Lately I am feeling surrounded by the police. Every place I go there they appear. Like looming premonitions or predictions, they hang around awaiting the citizen who falls out of line. Some of these officers wave at me with a cynical smile as I pass by them wide eyed and with one hand on my internal eject button. There are other officers who stare at me or point with a look upon their face that seems to say, “just one false move, and your ass is mine.” The older I get the more I notice these strange exchanges between myself and officers of the law. Even though these exchanges may not be taking place in reality but rather are projections of my paranoid mind, I can not help but wonder- am I living in a police state?
As I was walking my invisible dog through downtown Oakland the other day I noticed a sign that was hanging over the entrance to the police station. It read “Join The Police Force, Officer’s Starting Pay, $67,000 a year.” This recognition stopped me dead in my tracks and caused me to stand still in a state of muted anxiety for over ten minutes. My invisible dog was restless to walk on but my feet refused to move. “They pay these men in blue studded uniforms with weapons of mass destruction hanging around their waist and brains filled with citations, violations and obstructions close to $67,000 a year while a high school Teacher who teaches restless and abused souls how to find the way to personal liberation through education is paid a starting salary of $35,000 a year????” I was perplexed. A good amount of my life I have dedicated to education and my bank account is empty as proof of this. The contradiction in what I call society was staring me straight in the face- I live in a country that values imprisoning minds more so than educating them.
I often refer to police officers as disturbers of the peace. Some people laugh and agree when they hear this while others take offense (because they still believe that an officers purpose is to protect and serve). My perspective is shaped by the fact that I am yet to have an interaction with a police officer that has left me feeling protected or served. Rather I am left feeling a form of personal violation and nervous system over-excitation. Usually I am either handcuffed, given citations that I could never afford or questioned about driving drunk (which I never do), kidnapping(also something I have not done) or suspected of being a possible pervert (something I am guilty of). Ever since high school when I was first arrested for driving without a license (simply because I was yet to reach my twelfth birthday) my relationship with the police has been built upon a bedrock of suspicion, the end of which seems to always turn in their favor.
Maybe it is representational of my neurosis, but I swear that I am living in a police state. I ask others if they believe this to be true and the typical response is “yeah sure,” as if we have all been entrained as citizens to think a constant police presence is normal. Now when I head out into the video taped world I feel as if my breathing is restricted and my chest constricted by the freedom that seems to be slowly dissipating with each passing day. Police officers seem to be duplicating themselves faster than any stem cell could conceive (nature or science can not compete with $67,000 a year). A perpetuation of the species of police (police officers are indeed a separate species of humanoid) seems to suggest that America is under siege. However, it is my belief that the threat is not external as seems to be the popular belief but rather the threat is individual freedom or what is more commonly known as Democracy. The more police on the street, the less Democracy you have to enjoy….and this is the way those in power need it to be.
Maybe I am neurotic and reading into this police boom to heavily. Yes, I believe that Fascism has entered the American arena but I try not to think about it much. Sure if I detract my attention from the police presence I may think about this situation less. I will not be as disturbed by these disruptions of my peace, because I will simply accept the situation as “the way it is.”. But it is difficult to do so when these very police officers taunt me with their loud sirens, scream out my name as I am riding my bike or point at me and make strange faces as I am walking my invisible dog (which ironically I have named Democracy). The police presence is like lice in my hair which creates a perpetual itch. How is one to leave a burning scalp alone? Possibly in time the mist will settle and more controlled citizens will realize the abduction of their freedom that seems to be the case. Maybe some will revolt by painting peace signs on police cars or by sticking Kafka novels in police mufflers. Others may take to writing blogs and standing in front of police stations with protest signs. Who knows when this non-violent revolution will arise. In the mean time I will continue to ask one simple question to my invisible dog- Democracy, “say, are we living in a police state?”