I, too, read the story referenced by Taryn Tessneer’s recent letter. My reaction was similar to the feeling one gets when reading dark humor; Isanti County can now add itself to the no-so-exclusive, but highly dubious list of municipalities where someone called the police for help, but found themself arrested—or worse—for something completely incidental to the original situation.
While I’m certain there is no shortage of agreement that events such as those described in the original news article are unacceptable, the immutable question that everyone wonders next is: “How did this happen?”
Answering this question has become all too easy with the usual fingerpointing and public hyperventilating that generates little in terms of value to the discussion. Some blame the police, who are after all doing their jobs by enforcing the laws on the books that they have been handed. Others blame the legislature and the governor, on whom responsibility rests for the passage and enforcement of these laws. These may be interesting conversations to have, but they all miss a more fundamental point: we don’t need to go looking for bogeyman on whom we can easily lay blame for society’s ills; rather, we need only look in the mirror and realize that every problem begins and ends with us.
But once blame is rightly assigned, a new set of questions is provoked. How did we become this way? Why did we agree to a system where things like this could occur? It’s become profoundly clear in the past number of years that fear of “those people” will motivate us to surrender liberties—especially those of other people—in hopes of buying more protections from an ever-expanding and increasingly brutal government power structure and all of its trappings. But we know what always happens with that, don’t we. Inevitably, the loss of liberty is more than what we bargained for while the safety and security we thought we would receive in exchange falls woefully short of our expectations and is ultimately ineffectual and impotent to protect us from whatever specter we fear for this moment.
This phenomenon has been generations in the making. If we want to do something meaningful about these sorts of injustices, we first need to demonstrate the courage and bravery to make a conscious decision not to be afraid and to reject the seductive and intoxicating message of exerting power and control over “those people” simply because we dislike them or some behavior in which they engage.