Mardis Gras vs. the American Police State

Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s a day Christians observe as the first of the 40 days of the Lenten season, which culminates with Easter. Lent is a period where Christians are expected to sacrifice something (usually something like soft drinks or a favorite food), as a daily reminder of the sacrifice Christ made, as we remember His 40 days and nights in the wilderness, preparing for his ministry. For most of the country/world (even Christians), Ash Wednesday is a blip on the Christian calendar. But if you’re gonna spend 40 days making sacrifices and reflecting on your faith, this is reason enough to throw the Mother of All Parties, just prior to putting on the metaphorical sackcloth and ashes. Which explains the appeal of Mardi Gras. What it doesn’t explain is why Mardi Gras celebrations are increasingly overrun with cop commandos that look more “Army” than they do “Andy” (Griffith).

Mardi Gras (literally “Fat Tuesday” in French) began as a celebration in Mobile, Alabama back in the 1700s. It spread across the Gulf Coast, and really got revved up in places like “the city that care forgot,” a.k.a. New Orleans. Since then, it’s spread all across Louisiana, which has largely taken over the whole Mardi Gras thang and run with it, to the point where Mardi Gras and Louisiana are forever welded together in the minds of most. If you’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration, you owe it to yourself to see it, up close and personal, at least once in your lifetime. Think of it as the sort of semi-hedonistic equivalent of a Muslim’s trip to Mecca for the Hadj.

Mardi Gras celebrations usually center around two kinds of events – parades and balls. The balls are usually formal or semi-formal affairs thrown by Krewes – social clubs that also stage the parades. The parades are huge, public affairs, filled with marching bands, mounted riders, entertainers, and floats, from which riders toss colorful plastic beads, plastic cups, toys, candy and other (basically worthless) crap to eager parade goers. You’ll hear the phrase “Throw me somethin’ mister!” repeated more often than a Rosary at such affairs.

You’ll also witness (at the rowdier parades at least) a certain number of young, carefree, uninhibited women who are willing to exchange a quick flash of their mammaries in exchange for some cheap plastic swag. (If the real Mardi Gras was like the movies, all the women flashing their ta-tas would look like Megan Fox and Jennifer Aniston. The reality, sadly, is most of them look more like Rosie O’Donnell and Roseanne Barr. I’ll let you savor that visual for a second, whilst you look around for some Visine for your mind’s eye.)

Now, throw a lot of people together, many of them buzzed on beer or other adult beverages of their choice, mix in a party atmosphere, along with the promise of getting something for nothing (beads and bling) and season with a small faction of the criminal element, looking to prey upon said parade-goers, and you have a recipe in need of some police presence. And at most Mardi Gras parades, you’ll find the local constabulary out in force.

In my salad days, “out in force” usually referred to cops on bikes, on horseback, or on foot, in addition to those in squad cars actually IN the parades. The theory goes that a visible police presence is usually enough to keep the partiers from becoming an angry mob, bent on destruction, as well as the usual suspects – pickpockets, muggers, thugs, and other criminal types back in the shadows, where they belong.

That was then. This is now. Today, thanks to all that 9/11 money flowing from the Federal piggy bank, local police look a lot more like a detachment of Force Recon than they do the boys in blue. I haven’t seen that much Tacti-Cool gear since the NRA Convention. Seriously. Do police really need to wear digi-camo uniforms, flak vests, Kevlar helmets, and carry an assortment of weapons across their bodies to patrol a friggin’ parade? Hell, one parish over from me, the Sheriff ended up buying an armored-up urban assault vehicle (mini-tank) with his 9/11 swag. And keep in mind, these modern-day urban warriors don’t travel solo. It’s a regular Barney Fife and Drum corp, with a half-dozen of them or so, moving in formation. Now THAT’S projecting force.

My question is, why? The Posse Comitatus statutes (recently “updated” by the Obama administration, by the way) specifically prohibits prohibited our Armed Forces from operating as a police force within the confines of the United States, sans a declaration of Martial Law, or if we are defending ourselves from invading forces. And there’s a damn good reasons for that. The Founding Fathers originally torpedoed the entire idea of having a standing army around, feeling that it would be far too great a temptation for those in charge to avoid using it as a way to run things as they see fit. Who needs a Constitution, when you’ve got a bunch of guys in Kevlar with big, black guns running around?

So the Founders specifically said “NO” to allowing the armed forces from operating within the country. That’s why we have police forces and state troopers, so that our law enforcement is responsible directly to local municipalities and state governments. It’s also why the 2nd Amendment was written into the Constitution. The ONLY thing that would/will stop any government from stepping over the line from enforcing the law to using force against law-abiding citizens is the prospect of those law-abiding citizens shooting back.

But just as the Founding Fathers likely never anticipated the development of a handgun that could fire off a half-dozen or more rounds in under 30 seconds, neither did they anticipate that our governments would find away around the “no military presence inside our borders to be used against our citizens” rule. In this post-9/11 world, we no longer need to worry about the Army marching down our street. Why concern ourselves with that, when the cops carry the same gear that the Army does, and is authorized to use that deadly force against us, any old time they feel the need?

Of course, if that’s not getting the hairs on the back of your neck to stand at attention, note that the Obama Administration has authorized the training and garrisoning of Army units, specifically within the United States, tasked with putting down civil unrest, should we experience another terrorist incident (sorry…“man-caused disasters”) or domestic unrest due to skyrocketing food prices, gas prices, or the inmates at your friendly, neighborhood OWS encampment going rogue.

Yep. Walt Kelly was right. We have met the enemy, and he is us. But never did we foresee that it would be our very own police and military that would be the ones gearing up for some righteous slap-downs against us. So the next time you see the words “POLICE” emblazoned across the chest of some guy that looks like he’s read to be shipped off to Somalia or some other world hotspot, remember that it’s far easier to keep the dogs of war at bay, when they’re not barking in your own backyard.