The clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson Missouri over the shooting of a young black man by the police are sadly not about the shooting they are about the protests. All across the country we hear stories of abuses of power by the police. These have not happened in shootings alone, they have also included choke holds, taser use, beatings, and intimidation. Very rarely, however, do these result in popular protest. Now that they have the sheer power wielded by the police is coming to light, resulting in calls to demilitarize the police.
Unfortunately the police have a point. This isn’t England where gun use is strictly controlled, we have allowed ourselves the create a violent, heavily armed, and unequal society, rife with drug abuse. Police in the U.S. probably do feel that at any time they may come under fire from dangerous weapons. This is not to excuse the “militarization” of the police it is simply to point out that we are reaping what we have sown. Our faulty law system, which puts more people in jail per capita than any other c0untry in the world, our willingness to arm society, and the brutality of our economic system has created a dangerous and distrustful society. Guns, the legal system, and our economic policies have not insured our freedom, they have in fact endangered it. When we have finally lost the stomach for this way of life rolling it back will probably require some degree of unpleasant force. Pray that you aren’t the object of that.
At the same time we have a continual stream of abuse of power stories about our governors. In the past year, Chris Christie, a Republican from New Jersey got in trouble for intentional lane closures on an important commuter bridge to punish a local politician, (something Christie supposedly knew nothing about), Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat from New York has come under fire for dissolving a corruption commission he had set up when it started to investigate his own contacts, and Rick Perry, Republican from Texas has been indicted by a grand jury for pressuring an official to resign by vetoing funding for their office . While the actual instances are not egregious, at least when compared to the daily abuses of power by the police, it marks a mentality that is frightening, especially when taken in with the broader context.
What is also frightening is that voters seem to take these abuses of power in stride. We have reached a point where our democratic institutions are so dysfunctional that anything which approaches functionality is considered to be good. It matters little how these politicians abuse the scope of their power as long as they get something done.
In a way these mindsets are a natural evolution. With the chaos and reduction of opportunity the world is offering us it isn’t illogical to desire a solution that cuts through the confusion. It isn’t illogical but it is wrong. Think of the Great Depression, where while desperation was a way of life a message of hope existed, we needn’t fall to fascist ideas to solve our problems. We do, however, need to own up to our problems and take an activist approach to solving them, and not just wait someone with a disregard for the rule of law to solve them by trampling on the things which should be making our country strong.