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Police state by default

I’ll say right out that Paul Karl Lukacs has bigger stones than me. When I’m going through Customs — or airport security in general — I may venture into testiness on my own behalf or run interference if my young son is getting the third degree (yes, it’s happened), but I’m generally focused on getting past the Gestapo, not on asserting my rights. So I applaud Lukacs for answering “none of your business” to a nosy Customs official when questioned about his overseas trip. His experience went like this:

“Why were you in China?” asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.

“None of your business,” I said.

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

“I’m not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country,” I said.

This did not go over well. She asked a series of questions, such as how long I had been in China, whether I was there on personal business or commercial business, etc. I stood silently. She said that her questions were mandated by Congress and that I should complain to Congress instead of refusing to cooperate with her.

She asked me to take one of my small bags off her counter. I complied.

She picked up the phone and told someone I “was refusing to cooperate at all.” This was incorrect. I had presented her with proof of citizenship (a U.S. passport) and had moved the bag when she asked. What I was refusing to do was answer her questions.

Ultimately, Lukacs was allowed to go on his way because Americans really don’t have to do anything but show a customs declaration and proof of citizenship in order to re-enter the country. Of course he had to cool his heels first because … well, just because. He hadn’t respected their authoritah, after all.

It makes you think …

There are a lot of protections against official nosiness and pushiness on the books or in our legal traditions that go relatively unused. They go unused, of course, because officialdom makes it increasingly unpleasant to assert those rights. If the cost of telling a police officer to mind his manners is a strip search and a night in the lock-up, followed only months later by a lukewarm apology and an off-hand acknowledgment that you were in the right, many people simply stop telling cops where to get off. Even the occasional cash settlement isn’t going to be worth it for the average person. As time goes on, we forget what our rights are, and officials are trained in procedures rather than the legal scope of their authority. Eventually, the rights in question may still exist on the books, but largely as quaint museum-quality exhibits.

And then you run across the occasional Paul Karl Lukacs, willing to take a figurative bullet in the hopes that one of the gray-haired supervisors remembers a few vestigial legalisms.

So the question is … Is it a tactic on the part of officialdom to expand their power? Or is it more of a case of institutional mission-creep, fueled by our own timidity and laziness?

Either way, our rights become meaningless if we abandon them because it becomes a hassle to assert them.

And note that not a single statute is altered along the way to changing the balance of power between the folks wielding the power of the state and the rest of us.

Posted in Awful Officials, Direct Action

9 Comments

  • Being the Dox Quixote type, my husband sometimes slows me down by asking which hill I plan to die on – and for what. As individuals, we can’t take on all the corruption we see or we’d never have time to make money to live in. So we have to choose which is the important issue that’s worth short rations and the family being broken apart for a time.

    Not an easy road, whether it’s the high one or the low one.

  • Note: the side bar accompaning this blog has 5 advertisements for police training school. Is this to send a special message?

  • Oh, you have to love keyword matching in Google Ads. If I wrote “astronauts like to suck donkey cocks” I’d end up with ads for space camp, roosters and mule rides.

  • What I do frequently when reading an article is go to my bookmarks where I click on ” Readability.” It blocks out everything except the text of the article. Therefore I avoid the references to police schools etc, on the main page of this article. A small thing I know, but, worth it to me and what I read on the internet.

  • Nosy, rude, lying, swaggering government thugs fit my definition of Scum of the Earth. Until they are defanged, none of us are safe.

  • Just use Firefox and add the NoScript add-on and AdBlock+ and Better Privacy and not only will you not be subjected to any of these things but Better Privacy deletes all LOS’s of which you’ll have very few using NoScript. I don’t see any blinky, blinding ads due to AdBlock+.

  • I have decided not to fly unless absolutely necessary and am sending a letter to my senators and congressman about not flying and being treated like a slave.

  • If asserting your rights produces a strip search and additional outrages, then, after they let you go, perhaps you should visit them. Police officers and judges live in wooden houses in the same communities as their victims. They are often listed in the phone book. So you can find their addresses and home phone numbers.

    Should you stand outside on the public street and hold a candle light vigil? Or is something more forceful involving fire in order? It isn’t up to me.

    But it is something of a wonder that people seem to think that there is no amount of abuse and brutality that those in office can dish out that Americans won’t roll over on their backs and, wetting themselves, consent to accept. Americans are armed for good reasons, the chief reason being redress of grievances in the presence of tyranny.

    Claire Wolfe said it in 2004. It is now not too early to just shoot the bastards. Your mileage and results may vary.

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