Tag Archives: police state

An Intervention With The Police

Every American school kid was raised on well-meaning propaganda that painted the country’s police force as super good guys, and that propaganda has worked; many young Americans look up to police as heroes…but not just because of the propaganda; kids who have grown up in the information age aren’t dumb. They understand how important it is to have a highly funded police force. Americans are happy to wear “NYPD” hats and not just because they got duped by a marketing campaign but because they really do value their police on meaningful intellectual and emotional levels.

The thing is, the police are making it really hard to keep liking them. Americans who were raised on Saturday morning cartoons want to believe that every police officer is like Andy Griffith meets Robocop. That’s how Americans were raised to perceive cops. So that’s how they try to perceive cops, but it’s hard to keep giving the police the benefit of the doubt when the public looks around, and they don’t see Robo-Andy-Griffith. All they see are protesters getting pepper sprayed and shot in the head with tear gas canisters, and the public can’t do anything about it because anytime they bring up the issue of excessive use of force they’re told they’re ungrateful and spoiled and are sternly reminded that all police deserve the full honors and privileges of Robo Andy Griffith.

The “you’re a spoiled, naïve liberal” excuse isn’t cutting it anymore. There was a time when young Americans smiled when they saw cops. Now seeing a cop is more likely to wipe the smile off their faces, and the reason they’re scared of police is because the police go out of their way to scare them. Police cars are designed to appear menacing, not welcoming. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to act surprised when you pull up in a car that looks like a prop from a Hollywood movie about a futuristic dystopian police state and people say they feel menaced by you.

 

 

And it sends a mixed message that undermines your authority when the side of your car says, “To protect and serve.” but it’s an accepted fact of life that you do not ever speak to the police without a lawyer present. Ever. The police are even required to remind you that “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Why would anyone want to be anywhere near someone who can and will use anything they say to put them in a prison system that is globally famous for its unchecked human rights violations?

The thing is, young American aren’t even asking anymore. They’re telling the police they feel absolutely miserable, terrorized and afraid of the people they pay to protect them. Some people have even given up on the system so completely they’ve left America to go live in less wealthy places where at least they don’t have to be afraid of the police or the corrupt government the police are protecting.

The correct way for the police to respond to that charge isn’t to say, “Oh, well then screw those people if they don’t like it here.” The correct way for the police to respond is to say, “I accept that I have a problem and am ready to listen.”

And the good news for the police is, young Americans are smart enough to understand that police aren’t just inherently bad people who deserve to be hated because of the color of their clothes. The American people understand that people who are police officers aren’t the problem. Unethical police behavior is a symptom of a flawed police system. To blame it all on the cops on the street would be like holding teachers (who work at the bottom of an obsolete and compromised education system and have their hands tied behind their backs by cumbersome bureaucracy) solely accountable for children’s test scores, and that would be ridiculous.

There are some serious flaws in the way the police force is designed on paper, and the police should be more eager than anyone to address those flaws because they’re setting up good cops to lose sight of the purpose of the law, and if the law has no purpose then you don’t have a police force; you have a mafia. I actually wouldn’t believe any senior cop who says they’ve never been pissed off at how ineffective and backward and in need of upgrading the police system is.

The police want the police system fixed. The people want the police system fixed. Everyone just wants the streets to be safe. The police and the people just never talked about it together because they’ve  always been compartmentalized with a great divide between them. Now they’re both part of the 99%, and there are people with tables all over the world listening to ideas, writing them down and sharing them with other people.

If the politicians can’t figure out an effective way of balancing crime, authority, freedom, and equality then the police and the citizens are the only parties left for the responsibility to fall to.  The people took the first step setting up the tables at the Occupy protests. All the police have to do to have their voices heard is sit down at the table. The least the police can do if they want to live in a better society is not kick the table over and beat the hell out of everyone sitting around it.

 

 

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American Cops, You’re Delusional If You Don’t Understand Why Civilians Hate You

Hate is a strong word, but that’s the situation on the streets of America. Don’t shoot the messenger, bro. America has always had a love/hate relationship with its police force, which was morbidly exemplified on July 8th, 2016, when a sniper in Dallas, TX shot 14 police officers, killing 5 in revenge for the hundreds of unarmed civilians police kill every year. In a show of solidarity towards the police and condemnation towards the killer, thousands of people lined the streets along the funeral procession for the slain officers.

