Sometimes I fear for the Bear Flag Republic.

I was walking through our beloved Isla Vista around midnight. It was a weekday and the streets were quiet. The air was warm and peaceful, pregnant with the reek of the juicy, dank joint I had in my front pocket. I was going to the beach.

I passed a group of four tan and blues. They were laughing and joking and making fun of the shortest one who had fallen victim to an interdepartmental prank by picking up a quarter that the tallest had dunked in dog crap.

I was looking them over, doing my customary “powdered sugar uniform check,” just in case they actually had powdered sugar on their uniforms — because that would be awesome — when I heard a faint cry of “blueberry vodka!”

I looked up and smoking outside my favorite beer joint were two fellow members of the degeneracy, drunk. I walked over to say hello and get the story, as any tale revolving around a beverage like that promises to be an interesting one.

But I was disappointed. Despite my hearty greeting of “Blueberry Vodka?” and an eyebrow raise thrown in for good measure, my pals were far too toasty and bro-twined to share much more than a casual greeting.

But as I left, following the police who had passed on ahead, the guy I know the least said to me, in total admonishing sober seriousness, “Hey man, in the future you shouldn’t talk about alcohol or that kind of stuff when the cops are around. It’s not cool.”

I told him about this new, cool thing that he might want to try out: They’re called testicles, and that he should look into getting a pair. Then I moved on.

Some of us on reading this are nodding our heads, thinking “Well of course, that’s a perfectly normal precaution. Wouldn’t want any blueberry vodka related entries in my permanent record.” The rest recognize this story as just another case study of a modern disease — the unwarranted and unnecessary fear of the police.

It’s understandable. Cops are scary. They wear uniforms and body armor, which makes them look fucking huge. They wear a big ol’ utility belt, with a gun, a taser, pepper spray and a variety of sticks to beat you with. If that’s not enough, they can grab an assault rife or, if they’re in the mood, a shotgun from the car. They also, incidentally, have the law on their side and, if justified, will open up all kinds of powdered-sugar smackdown on your collegiate ass.

In the presence of the police we’re always uncomfortably self-aware of our behavior, because, shit, who knows what they’re going to do next? And besides, we all break the law a little sometimes.

But remember, the police have a purpose. Their job is to protect you and your property from your own stupid behavior and and all the other uncivilized degenerates out there, but only to the extent that they’re permitted to under the law, which — hypothetically at least — we have prescribed for them. The police are here to serve us and not the other way around.

Cops are just people. They’re men and women armed with guns and the law, but they’re just trying to get their job done. They have as much power as we allow them to have over us, provided we are respectful of their position, are not breaking any really serious laws and haven’t given them any unnecessary power over our freedom to do what we goddamn well please.

We need to know and respect our own rights as individuals. There isn’t (I hope) a law in this republic that says that you can’t enjoy a hearty story in public about an activity that is legal. And remember that we’re proud citizens of a proud republic which is designed to protect us and our freedoms. That’s why we employ public servants — servants, not masters. The only thing we need to worry about are those fuckers who abuse the system and, even worse, unfair laws that encourage that kind of abuse.

Daily Nexus drinking columnist Chris Benham actually prefers Mike’s Hard Lemonade to blueberry vodka.