Skip to comments.Police State, American Style
Posted on 08/02/2002 9:29:18 AM PDT by serinde
Puh-puh-puh-pleeeeeeease, just don't say it. Simply let us continue doing what we're doing, and everything will be all right. But if you say it, well, then, we can't be held responsible for what might happen. To you....
Those who do not want you to interfere with their grandiose plans for your insignificant (to them) life fear "Naming" with the dread of ritualistic primitives. As long as they can skulk in the shadows and indulge their vile practices, they are happy. If you dare to name that duck, however, that is plainly walking and quacking for all to see, they will descend upon you with spit slavering from their distorted lips as they denounce your evil soul.
It matters not a whit to them what the true nature of their sick acts are as long as they can pretend to you and to themselves that their behaviors are "benevolent" and "caring" and "fair." Rather than face the just and righteous consequences of their transgressions against the human spirit, they will most decidedly punish you for your temerity to proclaim that the emperor has forgotten his clothes. As comedian Lenny Bruce discovered to his hurt, the Namer is the one to be feared and subdued, the one upon whose skull the full weight of the State must fall. Bewildered, Lenny said, in regard to his "crime" of "obscenity," "I just said it. I didn't do it."
Yes. The question of the day, the week, the new century, the new millennium. Okay. Hold on while I gird my loins, grit my teeth, and steel my nerves. Here it comes. Any second now. Wait for it...
The United States of America is a fascistic police state.
Oh, wow! Whew. That wasn't so bad, after all. Was it. My hands are trembling a bit, though. I'll be fine. Give me a minute. Let me catch my breath.
Huh. No one's breaking down my door. Those ten words I set into print are available for millions of people to read. They haven't been deleted from cyberspace. I haven't been arrested. My house, my car, my books, my computer haven't been confiscated. I haven't been shot.
Gee. Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe I'm not.
Even some people who defend freedom endlessly wring their hands, wondering and debating in futile discourse whether or not our country is becoming a police state. They are more concerned with an imaginary and hazy demarcation that separates us from what they stubbornly maintain is an essentially free nation from the horrors of a police state existence. Such worriers, too, suffer from contemplating the "Naming." Somehow, they tell themselves, as long as they don't pronounce that final judgment, things aren't so bad. We'll get by. After all, people have free will. There is no Marxian "historical imperative." People are not helpless pawns, tossed and led by vast social forces beyond their ken or control.
Right? Of course.
In 1964, Alvin Toffler author of Future Shock interviewed Ayn Rand for Playboy. In that interview, he asked her the following question:
"What is the dividing line, by your definition, between a mixed economy and a dictatorship?"
Rand offered four characteristics that were essential to dictatorships: "...one-party rule, executions without trial for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship."
While a dictatorship and a police state are not precisely equivalent, sufficient commonalities exist to make the analysis helpful to us.
Oh, gosh. We have all kinds of parties, don't we? Republicans and Democrats and Socialists and Greens and Reformers and Libertarians and who knows how many smaller parties? Yet 98% of voters reject any party that is not aligned with or a clone of the two major players. But there are real differences between Dems and Repubs, right? Yeah, sure. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory as to which of those two parties supports and which does not national health care? Gun control laws? Social Security? State-run education? Increases in government spending? A more centralized federal government? Individual and business welfare? Preemptive regulations and laws? Taxes?
Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. Yes. Miles apart. Distinctly different.
"Executions without trial for political offenses."
Surely not, I hear a shocked bystander proclaim. Tell me again, though: How many men, women, and children died at Waco for supposed paperwork violations of an unjust federal law? At Ruby Ridge? How many innocent people have died because they defied immoral and unconstitutional drug laws? Or as the result of daring to resist soldiers, er, police storming into their homes, unannounced and without visible warrants? How many terminal patients have been sentenced to death by a State that refuses to acknowledge the validity of "medical marijuana" laws that were designed to help these sick people combat the effects of their diseases? How many people have been condemned to an early grave because they are refused access to drugs that are not State approved? How many examples of "collateral damage" can we tally in the non-wars we have waged in Europe and elsewhere against people who dared to disagree with official American doctrine?
"Expropriation or nationalization of private property."
