I’ve been pulled over a lot in the last month or so, and by “a lot,” I mean somewhere between five and eight times. We’ve officially reached a point, however, where it simply isn’t my fault; I’m trapped in the wheels of inefficient, moronic bureaucracy, and there’s no quick or easy way out.
During the month of August that I’ve alluded to, my driver’s license expired, and I couldn’t do anything to prevent it because I didn’t have the money. When I did have the money, I had all my paperwork–except my birth certificate, which has to be a certified copy because my license was expired. So I contacted my family in Mississippi and had them send it to me. Although mailed out in early October, and postmarked the same, it was early December before it actually arrived. When it did arrive, what I found were useless photocopies, so at the first available opportunity I called the number in Jackson and ordered one.
When I got pulled over again two days ago, it inspired me to look at the order number and see what the holdup is, and I learned that Mississippi requires additional identity verification and that I must send them a photocopy of a valid, non-expired governmental ID. There were no other identity verification options.
I need my birth certificate to get an ID, and I need my ID to get my birth certificate.
“Ain’t life grand?” remarked my grandmother when I called her, to give my debit card information and let my father order it for me, but it isn’t “life” that created this quagmire. It’s the state.
Of course, the reason I am continually targeted by the local thugs isn’t my expired driver’s license. It’s my expired licence plate, which I can fix much more easily–by sending someone in Mississippi the money, having them go to the courthouse and paying my “privilege to travel” extortion fee, and mailing me my magical “I’m a good tax slave” sticker. The problem with this is that there aren’t many people in Mississippi I can trust with this, and my grandmother is in her 80s. My sister is the only viable option, and she tends to be pretty busy, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.
A different and totally unrelated issue is that my driver’s side brake light is extremely uncooperative and just… stops working… at random times. If I didn’t catch it, then I’m effectively driving around with a brake light out. If I do catch it, then it’s easily fixed my tapping the fixture. I don’t know why it’s doing this, but it is what it is.
A week or so ago, I expected to be arrested. I’d been pulled over on Main Street here in Keene for the brake light being out, at which point they found my license expired and my registration expired. In Mississippi I’d have gone straight to jail, my car towed away. However, they didn’t even issue a citation, or technically a warning. Instead, the officer essentially asked me, rather politely, to take care of the brake light, and sent me on my way. Very curious.
Except it isn’t. I’ve been in Keene less than a year, but I’ve already made a few waves, primarily by running for sheriff, which earned me a fair bit of media coverage, most importantly in a feature article for New Hampshire’s largest newspaper. During the campaign I also went on the show of none other than Chris Cantwell to discuss the campaign and trans matters, so they were a fun few months (for those curious, I received 2.4% of the vote, which is phenomenal considering the absolute lack of actual campaigning).
I’m also associated with the Liberty Radio Network and less so associated with Free Keene, a group notorious in this small town for creating problems for the state. So if the local thugs don’t recognize me (which is, to be frank, impossible), the LRN bumper stickers on my car will give it away. I’m essentially a complicated set of headaches that they don’t want to deal with, nevermind being trans.
It’s also not like I’m intentionally flouting the authority of the state. Quite the opposite: I’m doing my best to accommodate its contradictory and asinine demands. It’s literally not my fault the original birth certificate took an incredible two months to arrive from my family, or that the state of Mississippi in its never-ending brilliance has decided one must have a valid ID to get the birth certificate needed to acquire a valid ID.
I don’t mean to insult the Keene PD here. In fact, I find them to be the most benevolent of all law enforcement agents with which I’ve ever dealt. During the month of August, I was given a ride on two occasions by a Keene police officer, and they’ve never been anything but polite and friendly toward me, even when, by all legality, they probably should have arrested me.
Most importantly, I don’t feel it when the Keene police are about to pull me over, and this is what the enormous prelude above was getting to. I’m willing to bet we all know the feeling to which I’m referring: it’s a sensation that can only fairly be described as “being hunted.”
I’ve been harassed by thugs throughout my peaceful existence enough to bet that everyone knows that sense of being a prey. Is it that they drive so aggressively when they’re prowling for victims? I am not sure.
Most recently I was accosted by a state trooper, and I immediately knew, as he pulled out behind me, that he would pull me over. This did not change over the next mile, as he continued to follow me, and I was not in the least surprised when those blue lights began flashing just outside of where I live. On this occasion, I was being pulled over not for having an expired licence plate, but for having an out of state license plate. Through our brief conversation, I was rudely informed that I can’t be in New Hampshire while having Mississippi tags.
This, of course, is extremely stupid, and quite obviously false. There are three states within a fifteen minute drive of Keene, and there are people from all over New England in Keene. There are reasons beyond the cost of registration (in New Hampshire it’s about nine times more expensive than in Mississippi) to keep my registration where it is, but they’re not worth getting into here, and it’s even worth the additional cost to sign the car over to my business located in Mississippi.
