We have met the enemy and he is us. – Walt Kelly
I was never very happy with the Labor movement’s co-opting an existing holiday with an established apolitical significance for its own purposes, especially since the event it wished to commemorate did not occur on May 1st, but rather May 4th. Sex worker rights activists have several such days, but we didn’t feel the need to steal somebody else’s holiday. Nor should it matter that the 1st is arguably a more memorable day of the month than some other nearby date; Independence Day, Guy Fawkes Day and Cinco de Mayo seem to be quite popular without having been moved to the 1st of July, November and May respectively.
To make things worse, the initial theft kicked off a sort of karmic cascade of theft and re-theft; communist governments stole it from the labor movement using the ludicrous but oft-repeated justification that they were the anointed representatives of “the workers”; then in 1958 the United States Congress attempted to steal the day from the communists by declaring it “Loyalty Day” in the US (because, as Radley Balko aptly observed, “…nothing celebrates ‘freedom’ like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!” (The presidential proclamation to which he refers is one of the more peculiar aspects of the thing; it’s required every year, and Obama did his bit right on cue this May 1st). And now the Occupy folks, in an historically tone-deaf gesture which ignored the tremendous death toll of the communist regimes most closely associated with the day in living memory, are trying to steal it back for their iteration of the labor movement; they were, however, outdone by the NYPD, which seems intent on cementing the day’s association with brutally repressive regimes by re-enacting their behavior:
…activist Zachary Dempster said that six NYPD officers broke down the door of his…apartment at around 6:15am [on April 30th]…armed with a warrant for the arrest of his roommate…for a six-year-old open container violation. But Dempster believes this was an excuse to check in on him, as he’d been arrested in February at an Occupy Wall Street Party that was broken up by cops, and charged with assaulting a police office and inciting a riot…”They asked what I was doing tomorrow, and if I knew of any activities, any events—that was how the conversation started,” Dempster said…About an hour later, an activist friend of Dempster’s…said his apartment…was visited by six NYPD cops—possibly the same ones. The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid…[they] ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked [Gawker’s] source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but…the message was clear: We’re watching you.
As Balko said, “Think about what just happened, here. On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government agents staged early morning raids on the homes of suspected political dissidents, detained them, then interrogated them about their plans and political affiliations.” Of course, it isn’t just political dissidents that get the Stasi treatment; being accused of having leaves of a common plant the government says you aren’t allowed to have, or of being on the wrong side of an imaginary line, will result in even more horrifying abuse:
When we hear a terrible story about abuses by law enforcement — like, say, a college student arrested for smoking marijuana, abandoned in a DEA holding cell for five days without food or water, and reduced to drinking his own urine and attempting suicide with a shard of glass — often our first instinct is to say “that can’t be right” or “there must be more to that story” or “that guy is making it up” or, at least, “what a bizarre, freakish event.” Our society encourages these reactions. Our society does not encourage the reaction “yep, that’s the way our criminal justice system works.” It ought to. The truth is, that is how our criminal justice system works…Detainees are denied even minimal medical care until their penis has to be amputated and they die of cancer. Defendants arrested for marijuana possession are sentenced to certain death in jail facilities completely unable to address their medical needs. Cops shoot family dogs like small-time sociopathic villains in a Tarentino movie. Cops tase and pepper spray handicapped kids and grandmothers in their beds. And we allow it all. We put up with it. We don’t demand that politicians take it seriously. We continue, as a society, to welcome law-and-order pablum from our leaders…What the fuck is wrong with us?
I mentioned the East German secret police above, but the establishment which runs the American police state is actually more like that of a slightly earlier German regime; the name for a militarized government unbound by law and controlled by an unholy symbiosis of political and business interests is “fascism”. Here’s a perfect example of it in action:
The nation’s largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is [now] …offering to buy [states’] prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full…The Corrections Corporation of America’s filings…read very much like the documents of a slave-trader. Investors are warned that profits would go down if the demand for prisoners declines. That is, if the world’s largest police state shrinks, so does the corporate bottom line. Dangers to profitability include “relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws…any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” At the Corrections Corporation of America, human freedom is a dirty word…
But the corporate branch of the ruling class isn’t just content to demand that more people be abducted and caged; it’s eager to supply the tools by which they can be rounded up and framed for “crimes” as well:
…the business of marketing drones to law enforcement is booming…and…the language of combat and conflict remains an important part of their sales pitch…the drone…industry proved its clout in February when Congress mandated the FAA open U.S. airspace to drones [massing up to 2 kilograms] starting this year…Larger drones will be eligible to fly in U.S. airspace by 2015…weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)…[can] provide complete surveillance of an area and engage suspects with buckshot, tear gas [and] grenades…According to documents published…by Electronic Frontier Foundation, 22 of the [56 domestic government agencies now authorized to operate drones]…are primarily law enforcement departments, while another 24 entities (mainly universities) have law enforcement functions under them…
On May 2nd the ACLU unveiled its “nightmare scenario” in which improved coordination software and analytics and greatly increased flight duration (all of which are inevitable in the next few years) enable around-the-clock surveillance of essentially the entire population, permitted by the same politicians and judges who have allowed all the abuses listed above and the rampant civil rights violations we’ve discussed previously. Remember what I said about universal criminality? The NYPD used the excuse of a 6-year-old open container violation (the same level of offense as a traffic ticket) to justify literally smashing down a citizen’s door at dawn, and they could do the same to anyone reading this on American soil; if you’re on foreign soil instead, they can simply brand you a “terrorist” and fire a drone-carried missile at you.
In the past 90 years, the United States had two great enemies, the Axis Powers and the Communist Bloc. And despite the expenditure of untold funds and countless lives, we actually lost both of those wars despite our apparent victories. Our real enemy was never a particular group of human beings, but rather the twisted belief that individual human beings are things to be owned and used by the state. Totalitarianism is like an evil spirit possessing a nation, and cannot be defeated by force of arms because it will simply move on to a new host. The only defense against it is absolute rejection of its underlying premise: that it is acceptable and even moral for “authorities” to abrogate the rights of individuals for a “greater purpose” or the “common good”. In our struggle to defeat oppressive collectivist states, we lost sight of who we were and what our country stood for, and have now become what we struggled so fiercely against.
One Year Ago Today
“May Miscellanea (Part One)” presented articles on Slutwalks, surprisingly non-judgmental coverage of hookers being robbed, and the inevitable result of governmental attempts to legislate “sex offenders” out of existence.