On paper, states rights and a smaller federal government are supposed to be the cornerstone of Republican party ideology. Anytime national healthcare, abortion protections, or gun control is proposed you can hear shouts of “STATE’S RIGHTS!” ringing in the congressional halls, airways, and mouths of red supporters. Recent events have uncovered a small caveat in what they mean by that. They mean states rights as long as it suits their agenda. But if it doesn't, call out the dogs on anyone who disagrees.
Which appears to be what they have done in Portland, Oregon. Federal forces are effectively occupying the Rose City. This isn’t the National Guard, called for by state and local leadership who felt the situation was out of hand. These are “rapid deployment teams”, cobbled together from a myriad of federal agencies. And unleashed to “restore order” to cities under sustained protest. The fact that they only appear in Democrat controlled cities is just coincidence.
Far from being requested by the Portlandians and Oregonians, the local and state government seems to be doing all it can to rid themselves of these domestic militants. Portland's mayor Ted Wheeler responded to the actions by the federal forces as “this is an attack on our Democracy.” Beating protestors, flooding the streets with unidentified, anonymous agents in tactical gear and snatching protestors off the street into unmarked vehicles, sure doesn't feel democratic.
The Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown calls it “A blatant abuse of power.”, which of course it is. She also says “Having federal troops here is like pouring gas on a fire.”. But it might prove to be more like a box of dynamite for the rest of the country.
When Portland police were barred by court order from using crowd control agents and less than lethal munitions on the protestors, these federal agents were more than happy to oblige in their stead. That court order has no effect on federal law enforcement. But, like vampires, you can’t just invite them in a little and then hope they will leave. Even amid backlash from all over Oregon, the Trump administration sees the situation as a categorical win. Praising the federal response in Portland and telling acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, “It’s a pretty wild group, but you have it in very good control”.
Control, it seems, is what the goal is for this administration, at all costs. Portland, is just a proof of concept for this paramilitary style “Shock and Awe” response to, supposedly protesters, but truthfully just anyone who disagrees with the administration policy on...anything. Gestapo like tactics are soon to be seen on every street corner in America.
"I don't want to get ahead of the president and his announcement, but the Department of Justice is going to be involved in this, DHS is going to be involved in this, and we're really going to take a stand across the board. And we're going to do what needs to be done to protect the men and women of this country." is what acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan told Fox News last Thursday. Translation; “:You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
This shadow hand of “rapid deployment teams” already has manpower topping 2,000 agents, nearing the size of a military brigade. Several battalions worth of military level forces, mustered not to fight a war, or root out terrorism, but to enforce political ideology by any means necessary. “They are provoking confrontation for political purposes;” is how Oregon’s Governor puts it. But here’s the real question on all these antics, why aren’t more people up in arms about armed occupation of American cities?
This is terrifying. On a small scale. But, implying this is to become part of our “new normal”...completely unacceptable. So where are the protests to this abuse of force? Where is the outrage? It certainly doesn’t appear to be coming from any constituents of this administration. Because it suits their purposes. And that is the slippery slope that is going to tear this nation apart. Sooner rather than later.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1906
This was one of the core tenets drilled into my head during my years in the US Army. That we can disagree, vehemently, but the thing we all had to agree on was preserving the framework to have that disagreement. No matter our personal feelings on the subject. In the world we find ourselves in, 2020 America, that no longer seems to be towards the top of anyone's priorities. Win, at all costs. The Bill of Rights? Just guidelines, suggestions really, to be tossed aside whenever it is convenient.
See, that’s the thing about rights. Especially those pesky inalienable ones. They are a very black and white issue. We either have them or we do not have them. Enforcement and protection of them is not a la carte when it jives with your particular political taste pallet.
If you scream 'til you’re blue in the face about the second amendment when anyone so much as mentions tighter gun control laws, where are you now when the American Gestapo is physically silencing fellow citizens for exercising their first amendment rights? It can't be that you don’t care about it. The twitterverse is set ablaze trotting out your right to free speech when it comes to defending racist or bigoted rhetoric. So where is that indignity now?
This is LITERALLY an occupying force, on American soil, created, trained and dispatched without vote or congressional approval, of any kind. And for most of America, this seems like business as usual. Rights matter, selectively. But selective enforcement of “rights” is an oxymoron. It is an all or nothing proposition. “Silence is violence” has been one of the cries of the Black Lives Matter movement from the beginning. But Portland isn’t hypothetical or academic. This is literal violence, enacted against fellow citizens of this country. And if you see this, in hd video, shot from every angle and reported on by every major news organization in the world and you say nothing? You must be ok with it.
So what won’t you be ok with? If this field expedient coalition of federal forces maintains a show of force in every major American city until all protests are silenced, are you good with that? What if they stay deployed through the election? Is that kosher? How close to home does this have to hit you to actually start caring? Because here’s the thing. Just because you agree with what Trump is trying to accomplish right now, doesn’t mean you won’t be appalled at his next big idea. Or the one after that. And whenever that time comes, it may be too late for you to jump ship. Just do a brief google search on how our president treats anyone he feels has crossed him.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
That’s where we are at, right now in this country. This is a pass fail test on what you give a damn about. Mobilizing thousands of federal agents, across multiple agencies, to enforce a personal agenda is about as far from the spirit of anything the Constitution, or the Bill of RIghts tried to envision for this country. If you are ok with that, because you don’t like what is being protested in Portland, then those documents we claim to hold so dear in “the land of the free, home of the brave" are worth even less than the parchment they are quilled on. And you have made your choice. I hope you can live with it.
Because if you won’t stand for Portland now, there probably won’t be anyone left to stand for you.