Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New York State of Mind: Armed Paramilitary Police Guard Penn Station - and Other Small Observations

This is not America
Two huge armed guards, New York City paramilitary police, wearing flak vests and bearing M-16s with more gear and other weapons on their belts than Batman, standing in front of an otherwise pedestrian entrance to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, basically intimidating citizens under the guise of protecting us from terrorists. Ridiculous, commented a bystander. "Even the Shoe Bomber could get past these guys", said I to him. Any self respecting terrorist is going to have a better plan than running straight on to two heavily armed gorillas at the front door. A man comments on how this is simply government intimidation of its own citizens. "This is fascism in its purist form", he says. On the train and in digital signs all over the subway system fear is reinforced with messages encouraging all of us to look for 'suspicious' people or activity and report it. Let's make everyone paranoid. I remember being told that, that was how the Soviet Union was when I was a child. Comrades spying on comrades - never knowing what your neighbor might report to the authorities. Even Tony Bennett was made to apologize for comments he made regarding 9-11 that were essentially dead on correct. When we, as a nation, behave like this - the terrorists win. Maybe we need a psychologist on the Homeland Security team.

Today I sit with Dr. Dan Winchester at Starbucks. Dan and I have seen each other a few times over the past few weeks, but just today made proper introductions to each other. Dr. Dan is disabled with Cerebral Palsy and works from a wheel chair without his hands - just an iPad and a mouth held stylus. But still he writes a blog and has his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the Ferauf Graduate School of Psychology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. So Dr. Dan is no dummy - and he talks about how there are people in America who are trying to take away everything we have fought for - the freedoms, the liberties, the opportunities - the concept of America. He speaks in the context of how disabled people are marginalized in our society. But he speaks for us all - in this, today's New York state of mind. You don't see armed police in anything but third-world countries and even in them, not often. You certainly don't see them in Asia or Europe. Why here? This is not America, this police state. This is not proud, nor free nor us. This is just plain wrong.

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