Saturday, February 22, 2014

What would Matt Dillon do?

Protesters in Ukraine have managed to wrest the world's attention away from the Olympic Games in Sochi, and direct it a bit to the west, to their capitol in Kiev.  There, at the cost of at least 77 lives cut short by police sniper fire, citizens in that country ousted the president who planned to link them to Vladimir Putin's new "Eurasian Union," the latest iteration of the old Soviet Union.  Memories of their treatment by the old Russia fueled protests against the politician who planned to climb into bed with the new Russia.

All of which makes me wonder: How many people would have died at the hands of the police in this country, if the citizenry had decided to  protest the Republican engineered "Brooks Brothers" riot that ended the Florida recount vote, essentially installing George W. Bush as president. (See ) Or to demand that Congress act to legislatively overturn the Citizens United decision, which held that inanimate corporations are entitled to the same First Amendment right to free speech as actual people.  Or to protest the lack of prosecution, imprisonment, and impoverishment of the bankers, brokers, and other Wall Street types whose greed manufactured the Great Recession of 2008.

If real life were a Gunsmoke episode, Marshal Matt Dillon would defend the right of townsfolk to have a fair election.  The mean spirited and avaricious cattle baron who attempted to intimidate voters with hired thugs would be defeated by the marshal and his band of citizen-deputies, hauled before the judge for trial, and sentenced to a lengthy stay in the territorial prison.

The power hungry politician who tried to squelch the opposition by having his minions torch the local newspaper and destroy the printing press, would find himself on the wrong side of the marshal's posse.

And the outlaws who robbed the stage coach and stole the company payroll would have their bullet-riddled bodies slung over their horses' saddles and brought back to town for burial by the undertaker.

Unfortunately, history demonstrates that government police power is rarely exercised on behalf of those who seek to change the status quo.  The law abiding marshal who seeks to protect the underdog makes for good Hollywood theatre, but in today's world of SWAT Teams and militarized police forces, the people who decide when and where force will be used are not the Matt Dillons of this world, but are those who Matt Dillon would have arrested or shot.

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