He swerved to a stop beside me in the Home Depot parking lot, hung his head out the window and assailed me like a carnival barker… “Hey Buddy do you want to buy some column speakers brand new? Two hundred bucks cash. The woofers are unlike anything you’ve heard. Quality sound, bro”.
Apparently I was not enough of a bro that he recognized me. He had already approached me twice in that parking lot in the same month. Selling column speakers out the back of a van doesn’t pass most people’s sniff test. He zoomed off and solicited three other parking lot patrons in short order. I decided to call the cops.
Verbatim as close as I can remember:
Me: “Hi I’d like to report some suspicious activity in a parking lot close by where I work. There is a van full of guys selling column speakers for cash at noon hours. I have the license plate”.
Police: “Sir, do you have any evidence of the commission of a crime?” (sounding annoyed)
Me: “Well, if that doesn’t sound suspicious to you I must be missing something. Do guys usually sell column speakers out the back of a van for cash?”
Police: “The van checks out as owned by a company that sells high end sound equipment”.
Me: “Well that makes sense. So, are you going to tell them? It’s pretty obvious to me that these goods are stolen. The manager might want to look into his inventory”.
Police: “Well sir, (sounding even more annoyed) unless you have evidence of the commission of a crime...”.
Wrong but not illegal, (apparently). I did not need a degree from the police academy to figure out that something was amiss, but our friends in blue did not seem very concerned. A little graft and corruption. We’ll take a report. We’ll think about it at the Tim Horton’s drive through… mmm Yeah, thought about it. We aren’t going to act on that.
It makes me think of the famous Edmund Burke quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That would include our boys in blue, the ones to whom we surrender a third of municipal budgets under threats that our streets will be under anarchy. Apparently, that is just window dressing. It falls under a growing list of things that you might call “wrong, but not illegal”. Well, more directly, maybe illegal but annoying and troublesome to prosecute.
The police have coined a term in recent years to describe this policy. It is called “To Swerve and Protect”. It means that only certain crimes will be prosecuted, based not on matters of right and wrong, but expedience. If things are sufficiently inconvenient, the police will simply look the other way. There is a significant increase in the kind of activity police will avoid. Any crime or disruption of public space initiated by the likes of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or indigenous groups will be untouchable because they don’t want nasty entanglements with in-your-face activists. It is simply inconvenient.
It brings me to the sad realization that some things never change. “And what is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus. He could have been wearing a modern blue uniform, given the assent that a certain amount of corruption is expected, and a wise ruler bows to such political expedience lest the agitators provoke civil unrest. Give them what they want. Toss the mob a few scraps of red meat to calm things down. Look the other way. He is just some peasant Galilean after all. No one will miss him.
That up against the more lofty ideas that have in better times ruled the anglosphere… from the Magna Carta, those famous words… “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay justice”. It is idealistic surely, but nice when it comes true in real life. Your public institutions operating on principle, not expedience.
I think it was Jesus who pointed out that you have to figure out who you are serving. The state can be easily corrupted. Personal matters of conscience, of right and wrong – most people can figure those out on their own.
“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s”. I think what Jesus was recognizing, is morality and the law are often mutually exclusive categories. You have to choose what ends you would prefer to serve. Don’t get them mixed up because the law is most often a devil’s bargain.
It seems we are surely descending into a social winter whereby a certain amount of graft and corruption is expected, encouraged, and buried by the powers that be. More than that, it seems that the state is becoming the supplier of vices, provided they can get their cut in “sin” taxes. The only problem is that you corrupt society with such concessions. It is the bit of leaven which affects the whole. Dry rot in any given system leads somewhere. If you believe the system is rotten, you will also likely become rotten, because it is the only way to get ahead. If you stop believing there are things which should be true, you stop believing in the very idea of truth.
“And what is truth?” That was Pilate’s dilemma. I don’t think it was a rhetorical question. I think he no longer knew, and that was the problem. It seems the powers that be in the west are in the process of being openly corrupted. Don’t expect the state to have your back. If you want good, you will have to do good, all on your own. Like Jesus said, “The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”. It is coming true in our time.
And what is Truth? Certainly not relative. But of course, don’t listen to me. I am just a regular guy.