But I think it says a lot about the current state of affairs that law enforcement agents generate the same primal sense of dread and fear that are triggered when one is being followed by a rapist through a back alley, or when our ancestors were stalked by predators thousands of years ago. Of course, they are predators, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise–just something we consider.
Sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. However, the facts support everything I’ve said here.
Before we begin, I want to say:
Great. I’m glad that we got that out of the way.
There’s a lot of conversation in the United States right now about police brutality, and it’s been hijacked by a racially motivated crowd that distorts the facts and twists the reality–it is a tool of the state, whether intentionally or not, to keep us distracted from the real issue because we are focused instead on a byproduct of that problem.
The real issue is police brutality and unchallenged police authority.
The false issue is one of Black Lives Matter, turning the police brutality directed at all Americans into something that is racially motivated, when the numbers and facts simply don’t support that narrative. Here’s a map of the incredible 1,186 people who were killed by police last year, in 2015:
It’s hard to look at that without my heart breaking.
And the false narrative put forward by upper and middle America is no more accurate, either, as they insist that the police are our friends and are here to protect us. They are not. There is no protection from the police–quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?
When you are out there in the world, there is nothing that protects you from a random police stop, and you will learn very quickly that you have no protection from the police. “Checks and balances” become non-existent. You cannot argue with them. You cannot dispute them. You cannot challenge them. There are countless ways that the procession could go, but many of them result in a bullet square between your eyes. Even when they are being recorded and you’re a law-abiding citizen with a right to carry, as recently happened in a grotesque video that I will not link, the police are unaccountable.
As Llewellyn Rockwell wrote in Fascism Versus Capitalism:
The government is totalitarian because it acknowledges no restraint on its powers. This is a very telling mark. It suggests that the US political system can be described as totalitarian. This is a shocking remark that most people would reject. But they can reject this characterization only so long as they happen not to be directly ensnared in the state’s web. If they become so, they will quickly discover that there are indeed no limits to what the state can do. This can happen boarding a flight, driving around your hometown, or having your business run afoul of some government agency. In the end, you must obey, or be caged like an animal or killed.
That’s something that we Americans should keep in mind. When that police officer pulls you over, if he has it in his mind to give you a hard time, then there is nothing that you can do about it. The officer can tell you to step out of the car while he does his work. Then a K-9 unit will show up. Why? Did you give the officer any reason to think that you were on drugs? No. But you were young, and you have tattoos, so they brought in backup–a K-9 unit. Then the dog sniffs around your vehicle and evidently signals to them that he smelled drugs. Did you see that happen? Do you know that’s what the dog really signaled? Who the hell knows? Only they know.
So they tell you to stand way back there, by their car, as they search your vehicle. You ask them to hand you your cell phone so that you can record the stuff that’s happening, and they say they’ll bring it to you in a moment. What do they really do? They find your phone and start reading your text messages. Are you gay? Do you have obviously gay stuff on your phone? Better hope the officer doesn’t dislike gay people. Or ensure that your phone is locked. At any rate, they go through your phone rather than bring it to you, as the other officer combs through your vehicle, desperately looking for drugs. They open up the fact and find an unlabeled pill bottle–they’re thrilled! They nod knowingly, and you can see it in their faces. We knew it, they are thinking. And we got ‘im! Great day for freedom!
Then they open up the pill bottle and learn that it’s just being used as a container for assorted screws. What the hell else is so perfectly suitable for holding random screws? Of course, you knew all along that there were screws in it, because it was your bottle, but that says nothing about whether it is actually illegal to carry around an unmarked pill bottle, regardless of what is in it. They spend a few more minutes searching, and then they ticket you–somewhere between one and three tickets. And you escape, thankful that it’s over, thankful that they didn’t plant drugs–because there would have been nothing that you could have done to stop it. Then your life would have been over.
This happened to me a number of years ago, when I was pulled over for having a tag that was expired by six days–totally reasonable that I simply hadn’t known the tag was expired. I ended up with a total of three tickets, was delayed to the client’s that I was going to by an hour, and humiliated in the middle of Memphis as a K-9 unit arrived, signaled for drugs, and the cops spent forty minutes tearing apart my vehicle. And never found anything because I’m not fucking on drugs. Yes, I have tattoos. I was also wearing loafers, khakis, and a button-up shirt with a tie when they pulled me over, and clearly on my way (from the tech stuff in the passenger seat) to work. And the Collierville police got an honest to fuck K-9 unit after me.
They also went through my phone. I saw them doing it, though they didn’t think I could see them. The second officer had the door opened at the perfect angle for me to watch the first officer through the sideview mirror as he picked up my phone and went through my text messages.
