In general, I’ve avoided the issue of the acceptability of the New York Police officers turning their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at the two recent funerals. The main reason is simply that the act of the officers struck me as so incredibly immature that I couldn’t bring myself to discuss the deeper issue. It didn’t help that the issue itself is difficult. But I think I have to side with the police officers’ rights, even if I don’t side with the officers themselves, who I think are generally a bunch of whining pussies who should have gone into cosmetology rather than police work.
The argument against the right of officers to stage such a protest is that they are in uniform. I think it is sad that this is an argument that I hear a lot from liberals. But I don’t see how this really matters. This kind of thinking is what has caused jobs to become more and more all encompassing as time has gone on. The end result are things like employees being on call at all times and having to submit to credit checks when applying for jobs. It’s all nonsense.
In the modern world, we all need to have jobs. It simply isn’t the case that one can “go west” and make his living by farming some unused piece of land. All the land is owned and the poor are not born with capital. But more and more, having a job — even a crummy one — is dependent upon a worker’s being the “right kind” of person. In fact, having a saving account and a room rental are too. Our entire society is now set up so that those who most need a job have the hardest time finding one. And once in a job, the worker is expected to give his entire life to it. Just “putting in the time and getting the work done” is not enough.
Personally, I find the tradition of police officers showing up at funerals in uniform offensive. But it is part of a larger tradition of turning police officers into heroes. The recent meme that “blue lives matter” was a joke. Everyone knows that the society as a whole holds up police lives as higher than ordinary lives, and this is made official in law. I do not accept this. I do not think police should attend funerals in uniform. But these are separate issues. The fact remains that these officers are off duty and thus have every right to act like the immature pussies they are.
I don’t think the optics matter either. It is hard to tarnish the reputation of police departments at this point. Not allowing highly intelligent people on the force? Killing 12-year-old boys with nary a thought? Generally seeing the non-police population as subhuman criminals? These sorts of things have already tarnished the police far more. The only people who seem to have a high opinion of the police are the police themselves and others who have had little interaction with them.
Today at Political Animal, Charles Ellison brought my attention to a similar case where a fire chief was suspended and then discharged for things he wrote in a Christian book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? There are some vile, anti-gay things in the book. But it is his right. Unless there is some indication that he doesn’t fight fires as aggressively for the LGBT community, I don’t see the problem.
To me, the bigger problem is why it is that our police and fire departments seem to be filled with a lot of simpleminded bigots who don’t see themselves as servants of the people but as their betters. Of course, I’m much more concerned about anonymous workers’ rights that are commonly being trampled on than these well represented workers’ rights to offend the civilian population. But the issue is that we need to expand all workers’ rights and not focus on reducing the rights of the small number of workers who still have them.
Update (16 January 2015 7:03 pm)
Before someone counters me, I should be clear. The specific issue is that police are allowed to wander around in their uniforms when they are not on duty. If there is an issue with a police protests during a funeral, it should be that the police are allowed to attend the funeral in uniform. At any such event, there are paid representatives. They should not be allowed to “protest” in this way. The police need to get a much better sense (as the military has) that they are under civilian command. I am no friend of the police, but I am a friend of workers. And police are workers. And they need to act like it.