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Everyone Wears a Badge

Everyone Wears a Badge

Everyone wears a badge these days. There are some who’d like to make it literal – give everybody a gun and let them sort out their own problems without help from the cops. Also, I’ve been seeing more than a few Libertarians referring to our current state of affairs in America as a “police state.”

The ignorance of that proclamation aside, the people who make it have no clue what an actual police state looks like. In an actual police state, you could be taken away from your home and your family in the middle of the night just for saying something like that on the Internet. In an actual police state, you live in constant fear of what you say and do and who you say and do things in front of. Anyone can turn you in – including your own family. Including your own children. So if you think we’re living in a police state, you’re as dumb as a rock. Go live a few months in North Korea and come back and tell me what a police state we live in.

But that’s not really the point I want to be making, although it is important. People who complain about the police need a reality check. Like any occupation, there are people who are better at it than others and once in awhile there are clearly incompetent people who become police officers. Yes, there can also be corruption – but there can be corruption in any human endeavor. There is corruption at fast food companies and television networks and oil companies and convenience stores and software programmers. It may take different forms, but it’s there but it simply doesn’t get the same sort of media attention as it does when it is found in a police force.

For every corrupt cop however there are hundreds who are not. There are plenty of police officers who go to work every day with the understanding that they might not come home and still manage to be courteous and polite even to people who don’t deserve it. I’ve been fortunate to be friends with law enforcement officers and let me let you in on a little secret – they’re pretty much just like the rest of us. They have a sense of humor that can be pretty warped, while some of them have no sense of humor whatsoever. Some of them love sports while others prefer movies. Some of them listen to country music while others prefer rap. Pretty much the only thing most cops have in common is that they’re woefully underpaid for what they do.

Sure it can be annoying when you get pulled over but generally speaking if a cop pulls you over to the side of the road, you’ve likely done something to deserve it. Yeah, sometimes they make mistakes but by and large when I’ve been given a ticket I’ve pretty much earned it. I’m sure that’s true of most of us.

Cops get to see people at their very worst; the criminal element, the entitlement element, the angry and bitter element – all of that is part of their working day. Nobody likes getting a ticket, but it is a necessary part of our society. If there wasn’t a speed limit, there’d be absolute carnage on the roads. As a rule, Americans are piss-poor drivers. We’re horribly distracted, we don’t pay attention and we don’t put our primary focus on what we’re doing. It’s just another lovely side effect of our ADHD society. Autobahns wouldn’t work here for that reason.

So when you get pulled over, try not to give the officer attitude. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing and let’s face it, you messed up. Own it. Be respectful and courteous to the person writing the ticket. Yeah, it’s a bitch but if you mess up, there are consequences. That’s what being an adult is all about. Giving a police officer your sullen rude behavior is the very worst thing you can do; they’re more likely to give you a hard time back if you’re a jerk. So don’t be a jerk.

The same goes for TSA agents at the airports. Like you, I can get frustrated at the long lines at airport security. Like you, I get pissed off that we have to leave our water bottles at the security line, or not bring any liquid into the boarding area larger than what you can pack in a shot glass. Don’t blame the TSA agents however – blame the dumbasses who go on planes with the express intention of blowing them up. Blame the guys who don’t have a problem killing innocent people to make a political point.

Sure, TSA agents can get testy – they are human beings as well. They have to listen to passengers gripe and bitch and moan all day long. They have to deal with dumbasses who try to go through the metal detectors with their shoes on after being told three times that everyone needs to get their shoes off. They deal with idiots who forget to take their keys out of their pockets, or pack their guns and knives in their carry-on bags. They have to deal with families with six screaming kids who can’t get their act together, and with older people who have difficulty getting through the metal detector unaided, or with would-be comedians making inappropriate jokes.

For my part, I don’t know how necessary these precautions are – something tells me that they’re not as important as they were in 2002. I think we should take a good, long look at whether we need to relax these security measures although I’m reasonably sure that they never will be. If that’s the case, we’ll just have to learn to live with them and at least give the TSA agents the respect that they’re just trying to make our travel a little bit safer than it might be otherwise.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need TSA agents or police officers. This world is far from perfect however. It is full of people who don’t give a damn about your rights and how hard you worked to earn what you have; they’re all about taking it from you. They’re all about taking shortcuts. Sure, our police and TSA aren’t perfect. Like any job, people perform to varying degrees of competence in law enforcement. You may not like what they do or like that we need to have them but when the chips are down you may one day be glad that they are there. I sincerely wish you never need them, but you know what? It wouldn’t kill you to thank them for their service even if you never do need them. Let them know they’re appreciated. Go ahead. Make their day.


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