When white Europeans first made their way across the continent they named North America, one of the first things they did was establish an authority to dispense justice. It was a hazardous job, to be sure, and many of those brave souls who stepped into the space between law and lawlessness lived very short lives. Legendary lawmen like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Pat Garrett, Seth Bullock, The Mastersons, The Pinkertons and more have been the subject of many movies, TV shows and novels glorifying the wild, wild American West.
Fast forward 150 years or so and you find that where these quick-draw lawmen stood we now have massive police departments charged with keeping the peace in the sprawling metropolises where many of those early American towns once stood. Ironically, with our collective penchant for not learning from history, it seems many cities in America are considering returning to the early days of the American West, with citizens fending for themselves instead of relying on an organized, professional legion of police.
Living in Texas, as I do, I have often joked that what the Republican leaders of our state want to do is go back to the days of yesteryear, giving up our cars and pickup trucks for horses and having everyone strapped with a six-shooter … or, you know, one of those automatic rifles that people keep using to gun down school children. After all, we now have this open carry law regarding weapons and we don’t like to do anything to alleviate our crumbling roads and bridges. Might as well get rid of the police and just go at it, right?
All kidding aside, let’s get real, folks. Are there are few bad eggs in law enforcement? Absolutely. Are they being held accountable by their superiors? Sadly, not all of them. There are some bad eggs at the top levels of government, as well. Does that mean we throw the whole system out and live in a state of anarchy? Absolutely not. It means we need to take become activists and create something better.
To be fair, the headlines about shutting down police departments were sensational in nature and did not accurately depict what’s being proposed in Minnesota and a growing number of places across the country. What they’re talking about is diverting funding from police departments to aid in the fight against mental illness, homelessness and education. Those are all noble causes, but pulling money from law enforcement is not the answer. Perhaps, for example, a small piece of the federal budget currently being burned in myriad wars we’re fighting without the knowledge of the American people (nearly $1 trillion annually) could be diverted to things that actually improve the daily lives of all?
Scandalous idea, I know.
For every racist, awful police officer there are many, many more who work hard to make our states, cities and even our neighborhoods as safe as they can possibly be. We don’t often hear about them because those officers don’t generate sensationalized headlines that can be used by the media to drive revenue-building online traffic.
Here’s an idea – thank an officer you see today. Just stop and thank him or her for their service. Build some goodwill in the community one person at a time. Be the change you want to see in the world. If we all take it upon ourselves to behave in a more civilized manner, society will eventually reflect our efforts. (If you’d to explore more ways you can immediately impact our society in a positive way, read here!)
It’s definitely a better idea than going back to the days of America’s wild, wild West.