At regular intervals Americans work themselves into a frenzy about the insidious creeping Pussification of America. The evidence is everywhere: the Political Correctness police have taken away our god-given right to use ethnic slurs, schools are now concerned exclusively with inclusiveness (the grammatical irony of which is underappreciated), violence is unfairly slandered, and so on. Essentially, everywhere one turns there is mounting evidence that Americans are a bunch of whining, emotionally fragile wusses. Some college sophomore getting upset over a word someone used is the harbinger of the downfall of Western Civilization. In the glorious past, by contrast, people were Tough and didn't stand for This Nonsense. People had strong backbones and didn't let mere words hurt their feelings, and if someone insulted you, you (choose one: Took the high road and won through your superior principles / Punched them in the nose, an act roundly approved of by onlookers since the speaker Had It Coming).
You know the narrative.
There is no doubt that examples can be mined in this age of limitless information and habitual exhibitionism of individuals being Too Sensitive. The problem is the broad conclusions drawn from these incidents about Society writ large and the failure to recognize that finding the balance between free expression and an environment of hostility toward people of certain social categories is one that takes time and some trial and error. Few Americans seem capable of agreeing upon the point at which forms of expression become harmful to others, but there is more or less unanimous agreement that most of us need to grow thicker skin.
Except cops. Cops can react like histrionic preteens to the slightest criticism without anyone telling them to Grow a Pair or stop Overreacting or Man Up or Quit Whining or any of the other comment section favorites. The rules for non-police are clear: Whether someone uses a word that makes you uncomfortable or plants a burning cross in your front lawn you must shrug it off. For cops, conversely, any comment consisting of anything less than fawning praise is not only to be brought up repeatedly until the end of time but is justification for reacting like an inconsolable toddler.
In any other context something as utterly irrelevant and insubstantial as a Super Bowl halftime show would bring forth a torrent of words lecturing us about how easily offended we are and if you don't like it, just ignore it and all that. But we are now entering week three of police unions wailing about how badly their fee-fees were hurt by the mean singing lady. Where are all the old white local newspaper columnists telling them to shut up and grow a pair? To ignore her if they don't like what she has to say? Where are the philosophical defenses of her basic right of expression? Isn't this the advice routinely given to people who have the temerity to point out when things are, you know, racist or whatever?
If the tables were turned – and if cops had the heroic toughness we are obligated as a nation to point out regularly – it seems that the police union would be instructed to respond along the lines of "I guess she's entitled to her opinion" or "We're professional public servants, we do our job protecting people who don't like us as well as we do for people who love us." Or maybe something nice and flippant like "Who's Beyonce?" or "I didn't watch her show, it was too boring." There might even be scattered calls to take the high road and make no response at all to underscore her insignificance. Isn't that how Tough people would respond, in the traditional narrative?
Instead they're still bleating about how terribly their feelings were hurt by a song-and-dance number characterized as "anti-police" by people who seem to believe that without constant, lavish praise a police officer cannot perform his or her professional duties. To its credit, the media is not giving the non-story of their outrage much in terms of legs, but it would be nice if somebody pointed out, for example, how different the reactions were when University of Missouri students dared to complain that pickup trucks full of white students were driving around campus screaming racial slurs at black students who were such whiners for trying to make such a big deal out of it.