But there was nothing Onion-like about Thursday's "open letter" from Dave Mutchler, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Louisville.
I write not as a candidate, just as an ordinary citizen engaged for many years in the pursuit of small business -- and moreover, as someone who tries to live by the rules of the game and tries his best to know why we have these rules, and what they mean.
I know plenty of policemen, and do my best to support the cop on the street. Always have, always will, and yet Mutchler's words were absolutely blood-curdling for anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to the outside world.
"Sensationalist, liars and race-baiters" sounds plainly like rhetoric pulled directly from the worst chapters of 20th-century history books -- you know, the ones we typically refuse to read -- as uttered by people in Mutchler's position in places like Franco's Spain, the Uganda of Idi Amin, or in East Germany.
And let me tell you that having traveled in Communist countries, policemen were feared, precisely because the definition of who constituted a "lawless element" was subject to change on whim.
At Insider Louisville, Joe Dunman offers his usual precision take.
Opinion: In a free society we are entitled, right or wrong, to criticize the actions of public servants — including police.
... Mutchler’s letter is so dangerous because police officers wield tremendous power and privilege. Our life and liberty as citizens are often literally in their hands. When someone claiming to represent police officers puts citizens “on notice” for their “attitude,” promising to meet them “with force” should they dare not comply with orders, it invokes the most terrifying aspects of a fascist police state.
Police are public servants. They answer to all of us as citizens, even those who don’t reflexively defend their every action. They don’t get to decide who in the community they will protect and who they will target for retribution. That’s not how a democratic, constitutional society works.
I assume by criticizing Mutchler’s ill-conceived threats to the public I will be added to his list of “sensationalists, liars, and race-baiters.”
So be it. In a free society we are entitled, right or wrong, to criticize the actions of our public servants without fear of retribution by agents of the government. Those public servants swear an oath to the Constitution, which still includes, much to Mr. Mutchler’s apparent disdain, the First Amendment.
Of course, Mutchler's subsequent denial of a threatening tone to the words he chose to use testifies more than anything else to several generations of Americans passing through the portals of our education system without instruction as to the meaning of words and how to write them coherently.
The letter was so disturbing that even the milquetoast Courier Journal was moved to rare editorial eloquence.
Editorial | Don’t let Mutchler inflame tensions (The Courier-Journal)
... Then, we had to spend a day trying to make sense of the uncivil and unproductive letter from Fraternal Order of Police president Dave Mutchler.
Knowing that our own words are often misinterpreted or misunderstood, we read and re-read his comments. We tried walking a mile in the shoes of an obviously frustrated FOP president. But those shoes kept getting mired in one of the key byproducts of the backside at Churchill Downs.
There are times when we're looking for answers, and while the right answer may be elusive, we can at least eliminate the wrong ones. Mutchler's letter was just such a wrong answer, and that's the best I can do at the moment.
Following are two other explanatory links.
Local FOP president sends threatening open letter to ‘sensationalists, liars and race-baiters’ (UPDATED), by Joe Sonka (Insider Louisville)
Mayor and police chief issue condemnation of FOP president, by Joe Sonka (IL)