# Tension

Updated, Aug.17, 11:10 p.m. SGT

This is relatively heavy writing for this blog and not the normal fare for sure. But what is going on in the States right now is far more important than my normal ramblings.

I’m not going to weigh in who’s guilty of what in the case of Michael Brown. But I do want to share some information that has helped me gain a fuller understanding of the surrounding situation, the bigger picture if you will.

The militarization of law enforcement poses a serious threat to freedom and the stability of a free, democratic society, as we are beginning to see now in the Michael Brown protests. A militarized police state coupled with a bleak financial environment for the middle class and the poor creates undo tension between the state and the people.

Militarization of Law Enforcement

This piece from The Concourse makes several salient points regarding the militarization of law enforcement (h/t: Fabius Maximus):

The drug war has long functioned as a full-employment act for arms dealers looking to sell every town and village in the country on the need for military-grade hardware, and 9/11 made things vastly worse, with local police departments throughout America grabbing for cash to better defend against any and all terrorist threats. War had reached our shores, we were told, and police officers needed weaponry to fight it.

Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It's a constant complaint from what remains of this country's civil liberties caucus.
The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he'll reasonably think that his job isn't simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they're working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy.

Back in 2012, the St. Louis County SWAT bought two new, specialized trucks for over half a million dollars:

The role of local law enforcement changed drastically after 9/11 with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a slew of new mandates designed to help such agencies deal with possible terrorist threats.
Poor U.S. Economy

The U.S. economy, like most economies, took a serious hit in 2008 and isn’t recovering as well as it should be. It can easily be argued that we’re on the edge of yet another bubble about to burst. Be that as it may, the middle class is watching its income and net worth continue to shrink while their personal debt-to-income ratio rises:

From Cleveland.com

The annual wage in sectors where jobs were lost, particularly in manufacturing and construction, during the recession was $61,637, but the average wage of new jobs through the second quarter of 2014 is$47,131, the report shows.

From AP.com:

The study found that 35.1 percent of people with credit records had been reported to collections for debt that averaged $5,178, based on September 2013 records. The study points to a disturbing trend: The share of Americans in collections has remained relatively constant, even as the country as a whole has whittled down the size of its credit card debt since the official end of the Great Recession in the middle of 2009. From NYTimes.com: The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was$87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only \$56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation.
almost 40% reported that their families were “just getting by” or struggling to do so. And more people reported that their financial situation was worse rather than better off compared to five years earlier. The survey was taken in September 2013.

These two factors; the militarization of law enforcement and the financial squeezing of the middle class create an atmosphere perfect for civil unrest. What we’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri may be a hint of things to come in the U.S.

Update: As of the 15th, it looks like the police got the message:

The shift was spurred in large part by the appointment of a new officer in charge, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson. After scores of residents criticized the paramilitary approach of local police, Johnson has adopted a conciliatory tack, abandoning the heavy weaponry and circulating through the crowds to discuss protesters’ concerns.

Update: As of the 16th, some protestors turned violent again. When will they learn that rioting and looting does not advance their cause?