I haven’t seen this episode of Have Gun Will Travel since, well, never. It’s a bit of an eye-opener. Larry Tate, I mean, Marshall Tom Kerry is a perfect stereotype of a bad cop: vain, overbearing, self-righteous, drunk with power and privilege, insensible to the individual rights protected by the United State Constitution. Spoiler alert! Tom gets it in the end. Well, the chest. Paladin restores the balance of power with a double dose of lead. Unfortunately, Paladin doesn’t make the dame the new Marshall. Wouldn’t that have been a kick in the pants! Not that women wore pants in them days. Just as today’s SWAT cops wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything less than . . .
military garb, thigh-holsters and all (a Hollywood western invention, BTW).
A lot of people – myself included – focus on the SWAT teams’ military gear, full-auto rifles and needlessly monstrous MRAPs. And so we should. Truth be told, this should not be the public face of a modern police force. As friendly and honest and hard-working and virtuous as these police may be, thus equipped they are the epitome of unapproachability. ‘Scuse me officer, can you tell me how to get to the Watertown T stop?
Only it’s not “officer” is it? It’s officers, plural. What if Marshal Kerry had been surrounded by a team of pistol-packing deputies; men ready, willing and able to impose the bully’s will on the town? How would Paladin have dealt with that? For that matter, what if the town wasn’t chafing at Marshall Kerry’s bit? What if they supported him? Could a single man have reversed the course of that type of tyranny?
I’d sure like to think so. Hence the Western’s enduring, even eternal appeal. But it’s not a realistic scenario. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to take on the SWAT team above under any circumstances, ever. And if such a thing were necessary, if society devolved into a criminal/cop conspiracy that eliminated the rule of law . . . I still wouldn’t want to take on the armed kneepad squad.
Leastways, not alone.
I’d want to be part of a militia: an armed, organized group of like-minded, freedom-loving people opposing the jackboot of tyranny (“freedom” being a relative term by that point, I imagine). Then I’d have a chance. Of course, that’s nothing but a gun nut fantasy, right? Unless you live in Mexico, where local, state and federal police are in the narco-terrorists’ bottomless pocket, inflicting acts of unimaginable cruelty on the local populace.
The same locale where citizen-led, illegally armed autodefensas protect residents’ human rights. As you’d expect, these groups are playing defense. The Mexican government not so much. Aside from turning a blind eye to cartel graft, violence and retribution, the federales have arrested the autodefensas’ most prominent leader and created the Fuerza Rural (a trojan horse local police force).
God forbid America ever reaches the state of play down Mexico way. Yes, but– it could happen to you! Well, us. To avoid being labelled a right wing wingnut, I’m not going to lay out theories of how and when America could devolve into criminal chaos, or point to places where you might even say look! See? (*cough* Chicago *cough*). But I will say this: the police are not our enemy.
At least not yet. For most of us. Depending on where we live. And which cop we happen to encounter. And the situation in which we encounter them. Which brings me to my main point: our real enemy is not the police. It’s tyranny, wherever it rears its ugly head. It could be in our workplace, school, Panera, city council, police department, anywhere. It’s up to all of us, each of us, to resist tyranny.
There are cops who do so. Officers who enforce the rule of law in strict accordance with our constitutionally protected rights. Who know what American exceptionalism means: that the United States is a nation of individuals who stand up for individual rights against tyranny in all its forms. Armed. No matter what these police officers wear, they are the good cops.
Last thing: I admit to setting up a straw man argument at the beginning of this puddle-of-consciousness rant. Most cops are not SWAT. SWAT teams don’t [routinely] patrol neighborhoods. So most cops don’t look like they’re ready to recapture Fallujah. (Again.) They look like this:
There is, of course, one thing missing here: body cams. Know what I mean?