Friday, September 05, 2008

Harvester of Sorrow

It really is a vicious little game with the police state in St. Paul. On Thursday, there was one major march from the state Capitol building to downtown. The march was perfectly peaceful and legal, and the permit was set to expire at 7:00pm.

When the crowd reached the bridge, they found themselves surrounded by police and riot squads. And then the cops declared that the permit expired at 5:00pm, right at the start, and ordered them to disperse.

Disperse to where? Now that's a funny question. But switching the closing time, that's just comedy gold. The police, of course, declare to the media that the permit expired at 5:00pm, and had always expired at 5:00pm. And this is what gets reported on your teevee screens. Violent protests! Standoff! Anarchists!

The crowd of 500-600 people found themselves trapped on a bridge, with all roads cut off from escape. The police on horseback gave way for the armored stormtroopers, hands on the concussion grenade launchers and the tear gas guns. Some middle-aged women with one of the peace groups try to talk to authorities and get some answers. The return to inform everybody else that they are about to be hurt. Calvinball with machine guns.

Nobody, of course, had any clue that 5:00 was the new closing time. It had always been 7:00. They were the last to know, and now a crowd of civilians feared for an imminent assault by local, state, and federal agents. That is the worst state of dread, the sense of danger, knowing that those black-armored assault troops will soon march on you, beating you, gassing you, tasering you. You and everyone else are sitting on the ground, hands on your head. You are not a rioter or a violent protester. That whole line is a fraud.

This is one of the sobering lessons of this week in the Republican war zone: mainstream America, which is to say White America, will never accept the reality of police brutality. You will never convince them of what you saw, the creeping police state invading your home town, the intimidation, the Orwellian world you've found yourself in. No, no, no, no, no. There are violent protesters. They were breaking windows. They were throwing urine at cops. La, la, la, la, la, la. You have to look at it from both sides, la, la, la, la, la.

Yes, look at it from the stormtroopers' point of view. Those poor soldiers. Those poor cops. They were so defenseless against unarmed civilains wearing t-shirts. How could they defend themselves against that? All they had were grenades, tear gas, and M-16's.

You're wasting your time trying to convince white people in this country that this brutality exists. I should have learned that from Rodney King. It's a sentiment that rages in my head, and now I have to find a way to live with it. But it's a violence and brutality that exists all over America, in our For four days, I knew what it was like to be a black man in America.

I have been to countless protests and peace demonstrations. I've seen song and dance and street theatre. I've shouted the slogans and marched across the blocks and carried the signs. And I've seen riots, real riots. I've seen the Minneapolis riot squad in action before. What happened here in St. Paul and Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention was something far worse. Far, far worse. The level of militarization and brutal efficiency was shocking, stunning. And yet it really wasn't. America has become a cruel empire, its peasants laid docile and impotent by the gases of fear and ignorance, as the evil minds that plot destruction wreak havok upon the globe. They become more destructive, more openly fascist. It grows and grows like a cancer, and the patient willfully ignores it, or worse still, cheers it on.

Torture. Abu Graib. Guantanamo. Iraq. Afghanistan. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Chemical agents. Tasers. Rubber bullets. Warrentless wiretaps. Unrestrained spying, monitoring, gathering, building. Each step further into the dark abyss is but a touchstone for the next step. The blinding, surreal, exhilirating void only becomes darker, bleaker. The empire sheds more and more of the old skin of the Republic; the chickens come home to roost.

We are in danger in the United States of America. We are in tremendous danger. The madness must be stopped. You look away, you rationalize, you wrap yourselves in the flag and the bullying, braying mantras of the GOP machine. You do all of these things believing it will make you safe. Damned fools. Your children will be hurled into the abyss, and you gleefully hold open the doors to their graves.

Truly, this is the language of the mad.

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