The Elian snatch and what it could mean to you

By Kimberley Jane Wilson
web posted May 1, 2000

By now, the Elian Gonzalez saga is all over but for the shouting.

I suspect that Elian will soon be headed to Havana to sit on Fidel Castro's knee. Perhaps then he'll be allowed to live a normal Cuban child's life. That, by the way, means being taken from his father at the age of 11 to work in the sugar cane fields until he's 18.

Frankly, I wish that Fidel Castro would've sent someone to pick up the boy back in November before this whole thing mutated into a made-for-television miniseries. However, what's done is done, and the custody issue is not what's on my mind.

I'm sure you've seen the horrible pictures of the berserk-looking federal cop waving that machine gun in Elian's face. That bothers me. Seeing law enforcement officers running around like mercenaries does not make me feel good.

Several years ago, my father-in-law told me that, in the name of saving America from drugs and crime, this country was evolving into a police state. I thought he was exaggerating but, being the daughter of a Southern mother, I was raised with the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shall be respectful of all black elders. So I simply nodded. Now, I think Pop was absolutely right.

I suppose the problem started with the so-called "War on Drugs." Some folks have long said it's actually just a war on drug users, but most of us simply went along with what we were told. Drug dealers have plenty of firepower, so our police officers got more militaristic weapons. Drug dealers react with ferocity if you politely knock on their door, so the "no knock" raid was called for. Drug dealers frequently managed to dispose of their product by the time police got a legal warrant to search their homes, so now we have instances where police can enter your home without a warrant. This is not good.

Frankly, these things remind me of stories my elderly relatives told me about the worst days of segregation, when a sheriff and his deputies could boldly enter black homes for the fun of it. The "fun" usually involved smashing furniture and humiliating the family. Gosh, this sounds familiar.

If federal authorities can knock down the door of the Gonzalezs' house and destroy property as well as terrorize the people inside, then what does this bode for you and me? Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on your couch with your family. Suddenly, the door is broken down. Black-clad ninjas rush in screaming obscenities and demanding that you and your family get down to the floor. Your elderly mother has arthritis and is slow. She's grabbed and slammed to the floor. Your children lie screaming and crying while strangers stand over them with machine guns.

Who are these people? The police. Why are they doing this? Because someone, possibly the neighbor you quarreled with last week called the cops and gave an anonymous report that you've been growing marijuana in the back yard or that you've been cooking up crack in your basement.

A friend of mine had an experience similar to this a few years ago. She and her husband are the parents of two children. One evening, police came to her house.

The cops were heavily-armed and dressed in black. My friend and her husband were herded into one room and the kids were taken to another. Why? Because someone gave an anonymous tip that my friend and her husband were abusing the children. Eventually, the police were satisfied that this "tip" was nonsense and left.

Other than the fact that an innocent family was wrongly accused and upset, I suppose you can call it a happy ending.

Do you feel safer today? I don't.

There are those who say that all this is necessary because of drugs and other crime. I have no soft spot for either drug users or other criminals, but I don't want to live in a police state either. Personal freedom is dying in this country and that frightens me.

In communist countries such as China and, yes, Cuba, people fear the unexpected knock on their doors because it might be the secret police. Here in America, our law enforcement officers - whether dressed in ninja black or like soldiers - may not even bother to knock. I don't like the looks of this. How about you?

Kimberley Jane Wilson is a member of the National Advisory Board of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and a conservative writer living in Virginia.

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