I would argue that my Constitutional rights were violated that day. After all, the dog was a police officer, in the eyes of the law. By what right did the dog search my vehicle? Oh, sure, he searched my vehicle with his nose, but that’s hardly even relevant. He searched me, one way or another, and the officers used it as an excuse to totally reject my Constitutional rights, because this dog–my accuser who I could not face because he didn’t even speak English and they were the only conceivable translators–gave them probable cause. Firmly beneath the state’s heel, I could do nothing but watch and hope.
Not terribly long ago, I was pulled over by a curious state trooper. It’s a long story. I had a very unusual vehicle, though, and he wanted to be sure that my paperwork checked out. I had my insurance card in the console, so I opened it up to give it to him, as he had requested, and–
Holy shit! My loaded 38 Special is sitting right fucking there!
Now, this is in no way illegal. In the state of Mississippi, I can (and do) keep a loaded gun with me at almost all times.
I snapped the console shut and threw my hands into the air. When the officer looked at me quizically, I shouted over the roar of the Interstate traffic that I had a loaded 38 in the console, and that I had stupidly put it on top of my insurance card. He didn’t seem to even care. He just kind of shrugged and said “Go ahead and get it.” So I did.
But it occurred to me almost immediately that I would have probably been dead if my skin was black. That is true, and it’s hard to escape that reality.
However, this is not to say that police don’t have some foundation for that bias. It is similarly hard to escape the reality that it is true–most violent crimes in the United States are committed by black people, not white people. Does this justify their “Shoot first, ask questions later” mentality? Absolutely not. I’m not justifying or rationalizing anything. No one despises police and police brutality more than I do. However, it does make sense that they would be less likely to shoot a white person than they are to shoot a black person. Is this okay? Is this acceptable? These two questions are irrelevant. We live in a world of is, not a world of ought. How things ought to be is largely irrelevant to how things are actually are.
Of course, more than 50% of people killed by police in 2015 were white, while a little over 30% were black, according to http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/28/3735190/killed-by-police-2015/ . However, they also have doctored the numbers a bit, as they have clearly lumped people of “Unknown” race in with black Americans. The Washington Post actually reports the numbers more accurately, but I can’t find the link at the moment, as about 120 of the people killed by police in 2015 were of “Unknown” ethnicity. The only way Think Progress’s number of 30% makes sense, versus the 25% reported by the Washington Post, is if those of “Unknown” ethnicity were mixed in with the black numbers.
Not that it’s important–it’s not seriously important to quibble over 5%.
When black Americans make up 13% of the American population, but 25-30% of the people killed by police, it’s hard to escape the idea that black people are disproportionately killed by police. Based off their population, excluding all other factors, we would think that 13% of people killed by police would be black. But notice my wording here: “…excluding all other factors.”
There are other factors. Let’s take a moment to remember NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police”, for example:
Beat a police out of shape
and when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
Now, really? You can’t have a culture that venerates stuff like that, and then be surprised when the people you’re talking about are more inclined to regard you as a threat. Again, I’m not excusing or rationalizing anything, but we have to be rational and reasonable here. Certainly, not all black people are part of that culture anyway, and certainly not all black people endorse stuff like this:
Who sees this going well?
Do you see a future college graduate? Or even a future high school graduate? No, it’s not because he’s black that we don’t see a future college graduate. It’s not because he’s black that we don’t even see a high school graduate.
It’s because he’s like 8 years old and is pointing a gun at the camera while wearing a wife beater (Hey, I wear wife beaters, too… It’s my main male look, in fact, but they do give a bad image). We see a future criminal. Not because he’s black, but because he’s clearly walking that path. He clearly thinks he looks cool, and there’s no doubt that his father there in the orange jacket was the one who taught them that this is cool. This image is why police are more likely to shoot black men than white men. I’m sorry that makes people uncomfortable to hear, but this must be addressed before we can resolve the issue of racism in the country.
If you have a part of the culture that loves lyrics like:
Beat a police out of shape
and when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
…while proceeding personally along the path like we see in the image, then we simply can’t be surprised when people are superficially and, perhaps, wrongfully assumed to be part of that culture when the determining characteristic of who takes part in that culture and who doesn’t appears to be skin color. This excuses and justifies nothing. If, however, we have police who “Shoot first and ask questions later,” then we simply cannot be surprised if they disproportionately shoot people who appear, by cultural weights, to likely belong to that part of the culture.
But this isn’t a war against black people by police.
It’s a war against people by police.
So far, in 2016, 505 people have been killed by police. 233 of them were white–nearly 50%–which is in-line with the numbers from 2015, when 50% of the people killed by police where white. It’s simply not a case of Black Lives Matter. It’s a case of Police Authority Is Out of Control. They are out of control because they were never supposed to have authority–our democracy was not designed to accommodate a police force with the authority to shoot first and ask questions later.
