NEW YORK UNDER SIEGE BY SUBWAY SOLDIERS
by Patrick Patterson, New York Correspondent.
[May 2, 2003]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Last month I was startled to see armed soldiers
in my New York subways, wearing jungle camouflage and black berets, cradling
M-16 machine guns. I know we were under Orange Alert, but the city's
draconian gun control laws forbid honest citizens from carrying even handguns
(well-connected celebs excepted) yet here were men (no women) with machine
guns and black berets.
berets. That mean Special Forces, no?
is something creepy -- and unhealthy to a free civil society -- about stationing
machine gun-totting soldiers in civilian areas. One expects that
in Third World banana republics, Communist tyrannies, and dystopian post-apocalyptic
B-movies. But more ominous is how my fellow New Yorkers sheepishly
accepted this new normalcy. Local media barely reported it, although
blogger George Paines reported spotting subway soldiers as early as February
security creates heightened paranoia. Neighbor begins to fear neighbor,
especially those who look different. Citizens glance nervously at
their soldiers, afraid of "looking suspicious." (I suppose it's how
black men have always felt about the civilian police.) And
soldiers look with paranoia upon their fellow citizens. How could
they not? They're kids, trained and conditioned for bloody action,
yet naive and inexperienced.
A few days later,
while riding the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station, I spotted a NY
State Trooper. I'd never seen State Troopers patrolling the
LIRR. I wanted to photograph him, even ask to take his picture. But what would he think? Even with a press ID, would I look suspicious? Would the act seem suspicious? Would it justify detaining me? Not wanting to risk it, I photographed him from behind.
happened, I was right to be paranoid.
at Penn Station, I saw more Special Forces. Two soldiers beside a NYPD cop. I thought to photograph them from a distance, but again,
that might look suspicious. Then I decided, I'm an American, well
within my rights to speak to "our troops." Perhaps I was silly to
be paranoid. Maybe if I talked to them, they'd prove to be friendly,
and even eager to pose for shots.
As I wound
my way through the crowd, our eyes met. The soldiers saw me approaching
and grew tense. (Most New Yorkers seemed to be avoiding eye contact).
me," I asked one soldier. "Can I take your picture?"
he tersely replied. "Sorry, but no."
no picture. Even as he spoke, his partners were scanning me, eying
my press ID. I thought to ask if I might photograph them from neck
down, no faces, just the uniforms and guns. But the soldiers already
seemed too uptight. (The cop appeared less so.)
escalator, on the next level, I saw three more Special Forces troops manning
a desk. One appeared to be an officer, but I avoided taking pictures.
all New Yorkers avoid approaching men with machine guns. A friend
of a friend approached a soldier and asked, "Is that loaded with real bullets?"
it is," the soldier replied.
every New Yorker feels discomforted by soldiers in the subways. Some
feel more secure, though I suspect it's a false security. Soldiers
are conditioned to "break things and kill people," whereas civilian police
are trained to "protect and serve." Soldiers are pumped to rack up
a high body count. Police are trained to minimize casualties.
have a poor record in peace-keeping, or policing, overseas. I doubt
they'd do better here in New York.
are those Americans who thrill to any display of U.S. military might, who
want our streets forever filled with soldiers and flags. They miss
the "new patriotism" of October 2001, and wish we were forever on "heightened
alert" and that this "war on terror" would never end. Those folks
are the scariest of all.
* Self-Fullfilling Prophecy
soldiers and other "in your face" security measures may do little to effectively
combat terror, but they're great at a justifying still more security measures. People see the soldiers, so they assume there's a reason for soldiers,
so they accept still more soldiers and more security and even a "Patriot
Act" and then a "Patriot Act 2" ...
old logic: "He was arrested, so he must be guilty."
version: "Our liberties are restricted, so there must be a terrorist threat. We're bombing X nation, so X must have done something bad."
"everything changed" after 9/11. Yet I don't know it. It's
what I'm supposed to know, just like I'm supposed to know that Oceania has always been at war with Iraq (or is it Iran?), but what I really know
is that principles (as affirmed by America's Founding Fathers) are immutable. Immutable, as in, never changing. That's what principles, Natural
Law, and inalienable rights mean, no? (Justice Thomas seemed to think
so when he discussed Natural Law during his confirmation hearings.)
changed" after 9/11, does that include our Constitution, Natural Law, and
the inalienable rights granted by our Creator (as cited by the Declaration
that last month we were under Orange Alert, whatever that means -- but
there's the rub. We don't know what it means. Even before the
U.S. attacked Iraqi, we were told "there's a war on," a secret war without
fronts. A secret war that
may last decades.
And being a secret war, we won't really know
when it is over, but until then, we'll just have to accept new
restrictions on privacy and liberty, and more to come, because "everything
changed." Don't blame the government for cracking down, blame the
people have sheepishly surrendered liberties whenever they believed there
was an outside threat. The Nazis used the Reichstag fire as their
first excuse to suppress freedom, and Stalin and Mao had their "counterrevolutionary"
bogeymen. Even in Animal
Farm, Squealer justified every restriction on freedom with warnings
that, otherwise, "farmer Jones would come back."
the fall of Communism, terrorism became the all-purpose excuse to restrict
freedom. Clinton used Oklahoma City and "domestic terrorism" to try
and reign in the internet and "hate radio." Bush has 9/11 and "Islamo-terrorism"
for his Patriot Act.
while many American Democrats and Republicans favor liberty, it's never
at the same time. Both groups defend liberty -- when the government
is controlled by the opposing party. Yet whenever the President is
one's own, Democrats and Republicans both insist "it's unpatriotic not
to support our President." Sheryl
Crow entertained troops under Clinton, but turned peacenik under Bush. And many Republicans opposed her both times.
they won't admit it, I've heard many a Democrat say just that, in those
exact words, throughout the Clinton years: "How can you call yourself
a patriot if you oppose our President/government?" Those were the
years when Democrats had their head in the sand about Waco and Elian Gonzalez
the Dog bombings, and Republican civil libertarians were smeared as
"the black helicopter crowd."
Today, of course,
many Democrats have (temporarily) returned to their pre-Clinton civil libertarian
views. (They would have cheered an identical Patriot Act under Clinton/Reno.) And many Republicans now insist that it's unpatriotic to "bash Bush." (They would have hollered had Clinton/ Reno offered the Patriot Act.)
meantime, we have soldiers patrolling civilian areas, ever less privacy,
and more Patriot Acts on the horizon. Nor will it end, not until
the majority of Americans stop demonizing each other, stop hero- worshipping
their respective "party leaders", and get on the same page -- at the same
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