Over the weekend of December 5 - 7, Dr. Peter Watts, a Canadian science fiction writer, was helping a friend move to Nebraska. On the 8th, driving back home, Watts was stopped in Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police. When Watts got out of his rental car to ask what the problem was, the border guards responded by beating him up, dosing him with pepper spray, and locking him up. Local police charged him with assaulting a federal officer, held him overnight, impounded his possessions, and after he posted bail, dropped him off in a Canadian winter storm in his shirtsleeves.
Why do the border police act like this? Partly because the War On Some Drugs has transformed them into an American Gestapo. Partly because they know that they can act with impunity, that they are never going to held accountable for their abuse of power. The Cop Who Breaks The Rules is a beloved American archetype, from Dirty Harry Callahan to Jack Bauer. We like living in a police state, secure in the knowledge that the cops only beat up bad guys, and that we ourselves will never wind up on the wrong end of a nightstick, a taser, or some pepper spray.