Some food for thought. Many of these things bothered me when the ‘lockdown’ and manhunt were going on but in a very peripheral way. With so many (not) reacting this way… that in itself is not a good sign; evidence of the desensitization towards loss of freedoms and liberties in America. Deliberate desensitization? I think that’s highly probable… led like sheep to slaughter.
SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2013
The Boston Bombers are caught, but a troubling legacy remains . . .
The Boston Marathon bombers have been caught or killed. That’s the story that has dominated all the news networks since the shootout with police a few nights ago.
While I applaud the efforts of the police, and I’m glad the presumed criminals are off the streets, I am troubled by a few of the things that happened, and I wonder why so few people are talking about some of these issues I observed as the drama unfolded . . .
First – the effective imposition of martial law in Watertown.
For the first time in my memory, the police essentially imposed martial law and closed a city as they searched for a criminal. While I appreciate that this made their job easier, it cost innocent residents their liberty for the day and millions of collective dollars. If I were a small business owner in Watertown, I’d be pretty upset that the state summarily ordered me to close with no recompense.
“Get off the streets or you will be arrested!” That’s what the police said to pedestrians in Watertown, according to numerous online sources. What’s next? Are we at risk for being shot or arrested in our own towns, simply to facilitate a criminal manhunt?
In the end, the massive manhunt did not catch the criminal. A homeowner found him, as he lay bleeding in a boat behind his house. The manhunt – with all the thousands of troops and police, and all the millions spent – did not catch the crook. From the accounts I read, he was seriously injured and probably would have died, had he not been found.
This raises two questions: Was this level of response justifiable? And under what circumstances might it happen again?
Most residents of Watertown lost a day’s freedom; some lost more. Many lost wages or self employment revenue. For what greater gain did we make these sacrifices? Remember, throughout our history, Americans have faced many horrific crimes and disasters, without need for such draconian measures.
Second – the erosion of defendant’s rights
There’s talk in the media about how the suspect was not read his Miranda rights, or provided an attorney. An exception to Miranda was noted, to protect the officers from clear and present danger.
While I understand the need to protect from immediate danger, I also see this as a slippery slope. Police say they don’t need to read him his rights, and the let that soak into the public consciousness. Next time, the public isn’t so surprised. One day, perhaps you’ll get arrested, and you won’t have any rights at all. That’s where this thinking leads, if we are not careful.
Most of our police are decent men and women. But as my son and I learned – and as I describe in my book, Raising Cubby – there are bad apples in any otherwise good legal system. We have checks and balances for a good reason, and we discard them at our great peril.
It sounds easy to justify abrogation of Miranda for this guy. That makes it easier next time. After a few dozen incidents we may find that right casually thrown away. That’s how it happens.
Third – Treat him as an enemy combatant!
Several senators have already made this request of the FBI. What are they thinking? However terrible this person’s crimes; however horrible he may be . . . he is still an American citizen, on American soil.
If I – a native born American citizen – had committed these crimes, would I be an enemy combatant too? If so, why? Does setting a bomb off in a crowd somehow differ from climbing atop a roof and shooting people? Because rooftop shooters have not traditionally been described as either terrorists or enemy combatants here in America. They have been called murders, and criminals.
They have been caught by the police, and prosecuted in our courts. The military has not been involved, and their right to a fair trial in our criminal court system was never questioned.
We need to put aside our revulsion toward the person, and consider where this path leads us. Are we moving toward a society where criminals lose all rights, if their presumed offense is horrible enough? What purpose is a legal system, if it deserts certain people?
Fourth – the invasion of privacy, welcomed
Residents of Watertown were subjected to a regimen of house to house searching by armed troops. As I said in the beginning, this did not uncover the man they were seeking. What other activity did it uncover? And will there be consequences for those people in weeks or months to come?
American citizens have long had a presumption that their home is their castle. There is a presumption that what is in your home is private, whether it’s legal or not. If it’s illegal, law enforcement must follow established rules to go after you.
The thing that surprised me most about this was hearing some residents complain that their homes were not searched. They were awaiting the opportunity to give up their privacy; to open their homes to armed inspectors. Come on, people!
Do those long-standing precepts simply go out the window, the next time there’s a similar emergency?
Fifth – the evolution of gladiator culture
In our local grocery store during the manhunt, apropos of nothing, the cashier asked about the manhunt, and then said, “I hope they kill him!”
Is that what we’ve come to? Millions of Americans, tuned in to television, in hopes they’ll get to see the cops catch and kill some lowlife criminal?
I have as much desire as the next guy to see criminals caught. And if a crook engages a cop in a gunfight, I agree the cop has the right to shoot back. I think citizens have the right to defend themselves, too. But I don’t think any of it is a proper subject for entertainment TV.
Roman Gladiator combat came to an end 1,600 years ago. Is the hunting of modern criminals and presumed terrorists going to take its place as popular entertainment? Some say gladiator combat presaged the impending end of the Roman Empire. Does this presage an impending end to the American Empire?
Like I said in the beginning, I’m a supporter of law and order, and I am glad to see the perpetrators of the Boston bombing off the street. I want to live in a safe society, but I also want to feel secure in my own liberty, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought.
These recent events make me feel a little uneasy. We’re on a slippery slope, and no one is speaking up.
John Elder Robison is the author of three books – Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, and Raising Cubby. He lives in Western Massachusetts. The opinions expressed here are his own.
Posted by John Elder Robison at 5:21 PM
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS): “When they look back on the American system of once-limited government, June 28, 2012 will stand as a definitive date in the advance of government tyranny. Today, a slim majority of the Supreme Court turned our Constitution on its head, and ruled that the federal government, in effect, can force upon the American people anything it damn well pleases – as long as it is called a tax. Unlimited federal power, combined with judicial activism, has crafted a new regime that has destroyed our Founders’ vision.”
Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY), (a member of the House Doctors Caucus, and the only female physician voting member of Congress): “Today’s Supreme Court decision does not change the fact that the massive 2010 government health care takeover harms, rather than helps, our patients, doctors, hospitals, and other providers. It imposes nearly $2 trillion worth of bureaucracy and excessive regulation; it has caused health insurance premiums to increase for families struggling to make ends meet; and it raises taxes at a time when we should be lowering them.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): “This ruling erodes the freedom of every American, opening the door for the federal government to legislate, regulate, and mandate nearly every aspect of our daily lives under the guise of its taxing power.