Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Police State

The country is roiling over the lack of indictments in Ferguson and Staten Island and elsewhere. White cops are killing blacks for the smallest of offenses and no charges are being brought against the police. People are angry, and there has been violence, and there promises to be more violence.

I don't live in either place, but I do commute through Penn Station in Manhattan every day. Penn Station is a melting pot, a pulsating mix of commuters heading into the city and out, and a smattering of homeless people, street performers, grab and go restaurants and other miscellany. There is also a very large police presence, as you might expect in the post 9/11 era.

The police presence is more than just city cops. There are a lot of city cops with an occasional table set up so that they can search through briefcases and pocketbooks when the spirit moves them. There are very frequently K9 units prowling the concourses as well. There seems to also be a permanent National Guard unit there too. They are in camouflage garb and have automatic weapons with their fingers actually on the triggers. The jungle camouflage doesn't do much good in the urban landscape of Penn.

In addition to these various levels of law enforcement, lately I've noticed New York State troopers standing guard as well. They wear gray uniforms and those funky hats that look like Army drill sergeant hats, with a strap down over the back of their heads.

That's a lot of cops, and I'm sure that there is some justification for each branch. I just don't feel safe with these guys all standing guard under "See something, say something" PSAs with guns and automatic machine guns. It's become a creepy Orwellian police state within Penn Station, and it's a smothering feeling mixed with fear and suspicion that permeates the entire station.

The USA may never really have been the land of the free and the home of the brave, but it always was a high minded aspiration that the country believed the best about itself, and strove to become. In the years since 9/11, the country has willingly and unapologetically exchanged its freedoms in the face of fear, all in the name of "security".

Has our complete surrender to the police state given the cops a feeling of invulnerability that allows them to gun down minorities with such astonishing frequency? Has the xenophobia that has been normalized by the Fox Newses of the world tapped into the latent, or not so latent, racism of law enforcement that allows predominantly white police forces to treat minorities as the "other", as the enemy?

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