Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Bunker mentality

No matter what platitudes usher forth from the podium inside Madison Square garden, nothing tells you more about the Republican platform than the army of police barricading the premises outside. The security forces massed there are almost unimaginable, because America has likely seen nothing like it since Nixon sent troops in on his own people at Kent State. There are checkpoints, and more checkpoints, and credentials and badges, and police officers by the score, locking down a veritable Green Zone in the heart of New York City, which has been made to feel like occupied territory.

Never mind that if airports had one thousandth the amount of attention as the Republican convention, there would be no danger of airplane terrorism. Never mind that the GOP platform's ideas are apparently so aborrhent to teh average citizen of New York that they can only be uttered from behind the most visible and concentrated application of the police state apparatus as has ever been seen in this century. What's most significant is that this kind of massed security is not really a symbol to the people it walls off from reality. It's a fair representation of how an ideal world functions to a Republican, with the police protecting the elites with a redundancy of force while the rest of the city turns to chaos. It clearly delineates us and them, and makes them seem like the criminals that Republicans are reassured by believing poor people are. The dog-and-pony show of law and order is not a hassle to them, the rigamarole of showing one's badges and permissions and papers -- the very cliche of American representations of Soviet life (and Nazi regimes) -- makes them feel part of a meaningful and reassuring ceremony. The staging of a show of force is entertainment, making them profoundly secure, spiritually as well as literally. (Hence the enthusiasm for the Iraq war, no matter how feeble or shifting the justification.)

The brute-force application of policce protection is the most pointed and genuine manifestation of the Republican vision for America; it is the dream achieved. Such a massive demonstration of force generates its own rationale, its physical bulk, its sheer size, seems to vindicate the importance, the righteousness, of what it has been summoned to protect. It is akin to the Soviet military parades through Red Square, bravura displays of the glory of power, to try to mask the fat that the power is aimed at no tangible, specific end. Power is deployed for "America," to protect its "freedom." That they can be thinking of freedom in the face of so many cops and so much logistical nuisance tells you all you'll ever need to know about today's Republican party.

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