Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Coming Police State

Years back, my daughters and I took a quick trip to New York to soak up urban life, shop, and visit a broadway show.  On the way north, we were pulled over by a Pennsylvania State Police officer.  It was just one of a series of interesting experiences I witnessed while traveling with two attractive, college co-eds.

It was an upsetting stop.  We were in traffic in the pouring rain on the two-lane, curvy Pennsylvania Turnpike.  The officer put on his lights while I was in the passing lane - doing the speed limit.  I'd seen the state car because it had been behind us for quite some time.  In fact, it had at first passed us and then dropped back and followed us.

To pull over, I had to negotiate crossing a lane and find a safe spot on a narrow shoulder up against a guardrail overlooking a precipitous drop in the Alleghenies.

It was kind of scary.

Next, the police officer comes to the window and explains that I did not use a turn signal when changing lanes and that this was a dangerous practice.  Really?  I asked.  More dangerous than pulling to the side of a narrow, teeming highway in the pouring rain?

He then changed the subject and began to chat-up my daughter (remarking, oddly, about a brightly colored bird on the shoulder) who was sitting in the passenger seat fuming.  It was clear the stop was intended as an opportunity to talk with the young women in the car.

I've thought about this incident all week in light of the recent Supreme Court decision to allow strip searches for even minor traffic violations.  I did talk back to the officer, politely I think, who was pleasant enough in spite of his lack of good sense.  There were no charges.  He wished us a good day.

I've thought of this all week because of the way the incident could have ended if this week's ruling had been the law of the land.  

I've thought of it all week because I have seen already how quickly a modern society can become a suppressive regime.  (Read the graphic novel Persepolis to find out what happened almost overnight to the women of Iran.)

The Supreme Court Justices' ruling was activist in the extreme since it is goes even further than standards set by the American Correctional Association, the U.S. Marshals, and ten states' existing laws against unnecessary strip-search.

I do not like what is happening in this country. 

A minority seems to be reigning in everyone's freedoms in the name of who-knows-what. And the rights of women and minorities seem to be at the top of the list.  Michigan has rescinded  majority-black municipalities' rights to democracy.  Arizona has banned books and courses of study.  Wisconsin has reduced women's health care rights.  And my own state of Virginia is forcing women to receive and pay for medically unnecessary ultrasounds when requesting their legally protected right to an abortion.

Sadly, there is more.  Too much to list here.  Probably the worst is the concerted effort of the Republican lead legislatures to disenfranchise as many voters as possible.   These recently passed laws do not reflect the wishes of the majority but have been churned by the well financed group ALEC.  I can only think that most of the citizenry--if they were aware--would be alarmed by the recent strip-search ruling.

This is scary.

Think about your daughters.