“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
The American Empire’s violence has hit home with a fury never before experienced through a domestic lens.
When the American Empire’s stormtroopers extrajudicially executed George Floyd on camera, with onlookers present, in broad daylight, on Memorial Day 2020, outrage ensued among working-class Americans of all races who have felt the boot of unchecked government oppression on their necks for decades.
The bedlam that has boiled over in the last two weeks did not erupt in a vacuum; the escalating brutalization of the American people has simmered for years, slowly draining the lifeblood out of civil society over time. The tinder for an explosion was well-laid – George Floyd’s murder simply supplied the spark to set it off.
The Unrecognizable Face of American Policing in 2020
To appreciate the sea change that has occurred in police culture in recent decades is to explore the depths to which the professed “morality” of American justice has been perverted beyond recognition.
How did we transition from the traditional model of community-involved policing, as embodied by Barney Fife, to where we are today?
To understand the fundamental rot at the heart of policing, take a moment to reflect on this unsettling footage documenting police violence against a 75-year-old man. In particular, notice how the jackbooted thugs calmly step over the elderly man as he lies unresponsive on the pavement, bleeding from his ear.
In defiance of police training to show no mercy to the public that they hold in contempt, one younger-looking member of the force can be seen in the video moving toward the victim in an apparent gesture of empathy. Another officer, possibly his superior, pulls him off as if to ask: Don’t you know that we are here to crush them?
Thirty years ago, such a vicious assault by uniformed police, perpetrated in full view of the public, with cameras visible to all, would have been unimaginable to many Americans. Nowadays, it seems routine, even mundane.
Where did these changes to the fabric of policing come from? The truth is that what we see on the streets of Minneapolis and New York is what people around the world have experienced at the hands of bloodthirsty generals serving the American Empire for decades. What we see on the streets is the American Empire’s chickens coming home to roost.
The sadistic police tactics witnessed in American cities over the last two weeks are directly sourced from anti-insurgency tactics employed by the US military in the endless Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Whereas the stated enemy of the American Empire was once the Sunnis uprising in Iraq or the Taliban conducting an insurgency in the rocky foothills of Afghanistan, the American Empire has now set its sights firmly on its new target: the American people themselves.
Keen observers have warned of the dire domestic consequences of the American government’s illegal, offensive wars in third-world countries – name, that the same tactics exercised on poor brown people abroad were inevitably destined to be imported for domestic use on U.S. citizens.
An often-overlooked factor that drives police brutality and degrades the culture of policing is cops’ penchant for steroids. The appetite for steroids among police has been fed, in part, by the innovative attitude they are encouraged to take toward “public service” – namely, the us vs. them mentality of perpetual siege warfare waged against the American populace.
You don’t need a physiology degree to understand that 40-year-olds don’t put on bulk like professional wrestlers without some help from their anabolic friends.
No sane individual would doubt that most, if not all, of these cops are on the juice.
The side effects of steroid use are:
As the old saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
When the government began outfitting police with the same weapons of war that it equips frontline soldiers with, they knew full well what the ramifications would include – namely, the brutalization of the American people.
Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon strapped with a bulletproof vest and assault rifles for wings, police have metamorphosized into an authoritarian nightmare in front of our eyes.
Clad in full military garb, armed to the teeth with every type of lethal and so-called “non-lethal” weaponry imaginable, police indiscriminately menace both the peaceful and combative alike. The target is irrelevant – they suit up for work to dominate and destroy. They have armored trucks. They have drones. They even have tanks that were once the sole domain of active warzones.
Local politicians with their fingers in the wind, including those in the Minneapolis City Council who are publicly mulling a total disbanding of the city’s police force, have begun to exhibit a greater consciousness of the extent to which American police institutions have rotted to their cores.
In earlier times, we could have expected to hear the obligatory “few bad apples” religious dogma popular within the cult of the Thin Blue Line. Recent developments appear, for the time being at least, to have stemmed the usual flow of prevarication and bootlicking from the mediocre American press.
What good have the American police done in the last thirty years for citizens, the very people whose welfare they are theoretically obligated to safeguard? They’ve ticketed us into abject poverty, jailed us by the millions for victimless crimes in their failed “War on Drugs,” beaten us, and acted as executioners in lawless street carnage – all at the behest of their real masters in the owner class.
The ultimate question that the unrest begs is: Where is their legitimacy? The Tree of Liberty is parched.
Ben Bartee a Bangkok-based American journalist, grant writer, political essayist, researcher, travel blogger, and amateur philosopher. Contact him via his portfolio or on LinkedIn.