What a no-brainer. Asset forfeiture laws, anyone? Stealing money and other property from hapless victims never charged with a crime, let alone convicted. Rolling bums and drug addicts for spare bills in the name of "forfeiture." Yet drugs are only a beginning. How many homes and neighborhoods have been ravished by that scabrous indecency, "eminent domain," destroying houses and seizing land to hand to other private individuals or State urban planners? Precisely what percentage of the United States has been nationalized in the name of "wilderness areas," "national parks," "national monuments," and "wetlands"? Let us also not forget that the average American has over fifty-percent of his annual income more than he spends on food, clothing, and shelter wrenched from him before it even reaches his bank account. (Ah, the joys of "withholding...") What bit of property do you "own" that is not now or potentially subject to the whims and dictates of a bureaucrat or politician?
For Rand, that was the big one. As long as people are free to talk and write, we have a chance to change the inertia driving us towards a dictatorship. I am writing this essay, after all. You are reading it. Yay! We're saved by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins...
How many websites have had information deleted that was deemed of interest to "terrorists"? What can happen to you if you publish a book or a website that contains information on making a bomb? Or drugs? On carrying out a hit? If you make available facts or pictures that some busybody declares is "pornographic"? If you create an image of a nonexistent child for such purposes? What if you want to browse certain websites or check out disfavored books in the library? The State declares it has the right to obtain and keep such records to ensure "national security" and to prevent "the children" from viewing "objectionable" material. And how long will the Freedom of Information Act survive our "War on Terrorism"?
The timid will cling to the thread that one-party rule is not here, in name, and that dissenters can still run for office to "change things." That we don't have "show trials" and routine executions for political reasons. That the State doesn't seize all our money and property. That censorship is still spotty and unpopular.
Such claims remind me of someone who would deny that an acorn that has sprouted is not an "oak tree" since it is only three-inches high. But a tree is a tree, regardless of its height. A human is a human, regardless of whether ninety-minutes or ninety-years old. Yes, there are differences between a newly sprouted oak tree, fragile and weak, and such a tree a hundred feet tall that sinks its roots deep and spreads its branches to shadow the ground beneath it. So, too, there are real and significant differences between a newborn and a centenarian. Yes, we need to be cognizant of those distinctions and adjust our behavior accordingly.
That does not mean we abandon the evidence before us or repress and evade what is plain to see in order to avoid naming a baby "human."
Police states come in a variety of flavors. History never repeats itself in exact detail. The Soviet police state was different from the Chinese which was different from the Nazis which was different from that of the Prussians. The American police state, too, has its unique qualities. That fact doesn't alter in the least the reality we confront here.
We don't have storm troopers roaming the streets. Yet.
But we do have National Guard troops cruising our airports. And President Bush has called for the elimination of the Posse Comitatus Act (see my essay, "Calling Out the Posse") so military personnel may be used for civilian law enforcement. Already we have had troops "guarding" our borders against illegal immigrants, troops who murdered an American teenager yet never faced prosecution.
We don't have internal passports. Yet.
But we do have a de facto national identification number, our Social Security number, and plans for "uniform" drivers licenses that will eventually morph into full-blown national ID (NID) cards. Without this "no, it's not a"-national ID number, you cannot live a normal existence. Indeed, try telling a cop who demands it that you have no ID with you... And President Bush has finally dropped his pretense of opposing such NID cards and endorsed them as a means of "fighting" terrorism.
We don't have secret police. Yet.
But we do have secret "intelligence" agencies whose activities are hidden from public scrutiny...or accountability. And President Bush has called for a national network of civilian spies his TIPS or Terrorism Information and Prevention System a "corps" whose members will not worry about such petty inconveniences as probable cause or search warrants as they poke and prod into the private lives of their neighbors. (And, of course, we believe GWB when he tells us such an informant network will report only on "publicly" observable activities.)
We don't have a Gestapo. Yet.
But we do have an informal Department of Homeland Security. And Bush wants to give this would-be behemoth cabinet-level status with enforcement capabilities as it absorbs the offices and powers of its federal rivals.
We don't have concentration camps for "undesirables." Yet.
But we do have a camp in Cuba (savor the irony...) holding unknown "combatants" in an undeclared war without benefit of legal representation or due process or other Constitutional protections. (And, no, Constitutional protections are not just for American citizens; those guarantees are against the State, to protect natural rights inherent in any individual.) And Bush has sanctioned the holding without due process of American citizens, gutting habeas corpus, while applauding military tribunals beholden to no civilian oversight.
