What has spawned such an opinion towards the 'defenders of the peace'?
Ask any American – Black, White or otherwise – what kind of emotions they experience when they see a police cruiser in their rearview mirror and the answer will likely fall somewhere between a feeling of absolute dread and sheer terror. Like the sensation of being on a rickety roller coaster, the driver will experience white knuckles and butterflies in the stomach as he or she attempts to operate the vehicle with slippery wet hands, all the while praying that the automobile is not suffering from a burnt-out tail light or expired registration.
And in the event that the flashing lights on the prowling cruiser flicker to life amid the wail of a siren, the fun and games have just begun. In fact, tourists to the US should be carefully instructed on proper police etiquette should they ever find themselves pulled over in the land of the free. Rule number one, two and three is that you never, and I do mean never, place your hands anywhere else than on the steering wheel. The officer, far more inclined to believe that you are reaching for a hand cannon than making some sort of foolhardy attempt to conceal a bag of donuts or empty beer can, will not hesitate to respond with all of the hellfire at his disposal.
In other words, much of the antagonism that currently exists between the American taxpayer and these dutiful public servants comes down to the question of guns – 393 million of them to be exact, enough for every man, woman and child to possess a firearm with more than 60 million guns left over. Thus, every time that the police respond to an emergency, their primary consideration is whether or not a firearm will be part of the equation. After all, police are humans too and have no death wish. This sort of inherent paranoia that derives from a gun culture on steroids is unique to the United States and, incidentally, almost unheard of in Russia.
The other day I had an experience that provided the inspiration for this article, and which reminded me of something a friend told me many years ago: 'Russians are from Venus, Americans from Mars.'
I had just left my apartment building, located in the south of Moscow, when I saw two patrol cars cruising past just feet away. I could see that the officers inside of the vehicles were dressed to impress – helmets, flak jackets and machine gun nozzles protruding conspicuously upwards from their crotches like some kind of Freudian slip.