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The Criminalization of Everyday Life

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Posted on Dec 9, 2013
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By Chase Madar, TomDispatch

(Page 5)

The daily overkill of police power in the U.S. goes a long way toward explaining why more Americans aren’t outraged by the “excesses” of the war on terror, which, as one law professor has argued, are just our everyday domestic penal habits exported to more exotic venues.  It is no less true that the growth of domestic police power is, in this positive feedback loop, the partial result of our distant foreign wars seeping back into the homeland (the “imperial boomerang” that Hannah Arendt warned against).

Many who have long railed against our country’s everyday police overkill have reacted to the revelations of NSA surveillance with detectable exasperation: of course we are over-policed!  Some have even responded with peevish resentment: Why so much sympathy for this Snowden kid when the daily grind of our justice system destroys so many lives without comment or scandal?  After all, in New York, the police department’s “stop and frisk” tactic, which targets African American and Latino working-class youth for routinized street searches, was until recently uncontroversial among the political and opinion-making class. If “the gloves came off” after September 11, 2001, many Americans were surprised to learn they had ever been on to begin with.

A hammer is necessary to any toolkit.  But you don’t use a hammer to turn a screw, chop a tomato, or brush your teeth. And yet the hammer remains our instrument of choice, both in the conduct of our foreign policy and in our domestic order.  The result is not peace, justice, or prosperity but rather a state that harasses and imprisons its own people while shouting ever less intelligibly about freedom.    

Chase Madar is an attorney, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of The Passion of [Chelsea] Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower. Chase tweets @ChMadar.

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Copyright 2013 Chase Madar


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