Remember in school when the bad kid misbehaved and he had to stand in the corner with his back turned to the class?
It was a public disgrace to stand with your back turned to the class. It was a shaming ritual.
Now, in my upbringing, no-one ever had to actually wear a dunce cap, but that was the meaning of standing in the corner with your back turned: you were marked out as the “dunce.”
It’s fascinating to me then, that NYPD officers have self-selectively, voluntarily shamed themselves as dunces.
For you non-New Yorkers and anyone else not watching—I don’t blame you—mainstream news outlets, here’s the scoop: Many, not all, NYPD officers have turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio’s speeches at recent eulogies for slain officers.
In their press-released statements, the police officers say they are doing that to protest Mayor de Blasio’s policies, saying that he “doesn’t have their back,” so, they are turning their backs on him, publicly.
But, in psychological terms, they are merely projecting their own shame on to him, casting him as the culprit, and externalizing their own inner sense of guilt because it’s too dreadful for them to acknowledge in themselves.
Let me explain…
We are always, always unconsciously expressing our hidden truth in our words and deeds. Recall the idea of Freudian slips where we unconsciously say what we’re really feeling.
It’s the same thing with physical gestures. We unconsciously enact what we’re really feeling. Maybe I can go ahead and coin the term for unconsciously enacted gestures, name them after myself, and call them Dunloperies.
Anyway, the point is that the NYPD officers are re-enacting a ritual of punishment for misbehaving. And, they must really be feeling a strong sense of shame in themselves to voluntarily, unconsciously disgrace themselves publicly in this way.
My heart goes to them. I feel for their pain. Truly.
And yet, I definitely, even as a white male, have mixed feelings about police behavior. I am the father of two young children. I want them to be safe in this city. But, I don’t want police brutality.
I support our NYPD. And, I support them to do their duty, what we pay them for with our tax dollars. I want our police to protect and serve. Period.
When they are caught not protecting and serving, when they are caught misbehaving, I want them to be honest about their own violations of the law they are paid to uphold.
I want a safe city… which means I want an honest and honorable police force, which means I want our police officers to feel good about themselves and the job they do. I don’t want them to be ashamed of their own behavior!
And, I want them to stop projecting their sense of shame and casting de Blasio as the villain. It’s time for the NYPD to own up and grow up.
We don’t need any more disgraceful police actions against our own citizens.
And, by their public back-turning ritual, it seems that members of the NYPD do indeed, unconsciously feel like they have misbehaved. Unconsciously, they are ashamed of their collective behaviors. Why else would they re-enact a punishment ritual for bad behavior?
And, as I said already, my heart goes out to them. I want to give police officers a hug now when I see them. I want our police force to protect and serve and to feel good about doing it.
So, here’s an idea: can we give our police officers more support and more compassion to help them take responsibility for their own sense of shame, acknowledge it, integrate it, and transcend it?
That way they can be healthier, happier, more effective police officers.
How might we do that?
Psst…Mayor de Blasio…this is your cue.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Alexander Dunlop
Editor: Travis May
Photo: The Atlantic