It’s always both sad and amusing to hear or read about a middle class family’s first encounter with child welfare services. They are very often outraged that on the anonymous say so of just anybody the state can rip their children from their home and examine them several different ways, and send them to the homes of strangers, and then charge the parents thousands for doing so. People often insist they have rights, the right to protect their children from the state, to decide who examines them, the rights to privacy in their homes. They are often mortified that their best chances to get back with their kids are to admit to doing things they didn’t do, and agree to do things they don’t agree with. Many attorneys will tell a family (that doesn’t have money for a long fight) to just agree to what the CWS department wants as the cheapest, quickest way to get their kids back.
It’s not very different when someone gets arrested. People are shocked to find they can be jailed for things they had no idea were crimes. They can be messed with for weeks and months and need to think themselves lucky if they get off lightly. Prosecutors and cops concoct charges, playing out logic past the bounds of reason, like when two pals decided to commit a crime and one of them is killed in their misadventure, and cops charge the first with his pal’s death. It’s a bizarre, even byzantine, logic but it passes most judges.
Now, we live in “Battlefield America”, where even soldiers are cops, and where association, or speech, are counted as acts of aggression against America. In short, we live in a police state, where we simply can’t have enough cops, and every cop is a hero, that’s why we think it’s sooo cool that a game warden does battle with pot growers instead of confining himself to Fish and Game codes.
How did we arrive at this?
There are great historical causes, of course; most are wars. The Civil War broke the back of the republic of independent states and gave birth to “one nation indivisible”, a powerful federal government which intrudes on the states and individuals in exactly the way the Founders feared. There are causes which are national or global, known as “macro level structures”. The ceaseless comingling of government and business, where senators and their appointed cronies serve the corporations, and then leave government for well-paid jobs in the private sector, the comingling which gave birth to the idea that corporations count as humans with free speech rights. Then there are individual level causes, such has our child-like belief in experts of all kinds, but particularly government experts. We’ve come to believe, or at least accept, that we are not safe unless we’re in the arms of the government, to believe even that freedom springs from government.
Indeed, if we are to believe the mythology of our nation, we are all responsible for the oppressive government we now experience, liberty is in our care.
The originators of the nation understood that the greatest
dangers came not from the outside, but from entrepreneurs within the
state. We were warned of a central bank,
but we have one. They warned us, their
inheritors, and they attempted to arm us with a free press and with arms that
we were allowed to own, arms that would make us collectively the equal of the
government, should the need arise. We
have surrendered those arms, and have contributed with our own sweat, to making
the U.S. Federal Government one of the best armed threats in the world. There’s a reason the Department of Homeland
Security arms your local cops with automatic weapons and command vehicles, and it isn’t to defend against Ragheads or swarthy drug lords, it’s to arm them against us, should the need arise. Meantime the most frightened among us continue to chip away at our rights to own those same weapons.
So, it’s our fault, the weight of keeping the nation free fell to us and we’ve dropped it. We’ve watched cop shows so much we believe the fiction, and we’ve allowed ourselves to create an “other” in our midst, strangers to fear, Mexicans, and Muslims, and sexual predators, and drug users, each with its own domestic “wars”. We’re well prepared for Battlefield America.
What should we have done? Armed revolt is obviously out of the question; our own government has already demonstrated the willingness to stand armed soldiers, and cops armed like storm troopers, against the people. Tiananmen Square is right here in the U.S.
That leaves two rather haphazard ways to change government, and they are haphazard because we as a people are divided. The first is protest. The second is the ballot box. Powerful weapons for change in the hands of patriots, but dangerous toys for idiots.
I was appalled the other day to be treated to the spectacle of the two Republican front runners battling over who was the most scientifically ignorant and who wanted the most control over women’s bodies. Two men, the best the right half of our political party has to offer, give us a spectacle far more fitting for some Moslem theocracy. God is the only science; the womb is the only purpose of a woman.
But, don’t look to the left half of the government party to give us much difference; the Democrats, once champions of the middle class, now stand clearly for the wealthy. Barack Obama, the man who many of us hoped had the life experience to connect with the least of us, has proven as good a friend to large corporations as his oil baron predecessor. The process of privatizing profit and socializing debt has peaked under Obama, as the American people have been asked to give up their homes to protect the profits of corporations, and where the very same people who robbed our treasury are still in charge of the henhouse. Democrats have done no better than their Republican twins at curtailing the growing federal police state, have done no better at preventing war, done no different at protecting free speech, or the internet. Democrats and Republicans voted for the Patriot Act, for the National Defense Authorization Act, and for all the laws passed between, each of which dedicated more funds and provided more authority to government power.
The Republican front runners provided their macabre display because that’s what conservative voters wanted. Why the hell would conservative voters want the feds to control the bodies of women? Why would they insist on people who disbelieve the best science available on evolution and climate change? Perhaps out of response to Democrats who want to control the bodies of children, and who use bad science as a new kind of god, a justification for doing what they are going to do.
We have bad government because it’s the government we deserve. We’ve allowed ourselves to be fractionalized because we’ve forgotten the most important thing that made us different, our freedom from government.
This is not to say that a nation with a population as large as ours can function without regulation. It’s simply unscientific to deny climate change, even if a sparse handful of climatologists doubt it. We need to change the way we live, and capitalism simply isn’t going to let go of oil until the last drop is pumped from the last lump of shale. If we don’t want a nuclear power plant in our neighborhood, someone has to take the lead to decentralize electrical power. Is that somebody government? The invisible hand of capitalism?
And, there’s the natural source of our fractionalization, that population growth and technology have made regulation of everyday life prudent. At what point does my right interfere with your right? Much depends on one’s point of view; aren’t anti-abortion activists sticking up for the right of the unborn child? Isn’t the state intruding in the family to protect the rights of children?
We need to understand that each layer of government tries to reach as far as possible. The legislators make a law extending the reach of government; the bureaucrats who execute law each extends the reach of her agency and his office within it. The “rights” of the people are carefully dissected in these offices, and our innate freedoms are parsed among them. We make it worse by being wooed by the sensational media and by unrealistic cop shows and other programs which condition us to accept a certain way of looking at the world. Programs like these serve to “demonize” a generalized “other”. They cause us to create mental categories for people who become less than people.
But, to restore our nation, we have to have a single goal: restore freedom. That doesn’t mean we have to abandon science; far from it. It means that individuals have the right to objective science that is appropriate to the situation when a law is passed, and a freedom curtailed.
Above all, it means we have to stand up for the freedoms of people we don’t like, people who seem strange to us. Freedom is freedom for everyone.
Occupy has taught us something very important: there is power in not participating. This year, I’m going to vote for the independent candidate whenever possible. I’ll vote enough to register my ballot, but not vote for major party candidates as my way of saying, “I opt out of your monopoly of American politics.”
You might steal my freedoms, but not with my support.