Twice so far this year, the nation has witnessed the death of a citizen at the hands of the police (actually, much more than twice but most were not causes celebre). First Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and now Eric Garner in New York City. In both cases the officer using deadly force was white and the victim was black. In both cases as well a grand jury returned a “no bill” removing the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against the officers.
However, that is where the similarities end.
In the case of Mike Brown, crimes against persons and property were involved – situations in which deadly force is sometimes necessary. I won’t rehash all the particulars as that’s been done ad infinitum. However, based on the evidence, it seems that the officer acted after being attacked.
With Eric Garner the situation is different. From what I can see, Garner was a threat to no person or property. He was suspected of selling a perfectly legal product, cigarettes. The problem is he was doing it in a way that prevented the government from getting their substantial cut of the transaction through taxes. The police in this case were acting as agents of the state on behalf of the state, not on behalf of the citizens of the state protecting their lives and property.
I witnessed something similar earlier this year in Atlanta but with a far better outcome. My teenaged son and I went downtown to see the Gumball 3000 rally cars arrive. As is often the case at events like this, entrepreneurial types began to work the crowd trying to make a buck or two. One was an older black man trying to sell airplane sized bottles of liquor. Most people just waved him off and said no thanks. He was hurting no one. But, because he was trying to sell liquor in a way that cut the state out of the loop, it wasn’t long before the Atlanta Police had him handcuffed at the back of a squad car. A few people in the crowd, which was a mixture of black and white, began to call out to the police to let the man go. To the APD’s credit, after a few minutes they did and the man went on his way. When he was released, the crowd clapped and cheered. Though I realize the circumstances in Atlanta are different from those in the New York case, I still think Garner’s death was a travesty and the officer should probably have been indicted (with the caveat that I’ve not seen all the evidence presented to the grand jury over several months).
But, the issue here is not racism it is out of control government and until we admit that we’ll never solve the problem. Eric Garner might be alive today not, if only he was white, but if only New York City didn’t have the highest cigarette taxes in the nation and a policy of protecting that revenue stream at all costs. Senator Rand Paul makes that point here:
According to Marxist history no matter what happens the reason for it is always class struggle. What started WWI? Class struggle. What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? Class struggle. It’s a one size fits all approach to history designed to validate Marxist policies and ideology.
There’s a similar narrative being told now in the United States. No matter the circumstances if a conflict involves more than one race, racism is automatically the cause and the solution is more government control to combat the racsim. As long as we’re baited into accepting that narrative, the state gets to continue expanding its power.
Since at least the 1960s the left in this country, with overwhelming support from the black community, has increased the size and role of the government exponentially and positioned it as the solution to all problems – supplanting the family, the local community and individual responsibility. In short, whatever the problem, government is viewed as the savior.
But when your messiah is a mere human institution, you’re asking for trouble. Though it may begin by exercising power for your benefit, it will eventually exercise it to your detriment when your goals and the government’s goals conflict – which they invariably do in societies where government is large and powerful and wants to stay that way.
You cannot simultaneously support giving government the power to solve all your problems and then express outrage when they use the power you’ve given them to take down a man selling the cigarettes they’ve decided to protect you from. Paraphrasing George Washington, government is like fire; it’s a dangerous servant at best and a fearful master at worst. And as long as that master can keep us pointing the finger at each other rather than at him, there will be more Eric Garner moments.