The PATRIOT Act passed in such haste by Congress and signed by Bush lays the legal groundwork for these and many more abuses...a situation similar to that in Germany when Hitler legally came to power. Such threats to our rights will merely grow in number and intensity as time passes and this inane "war" draws out over the coming years.
Despite the dark rumblings of storms looming close over the horizon and the misshapen beasts prowling the figurative and literal landscapes of our society, some people will not accept that...
... the United States of America is a fascistic police state ...
...unless and until they are physically dragged from their beds and chained by the neck in jail. Echoing the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, by the time the American police state has swollen to that extent and the visionless fools awaken to their fatal error, there will be no one left to speak up. These Pollyannish ostriches forget that Antebellum slaves often had free movement as they performed their work. Many such slaves were also permitted to earn and keep money for their work. Few clanked around in leg irons.
Yet, like a dog let loose to frolic by its owner, if the massah snapped his fingers, that slave better come a runnin' or in chains or worse he soon would be.
Our chains are (mostly) invisible and slackly held. The noose, however, is no less dangling around our throats.
The frog is in the water, and we ignore that faint bubbling and hissing sound below us at our own peril. So far, only a few "troublemakers" have been plopped into the water. When you become important enough or annoying enough or loud enough in your objections, you will join the other frogs soon enough.
If those who committed the myriad of anti-freedom acts detailed in such books as The State vs the People by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman or in James Bovard's many books, if those criminals were publicly and forcefully punished for their misdeeds fired, fined, and jailed then I would not see the necessity or value in penning these words. But these foes of liberty not only go unchecked in their actions, they are as often as not promoted, rewarded, and honored for their immoral proclivities. Laws sanctioning greater police state powers flow from state and federal legislatures. Few, if any, such unconstitutional acts are reversed.
And the populace blithefully and blindly nourishes what should be torn savagely out by the roots.
In 1972, the musical group Chicago performed a song, "Dialogue (Part I & II)." The lyrics are uncomfortably relevant thirty years later:
Terry: Are you optimistic 'bout the way that things are going?
Pete: No, I never ever think of it at all.
Terry: Don't you ever worry when you see what's going down?
Pete: Well, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all.
Terry: When it's time to function as a feeling human being, will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?
Pete: I hope to study further, a few more years or so. I also hope to keep a steady high.
Terry: Will you try to change things, use the power that you have, The power of a million new ideas?
Pete: What is this power you speak of and the need for things to change? I always thought that ev'rything was fine, ev'rything is fine.
Terry: Don't you feel repression just closing in around?
Pete: No, the campus here is very very free.
Terry: Don't it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Pete: Well I hope the President knows what he's into, I don't know. Oooh, I just don't know.
If you discovered you had cancerous cells growing within you, would you worry about precisely when they appeared or would you just be concerned to discover them there, at all?
If you learned you had cancer, would you refuse to call it cancer until it had metastasized into a huge, life-threatening, inoperable tumor bulging through your skin?
If you found out you had out-of-control cells spreading through your system, would you ignore that fact and hope the cancer would spontaneously disappear? Or would you seek surgery, chemotherapy, and whatever else it took to eradicate the cancer?
The United States of America is a fascistic police state.
It is time to cure our nation now and to restore our country to healthy freedom before the relatively small cancer that is the modern American police state greedily consumes us all.
This fundamental mistake regulates Ewald's overall strategy: He refuses to acknowledge the "epistemological break" between Unger's first book (Knowledge and Politics) and his later work (The Critical Legal Studies Movement and Politics). By "epistemological break" (Gaston Bachelard's term popularized by Louis Althusser's interpretation of Marx), I mean Unger's crucial historicist turn in his work from a self-styled neo-Aristotelian perspective (or a teleological and essentialist view) to a full-blown anti-foundational orientation. This basic shift has three major consequences in Unger's work. First, he gives up the unpersuasive talk about "intelligible essences" and moves toward immanent critiques of the rhetoric and practice of democracy and freedom in contemporary societies. Second, he abandons "total criticism" and links his immanent critiques to concrete historical investigations and specific programmatic formulations. Third, he rejects his ahistorical "trashing" of liberalism and puts forward his new project in the name of super-liberalism.