Everything is impossibly complicated

“If you want to live, just don’t run!”

That’s a line from a conversation I heard about police killings. It seems to match a common sentiment about Michael Brown: just do what the police tell you. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when they kill you.

From a practical standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. But practical issues aren’t the problem here. From a practical standpoint, “just follow the rules” works just as well in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or in the areas of Mexico controlled by the drug cartels. “Just do what they tell you. Don’t cause any trouble.” This is the advice given to people in a hostage situation. It’s a way to try to maximize your survival when you find yourself under the control of an evil, violent person.

That is no excuse for police brutality, and it’s certainly no valid response to the protests against such brutality. In a free society, the police are not supposed to be an evil organization of thugs that we have to deal with in such a practical way. In a free society, you should be able to break the rules without being summarily executed (which is not to say there should be no consequences). “Just don’t run” is nothing more than an excuse for tyranny.


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