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human & civil rights | imperialism & war a22: bush protest

Reflections on A22 protests from an Oregonian in Japan

Reading all these accounts on how the cops in Portland went overboard in their treatment of the protesters, I can't help feeling that the most surprising thing about all of this is that people are so surprised about all of this. All I have to do is look back over my own experiences, direct as well as indirect, with members of law enforcement.
Reading all these accounts on how the cops in Portland went overboard in their treatment of the protesters, I can't help feeling that the most surprising thing about all of this is that people are so surprised about all of this. All I have to do is look back over my own experiences, direct as well as indirect, with members of law enforcement.

- My father, who went to Western Oregon State College (now Western Oregon University) back in the 1960's, said they used to have so much trouble with the students from the police academy based on the campus that they finally had to build separate cafeteria and other facilities for them to keep them apart from the other students. You'd think the problem was all those anti-war and free-love types trying to get revenge against the "pig cadets". Nope. It was the other way around. The police cadets had a bad habit of strongarming their way around. As future officers of the law, they seemed to think they were entitled to special privileges, and kept beating up people that wouldn't yield right of way to them (i.e. let them cut in front of them in the lunch line, give them their tables when demanded, etc.). They also kept trying to take the law into their own hands even though they weren't yet qualified to do so. Considering my father is a right-wing Republican very much in favor of curbing individual rights and giving the police extra power, this story is all the more surprising.

- There was the time I was waiting in line to get into my first (and only) general-admission rock concert. It was near opening time, and the people were starting to crunch in. The cops were using various tactics, such as riding horses into the crowd, to thin it out. My friend Mike, who was in his usual jovial mood, said something like, "Keeping you busy?" to one of the cops. The cop responded by violently shoving him down and screaming, "If you've got so f*****g much energy, get your f*****g ass to the back of the line!" My friend took it in stride, but I was shocked. The cop's violent response was completely unnecessary.

- There is a certain relative of mine who was a cop in what was billed as the safest town in Oregon. He used to boast about how he and his buddies harassed people of certain social types. He, together with several of his buddies, vociferously pushed for a raid in a public park similar to the infamous K-Mart parking lot affair in Texas: indiscriminate arrest of anyone under the age of 21 if they were found there, even if they happened to be with their parents at the time. (Luckily, the mayor refused to allow it.) On one occasion, when I was driving through the town one evening, he (not knowing it was me until he ran my plates) tailgated me really closely to try to get me to speed up so he could ticket me. When I didn't speed up, he later called my mother and gave her a story about how I'd been speeding, driving recklessly, screwing around with my friends instead of paying attention to my driving, blah blah blah, and only his "concern for family" had kept me from getting a ticket. Naturally, my parents took the "honest cop's" word over the "rotten kid's", and I got in serious trouble. (He didn't admit that he had "exaggerated a bit" until several years later.) That relative had a bad habit of zealously overstepping his authority. That's why he's not a cop anymore. End of story.

- Tonight, on one of my favorite Japanese TV programs (actually, one of the few that I have any interest in whatsoever) they ran a story about a cop in Austria that had become so overzealous that, after frequently beating up people that tried to argue their way out of the parking tickets he gave them, he set up a couple of street thugs he couldn't arrest (for lack of evidence) and shot them. After he was arrested he proceeded to beat into a coma or strangle to death fellow inmates who didn't seem repentant of their crimes...before he later killed himself as punishment for his own.

During the program, they brought on a Japanese psychologist to discuss his case. He said, "It's very common in America for police to become overzealous and resort to excessive strongarm tactics. It's what we call the 'Dirty Harry Syndrome'. It's a power trip. They admire the macho image of the 'bad cop', and that's what leads them to become police officers in the first place."

The funny thing was that this was a Japanese psychologist on a Japanese TV program about an Austrian cop, and here he was talking about how notorious American cops are. Does it make sense to you?

With all the above cases in mind, the recent incidents in Portland don't seem at all out of the ordinary. Here we have a bunch of crazed zealots in armor just aching for an excuse to use their power. All those fragile, male egos with delusions of grandeur in desperate need of a hormone surge. The protesters? They were the deer to be hunted. They were the skinny, nervous little bookworm with coke-bottle glasses in desperate need of being taught a lesson. The other team. The kids from the other side of town. The enemy. "Let me hit 'em, boss. Come on. Just once. LET ME HIT 'EM!!!" No respect for human rights or dignity here, because they're irrelevant. Nobody ever bothers asking who or why. It's just "us" vs. "them".

They were given excuses to act. Piss-poor excuses, true, but excuses in their eyes nonetheless. They did what they came hoping to do, and they felt good for it. After all, they were warriors fighting for what is right. So a baby got caught in the crossfire. No biggie. Babies are getting blown up right and left in Afghanistan, and we're RIGHT, by God. It's a good thing that we have REAL MEN looking out for Uncle Sam, I tell you. Now it's Miller time.

God help us all.

People wonder why CNN was so quick to give only the authorities' side of the story (which the mayor of Portland himself later shot full of holes). People wonder why CNN has ALWAYS been so quick to side with the government slant of things. Well, I have a very good theory.

Remember Desert Storm? CNN reporters were in Iraq in the thick of things showing what was going on from the level of the common people. They seemed to be being as objective as possible. For example, when the U.S. bombed what they claimed was a chemical weapons factory, but Iraq insisted it was a baby milk plant, a CNN reporter immediately went into the ruined building, looked around, and even came out with a sample of the baby powder. No chemical weapons to be found anywhere.

Do you remember what happened? CNN was nicknamed "SNN" (Saddam News Network) and accused of being both pro-Iraqi and anti-American. They were picketed and boycotted. They were given threats. They were even investigated by the National Security Agency and the FBI. Certain leading figures in the company as well as a few journalists were threatened with arrest.

If CNN is a bit less than enthusiastic about winding up in such a position again, right or wrong, I have to say that I don't blame them. If people want an objective news media, they shouldn't make them suffer for being objective. Most people don't want to shove their head into a blazing oven more than once.....or even once, for that matter...

Oh, well. I've been watching BBC news recently. A bit less America-centric, and the music is better.

I forgot... 29.Aug.2002 15:58

The Moody Minstrel

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