In fact, I've kind of been doing that since forever. Surprisingly the Secret Police have never contacted me about it or attempted to dissuade me from my activities, nor have the regular police. Then there's my internet writing, where I have, among other things, at times advocated Occupy takeovers of major US ports and government facilities, but somehow this advocacy failed to result in my apartment being targeted by a drone, or my being whisked off to a CIA black site. I can't imagine why not. My posting schedule must correspond with lunch hour at the fusion center or something.
Actually I feel a little insulted by the failure of ninja assassin squads to be sent against me: Don't they know this is what's supposed to happen in a police state to people who speak freely? I rather resent the devious illusion of freedom the government has so dishonestly created all around me my entire life. How dare they maintain such a diabolical deception in the face of anecdotal abuses proving it's all a sham? It's not as if governments were comprised of vast numbers of real human beings, the overwhelming majority of whom are law-abiding citizens.
No, in truth government consists of tentacular Lovecraftian creatures from beyond our dimension embodying all that is unholy and evil, and their failure to victimize me like the people in the cherry-picked anecdotes that feed my outrage is simply a monstrous ruse. I could hit the lottery and end up one of the people wrongfully incarcerated in America, or one of the people brutalized by bullying psycho cops. Then again, I could get struck by lightning or eaten by a cougar (and not the good kind) on my way to protest these things, and yet somehow - quite naively, I'm sure - the oblivious sheeple don't seem to feel oppressed or terrorized by Mother Nature or the Newtonian mechanics that keeps killing people on the roads.
Some will claim it's because the political and social reality of their daily lives don't jibe with the fear culture promoted by all levels of media, but those people are just brainwashed...somehow into feeling the opposite of all the propaganda surrounding them. Those pathetic automatons neither retreat into walled fortresses at the threat of crime shoved down their throat every day by news reports or believe themselves to be living in The Matrix simply because they can see the shortcomings and damaging processes that unfold in real human civilizations. What kind of lunatic does not live their lives in fear? I'll tell you what kind: The kind who's actually on the other side, and is themselves malevolent. Yup. Those who do not live their lives quivering in abject terror like a tarsier on a bad acid trip must be servants of the omnipotent evil clawing at the fabric of the cosmos every moment of the day and yet that cleverly avoids manifesting in the lives of the vast majority of us.
Speaking seriously, I grant that I'm on the privileged side of things demographically - white, middle-class background - so I wouldn't suffer the added attention and harassment that so many minorities do just because of how they look. That's the real "police state," and it's overwhelmingly a community issue that people can and are standing up against substantively - such as the landmark lawsuit in New York against the city's racist stop-and-frisk policy. But surely I'm enough of a loudmouth that I must piss off enough people to have faced some kind of retaliation for advertising my utmost loathing for Republicans, conservatives, tax derangement, gun nuts, religionists, bigots, fascists, and corporations? If so, I must have missed it. It's a damn shame, too - I would probably have felt validated by it.
Maybe the wingnuts in this area are just really lazy, or maybe it has to do with the fact that my contempt for them is expressed with confidence and not with an attitude of spazzy, whiny emo bitching that might as well translate as "I got my head regularly dunked in toilets in high school, and am nostalgic for those days. Can you please help me reminisce?" And it's not just the local level: I sent an email to Lindsey Graham demanding his resignation after he suggested that the Boston marathon bombers shouldn't have Miranda rights, and the language in the email was not polite. We heard about that anecdote where that one lady in Utah was investigated by the Capitol Police for trying to get a meeting with Orrin Hatch, so supposedly communications with Senators are somehow a delicate matter. But I totally forgot I was supposed to be afraid - in fact, I forgot I was supposed to be respectful - when I wrote the email. Oops.
Undoubtedly the email's in a file somewhere now, and Herr Graham likely never saw it let alone plans to take my advice, but it wasn't an empty gesture. See, you can do those things in a free society. You can lambaste public officials, demand their resignations, and impugn the species of their parentage. It's not because they want to let you do that, or because a piece of paper says they have to, but because we don't give them a choice in the matter. If someone came to my door in a badge wanting to ask questions about my criticism, that would piss me off into the stratosphere.
