This Thanksgiving, Let’s Say ‘No Thanks’ to the
Tyranny of the American Police State
By John W. Whitehead
“Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and
to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster,
and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again.
Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution
should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”—Daniel
November 24, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - Thanksgiving is not what
it once was.
Then again, America is not what she once was.
Americans have become so enthralled by the “bread
and circuses” of our age—tables groaning under the weight of an
abundance of rich foods, televisions tuned to sports and
entertainments spectacles, stores competing for Black Friday
shoppers, and a general devotion to excess and revelry—that we have
lost sight of the true purpose of Thanksgiving.
Indeed, the following is a lesson in how far we
have traveled—and how low we have fallen—in the more than 200 years
since George Washington issued the
Thanksgiving proclamation, calling upon the nation to give
thanks for a government whose purpose was ensuring the safety and
happiness of its people and for a Constitution designed to safeguard
civil and religious liberty.
This Thanksgiving finds us saddled with a
government that is a far cry from Washington’s vision of a
government that would be a blessing to all the people:
- governed by wise, just and constitutional
- faithfully executed and obeyed by its agents
- assisting foreign nations with good
government, peace, and concord
- promoting true religion, virtue and science
- and enabling temporal prosperity.
Instead, as the following shows, the U.S.
government has become a warring empire, governed by laws that are
rash, unjust and unconstitutional, policed by government agents who
are corrupt, hypocritical and abusive, a menace to its own people,
and the antithesis of everything for which Washington hoped.
George Washington didn’t intend Thanksgiving to be
a day for offering up glib platitudes that require no thought, no
effort and no sacrifice. He wanted it to be a day of contemplation,
in which we frankly assessed our shortcomings, acknowledged our
wrongdoings, and resolved to be a better, more peaceable nation in
the year to come.
It is in that true spirit of Thanksgiving
that I offer the following list of things for which I’m not thankful
about the American police state.
The U.S. has become a corporate oligarchy.
As a Princeton University survey indicates, our
elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital,
represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the
average citizen. We are no longer a representative republic. As
such, the citizenry has little if any impact on the policies of
government. There are
131 lobbyists to every Senator, reinforcing concerns that the
government represents the corporate elite rather than the citizenry.
Americans are being jailed for profit. Imprisoning
Americans in private prisons and jails run by mega-corporations has
turned into a cash cow for big business, with states agreeing to
maintain a 90% occupancy rate in privately run prisons for at least
20 years. And how do you keep the prisons full? By passing laws
aimed at increasing the prison population, including the imposition
of life sentences on people who commit minor or nonviolent crimes
such as siphoning gasoline. Little surprise, then, that the United
States has 5% of the world’s population, but
25% of the world’s prisoners. The government’s tendency towards
militarization and overcriminalization, in which routine, everyday
behaviors become targets of regulation and prohibition, have
resulted in Americans getting arrested for making and selling
unpasteurized goat cheese, cultivating certain types of orchids,
feeding a whale, holding Bible studies in their homes, and
picking their kids up from school.
Endless wars have resulted in a
battlefield mindset that is infecting the nation.
The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security (DHS)
and Defense have passed off billions
of dollars worth of military equipment to local police forces.
crews and fire fighters are being “gifted” with military tanks,
Kevlar helmets and ballistic vests. Police agencies have been trained
in the fine art of war. It has become second nature for local
police to look and act like soldiers. Communities have become acclimated
to the presence of militarized police patrolling their streets.
Americans have been taught compliance at the end of a police gun or
taser. Lower income neighborhoods have been transformed
into war zones. Hundreds if not thousands of unarmed Americans
have lost their lives at the hands of police who shoot first and ask
questions later. And a whole
generation of young Americans has learned to march in lockstep
with the government’s dictates.
Militarized police, shootings of unarmed
citizens, SWAT team raids, misconduct and qualified immunity have
transformed the U.S. into a police state.
What we must contend with today is the danger of having a standing
army (which is what police forces, increasingly made up of
individuals with military backgrounds and/or training, have evolved
into) that has been trained to view the citizenry as little more
than potential suspects, combatants and insurgents. Despite
propaganda to the contrary, it is estimated that
U.S. police kill more people in days than other countries do in
years. On an average day in America, at least
100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams (although
I’ve seen estimates as high as 300 a day), which are increasingly
used to deal with routine police matters: angry dogs, domestic
disputes, search warrants, etc.
