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Random Notes From the Police State

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 09:13 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Boston, Massachusetts.Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo: amit.mani)

Woke last night to the sound of thunder,

How far off, I sat and wondered...

- Bob Seger

I had just finished feeding and changing my infant daughter late Thursday night, and was putting her down again, when I heard a low rumble off in the distance. I walked out to my front porch and listened as the swell of sirens filled the stillness. Earlier, when the reports came that an MIT police officer had been shot down, I resisted the temptation to think it had anything to do with the two marathon bombers loose in the city since Monday afternoon. Don't jump to conclusions, I told myself as I turned off the TV. As I listened to the sound of the sirens from my porch, I said it again: don't jump to conclusions. It's probably a fire, I told myself, and went back inside to catch a couple hours of sleep before the next feeding.

Three hours later, I woke up again to feed my little girl, and realized as soon as I turned the TV back on that I would not be sleeping again for a while. Those sirens I'd heard came from Watertown, which is a solidly-struck golf shot from my home. The two suspects - brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - had shot an MIT police officer dead before leading police on a miles-long fast-rolling shootout and bomb-throwing festival that ended with a second police officer clinging to life, Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead after his brother ran him down in a frantic effort to flee, a whole neighborhood rattled to the core, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the loose somewhere in the winding, old-world neighborhoods I call home.

My neighbors and I gathered to talk about recent events while looking up at the helicopters that dotted the sky. The smokers went looking for cigarettes, the drinkers went looking for beer, the coffee-drinkers were cheered to hear that every Dunkin' Donuts would be open and set off for the one on the corner...and we all very voluntarily did what had been asked of us: stay off the streets, don't travel, and don't open your door for anyone who you don't know and who doesn't have a badge.

But guess what? Tony, one of my upstairs neighbors, hopped on his motorcycle and went to work. Bill, another of my upstairs neighbors, hopped in his car and motored right out of town. I went for a walk on two separate occasions, and when I did, I saw lots of other people also out and about, walking dogs or just enjoying what actually happened to be the nicest day of the year so far.

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None of us were arrested, detained, or threatened, and we were smack-dab in the middle of the so-called "lock-down" zone.

And the Dunkin' Donuts was open.

And the Tedeschi's was open.

And the local pub was open.

And the sub shop was open.

And there were cars driving by.

Contrary to a number of addle-brained pontifications offered by people who have never set foot in the 617 area code, we were not "cowering in our homes," and Boston was not transformed into a "police state," and it was not "martial law." The governor asked us to stay inside - there was a bomber on the loose who made his own bombs, several of which were thrown out the window of a car during a miles-long shoot-out, so maybe there was also unexploded ordnance in the streets between where the brothers started running and where they stopped, and maybe the surviving brother had more such explosives with him, along with the gun he used to shoot at police in a well-recorded battle - and so we did.

How is it a police state if all the Dunkin' Donuts were open? Fascists need caffeine, too?

Or maybe it was voluntary, a city-wide community action. We're pretty good at that here in Boston. We get huge snowstorms every winter, and our public officials always ask us to remain indoors and not to drive so they can clean it up. When the blizzard hit in February, our public officials asked us to stay inside and off the roads. They were the exact same public officials who asked us to stay inside on Friday...and gloriosky! It worked!

I had a beer at my local on Saturday with a guy who lives next door to the house where they found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bleeding out in the boat. He showed me a picture of the boat taken from his bedroom window. When a toast was raised to the way Boston law enforcement handled the situation, his was the first pint in the air.

That happened because I live here. I know better than you, and he knows better than me, how all this went down.

Work that into your argument about the people getting screwed by the police on Friday. Go ahead, I'll wait.

I have some bad news for those who think they are battering down the walls of fascism and authoritarianism by fostering and spreading what in reality is nothing more or less than misinformation and angst regarding the situation in Boston. You've joined a pretty rotten and disreputable club.

