I went to Jekyll Island this week. As I returned home, I faced the same grim reminder of evil—over and over again.
United States flags flew at half-mast.
Of course, that’s because a naturalized America citizen born in Kuwait crashed into a military recruiting center and a Naval reserve office and murdered four Marines and a sailor. As I write, it appears that he acted alone.
I’m sure you are as fed up as I am with those who have declared war upon the men and women who protect us.
People have always rebelled against authority. That’s our nature. But, in our better moments most of us would agree that we need trustworthy authority figures and that we must, within reason, submit to their instructions.
I said “most of us.” There is a segment, a very dangerous and deadly segment, of the population that works full-time at challenging those in authority. If done peaceably, that’s healthy. When that rebellion becomes violent, it must be stopped.
And who do we expect to stop it? Law enforcement and the military—the very authority figures under attack. It can become a no-win predicament for them. Their mistakes make great news.
Soldiers and cops are trained to handle a crisis. There can be no better example than the slaughter of those five military members this week. Unarmed Marines removed other Marines from danger. Then they returned to try to stop the killer. Chattanooga police acted swiftly and gallantly. By all accounts, the valor of these men and women prevented a massacre of horrible magnitude.
Here’s the rub. It’s easy to make mistakes in life-or-death struggles. And if the media, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and the motive of retaining interest in a story, acts irresponsibly, the blame game becomes unfair. That is especially true when public judgment takes place before all the facts are known.
There is a very real danger that our law enforcement officers will become so shackled by the fear of public second-guessing that they throw up their hands and quit. It wouldn’t be hard for them to find jobs with better pay, better hours and less danger and scrutiny.
Then where will we be?
What did your mama tell you to do when you were about to blow your top? Maybe we all ought to take a deep breath and count to twenty. If we do, the haters will look around and find themselves greatly outnumbered.
Most of us know deep inside that we must submit to authority. All we ask is that the authority be reasonable and fair. When it gets out of hand, Americans have a long history of bringing runaway authority under control. We don’t need violence to accomplish that.
We have a Constitution. Those checks and balances really work.
Please recognize that the overwhelming majority of our police and deputies are dedicated to the rule of law. And they run toward the gunshots that threaten us and our families.
Nobody hates dirty cops more than they do. Let’s get out of their way and support them as they do the jobs they are highly trained to perform.
Scott Ballard is District Attorney for the Flint Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.