Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the war in Afghanistan and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs and nuclear, biological and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans. That MRAP came, like so much other equipment police departments are stocking up on — from tactical military vests, assault rifles and grenade launchers to actual tanks and helicopters – as a freebie via a Pentagon-organized surplus military equipment program.
Imagine the songs 2014 generation will write in response to the next student protest at OSU. My generation witnessed “four dead in Ohio” by Crosby Stills and Nash. We were traumatized by National Guardsmen who wore actual riot gear and shot real bullets, killing 4 innocent students. But for most of us, campus protest was a stage, even a rite of passage, youthful expression, a part of life no longer tangible as we entered adulthood. We shake our heads at the regrettable idea that students today are prohibited from psychologically-healthy protest, and instead implanted with seeds of great fear to participate in a democratic society.
By the way, don’t think it’s just the weaponry that’s militarizing the police. It’s a mentality as well that, like those weapons, is migrating home from our distant wars. It’s a sense that the US, too, is a “battlefield” and that, for instance, those highly militarized SWAT teams spreading to just about any community you want to mention are made up of “operators” (a “term of art” from the special operations community) ready to deal with threats to American life.
Aggression simply never stops until it self-destructs. Soldiers from previous wars returned home dedicated to keeping the aggression of war barricaded from home life in our country. In the interest of profits for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Halliburton, and the military industrial complex, we are now reloading the weaponry from the Bush Wars into the hands of our communities, mostly RURAL communities, to continue profitability and supplies and endless sales of bullets.
Embedding itself chillingly in our civilian world, that battlefield is proving mobile indeed. As Chase Madar wrote for TomDispatch the last time around, it leads now to the repeated handcuffing of six- and seven-year-olds in our schools as mini-criminals for offenses that once would have been dealt with by a teacher or principal, not a cop, and at school, not in jail or court.
Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
Read more at Moyers and Company/ billmoyers.com