"Why We Still Trust the Police and the NSA" by Sarah Ngu

This following article is written by Sarah Ngu and was originally featured on michaelrwear.com

"According to recent polls, around half of the American public still approves of and trusts the NSA and law enforcement, despite recent revelations of wrongdoing and abuse by both institutions. Why?

I am sure there are many reasons, but it might be as simple as this: We just do not want to think about it too much. After all, our system is structured such that istheir (NSA and police officers) job to handle, not ours.

We have been criminalizing homelessness at a rapid pace. Over 50 cities have passed laws against feeding the homeless; ordinances prohibiting sleeping in cars have doubled nationwide since 2011. In Rikers Island, a large prison in New York City, mentally ill inmates make up 40% of the population. An estimated half of the people killed by a police officer have some type of mental-health problem. We are consistently asking the police to deal with the people we do not want to take care of, to make sure they don’t sleep on benches, get too crazy, or stink up a subway station—to contain the problem of homelessness, mental illness, drug abuse, etc., and make sure it does not spill into our lives. 

So when the police make mistakes, and we get mad, the truth is that we are being a bit hypocritical. The fundamental problem is not “how do we fix the police,” but why are we, as Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, trying to solve all our social problems with a “hammer” (police). When we get frustrated at the police for not doing a better job, we are really frustrated with them for not being a social worker, drug counselor, father-figure, and law-enforcer all at once.

The same goes for the NSA. We might feel a vague irritation that we are being spied on, but we do not really want to spend time thinking about terrorism and why some extremists do not like us. We just want them to not bother or harm us. If you look at Pew Research Report’s data from Spring 2014, the facts are revealing. 42% of Americans approve of the government’s collection of phone and internet data, and 54% disapprove. Given that, you would expect that Americans’ top concern about the government’s anti-terrorism policies would be its restriction of civil liberties. Actually, that is our second concern at 37%. Our top concern, at 49%, is that our government has “not gone far enough to protect the country.” So while we do feel vaguely irritated at the NSA’s breaches of privacy, when the rubber hits the road, we still primarily want them to do the job we have asked them to do: take care of us, and contain this “outside” problem so it does not affect our lives."

To read the rest of Sarah's article, please click here.

Sarah Ngu (@sarahngu) is a freelance writer and an alumni of Trinity Forum Academy and Columbia University. Based in New York City, she blogs regularly on faith and culture, and produces thought leadership for businesses.