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Cutting Off Your Nose

It’s an old idiom, maybe hundreds of years old, but it’s quite appropriate these days. The saying goes like this: “Cutting off your nose to spite your face.” One legend has that a monastery was going to be attacked by some Vikings. The nuns in the monastery cut their noses off so that they would have no attraction for the pillagers. I don’t know whether that’s true or not.

We know the meaning of the proverb. Sometimes our reactions to what is going on are more injurious to the reality of our situations. A version of the proverb might be the president’s statement of a few months ago that we should be careful to not let the cure be worse than the problem.

One of these days, we may look back at the shutdown of our economy and realize that it was an overreaction to a health situation that could have been better addressed. I don’t know that that is the case and hindsight is always 20/20.

It’s the same with the legitimate protests over the death of George Floyd. I have heard no one support that Minneapolis policeman’s actions. He and those who should have stopped him have been appropriately arrested and charged. I imagine they may never see the light of day again. Neither will George Floyd.

There was all the reason needed to protest and no place for law enforcement officials to take advantage of the power they are given to keep us safe.

At the same time, the city of Minneapolis might never be the same. As valid as the protests were, the calls to eliminate the police force seem to be an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I’m sure their City Council understands that some version of law enforcement is needed. Or, I hope they understand that.

There is a principle that says “Nature abhors a vacuum.” That means that whenever there is a gap, something is going to fill it. The absence of a police force will be filled by something and it probably would be something worse. The very people who need the police the most will be the ones who are harmed the most.

I know that no institution is perfect and we have seen plenty of examples where law enforcement seems to have overreacted. I also know that we have not seen the other side of the coin enough. Unfortunately, the bad actors in any institution get the press while the overwhelming and much greater number of good actors seem to go without mention.

For every one who abuses their power, there are hundreds or thousands who follow the law that they have chosen to enforce. We should not pay them simple “lip-service.” Life is uncertain for all of us, but most of us work in safe places and we know what we will be doing.

It is true when it is said that when they leave for work, they have no idea what they will encounter. Most of the time it is routine, but there are those times that come unexpectedly when they are called to lay their lives on the line.

We are a nation of laws; that’s one of the most valuable aspects of our nation. We should be thankful for those who have chosen to obey and protect those laws. Are they perfect? Are you?

To think that we could have a peaceful nation without those who are called peace officers is foolish. And to disrespect them would be the same as cutting off your nose to spite your face.