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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When I was in college, I thought cops were the bad guys. That's based partly on what I saw every night on the evening news. (And yes, the news was actually watchable in those pre-cable days.) But it's also based on what I saw with my own eyes. If you thought Berkeley and Columbia were the only universities where confrontations went beyond peaceful, you missed what was happening in Santa Barbara (and a hundred other campuses).

For most of my life, though, I've thought of police officers as good guys. That's based on every single one-on-one interaction I've ever had with a cop. That includes not only the ones I've known personally, but the ones I've encountered "on the job" (as they say on TV cop shows) — even the guy who gave me my one and only ticket, for passing over a double yellow line. (I deserved that, by the way, although I wouldn't have felt any guilt if I'd got away with it.)

Now I'm thinking the truth is somewhere in between. Cops are certainly no worse, as a group, than football coaches or priests, or some members of other professions that are generally held in high regard. They're definitely not as bad as the politicians who send them into peaceful situations knowing their presence will cause injury and destruction of property. And they're not as bad as the privileged few in whose name the trampling of rights is conducted.

This isn't Syria. It isn't even the Sixties. But even though lip service is paid to the phrase "liberty and justice for all," it's apparent we still have to fight for it, some way, somehow. When those in power are afraid of free speech is the time it's most needed. They're afraid of us, but they shouldn't be. They should listen to us. They should join us. Freedom from greed is one of the higher forms of liberation.

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