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The Slippery Slope Of Heroism

Here we are again: Our focus has been turned to the killing of another black man at the hands of the police. I fully understanding the warranted rage of our black community facing another violent manifestation of probable racism and discrimination. Racism is prevalent throughout our society and must be reacted to forcefully anytime it is encountered, and particularly when wielded by people of authority.

However, let’s for a moment disregard the race of the victim, and we are left asking us how a police officer can construct a logic assuming the authority to use lethal force on a civilian posing a negligible threat. On top of this, he thinks it’s a good idea to do this in public, for everyone to see. This latter requires a certain assumed complicity or fear from the public’s side.

I would like to put to you that these two problems: belief in virtually unlimited police authority and public fear of the same would put the society, in which they are manifested, in a particular category: the police state. The more well-known police states may be of fascist nature or the examples of the old Soviet block. Where the USA lands can be debated as a separate topic. Either way it does not paint a pretty picture.

So how did we get here? How did police officers come to automatically assume boundless authority, and how did we come to fear them? The police is not solely to blame here. This as unless authority is checked, it and the fear thereof feed into and reinforce each other.

I’d like to blame perversion of a definition is the culprit, and point to us as a society as the perpetrator: We have promoted law enforcement, together with fire men and soldiers to “heroes”. We have done this even though the police are paid as well as anyone, and aren’t at all particularly likely to get in harm’s way. Construction workers are for example much more likely to get hurt or killed on the job, while reimbursed more poorly.

Two main effects are achieved through the promotion to hero-ship: Debate regarding purity and support of members of these services becomes unpatriotic, and the assignee of the title starts to believe in it himself. It is easy to see that restriction of authority then becomes an up-hill battle, and fear simply follows.

We should note that “hero” is Greek and is loosely meant someone that accomplishes great things through strength, ingenuity or courage. He or she does this on a somewhat super human level. It is apparent that very few of the people we give this epithet qualifies, and that to blanket entire services with the term does a disservice to the truly outstanding. Let’s instead use more precise terms applied to specific people that we admire.

Pre-empting a counter argument of my fellow letter writers: Yes, following the logic, we should just count us lucky that fire fighters don’t have guns or batons.

Karl Holmgren is a Jamestown resident.

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