I was introduced to the Chinese philosopher Mencius in college. Living a century or two after Confucius, he’s largely lost in the conversation about philosophy. I’d like him to Tommy James and the Shondells and how they’re largely lost in the conversation about 1970s rock ‘n roll. But I digress.
The only thing that really stuck with me over the years about Mencius was his claim that ‘there was no such thing as an unjust king’. He argued that you could a king – who was just, by virtue of being king – or you had a man pretending to be king. If a person was unjust, they were immediately and instantly ‘no longer a king’. It both complicates and simplifies issues of loyalty to the thrown and matters of conflict to justice. One can never be put in a position to choose to be loyalty to a king or to justice, because the two can never conflict. If they do, an act is not actually just, or the man is not actually a king.
I say that because recently, the pre-eminent modern politician Alexandria Occasio-Cortez tweeted out ‘America should not have a secret police’.
I agree. Given what’s been happening in Portland (and threatened to happen nation-wide), there has become the question of just what the Department of Homeland Security’s police force is, what their powers are (and aren’t), and just what role they play in modern America. All evidence suggests, they are a secret police force. And yet America should have no secret police.
So I argue there are no secret police. Police do not operate in the shadows. Police do not operate by fear and intimidation and terror. If you have a police force who does, you do not have a police force. You have a brute squad, you have an established gang of enforcers, you have a private military, but you most certainly do not have a police force.
This becomes important to note as confrontations with DHS’s PACT Force (Protecting American Communities Task Force) come to the forefront. Whatever they are supposed to be, they are not police. They are not beholden to police ideals, nor are they beholden to police fealty. I say this because DHS and other agencies insist that they are working along-side police (which isn’t the best look right now, but that’s another discussion).
This all goes hand-in-hand with another American debate, that is the bestowal of rights. People often argue about the letter and the spirit of the law, and when different people will have the same rights as other people. But I belong to the school of political thought that rights are inalienable and universal, meaning everyone has them. If the law of the land chooses to ignore those rights in some cases, chooses to insist that some people have more rights than others, that doesn’t make it right or correct; it makes the law wrong.
If someone – like say one of these PACT Force officials – tells you to do a thing, remember who you are talking to. You are not talking to a police officer. You are not talking to an elected, appointed, or otherwise justly positioned keeper of the police. You are talking to a man with a gun. Certainly act accordingly, but act accordingly. Do not mistake self-preservation in the threat of violence with fealty to the social contract. And do not think a badge makes a thing just. Justice makes a piece of metal into a badge.