The front page article in the local paper was about a surplus armored personnel carrier the city received from the Army to transport SWAT teams throughout a two county region. No one anticipates a lot of use for it, but we have had a couple of armed standoffs in the last few years where protecting officers was a high priority. It will make its appearances mostly in parades and at fairs. The kids will love clambering over it, and veterans will tell stories around it.
You would think it would not be controversial, but among more than a few letter writers and commentators on the Internet, it has become a symbol of the militarization of our police forces orchestrated by a government bent on stripping us of our freedoms and turning the nation into a totalitarian state.
One hardly knows what to say. They can’t be dismissed as just so many nuts because they have such a loud voice, and, for some reason I fail to apprehend, that voice has captured the imagination of tea party types who seem to live in constant fear of the very government that is the foundation of the nation of which they say they are patriots, and that is now their enemy. As a minor aside, those same voices seem unaware of the differences between local, state and federal governments, but that’s another issue.
I visited with a friend on our local SWAT team who, being politically conservative himself, could not understand it. He is not, he said, the government, and besides, the job of the SWAT team is to protect the public from really bad guys, not confiscate guns or enforce martial law.
Apparently he was confused. As far as the loud voices are concerned, you are the government, I said. You are the very image of everything they are afraid of. If you are not in on the plot to enforce martial law, then you are being manipulated by those who are. That’s the (tea) party line, no deviation from it is allowed, and no evidence is required to support it. He just looked at me.
In my lifetime I have never seen so many otherwise normal people so steeped in fundamental ignorance about American history, civics, and economics, nor so convinced of what they believe that it’s not possible to engage in open conversation. The truly sad part, to me, is that we have serious issues that need the benefit of honest, well informed debate, and we’re not getting it. Instead we get Faux News and company, with modest competition from the ever rambling CNN and hyperbolic MSNBC. When they fade out, the banner is taken over by a small army of Internet commentators who are very good at reaching a very wide audience. We are not bereft of quality news sources in print, on the Net, and over the air, but who wants calm reasoned thinking when demagoguery is so much easier and more fun?
For what it’s worth, there are other voices that are heard in our community: conservative, liberal, and in-between. But they tend to talk mostly among themselves, not too loudly, and generally quite polite. Me among them.
OK, rant over, for the time being.