I used to teach in the Houston public schools. Middle School--a tough demographic if there ever was one and unlike some educators, I remembered what it was like to be that age and if you'll think back, you'll remember how tough it is to be in your early teens.
If I gained anything from that experience, it was an understanding that nearly every institution in this country exists to perpetuate it's own authority. What I learned teaching in Houston was that the people in power at my campus, and the folks in power at the district (in a building we used to call the "Taj Mahal" for its resemblance to it and the utter folly which resided therein) were constantly afraid of everything. Any change, any innovation, any student movement was a cause for alarm. Basically, the administration and much of the faculty were afraid of 13 year olds!
Follow me over the fold for a bit more...
Enter the so-called "war on drugs". Thanks, Dick Nixon, for that one. The approach to exercising authority that I saw at my middle school campus in Texas closely mimicked the militarization of local and state police forces which has been a direct result of modern-day Prohibition. In fact, the approach to exercising authority at the school more resembled a prep school for prison rather than any real attempt to educate the students or to suggest that they learn how to think deeply and independently. "Zero Tolerance" and locker searches--we didn't have that when I was a kid, because I went to Middle School, not jail for my education.
The behavior of the powers-that-be in places like Oakland, NYC, Denver and others in their approach to the peaceful protests by the Occupiers should remove all doubt from our minds that we have created a brutal police state in this country where behavior like that from all authorities--governors, police departments, public schools--violent over-reactions to any challenge to power--is unremarkable, normative, to be expected.
I blame that "war on drugs" for the militarizing of our police forces and the incarceration-like environment in which so many of our public school students have to struggle to get an education. I blame these draconian approaches to a very real societal problem on the entire atmosphere in which we are living today.
There was plenty of police brutality before the "war on drugs" and will be plenty after, yet I just cannot help make the connection.
The fact of the matter is--with #OWS, with public schools, with government--is they are all afraid of 13 year olds. Or they think they are: in my opinion it's the occupiers who are the adults.
It's a shame love and understanding are always trumped by fear and violence. Especially because these police officers should realize that it's the protesters who are on their side, not their cowardly bosses at city hall.