Just checking

Tonight I was stopped by state police at a checkpoint and asked to present my papers. I mean “license and registration”. And while I tried to figure out where the insurance card was, the officer strolled around my car, playing the flashlight over the vehicle. Apparently my papers were in order, because they let me go.

I hadn’t committed a crime, nor were the police investigating one. Rather, they were just doing a “safety check”. What does that mean? “Checking” to make sure that I have the proper documentation? “Checking” to make sure that I was sober? “Checking” to make sure that I wasn’t violating some law somehow?

What if I had turned around and gone the other way, instead of passing through their checkpoint? Would they have pursued to “check” that I wasn’t fleeing from some sort of crime?

I suppose it could be worse. I know someone who has been pulled over while walking by police and forced to show his identification papers.

Yesterday was July 4, when we celebrate men who had the chutzpah to think that this sort of thing shouldn’t happen to free men. On the other hand, we decorate the tombs of the Founders and yet tolerate this sort of behavior.

Nay, not tolerate. Request. Ask for. Plead for. We grovel at the feet of the almighty State and beg, “Please, great State, save us from the drunkard and the drug fiend and the Al-Qaeda boogie man and the non-conformist with his uncomfortable ideas. Just keep us safe, and we will do whatever you say. We will carry special cards and take off our shoes and submit to strip searches on demand and whatever else you say. Just make sure that I don’t have to bear any sort of responsibility for my safety or the safety of my family. Please, take care of that for me.” We demand this sort of treatment, and so we get it.

Is this what you want? Is this the sort of America that you want to hand down to your children? A place where you need photo ID to walk down the street? A place where you have to fear the police looking over your shoulder, even though you are a law-abiding citizen? Personally, I was hoping for something better, but maybe I’m alone in my little delusions about freedom and liberty and all that stuff that we run up the flagpole and salute.

Once upon a time, being an American meant that you were a free man, and that you embraced both the privilege and responsibility that came with that freedom. Are you prepared to do that? Do you really want to be free?

Just checking.

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4 responses to “Just checking

  • Peoria Pundit » Local: Exchanging freedom for a little security? No thanks ...

    […] to Seth Ben-Ezra for putting my feelings into words better than I can regarding police check points: Yesterday was July 4, when we celebrate men who had the chutzpah to think that this sort of thing […]

  • anotherexjser

    Thanks for this. I wish all of our politicians could read it.

  • michael

    This was one of my big complaints when I lived in the your hood was how many times my wife or I would be pulled over as we tried to get home. The cops will claim they are working to slow the drug trade and then will brag about how many citations are issued. The problem is the citations go to people like me (burned out tail light) as the crack dealers stand about waiting for it all to end so they can get back to work. On my street the sweeps would happen about every couple of months and the cops would claim they were fighting crime. The truth is that they make plenty of money off of the violations and then they choose to ignore that homes that were crack houses five years ago are still crack houses today.

  • A Dark And Quiet Room | Why Major Crimes?

    […] Or, you know, at least the “important” ones. (Yeah, I’ve written about this elsewhere.) As I watched The Wire, I was constantly impressed with the fact that the police officers were […]

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