Diary

Defunding the Police: A Personal Story

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

So… I live in a small town in southern New Jersey not far from Atlantic City, the partially shuttered casinos, beaches, and boardwalks.  I used to live along the shore until Hurricane Sandy decided to destroy my home rendering it unlivable.  It was eventually demolished, but in a story for another day, a home has not been rebuilt due to red tape and the fact my idiot neighbors who seem to suddenly forget English when convenient (whose home was also destroyed/ it was a side-by-side duplex) neglected to tell the demolition company he had heating oil in his unused oil tank (he illegally converted earlier).  Hence, unlike other Sandy victims, I did not ask the state for any help other than for rebuilding and moved into the house I grew up in since it was empty and my parents had passed away earlier.

Anyway, the town I now live in and grew up in and in which I went to school until high school (then it was off to the nationally ranked regional high school) is a city of about 8,600 people.  Of those 8,600 souls, Wikipedia tells me the town is 87.1% white, 3.2% black, and 8% Latino.  I agree with the latter stat given the sounds of the barrio blazing from cars on my street, not to mention the holes in car mufflers to give it that “NASCAR sound.”  It is a small price to pay.  They turn off the music by 9:00 p.m. and the town turns eerily quiet around 7:00 p.m. every night.  There are restaurants and bars, but the only thing “24 hours” in the town is the McDonald’s, but that has changed with the Wuhan flu.  They now close at midnight.

Politically, the town is Republican although local elections are nonpartisan.  I vividly remember the first black family that moved into town in a house not far away from where I live now.  Some people were appalled that “one of them” was moving into town and even offered a petition to “do something about it.” By that, I think they meant something involving zoning since their stated fear was “declining home values” as the result of a black family moving into town.  I remember my father refusing to sign the petition since he had met the man who bought the house and they shared something in common.  Both had been Majors in the Army, both had served in World War II in Europe and both had served in Korea.  The black man also served in Vietnam before retiring.  Since they had a son my age and we were entering high school, I remember the jokes that at least our basketball and track team would get better.  This was the 1970s in this small town.

As kids, there is a large field owned by the county separating my town from a neighboring town which is only 24% white.  We would often use that field to play football or baseball on makeshift diamonds.  Some parents would warn kids that if “those kids from over there-” meaning the less white town- came to the field we were to leave.  One supposes they believed the black kids carried knives and guns and would shake us down for baseball cards or something.  Needless to say, we did not heed these warnings and had some great games of baseball and football and no one got shaken down or stabbed with a knife.

Those were the good days.  Move ahead to the present.  In this town there is a councilwoman who is more or less a rabble-rouser publicity seeker with visions of higher office (like county freeholder) which she lost last time out a year ago.  She had introduced an ordinance in my town to defund the police.  You have to understand things.  There is no racial strife in my town and not because it is predominantly white.  It is just because it is 2020, not 1973.  There are no petitions about black families moving into town, no targeting of black pedestrians, bikers, drivers, businesspeople, store owners, etc.  If the police target anyone, it is those with out-of-state license plates speeding on the way to the shore.

A rally was organized in favor of the police and against this goofy councilwoman (who failed to show up).  About 300 people showed up including some people from Black Lives Matter with their professional “Defund the Police” placards.  At times, the chants got heated, but the police did their job as did the several speakers who showed up including my Congressman, Jeff Van Drew.  One young white guy with the BLM contingent got into a “conversation” with me.  For a radical Lefty, he was rather polite and actually allowed me to speak.

The main gist of his argument was not about defunding police, George Floyd, or police brutality.  Instead, it was trying to convince me that the answer to all of society’s ills- such that they exist at all- was communism.  When I explained that communism failed wherever it was tried, his response was, “That’s because they didn’t do it right.”  Other than the violent overthrow of the existing order, I explained citing Cuba, Russia, and Cambodia, I asked “How does one do communism right?”  Naturally, this “genius” had no answer, no game plan, no example…nada- nothing- zilch!

Instead, as the chants for and against defunding the police heated up, it was my turn since he was of the defund stripe.  I asked him that if the police were defunded, what was his alternative?  I got a lot of talk about more social and mental health services.  I suggested that should possibly be on the agenda (throwing him a bone; I don’t really think that), but what about a violent criminal?  What about a burglar or property crime?  Or drunk driving, vehicular homicide, petty theft, etc.?  Were all these enhanced social and mental health services suddenly to create a society of peace-loving people holding hands and singing “Kum-Bay-A?”

The young man said you need police for those things.  So I asked him, specific to my town, if the police were doing exactly that and doing a good job of it, why the need to defund them?  You can guess his answer- he walked away.

I know I did not convince this fine example of a product of our educational system to change his mind.  I doubt he even gave me a second thought.  If he is indicative of your average moron protesting on the streets of America today, I feel sorry for the future of this country.

As an aside, some video of the rally made its way onto Facebook and some of my liberal friends were commenting “Such hate” since people were chanting “Four more years” for Trump in the very-edited video.  I usually do not encourage crazy on social media and generally avoid political discourse, but when I corrected them about the “hate,” that both sides spoke, that it was peaceful, and that it was a proud moment for the First Amendment, I was told that “All lives matter” is just ignorance, hate and racism, to go back to watching Fox News (I don’t), and to cover my mouth with my MAGA hat (I don’t have one, but I do have a “Make Gnomes Great Again” small lawn ornament).  The accusation of ignorance was rich coming from someone not at the rally and basing their perception of reality on 25 seconds of  edited video on Facebook.

Again, I feel sorry for the future of this country because these people on Facebook were adult educators.