Author James Michener said, “It is one of the dismal characteristics of humanity that in any society there is an irreducible minimum of men and women who enjoy sadistic work and who would volunteer for it if the opportunity arose.” This is exactly what happened in the case of the cold-blooded, police-induced death of George Floyd. The police officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck appeared to enjoy the power he was exerting over his handcuffed victim and the pain he was inflicting on him. The more the crowd called out the officer’s actions, the more he persisted in them. Sadistic is the perfect term to describe this police officer’s behavior: he found pleasure in the suffering of others.
The problem, of course, is that hordes of us have now adopted a sadistic stance ourselves instead of rejecting sadism totally. While thousands of peaceful, law-abiding, angry, heartbroken people gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, thousands of others co-opted the protests and embraced a regimen of sadistic work: the work of property destruction, senseless defacement, and indiscriminate violence. And they seemed to do it with relish. There appears to be no acknowledgement of the black lives lost in the riots, or the crushing damage done to minority livelihoods.
History has proven Michener morbidly correct that there will always be a devious knot of people who enjoy, encourage, and commit sadistic behavior. Some of these people are police officers. Some of them are millennials making bombs in their parents’ basements. Some are teachers—like my husband’s second grade teacher who made him pee while she was watching. These are the people we despise in movies and in real life. They are the storm troopers, the Miss Trenchbulls, the tyrannical bosses, the backstabbers, and the concentration camp guards of society.
Usually these people are relatively few and far between. However, the sadist mentality is infecting those otherwise not prone to it because it is currently being framed as the path to showing solidarity and achieving justice.
But justice does not exist in a lawless society filled with people hellbent on making other people suffer.
Milton Friedman asked the question: “How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect?” This question became increasingly poignant as governors and politicians rose up during the (suddenly irrelevant) COVID-19 pandemic in monster-like fashion, stalking after our most basic freedoms in the name of our health. But now as militant masses emerge in cities across the nation claiming the right to throw bricks, deface American monuments, and kill people in the name of justice, we must ask ourselves another question: “How can we keep ourselves from becoming a pack of raging Frankensteins that will destroy the very freedoms that sustain us?”
I heard one unhinged woman say that if one of her sons had been mercilessly killed like George Floyd was, of course she would be out rioting, screaming, and seeking bloody revenge. Screaming, yes. Demanding justice, yes. Rioting, burning, and killing? No. Even George Floyd’s own brother is condemning that lawless course of action. Retaliating in indiscriminate brutality is not the path to justice, peace, freedom, or reform. When tragic deaths occur, the families of those who unjustly die are outraged and heartbroken. But if they take to the streets marauding, destroying, and killing they are removed from free society and they become the very Frankenstein they detest.
If we want justice, we must continue to have laws and we must continue to have the means to enforce those laws. Rogue police officers should be removed long before their behavior escalates to killing an unarmed citizen. But deranged cries for “defunding the police”—as virtue-signaling celebrities and politicians are recklessly promoting—is the path to mass chaos and to crushing civilized life in the United States of America (which might be the very point.) If we kill the rule of law—and any means of enforcing it—in the name of atoning for George Floyd’s death, we will suffocate the Bill of Rights and surrender any semblance of human rights for any people of any color. We do not get justice by torpedoing our own justice system.
If the military and law enforcement entities of our country are reduced to rubble, we will soon all be crying, “We can’t breathe,” as the knees of emboldened, sadistic anarchists crush our necks.
Kimberly Ells is a policy advisor and the author of, The Invincible Family: Why the Global Campaign to Crush Motherhood and Fatherhood Can’t Win.