Stop Sniveling, Get Up and Fight

I’m feeling better today, thank you, and I hope you are too. As was the case for most of you in the Ricochetti, it was a long and dark week here in the Dunphy house, ever since the news came that Ohio – and the election itself – would disappoint. Disconsolate was the mood for a few days, but we are determined that gloominess not give way to despair. And so . . .

I mostly confine myself in these postings to commentary on law enforcement matters. It is in police work, after all, that I have made my living for 30 years or so, and the reader may therefore presume that in that time I have developed sufficient expertise to shed light on issues of crime and punishment. On politics, however, the roster here at Ricochet is well stocked with people much more qualified than I to offer opinions. But still, I have found over these 30 years that lessons learned on the streets of Los Angeles can sometimes be applied to national and even international events.

In 1997, the Los Angeles Police Department was enduring the aftermath of a scandal. A change in leadership brought new policies whose effect was to discourage police officers from doing police work. Murders in the city had been decreasing steadily since the high-water mark of 1,092 set in 1992. In 1998, there were 419 murders in the city, but by 2002 the number had gone up to 647, an increase directly attributable to a demoralized police force in which the goals of preventing and solving crimes were subordinated to that of avoiding trouble. 

And so it is on the world stage. A sentiment often expressed among a war-weary populace is that America should not be the world’s policeman. It’s a tidy little adage, one that gives the speaker the air of wisdom and authority but, on closer examination, is revealed to be just so much bilge. The world, like cities, needs authority figures to maintain order, and for the last 70 years that authority figure has been the United States of America. We’ll never know how much mischief around the globe has been prevented by planting the thought in any number of would-be troublemakers’ heads that a step too far out of line would invite a cruise missile through the palace window or a visit from some angry Marines.

With President Obama’s reelection, the world’s cop will be taking it easy, hanging around the station and not deterring the hoodlums by walking the beat. And if it will not be the United States that maintains order, who then? Perhaps no one, in which case the crime wave that ensues may envelop some who today feel so secure as to take the guards off the fence. Or perhaps order will be imposed by some other nation, one whose interests do not coincide with our own. We’ll only know when it happens. In 1935, would anyone have imagined that Germany, Japan, and Italy would soon form an alliance and seek to rule the world? They saw America as weak, and by the time she showed her strength, millions had been slaughtered.

We may busy ourselves in talking about turnout models and demographics and gender gaps and all the other esoterica surrounding our political choices, but as we do so the world is watching and sizing us up, wondering if we’ll respond to provocation. I am less than confident in Mr. Obama’s commitment to keeping the world safe.

While walking the Dunphy dog through the neighborhood last night, I passed a house in whose yard was proudly displayed, perhaps defiantly displayed, a Romney-Ryan sign. I wanted to knock on the door, shake these neighbors’ hands, pat their children on the head, and give their dog a bone. The mere act of displaying that sign days after a losing effort tells me that family has not abandoned the fight, that they have not allowed themselves to be given over to the despondency now gripping so many on our side as it is celebrated by so many on the other.

There is too much at stake to quit. The midterms are two years away. We march on.