this is america
(P) America is very good at dealing with crises. They demand action, and we're good at doing something. If it works, we do more. If not, we try something else. In the face of Something Serious, do something is a refrain we all rally around.
That's why the most troubling trends in our society are the ones that creep forward, seeping into us without us ever really acknowledging or confronting them. Or even approving of them. As more and more tax dollars go to more and more people, the system gains a momentum all its own of stakeholders looking for ever more seats at the taxpayer table.
One particularly destructive trend has been the militarization of our society. Our language, our discourse, our politics; the very options we believe to be possible are framed more and more by the perspective of force. Last week's Democratic National Convention and this week's Republican National Convention illustrate the nonpartisan nature of this development. We are acculturated from a very early age to internalize that the people on the receiving end of force must obviously have done something to deserve their fate, to the point that most of the creeping militarization goes on without even being news.
But the conventions give us a time when the envelope is pushed a little farther, and it's at those points when some attention gets paid to this issue. The resources that go into these things are enormous. More 'security' money was set aside for a four day convention in Denver than is needed to cover the whole projected budget shortfall for the entire year for Bi-State/Metro, the St. Louis' area transit agency. Is the threat of a couple hippies really more bad than this? When did we make that choice?
The answer is, we didn't. Until somebody you care about gets on the wrong end of the law, we just don't pay that much collective attention to the expanding prisons and police forces and rush to control what people do. SWAT, special weapons and tactics, is literally military training and equipment for use against civilians. The vast majority of those targeted civilians are American citizens.
So it's worth thinking about. Do we really need to spend $100 million to secure two week's worth of political conventions? Do we need to send heavily armed officers after groups of Americans who haven't broken any laws? Do we want a society where police can arrest solely on probable cause, give no reason for a search, remove items, and lock you up, all without charges? Do we see value in limiting the speech and assembly rights of citizens to make sure Important Politicians and Business People aren't bothered in their plotting to run the country? Is the technical know-how, energy, and expertise of the government servants who designed the system monitoring my blog well-allocated?
There's no one answer to any of this. Virtually no one suggests having no police forces, while virtually everyone celebrates individual rights and the Constitution. Most of the actors in the system, on all sides, are legitimately serving their country and advocating the principles in which they believe. The answer is to discuss this, to have an open exchange of ideas driven more by citizens in public and less by special interests in private. That would be real change in our society. That's the only way to combat mission creep.
Here are some links to what's been going on. Exploring is particularly important if you're not familiar with the reality of government power today.
a free speech zone