I've been wondering this for most of my adult life, but it's come up a lot during the past decade, and the past few days of following the Wall Street protest news coverage - more to the point, the lack of news coverage - have made this question blow up once more.
I know that not all police officers are warped by their daily exposure to criminals. I know that not all police officers take every opportunity to abuse the citizens they're sworn to protect and serve. I know that not all police officers view non-cops as potential perpetrators, that they're not all puppets to those in power, that they wouldn't all idly stand by or actively join in as crimes were committed by their fellow emotionally perverted officers, but once again we get evidence that this particular line of work attracts the worst elements in the human species:
In this essay from a few years ago, I write about the day that my respect and appreciation of the police force dissipated in a cloud of violence. I lived through the Seattle Police Riots of 1999 - sorry; the Newspeak way to say it is, "World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity." I watched peaceful protests against the WTO turn into a riot of violence against the citizens of my neighborhood. I watched neighbors - whose only crimes were trying to eat dinner in a restaurant, or leave the tear-gas-reeking streets, or looking too gay - get gassed and shot and beaten and terrorized for days. I got to experience what it's like to stumble through a two-block-long city park enshrouded in a cloud of CS gas (commonly known as "tear gas"), my asthma-afflicted partner barely able to breathe, among thousands of other peaceful protesters all suffering the burning skin and constricted lungs and disoriented brains and chaotic emotions that go with it. For two city blocks. In a park. Where the people had come out not to protest the WTO but to protest the violent police occupation of our neighborhood.
I could go on and on about this, but that was the turning-point for me. My eyes were opened to a fundamental truth:
Those in power tend to stay in power. And they'll do whatever it takes to ensure that.
This is also why I don't trust any high-level politician, and why I'm suspect of even local politicians. And when they turn the armed civil forces - our police - against us, it's worse than a crime, largely because it's not a crime for them to do so. Do your benefactors not like the protests against their corporation or industry? Arrest them at random, beat them in front of other protesters, gas them and mace them and kneel on their heads against the pavement. The others will get the idea.
Except that doesn't work in the long run. The harder they push us, the harder we push back. Just look at what's going on in the Middle East, especially Syria right now. The Syrian people are dying by the hundreds, perhaps the thousands, at the hands of their police forces. But they're not going home cowed by the Fascist oppression; they're just finding more ways to get the word out, and they're feeling empowered by the world's response against their oppressors.
When will we do the same here in the USA? When will we say, "Enough!" as our government and our police forces continue to abuse their power? When will we stop fighting among ourselves - with the full support and incitement of the mainstream media - and jackhammer out the current foundations of power? Which, by the way, aren't the police forces or the Congresspeople or whatever - those are just the instruments of those really in power: The corporate leaders and the ultra-rich, the 1% who control the rest of us by manipulating the political landscape and evaporating what the USA stands for in order to grow their own power.
The United States of America was formed on a revolutionary idea: That we, the people, should be free to protest what we perceive as wrongs without fear for our life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.
What the hell happened to that?