Authority in the United States is given too much room for error and interpretation. Allowing authority figures, paid for by the American tax dollars, too much leniency is like two parents telling a child not to open the cookie jar, but then leave him unattended for a week. Eventually the cookie jar will be opened. Unmonitored and unjustified authority can become a hazard to the security of the citizens who no longer pay it any attention.
One example of this hazard is Milgram’s Experiment. The experiment set up a fake student and teacher dynamic with a scientist, the figure of authority, as the program director. The student was placed in a separate room and strapped to a fake shock therapy device while the teacher and scientist were in a completely separate room equipped with the shock therapy console to administer shocks at each wrong answer the student gave to the teacher’s questions. The teacher was led to believe the shocks were real, and by the commands of the scientist, shocked the student every time they answered a question wrong, even if the student warned they had a heart condition, begged, cried, screamed or pled through the microphone for the teacher to stop the shock therapy. As long as the authority figure pushed the teacher to administer the next shock, 70 percent of them did so until they had “killed” the student in the other room. This experiment acts as a cautionary tale of listening to authority out of respect for their position and how it can lead to a very dangerous place.
President Obama is quoted as saying, “... our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.” But what happens if the police officers themselves, or any figure of authority, don’t follow a moral compass or the law? What happens if we follow authority for authority’s sake or if we forgive what they do simply because they “have a tough job to do”?
Authority figures are not incapable of being wrong or corruptible. Eric Garner gave in to the police and their authority after being caught selling individual cigarettes on the streets of New York and, instead of enforcing the law by simply arresting Eric and holding him as innocent until proven guilty, the officers put him in a chokehold and he died as a result.
Freddie Grey suffered a similar fate in Maryland. Instead of officers simply holding him, they dragged him into a van and upon arrival to the police department it was discovered that the base of his neck was 90 percent severed from the rest of his spine. This entire event lead to thousands of people peacefully protesting in Baltimore, Maryland, which was, instead, displayed to be hysterically conducted riots by authorities in the media. This lead to the unnecessary declaration of martial law and the call in of the National Guard to control the supposedly unruly masses and establish law and order in Baltimore.
The authorities break their own rules while also escaping punishment for it. The CIA escaped punishment after proof was provided of illegal torture methods to Congress just this past year. President Obama retained his position despite the illegal search and seizures of the National Security Agency. We have even waged an illegal war in Iraq based on false information of weapons of mass destruction . It is the events listed above that bring to mind disturbing words from Hitler, “We need law and order! Without law and order our nation cannot survive!” Hitler preached respecting authority for authority’s sake, and, in “Mein Kampf,” sealed his intentions by writing, “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.”
We must not accept authority for authority’s sake. It is our duty as American citizens to ensure that every search and seizure, every action by our legislators and executives and judges and every war declared is justified, legal and moral. If we do not, we risk great suffering from the mistakes and immorality of our authority figures.