Thursday, December 01, 2011


Just last month I finished Terry Pratchett's latest, Snuff. In it, Vimes muses on cops who talk about "civilians":
It always embarrassed Samuel Vimes when civilians tried to speak to him in what they thought was "policeman". If it came to that, he hated thinking of them as civilians. What was a policeman, if not a civilian with a uniform and a badge? But they tended to use the term these days as a way of describing people who were not policemen. It was a dangerous habit: once policemen stopped being civilians the only other thing they could be was soldiers.
I think we've seen the increased militarization of US cops over the last decade or so, and it's been increasingly obvious in the way the Occupy movement has been dealt with. Now, Michael Bloomberg jokes(?):
"I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world."
Zucotti Park provided some nice visuals of that...

It's disturbing, this trend of turning cops - even campus cops, as in Oakland - into an occupying force, hostile to the people they're meant "to serve and protect". And it's not happening in isolation; the whole country is sliding into the abyss, one right taken and/or forfeited in the name of "security" after another. At some point, we have to ask ourselves what exactly it is we're protecting. Our freedoms? Cue the hollow laughter.

Anyway, this seems an opportune time to put my favorite Sarah Vowell quote out here again. So here it is:
Whenever I hear the president mention, oh, every 12 minutes, that his greatest responsibility is "to protect the American people," the insufferable civics robot inside my head mutters: "Actually, sir, your oath, the one with the Bible and the chief justice and the Jumbotron, is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. For the American people are not mere flesh whose greatest hope is to keep our personal greasy molecules intact; we, sir, are a body politic -- with ideals."
Unfortunately, it seems less true daily...



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