"The castle walls may be crumbling and decayed, but they invaders can be fought back and the walls rebuilt."
I want to think so. I really do. But all I see is the erosion continuing. More and more you can't photograph or videotape the police (regardless of what the law actually says). Why? For your protection. On the other hand, they and other government organizations can photograph and videotape you all they want and you have no recourse. Why? For your protection.
I have long held a theory that as freedoms erode, good men and women will not wish to be engaged in the violation of said freedoms. Therefore they will naturally not want to be a part of law enforcement. This means that, over time, law enforcement will be dominated more and more by those who don't give a damn about your liberty and will abuse it however they see fit.
Thankfully law enforcement, ultimately, is responsible to the electorate. This whole thing is our (collective) fault. The American people have gladly exchanged essential freedom for the promise of security from a threat that was never terribly real to begin with.
- We flocked to suburbs because cities just aren't safe.
- We turned into a nation of helicopter parents terrified that our children were surely going to be kidnapped at any moment.
- We elected politicians who promised to be "tough on crime" giving us such gems as mandatory minimum sentencing, huge prison terms for petty crimes, trying 15 year old kids as adults, etc...
- We massively increased the number of police on our streets.
And we did all of this, despite the fact that statistically we we're actually never in much of anything resembling danger. I remember folks in Cabot Arkansas (where I attended high school for two years) freaking out over a perceived gang problem. It was ridiculous then, but they made sure to hire a few more police officers to keep an eye on it.
Americans have proven to be two things: 1) terrified and 2) really bad at math. Our reporters don't understand statistics and our soccer moms are even worse.
That's why I'm greatly amused about all the fighting we do over national politics. Who cares about Obama... you should be fighting tooth and nail over your mayor. The person who is in charge of your police and ultimately much more likely to impact your freedom.
How many folks have made this an issue locally? I haven't heard a peep here in Denver.
Crime wasn't always an imaginary problem in this country. In fact, not too long ago it was a major problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States). Right now we have almost half the level of violent crime and homicide we had about 20 years ago. Some cities, like New York, had even higher crime rates in the 80's and 90's compared to now than the country as a whole.
I agree that the disparity is frightening, but I think that the timespan for this problem is way too short to judge. These cases are popping up frequently in the news, most likely because of the sudden ubiquity of digital cameras. The law needs some time to catch up to this sudden shift. Also, we're not hearing of all the times when people are allowed to film the police, but I have watched many videos of just the Seattle police in the past year with no legal repercussion to the videographers.
I think it's pretty clear that nearly everyone (except the police (except when being glorified on "Cops")) agree that citizens have the right to observe law enforcement. The law is just ambiguous about this filming right now because it wasn't a consideration in the past. Some police officers are abusing this situation, but as more and more of these cases pop up, the law will have to be clarified.
I tend to agree with this. When an entity takes new power, they fight tooth and nail to keep it, regardless of whether it's "right" for them to have it or not. Bush II massively increased the power of the executive branch with terrorism and fear as an excuse, pushing it farther from a checks-and-balances system towards a checks-against-the-president system. Now that it's been established that the executive has greater power, does anyone think any upcoming president will sit down and say, "welp, time to give some of this up and bring it back to how things used to be!" I don't think so.
Same with civil liberties taken by police and other enforcement. The attitude some (not all, or even the majority of) officers seem to have is the attitude of control and being the boss, not serving and protecting. (Like this article--on what imaginable grounds did the officer think he could arrest a citizen for taking film from within their own house if not because "I don't like being on film, so I'm going to show this person who's boss by arresting them"). When it becomes a case of maintaining some sort of imagined and idealized "order" instead of enforcing specific law, our liberties are eroded; and when we just lay back and take it, they probably aren't coming back, because those erosions then eventually become law as people and enforcers get used to the idea.
There are of course cases where things have been turned around for the better, like civil rights, suffrage, etc. But this more modern trend of slow, steady, and insidious erosion of rights in the name of protecting us is that much more dangerous because we've become convinced we need the protection.
And when the enforcers have the big guns, the ability to detain or throw anyone in prison for almost anything, and a staggeringly complex body of law that requires a small fortune to defend against, things aren't so easy to change anymore. I'm not talking black-helicopter conspiracy theories or anything here, just a general sadness to see us giving up so much of what makes real life free and enjoyable for the illusion of safety from child rapists and terrorists.