You know you live in a police state when the president allows the military to continuously harass a prisoner against whom no crime has been proven by interrupting him every five minutes of the day to ask him, "Are you okay?" and forces him to stand to attention naked at roll call. What it can do to one man it can do to every man.
You know you live in a police state when said prisoner is barred from exercising in his cell and told where he may and may not put his hands when he goes to sleep at night. Only a police state would dictate how an individual can sleep.
You know you live in a police state when the government punishes, rather than honors, whistle-blowers who reveal its crimes such as the U.S. massacre of civilians in Baghdad that PFC Bradley Manning exposed.
You know you live in a police state when wardens force pregnant women prisoners to deliver their babies while in chains. (Not exactly "the new birth of freedom" of which Abraham Lincoln spoke.)
You know you live in a police state when the president orders the assassination (i.e., murder) of American citizens without bothering to arrest them and bring them to trial.
You know you live in a police state when police forces across the country attack unarmed and non-violent citizen protesters with pepper spray and clubs.
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You know you live in a police state when hundreds of thousands of citizens are rotting in prisons for victimless "crimes" such as smoking pot and your country leads the world in incarcerations with 2.3 million behind bars and when hundreds of thousands of these prisoners are sexually assaulted.
You know you live in a police state when working people who say overwhelmingly that they want to join a union cannot do so for fear of being fired, and in which the money earned by the poor is taken by the state and given to the rich. If the government can rob one person, it can rob every person.
You know you live in a police state when your government makes terrible, punishing wars on small countries after falsely accusing them of having a "weapon of mass destruction" while it possesses tens of thousands of them.
You know you live in a police state when the president signs into law an Act allowing him to arrest innocent citizens on his say-so and have the military imprison them indefinitely without charge, legal counsel, or trial before a jury of their peers.
You know you live in a police state when you can be barred from flying in an airliner on suspicion of "terrorism" that has not been proven and which is impossible for you to challenge.
You know you live in a police state when you are under surveillance by Federal agencies such as the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency, among others, for your political views rather than the commission of any crime against the state, and when said agencies can access your medical records, bank statements, and "private" papers, tap your telephone, question your neighbors and employer and follow you around.
You know you live in a police state when the military gets the biggest percentage of your tax dollars so that it can spend as much for war as the next 20 nations combined while claiming it is attacking other countries in the name of peace and order.
You know you live in a police state when the Pentagon has more than a trillion dollars in research projects underway to make sophisticated killing machines that will give it control of the entire planet from 2,000 military bases and outer space and to terrify the world with its arsenals of nuclear weapons and germ warfare.
You know you live in a police state when people write to you to commend you for your "courage" for writing critically against the government when, in fact, you should have every good reason to live in fear of so doing.
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant for "good causes" who formerly wrote for major dailies and wire services.)
Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...