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Response to brooklynite (Reply #1)

Wed Aug 13, 2014, 01:42 PM

58. Dissenting

I think it is perfectly possible for a police state to allow some, even most, citizens to make the observation that it is a police state. One may even make the observation while not condemning the state, e.g., "Thank God this is a police state; the police should have free reign to do what is necessary to protect law-abiding citizens from criminal elements."

The sticking point is that "free reign to do what is necessary" clause. In a real police state, "what is necessary" is interpreted in a way to mean "excessive." What is excessive? In the specific case at hand, it is when the police -- or a neighborhood watchman -- treat any young black man as a criminal suspect. It should have been a wake up call that some thirty years ago when patrolman stopped a young black male driving a car only to find out the "suspect" was television star LaVar Burton. That incident only raised some nervous laughter -- it was clear that Mr. Burton was stopped only because he fit an overly broad profile of a criminal and, beyond the inconvenience of having to explain to an officer that he was only his own business, didn't suffer any harm -- but there was still something wrong with that picture. We knew that this happened all the time, but the only reason we heard about this instance is that the young man randomly stopped was a Hollywood celebrity.

I don't believe the patrolman who stopped LaVar Burton had any specific crime that he was investigating, but in the time that it happened to now I may have forgotten a detail or two. In much less time, I can't recall any specific crime for which Trayvon Martin was suspected when he was killed by a neighborhood watchman or last week when Michael Brown was killed by a uniformed police officer. Messrs. Burton, Martin and Brown were not suspected of any crime; they were suspected because they were simply being.

Now consider this: is there any one here who thinks that officer who killed Michael Brown won't walk, assuming that he is even brought to trial? More than that, is there any one here is isn't expecting a barrage from the right wing claiming that Michael Brown was a thug who got what he deserved? Some of us might like to think that the Koch brothers or other right wing oligarchs are manipulating that sentiment, and perhaps that is partly true. Scapegoating young blacks helps keeps the masses divided, making it less likely the masses will come together to oppose them. Let's not get to conspiratorial in our thinking. Much of the ugly right wing sentiment will be spontaneous. The Koch brothers were not around when the KKK was founded.

The elements at work here are scapegoating, oligarchs who finds that scapegoating useful to maintaining their own power and police officers who are instructed to believe that a whole class of individuals are thugs and should be treated as such. The police officers come from the same general population as George Zimmerman and his defenders. Of course, so do you and I, my fellow DUers. Don't get too proud. If one's survival defended on a career and one's career depended on doing as one is told and one is told to treat any young black man as a criminal suspect, then even one who is not inclined to that kind of scapegoating will damned sure act as if he is.

That's how police states are made.

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