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America the Great ... Police State
Posted on Sep 26, 2016
By Gore Vidal
One interesting fallout from the tragic business in Cambridge – and it is tragic, let me tell you – was that the president was forced to speak suddenly in his own voice, and at his very best, and not swathed in the authority of his great rank, but simply as a citizen making a sensible comment about a nobody policeman. Yes, I mean “nobody” literally – I know all human beings, if they are Americans, are highly valued and worshiped, indeed, for their wonderfulness and their helpfulness to fellow citizens. I state this ironically, as you might suspect. After all, why would the young man be armed unless he was a superior citizen, elected, as it were, by his fellows to ride herd on an unruly mob unless he was demonstrably special by virtue of being legally armed, which is how we are supposed to tell them from us?
But there the president was, saying, this is stupid. But he did not say, “How dare you go after a 58-year-old man who is one of the great scholars of the country and think you can get away with it?” Unfortunately, it never seemed to have crossed the president’s mind in this crisis that he is expected to do something about it. I know there is a great deal, as they say, on his plate, but after displays of this sort, he should call together a commission involving every section of the country. Every municipality is complaining about local police forces run wild. And no one does anything about it. And our masters are armed to the teeth and would seem more likely to fire at us instead of at the troublemakers. I can’t think of any civilized country that would allow this, from the look of these bulky guardians of the peace, to whom no right-minded person would allow even a slingshot to be given.
So, we are a weirdly militarized citizenry governed by the worst elements in the United States, and something is bound to blow up, as I have felt for some time now. In my wanderings around the U.S., I talk to people without money, without power, ordinary voters, as well as nowadays, people maimed by war, or time, or life or whatever, and I am convinced more and more that this is a vicious country in which the police are allowed to run amok, absolutely independent of anyone, and that is why from time to time they are allowed to get away with murder. One surprisingly knew that a wrinkle has been discovered in the seamless surface of our troubled state. Policemen are seldom tried for their crimes, or indeed, held responsible for what they do, which disturbs the peace and causes distress among the orderly.
I would suggest that the president, if he wants to be useful—and not many presidents do in my experience—he might as well call together a commission in response to citizens of every major municipality in the United States who are complaining to central authority about police forces out of control. And no one dares do anything because the police will say, “Well, you know they are acting like this because they are bad people who hate us because we are good people, rescuing cats from trees and otherwise loved by every decent person in the land.”
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One aspect of the events in Cambridge was that the president could have been characteristically brilliant on this subject, as he has been on so many subjects having to do with our general welfare as citizens (and he is also one of the useful, hands-on presidents), but the media, conditioned always to miss the point, went out of their way to miss the point here by many a mile. They blamed it all on – you guessed it – RACE! Well, you can blame anything on race, including Scripture, or the tides and the moon, and this and that, but that president and that professor are by coincidence both black, which to the plain horror of the media, had nothing to do with the brave little corporal who was feeling his oats and wanted to have some fun with an older man who couldn’t fight back. They get very bored in those jobs, and, of course, he was armed with a gun, and able to kill anybody he wanted and probably get away with it—what a temptation!
Anyway, the president has not done what he should have done, which is to have reminded us that the United Kingdom—a more livable nation than the United States, let me say with first-hand experience of both—has disarmed its police. There are no angry men wandering around carrying guns over there. This is a lesson to us, but we’ve armed practically every grange house in the United States because our regular guys just want to swagger around.
Incidentally, it was quite funny to hear one of the favorite adjectives that our new masters use to describe vicious civilians who deliberately mock them, like the professor and myself on Fifth Avenue, and I think they would include the president, too, if the Secret Service was not lurking nearby. Their term for any civilian who criticizes them is “arrogant,” but they are themselves far gone in arrogance and spite.
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