First it was CNN reporting in the middle of the week that an arrest had been made and that the suspect was being transferred to the federal courthouse, which caused a massive crowd scene outside the building and brought on a bomb threat...except CNN was wrong, there was no arrest, and they looked really stupid. Then, on Friday afternoon, it was the blivet on MSNBC going on and on about how amazing and terrible it was that suicide bombers were loose in Boston, and we need to do all sorts of crazy things because of these suicide bombers, look at the suicide bombers, look look look...except they weren't suicide bombers, because neither of them committed suicide with a bomb, and MSNBC looked really stupid.

Guess what, you intrepid sleuths with your theories about the "police state" in Boston and "martial law" and Miranda? That's you, too. You're just as bad as CNN and MSNBC. You're in the same chapter of this story, titled How I Spent A Week In April Making A Fool Of Myself In Front Of Everybody.

Comes the cry, "But but but we're just trying to get to the truth!"

No, you're not. You are masturbating in public, and you are using our city and our experience as lube. You are short-stroking the idea that you are a constitutional scholar, terrorism expert, law enforcement expert, ballistics expert, Chechen expert, lawyer, doctor, sociologist, psychologist and seer all at once, and I know it feels really good, because you can't stop no matter how many times you get the facts wrong.

I'm not asking you to stop. I'm not asking you to do anything. I am washing my hands of you, and good riddance to bad rubbish.

Feel free to call me a fascism-enabler, a lover of the police state, or whatever you will. I will wear it as a badge of honor, as it comes from hopeless self-empowering outrage junkies like you. Ever heard the old story of the man who watched a donkey pass through a hole in a fence and exclaimed, "Of course! The nose causes the tail!" That's you.

To those of you wondering what I'm talking about: yes, these people actually exist, and say these things. A decade ago, they were sending you very insistent (!!!!) emails claiming that a missile, and not a plane, hit the Pentagon, proving for sure that it was an inside job, etc. etc. etc.

(...psssst...to everyone who has sent me emails about that, I have a confession to make: one of my friends saw the plane fly right overhead as he was on his way to work at the Pentagon, and another of my friends - a 30-year airline veteran - lost one of his best friends, the pilot, when the plane hit the building...I never wrote back to you with this information because I knew you wouldn't believe me, because you'd figure out a way to include my friends in the massive conspiracy, because you'd just send me more stupid emails, and I just didn't have the energy to bother...sorry...but it's true...)

When you hear hoofbeats, it's probably not zebras. That's Occam's Razor, condensed.

Those who have spent this week attacking the Boston police, attacking Boston's officials, and attacking Boston's citizens have offered very few angry words for the two people who bombed the marathon and shot a couple of cops. I'm sure they have as much disgust for the perpetrators as I do, but it is telling that they have spent all their energy dumping on the people trying to deal with this frightening and unique situation and virtually no time dumping on the people who caused it.

(And yes, they have the right guy; no prosecution in the history of humanity will have more evidence at its disposal than the one to come for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev)

Worried about your civil liberties? Ask the bastards who committed murder about that before venting your spleen on the ones tasked to deal with the bombs thrown in the street and the shooting and the fleeing and the hiding and the guesswork, ask the bombers about your curtailed rights before going after the people who have to balance the Constitution against public safety when a killer is loose in a neighborhood.

It was the bombers who ruptured your rights, you damned daft self-absorbed outrage-junkie jackasses. The Boston police restored them. I know that's not the hip, cool, anti-authoritarian thing to say, but it is a fact nonetheless. Period, end of file.

Boston law enforcement did their best in a terrible, dangerous and deranged situation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alive and in custody (memo to Los Angeles PD), and has a good lawyer actively representing his interests (for those of you who can't be bothered to understand what Miranda is and what Miranda isn't). We who live here went along with the stay-in order willingly, as it was the same one we get when two feet of snow falls, and it worked as it always does. This community works together for each other, and Friday night - after word went out that the guy had been captured alive - will stand tall in Boston's long history among the greatest party nights of all time, because we were celebrating ourselves.

If you don't believe me, if you think we're all hapless dupes playing along with the fascist takeover of America, by all means, come to Boston and see for yourselves. Ply your theories on Boylston Street.

I dare you.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is Truthout's senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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