You don’t mind local cops driving around in armored vehicles toting military grade weapons. You don’t mind bulk surveillance, databases full of location information on millions of Americans, or cameras peering down at them from every corner. You don’t even really mind cops shooting people in the street, or roughing them up in the back of a police car.
You justify it. You embrace it. And in many cases, you cheer it.
The police state protects you.
You feel safe.
I’ve spent the last couple of years railing against the police state, along with the violence, spying and loss of liberty that goes along with it. Most of the time, I feel like a lone voice calling out in the wilderness. Unless they are poor, black, Muslim or Hispanic, Americans don’t get it. They want cops with machine guns cleaning up the streets. They don’t concern themselves with government spying and violations of privacy. They want the government to “get tough on crime.”
It makes them feel safe.
The problem is, white, middle-class Americans don’t see the police state pointed at them. They don’t get it. “I have nothing to hide,” they say. “We’ve got to get these thugs under control,” they say. “If you don’t break the law, you have nothing to worry about,” they say.
As long as the violence, spying and violations of civil liberties remain mostly hidden in poor urban areas, vast swaths of the American population will continue to cheerlead the police state.
I find it odd that the loudest voices cheering and defending the police state belong to the so-called conservatives – the people who claim to revere limited government. Limited government and a police state stand as mutually exclusive concepts. In fact, big government created the very problem that big government claims to need a police state to solve.
The unconstitutional war on drugs serves as the driving force behind police militarization, domestic mass surveillance and aggressive policing in urban areas. By prohibiting certain substances, the federal government created a black market. When black markets exist, they create immense financial incentives to deal in the forbidden goods. The opportunity to make millions of dollars in the black markets leads to organized criminal syndicates willing to use violence to protect their market.
This comes as no surprise. History already taught us this. Alcohol prohibition brought you the mafia.
So with their “war on drugs,” the feds created violent cartels and perfect markets for criminal gangs to exploit, leading to rampant street violence and crime. Then the feds used the existence of the violent cartels and street gangs to justify militarizing your local police department. Now, instead of peace officers committed to ‘serving and protecting’ their local communities, we have heavily armed soldiers fighting a “war” – a “war” that happens to prove very profitable for their bosses. (Think federal grants and asset forfeiture.)
And we wonder why we’ve witnessed a huge increase in cops using excessive force and operating with an “any means necessary” mentality. Too many police officers view themselves as soldiers on the battlefield, not cops protecting their neighbors.
But none of this matters.
And it won’t until it intrudes on middle class America.
As long as the police state focuses its attention on poor people, minorities and remains an “urban problem,” most Americans won’t care, especially conservatives. They will continue to hero-worship cops and support the police state because they sincerely believe it keeps them safe.
Maybe when the police show up at their house to enforce some gun law, they’ll get.