Land of the What?

Memo to Americans: All y’all have gotta quit lying to yourselves. Not the small shit. You can still pretend you’re gonna go to the gym tomorrow and clean the gutters next weekend. But you’ve gotta stop calling yourselves the ‘Land of the Free’. Just omit that shit from your Anthem and the rest of your rhetoric. That particular delusion isn’t doing anybody any good and frankly it just makes you look increasingly ridiculous. Actual ‘Lands of the Free’ don’t tolerate police states. Yeah, yeah, I know I wrote about this last week and you’re tired of hearing me blather on about it. Tough shit. Stifle your long suffering sigh and read about what’s happening in your supposedly ‘free’ country…

Last weekend was the Laughlin River Run, one of the larger gatherings of motorcycle enthusiasts. Some motorcycle enthusiasts gather themselves into motorcycle clubs, or MCs. These clubs represent all kinds of people. Yes, some of them have bad reputations but lots of them are essentially civic groups in leathers. Many are ministries or work against child abuse or breast cancer. And all of them were banned from Laughlin. Not just the Run, but the CITY OF LAUGHLIN.

The state police from three states (CA, NV, & AZ) unilaterally decided to ban them from using state and federal highways for the week. Groups wearing a patch (colors) or even matching t-shirts (soft colors) were turned around and sent home at the point of a gun. They’d committed no crimes. Hell, they weren’t even accused of anything. No laws were passed by representatives. No judge found against them. Policemen just decided they were banned from American roadways and an American city. And it didn’t stop there.

Like most festivals there are lots of merchandise booths in Laughlin. They sell leathers, bike parts, and the usual stuff like jewelry, clothes and food. On the second day Las Vegas Metro police (Laughlin is in their jurisdiction) arrived with their SWAT team and assault rifles to evict two booths. One sold t-shirts and the other was a family owned motor-sports company. Why were they evicted? They were owned by men who were associated with an MC. That’s all.

I want to be perfectly fucking clear here. These booths were doing NOTHING wrong. They had all the relevant permits and licenses. They sold legal, and rather innocuous, products. The hotel who rented them the space came to their aid and explained that their rent was legally paid and their presence was approved. Hotel security was told that the head of Laughlin Station had ordered the eviction and that there’d “be trouble” for the hotel if they interfered. These legal businesses were literally forced to pack up under the watchful eyes of m-16s and escorted to the edge of town.

Look, I know most of you aren’t bikers. Some of you probably even double check your car door locks when we ride past (yeah, we notice that). But even if you’re scared of us you’d have to admit that the ‘Land of the Free’ shouldn’t have police officers who get to set the laws themselves if for no other reason than your dumb ass might be next. And trust me, having a gun aimed at you is no damn fun, especially when the man holding it has the legal right to shoot you.

So are we agreed? No more ‘Land of the Free’ bullshit? No more pretending. Let’s just change the words to ‘Land of the Heavily Policed’ until we decide to let freedom reign again. I know it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but maybe if we hear the truth we’ll decide to do something about it. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

Cop Lies

One of the phrases that’s tossed about willy-nilly in our hyperbolic, partisan bickering is ‘police state’. It’s become shorthand for the very opposite of a free country, and quite fairly so. That makes it reasonable to ask the following question: Are we free or is this a police state? Well, lemme tell you about my Saturday…

It was a beautiful day and we decided to go to the Scottish festival about 20 miles north of Las Vegas. Since I wore my full dress kilt we took the hearse rather than the bikes. After a fun day of pipes and games we headed back to the freeway on a four lane, busy road. I was in the right lane, anticipating the freeway entrance, going about 40 mph (the speed limit). So were all the cars around me in both lanes. We passed a police cruiser and he pulled out behind me. After two blocks he hit his lights and pulled me over. Oh boy, here we go.

