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Monday, November 28, 2011

This is What a Police State Looks Like

This is what a police state looks like.

I am mad as hell. The images of police brutalizing peaceful demonstrators with batons, concussion grenades, teargas, and pepper spray has engendered an all-consuming rage within me. I detest bullies. I detest brutality. I detest the complacency that most Americans seem to feel when someone with whom they disagree with politically is deprived of their constitutional rights. For many, it goes beyond complacency – many actually approve of the brutalization and censorship of those of a different political persuasion. They seem to forget, or perhaps never knew, what America is supposed to stand for.

But more than anything, I detest hypocrisy. I see tent cities on street corners for the consumer High Mass that is Black Friday tacitly supported by local authorities while the tents, books, and medical supplies of those who believe that the guilty who crashed the world economy should pay for their crimes, are torn up and thrown into dumpsters. I hear no soaring outrage from our president’s bully pulpit when an Iraq veteran is grievously wounded by highly-militarized police run amok. Or when a grandmother in her 80’s is basically tortured with pepper spray. Or when vindictive, abusive police wantonly assault peaceful women who are penned like cattle while trying to express their rights.

Mr. Obama was quick to arrange a photo-op beer drinking session for a professor and a cop who had an altercation, but has done nothing about rogue cop Anthony Bologna, who indiscriminately pepper-sprayed peaceful protestors, nor about the Egyptian police style assault of protesters in Oakland, nor the similar assault in New York, which took place under cover of darkness with a total air and ground blockade of the media, a shockingly grievous violation of the Constitution.

While the press, our legislators, and our president laud those who occupy places like Tahrir Square, they mostly turn a blind eye, or level an accusatory one, at those who use similar tactics to promote justice and challenge a corrupt system here at home. The president is MIA and the Republicans call the unarmed Occupy Wall Street crowd thugs and rapists while praising the armed to the teeth Tea Partiers, who have been known to spit on congressmen and carry not-so-subtle signs calling for bloodletting and revolution.

Well, I support the Tea party’s right to demonstrate. I support the right of those odious ‘God hates Fags’ miscreants to demonstrate. I support your right to express yourself, and your right to free assembly, even if I hate your message.

You may point out that the occupiers are doing one thing different from all of these other domestic groups: they are occupying public and semi-public spaces. It’s true. So are homeless people, and those Black Friday zealots. And I think it’s also true that this wouldn’t be happening all over the US had the Arab Spring not happened, and had the media not praised occupiers and demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Syria and elsewhere. Occupy is a global flowering of the same consciousness, the same rebellion against a system of neo-serfdom that is built to insure the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.

In some countries, the iron hand is more overt – you have no right to speak, you are jailed and beaten for the most minor dissent, far from the freedom of speech we enjoy here in America. But, the difference is increasingly one of style, not substance, for here in America, we have an even wider income disparity than in China. Our elites (and I’m not talking Susan Sarandon here, but folks like the Koch brothers) already own us – they have sold us a hollow American Dream that has pacified and splintered us, and so do not have to resort to the iron hand that is ubiquitous in places like Egypt, Syria and China.

But when a movement that challenges the relationship of serfs to lords in any meaningful way arises here, believe me, it will be crushed just as heavily, if need be, as anything you’ve seen in Tienamin or Tahrir Squares. If we, the people, ever truly challenge the status quo, we will be assaulted, beaten, tortured, killed. It’s already happening! You see the groundwork laid for it now: the virtual silence of our ostensibly liberal president and his Justice Department, the gradual numbing to brutality amongst the general populace as police violence is slowly ratcheted up in concert with a campaign of disparagement and dehumanization of the occupiers, who’ve even been called traitors, why I cannot fathom, except that those in power will tell any lie, make any threat, and break any person who threatens them. And they will also divide and conquer, artfully setting the tea partiers and the occupiers, who have much more in common than either camp appears to realize, against one another.

The future is here, America, and freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…

9-11, ten Years On

The tenth anniversary of 9-11 passed, and again I mourned. I mourned the thousands killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington that day, but I mourned for much, much more.

I mourned the thousands of American and allied troops who’ve paid with their lives, fighting not to make America more safe, certainly not more free, but to secure Western hegemony.

I mourned the hundreds of thousands innocent men, women and children who’ve been left homeless and destitute, been tortured, terrified, traumatized, bombed, shot and killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq since 9-11.

Rational people recoil in horror when shopkeepers on the West Bank hand out sweets after terrorist bombings. And the joy in the camps of Al Queda after every successful bloodletting is equally abhorrent. Yet there were all night kegger parties when Osama Bin Laden was killed. A loud, vile, xenophobic, and implicitly racist joy was voiced by many Americans, and the final irony came to pass: We were acting just like our enemies; an apparently unarmed man was shot dead in his home without benefit of trial or council, and Americans reacted with unmitigated joy, pumping fists and bellowing ‘USA, #1!’ in that fascistic chant that always gives me the creeps.

As a country, we are less tolerant than ever before in my lifetime. Hate crimes against Muslims now comprise 10% of the total every year, yet Muslims account for only a little over 1% of the population.

We are more paranoid, more frightened, more willing to give up the freedom and tolerance that made this country special than we are willing to face down our fears, and our culpability and find a way out of endless war.

All of the things I hated about America, its provincial xenophobia, it’s propensity to shoot first and ask questions later, its role as world policeman (AKA world bully) have been exacerbated by 9-11. Bin Laden and company have remade us in their image. We have lost something irretrievable, something graceful, if we ever had it – a level of tolerance, a love of liberty, a reverence for privacy and individual rights and expression, and courage. Driven towards each other by terror, an American mob-rule group think has arisen. It considers Christians, especially perhaps white Christians, the ‘true’ Americans, and all others as second-rate citizens. It promotes the idea that the projection of unbridled American military might is a natural right of this country, no matter what immoral mayhem it causes to innocents.

Most simplistically and dangerously, this mindset presupposes that we are the victims. There is simply no room for the idea that maybe 9-11 was even partially fomented by our country’s meddling foreign policy, that it was blowback, and that, although it was unjustified, it was inspired directly by the bombings and destruction wrought by us and by our proxies, using our weapons. ‘They hate us for our values’ George Bush and many others proclaimed. No. They hate us because we give the Israelis and various dictators white phosphorus and cluster bombs, F-16 fighters and A-10 warplanes, Abrams tanks and cruise missiles. They hate us because we maintain military bases in their most holy places. They hate us because we have supported one corrupt brutal regime after another in the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Africa.

The people who died in the air and on the ground on 9-11 were victims, but we as a country are not. We were attacked due to decades of provocation on our part. Bin Laden himself said he was inspired to make the towers fall by watching Israelis bomb apartment buildings with jets and bombs made in America and essentially given to Israel carte blanche. We were attacked because our policies enslave people, because our proxies bomb and torture people, because we are the largest weapons dealer on earth, because we refuse to sign an international land mine treaty, because we pollute more, take more, demand more, than any other country on earth; Because we are an Empire. And like every other empire before us, we are starting to rot within while we are whittled away from without. Bin Laden’s masterstroke was to vastly accelerate this process; He read the braggadocio insecurity of George Bush perfectly and our Mad Cowboy president followed his script to the letter, transmuting the sympathy of the world into disgust and distrust in record time, and that too, was foreseen and even written about by Bin Laden. All he had to do was wave the red flag, and we proceeded headlong to our own goring.

America self-immolated, her freedoms and values burnt for a sense of false security and for vengeance. I mourn this loss most of all.