Those men deserve sympathy and credit for the good things they did, and they deserve for their deaths not to have been in vain, but they will be if America can’t have an open dialogue about why people hate the police.

The inconvenient truth is police provide the civilian population with an assembly line of reasons to hate them. The animosity they receive is blowback for the unacceptable things they constantly do.

At the top of the list is the aforementioned body count of innocent civilians. To add insult to injury, police regularly deflect ownership of the problem by blaming the victims. One police officer recently summed up their argument in an article, “Following Commands: A Lost Art,” which, unfortunately, is no longer on the internet.

“I am going to say what no one else is saying.  From the President of the United States to every local news reporter in the country, no one is saying it, ‘Follow the commands of a police officer or risk injury or possibly worse…’ You can debate all day long about what proper police force is, when it should be used and if the entire criminal justice system is racist but there is one thing in common with every so-called “excessive force” video you have seen in recent years. The suspect is not following commands… The way I see it, we have two options to stop police use of deadly force. Police stop being police or citizens can do what an officer says to do.”

 

"OBEY OR DIE: This message brought to you by the people you pay to protect you."

 

There’s some truth to this argument, but if the author can’t see why civilians would be underwhelmed by his logic, he’s crazy. “Obey or die” isn’t the social contract Americans were promised, and it’s not one they can accept. And if that’s really how police see civilians, as sheep to be controlled with violence, then citizens would have to have Stockholm Syndrome to love police unconditionally. The police may not realize that, but the people do, and they resent cops for expecting them to celebrate their subjugation.

It’s hard to look at police as good guys when they aren’t even trying to look like it anymore. Police cruisers are intentionally designed to appear intimidating. How can the police more clearly brand themselves and communicate their intentions than by painting a big sign on their cars that says, “We don’t want you to feel safe when you see us. We want you to feel intimidated.” By dressing like Nazi Storm Troopers from a dystopian future and acting ones. That’s how.

 

Photo of two police dressed in black body armor charging at a skinny black girl standing calmly and non-threateningly

Milton from the movie, "Office Space" saying, "I was told I was paying you to protect me."

Mauri Povich reading a piece of paper with the caption, "Dressing like a Nazi Storm Trooper from a dystopian future and bum-rushing dainty women determined that was a lie,"

 

Any time a police officer gets caught doing something immoral, the rest are quick to concede there are a few bad apples among them and counter that 99% of the time, all police do is protect people. That argument sounds good on paper, but it fails to sway law-abiding citizens who live in constant fear under the thumb of all law enforcement.

A black comedian, whose name I can’t recall, once said, “I’ve always resented the fact that I don’t feel safe when I see a police car behind me; I feel scared.” He’s not being irrational, and neither is the rest of the civilian population. Everyone feels the same way, and they’re right. A police cruiser behind you is like a shark hunting for prey.

It’s common knowledge the reason police write so many traffic citations isn’t because drivers are that bad or cops are overzealous. It’s all about revenue. Cops are highway robbers shaking down well-meaning people for mostly inconsequential technicalities. And the cost of a superfluous ticket can equal weeks or months of an unskilled worker’s wages. On top of that, police regularly seize civilians’ assets without trial, and getting your stolen property back can cost more money than what was taken.

 

 

Heaven help Americans who screw up and commit a legitimate crime in a moment of desperation or incoherence. The cost of paying bond, court fees, legal representation, fines and probation quickly add up to years of wages for minor offenses, let alone big ones. The legal system makes it as hard as possible to pay off these fees by requiring you to take time off work for multiple court appearances and probation meetings, which is almost impossible since American employees get less time off than any other first world country.

This assumes you can even get a job after a conviction since you’re required to divulge your criminal record to potential employers and most landlords. It also assumes you have transportation to get to court, work or your probation meetings. Police regularly confiscate people’s cars and revoke their driver’s licenses for crimes not even related to driving. If you were arrested for having sex with a 17-year-old, the law prevents you from living anywhere near anything.

If you can’t pay your fees after the police destroy your career, your fees will increase relentlessly until they bankrupt you, after which, you’ll be sent to debtors’ prison, which was outlawed in 1833. Since jailing people for not paying fines is breaking the law, that means cops are breaking the law, which makes them criminals. Since they’re also government officials who are violating the founding principles of the government, they fit the exact definition of tyrants. That’s not being hyperbolic. This is the exact kind of situation the word “tyranny” was invented to describe.

