Many of the folks in my Facebook friends list/feed don’t share my political leanings and views, and I think that’s great, actually. But for those of you that don’t and have been good enough to read this, on the topic of what’s happening in Ferguson, please hear me out.
For years, we long-haired, unwashed, wild-eyed hippy types have been screaming about the military-industrial complex, the erosion of our civil rights, the incredibly lopsided (and frankly racist) way laws and policing are applied, and what many of us believe is a scary march towards a police state. For these warnings we’ve been marginalized, called crazy, and said to be over-reacting. I understand this POV completely; sometimes, we do sound crazy and are over-reacting. I could argue that no progress is made without people on the “fringes” pushing hard on the center (and I truly believe that’s the case), or that when you are polite and respectful you’re easy to dismiss, or that after years and years of trying to effect change you get durn frustrated, but the point is that fringe people are on the fringe, and the vast majority of us librul hippy types have been steadily gathering data, generating surveys, keeping records, and now have a whole lot of information on which to draw.
And the result? The military-industrial complex is growing–the Pentagon budget has increased wildly since 2001. Vast amounts of military-grade equipment is being sold second-hand to police departments all over the country–materials that were developed for the Marines to fight in Falljua, deployed in East Podunk, New Hampshire. The vast majority of stop&frisk stops in NYC are of black people. And everywhere, with every race, color and creed, if you don’t “comply” with everything a police officer says, even if what he or she is telling you to do he has no authority to make you do (such as forcing you to stop recording him or her), compliance is forced with violence, mace, Tasers, and often detention (even if you’re not charged with a crime). The number of these incidents, the number of armed PD deployments, the number of violent arrests and incarcerations, has increased massively in the last generation.
These are simple facts. There is no disputing them; they’re facts. And as a wild-eyed, long-haired, left-wing hippy type I ask you: What kind of state is it that forces you to comply with “the authorities” no matter what? And where “the authorities” are heavily armed and armored? That’s the definition of a police state, folks.
I’ve buried the lede here, but this brings us to the recent events in Ferguson. Ferguson is a textbook demonstration of this situation. African Americans are stopped and checked for contraband at a significantly higher rate than whites, while at the same time whites are actually carrying contraband at a higher rate than blacks! The police force has moved in to quell “riots”–riots caused by their own behavior!–with tanks, tear gas, armor, military-grade weapons, and so much other force that I was scarily reminded of the brave Chinese man standing in front of the armored column in Tianamen Square in 1989. The police have been making fragrantly blatant demands of the people of the town–illegal, incorrect, and often unConstitutional demands–and then punishing them with tear gas, rubber bullets, and incarceration if they “fail to comply”. Blacks are being disproportionately effected by this.
And I submit to you that this is a crystal-clear view of exactly the things we wild-eyed, hairy, smelly hippies have been screaming about for 35 years or more. And it’s happening in town after town, city after city, state after state. Thousands of police departments are asking for this type of material, few of which receive the training needed on it. (The military has weeks and weeks of boot camp to deal with it. Hell, it was two weeks worth of fencing lessons before they even let us hold the foils! If that’s the case for fake swords, how long do you reckon it takes to become proficient with, say, a flamethrower or a sniper rifle?) This, folks, is a Constitutional-violating, military-industrial complex-supplied police state. We were right. And frankly, I don’t see how anyone can look at the events in Ferguson and disagree.
This is coming to your town, and it may be your head that’s cracked with a baton next, your family breathing tear gas, your kids in the line of fire of minimally-trained, armored officers in military vehicles. Are you really going to wave it all away, or are you going to stand up and do something? Call your state and national congressmen; call your senators; go to city council meetings; write letters. Because if you don’t, they’ll assume it’s all fine by you, and the next bone broken by an overzealous cop may be your own.