August 20, 2014

SOME HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE FROM TAM:

In the Twenties, cops had better guns than the military. Submachineguns and self-loading rifles were widespread in law enforcement before they ever were in the Army. People need to stop getting their history from Andy Griffith reruns. Frank Hamer didn’t gun Bonnie and Clyde down from ambush with a flintlock musket, you know.

In the Sixties, they’d have already turned the dogs and water cannons on the Ferguson protestors. In the Twenties, Andy and Barney would have broken the old Potato-Digger out of the armory and started mowing them down. The po-po used to be pretty quick to go weapons-free on unruly crowds, especially if such crowds were made up of black folk or commies.

Realistically speaking, the rate of police violence (like all violence) is probably at a low ebb, but in this age of social media, ubiquitous cameras, and the 24-hour news cycle, you get to hear about every bit of it. (And of course the media is 100% infallible when they report on police brutality, the way they are with gun-related stuff. We mock the “shoulder thing that goes up” utterances and then Gell-Mann our way across the page to nod in sage agreement at reported use-of-force abuses.)

Sure, in the old days, Officer Flatfoot walked a beat and said “Hi!” to the kids and helped people carry their groceries in. He also “tuned up” the occasional vagrant with some brass knuckles for giving him lip or helped a black guy ensure that the sun didn’t set on his back in Pleasantville, and everybody just shrugged and went on, because that’s how things were.

Let’s everybody be thankful that, so far, Ferguson 2014 hasn’t turned into either Los Angeles 1992 or Tulsa 1921.

True. What’s amazing about Ferguson is that, for all the sturm und drang, the casualty count is pretty light.