Friday, December 11, 2009

Something More Important

Something More Important

In case you have not been watching, the sf blogosphere has been full of righteous anger on behalf of author Peter Watts, who was arrested and beaten (beaten and arrested?) by US Border Patrol Officers last Tuesday.

There is a defense fund set up. Links are at the Scalzi post and at Making Light, I think.

I'm not going to get into arguing the fine points. I'm not really worrying about "he should have known better," for example, because US police procedures are not standard around the world, and also? No US police agency that I know of justifies using more force than is necessary to subdue a person. In other countries, it is perfectly normal to question the police as to the reasons for a search of a vehicle. Me, I'd have just done what the cops said -- not because I fear the police, but because I have known enough cops over the years to know that people who don't follow their orders can make *some* cops jumpy, and I don't like to be around jumpy people carrying loaded guns.

The sad truth is that we live in a country where people in positions of authority feel no need to justify their actions. One would think that the border folks might have thought about the fact that borders are places where cultural norms cannot be assumed to be the same. One would think.

More importantly, one would think that people who apparently posed no real threat wouldn't get pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested.


Steve Muhlberger said...

Members of my family had a bad experience in the early 80s. No beating or arrest but a gun was pointed at them.

This is nothing new; but Americans usually don't see it. White Americans of a certain class, that is.

Matthew Gabriele said...

Do you really think this type of activity is confined to the US? Some people with power abuse it. That's why there's a word for it: "martinet".

It sucks for this guy but it sucks when the French police go into the banielieu, when Italian police harass the gypsies, etc. NONE of those things are excusable.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I totally agree -- we are hearing about this because the victim is someone well-connected with a bunch of tech-savvy sorts, and is in a position where they will defend him. I've heard several stories since (including one on my fb) from people who have worked in or worked in conjunction with Border Patrol, and this happens to Mexicans all the time apparently. It doesn't mean that there aren't good agents who do good things like stop human- and drug trafficking, but there are also serious abuses.

Matt, I don't disagree, and I have to say I'm a little saddened by the extension of this to "and I won't come to the US because they are like that" attitude. You're right that it happens everywhere -- I think some of the reaction must be to the fact that it's not supposed to happen in America.

Steve Muhlberger said...

Matt, if your question was addressed to me, no, I don't think this is restricted to the US border; however, we were talking about an incident at the US border.

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