Since the murder of George Floyd, cities across America have erupted in fiery disarray, ensconced in violence, fear, and apathy. And certain Americans only have themselves to blame.
In response to the incensed rioters, President Donald Trump promptly declared himself the champion of “law and order” after threatening to quell the protests with overwhelming force.
Indeed, some Americans profess a “law and order” mindset, which is quite understandable upon first glance; after all there are riots and looting erupting across the country.
But this mentality leaves absolutely no room for dissent.
It is a robotic calculation: if you violate the law, you face its penalties. Any extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to your lawlessness? Maybe it was a bad law or victimless crime? Too bad. You broke the law, now you bear the cost.
Any alternative to extreme force is viewed as chaos-inviting, lukewarm, and ineffective tactics that will permit violence to consume America. When law and order reigns supreme, any detractors are threatening the very stability of a society and all life within it.
And what happens to threats? Just ask George Floyd.
It’s clear as day: the law and order mentality asphyxiated George Floyd. And it will continue to throttle more souls until it’s fully replaced with a mature understanding of law enforcement and their proper role in a free and just society.
The “Blue Lives Matter” movement exemplifies the misunderstanding of police’s proper function. Similar to how Black Lives Matter activists erroneously deem every instance of injustice against minorities as an act of racism, the Blue Lives Matter crowd treats cops as sole custodians of order and decency in civilization. This is known as the “Thin Blue Line.”
A quick trip to Blue Lives Matter’s website yields several articles emblematic of this slavish attitude: One hit-piece blasts libertarian-leaning congressman Justin Amash for trying to reform qualified immunity, a legal doctrine which largely shields police from litigation for misconduct. Another piece indirectly defends Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, by using the medical examiner’s report to insinuate that he didn’t play a role in Floyd’s death.
Look at the Blue Lives’ “About Us” section of their website:
“We are supported by Americans who believe in law and order and want to provide a counterbalance to the dangerous false narratives being propagated about law enforcement.”
It’s quite easy to see how this mentality led to Floyd’s slaughter.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin, Floyd resisted getting into the police car while in handcuffs. Resisting arrest, along with counterfeit currency (which Floyd was arrested for), do indeed violate the law.
There’s the law, and so here comes ‘order:’ Floyd broke the law. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t breathe, or that he virtually posed no threat to the officers or their attempt to arrest him. All that mattered is that, in that moment, he was no longer treated like a human being but instead as a criminal that must be punished. Law and order, they say.
Just because law and order gives you an “orderly” society, doesn’t mean the methods were ethical.
Breaking the law may have institutionally forbidden consequences, but it can be (and often is) a virtuous action. Quite plainly: breaking the law is not committing an injustice. Ironically, following the law is often the height of injustice.
In the 19th century, French economist and political theorist Frederic Bastiat posited that the police are tasked with preserving three things: Life, liberty, and property. According to Bastiat, any action outside those parameters becomes excessive and destructive to the government’s true purpose.
This is what the “law and order” crowd misses: The law does not exist for its own sake; it exists to protect rights. If it does not protect rights, it’s no longer a fundamentally legitimate law.
For millennia, tyrants have used “legality” as a smokescreen to perpetuate destruction. McCarthy’s trials? Legal. Jesus Christ’s execution? Legal. Socrates’ plight? Legal. And the list continues.
They were all permissible by law, but still quite immoral. If the law itself is immoral, societal breakdown is the least of your worries.
As long as Americans support “following the law” for the sake of “following the law”, police brutality will proceed unabated and the law will never fulfill its true purpose.
My heart bleeds for George Floyd, David McAtee, Breonna Taylor, Duncan Lemp, and all the other innocent people whose senseless murders by police are justified by “law and order.”
But this situation leaves me with one question:
Will these deaths serve as a catalyst for some Americans to transform how they view law enforcement?
Or will the Blue Lives Matter crowd destroy America with their “law and order”?
Christian Watson is a political writer based out of Georgia and host of the Pensive Politics podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @OfficialCWatson.