Friday, December 9, 2011

The reluctant brownshirts

I loathe that citizens versus law enforcement has become such a focus of this beautiful revolution of the mind that has swept the United States, but because it seems these peace officer . . . armies* are in full force and are only strengthening their position, I suppose it’s appropriate to tie my literary bandana across my face holes, spark the wick of my Molotov cocktail, and wind my arm back.

The nature of state and local police is to “serve and protect” as we’ve all heard so often. It seems almost derisive as I tap out the phrase because anyone who’s spent any time at an Occupy encampment will tell you that under the duress of an impending raid, these servants of the community can be more threatening than anything imaginable. Why? Because they can hurt you, and by law you cannot defend yourself. As we’ve all seen, the police can jab you and crack your bones with dense sticks; they can cut your wrists and turn your hands blue with too tight cuffs and ties; they can burn your eyes and lungs; they can swell your throat or make you vomit; they can stun you with electricity; they can make record of your fingerprints; they can take your picture; they can take off all of your clothes and leave you naked and humiliated; they can beat the living shit out of you, and if no one’s recording you at that exact moment, no matter how morally, ethically, and lawfully wrong they are, you lose. Their ensuing paperwork and records can ruin your life and they can do all of this and more with complete impunity because the government, local, state, and federal, favors them. If you stand up for yourself, you are alone.

Should that be what’s going through my head when I join my countrymen to speak the unthinkable: I don’t like the way we are being governed. It’s taken a long time for me to recognize my right as an individual to say that. I don’t like the way we are being governed, and I’ll be damned if fear is what keeps me from singing it.

I never appreciated lone dissenters who have chained themselves to personal convictions, risking their very freedom out of principle, until I stood arm in arm with dozens of protesters, nervous and dreadful at the prospect of resisting the police. These people protesting aren’t just pot-smoking kids who are rebelling against authority. They are grown men, women, and yes, idealistic young people who are through with scratching by, paycheck to paycheck. They are Americans who have been ejected from their homes or jobs or both and while they might have once crinkled their noses to the homeless person sifting through garbage, they are one and the same now. They are people bankrupted by medical, educational, and a range of other predatory debts. They are people who didn’t irresponsibly have children that they couldn’t afford or take care of. They are people who were not dragging down the economy by leaning on so-called entitlement programs. They are people who were once okay but now they are not and they have absolutely nothing more to lose. That’s when you face rubber bullets and tear gas, not because you’re lazy or because you want to legalize marijuana. Simplifying the conversation to such corporate TV or radio soundbytes is a disappointing show of ignorance and misinformation. Besides, have you ever hurt yourself when you’re stoned? It’s, like, a ten.

In truth, I see no difference in “occupying” a public space and incessantly calling the office of an elected official to air your grievances over the policies he or she is supporting. What do you think? Occupy the phone lines? Do it from a public pay phone and when the police arrive to squirt pepper spray in your face and hog tie you into their squad car, perhaps the point will be made because that is essentially what is happening.

No one is calling to hate the police. There are remarkable men and women who risk their very lives every day, some out of principle, others out of appreciation for their livable wages, reasonable benefits, and comfortable retirement. Either way, they do what they are paid to do and they do it well. But when these (mostly) good people are purchased to guard the sanctity of American corruption at the expense of the very people who pay their livable wages, reasonable benefits, and comfortable retirement, something must be done. And “Stop and frisk”? “Papers, please”? C’mon, go fuck yourself. This is all of society, folks, and as awful as past gender and racial struggles have been (and continue), if this movement is suppressed by the police buffer between the super rich and, well, everyone else, the precedent will be devastating. As a people, we will have lost. It’s as big as Egypt, where the citizens there toppled their government and allowed their military to seize interim power only to find that they can’t get it back. The Egyptian military was wildly approved of before and during their revolution, too. Now they’re maiming and killing their citizens with weapons sold to them straight out of Pennsylvania.

As usual, I don’t have a solution. Who does? I am, however, able to say that I don’t like the way we are being governed. It’s a statement that many citizens in many countries around the world are unable to utter without fear of arrest, but if this moment of dissent is snuffed out by our family and friends who wear police badges, if we join the ranks of peoples who cannot voice their grievances against their government, we as a free society will have lost. So talk to them. Directly engage. Remind them of the great responsibility that by our consent they hold custody over, and to abuse this position of power and authority that we’ve entrusted to them is a violation of our social contract. It’s a violation in all aspects of the word. Remind them that they have a choice. Remind them that bashing out peaceful dissent is decidedly un-American, and ask what would move them to sit down and not stand up when commanded by a person with a shield, helmet, club, and skull dagger. Chances are our family and friends in law enforcement have no idea of the historical parallels they’ve conformed to repeating by unknowingly becoming the next
brownshirts. Show them.

It’s all or nothing now, people, but I’m afraid that individual police officers will never understand why what they are participating in is the takeover of a free society, and I’m demoralized with the worry that nobody cares.

Addendum: Have a look at this petition, please. Thank you, Jillian.
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