After he got out of the car he walked up and tried to open the rear door and then the side back door. They were locked. He peered in all the windows before coming up to mine and asked for my DL, reg, and insurance. I asked him what the problem was and he said “I clocked you at 55 in a 40 zone”. I politely replied that was impossible. I was going 40, as was all the other traffic. He said it was 55 and to comply with his request. I told him it was pointless to argue about it. We both knew he was lying. He just didn’t give a shit. He didn’t have to.

I gave him the papers he asked for and informed him that I had a legal concealed carry permit but that I was NOT carrying a sidearm. He grunted and asked if I was at the festival. I guess the bright red kilt was a clue. He asked where I was going. I smiled but didn’t reply. He insisted on knowing where I was going as he put his hand on the butt of his gun. I told him ‘home’. He asked if I owned other vehicles. I knew he was going to look it up so I just said “yes, motorcycles”. He demanded Sharon’s ID. I said she wasn’t driving. He said that he could ask for the ID of anyone in the car. Another lie but we gave it to him. He disappeared for about 6-7 minutes and presumably ran everything through the computer system. Fortunately my record is totally clean because I work with kids and get Live-scanned every 6 months. When he came back he’d covered his name tag with his mic. He returned our documents and told me to “head straight home”. No mention of a ticket. No warning to slow down. Just go home.

Let’s sum up. I was doing nothing wrong. At 4:00 on a sunny Saturday afternoon a policeman saw a tattooed man in a hearse and pulled him over just because. He lied and made up an infraction. He illegally tried to open the doors. He demanded a lot of information he had no right to, and intimidated to get it. He illegally demanded additional IDs and lied again to get them. He ran background checks for no reason, and told me to “head straight home”. And there is NOT A FUCKING THING I CAN DO ABOUT IT.

A few years ago the left got their collective panties in a bunch when Arizona tried to pass a ‘papers please’ law. It would’ve required cops to question anyone with brown skin about the status of their citizenship. A few of my African-American friends thought that this debate was hysterical. So did bikers. And hispanic kids. And a whole bunch of other folks who deal with this kind of shit EVERY GOD DAMNED DAY. If you’re anything but white, middle aged, and ‘normal’ looking you know that ‘papers please’ is already a fact of life.

So does the land of the free and home of the brave now qualify as a ‘police state? I’m being facetious. OF COURSE IT DOES. We’ve totally lost ‘civilian’ control over an increasingly militarized police force. We lock up more people than ANY country on earth. Police, both local and federal, stomp all over our so called ‘rights’ every day. Don’t believe me? Look around. Try to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Because I can tell you it’s damn hard to believe in the ‘Land of the Free’ when the man with a gun and a jail illegally demands things and lies to your face. Comply or else ain’t Freedom. Not by anyone’s definition. Maybe it’s time for Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

Coming Unplugged

Okay, so I haven’t been too good about posting to the blog. In fact I haven’t written a damn thing in about 6 months. No blog posts, no work on one of the new books, nothing. Why? I just haven’t felt like it. I got depressed in the fall, cranked my way through the holidays, and started a new dojo last month. My focus, as they say, has been elsewhere. But now the itch is back. I’ve got things to say and by god, I’ll say them even if no one’s going to listen. As Mr Kristofferson sang:

“And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.”

Anyway, as I thought about going back to the blog I looked over a few of the last posts and found, to my chagrin, how many of them dealt with politics. And media. I’m a little disappointed with myself. In fact that might account for my souring on the blog itself. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa: “Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

So be it resolved: No more politics. No more left vs right, dems vs GOP. Both parties represent the same people, and they ain’t us. Take all the news channels off the TV scroll. The same corporations that own the government own the media. Try to remember that, on the whole, most people are pretty damn decent regardless of the bullshit divisions that fuel the news cycle. Try to keep my eyes on the bigger questions of truth, beauty, freedom and Joy. Make writing more fun!

That isn’t to say that I won’t take sides, it just means I’ll try to remember where the real battles take place. Humans vs Corporations, greed/fear vs Joy, Freedom vs oppression, rich vs poor. Those are the battles worth fighting, even though I expect the good guys are losing at the moment. Virtue is always more important than victory. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion my friends.