Note: I have made several revisions due to additional information that has been brought to light in the days following. Needless to say, some pertinent facts are being withheld.
What disturbs me is the way in which the suburb has become what America may resemble in the not-so distant future: A perpetual battleground and occupied territory.
I understand that the looting has nothing to do with police abuse. Looting and rioting are the actions of uncivilized brutes.
Nevertheless, looting is a fleeting, impetuous act that quickly subside. When the looting ends, however, the militarization of the police force will remain long after, and people who had nothing to do with the looting and mob action will suffer.
When I watch videos like the one below, I don’t see just Ferguson, Missouri as it is now. The cops, armed to the teeth, look like U.S. Marines out of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 when the Russians invade Virginia – and perhaps that is how many officers regard the situation. They certainly don’t think highly of the people they’re supposed to protect and serve.
Gone are the days of Walt Disney’s Main Street, USA. Welcome to Orwell’s Main Street, USSA.
A lot of libertarian anarchists, including myself, like to discuss the hypothetical. We like to describe the way things should be. Unfortunately, what’s happening is not hypothetical or the ideal. The situation in Ferguson is not atypical. All the elements to create civil unrest are present in communities and neighborhoods all across the country.
It seems, at this point, superfluous to describe how things should be. We all know how it should be. Cops shouldn’t be quasi-militarized forces that treat citizens like suspected insurgents in a war zone and have qualified immunity to protect them from violating the rights of people coerced into funding their paycheck.
In a libertarian anarchist society, laws would be limited to property crimes and police forces would be privatized. They would have an incentive to deescalate conflict rather than actively promote it. Many of the socio-economic elements that create these circumstances would also not exist.
The sad reality is that such a society doesn’t exist at the moment.
When it comes to actual solutions to immediate problems, the answer is not how to solve them but how to not be destroyed by the consequences.
The reaction in Ferguson to this incident and the police response indicates what will occur at some point on a national scale. The ingredients for a nation-wide upheaval are there.
It doesn’t matter what ignites the powder keg. A terrorist attack. Another mundane street encounter gone wrong. An economic collapse.
Whatever it may be, when it happens America will at long last discover first-hand what it is like to be a country occupied by agents of the U.S. government. We saw a small taste of it following the Boston Marathon Bombing.
It will be carried out under the auspices of “maintaining law and order.” The worst part will be the ordinary fools who make it possible. Looters and rioters carrying out random violence against innocent people will provide the authorities with the cover of legitimacy to do so, and citizens terrified of social chaos will support them.
But make no mistake about it. These agents may wear police badges, but everything about them, from their body armor to their attitudes, will declare them to be soldiers participating in an armed military campaign against an unseen enemy. Even now, officers frequently treat citizens as suspected criminals, possible threats to their physical safety. As an act of defiance against the First Amendment, journalists in Ferguson are being arrested or driven off with smoke grenades.
It may be difficult to see how this is the result of the U.S. foreign policy, but consider where the police obtained their equipment, where they learned the tactics they use, and the precedent set for the use of such methods against civilians. Police increasingly behave less like your local law enforcement, subject to the wrath and ire of their community, and more as an occupying force acting on behalf of a foreign authority.
As Tim Shoemaker at Campaign for Liberty puts it:
Ferguson is the price we pay for turning America’s police into paramilitary units armed with the Pentagon’s surplus military gear leftover from decades of American militarism overseas.
The era of your friendly neighborhood lawman only out to “protect and serve” the community is over — if it ever existed at all.
What we are seeing is a variation of the concept of blowback. A long-standing tradition of U.S. government intervention in other nations, whether overtly or covertly, has given them areas to practice the tactics they will use here. Americans will experience themselves the very same abuses and meddling the federal government has inflicted on other people around the world.
The consequences for the current political situation will play themselves out before any changes occur. Changes were made to safety practices on ships due to the Titanic disaster, but only after it was at the bottom of the ocean.
I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m afraid that this ship has already struck the iceberg.
In the meantime, put on a life preserver and get on a life boat. The water maybe treacherous down below, but it’s better than staying on a ship doomed to sink.
Before, it was Boston. Today, it is Ferguson, Missouri. What city will it be next?