal intervention, it makes them extremists. Still, the average citizen does not want to grant as much power to the Washington as both the Democrats and Republicans seem to want to take recently, yet the media will often treat those that lie between the two parties as the true moderates and paint average citizens as extremists.
The truth is that the words liberal, conservative, moderate, centrist, radical, statist, fascist, and libertarian have no constant meaning. The labels are misleading at best and divisive at worst. Don’t let words get in the way of understanding. We are all Americans. We all want to be safe, free, and prosperous, but many of us are confused and misguided. They are not the enemy anymore than those we think of as our allies. That is the greatest illusion. Start talking to each other again. More importantly, start listening again. The nation and the world depend on it.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.