A Geneva police officer was upset when he thought a city counselor had scrawled unflattering words about police on the sidewalk, in chalk, in front of the Public Safety Building during a public demonstration. That was his explanation for creating what was deemed a threatening screensaver aimed at that council member. Appropriately he was disciplined. I also hope that he (and anyone under such circumstances) was also encouraged or even expected to receive therapy or spiritual direction.
Public servants, particularly those who carry guns in the course of their work, cannot allow resentment to be an unchecked part of their character. Imagine if our physicians allowed personal feelings towards us, their patient, to influence the treatment plan they prescribed? Or even pastors like myself, imagine if we allowed the paucity of someone’s donation to influence whether we provided them with pastoral care in a crisis?
Resentment is a choice — the choice to re-feel a grievance over and over and over again. Instead, when we incur a bruising, whether emotional or physical, we need to deal with those feelings out loud and resolve them rather than allow them to seethe out through our actions. Public servants and those in elected office, or those behind the scenes like assessors or building inspectors, need to pay attention to their mental health and character nurture. It should even be something provided to them and expected as part of their employment. We cannot afford for those to whom we give power to be people of persistently poor judgement or anemic character.
While I am on the subject, at least tangentially, allow me to ask how civic leaders and office holders calling for the elimination of the FBI is not the same as the “Defund the Police” slogan the same people decried not so long ago? Our public discourse oozes with resentments and bitterness rather than an effort to pull the heavy ship of state forward together.
Anything, it seems, is fair game if far enough away. Proclaiming open season on the lives of FBI agents and federal judges, which has been happening since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, is exactly the same as calling for the death of men and women who patrol our cities and towns? Fortunately, we rarely hear such close to home violent rhetoric, where it would be very personal.
After the heartbreaking opening day of the January 6th Congressional hearing, with Capital police officers describing the violence and hatred they endured (and against some who did not endure), “Back the Blue” seems like a hollow slogan that only applies to local police. Regardless of our political opinions, we cannot accept sloganeering tipped with violence or persecution from any quarter. It should be a cause for dismissal or impeachment when uttered by public servants, office holders, media personalities, or civic leaders.
If I started shouting the same things on a street corner in downtown Geneva that some politicians and media figures are proclaiming these days, I would likely be arrested and perhaps sent for psychiatric observation. Anyone holding office, from City Court Judge to City Council member, should have far less latitude to use violent rhetoric than ordinary citizens. If someone can be prosecuted for yelling “Fire!” in a theater, why should media personalities, public servants, and office holders be allowed to echo or provoke violence?