Sunday, March 07, 2010

Allison Kilkenny: Normalizing the police state (and how it ends with taser-firing drones)

Normalizing the police state (and how it ends with taser-firing drones)

Bob Herbert recently wrote about the overzealous enforcement of “peace officers” assigned to New York City schools. The officers are accused of detaining, searching, handcuffing, and arresting students for silly things like drawing on desks, or handling — not using, but handling — cell phones in school.

In one case, a safety officer kicked in the door of a stall in the boys’ bathroom, wounding a student’s head. The officer’s response to questioning about the matter was: “That’s life. It will stop bleeding.”

Another student, this time a 5-year-old, was shipped off to a hospital psychiatric ward for throwing a tantrum.

These absurd reactions to normal childhood behavior is all part of “Zero Tolerance.” Six-year-old Zachary Christie faced disciplinary action after bringing a Cub Scout utensil that can serve as a knife, fork, and spoon to school. Apparently, the state of Delaware is terrified of children shanking each other, and after all, it’s the era of Zero Tolerance.

Treating children as suspects is the new normal in American culture. There is something innately wrong with children. If they’re too chatty, they need to be medicated. If they’re too angry, they need to be suppressed by a “peace officer.” They are not to be trusted, and must be monitored at all times.

A school in Pennsylvania is accused of covertly activating webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students. The accusations have generated a lot of outrage, but this is the logical conclusion of the country’s general movement toward a police state. If the NSA can wiretap citizens’ phones, the FBI can infiltrate protest groups, and the police can generally dominate and suppress any kind of protest, why shouldn’t schools be able to monitor student activity?

Americans have already accepted forms of police brutality (macing, sound cannons, tasering) as the inevitable punishments for exercising their First Amendment rights. They have already submitted to the bureaucratic requirements of permits (permits to gather, permits to use a bullhorn,) and the ridiculous spectacle of caged protests where activists are literally penned behind gates and cannot move from their designated locations as they “exercise” their “freedom of speech.”

When the protest spills past the acceptable parameters of activism, the police state shocks the citizenry back into submission. They taser, and mace, and deafen people until they stop fighting.

There hasn’t been too much fuss about this kind of oppression. Some guy got tasered when he asked John Kerry a question, but his fellow citizens mostly laughed about that. Jay Leno had a lot of fun with the “Don’t taze me, bro” stuff. Good times had by all.

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