Every five days a police officer somewhere in America engages in
sexual abuse or misconduct.
The barrier between public and private
property has been done away with.
Call it what you will—taxes, penalties, fees, fines, regulations,
tariffs, tickets, permits, surcharges, tolls, asset forfeitures,
foreclosures, etc.—but the only word that truly describes the
constant bilking of the American taxpayer by the government and its
corporate partners is theft. What Americans don’t seem to comprehend
is that if the government can arbitrarily take away your property,
without your having much say about it, you have no true rights and
no real property. In this way, the police state with all of its
trappings—from surveillance cameras, militarized police, SWAT team
raids, truancy and zero tolerance policies, asset forfeiture laws,
privatized prisons and red light cameras to Sting Ray devices,
fusion centers, drones, black boxes, hollow-point bullets, detention
centers, speed traps and abundance of laws criminalizing otherwise
legitimate conduct—has become little more than a front for a
high-dollar covert operation aimed at laundering as much money as
possible through government agencies and into the bank accounts of
the corporate oligarchy that rule over us.
The technologically-driven surveillance
state has become the fourth branch of government.
This fourth branch—the NSA, CIA, FBI, DHS, etc.—came
into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional
referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those
of any other government agency save the military. It is
all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the
reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in
lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in
Washington, DC. This age of technological tyranny has been made
possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies
and their corporate ties. Beware of what you say, what you read,
what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because
it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at
a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have
known it, is dead. The police state is about to pass off the baton
to the surveillance state.
The schools, modeled after quasi-prisons,
are churning out future compliant citizens.
Within America’s public schools can be found almost
every aspect of the American police state that plagues those of us
on the “outside”: metal detectors, surveillance cameras, militarized
police, drug-sniffing dogs, tasers, cyber-surveillance, random
searches, senseless arrests, jail time, the list goes on. Whether it
takes the form of draconian zero tolerance policies, overreaching
anti-bullying statutes, police officers charged with tasering and
arresting so-called unruly children, standardized testing with its
emphasis on rote answers, political correctness, or the extensive
surveillance systems cropping up in schools all over the country,
young people in America are first in line to be indoctrinated into
compliant citizens of the new American police state.
The courts have become courts of order in
an age of government-sanctioned tyranny.
With every ruling handed down by the courts, it
becomes more apparent that we live in an age of hollow justice, with
government courts, largely lacking in vision and scope, rendering
narrow rulings that have nothing to do with true justice. This is
true at all levels of the judiciary, but especially so in the
highest court of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is
seemingly more concerned with establishing order and protecting
government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the
Constitution. Given the turbulence of our age, with its police
overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic
surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful
convictions, and corporate corruption, the need for a guardian of
the people’s rights has never been greater. Yet when presented with
an opportunity to weigh in on these issues, what does our current
Supreme Court usually do? It ducks. Prevaricates. Remains silent.
Speaks to the narrowest possible concern. More often than not, it
gives the government and its corporate sponsors the benefit of the
doubt. Rarely do the concerns of the populace prevail.
As I point out in my book
Battlefield America: The War on the American People,
these are abuses that no American should tolerate from its
government, and yet not only do we tolerate them, but we help to
advance them by supporting meaningless elections, allowing ourselves
to be divided by partisan politics, and failing to hold the
government accountable to abiding by the rule of law, the U.S.
Mark my words: if we do not push back against the
menace of the police state now, if we fail to hold onto the
Constitution and our constitutional republic, and if we allow the
government to remain the greatest threat to our freedoms, then
future Thanksgivings will find us paying the price with tyranny at
home and anarchy throughout the world.
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 concern
for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The
Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights
organization whose international headquarters are located in
Charlottesville, Virginia. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s
president and spokesperson, in addition to writing a weekly
commentary that is posted on The Rutherford Institute’s website (www.rutherford.org)
Copyright 2015 © The Rutherford Institute