There once was a time when law enforcement consisted almost entirely of elected officials, and people who those elected officials personally selected as upstanding moral citizens. They were constables and sheriffs, a glorified neighborhood watch who went around and performed citizen arrests because we didn’t want to be bothered with it. There was a time when even these elected officials had no more authority to stop and harass someone than you or I do.
We have city police departments that resembled militaries, SWAT teams with ridiculous degrees of weaponization and training.
Look at this. Look. At. This.
This is the problem. This is a police vehicle. This armored behemoth is a police vehicle.
Is it any wonder that our police are totally out of control, that they shoot first and ask questions later, when we have stupidly allowed them access to killing machines like that? These are police! What the fuck are they going to be doing that requires a vehicle like that? The gap between police power and citizen power has become so great that few people even bat an eye at this monstrosity that the police have to “keep the peace” and to “serve and protect.” They now shoot first and ask questions later, and no one points out that… No. When you put on that badge, you are knowingly risking your life in an attempt to protect the innocent. That is what it means to be a police officer. If you would shoot first and ask questions later, thereby creating a real chance of directly harming someone who is innocent, then you have no right to wear that badge. That is what that badge means, that you are willing to give your life to protect the innocence. If you would shoot first and ask questions later, then you are clearly not willing to give your life to protect the innocent. In that case, you are demonstrably willing to kill the innocent to protect your life.
My heart truly breaks for all the people killed by police, and I want it to stop. But they aren’t being killed because of their skin color. Not really. They are being killed because our police no longer are willing to give their lives to protect the innocent; they are willing to kill the innocent to protect their lives. This is the inevitable result of having a branch of the state that is actually on the ground, the ones on the frontline in the war that humans have been fighting for thousands of years against the state. This was always going to happen, from the moment we turned over responsibility to a designated police force that was in the employ of the state. We are not their employers. The state is.
The police are the footsoldiers of the state. They are the ones on the frontlines, maintaining the state’s order at all costs. It should be no surprise that they are no longer willing to give their lives to protect the innocent; that is no longer their job. The job of the police is to protect the rule of the state. They do not ask questions. They do not question orders. They obey.
And they tell you to obey.
And if you don’t, then they put a bullet between your eyes.
Wake up, America. The problem is not racism. That is a problem, yes, but police killing a disproportionate amount of black men is a symptom of a larger problem, and is not an illness. Stop treating symptoms. Start treating the illness.
The illness is that the police even have the authority to do this. The underlying problem is that police even can shoot first and ask questions later. Get rid of their ability to do that, and you also completely nip in the bud the killing of a disproportionate amount of black men. Treat the symptom, and the disease will remain.
This is happening right before our eyes. And we are not questioning the underlying power of the police that allows them to do shit like this in the first place. That is the real problem; that is the real heart of the matter. We are fast allowing the state to use the police as its footsoldiers, not as a glorified neighborhood watch whose responsibility is keeping the peace and protecting the innocent.
Look, if I happen to be in a situation where I believe the person is a violent criminal, no one expects me to Ask Questions First. I’m not expected to give the person the benefit of the doubt if they break into my home, are trespassing on my property, or any other number of crimes. But I’m not a police officer. I’m not wearing a badge that says I’m willing to give my life to protect the innocent. No one is going to blame me if I shoot first and ask questions later, and they shouldn’t. I never agreed with the public or with society that I would give intruders the benefit of the doubt and possibly risk my life protecting the innocent. My responsibility is to protect my life.
This is not true of police, though. Police are required by honor, by goodness, by virtue… to give the benefit of the doubt, to Ask First, and Shoot Later. That is what that badge entails. They are there to protect the innocent, and they know before becoming police officers that they may very well have to give their lives to protect the innocent.
So why does that change in practice?
Why do we just pretend like it’s not a blatant violation of their expressed values that they shoot first and ask questions later? Someone who is willing to give their life to protect the innocent will not shoot first and ask questions later, because there is too much potential there for the person shot to be innocent.
The police are not our friends. They are not on our side. They are not there to serve and protect us.
They serve the state.
Never forget that.
This in no way means they should be killed–for fuck’s sake, can we stop killing people for two goddamned days? Please? Can we please stop killing people? I’m so sick of death and murder–whether by police, by white men, by black men, by the few women who commit murder. I’m tired of it. Can we please just try to swear off violence? For a few days? Maybe?
Can we just stop being violent animals for a few days? Three days? Can I have three days where we, as thinking, rational, emotional, loving human beings, stop killing people? This includes war. This includes ISIS. DAESH. Whatever you want to call them.
We are stone age barbarians with nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong?