A State of Fear

Despite a continuous drop in violent crime over the last several decades, fear of crime shot up in 2002 and has remained high ever since. While that stupidity serves as a never-ending source of blog fodder, said stupidity does have real-world consequences (boldface mine):

The real damage to democracy, to civil liberties, to economic justice, and to most of the progressive accomplishments of the 20th century is being done at the state and local level. And the people who are doing that damage are the people who one day will be members of Congress. That is the way it goes now. And, while the crisis in our local police forces has been encouraged by policies set in place by the national government, the implementation of those policies has been handed over to local officials with disastrous results.

The militarization of local police forces has been going on for decades, at least since we launched the idiotic war on drugs, and nobody has given much of a damn. (Have you even questioned why your local cops need grenade launchers?) The civil forfeiture scandal may have been designed in Washington, but it’s been carried out all over the nation by every two-bit thief with a badge. People have been getting rich behind it. It has turned more than one local police force into a reasonable facsimile of the South Vietnamese army. And the killing of citizens by police, and the manufacture of evidence thereof, and the perjured testimony thereof, and the complete lack of any accountability thereto, has been going on for just as long and in just as many places.

We should have meetings everywhere.

And those meetings should have as their theme one simple truth.

You work for us.

You cannot steal from any of us.

You cannot kill any of us without cause.

You cannot lie to us about stealing from us or about killing one of us without cause.

You work for us.

You work for all of us.

For far too long, the local police forces in this country have been allowed to cultivate in their membership the attitudes usually found in armies of occupation. For far too long, the local police forces in this country have been allowed to weaponize those attitudes with the kind of firepower usually used by armies of occupation. The 9/11 attacks certainly acted as an accelerant to trends that already had gathered considerable momentum; for one thing, they helped normalize a general attitude in the country that civil liberties were a luxury we no longer could afford, thereby making their violent abridgement easier, as long as it didn’t happen to, you know, people like us. But, I fear, we would have reached this point eventually even if Osama bin Laden had died as a child.

The problem is that we now have an environment where describing police malfeasance is thought to be risky (boldface mine):

This is what we’re afraid of when we don’t report that the police have too much power and simply do not live under the same set of laws as the rest of American citizenry, despite having to undergo less schooling than someone who graduated from culinary school.

We’re afraid that maybe if we write something about the police that law enforcement might single us out at the local level, or persecute us based on our prior coverage. We’re afraid—us journalists, 90 percent white at the supervisory level—might be tailed simply for driving down the street, or, if there’s an emergency at our homes, dispatchers will make no effort to help us beyond a late, procedural check-in.

We’re afraid that we will be treated like black people by police.

That is how black people are treated every day by too many police forces in America, solely due to the color of their skin or the zip code on their mailing address.

It is not just in Ferguson, Missouri, where police arrested two journalists last night for sitting in a McDonald’s, but that is certainly the worst of it…

It [police brutality and suppression of civil liberties] is all over America. It is not on CNN. It is not even above the fold on the front page of The New York Times today.

It is because we are afraid of being treated like black people are treated every single day.

As I noted regarding another internal security force (TSA), this fear corrupts republican virtue:

But the real question is why did no one else do anything to stop it [TSA agents taunting a deaf person]. Why did no one say anything? I’m sure some people just didn’t notice–you would be amazed at what people can miss. And I’m sure some people thought it was funny (again, assholes among us). But there were probably some people who were scared to speak up. Maybe the TSA agents would give you grief. Maybe they would make you miss your flight. Maybe you would be detained or even put on the Kafkaesque threat lists (the government doesn’t even have to confirm that you’re on the list, let alone tell you why) and always given the third degree. Better off keeping your head down and just avoiding trouble.

Leading to this:

So if TSA personnel call someone “a fucking deafie” or terrify a small child with cerebral palsy for no reason, and you decide to act like a decent human being, you might be put through the ringer from thereon out. Simply for expecting that people should treat others with respect.

This is how a security state, bit by bit, corrupts a republic.

Time was, U.S.-ians were just intelligent enough to realize that some cops are Officer Friendly, while others have no business carrying a badge and a gun. After the needless loss of life, what I find most depressing about how some of my fellow honkeysoids react to the most recent killing of a young black man is that they actually believe they are more, not less, safe with that kind of ‘policing.’

The worst kind of servitude–and servility–is learning to love kissing the ring on the whip hand.

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1 Response to A State of Fear

  1. bluefoot says:

    A colleague was collecting money for an event the other day and mentioned that he hoped that he wouldn’t get mugged or stopped by a cop with all that cash on him. He figured it would be the same outcome either way: threatened, loss of money and possibly getting beat up.

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