When a country wages military campaigns on a scale not fully disclosed to the public to feed the coffers of war profiteers, it cannot possibly be surprising when that militarism — so infused in the political propaganda masking it as national security — eventually comes home.
Thus in 2016 — as the rule of the longest wartime president in U.S. history, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama — draws to a close, it must be equally unsurprising the brief and altogether impotent attempt to demilitarize America’s police forces might soon be repealed.
However, the State’s continued proselytizing on the need for domestic security and citizen safety proffered as the reason for remilitarization only beclouds what, in actuality, has been a steady downward trend in both violent crime and acts of terrorism. As with any governmental propaganda, it’s imperative to cut through fictitious, nebulous fearmongering so the public can protest further curtailment of basic rights from a reasoned platform of fact.
For decades, police officers had been tasked with protecting the public they served from violent crime and property thieves. And, to a large extent, the image of Officer Friendly remains so ingrained in the collective consciousness, large segments of the populace perform logical gymnastics in order to defend even the most egregious brutality by cops — instead of questioning the gradual apparent erasure of constitutional due process.
But as politicians and a growing number of prominent, if controversial, heads of law enforcement pontificate on the need for officer and civilian safety to fully reinstate the military’s handout of surplus equipment to departments nationwide, someone needs to slam on the brakes and ask:
Are we really in that much danger?
In short, the answer is a resounding No.
According to combined data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI, since 1950, the homicide rate per 100,000 people reached a high point of 10.2 back in 1980, and then gradually declined until 1990, when it again rose to 9.4, peaked again the following year at 9.8, fluctuated briefly, and fell more or less continuously ever since.
Indeed, the spike in the homicide rate in the early 1990s gave rise to the now-notorious Clinton crime bill of 1994 — a move that crammed both government and for-profit prisons with nonviolent criminals via mandatory minimums and other controversial provisions, it arguably birthed our modern police state.
Though many legislators and advocates now decry the bill as horribly flawed, it nevertheless facilitated the militarization of police following the attacks of September 11, 2001. And as any historian, academic, or watchdog organization will tell you, it’s exponentially more difficult to reverse an erosion of rights concordant with government given too much power and control.
So, although the homicide rate plummeted in 2014, the latest year for available statistics, to just 4.5 per 100,000 people — the lowest rate since 4.6 in 1963 — the narrative that militarized, aggressive policing is necessary for public safety has so beset the American mind frame as to be an irreversible reality.
‘What about terrorism?’ many might ask. ‘Aren’t terrorists a real threat?’
Again, despite ever-present paranoia from politicians and their corporate media mouthpieces, the short answer is No.
While there has been a noticeable uptick in recent years in terrorism perpetrated in Western nations — such attacks elsewhere as well as the causes of terrorism would be better left to a separate article — terror attacks have been nowhere near as deadly as the 1970s and 1980s.
In no way is this meant to excuse terrorist acts or discount the deaths of any innocents, anywhere — but for the purposes of illustrating relative safety, those figures do not lie.
But what the homicide and terrorism data prove instead, when taken with increasingly militaristic and overly-aggressive policing, is the normalization of what John W. Whitehead in Battlefield America terms the police-industrial complex. We are witnessing the outgrowth of American military empire run amok and come home to roost, and its ever-present propaganda meant to validate its very existence.
If the atmosphere domestically feels more dangerous than ever before, in other words, it’s by design — not because any greater threat looms over us than any time previously.
As American imperialism and domination circles the drain, the State realizes discontent and dissidence could realistically lead to a growth in insurgent acts by its citizens — up to, and possibly including, full-on insurrection.
So, while the government constantly proffers legislation and other means to severely diminish rights for the comfort of illusory security, the only rational response is resistance, scrutiny, vigilance — and above all, to employ cold facts against what it hopes will be an emotional reaction to altogether needless fears.