I’m trying hard not to pay attention to the newscasts, but the vast mushroom cloud of excrement floating above the city of Tampa is sending foul winds clear across the country and I can’t help but catch the scent even here, in the safety of my foxhole. More sandbags—hurry! But it’s got me in a nostalgic mood. I promise not to mention any of the candidates on either side—really, if we ignore them long enough, they might just go away—but I will remark on how remarkable it is that the complete militarization of entire cities has become so thoroughly unremarkable. A number of folks on facebook posted the above photo of Tampa police in party-mode. It would be nice to be surprised at the sight of cops so excessively equipped, and surprised that such strange creatures are patrolling the Constitutionally-protected Free Speech Zones of the USA and not, y’know, Iran or Planet Mogo. My first thought was, Is that Chicago or Charlotte or maybe Anaheim? Because really: this is what we look like now. Sorry, not you and I, not us, but the polity that speaks in our names: America, I believe it’s often called. Our mirrors are dirty: Everyone knows what we look like but us. And isn’t the consistency perhaps a little more honest, better than wearing one costume in Kandahar and another in Tampa? Conor Friedersdorf wrote a good piece for the Atlantic about the media invisibility of such insanely hyperbolic security measures, and about how such measures effectively banish dissent to faraway parking lots where reporters fear to tread. It is safe out there, dissent is, way out in the parking lots and the foxholes where we (sorry: not you and I…) can call upon it should we ever need to remind ourselves of our advantage over the enslaved Chinese and the savage Ecuadoreans and all those other unfree bastards out there. More sandbags, hurry! But I was saying. I’m getting nostalgic because this trend began, to my knowledge, in Los Angeles, way back in the hazy pre-Bush era, in the year 2000, during the Democratic National Convention. Bipartisanship! And by trend I’m not talking about simple massive police violence à la Chicago ’68. I’m talking about massively militarized police violence with all the po-mo trimmings: body-armor SWAT suits, “less-than-lethal” weapons, chain-linked protest zones for all your free-speech needs. I was but a boy reporter in those innocent times and spent that week on the streets, covering the protests for the L.A. Weekly. When it was all over, I filed this report. It all seemed pretty outrageous in those days, surrounding an event thrown to honor Our Democracy with so much repressive firepower, but it’s become the norm at every convention since. At the 2000 DNC, we (this time yes: I do mean you and I) were able to get pretty close. We were penned in, sure, and they beat us and shot at us even in our pen, but they did it within sight of Staples Center, a few meters from the convention itself, and the candidates and the delegates and, should they choose to notice, the national press. Not no more. It was what they call a Teaching Moment. My point, though, is not to complain about all our vanquished freedoms, that old jazz. My point is that people don’t surround themselves with guns, fences, helicopters and the most sophisticated population-control measures that money can buy unless they believe they have reason to be frightened. My point is that the 2000 DNC took place more than a year before the September 11 attacks and that no one then could use al Qaeda as a pretext for such paranoid displays. My point is that it is us that they are scared of, you and I specifically, and we’re not even doing anything! We’re curled up comfy in our foxholes, humming Adele songs whether we want to or not, filling bags with sand. My point is: dumb and vicious as “they” are, they must know something, maybe something that we haven’t quite learned yet. My point is: take heart.