BEARCAT Bread and Circuses, Or Why I Ripped Up My Ticket

Issue #7 – Thursday, July 3, 2014

By Amanda Billyrock

The stage was set. A large circular table with an open center sat upon a raised platform at the front of the hearing room in Concord City Hall. A microphone was set before each of the 14 council members and the mayor. Uniformed police were piled in the back of the room to witness the vote that would grant them a quarter-million dollars’ worth of combat toys and military training from the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayor Jim Bouley left his seat at the table and walked toward us, the audience, stopping at the edge of the stage. He then surprised me by utilizing a performance technique I learned during my years studying theatre – the stage whisper. A stage whisper is a way of using your voice to appear as though you’re sharing a secret, while still maintaining a volume loud enough for all to hear. He held up a thick packet of paper, leaned forward, and stage-whispered, “Hey there, folks. Just wanted to let you know that we received these signatures here. See? I’ve got ’em right here. Here they are. Okay?”

I then realized what he was holding – the collection of over 1,500 signatures from residents of the area, painstakingly gathered by a handful of Porcupines who voluntarily took hours out of their lives and went door-to-door, informing their neighbors that the local police were seeking a military-grade attack vehicle and asking for signatures to stop it. Bouley held the petition like it was a banana peel to be tossed into the trash.

As it was almost time for the hearing to begin, Bouley then strode back to his place at the head of the table, but before sitting down, he smiled and loudly quipped to the whole room, “And who brought out that laser?”

Backstory: one of my fellow Free State members owns professional laser-projection equipment, and he uses it at various events to project words onto buildings. This evening he had projected in bright green letters “NO BEARCAT” on the side of City Hall for passersby to read.

Not seeing any hands raised in the audience, Bouley heartily laughed, “I ask because we on the council all voted that it was pretty cool!” Self-congratulatory chuckles erupted from all the council members surrounding him.

The word “patronizing” laser-projected itself in green letters on every surface of the inside of my skull.

After the dropping of the gavel and the reciting of formalities, a frowning and severe-looking councilwoman abruptly began to speak. “I just wanted to set the record straight: there has been some scuttlebutt that I met with police chief Duval and that he strong-armed me into voting for this measure. That is absolutely not true. Council members have every right to-“

At this point I had to turn away and invent some whispered small-talk with my neighbor; listening to someone whose profession it is to decide how stolen wealth should be spent lecture me about “rights” is more than I can stomach.

She wrapped up her soliloquy stating her intent to vote “yes” on acquiring the BEARCAT. For the next 15 minutes, over half of the council members followed suit, taking turns explaining the votes they were about to cast. A pattern quickly emerged; each member who began with something like, “I just wanted to say how appreciative I am of all the feedback I received from the citizens in my ward,” invariably finished with their intent to vote “yes”, as well. The few who did not begin by thanking all the little people stated their intents to vote “no”, reasoning that because the BEARCATs of several neighboring small towns are already at their disposal at any time, acquiring another would be something like overkill.

Once the soliloquies were finished (the word “pandering” now laser-projected on the inside of my skull), the mayor called the vote, stating that two-thirds was needed to pass or defeat the measure. One by one, eleven elected individuals voted “yes”. Four voted “no”. The “measure” passed.

A perceptible, silent groan spread through the audience. Everyone released the hopeful breaths they had been holding. Most of us got up to leave. As I was making my way out, I saw one of my housemates using his phone to film while he asked questions of the police who were gathered at the back of the room. The cops, barely able to hide their smirks, were attempting to brush him off.

Moments later, outside the building, this same housemate ran up to me, phone in hand, and showed me what he’d just recorded. As his video showed, while he was questioning the police, a large man in plainclothes stepped in front of his camera, raised his arm, and slapped my housemate’s phone shut in his hands.

For those unacquainted with the details of law, this is assault.

My housemate then asked the police what they were going to do about the assault they had witnessed. They informed him that the man who had slapped his phone shut was an off-duty cop, and that as such, he was just an ordinary citizen and would not be held accountable for such actions.

Let me go ahead and translate that for you in case you’re not fluent in Orwellian doublespeak: had he been on-duty, he would not have been held liable (if you don’t believe me, read some news). And apparently being off-duty, he also was not to be held liable. If you take nothing else from my article, take this truth about police: law-enforcers can just as easily be law un-enforcers. With friends on the inside of a monopoly, you can be exempted from abiding by the monopoly’s own rules.

As I rode home in a fellow Free State member’s car, my mind struggling to make sense of everything I had just seen, the realization came to me: I had just taken part in an ancient tradition spawned by the Roman Empire-the pacifying of subjects with bread and circuses. The mayor and the council were the performing clowns, the elections which had put them there were sideshows, the cops were bouncers guarding the doors of the tent, and police chief John Duval was the ring-leader himself. And the bread? The bread was hope. We had eaten up the lie of hope that “working within the system” is actually possible.

I am ripping up my lifetime ticket to the circus that came with my birth certificate and social security number. Never again will I stoop to enter a government building. Never again will I grant credence to the idea that a government worker has rightful authority over me. Never again will I take precious hours out of my short life to grant legitimacy to this farcical freak show, when I could be spending that time trading with crypto-currency in the agora – the free market – in which we do not contract with or pay tribute to ring-leaders.

Screw bread and circuses. I want to live like it’s 2013; like I actually happen to be a member of the most advanced species on the planet; like the internet really has given me the entirety of the world’s knowledge for free in the palm of my hand; like I really do have all the tools at my disposal to render the state as the anachronistic smear in history that it is.

It’s anarchy or bust, baby. It always has been.

This article was originally published 9/10/2013.

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