 

 

The total cost of bond, court fees, legal representation and fines for major criminal offenses can add up to decades of a poor person’s future earnings, but less than 1% of a rich person’s savings. Without being hyperbolic, that literally constitutes economic oppression, which makes the police foot soldiers of economic oppression. So when cops say their job is to “serve and protect,” that might be true for rich people but definitely not for poor people. You’ll notice poor people shoot more cops than rich people.

In addition to economic oppression, the police’s job description also includes the regular taking-your-freedoms-away-against-your-will kind of oppression. Again, this isn’t exaggerating. It’s spelled out in black and white letters in America’s law code, which contains thousands, if not millions, of laws against inconsequential victim-less crimes.

I know a man who had a warrant issued for his arrest for not mowing his lawn and then not showing up to court because he didn’t receive the summons. I know another man who walked home from a bar because he was too drunk to drive, and he was arrested for public intoxication. I know a girl who was arrested for drinking a beer one hour before she turned 21. I went to a concert at a major venue, where the law required the bar staff to pour all their drinks out of single-serve bottles into plastic cups that you couldn’t take out of the designated drinking area, resulting in mountains of trash at every event and zero crimes prevented. I went tubing at a river, and the cops were standing in force at the exit point arresting anyone who brought open containers of alcohol out of the river because it’s legal to drink on water, but not on land. In a separate incident, I was ticketed on a river for drinking alcohol when I was 20 years old, which my European friends find hilariously sad. Americans aren’t even free to walk across the road without getting a ticket, and women aren’t allowed to take their shirts off. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are still dumber things you can be arrested for in America.

 

 

Nobody is protected by any of these laws. The only outcome is control for the sake of control. If you think these laws aren’t a big deal, then you’re implying freedom isn’t a big deal. You’re also ignoring the fact that a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. Minor losses of liberty set the precedent for bigger ones, and the justice system has already taken advantage of this fact.

Prostitution and recreational drug use are strictly illegal to say nothing about how hard it is to buy life-saving drugs. Sex and drugs are nobody’s business but one’s own, and a government created “of the people, by the people, for the people” has no place regulating them, especially when the majority of people don’t want the government to. That goes double when every study done on them has proven them to cause more harm than good, and triple when other countries have already legalized them and proven in practice that criminalizing them does more harm than good, and legalizing them does more good than harm.

America’s own police force knows better than anyone how futile and damaging the war on sex and drugs is. Yet they go out every day and keep fighting even though they know that ultimately, all they’re accomplishing is war. And they wonder why people don’t like them. The people are equally baffled by how the police can sleep at night and go to work each day to wage war on their family again.

Lawmakers justify the war on sex and drugs by saying they’re protecting people from themselves, which is confusing because everyone knows it doesn’t. But the argument is moot for at least two reasons anyway.

First, nobody agreed to pay the government to protect themselves from themselves. When the government tells you that you can’t do something you want to do (that doesn’t hurt anybody), and you don’t have a choice in the matter, that’s the opposite of freedom. It doesn’t matter what a lawmaker’s justification is for doing their job wrong.

Second, sending people to jail for sex and drug-related crimes is like shooting them in the head to protect them from shooting themselves in the foot. American prisons are the most inhumane of any first world country. In addition to the lethally low quality of food and hygiene, the frequency of murder, rape, abuse, and humiliation that happen inside is the stuff of legend.

So forgive the civilian population for not being excited to see a cop. The smartest advice you can tell a child is never talk to someone who starts the conversation by announcing, “Anything you say  can and will be used against you in a court of law to throw you into pound-me-in-the-ass prison.” That’s not something a friend would ever say or do to you. Cops are the opposite of friends, and it’s regrettably responsible to forewarn your children of this truth.

In an unbelievably more dystopian twist, American prisons have sweatshops that use inmates as slave labor for private corporations, and there are more black men in prison than there were in America before the Emancipation Proclamation. Private corporations even own prisons and sell shares on the stock market, creating a financial incentive to incarcerate as many people as possible and provide the lowest level of care to them as possible.

Compton is the new Slave Coast, and business is booming thanks to the police. America has the highest prison population in the world. By definition, it’s factually inaccurate to call the country with the highest incarceration rate “the land of the free.” The architects of America’s legal system should be held accountable for taking this title away from America, but so should the people with their boots on the ground who are rounding up victimless criminals and sending them to the meat grinder that is America’s prison system. The police who are complicit in this crime against humanity aren’t public servants. They’re corporate mercenaries who enforce slavery, and that’s not something to be proud of.

