Andrew Lewis: Law and Order

2 min

The antidote to demonstrations sparked by police shootings of Black citizens, some say, is law and order. Andrew Lewis questions who is following the law and promoting order.

Each time a Black man or boy is killed by the police, from some quarter the tiring statement inevitably arises, “Well, he did something to deserve it.” He was selling CDs on the corner. He didn’t follow orders. He had a warrant for his arrest. These are infractions, yes. But in a civil society, no crime justifies public execution.

It should not be tolerated from a 17-year-old vigilante brandishing a gun. And even less so from those appointed to be our guardians. A system of policing that allows or even prompts officers to kill citizens under the guise of “control,” is not “law and order." In fact, it is the very opposite.

We are a nation of laws. Imperfect though they may be, they are what we have. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to help perfect them. That means that beyond all, neither citizens nor the police are allowed to be the sole judges and the dispensers of justice.

Regardless of the color of our skin, our current politics may boil down to one question: Do we believe officers and private citizens alike have the right to render judgment and kill with a knee or a gunshot in the back?

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If we allow private citizens to patrol the streets with guns, we call that anarchy. And if we permit non-compliant citizens to be subject to immediate execution, then the word for that is fascism.

If we accept or attempt to justify such killings, then rest assured, one day you or I will be next.

We do have words for that. And those words are not “law and order.”

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.