I'd look for excuses to do it more often, in more ways, and more provocatively, and I'd lodge complaints with whatever authority dared to investigate it and all other relevant authorities, against every individual involved in doing so, explore legal options, etc. etc. I'd go to wherever this institution's offices were and set up a meeting in person with supervisors to demand answers over it. Anecdotal abuse happens, but it's self-defeating for the guilty parties - if they do it too much, eventually they run into an asshole like me, and I would create all sorts of work for them. And who wants more work? The irony is that it works both ways: I don't want them imposing the obligation on me to have to stand up to them, but if they do, that would piss me off all the more because they're making me do more work than is necessary. And that would give me the energy to do it. I demand the freedom to be lazy!
Part of the sick cleverness that had allowed the Bush regime to operate with impunity was that they seemed to understand assholes like me: They were careful to avoid doing the kind of things that would send us into high gear against them - things like a military draft, or moving directly against their critics rather than just creating a nebulous atmosphere of fear. They knew to avoid making it personal with us, and that's part of why I think their attitude was so vindictive and petulant in symbolic terms: I think they understood the limits of the power they were grabbing, and hated the shit out of the fact that it couldn't be more absolute.
As long as the troops they were killing were volunteers and the victims distant foreigners rather than people in our own communities, the anger would remain at a simmer rather than boiling over. Ditto for only kidnapping and torturing foreigners, with the exception of their trial balloon victim - a non-white American, Jose Padilla, which proved a bridge too far when the courts intervened. It's a shameful fact, but being human means that most of us can't get as motivated to defend people who are farther away from our identity as we can for those closer, or ourselves. We can intellectually state that all people are equally worthy of defending, but the energy that drives political upheavals originates in the brain stem, not the cerebrum. There would have been a civil war if Bush had tried to invade Iraq with draftees, but instead there was largely idle criticism. Because it's true that...
You can have anything you want, but you better not take it from me.Freedom is not something another person gives you. It is not a concession, or a benevolent gift, or a default circumstance in the absence of external pressure. It is something you do. Something you do. So, like everything else you do, it is something rooted in the decision to do it. Everything else identified superficially as "freedom" flows secondarily from that decision - the explicit rights, laws, government reforms, and living standards that distinguish healthy free societies from oppressive ones come because people decided to make them that way. And societies that can't seem to get it together are like that because people won't choose, or don't know how to choose, or can't even fathom that they have a choice. They proceed on the logic of passive continuation and fatalism, or fall victim to the limbic frenzy of ideology-driven revolution that thinks a flamethrower can save people from drowning.
-Guns 'N Roses, Welcome to the Jungle
It's bizarre that some people think I have to apologize for feeling free and proving it, like there is some sort of pious moral obligation to believe I'm not because you can cite anecdotes where people have been victimized by the system. The fact is we can and must fight for those people because we're free - because we are not victims of the system as they are, and because we know the system can be much better than it generally is. Because we know that police officers, prosecutors, judges, juries, soldiers, civil servants, prison guards, and everyone else you can mention are just people with their own families, friends, communities, and like most a general desire to see themselves as good and decent. They are, in other words, us and we are them. They are members of our families and communities.
To the extent they're insulated from your concerns and you're alienated from the reality of their jobs, that's a gulf that has to be bridged to reassert the natural, healthy practice of self-government and accountability to each other. That's all democracy ever was and all it ever will be, no matter how elaborate it becomes: Just people forming networks of communication, feedback, support, and assertive accountability with the institutions they depend upon for justice, opportunity, and security. There are places in America where these networks are moribund, fallen into decay or into the hands of petty local or state-level tyrants. And there are places where they're vibrantly active (California, for instance, recently raised rich people's taxes - how do you like them apples, ALEC?).
Rebuilding them on a federal level is a larger challenge and a longer slog, but there is no level of politics where the least powerful person on Earth ceases to be consequential. There is no cosmic castle moat where the events that unfold in cascading infinity simply stop and are replaced by the arbitrary will of elites - that is a consensual fantasy of both the elites and their victims, for both to rationalize events in ways that make them feel better about themselves. The elites (or at least the ones who are not actively sadistic) can convince themselves their actions don't significantly harm others, and the people who are harmed can learn to cope by ascribing their suffering to inexorable fate because a world of decisions is extremely unstable and insecure compared to one of prewritten destinies unfolding.
