I noticed yesterday that suddenly Facebook was filling up with memes with the common theme of "blue lives matter," including one that encouraged me to share a blue balloon honoring the heroes in blue for being willing to risk their lives doing an amazing job. I did a rather snarky thing, totally forgetting for the moment that the friend who had shared it has a daughter in law enforcement. I asked "Where's the balloon for the garbage men?" Seriously. Trash collectors perform a vital service, too, and die on the job more often than cops do, so where's their balloon?
Needless to say, my friend -- who is an actual friend, not just a virtual one -- was a tad upset. I can understand why. On the other hand, the sociologist in me is super suspicious of this sudden proliferation of cop worship on the Internet. It reeks of reactionary racism. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, has been warning for years about the danger to law enforcement from right-wing nutjobs belonging to various militia, Christian Identity, white supremacist. and sovereign citizen groups. There have been a number of shootings perpetrated by whites in the past decade, most of which get barely a mention in the main stream media and are ignored by the general public.
Then a black man shoots a deputy in Texas. Holy fuck. Facebook blows up with blue balloons, Blue Lives Matter, and a zillion other memes all reminding us what an amazing job the police do every day. Give me a break. Where was the concern when a father and son sovereign citizen team shot a cop in West Memphis a few years ago? Or when that rightwing nutjob ambushed state troopers in Pennsylvania? Or several white supremacist rednecks killed some cops in Louisiana?
Crickets. When those shootings happened we got crickets. The Pennsylvania case got a little more attention because the shooter was a survivalist so the manhunt to find him dragged out a little longer than usual, but the cynic in me says it stayed in the news only because it happened during a slow news cycle -- nothing else pushed it off the figurative front page for awhile.
In my humble opinion, the primary reason we're seeing all the blue lives matter memes isn't because police work has suddenly become more dangerous -- it hasn't. The latest statistics show that the number of cops who die on the job has been dropping in recent years. We're seeing the blue lives matter for the same reason there's a lot of pseudo-patriotism being shoved down our throats. It's to distract us from the real problems. We're pressured on a continuous basis to "support the troops" and told that if we question the military's ginormous budget we're being unpatriotic. Somehow asking why the military needs as many high tech, overpriced toys as it wants is tantamount to spitting on your local National Guard members.
Similarly, we're supposed to support law enforcement, back them up, uncritically applaud everything they do, because if we don't, we're anti-police. Tell cops they should wear body cameras and suddenly we're all a bunch of anarchists who hate law enforcement. Pshaw. No one (except the hate groups mentioned above) is anti-police. People are anti corruption and anti brutality, not anti law enforcement. We're all fine with the police issuing speeding tickets, busting meth labs, and generally promoting social order. We'd just like a little more reassurance that we're not going to get shot because we're not polite enough when we get stopped for a burnt out tag light . . . or for jaywalking.
I still want to know when the garbage collectors are going to get their balloon.