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O, Big Brother, where art thou?

Check out
highway_robbery.jpg from
for info about the abuses of power in law enforcement.

            How did America become so weird?  In California, voters passed an initiative to legalize the growth, sale, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.  A few weeks ago, a couple who had grown pot for sale to patients who were prescribed marijuana were arrested for possession, cultivation and intent to sell.  They weren't selling drugs to children in schoolyards.  They weren't handing out stamps laced with acid.  They were growing pot for exclusively medicinal use.  In Nevada, an amendment to the State Constitution is on the ballot to legalize the possession of up to three ounces (I'll have to double-check the amount, but I'm pretty sure its three ounces) of marijuana.  Sixty-five percent of law-enforcement union members are for the passage of that law.  Why?  Because they are tired of busting otherwise law-abiding citizens for not doing anything wrong.  The jails are filling with criminals who have not stolen, killed, or otherwise negatively affected the community.  The system is being choked by this creation of criminals.

            Look at the punishments for driving under the influence of drugs (illegal and legal, prescription medication and over-the-counter) or alcohol.  Heavy fines are imposed, driving privileges are stripped, jail time is guaranteed.  People lose their jobs because they stopped off at the bar after work and had three drinks. They can't pay the fines and fees because of the expense of finding alternate transportation and having to pay for mandatory treatment.  If they are caught driving to work, they are charged with higher crimes.  If they can't comply with the court orders (getting to the classes, not able to pay the fines, etc), they are charged with higher crimes.  No damage needs to be done in order to become a felon in the system.  A cop could see you pulling out of the parking lot of a bar, pull you over for suspicion, and arrest you.  Next thing you know, you have an alcohol-related offence on your record.  Even if the charges are dropped, the fact that you were arrested doesn't go away.  In some states, driving with alcohol in your system is grounds enough for the revocation of your license.

            The justification for all of this:  They're trying to prevent a real crime before it happens.  Yes, people are injured and killed by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  People are injured and killed by drivers who don't obey the laws.  Somehow, it's a worse crime (and therefore more necessary to prevent) to weave slightly (half of a tire width over the lane line) after using drugs or alcohol.  Ignoring things like speed limits and no-passing zones, stop signs and turning lanes isn't that bad, and requires only a ticket instead of an arrest.  Which is the clearer threat?  Which person is more likely to get into an accident?  The otherwise cautious driver who drives home after three drinks; or the one who passes in the turn lane, stone sober?  Why is speeding more socially acceptable than taking cold medication before picking up the kids from soccer practice?

            Because, the argument goes, the effect of the drug on the driver impairs the ability to drive safely.  Its pre-emptive law.  Punish the criminal before the crime is committed.

            This line of thinking has evolved to include any type of potential criminal activity.  The federal government has made it easier to use covert surveillance of the citizens (wire taps, communication monitoring) in order to investigate crimes before they happen.  It's broader than counter-terrorism measures.  It encompasses electronic media, bank accounts, wire transfers; anything that could be considered "suspicious activity."  Delivery people (UPS, Fed-Ex, Postal Service employees especially) are encouraged to seek out and report anything that they believe is out of the ordinary.  The government is trying to enlist citizens to work against other citizens, root out those that they believe may be involved in criminal activities.

            Got a gripe with your neighbor?  Call the FBI and report the new car he just bought, because there's no way he could have paid for it legally.  Or those strange people coming and going.  The strange package that was just delivered.  The tactics that the KGB used to keep Soviet citizens in line.  It doesnt matter if the activity was illegal or not.  The suspicion is enough.

            It has gone so far that Bush is looking to wage war on countries that are not proven threats, but are only potential threats.  He has stated that we must seek out and stop any attacks before they happen.  He doesn't need proof.  He can act on a whim, ignoring Congress, and invade any country whose government that he doesnt like.  (Not only is this an absurd abuse of power, it's also unconstitutional.  Only Congress has the power to declare war.  Which is why Viet Nam was only a "police action" for a long time.)

            Yet children are walking into schools and making hamburger out of their peers, without anyone trying to prevent those crimes before they happen.  A couple of kids start bringing home strange packages, lock themselves in the basement for long hours, and talk about getting revenge on the people who kept them on the outside, on the social fringe.  For months, they stayed in the basements of their parents' homes.  No one bothered to find out what was going on.  Out of respect for their privacy, no one looked in the basements.  And one day, they walked into their high school and carried out mass murder.

            Afterward, students were encouraged to be more tolerant of their peers who were different, to respect the people that they went to school with.  They wanted to make the people on the fringe feel more accepted and less singled out.

            Cops are taught to look for the people who are different, who don't fit into the cookie-cutter profile of what a citizen should look like.  They target ethnic and cultural groups, because they are more likely to be involved in behavior that is not acceptable to society at large.  Minorities (blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, mainly) are targeted because of the stereotype that they steal, do drugs, or are illegal emigrants.  Sub-cultures (such as hicks, punks, Goths, and other phreaks) are targeted because of the stereotype of drug or alcohol use, and fighting.  The lower-class workers.  The working poor.  The undesirable element of society.  This nation has worked hard to get rid of any group that believes in freedom and justice for all, not just the middle- to upper-class white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.  Hate crimes against people of Arabic descent, Muslims, and Catholics are on the rise.

            It seems to me that the easiest way to prevent these crimes is to get rid of those groups.  Put the working poor on work farms, bleach the minorities, and make Protestantism the State religion.  Make the use of any controlled substance outside of a controlled environment (hospital, psych ward) punishable by death.  Eliminate free speech, and indoctrinate children from birth to think, believe, and act within the bounds of socially acceptable behavior.  Make this nation a homogenous society.  Without divergence, without crime, without art, without progression.

            Why is it that after a few school shootings, the tolerance of those who are different has become Gospel in the public education system; yet in the greater society, people who live on the fringes are condemned and made to conform or die?  The ones at the fringe are the ones who can bring about meaningful change.  But, they're also the ones who challenge power and authority, and those in power don't like to be challenged.

This won't be the "land of the free" until we're brave enough to return the power to the people.