Ed. Note: Before saying anything else, I want to applaud the New York Times’ merger with Teen Vogue. I was on the verge of changing my daily read to TMZ for credibility, but I’m now comfortable knowing that it has righted its ship and refocused on what really matters. Anal sex.
It’s not what I would have imagined, years ago, as I tweaked my neck watching the pendulum swing swiftly past those of us who worked in the trenches, knew how bad it was, recognized the publicly adored police and tough-on-crime blood that flowed through the veins of legislators and mayors. These were hard issues to address, which is why they were intransigent socio-legal problems rather than easy fixes.
Whenever someone tried to impose the quick fix, often in the name of a dead child, it invariably blew up in all our faces because it both failed to fix the problem and caused significant collateral damage. Sometimes it was unintended damage, but more often, we knew what the damage would be. Yet the passion of the moment, hysteria in the hands of dilettantes, precluded anyone from giving a damn. People demanded that something be done, so something was done. Years, and lives, were spent cleaning up the mess the ignorant made after the applause died down.
Today’s New York Times has some pretty scary headlines.
After Protests, Politicians Reconsider Police Budgets and Discipline
Elected officials are exploring changes ranging from defunding police departments to requiring more accountability.
Defying Police Unions, New York Lawmakers Ban Chokeholds
Legislators, responding to protests over the death of George Floyd, are approving a package of bills aimed at police misconduct.
And, of course:
Democrats to Propose Broad Bill to Target Police Misconduct and Racial Bias
Elements of the package, to be unveiled on Monday by House and Senate Democrats, are certain to meet with opposition from police unions and their allies.
To those with the deep knowledge of law and the legal system that makes one a twitter expert, these are wonderful things. A mad rush to react to undo the one-sentence concept of what has ailed society for decades, if not centuries, all fixed by the least knowledgeable people around in shifted positions developed after minutes, sometimes hours, of thought. And how could they not be sound, believing that if given half a chance, we would all turn into beautiful, caring empathetic people who would wash each other’s feet and supplicate ourselves to the
general marginalized good. What could go wrong?
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a great many reforms and changes that should be made. There are, though most of the people marching wouldn’t have a clue what they are, as the screamers have seen only the most simplistic aspects of problems and, lacking any depth of knowledge or experience, can’t possibly appreciate how they are intertwined with a hundred other aspects of law and society.
And the hucksters, desperate to push their tiny bit of the agenda while the pushing is good, will lie through their teeth about it, ignoring the complexities and the damage that might ensue so as not to confuse the useful idiots as to which side of an issue the truly righteous should support. Let god and us janitors sort it out later, after they’ve won the moment, and clean up the mess they’ve made and the dead bodies on the ground they leave behind.
An academic friend, a hard lefty type, asked me yesterday whether I supported the Minneapolis plan to “disband” the police. My reply was cautious, that without knowing what the plan was, I couldn’t support it. His response was less cautious. “I’m a lefty and I think it’s totally clueless.”
As my buddy Jake would say, “maybe it will work.” And maybe it will, but the odds of such mindless, knee-jerk simplistic fixes working are similar to putting a monkey at a typewriter and his producing Hamlet by the end of the day. And to add insult to injury, people who have some knowledge about the law, and whose passions have been swept up in the moment, are applauding these blind reactions, even though they are painfully well aware of the reality that there will be blood in the streets later.
Whether this is because they would rather risk the catastrophe of social and legal upheaval for their side after having fought it when the public overwhelmingly back the other side, or whether they just want to bask in the popularity of the moment, is unclear. But they know better, just as I do, and they don’t care.
Criminal defense lawyers, as the janitors of the system cleaning up the messes left behind by every mayor, governor, legislator, judge, cop and activist, were once at the forefront of seeking change, reform, improvement of a system that ran roughshod on civil rights in the name of safety and maintaining the status quo. We fought this, usually banging our heads against brick walls built by the same nice folks who are marching in the streets lately. They may forget how much they desire to feel safe, and what they will demand to achieve it, but we don’t. Well, most of us don’t, anyway.
When the wind shifts again, whether it’s some vicious rape in Central Park or passionately argued Satanic sex cults sacrificing children at day care, or even the dead bodies of drug dealers in the streets competing for a lucrative street corner to sell their wares, the same useful idiots will demand something be done to protect them from these atrocities. And they won’t be wrong, because the horror of a cop’s knee on a black neck isn’t much worse than a guy beaten by a gang of kids on the street for kicks and the $20 in his wallet.
But nowhere in the New York Times, or for that matter the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer or the Los Angeles Times, will anyone suggest we slow this train down, think things through, make sure what we’re doing will accomplish what we want it to and not leave more dead bodies in the streets. Of course, it’s not as if they care since they aren’t the ones who have to clean up the mess they leave behind. Then again, old guys like me won’t be here forever to clean up the mess they leave behind.