Dan Popp
Musings on authority and law in the firelight of Ferguson
By Dan Popp
November 27, 2014

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. – Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat, 1965

Conservatives who say that African Americans should be more concerned about the tsunami of black-on-black crime than about one black man killed by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri are missing the point, I think. Yes, anyone who truly cared about the lives of innocent black people would start by railing against the genocidal abortion rate in the African American community; then move on to the killing fields of our urban ruins; and eventually come to the relatively small and diminishing problem of police prejudice. But that's apples and oranges. The black teens killing each other aren't paid to protect and serve. We're directly responsible for what cops do; not for what gangbangers do.

When we strip away the emotion and the race-baiting rhetoric about "legacies," the questions that remain are: Do police have to obey the law? and, Did this police officer obey the law in this situation? The idea that police are above the law, special, more equal than others, wasn't pulled out of thin air. Someone who kills a secretary will probably get to live out the rest of his natural life, and a "cop killer" will not. This isn't just. If anything, we could say that the penalty for killing a grandma should be greater than for killing a cop – but I'm not advocating that. I'm merely advocating the same swift and certain death penalty for anyone who intentionally kills an innocent person of any description.

But there are more subtle ways in which we're informed that law enforcement professionals are special. While the rest of us have to obey the laws on the books, our nation's top law enforcement officer makes up his own rules. The legislators of the land have a similar deal: this new law applies to thee, but not to me. And judges rewriting laws were a problem even in Thomas Jefferson's day. All of these, from the rookie policeman up to the President, are our delegates. We authorize them to use force for the righteous purpose of maintaining a righteous society.

So, then, unrighteous use of force is not authorized, and should be punished most severely. And because of this, when there's a question of whether one of our agents has used force unjustly, we must investigate it thoroughly and hold him or her to the strictest account. But that means that the policeman, judge, legislator or executive must be held to account for his actions in this situation only. There's no such thing as justice to me, today, for what other people did hundreds of years ago.

This explains why the professional racists who descended on Ferguson, Missouri made instant parodies of themselves: Most of them favor cops breaking the law when those cops are in the oval office and when the law works against their wishes. But they oppose cops breaking the law when a dozen eyewitnesses and three autopsies say the cop didn't break the law.

Further, these same vultures encourage mass lawbreaking in the form of rioting, looting and burning the businesses of innocent store owners. So they're enraged at lawbreaking that didn't occur, and enthused about lawbreaking that is occurring – including more people dying in the name of [you tell me]. Thus they destroy the foundation upon which they could have stood to make their protest. The only possible foundation for judging power is something greater than power, and that is righteous law. But that is what they reject with their mindless violence.

You can't have it both ways. If some of us are above the law, then all of us are above the law, and there is no law, only power. If illegal aliens don't have to obey the rules, then why should African Americans obey the rules? If blacks and browns are above the law, why not whites, yellows and reds? If one man in Washington DC can strip all of us of our constitutional protections at his will, then on what basis could we continue to obey him as a lawful authority? Without law, which he rejects, he has no authority. He has undeputized himself. If our delegates in Congress refuse to stop his lawlessness, they give up their rightful power as well, and our lawful society is pretty much over.

Let's circle back to the "tragedy" of Michael Brown. No, not the tragedy that he was killed; it's never a tragedy when a thug dies. The tragedy was that his father or stepfather didn't train and discipline him to become a civilized man instead of a thug. His tragedy was a lack of lawful authority in his young life. Apparently he never learned respect for authority, or for law. And that problem is the same on West Florissant as it is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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