Homeland Security or law and order gone too far? Is America turning into a police state before our eyes?
There’s certainly been a lot of concern the last few years about the suspension of civil liberties in the USA and the direction the country is heading. And there have been some disturbing incidents, some people are genuinely concerned that the USA is turning into a police state. Several esteemed readers have brought some of these incidents to my attention, so I thought I would discuss them both in detail and in general. What does it really mean when people when people are threatened with machine guns for wearing jewelry or arrested for reading the Constitution?
It means we are living in interesting times, that’s for sure. Does it mean we are turning into a police state? Well, not really. A classic police states occur when one has an autocratic government retaining its hold or power, and/or an ideological driven government enforcing its chosen morality on the population. We don’t even have a national police force, no one has seized absolute power yet, and as for the Bush administration forcing its ideology on the American public…”money talks” is not an ideology. Furthermore, demonstrators are not being gunned down in the streets, people are not being dragged out of their homes and disappeared in the middle of the night, and just in general I don’t see the trappings of a police state unfolding around us.
Yet. I do have some concerns, though I must note that I have had concerns since the Ruby Ridge and Waco massacres. And just in general the “law and order” mentality that has pervaded the country since 9/11 is a little scary. For six years now our police agencies have been hunting for terrorists under every bush with this “we’re protecting America and anyone who disagrees with our methods is the enemy” attitude. The fact that there don’t appear to be all that many terrorists hiding in the bushes must be frustrating, and has certainly led to some overreaction on the part of law enforcement. In any event, a few recent incidents and what I can glean from them.
Arrested for reading the Constitution? A YouTube video of some Code-Pink demonstrators being arrested. This was posted by a reader a few days ago, and while it is a bit disturbing, I still think the same thing. IE it’s really hard to come to any firm conclusions about just what was going on here from the video. Arresting demonstrators has been a common occurrence for decades, some arrests are just, some aren’t. And forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but demonstrators doing their best to get arrested has also been a common occurrence for decades. Is that what was going on here? Beats me, I’ll let the lawyers decide this one.
Repeatedly shocked for daring to question Senator Kerry? Yes, well, this incident was a little more disturbing to watch. At a town hall meeting a 21 year old student rushed the microphone and demanded that Senator Kerry answer his questions. After less than a minute he was hauled away by the police and tased several times as he screamed for help. What can I say, the police did not handle this well by any means, but the student was being disruptive and confrontational himself. Frankly I do wish police were less inclined to use force, and I can certainly see why this might be viewed as a more evidence that the police in the USA are moving from “protect and serve” toward “kick ass and take names.”
Then there’s this little incident in the Boston airport recent, where an MIT student was arrested at automatic weapon’s point for wearing a “fake bomb.” No, she was wearing a piece of lighted jewelry. Somebody decided to err on the side of paranoia and have her arrested at gun point, I mean, who’s to say a terrorist wouldn’t wear a bomb on their chest with bright flashing lights? (As an aside, now the real terrorists know how to distract our security personnel, apparently it’s not that hard.)
What disturbs me most about this incident was what the “experts” and security people like state police major said: “Thankfully, because she followed our instructions, she ended up in our cell instead of a morgue,…” Let me see if I understand this, an America citizen is lucky she wasn’t gunned down in public for doing nothing wrong? “Obey instantly or be shot” apparently is how we are defending ourselves against putative terrorists? If she had been shot, I bet many of Americans would have thought it was perfectly justified. And frankly, that sort of attitude does scare me.
Lastly we come to another airport incident. No one was shot, but an innocent lady is dead nonetheless. A lady freaked out when her flight was cancelled, she made a scene, was tackled, trussed up and tossed screaming in a holding cell…where she was later found dead. The story so far is that she choked herself to death with her handcuffs. And we are to believe this is proper police procedure? The way to deal with distraught people is to tackle them, drag them to a cell, and shackle them to the wall? And then leave them alone screaming in a locked room? Isn’t this how they dealt with crazy people in the middle ages? I’m sorry, but those effing cops were so macho that three of them could tackle a 105 pound women and chain her to a wall, but none of them were macho enough to comfort her or try to reassure her or try to figure out what the hell was going on? Give me a break, this women’s death was senseless and I hope justice is served.
So I dunno, but sometimes I am seeing more and more a trend where the police think of themselves as above the law, and the population better do as they say or else. I don’t think it’s a police state yet, but we certainly seem to be training police with the right attitude for one. Protecting Americans by using force on them at the slightest transgression has nothing to do with protecting us from terrorists, I can only hope that the pendulum will swing the other way when we get an administration less obsessed with security.
And on the plus side, the US Constitution is still intact. A lot of Constitutionally funky laws have been passed, and the executive branch has exercised powers it arguably shouldn’t have, but they haven’t yet dared to overtly scrap or suspend the Constitution. It’s a trying time for the country, and Americans need to work together to fix the problems we have created for ourselves and a changing world has thrust upon us, but as long as the Constitution is still in effect I think there is hope for the Republic.
No disrespect is meant or implied toward the vast majority of security and police personnel who are doing a difficult job at the best of times. I remind people that for every incident such as the ones above, there are many more that were handled with professional aplomb…so they didn’t make it onto YouTube or the news.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. The original photographic image is clearly public domain, the captions are from a T-shirt. My use of the captioned image does not in any way interfere with the t-shirt copyright holder’s marketing, arguably the opposite. Credit: coyotescorner.com?)