Something is rotten in the state of… Utah: The Kafkaesque scene at the University hospital

Our law enforcement is a great blessing that can help keep our families and communities safe. I grew up having a deep respect for policemen, a few that attended my church congregation. On some Sundays, they were on duty, but they still were able to make time to come to sacrament meeting all in uniform. I’m grateful for their bravery and willingness to put their lives on the line.

But that doesn’t stop some anxiety when we encounter law enforcement ourselves (that feeling when you get pulled over!), and some of the downright wrong incidents that have occurred with law enforcement in the past few years. You’ve probably seen the article already that is going around this past week: Video shows Utah nurse screaming, being handcuffed after refusing to take blood from an unconscious victim. I couldn’t imagine what was going through this policeman’s head as he was handling this nurse who was very dutifully doing her job. Was he not aware of the pretty bad press law enforcement has been taking? His gruff response to the nurse standing up to him was harsh: “I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow.” I think policemen would try to interact kindly with civilians, rather than touting their authority and coming off as aggressive.

The incident reminded me eerily of the novel “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, that illustrates the seeming chaos that can ensue with mediocre bureaucrats. On morning, the main character K. wakes up to find himself arrested: “Someone must have slandered him, because without so much as doing anything wrong, K. woke up one morning to be arrested.” Two gruff policemen greet him at his door one morning, informing him that he would have to come with him—with absolutely no explanation. “Why?” he asks. “We are not at liberty to say. Go to your room and wait. The trial has already begun, and you will find out everything at the right time.”

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Then, waving his authority around and trying to seem gracious while he is about it, the policemen says, “I go beyond the realm of duty when I talk to you so kindly. When you have the same luck with the choice of your guards, then you can be glad.” Thanks for talking to me like a human being!

You never do find out why K. was arrested. And I’ll let you find out whether he is convicted or not. At least today’s story did have a happy ending; the nurse was released, some form of action is being taken against the policeman, and there will hopefully be some longer-term institutional changes at the police station in question.

We’re not a dystopia yet.

Image source: Der Prozess by Franz Kafka, published by Suhrkamp 2005.

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