Exercise Your Civic Duty to Question Authority

I neither like nor trust authority. I never have. And I hope I never will. It probably explains why I am self-employed and have always kept a watchful and skeptical eye on anyone who has ever exercised authority over me—whether that authority is my government, my bosses, or my teachers. I am proud of this. There is no other quality I possess that makes me feel more American than my constant questioning of authority and the decisions they make. When I see other Americans putting hard questions to people in power, I feel real solidarity with them and pride in calling them my fellow countrymen.

In contrast, I hold a fair amount of confusion and scorn towards people whose first instinct is to defend power. It is difficult for me to comprehend anyone having a natural inclination to uncritically accept what those in charge tell us as 100% true. And while I generally disfavor use of the word, such a disposition strikes me as decidedly un-American. This epidemic of the unquestioning patriot was especially stark in the build-up to the Iraq War, but it is now even more evident with so many of us ceding all decision-making with regard to use of force to a militarized, insular, and defensive police culture.

I started noticing these people (i.e., those who love to cozy up to unchecked power they’ll never have) soon after the killing of Trayvon Martin. However, these people really started coming out of the woodwork following Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown. And when I say “these people,” I am not referring to those who want all information before reaching a conclusion on the shooting of Michael Brown. Kudos to these thoughtful and patient people. Rather, I refer to those people who immediately, and with almost no details of the shooting, stood behind a police officer who shot an unarmed teenager. These people are not just voicing their opinions, but they are actually handing over their hard-earned money to defend a potential murderer. As has been well-publicized, supporters of Officer Wilson have so far raised $400,000 on his behalf—which is significantly more than Americans have donated to Michael Brown’s family.

Some of these power defenders are so desperate to defend police and Officer Wilson that they have grabbed onto fake news stories that fit their narrative that Officer Brown had to shoot Michael Brown. For example, many of those supporting Officer Wilson spent days discussing how Officer Wilson sustained a fracture to his eye socket before firing his gun (eventually getting picked up by the mainstream media without a solid source). Turns out, the story was completely unsubstantiated and the person who started it used someone else’s x-rays as evidence of the fracture. I suspect that the debunking of this mythical story swayed no one’s opinion who had used it to justify the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The service provided by police is undeniably an essential one, but it is also one that if done improperly, can reduce our freedoms, cause law-abiding citizens to live in fear, fuel racism, and kill our fellow citizens. Virtually everyone recognizes the need for police, but not enough of us recognize the need to police the police, and the patriotism of doing so.

– Dylan


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