The Long Train Of Abuses: Next Stop, Ferguson
by Ben Crystal
In 1776, what may well have been the largest gathering of human intelligence in history decided to put a lid on what may well have been the most important convention in human history by issuing what may well have been the most important press release in human history. Known forever as the “Declaration of Independence,” the statement crackled with the kind of robust language and no-nonsense honesty that made that august assemblage so much cooler than their legislative progeny. (Seriously, compare and contrast: the Continental Congress versus the Detroit City Council.)
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Keep in mind that these guys were committing treason. They were not only working without a teleprompter, they were working without a basic safety net. If they had overestimated potential support from their target demo, they weren’t figuratively dead, they were dead-dead. But the situation had progressed to that dire a point. Virtually all the decisions regarding their fate were being made by people most of them had never met, in a remote city most of them had never visited. And those decisions routinely involved taking everything from their livelihoods to their lives with little to no recompense. Even if they managed to keep a little for themselves, there was an ever-present threat of the local garrison turning your barn, your house and maybe even your daughter into crown property. The king was an absentee landlord — and the worst kind. He never fixed the radiator; but miss the rent, and his goons were at your door. The only real difference was that the king didn’t actually own the building. So they gave the king history’s most famous fair warning.
To quote President Barack Obama, “Let me be clear.” I am not suggesting that we start assembling the best and brightest and shoving them Philly-ward. I’m not sure we’ve crossed the line from treason to “throwing off the chains of tyranny” just yet. Also, if we have crossed that line, I’m certain that we don’t want to dump our top thinkers in the City of Brotherly Love; we might not get them back. However, I am suggesting that current events dictate we should probably think about making travel arrangements.
Consider the national embarrassment unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. And no, I don’t mean “that poor, lovable teddy bear of a boy, the Unarmed Teenager Michael Brown. They executed him just because he was a black child out for an evening stroll.” That narrative went to pot faster than Marion Barry with the keys to the narcotics squad’s evidence locker. It needs to be noted that Brown was a punk. While every other aspect of what occurred in that fateful moment appears to be saddled with multiple backstories, there can be no doubt that Brown was not an heir to Rosa Parks, nor even Trayvon Martin. Sure, the race-pimps, the professional protesters, the tragedy vultures and the low-information shriekers are loudly lionizing him as if he were a 6-foot-4, 290-pound Stephen Biko; but he wasn’t. Even if he had been, looting the McDonald’s and begging the crowd for donations — I’m looking at you, “Reverend” Jackson — isn’t a particularly constructive way to advance his cause.
Nonetheless, if bottom-feeders like Al Sharpton want to hit up the audience for their grocery money and nobody gets hurt, there’s actually nothing wrong with that. In this boy’s America, we’re not supposed to roll tanks for peaceably assembled people, even if they’re noisy, noisome or, as in the case of Sharpton, both. If the New Black Panthers, the Old Black Panthers or even the Tween Black Panthers want to don their berets incorrectly and march around in loose formation like a bunch of junior varsity martinets on a bender, then so be it. As long as they don’t break the furniture, the government is not supposed to respond with an infantry battalion.
That having been said, when did the cops start resembling SEAL Team 6? To be fair, the average police officer, sheriff’s deputy and/or federal agent is probably a pretty good guy. “To serve and protect” means something to the cops I know personally, and I appreciate them for it. But watching the scenes from Ferguson, I kept flashing to the Third World rioting Hollywood uses as stock footage for the latest end-of-the-world disaster flick. I watched as police officers loaded out for a patrol in Waziristan rolled heavy into the noisy-but-peaceful protesters while the real scumbags pillaged and looted without facing even token resistance until the store owners started standing up for themselves. If we needed a look at what America will be when the police and the Department of Defense are the same guys, we’re seeing it in Ferguson, thanks to what appears to be a federal program to give every suburban police department light-armored vehicles and light artillery.
Images of government agents assaulting nonviolent civilians are hardly new. Despite America’s history of serving as a beacon of liberty in a world darkened by liberty, we’ve had some trouble keeping the lights on. And it appears to be getting progressively worse. It took about 25 years to march from water cannons in Birmingham to sniper rifles in Ruby Ridge. It took only 10 to go from Ruby Ridge to the Patriot Act. It took less than 10 to go from the Patriot Act to NSA domestic spying, politically motivated IRS harassment and a President who is less concerned with the rule of law than he is with his short game. Law enforcement in Ferguson and elsewhere looks increasingly like the armed forces, and now they’re even sharing gear. Remember that iconic scene of a federal agent tearing a terrified Elian Gonzalez from the arms of a family member? Remember how incongruous that image seemed when compared to our imagined ideal of law enforcement? It seems almost quaint now.
The government listens, watches and takes. And where’s the president, the theoretical first among equals chosen by the people to lead our great nation into the teeth of the 21st century? Well, right now, he’s probably on the back nine. But he’ll soon be back in the Oval Office, working on more illegal decrees, unconstitutional edicts and heavy-handed harassment of his fellow Americans. He might not be wearing a powdered wig, but he’s every bit the absentee landlord King George III was.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
As I said, I’m not sure the time to “dissolve the political bands” has yet drawn nigh. However, I’m rapidly tiring of the “repeated injuries and usurpations” — as I suspect many of you are, as well.