On top of all this, civilians have to put up with the TSA sexually assaulting them, the NSA spying on them, the CIA pushing drugs in ghettos, and using civilians for science experiments and the FBI covering up corruption. Every member of the American law enforcement system should be ashamed of themselves for more reasons than I have time to list here.

Last but not least of those reasons is how law enforcement behaves when the American people exercise their First Amendment right to protest against the lethal injustices they suffer. Anytime protests get large enough to make a difference, police are sent in with military gear to brutally crush the demonstration with tear gas, tasers, batons, and bullets. That’s a guaranteed outcome of a well-organized protest, and it doesn’t matter what age, race or sex the protesters are. There will be blood. At the end of the protest, the government will use it as an excuse to further militarize the police, which will require more money, which will require the police to rob more people, which will require them to come up with more excuses to make criminals out of well-meaning people. This makes law enforcement officials the vanguard of oppression.

 

 

It can’t be said enough, America isn’t the land of the free, and saying it is, is Orwellian doublespeak. Americans are oppressed all to Hell, and the first line of oppression is the police civilians pay to protect them. In that regards, the police force is, by definition, the bad guy.

To be fair, police do some good, but patting them on the back is like patting a Gestapo agent on the back for helping an old woman across the street. If you want to fault me for breaching Godwin’s Law and using too many Hitler references, I would counter that the police have already exonerated me. Police often deflect responsibility for their crimes against humanity by saying things like, “I was just following orders. The law is the law. If I don’t do my job I can’t feed my family. The justice system isn’t perfect, but I have to respect the system.” Using the Nuremberg Defense doesn’t demonstrate integrity or courage. It completes the Nazi comparison.

As intolerable as the actions of the police are, I can’t condone reciprocating the violence they inflict on the civilian population. In addition to being unethical, it would only result in justifying further militarization of the police and erosion of civil liberties as per the status quo. If you want to protest income inequality, government corruption, or excessive force, the most logical place to stage your protest is in front of your local police station. Put their guilt on their front door. If they respond to the protest the way they always do, at least they’ll have to walk past the spot where they beat down little girls every day they come to work. Maybe that will get them thinking enough is enough.

It shouldn’t have to come to that. The people shouldn’t be working up the courage to stand up to the police. The police should have the courage to stand up to the system. The people shouldn’t be organizing to figure out what they’re going to do about their cop problem. The cops should be organizing a gigantic internal meeting and fundamentally reassess their approach to helping people. If the system won’t facilitate an official meeting, the cops need to organize their own. The alternative is to keep digging their own graves, and that doesn’t help anybody.

 

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The Time The TSA Humiliated Me For Fun

"I got to second base with a TSA screener"

 

I recently flew from Colorado to Texas, and I arrived at the airport 30 minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave. Normally this airport isn’t very busy. So I wasn’t worried… until I reached the security checkpoint, which had about 50 people in it.

Luckily, the line was moving surprisingly fast. So my anxiety was shrinking as I got closer to the body scanner, which I like to call “the dignity evaporation machine” or “D.E.M.” for short.

 

 

Images of a human body taken by a TSA body scanner. The facial features look like a skull, and the genitals are clearly visible

 

I’ve traveled around the world, and America is the only country I’ve ever had to walk through these. I loathe these things because they blast you with radiation, microwaves, and/or who knows what. They used to take naked pictures of you, but that was supposedly changed, but how would I really know what goes on inside them? Either way, when you stand inside them, you have to hold your hands above your head like you’re a criminal being arrested. The invasion of privacy and the submissive posture really drives home the point that everyone who attempts to board a plane in America is considered guilty of terrorism until proven innocent.

As I approached the D.E.M. I noticed a male TSA agent standing idly next to the old metal detector that nobody walks through anymore. I knew you can choose between going through the D.E.M. or getting a pat-down. I assumed a pat-down would be quicker, and if I was going to lose my dignity anyway, I felt it would be more just if the TSA had to get their hands dirty taking it from me.

