Dear people of the county:
I am your sheriff.
My job here in Massachusetts is to run the county jail and make sure inmates are transported to and from court. If inmates are found guilty I transport them to the assigned prison, but if they are acquitted, I let them go. More than half the people in my jail at any given time usually fall into that last category, while many inmates, although charged with minor arrest worthy offenses, are in my jail because they could not pay a fine or raise bail.
Out West, in those big states with lots of land but few towns and people, the sheriff gets to be more than a glorified jail keeper. In those states towns are small and spread far apart so the local police aren’t able to cover all that space between towns or the large expanses of land that belong to the county but are not incorporated into any towns. Those places are outside town police jurisdictions, so someone needs to be the lawman that can arrest people on county owned land regardless where their alleged crime took place.
Now that is what I want to do, but it’s not my job.
I really, really want to bolster my self-esteem, and to do that, I want to be like those rootin-tootin sheriffs like they have in those big western states. The closest I can come to that is to pretend, and to convince you my job is greater than it is so people will think I am more important than I am.
Here in Massachusetts towns are close, cities large, and there is no “no man’s land”, so I have decided to act like my job is more than it is and convince you that is what I need to do.
That is why I keep telling you that my job is to keep you safe. It isn’t, actually. My job is to run the jail, but you are buying that.
I keep making general statements while refusing to produce any evidence that backs what I claim, and ignoring evidence that contradicts me.
I like to tell you that immigrants are rapists, murderers, and capital criminals, but I base that on nothing but my need to say that. I ignore the studies and reports, even those of the federal government, that show that because they do not want to bring attention to themselves people who are here without the proper papers keep their noses clean since committing crimes would make them stand out. But I tell you that where there are “those people” crime goes up.
I like to claim they bring wages down, even though, again, reports say the opposite, and I warn you that they are taking your jobs even though they do the type of work you wouldn’t do even if the job was offered. Do you really want to work in a sweat shop or out in a field picking lettuce in the blazing sun with no shade?
I will tell you they are taking your jobs and then turn around and tell you they are stealing your tax dollars by relying on welfare. It can’t be both, but if you believe it, that’s all I need.
I am like the parent who keeps the kid in bed at night by warning about the monster under the bed, and will always appear the hero because I will bravely walked into the room to get something in spite of the monster being there.
Since it works, I warn you about a vague “them”, always making sure to give enough details to let you think of someone you are not, but not enough to give the “them” any substance.
No one describes the bogey man, but he sure is scary.
If you ask me for proof that what I say is true, I will just tell you that it is common sense and, not wanting to have anyone think you don’t have any, you will drop your demand for proof.
My emperor has no clothes, but you will compliment his wardrobe.
And this in spite of my demanding you accept my common sense even though my wearing my gun on my hip while I stand in a crowd of thousands sipping on a glass of wine at a huge community festival should be the obvious sign that my common sense is questionable.
I like to tell you that my jail is filled with the worst of the worst even though many if not most of the people there have driving violations, missed a fine payment, got drunk like I could have at that festival, or committed some minor infraction.
But, if you haven’t been in one, jails are scary places populated by rapists and killers. If you have ever been in one, you know many in there are just like you, someone who made a mistake and is scared.
Your naïveté works for me. I feed on it,
When you call 911, I don’t show up, neither do my deputies. They are busy running the jail while I am running around giving speeches that are based on my scare tactics. You get the local police. They are the ones who are really keeping you safe. But you forget that and think I am the hero who is keeping you safe.
I am not.
But how can you doubt or question your hero?
And, so, I claim to do things I really don’t.
I tell you I am protecting you from an enemy that doesn’t exist and you show me such gratitude.
I don’t give you any real verifiable details about the people you should fear so you can use your imagination to imagine the worst and will turn on your neighbors if they fit your image.
All this time I can get paid for not doing my real job, spend your money on wasteful things like a boat to patrol the harbor which is the coast guard and harbor patrol’s job, and on defending me in lawsuits that result from things I do to look tough, but are illegal.
And you love me.
And like a guard dog who is distracted when it sees a squirrel, I can get you to look away from my negligence of duty and abuse of the taxpayers by telling you I am protecting you from the monster under the bed.
I love you for that.