Social media today is rife with claims of injustice, insult, and a mob mindset of absolute right and wrong. It is impossible to navigate any social media platform without seeing examples of this. Conforming to the status quo is not only expected, but demanded. Failure to assimilate can result in harsh criticism, name-calling, labeling, and the threat of a full-on mobilization of the social justice warriors that will come to a town near you at the drop of a hat. Society is not at rest these days, with many people fighting against perceived injustices. There are also people fighting just because it seems like the politically correct thing to do. Our society as a whole is out of control, and it seems that there is no solution that will keep everybody centered. Bad cops are at the front and center of a lot of the social unrest being seen today. Police brutality, corruption, and dereliction of duty are just a few of the bad cop behaviors highlighted every day. It seems that law enforcement, once a career to take pride in, is now a shameful embarrassment and a necessary evil. It seems that way, but is that actually the way it is?
Let’s look at St. Louis as an example of this. Due to the recent acquittal of a police officer charged in a shooting death, police are now public enemy number one to many people. Any shooting death is a senseless tragedy, regardless of who pulled the trigger. Bullets don’t discriminate between the innocent or the guilty. When a cop pulls the trigger though, it causes outrage and distrust in the general public. One police officer can get EVERY police officer tarred with the same brush. In 2016, the St. Louis police department responded to a total of 289,879 calls throughout all 6 police districts. Not all of those calls resulted in the death of another person. Not all of those calls resulted in the questioning of police abilities in general. Not all of those calls caused social justice warriors to rise and cry out. But you don’t hear about all of those calls on social media. You only hear about the calls where it went horribly wrong.
The result is that even though police do exactly what they are supposed to do the vast majority of the time, they are judged by the few that do it wrong. Suddenly, you forget about the cop that showed up when your car was stolen, or when your house was robbed. You forget about the one that came out to check out the suspicious car, or the one that escorted you to the bank from work to ensure your safety as you made a large deposit of the weekly receipts. The one that let your 4 year old sit in the front seat and play with the lights and sirens never enters your mind as you protest the one that pulled the trigger. Suddenly, no police officer is to be trusted, in spite of any good they might have done. And yet, the next time you need that suspicious car checked out, the next time you need that police escort, the next time you need help, the police are who you are going to call. You aren’t going to to scroll through your phone looking for the names and numbers of the social justice warriors, or the fast-talking lawyers that claim to champion your rights while basking in the limelight and their 15 minutes of fame. You are going to call the ones you know are sworn to serve and protect, because deep down, you know that they aren’t all the vapid, evil monsters they have been portrayed to be. Society is fickle that way.
While some protests turn violent, and some even start out as violent, some are peaceful. The latest trend of taking a knee during the national anthem is one such form of peaceful protest. While it inflames many, you have the right to do it. Men and women fought and died in wars to ensure that you have this right. Therein lies the paradox of the peaceful protest. In the case of taking a knee, what exactly is being protested? The common claim is the oppression of minorities. As a first world country, we have a different idea of oppression than say, a third world country. We have forgotten how good we have it, how lucky we really are compared to many. We have freedoms others may only dream of. We have liberties many cannot even comprehend. Our oppression comes with a freedom that some would take, and be grateful to have.
Part of what makes this form of peaceful protest so repugnant is the people instigating it. It’s difficult to swallow a protest of oppression from someone that has made more money in a year than most will make in a lifetime. We question how they can even truly know what oppression is. We question why they don’t actively work to alleviate the perceived oppression, rather than passively protest it. The message gets lost in rhetoric, and so the protest becomes the latest fashion. Children that cannot even spell oppression, much less define it, take a knee. Not because they are necessarily oppressed, but because the people that society has deemed role models do it.
The peaceful protest ultimately fails because there is no action behind it. Those who are fortunate enough to not have to wonder how they are going to put food on the table, go home to their lives after taking a knee and wonder why oppression hasn’t magically disappeared. They don’t seem to understand that they themselves have actually done nothing to affect a change in circumstance. They’ve only affect a change in mindset, and with no further direction, one of two outcomes will follow. There is either no change because the impetus for change is lacking, or the change is ultimately for the worse because the unrest has been stirred but not directed. However, this is the right they have, hard fought and won by men and women that died to provide it. They cry victim, and fail to take ownership of the very real part they played in the victimization.
The victim mentality pervades society, and people today claim injury over the most innocuous of things. The latest claim to victimization is the cotton stalks for sale at Hobby Lobby. They signify a commodity supported by slave labor, according to some. It escapes their notice that cotton was grown and picked by more than one race, and slavery was abolished long ago. The people choosing to be victimized by a plant in a hobby and home décor store have likely never picked cotton, have definitely never been slaves, and probably wear cotton t-shirts in the summer. But if it remotely points to slavery, they choose to feel it hurts them on a personal level. Yes, it is ridiculous. You aren’t going to see these people protesting the sale of vegetables in the grocery store, all commodities that were at one time or another planted, tended and harvested by slave labor. You won’t see protests of the garment industry that uses that cotton either.
Our society looks for ways to have our feelings hurt. We do this in order to take the easy way out. It’s so much easier to whine and moan, to protest the problem and expect someone else to fix it for us. To actually create a change takes work. It takes blood, sweat, tears, time and dedication. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fast, and most of the time it will cause some pain. Like the freedoms we currently take for granted, it is hard fought and hard won. Without that work and dedication, all we are left with is civil unrest and a weakening of our society that leaves us ripe for ridicule, and worse.
On a personal note, offered for perspective, I am a white woman that has picked cotton. I made the mistake as a young kid of whining about having to clean my room, help with housework and yard work, claiming it was just too hard. My mother and grandmother teamed up to show me what hard work truly was. Picking cotton is an onerous task. By the time you’ve cleared just a few plants, your back is screaming at the stooped posture. At the end of one row, your fingers are bleeding because the cotton bolls are sharp and pointy, and you can’t avoid them. The heat is insufferable, and by the third row, that bag starts to feel like it weighs 500 pounds. I might have still whined about tasks I was asked to perform after that, but I never again claimed they were hard work. Thanks to those two women, I understand what hard work is, and I never shy from a task because it may be hard. To this day, raw cotton takes me to a time when two women loved me enough to teach me what hard work is. It’s a time I treasure, and always will.
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