Escalating Brutality in the Late Empire

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One of the worst aspects (and there are many) of “law enforcement” in Late-Empire America is the unwarranted – rapid and violent – escalation of response by police, often out of all proportion to the original “offense” and when the “offender” is clearly no physical threat to the cop or anyone else.

For example, there’s the infamous case of Audra Harmon, who was pulled over for a minor traffic violation; ordinary speeding. The woman – a mom with her kids in the car – argues with the cop, asking that he show her the radar readout, rather than being immediately servile and submissive. The cop – a large man – begins to scream at her, then physically assaults her for “resisting,” ultimately Tazering her, forcing her to the ground and handcuffing her in front of her kids. Here is the video of that incident:

Now, granted, it may not be smart to mouth off to a cop – even when you’re being waylaid for no good reason (or for a trumped-up reason).

But this was blown out of all proportion, given the minor nature of the “offense.” And of course, the woman was in no conceivable way any threat to the cop.

That no longer matters. Simply objecting , verbally – or passively declining to immediately follow whatever orders are shouted at you – has become “resisting” in the minds of many cops. We now have a system in place that not only permits but encourages an over-the-top response to trivialities such as failing to “buckle up for safety” – or openly criticizing a pat-down by a GED reject TSA goon. And once there’s a pretext, any pretext – the least “resistance” (that is, failure to immediately cringe, submit and obey) can lead to outright physical assault.

Here’s another example:

Some kids were out on their skateboards. Apparently, in violation of some petty ordinance. A shorts-wearing fatty cop and his similarly porcine partner roll onto the “scene.” The first cop roughly snatches one kid’s skateboard, then body slams the other kid for daring to not immediately Submit and Obey. Rewind your mind: a 250-plus pounder hurls himself onto the person of a scrawny adolescent as if he were taking down Ted Bundy… over a skateboard ordinance violation. Imagine if this were your 14-year-old kid. Here’s the video of this incident:

One last example:

A woman is stopped for … jaywalking. She gets mad, understandably. The situation escalates. The cop – another big burly man – punches the woman in the face, full fist, full force. And it all began with… jaywalking.

Here’s the video:

The root problem is that we have so many petty laws in the first place. Cops should not be put in the position of having to enforce ridiculous – and tyrannical – edicts that naturally get people’s backs up, because people quite rightly object to being handled like criminals or talked down to like an idiot child over something that is – in a sane society – absolutely none of the cop’s business in the first place.

It used to be that, for the most part, only criminals – actually dangerous people, sociopaths – had to fear being handled roughly by cops. Now society is so interwoven with laws that it is almost impossible to step outside of your door without violating one and thus, find yourself the target of law enforcement.

An interesting aspect of this is the psychology involved. Criminals – dangerous people, sociopaths – understand what they are and know what they’ve done and so rarely evince genuine outrage when caught, roughly or otherwise. But the rest of us – the John Qs. and Janes just trying to live our lives – we take affront when a cop suddenly appears and begins quoting “the law” and spewing threats at us. This combination of shock and outrage contributes to the escalation of the situation. That woman in the first example above probably could not conceive that she would be Tazered and bullied to the ground by a cop – a personage that she had almost certainly (like most of us) been conditioned from an early age to regard as her (and “society’s”) guardian angel. Cops just didn’t do that kind of thing to housewives. Or kids. Or old people.

Or anyone else not a threat to them – much less “society.”

But that was before society began policing every aspect of our lives, giving cops a reason to hassle us where none existed before – and providing the pretext for the escalation we see all around us. There is, quite literally, no way out. Or at least no good way out. We have two choices:

Passively – and immediately – Submit and Obey to each and every law, no matter how petty, unjust or ridiculous. Never say anything to a cop except “yes sir” and “no sir.” Do whatever they say, every time – without question – period.

Or, dare to question – and risk the consequences of “resisting.”

In other words, we have the choice between abject servility – or at least trying to retain our dignity even in the face of possibly hideous consequences.

In a very real sense, it is the same choice articulated more than 200 years ago by another “resister” by the name of Patrick Henry:

“What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Henry – indeed, the entire founding generation – would find themselves on the wrong side of “the law” (and cops’ Tazers) were they alive today.

Will we stand with them?

Or with the Clovers?

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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