It was about this time last year that I ventured back out into the world. I started doing document review, figured I’d apply for jobs and if something stuck, great. I was actively engaged in Afghan affairs, attending all of the conferences and seminars I could while still getting in a 40 hour work week. I applied to OPDAT, the UN, and even a few NGO’s that did rule of law in Afghanistan. I didn’t get a single reply from any of them, even the NGO’s doing defense work said they wanted someone who did more development work, less actual you know, law stuff. OK, fine. I kept looking, rented an office, started a little non-profit called Afghan Health Alliance and picked up clients here and there.
In the year that I’ve been out and about, I’ve had to defend my religion countless times. “Doesn’t it preach hate?” No, it doesn’t. “Doesn’t it say that women have to be confined to the home?” No, it doesn’t. “Doesn’t it say all non-believers should die.” Well, all people will die, but it doesn’t say it the way you mean it.
My father is currently in Afghanistan. He’s a professor at the medical university and works with the ministry of higher education. I’ve seen my father cry twice. Once, when he found out his father had died (strange Afghan customs of not telling people bad news until years later) and then again when he came back from Afghanistan the first time and told us about the people and their suffering. The Afghan people struggled with the soviets, the Taliban, and now themselves. The Taliban blame the west for all of the misery in Afghanistan; America created the jihad by allowing the Soviets to come in. They used the Afghan people for their own purposes to destroy the Soviet Union. The West destroyed Afghanistan for their own selfish motives. The Taliban feel justified in their war against the criminal West and will use any means necessary to wage it.
This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The point of this post is not Afghanistan or the Taliban, although I could go on about that for days. The point is that Scott Greenfield has, probably for years now, been posting his “But for Video” series. This morning he posted one, courtesy of Radley Balko that made me feel like someone had whacked me in the head. My boys and I watch videos on my iphone, so this morning when I had it out Yacob said “whatcha doing mommy” and I told him, “don’t look at it baby, don’t look.” The video was as bad, or worse, than any I’ve seen from Afghanistan. You wouldn’t be able to tell that it came from a country that teaches the rest of the world about the Rule of Law, helps people draft constitutions, and is the torch bearer of democracy.
Muslims have been brought to task for not protesting against terrorism. It’s not a given, according to some, that muslims as a general rule dislike terrorism.
Note to 12 readers: I think terrorism is bad. I think the Taliban are evil. I don’t defend their actions because that would just be stupid and silly and well, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I comprehend their arguments in an intellectual sense, but I don’t agree and I don’t see how their strong arm tactics will get them what they want.
I imagine that there are police officers who think that the tactic taken in the video above was spot on, picture perfect, as Mr. Greenfield calls it. There are officers who will say that the man is a criminal, he deserves it. They will come to the defense of any police oficer who uses force and is driven by rage and testosterone. Because, after all, this is war and they will use any means to wage it.
But, there must be others out there who disagree, who do not think this is the way officers should conduct themselves, that its shameful and wrong. Why are they not marching in the streets, shouting from the rooftops? Here’s what I don’t understand. I have to answer for over 1 billion muslims. I have to explain why what the Afghans, the Taliban and Al Queda do is wrong. Why are police officers exempt from having to distance themselves from the actions of their brothers and sisters in blue? Why do I have to affirmatively state that I hate terrorism, but they don’t have to say that they hate abuse of power? Clearly, we can’t assume either.
Uh, it's not clear that a majority of them DO hate abuse of power. Clearly, there are some officers that relish exerting and abusing their authority, while most are normally quite fair and reserved. Nonetheless, I believe the police in generally know that they can use their position of authority to their advantage, if they are not actively trained to do so. How many people would decline to answer a police officer's arbitrary question when asked on the street or in a "knock and talk", versus the same situation involving some average Joe you don't know? I think many officers that are normally quite reserved will change their attitude if their authority is not respected.
As to why there are no protests about these commonplace police activities by the average American, some of it is because they are not directly involved, and feel these are unusual situations that are few and far between. Until it happens to them. In my opinion, most Americans are pretty apathetic, and are narrowly focused on things such as someone's recent Tweet, or what's on television tonight. America is a very rich country, allowing most citizens the luxury of focusing on their toys, the antics of celebrities, and enabling them to get by without ever having to think critically about what is going on around them and in the rest of the world. They are indeed "sheeple" who are easily herded by the media and Government, as seen in the fear and frenzy whipped up by "the war on terror", and the "war on drugs".
The responses to these "wars" are way overblown in comparison to the threat they actually pose, and media as well as Government propaganda easily persuades people to give up their rights in their support, and to allow the sorts of activities seen in that SWAT raid video.
In addition, there is the factor that the Government can indeed do much without the consent of the governed. How many Americans really support the war in Afghanistan, or the bailout of the financial sector, rendition, warrantless surveillance, CIA covert operations in foreign countries, and the like? There many that rail against these activities, but it seems to fall on deaf or apathetic ears.
Sure, there are people that disagree with what is seen in the video. I'm one of them. But the idea of protesting, although touted as an American right and tradition, has become, in a practical sense, a difficult proposition. Doing so can easily be seen as "contempt of cop", and lead to extrajudicial punishment with those responsible not held accountable – as demonstrated by the rash of recent videos on how police interact with such groups. And the media and Government propaganda easily enables others to judge such activities "Unamerican", even though it's exactly the opposite.
It's a sad commentary on the state of America, and the rule of law.
I started reading here about 2 months ago. This is your finest post since I've been here. I felt the same rage, but you brought a very unique perspective.
Wow, this is very commonplace. People are becoming desensitized and do NOT stand up for themselves or those around them when they witness these abuses . injustices will even happen to a white guy in Alaska, ME, with many witnesses who did come forward. I was still wrongfully convicted based on the officers false testimony and a gross misrepresentation by the DA. Injustice was recorded on video and audio tape but nothing preserved or investigated by ANYONE . This is NOT just another sad commentary about the degeneration of the Rule of law and those who are supposed to represent and uphold the same Rules.