Forget Race: Gates Debate Should be about Police State
Barack Obama was wrong to apologize for his remarks about the Gates arrest. Backing down and calling for a group-hug with the officer is another dangerous example of our surrender to the police state.
In 1644, the great English jurist Sir Edward Coke proclaimed “A man’s house is his castle.” This has been a foundation stone of Anglo-American law ever since. Once the Cambridge police officer established that Gates did indeed live in the house, he should have turned his back and walked away. According to the police, Gates said some offensive things like “I’ll speak with your mama outside.” Even if we are to believe that, it doesn’t matter. Sure the officer felt disrespected. (When did cops become so damn sensitive?) But Gates was in his own house and a man’s house is his castle.
I understand why the incident has been framed by race. Fresh out of jail, Gates immediately began promoting a new PBS special about racial profiling– hosted by him of course. But by framing the Gates arrest as only a problem of racial profiling, we risk missing an opportunity to confront a deeper threat to our liberties– the creep toward a police state.
Last month a cop tasered a white 72-year old great-grandmother because she supposedly threatened him. Watch the video to see how much of a threat the old woman posed. Like Gates, this woman was the victim of a cop behaving stupidly. And like Gates, police brass blamed the victim. Where was the national outrage?
A week before that, Oklahoma highway patrol stopped an ambulance carrying a sick old woman because the ambulance driver supposedly gave them the finger. (Again, when did cops become such shrinking violets??) Watch how the cops rough up the EMT while the old woman screams from inside the ambulance.
I understand being a cop is tough and I’m truly grateful for their service. But every time an incident of police brutality and stupidity happens, the public seems to look the other way. We’ve been taught to automatically ‘respect the badge.’ But we must also protest every time the police violate the rights of our fellow citizens, regardless of whether or not racism is involved.
Today’s NYT reports that Dick Cheney wanted to use the military to perform police operations — clearly violating the Fourth Amendment and the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. Like the CIA hit squads, Cheney’s plans for domestic military operations probably won’t generate much public outrage. And that’s a terrible shame.
Every American must understand that the police are both defenders of and threats to our rights. Does that sound too harsh? Take a look at the Bill of Rights and count how many of the first ten amendments specifically target the cops and military. The founders understood the importance of public vigilance against the police state. I only wish today’s Americans felt as defensive.
Just because to cops or the government do it dosent make it right. And you can exect to see more of the creeping police state unless there is some public outrage.