I was watching one of his recent shows on HBO tonight and yikes. He was talking to someone from the ACLU about civil liberties and through the whole thing I couldn't help but being shocked that he was pretty much saying "It's ok to round-up folks if we think they're somehow doing something wrong and then let them go if we realize that they aren't"
Holy Shit Batman!
I fully intend to get off on a rant here. Why is it that the people who are most ok with letting the police/FBI/etc... have more powers are usually upper-middle class non-excessively-ethnic people? I realize that Dennis Miller probably has enough $$ to be upper-class, but I doubt that he's ever been hassled for being "suspicious looking" so he falls into the "clueless person who doesn't know what he's talking about" catergory
I suspect that he was just mouthing off and expressing a relatively popular viewpoint (at least judging by the audience reaction) but I mean what the hell. I always thought that he was a witty, somewhat old-fashioned, but intelligent comedian. I knew that he wasn't Mr. Left-Wing-Liberal but he seemed fairly moderate and now he's got me wondering if maybe a lot of moderate people think that giving up some civil liberties is a good thing.
I wonder how much of that has to do with always being able to take for granted that they'll be there and therefore not worrying about giving them up a "little bit" for a "little while". I really dislike bringing the race thing up, but I grew up being somewhat wary of the police and always being aware that people might find me a little scary and thuse threatening. It's simple. If I get stopped by the cops, they will profile me and they will be worried that I might be trouble. Why? Because I'm 6'3, long hair, piercings, big & muscular... In short, I look like I could easily hurt them if I wanted to. Mind you, I don't have a gun and they do, but when someone is measuring you up, it's schoolyard rules and I suspect a lot of cops where either the bullies, or the kid that always had his lunch money beaten out of him. If someone like the Queen (5'4, slim, anglo, normal hair, no piercings or tats etc...) gets stopped by the police (and that's a big IF) they'll probably just flirt with her and send her one her way. I talked to her about this a while ago and she told me how growing up in the a nice middle class small town in New York state, she was used to the cops being the stereotypical "Officer Friendly" and being good people. Maybe it's just that I grew up seeing a lot of corruption from Mexico and then turning around and seeing shadows of it in the police here.
Is this country as bad as some others? Of course not, but don't kid yourself, it's not that safe either. Do you remember a while ago, when some random unarmed black guy was gunned down in NYC by a bunch of cops. I think they fired at him something like 40 times and hit him 20 or so (it's been a while so the #s might be off). This happened and you heard two things. "*gasp* How could something like this happen?" and "Being a cop is dangerous work and you have to understand the stress they're under". To be quite honest, I thought that the first statement was horribly naive and the second was horribly full of shit. I don't argue that police work is dangerous, but somehow if it's you and 3 other cops, fully armed, confronting a guy on his doorstep, you had better feel a little bit safe and you damn well better be able to wait until he has a gun in hish and and is pointing it in someone's direction before you unload your entire clip into him. See, even though my family has been lucky enough to avoid police entanglements, I grew up seeing random stuff that would go down in the city and I don't doubt that some cops can do some really scary stuff.
This is why I don't fully trust them. A lot of the cops that I've run across tend to be going through a power trip of sorts. I'm sure some of the thrill of being a cop has to come with being at least a little bit above the law (how often do you think a cop is given a speeding ticket?). Do I wish that there were no cops? Uh, no. Do I hope that we keep the checks and balances that we do have in place? Yes, in fact I want more checks and balances. I want cops, FBI agents, basically anyone who could legally kill me and say "Oops" to undergo an shitload of training and they damn well better have a lot of checks and balances. Despite what some might think, being a cop and being a cowboy is not the same thing.
Ok, so how does this relate to civil liberties? Well, basically, we need them. Right now more than ever. We need to make sure that people who are arrested aren't beaten/tortured. Not just because it's wrong, but because it's a flawed system. You beat someone up and they tell you what you want to hear. Is there a conspiracy to commit more acts of terrorism? *whack* *whack* *crunch*.... yeeeess.... etc... We need to make sure that the cops don't flag all emails that say BOMB, ATTACK, ABDUL, etc... and then open up files on the people who sent them.
Hey Dennis, do you want to know how important those civil liberties are? Ask any 60 year old living in the southern United States how he likes having them and if he'd like to give them up for a "little bit". Ask some hispanic kid driving his dad's Lexus if he'd like to be able to drive it to the mall without getting stopped by the cops. Ask Rodney King if it's ok to beat information out of someone in the name of national security.
I've always been able to count on having my civil liberties in a crunch, but I've also always been aware that they are only as valid as the people who enforce them and therefore we need to be adament in taking care of them. Not because giving them up a little bit will automatically lead down the to bottom of the slippery slope into 1984, but because they are not uniform. Even in the U.S. they aren't applied equally or fairly. If we lower the bar on what "good law-abiding citizens" can expect then heaven help those of us that don't "look" like one of them. Someone like Dennis Miller may say it's ok to lose some liberties in the name of safety, but I'm afraid that if we lower them in the name of his safety then I, or my friends, or my family might end up being "persuaded" to give up information that we don't have just because we might look a little suspicious.
This is not just my opinion. I know I'm right ;)