So I told the TSA agent that I preferred a pat-down. He looked at me in disgust and then shouted over his shoulder at nobody in particular, “We’ve got an opt-out.” Then he stood there staring into space for 4 minutes while I watched in horror as people who were originally behind me in the line passed through the D.E.M. Finally, I said to the agent, “I’m running a bit late. If this is going to take a while, I’ll just go through the machine.” He barked at me with a mixture of amusement and disgust, “Too late for that.” Only then did he take me through the metal detector to a place with a floor mat with two footprints on it where I was instructed to stand.

As I assumed the position the agent asked me in a voice dripping with suspicion and accusation, “Why did you choose to opt-out?” I told him, “I don’t know what that machine is. I don’t like it, and I don’t want anyone to see me naked.” He replied, “Eh, it’s not that bad.”

Then he took his time finding a box of plastic gloves, and then he made it a point to show me how slowly he put them on and adjusted them. Then the frisking started. Mind you, I was wearing a fitting T-shirt and fitting blue jeans. Since I was flying on a cheap airline that charged $50 to check a bag and/or carry on anything bigger than a small purse, I had all of my luggage (3 pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, and three T-shirts) in a plastic grocery bag. So there was nowhere for me to hide anything.

Still, he wrapped his hands tightly around each of my arms and acted like he was squeezing a tube of toothpaste. He even ran his hands down my bare arms past the sleeves as if I could be hiding something under my skin. He stuck his hands down my shirt collar and inspected all 360 degrees of my neck. Then he did the same thing to my waistband. Then he squeezed both my legs like they were tubes of toothpaste. He did that to each leg from the front and then each leg from the back. On each pass, he jammed his hands up into my groin, which meant he made firm contact with my balls 4 times.

After the frisking was over he swabbed his gloves and put the swab into a machine that looked like a futuristic cash register. The machine beeped, and a bright red light started flashing. I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “Nothing good. It means you tested positive for bomb residue.” I wanted to shout at him, “Bomb residue! Bomb residue! Where’s the bomb? I’m just a guy in a t-shirt and jeans with a plastic bag full of underwear, and you just squeezed every inch of my body!” Of course, there wasn’t any need for me to state the obvious. He knew there wasn’t any bomb or any residue for that matter. We both knew I was just a guy getting harassed, and there was nothing I could do about it.m

The agent called his supervisor, who was an older black lady. She looked at the machine and looked at the gloves. Then she started chitchatting with the agent, completely ignoring me. I asked her, “So what happens now?” Without even looking at me she said in a bored, monotone voice, “Sir, your clothing tested positive for bomb residue. So we have to take you into a private room for another pat down.” Then she just walked off and left us to wait for an elderly white guy to come and escort me to a private room along with the agent who had just frisked my balls.

As we entered the room I asked, “Can I just take off all my clothes to speed up this process.” With a mixture of annoyance and glee, my original frisker said, “No. We have to do it this way.” He stood in the corner of the room and nonchalantly picked through my plastic bag while the older agent frisked me in exactly the same way as I had just been frisked out in the open. So I don’t know why we had to go into a private room. He also jammed my balls into my groin a total of 4 times. The only thing he did differently was make me take my shoes off and rub the bottom of my feet. When he was finished he went and tested his gloves in the bomb residue machine while the younger agent guarded the door.

When the second glove test came back negative the agent at the door said, “Ok. We’re done here,” and sauntered off. None of the agents showed any relief or surprise by the outcome, because they knew from the first second they saw me that I was nothing more than a guy in a T-shirt and jeans carrying a plastic bag full of underwear who was critically late for his flight. Needless to say, I didn’t get an apology for wasting my time and violating my personal space.

So I collected everything I brought with me except for my dignity and ran for my gate just in time to board my plane where I spent the next two and a half hours lamenting how much of my tax dollars are spent dehumanizing the American public under the guise of safety. On my return flight to Colorado a few days later I opted to go through the dignity evaporation machine like the powerless peon I am.

There are some people who would say that everything that happened to me was my fault, and I should have arrived at the airport earlier to schedule time to be humiliated, and I should have just submitted to having my body radiated or microwaved or whatever instead of exercising my barely existent freedom of choice because I should have anticipated the TSA agents would be annoyed by the fact that I want to travel.

Call me crazy, but I feel like this is blaming the victim, and it sets a dystopian precedent. How about instead of making humiliation, bullying and sexual assault a normal part of travel, we just get rid of the TSA since they’re completely ineffective at preventing terrorism anyway.

 

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My Life Stories (in chronological order)
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