A Middle Class Grandma’s Response to the Police State

So this morning I emailed my mom the link to the Guardian article from Naomi Wolf on the FBI’s crackdown, in collusion with big banks, local police, private security firms, etc, on Occupy. My parents don’t tend to see a lot of these articles so I send them on to help them see a different point of view from the mainstream media narrative that they are so often exposed to. 

In response my mom wrote… well I’ll let you read it for yourself.  I think it stands as an incredible piece given her history as a liberal activist in the 60’s, (civil rights movement, antiwar movement, etc), and a university educator… and how that now translates to being a retired mom and grandma. This is not the punditry of the progressive left; it’s not an Obama supporter defending his actions; it’s someone who has spent her whole life fighting to improve and mend a system that she now is beginning to see may not be fixable, and how terrifying that is. 

So here it is, with her permission, unedited (other than redacting some personal info): 

The Guardian article scared me. Not because it critically unpacks the power of the police state but because of how it defines that state, and how that definition creates a dilemma for me and for others my age who have been raised in a culture that seems rapidly to be crumbling. Its dissolution derives less from the historical cycles of economic and social upheaval/renewal that our parents and grandparents experienced and weathered than from a sense of no control, no future that can be envisioned and fought for. That is new here, historically. Past generations fought hard and suffered to overcome severe oppression out of desperation but also because they believed it was possible to do so, and to do it within the context of the american promise and their own communal and individual battles. That meant communal and individual loss and horror, but these were sacrifices made for a goal that was clear and a return to the promise of peace and cultural continuity. Permanent loss of freedom was not an option. (Actually as I read this I realize how insular it is: people have fought and died just because they could no longer stand the oppression even when there was no clear relief in sight).


Now, though, the enemy has slowly evolved into something different, and its various faces are masks, the more terrifying because they belong, increasingly, to one body. So the article reveals. (Actually, again as I read this, it occurs to me that the very consolidation of the “enemy” makes it more vulnerable–). What is terrifying is that many of us – those of us who are middle class, at least – are also connected to that body, and to destroy the body without any real alternative means destroying much of our own ground. Many, (again – not all) westerners want to believe in the possibility of a peaceful, healthy future for their children and grandchildren even if their own lives have been miserable; and they tie that belief into the wishful certainty that the very institutions upon which they want to build – and that includes banks and “democracy” – can be mended. If not, if destruction is the only way to remove the rot from within, then what? Everything collapses. What path then? To bring it home – how can I provide for you and the children if the powerful institutions are brought down? What are the alternatives? What kind of future will [my grandkids] have if they are surrounded by revolution and chaos? What road will they be able to take? What right do we have to bring that on them, who had nothing to do with the causes?


But of course that applies to all revolution and change everywhere. Contemporary children suffer on behalf of their own heirs.


And maybe the revolution will be creative.


I like your suggestion that it lies within local communities to create the alternatives. Revolution within that context is still a dangerous and inevitably violent one but at least there is a goal and a vision to frame it. I like the idea that there is an irrepressible force out there that bubbles up and competes with the police state in forms that outwit it. Those are all things that give hope.


The article (or was it you) mentioned the failure of the media to do its job. I think that beyond issues of power and ownership there is another barrier to wider media discussion of a police state. It is the cultural refusal of those who have benefitted over the last century to believe articles like the one you cited. They are too painful, and it is too easy to dismiss them as left-wing or over-the-top rhetoric. After all, if they are to be believed, it means that the believer will have to either give up what they have known, or fight.


Or, maybe, they will need to take their belief into other, creative directions that do not depend upon traditional paths for solutions. They will have to be willing to try without being sure. They will need to acknowledge the unknown without rejecting it. Maybe that is where the anarchists and occupy folks are going. In fact, maybe it is the “sure” – the certainty – that is one of the greatest barriers. Maybe that is the real evolution. As you said once – evolution instead of revolution.