Don’t Call Us “The Homeland” – Please Share if You Agree

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Small wonder that the entire world thinks that we are their own personal police force.  Calling this great country “The Homeland” just exacerbates the image that America is Amerika, a militaristic force in the world, ready to rain down death and destruction everywhere we go.  Every time that word is used, cadenced stomping boots of hundreds of thousands of marching troops accompanied by missile launchers and tanks can be heard throughout the world.  Is that how we want to be perceived?

Another regrettable artifact from the Jingoistic Bush Administration, it is time to let this phrase go quietly into the night.

The Department of Homeland Security needs to be renamed or disaggregated into its component parts.  We are not Nazi Germany during World War II, Soviet Russia during the Cold War, or North Korea today.  We do not have Panzer Divisions, or thousands of jackbooted, goose-stepping troops poised to invade every country in the World on a moment’s notice.  We do not seek to overrun our neighbors, or impose any final solutions.  We just want to live in peace, or at least I think we do.  Am I wrong? 

But continuing to call our great country, the Homeland certainly gives the impression that we are Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or North Korea.  It is now time to stop.

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Why Does Waterloo, Iowa, Need An Urban Assault Vehicle?

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In the wake of the attack on America on September 11, 2001, many initiatives were started to prevent this from happening again.  The most sweeping legislation was the consolidation of many Federal agencies into the Department of Homeland Security.  With it, billions of dollars were spent to “harden” our country’s civil defenses against a repeat of the horrors of that day.

As with any similar legislation, state and local politicians demanded that their communities be fully protected as metropolitan areas like New York City, Washington, D.C., and other major urban centers.  Pork barrel politics quickly turned into a dilutions of these urgently needed funds to fully protect areas that simply just weren’t targets by any stretch of the imagination.

Waterloo, Iowa, is located in the American heartland with a population of just under 69,000.  It received Homeland Security money and applied it to arming up against the eventual terrorist attack.  This article is not meant to single out Waterloo, but to focus on whether Homeland Security money is being well-spent and on the effects of that largess on small town police departments.

National focus on the police response in Ferguson, Missouri, is belatedly addressing the increasingly militaristic evolution of police department, large and small.  This is something that we must urgently address in our national conversation, before we are faced with a real life dystopia.

Do we want even ordinary investigation to become heavy handed urban assaults, even when the putative targets are innocent grandmothers and children?

The problem is that when a local police force obtains Homeland Security largess, it becomes necessary to demonstrate those dollars are being put to good use.  Unfortunately, not all communities are the targets of terrorists foreign or domestic so they will use these skills for situations that might have otherwise called for a more modest approach.

I posted last year about how SWAT teams were used to defuse a situation with a 107 year-old malcontent.  Read the post here.

Life Imitates Art: Swat Team Used To Take Out 107 Year-Old Man

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Who says that cartoonists can’t predict the tangent of history?

In the news today, a SWAT team ended a standoff in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, by killing a 107 year-old man armed with a handgun Pine Bluff is a small city in Southeastern Arkansas and should not be confused with Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which lives in infamy due to a FBI standoff and battle in the early 1970s.

As the cartoon above and even more importantly the following excerpt from my cartoon collection, Scenes of Strangeness, illustrates, the use of SWAT teams to take down elder miscreants is not a surprise to this cartoonist.

This excerpt was written because of my concern about the widespread use of SWAT teams, often funded by Department of Homeland Security grants for even small communities highly unlikely to be the targets of terrorism.  Obviously once sophisticated equipment and SWAT teams are funded and deployed, their use becomes preordained.

News Flash (2008) —

Torvah Torkleson, an eighty-eight year old resident of the Swedish Sanctuary home in Noah’s Ark, North Dakota, decided that he would not take the constant interference of “these young pups” (as he calls them) in his daily life, referring to the caretakers at the Sanctuary, and prepared to take action. He dusted off his AK-47, several magazines, and his “senior self-defense” gun (approved by the ATF) and exited his room.  Pushing his walker down the hallway toward the nurses’ station, Torvah was heard loudly complaining about the indignities of being in Assisted Care and said that he wasn’t going to “take it” any longer.  As he slowly made his way toward the nursing station his progress was caught by CCTV monitors, which had to be manually sped up to detect any discernible motion.

The other citizens, some of whom were in their weekly Bingo game, tried to dive for cover, some forgetting which way was down.  Torvah, remembering to take the safety off of his weapons, steadily pushed his way toward his intended victim, Nurse Cratchison, his major tormentor, who insisted that he take a shower in front of her. Torvah, a life-long bachelor, was aghast that a person of the opposite sex would actually watch his naked body in such a prurient manner.

The Noah’s Ark Sheriff’s Department was notified and responded with a full SWAT team and Command Communications Van.  Homeland Security Department was alerted and POTUS was awakened from his afternoon nap to be briefed on this major threat to our nation’s security. The president commented to the press, quickly gathered in the White House Press Room, that this was another example of how the social welfare system had gone amok; Torvah is on Medicare.  The vice-president was immediately dispatched to Noah’s Ark to take command of the nation’s response to this latest threat.

The SWAT team, aided by a special force of ATF and FBI agents surrounded the Swedish Sanctuary home and demanded that Torvah immediately turn himself in.  Hearing no response, the decision was made to rush the building in an effort to save whatever lives that they could.  The Noah’s Ark battering ram equipped urban assault vehicle was put to good use for the first time since Noah’s Ark (pop. 687, including Torvah) had purchased it using a Homeland Security national security grant of $5 Million.  Torvah, an ordinarily law abiding person, probably would have complied, but he had forgotten to put in his hearing aid.

The standoff ended as Deputy Sheriff Randy Engleson, tackled Torvah about two yards from Torvah’s room and threw him to the ground.  Using his Taser (for the first time since joining the force in 1989) on the prostrate eighty-eight year-old, Deputy Sheriff Engleson was able to subdue the miscreant and bring the hostage situation to an end.

Deputy Sheriff Randy Engleson will be honored at a pot luck dinner this weekend at the Sons of Norway hall in Rosedale, about 10 miles from Noah’s Ark for his bravery in stopping this terroristic threat without significant loss of life.  Please call Helga Immanuelson to let her know if you will be bringing a yummy hot dish, a salad, or a deliciously scrumptious desert.

Sheriff Arvid Nelson later announced that Torvah Torkleson will be charged with battery with intent to inflict bodily harm, urban terrorism, resisting arrest, and speaking above a normal conversational tone (Swedish Sanctuary rule of decorum).  He will also be put on the TSA watch list and prohibited from any commercial aviation, lest he think about that.  Torvah has never driven a car, much less flown in one of them infernal machines.

During the Q&A session, it was revealed that Torvah had failed to load either the AK-47 or the special handgun, because, as he puts it, “I just plain forgot.”

The above excerpt was, of course, an exercise in satire.  However, the events in Pine Bluff is serious and begs the question as to why the SWAT team, having conclusively determined that the 107 year-old gunman was alone and that there were no other hostages, didn’t simply pull back and wait him out.

This brings full circle my initial concern that DHS grants to fund things like SWAT teams in non-threatened communities engender the use of that equipment and training.

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