By: Thomas Moore, Contributor
President Trump recently issued an executive order that lifts a previous ban on police use of military equipment issued by former President Obama in 2015. Obama’s executive order ended the use of high caliber weapons, heavy armored vehicles, and heavy ammunition and equipment. He signed the order in the wake of Ferguson and the killing of Michael Brown. Aldous Huxley once wrote, “People will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacity to think.” His words ring true today, for Trump’s new legislation moves America a step closer to a police state.
America has a long history of antagonizing law enforcement. It began almost 300 years ago in the infamous streets of Boston, Massachusetts. Colonists retaliated to British oppression through a protest that escalated into the British firing upon the crowd, killing five civilians. Among the dead was America’s first patriot to die for the cause—a free black man named Crispus Attucks. Though nearly three centuries ago, this incident bears a striking familiarity to events occurring today.
I typically attempt a partisan approach to President Trump’s administration. However, one of my core values is the prevention of too much government control. I believe the government should take a backseat to the affairs of its citizens, who they are only supposed to protect. With that being said, the notion of giving more powerful weapons to police officers that ordinary citizens are not allowed to own themselves seems like an extension of an already growing scope of government force.
However, though my instinct is to resist any new form of government power, I must be willing to examine some possible reasons for this new legislation. Former President Obama’s executive order was enacted in the wake of Ferguson, in which it appeared that the police force was becoming too powerful over citizens and causing harm to innocents. Given that most people seem upset about Charlottesville, perhaps it would actually make sense in this situation to increase the strength of the police force.
If you want to minimize violence done by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-nazis, wouldn’t you actually want the government to have a stronger ability to fight back the forces of evil? It seems reasonable that in order to overcome the forces of evil, the forces of good must be stronger. One could argue that this decision was actually influenced by the desire to support minority groups in America. Perhaps the shooting in Orlando, Florida, a horrible attack on the LGBTQIA+ community, could be used to justify increasing police power to protect innocent citizens from harm.
In the end, however, I ultimately see this more as a power move on President Trump’s part. It is difficult for me to see why anyone would be shocked at this new legislation. President Trump enjoys appealing to his support base, especially at the cost of the people in the country who do not support him. This executive order, in light of his pardoning of former American law enforcement officer Joe Arpaio, should not come as much of a shock to anyone.
America needs to be protected, certainly. We are undoubtedly the dominant world power, and President Trump is the leader of the free world. However, unlike many other countries in the world, American culture is different. Believe it or not, there is much less violence and hardship in America than in places stricken by dictatorships like North Korea or the Congo. To quote former President Barack Obama in his Farewell Address, “Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were, no matter what some folks say.” Our police force is strong enough as is to prevent crime from happening. Further, no form of arsenal not available to the average citizen should be given to local police officers. We should all stand united and equal under our government. It may be 2017, but the words of George Orwell, written in 1949 echo ominously today: “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship.”