Freedom, once decided upon within the heart and mind of a person or a culture, is encoded into their social DNA and no fire is hot enough to burn it away. A thousand years of darkness and chaos could not eradicate the Roman freedom, but merely sent it to sleep until it awakened in Venice and the other Renaissance city-states. And even under tyrannical 20th century governments and clownishly corrupt 21st century ones, Italians live free. Nothing short of their annihilation as a people would change that, and even then if anyone else were to inherit their culture they might also inherit its spirit. So if you believe you live in a police state in America, I pity you. I pity your fear and the limits it places on your ability to imagine and create a better, more humane society.
People have confronted the absolute worst in this country and extracted a better future out of it by appealing to the best in us and our history, and those who live and breathe shadows have never done so. The surly misanthrope can't see beyond their own fears and frustrations to the world of choices and surprises all around them - it's all a sham, all a fake, all a lie, all futile and doomed. Negative anecdotes are taken as the norm simply because they fit a preferred attitude, and the actual norm they see all around them is dismissed as a besieged citadel destined to collapse into the horrors that swarm every corner of their imagination. I read historical accounts, so I know these people lived in every era and never change.
On rare occasions, reality is bad enough to reflect their beliefs - e.g., 1938-1945. Other times they're lonely voices of misery and pessimism while the rest of the world is too busy making progress to care. I particularly enjoy reading the 19th century voices who sincerely believed that both politics and science had reached their utmost, absolute pinnacle and that it would be all downhill from there. Now that we have the steam engine and Sir Whatshisface has articulated the principles of gas behavior, and Lord So-and-So has written the complete treatise on political theory, surely the picture is complete and history is at an end. But this time they really mean it. This time they're really really sure nothing good can come of the present.
You've probably heard the nonsense statement "Nobody goes there - it's too crowded." It's used as an example of a self-negating or paradoxical statement. Another example, when routinely stated in public without any negative consequences whatsoever (other than the scorn of one's peers), is "America is a police state." Whenever someone says that, the only proper response is...
Ah ha, gotcha! You've really slipped up now. I'm with the Secret Police, so you're now under arrest for subversion! Don't bother crying for help, everyone else here is Secret Police too. We've been on to you for months. It was your 718th utterance of 'America is a police state' just now that finally crossed the threshold where we could act. See that Chuck E. Cheese over there? That's just a front - the basement is actually a black site. You're in for it now! But if you cooperate, we'll consider letting a hot chick in a Catwoman outfit conduct your enhanced interrogation. Now name names! Who else is part of your secret underground movement, other than the folks on your website, SecretUndergroundMovement.org?Morally, I know it's mean to toy with hysterical people. It's just when they start characterizing their run-in with a meter maid like they were the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square, you really have to take them down a peg just for the sake of maintaining the general IQ and sanity of the discussion. Anyway, the point is, most people in America enjoy political and social freedom, and most of those who have to face unjust limits on it (e.g., minorities who suffer from racial profiling) generally have options and recourse, and can harness the support of people of good will nationwide when their issue becomes widely known. Like that girl in Florida who nearly had her life ruined for being curious about chemistry because her school and the local cops are authoritarian bastards - people stood up and defended her, and now her future looks a lot brighter and those authorities were hopefully taught a lesson.
So the upshot is not that things are good or bad, because in modern history it's mostly a blend of the two. It's that we can affect the ratio. America was in turmoil down on Earth when it sent its people to walk on the Moon, and yet was relatively oblivious and comfortable when it sent its people on a mass-murder spree to conquer Iraq - like the triumphal and prosperous Athenians declaring war on Syracuse out of sheer greed for more plunder and glory. Oprah Winfrey is a self-made billionaire and Barack Hussein Obama is President of the United States, so that's pretty damn huge social progress on multiple fronts. I would say our key challenges as a society concern equality of economic opportunity, and the more unified we as activists are in focusing on that, the more powerfully our message resonates with the people in general.
Just a bunch of thoughts. Take them or leave them as you will.