Friday, January 06, 2012

Your papers, please

First they got the public used to stripping down on command at the airports.  Then they convinced everyone it was necessary to "say cheese" to being irradiated before getting onto planes.

Now comes the first step toward getting people used to presenting their credentials to paramilitary forces upon demand, probable cause or not.  And yes, I realize this "exercise" was at a Federal office.

Mark my words: they won't always be.
It may have looked like they were ready for war or some deranged person looking for his late Social Security benefits.
But it was only Federal Protective Service officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who were conducting a random training operation early Tuesday morning when they surprisingly showed up at the Social Security Administration office in downtown Leesburg.
With their blue and white SUVs circled around the Main Street office, at least one official was posted on the door with a semiautomatic rifle, randomly checking identifications.

I'm sure this unannounced show of force had the desired effect on those present...
Governments benefit enormously from searching their subjects — especially when those searches can ensnare anyone at any time in any place. Such random rubbings guarantee that almost everybody will obey his rulers’ decrees. What American pothead will stuff a baggie of weed in his pocket before leaving home if he knows cops will probably frisk him on the street? Likewise, what Chinese Christian totes a Bible with him? Will a Moslem in Saudi Arabia carry a bottle of wine to his friend’s home when invited to dinner?

But searches enhance government’s power far more enormously and insidiously through the humiliation they inflict. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, subjects of even the most despotic regimes usually assume that whomever the authorities bully must have done something to deserve it. No one wants to be pulled aside for a search and implicitly branded a criminal; it’s human nature to feel deeply, excruciatingly shamed at such attention — let alone the potential for either physical or psychological harm and sexual abuse when a stranger manhandles your body.

Most people will do anything to avoid such embarrassment. They try not to stand out from the crowd, and they keep their head down lest they catch an official eye; they dare not protest their own or their neighbor’s abuse; they accept whatever other horrors government dishes out in silence, too.

Prove this by watching the line at the TSA’s checkpoint. No matter how offensively or senselessly the TSA molests nuns, arthritic great-grandfathers, little boys, buxom women, or expectant mothers, no one murmurs a word of outrage.

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