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We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?

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From flickr.com/photos/23876049@N06/14883863768/: Ferguson PD
Ferguson PD
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Should police officer Darren Wilson be held accountable for the shooting death of unarmed citizen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014?

Tasked with determining whether Wilson should stand trial for Brown's shooting, the grand jury ruled that the police officer will not face charges for the fatal shooting.

That the police officer was white and his victim black should make no difference. In a perfect world, it would not matter. In an imperfect world such as ours, however, racism is an effective propaganda tool used by the government and the media to distract us from the real issues.

As a result, the national dialogue about the dangers of militarized, weaponized police officers being trained to act like soldiers on the battlefield, shooting first and asking questions later, has shifted into a largely unspoken debate over race wars, class perceptions and longstanding, deep-seated notions of who deserves our unquestioning loyalty and who does not.

And the greater question--whether anything will really change to rein in militarized police, police shootings, lack of accountability and oversight, and a military industrial complex with a vested interest in turning America into a war zone--remains unanswered.

Ferguson matters because it provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. It is the shot across the bow, so to speak, a warning that this is how we will all be treated if we do not tread cautiously in challenging the police state, and it won't matter whether we're black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In the eyes of the corporate state, we are all the enemy.

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This is the lesson of Ferguson, that "we the people" are the enemy. As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, since those first towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

There was a moment of hope after Ferguson that perhaps things might change. Perhaps the balance would be restored between the citizenry and their supposed guardians, the police. Perhaps our elected officials would take our side for a change and oppose the militarization of the police. Perhaps warfare would take a backseat to more pressing national concerns.

That hope was short-lived.

It wasn't long before the media moved on to other, more titillating stories.

It wasn't long before the American public, easily acclimated to news of government wrongdoing, ceased to be shocked, outraged or alarmed by reports of police shootings.

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And with nary a hiccup, the police state marched steadily forth. In fact, it has been business as usual in terms of police shootings, the amassing of military weapons, and the government's sanctioning of police misconduct.

Rubbing salt in our wounds, in the wake of Ferguson, police agencies not only continued to ramp up their military arsenals but have used them whenever possible.

Opposed to any attempt to demilitarize America's police forces, the Dept. of Homeland Security has been chanting its safety mantra in testimony before Congress: Remember 9/11. Remember Boston. Remember how unsafe the world was before police were equipped with automatic weapons, heavily armored trucks, night-vision goggles, and aircraft donated by the DHS.

Contrary to DHS rhetoric, however, militarized police--twitchy over perceived dangers, hyped up on their authority, and protected by their agencies, the legislatures and the courts--have actually made communities less safe at a time when violent crime is at an all-time low and police officers have a lower risk of on-the-job fatalities than lumberjacks, fishermen, and airline pilots.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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