With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts. Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid’s target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.
Guns drawn. Against raw foodie hippies selling unpasteurized milk.
A few weeks ago, I was walking down my lengthy driveway to the mailbox. When I got around a small copse of trees, I saw a bunch of people standing around in my neighbor’s backyard. As I got closer, I realized they were cops, all decked out in body armor. It appeared they were just getting ready to knock on, or maybe kick down, his back door. I froze for a moment, wondering if I should go back to the house, but I thought that might make me look suspicious, so I kept going. I got my mail and was heading back when one of them called out to “let me holla atcha for a minute.” As it happened, I didn’t know these people at all, as they had just moved in a couple months ago, and I had yet to even speak to them, so I had nothing to tell The Man.
In our post 9/11 age of ambivalent attitudes regarding civil liberties, you often hear it smugly asked, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, what do you have to hide/worry about?” But let me assure you that no matter how boring and nondescript of a life you live, standing next to a guy with Kevlar who’s carrying an assault rifle while asking you questions will make you start nervously wondering if there’s something, anything you might have done that could turn their attention toward you. And when you see story after story of cops raiding the wrong house – the neighbor’s house – or when you read Digby’s ongoing coverage of police using tasers against nonthreatening victims simply for the sake of intimidation or commanding “respect”, this kind of thing will only make you worry more.
The cops left without entering the house or arresting anyone. But two days later, I had just gotten home in the evening, and ten minutes later, when I happened to glance out my window, I saw five vehicles surrounding the house, and the crew was running around again, assault rifles aimed at all windows and doors. This time, they led the guy away in handcuffs. I never saw any coverage of the story, so I still don’t know what he was accused of.
Americans are so terribly afraid of so many things. It’s too common to even surprise anymore, the fact that the biggest flag-wavers are usually the most vocal advocates of harsher prison sentences for a wider range of crimes, many of them victimless; the fact that the people who currently see death camps in Obama’s shadow were just a few years ago insisting on more, more, more government surveillance for the sake of freedom. Well, they got their wish. And we can only hope that this system will eat itself, because I don’t think we’ll ever voluntarily renounce it ourselves.
The always-eloquent IOZ said some time back:
And that, dear readers, is how I feel about director of the Center for National Security Studies Kate Martin’s observation that “They want to turn these enormous spy capabilities, built to be used against overseas enemies, onto Americans. They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state.”
If you asked me, “What would a contemporary police state look like?” I’d reply that it would look an awful lot like what America looks like right now. I would tell you that subsidized consumer affluence has proven a far more effective method of social control than centrally planned, faux-egalitarianism. I would tell you that someone finally figured out that breadlines breed rebellion but lines at the multiplex for the midnight opening of the next blockbuster do not. I would tell you that keeping up with the Joneses has proven a more effective enforcer of conformity than any book of Dear Leader’s wisdom ever did. I would tell you that hope for Vegas vacations beats fear of the work camps for quashing dissent. I would tell you that subtle is better than overt, seemingly random better than routine, carnivalesque better than somber, colorful better than drab. Look at the billions of dollars and man-hours thrown into deciding between a guy from Massachusetts and a gal from New York who evince no convincingly held differences of belief. Has ever a nation been farther from revolution than the United States in the year 2007?
I feel a great many people waiting, breathing shallowly, as if one day at last the whole edifice will tip over and reveal its infested foundation. It won’t. I feel as if a great many people are waiting for a president to suspend the government, or for black-hood squads to start snatching people in broad daylight, or for the police to establish checkpoint entrances to our cities and loyalty oaths in our schools. (That last, of course, already . . . ) They are waiting, in other words, for incontrovertible and public evidence that Denmark is rotten, some moment of national epiphany when Candidate-for-Life Benito Giuliani descends through the clouds in his own airline trailing some athletic blond with a camera on his way to a firelit vigil in Yankee Stadium.
When I mentioned my story to several people, some shrugged. “Probably a meth dealer,” they said, as if that settles it. Well, fuck him, then. He deserved it! Let’s make some jokes about prison rape and keep whistling past the graveyard.