Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cops and (Unfortunate) Robbers

I've been meaning to post this for a while now. So it stands to reason that this piece by Gore Vidal is not exactly fresh in my mind. The link has been sitting on my desktop for some weeks. So my memory of the specifics of this piece are hazy at best. But the main point is not gone. It's something I've alluded to and discussed here before. And that's the violence the police in this regularly visit upon the citizens. Vidal laments the situation in his inimitable way, and I don't think he exaggerates to call the country we live in a police state. But as always, he is incisive. The root of the whole matter, he writes, is the class divide in the US. This is not something you're going to read about every day in America, the land of opportunity.
The real issue is class. We have the greatest divide between the very rich and the very poor of any country on Earth, surpassing even France. And this division gets wider and wider as financial disasters overwhelm us. We were already in pretty bad shape before things began to fall apart a year or two ago. We must acknowledge that our character, never much good in these matters, is now reprehensible, and the police seem to have taken it upon themselves to exact revenge for a full professor and his—plainly, in their view—insulting income, which they figure must be considerable. [Vidal's takeoff for this article was the arrest of a black Harvard prof on the porch of his own home.] The days of greed through which we all lived now have not done us much good, nor have they taught us any lessons, but you cannot live long with such divisions, which in my view as an outsider overlooking the scene seems to be a nation of total liars. Everybody is lying. 
Call me an alarmist, but when's the last time you thought about the power of the police in this country? Check this article and accompanying videos out for some seriously disturbing examples of what is going on out there on the streets of our country every day. Seriously, have you taken a look at swat teams and rapid response guys in the police lately? They look like armies. And in fact, they are more heavily armed than ever and the shower of anti-terrorism money has really beefed these guys up. Have you checked out the assault gear and armored vehicles these guys have? How come nobody but Gore Vidal and I worry about stuff like this?
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