Back in the Eighties, when the Time-Life series on the Civil War was coming out, there was a dramatic ad with a Civil War soldier pointing a musket at the reader. The ad said: “If the battle of Gettysburg were fought today, you would be the enemy.” Increasingly many Americans, most, but not all, conservative and/or religious, are being treated as enemies to be subdued by their own government. Angelo M. Codevilla in a brilliant post at the Library of Liberty and Law faces the issue squarely:
Increasingly, the US government’s many police forces (often state and local ones as well) operate militarily and are trained to treat ordinary citizens as enemies. At the same time, the people from whom the government personnel take their cues routinely describe those who differ from them socially and politically as illegitimate, criminal, even terrorists. Though these developments have separate roots, the post-9/11 state of no-win war against anonymous enemies has given them momentum. The longer it goes on, the more they converge and set in motion a spiral of civil strife all too well known in history, a spiral ever more difficult to stop short of civil war. Even now ordinary Americans are liable to being disadvantaged, hurt or even killed by their government as never before.
This month in Washington DC, Federal police riddled with bullets a woman suffering from post-partum depression who, had she been allowed to live, might have been convicted of reckless driving, at most. She had careened too close to the White House and Capitol, but had harmed no one and her car had stopped. In the same month, California sheriffs’ deputies killed a 13 year-old boy who was carrying a plastic toy rifle. It is not illegal to carry a rifle, never mind a toy one. America did not blink. A half century ago, Alabama sheriff Bull Connor’s use of a mere cattle prod to move marchers from blocking a street had caused a national crisis.
In a casual conversation, a friendly employee of the US Forest Service bemoaned to me that he was on his way to a US Army base, where he and colleagues would practice military tactics against persons who resist regulations. A forester, he had hoped to be Smokey the Bear. Instead, he said, “we are now the Department of Provocation.” In fact every US government agency, and most state and local ones now police their ever burgeoning regulations with military equipment, tactics, and above all with the assumption that they are dealing with people who should not be dealt with any other way.
Modern militarized government stems from the Progressive idea that society must mobilize as for war to achieve “the greater good.” Hence we have “wars” on everything from hunger and drugs and ignorance and global warming. Reality follows rhetoric. Since the health of “the environment” is a matter of life and death, the Environmental Protection Agency must deal with “enemies of the planet” with armored cars, machine guns, and home invasions. Apparently, even the Department of Education has SWAT teams.
The general population is increasingly inured to violence. The latest “Grand Theft” video game, for example, involves torturing a prisoner. Fun. That is only one step beyond the popular TV show “24” in which the audience cheered the hero’s torture of terrorist suspects. Contrast this with Dragnet, the most popular TV cops drama of the 1950s, whose Sergeant Joe Friday knocked on doors and said “yes ma’m, no ma’m.”
Persons who possess the greatest power have the larger opportunity to direct blame and distrust, even mayhem, onto those they like least. Since the mid- 1990s, authoritative voices from Democratic President Bill Clinton to Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, echoed by the media have intoned a familiar litany: America is beset by racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious obscurantism, by domestic abuse, greed, and gun owners. These ills are not so different from those found in backward parts of the world where we fight “extremism” in order to fight terrorism. Indeed these ills argue for fighting extremism, indeed for nation-building in America as well as abroad. Who in America embodies extremism? Who is inherently responsible for social ills, including terrorism? Who will have to be re-constructed? No surprise: the ruling class’ political opponents: the conservative side of American life.
Go here to read the troubling rest. A police state is incompatible with a free state and that is what is being constructed before our eyes. If this is not halted, and halted soon, I think this country may face dark days indeed in the years to come, as political battles are no longer fought only with words.