Monday, November 28, 2011

Let's Play Pepper

Pepper is a game played by baseball players in close proximity to one another. It's also a game, a brutal game played by the police against students at the University of California campus at Davis recently. They were in close proximity too. Close enough for cops to pepper spray people as nonchalantly as if they were watering a garden. If you have not seen videos of these public servants at work on students sitting cross-legged in the quad, you need to see it right now. It's chilling and frightening. Pepper spray in the face of perfectly peaceful protesters! Elsewhere on the same campus students were being jabbed with overhand baton thrusts, female professors were being pulled to the ground by their hair and arrested. Go to YouTube. You will find video of all these outrages. Notice the Nazi storm trooper gear. It's de riguer now for the cops everywhere.

I have been lamenting for several years now what we as a country are becoming. The aftermath of 9-11 has loosed the hounds of hell upon us. It makes me both fearful and furious to see what has become of our once precious civil liberties. Now it's dangerous to confront authorities, period. But we all have allowed this to happen. By our fears, by our paranoia, by our ignorance, and by our complacency. The buzzards have come home and are roosting, brothers and sisters. And their breath stinks of rot.

Here's Matt Taibbi on this incident:
What happened at UC Davis was the inevitable result of our failure to make sure our government stayed in the business of defending our principles. When we stopped insisting on that relationship with our government, they became something separate from us.
And we are stuck now with this fundamental conflict, whereby most of us are insisting that the law should apply equally to everyone, while the people running this country for years now have been operating according to the completely opposite principle that different people have different rights, and who deserves what protections is a completely subjective matter, determined by those in power, on a case-by-case basis.
 He quotes Glenn Greenwald on the reason things have come to this unfortunate pass:
Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.
Although excessive police force has long been a reflexive response to American political protests, two developments in the post-9/11 world have exacerbated this. The first is that the U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons. Responding to peaceful protests and other expressions of growing citizenry unrest with brute force is a direct by-product of what we’ve allowed to be done to America’s domestic police forces in the name of the War on Terror (and, before that, in the name of the War on Drugs).
The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.
Both these guys are far more elegant and at this moment more in control of themselves than I am when I contemplate what we've allowed our country to become.
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