As regular readers know, I’m not one for hyperbole, so perhaps some are thinking that my title is ironic. Nope, I mean it. An accumulation of events in recent months leads me to no other conclusion than that we are in fact living in a police state in the good old US of A.
The list of reasons is fairly long, but we can certainly start with our favorite gropers at the TSA. In my ideal world, airline safety would be the responsibility of those with the most directly to lose financially from doing it poorly: the airlines and the airports. But even in a world where government has taken on that responsibility, we should be protected by the Fourth Amendment against “unreasonable” searches. It’s one thing to walk through the standard metal detector, which seems reasonable, but when we are expected to pose virtually nude in a submissive position for government agents, and when refusing to do so earns you a feel-up that would count as sexual battery in most states, that is something else entirely.
If I had told you 20 years ago that in 2011 this is what would happen every day to thousands of travelers — including toddlers and the handicapped — at U.S. airports, you would not have believed me. And on top of everything else, it doesn’t work! It’s mere “security theatre.” When residents of the United States have a legitimate fear of being sexually abused by agents of the State when engaging in peaceful air travel, we live in a police state.
Add to this 1) the militarization of the police, with no-knock raids by full SWAT teams being the norm for everything from minor possession of marijuana to suspected student-loan fraud, and 2) the Supreme Court’s complicity in eviscerating the Fourth Amendment — and two more pieces of the police state are in place. These raids often feature what writer Radley Balko calls “puppycides.” The cops shoot and kill any dogs in the house routinely, regardless of their behavior. Of course the cops often raid the wrong house, terrifying innocent people in the middle of the night and killing their dogs too. When residents of the United States have serious reason to fear the door being busted down in the middle of the night by armed agents of the State despite having done nothing wrong, we live in a police state.