America, the police state

For the people who continue to believe the United States is not a police state, I’d like to know what exactly would constitute a police state.

In this country, an unacceptable number of people die in botched paramilitary police raids.

In this nation, you can get the death penalty for rightfully defending yourself against armed intruders who had no right to be in your house – but only if they are police (read about the Cory Maye case, in which police raided the wrong house, and the victim ended up getting the death penalty for defending himself).  This of course, is because police get special privileges.  They can commit murder and get off with a mere involuntary manslaughter charge.  They taser 64-year old cancer patients for no reason.

They violently raid grocery stores for something as petty as selling raw milk. They lie in affidavits about drug violations, and kill completely innocent people. They beat people who witness them wrongfully ticketing an innocent victim, and promise to testify.  They are allowed to torture people into confessing to crimes for 20 years because they are not held accountable by their friends in government.  In the vast majority of the states, police can arrest a person for doing absolutely nothing.

Most recently, cops have been found harassing peaceful people trying to feed the homeless.  A couple of days ago, Albuquerque police arrested two men, Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Herrick, who were passing out food to homeless people.

They were cited for not having a permit, to which Mr. Hernandez responded, “I don’t need a permit. I have the Constitution. I have a mandate from almighty God to treat my fellow human beings as I’d like to be treated.”  When Mr. Hernandez came back again to give out free food, he was arrested.

According to the police report, Mr Hernandez and Mr. Herrick were arrested for not having a permit and for refusing to obey officers (more here).

Police also harassed people from Food Not Bombs for doing the same thing in Atlanta (video here).

I entreat people who do not think this is a sign of a police state to just sit for 30 seconds and think about this.  Police have convinced people so thoroughly that obedience is crucial to an orderly and moral society, that ironically, society has truly begun to descend into chaos because of blind obedience to authority.

It is not moral to prevent peaceful people from feeding other peaceful people through the threat of fines, guns and force.  It is not moral to stand in the way of voluntary charity. Yet, this is exactly what police seek to do in these situations.  People seem to have a difficult time acknowledging that police are not perfect, and are capable of wrongdoing.  But just ask yourself – is it right to prevent one peaceful person from feeding another peaceful, and hungry human being?

One of the most hopeless days in my life was when I learned about the Milgram experiment in a college psychology class.  This experiment involved a team of researchers, who asked for volunteers to press buttons on a control board.  The volunteers were told the buttons would cause an electric shock to a man sitting in the next room, who unbeknownst to the test subjects, was actually an actor hired by the researchers.

The volunteers were told the man in the next room had a heart condition, and were instructed to ask questions of the man in the next room. If he got the answer wrong, they were to press a button and administer an electric shock.  As the game went on, they were commanded to increase the electricity voltage.  The actor in the next room would yell in pain as the electricity voltage increased, and even begin banging on the wall yelling that he had a heart condition, but researchers would tell the volunteers to continue shocking the man, and assured the volunteers that they would not be held responsible.  They would tell the volunteers the following things, in urging them to continue to shock the man:

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires that you continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

Essentially, the volunteers were tested for the ability, and propensity to follow orders from an authority figure, even in the absence of justifications, reasons or explanations. Most volunteers continued because they were assured they would not be held responsible.  65 percent of the participants administered the experiment’s final, 450 volt shock to the actor. Only one participant adamantly refused to administer shocks below the 300-volt level.

Such is democracy, the political process, and police in this country.  Everyone votes for laws, regulations, licensing, etc., without too much thought.  And when homeless people, charities, and innocent people are harassed, tortured, brutalized, or killed, everyone is assured that they are not at fault because their responsibility has been so thoroughly diluted by the political process.

Everyone has become convinced that if we do not follow the police’s every order and command, no matter how unreasonable or unjust, that society will quickly fall apart and descend into chaos.  Society is so convinced of the need for blind obedience that something as simple as feeding the homeless without a permit has now become a crime for which one can be thrown in a cage.

Indeed, it seems that a world in which innocent people can be tortured, killed or harassed on arbitrary grounds, is a lot more chaotic and evil than one in which people flout unjustified authority, and engage only in voluntary transactions.

So, if this isn’t a police state, what is?  Only when police institute pogroms?  When people are rounded up into camps?  Innocent people are already being harassed, tortured and killed, while police see little punishment due to “internal investigations” and “paid suspensions.”  Those who actually do get fired have little trouble finding jobs as cops again, in the next city.  Do we literally have to turn into Nazi Germany before we refuse to put up with any more?

While we’re on the subject of Nazi Germany, a friend once ask me what my beef is with the system anyway, since I haven’t been beaten, shot, tortured, or even arrested and seem to be doing just fine in life.  He called me selfish and ungrateful, as my complaints were so petty in comparison to all the ills of the world history has seen.

I pointed out to him, that his reasoning was analogous to that of a blond-haired, blue-eyed person in Nazi Germany who looks smugly to the minority of Jews being tortured and killed, and feels grateful for doing just fine in Nazi Germany.

Don’t be like most of the volunteers in Milgram’s experiment.  Don’t be like a smug Aryan in Nazi Germany. Be the one guy in Milgram’s experiment who refused to go further after 300 volts.  Be Mr. Hernandez who abides by the golden rule.

No one expects you to go and disobey the law and get arrested to make a statement, but at the very least, stop voting for these crooked politicians and these senseless laws.

If you believe in democracy, or a collective will, then you must believe that you are personally responsible every time there is an instance of police brutality, dead civilians in Afghanistan, or innocent deaths due to botched drug raids.  If you do not believe you are responsible, then you must accept the logical correlate that there is no such thing as a “collective will,” and that democracy is merely a meaningless tool used by the majority to trample on the rights of the minority.


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Georgia Sand

Georgia (George) Sand is an attorney located in sunny California. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach, music, and chatting with her cats in her spare time.