I’ve been blown away by the number of amazing entries to this site’s new Tumblr, When the Terrorists Won. From “The Terrorists Won the Day Penguins Had to Walk Through a Metal Detector” to “The Terrorists Won Even in Australia.” I encourage all of you to continue submitting. So far everyone who has submitted has had their post published. My personal favorite is “On a Sunday Morning in 2008,” submitted by Andrea G., a long-time reader and published literary talent whom I’ve been begging for a long time to contribute to this site. She finally blessed us with a beautifully written contribution, published below.
On a Sunday Morning in 2008
By Andrea G.
On a Sunday morning in 2008 or thereabouts, I came downstairs with my son, then around three, to make some breakfast. I opened the curtains onto our quiet little cul-du-sac and immediately noticed something odd was afoot. Two cops were charging up the street with their guns drawn. Another was close behind them.
“Sweetie!” I hollered to my husband, who was still in bed. “Look out the window!” I heard him open the bedroom blinds and gasp in disbelief. There was another cop, then another, this one with a mean looking rifle. They seemed to have parked somewhere at the bottom of the hill and were running to the top of the street as though the element of surprise was a key part of their game plan. And they were all descending on the house of a family we consider to be our friends. These people invite us to their barbeques and their daughters’ birthday parties, and our kids play together in the cul-du-sac on a regular basis. I’d been in their house a number of times, I knew a great deal about their life, and I can say with confidence that these people were not dangerous criminals running a meth lab or some other sinister enterprise. I did know that the wife sometimes drank more than was good for her, and that she tended to be a belligerent drunk.
We continued to watch as probably ten or twelve cops charged through the neighborhood and descended on the house, all of them with weapons drawn. I couldn’t tell what they were all doing from my vantage point, but I think a few of them went inside, and soon the husband pulled into the driveway with the two daughters in the car. He exchanged some words with a couple of the cops, making it clear that he was the one who had called them in. And soon, sure enough, the wife of the family was brought out in handcuffs and taken away in a police cruiser, one of which had finally pulled up to back up all the cops on foot.
I never heard the story of what had happened that day. I did see the wife out and about a day or two later, so whatever she did wasn’t serious enough to result in jail time. I still think of her as a nice neighbor who I like and generally trust with my kids. (She has, I should add, gotten a full-time job which we hear keeps her honest and responsible with her drinking.) I do believe she must have been out of control that day, and that her husband must have been desperate to call the police for help. However, the display of force the police put on in our safe little neighborhood for what was probably a straightforward domestic dispute was a wake-up call. I was stunned by the idea that a double digit number of cops showed up to subdue one petite woman. I was shocked that they ran up my street with their guns drawn, one of which was a big rifle. What if my son or any of the other neighbor kids had been playing out in the cul-du-sac that morning, as is a daily occurrence on our street? In fact, my son has always had a free pass to play on this family’s swing-set whether they were in their yard or not, so he could have even been on their property when the cops swarmed the house. Given his age at the time, I would have certainly been watching him from the window or the front step, but with the easy visibility of our cul-du-sac, I may not have been right there beside him. And what if they had gotten the wrong house? We live only two doors down. I’ve heard of it happening, raids in which the cops seem to have used google maps and no double checking to find their target house and instead of making a big drug bust they accidentally terrorize some teenage girl sitting in her living room watching the cooking channel. I also remember a story of a guy in bed with his fiancé who suddenly found himself face down on the floor with a boot on his neck and both of his dogs bleeding to death next to him because he happened to have a name similar to some wanted suspect in his area. I don’t think it’s paranoid of me to think that while this event happened at our neighbors’ house, my family and I could have easily found ourselves mixed up in it.
That was the day I realized that the terrorists had won: post-9/11 America has become a police state. I had read about the militarization of the police force before that day, but somehow it was abstract to me until I saw the thing in action on my own street. This event made real the myriad stories I’ve since read about botched no-knock raids, the rampant, unchecked and reckless police shooting of family dogs, the tasing, violent beating, and even shooting of unarmed homeless people, mentally ill people brandishing pens, diabetics and others in medical distress, and even bystanders who happen to find themselves within beating range of out of control cops who are poorly trained, ethically bankrupt, and who show signs of psychopathic tendencies. Unlike the police I’ve read about in many American cities, the cops in my town are mostly well behaved and generally seem to respect the constitutional rights of the citizens who pay their salaries. But watching them swarm my neighbors’ house made me realize that even here, some key word in a 911 call for a domestic dispute will bring out a small army with their guns drawn, a situation I think is inherently dangerous, even if they are skilled marksmen with impressive restraint. Now when I see a cop, I no longer feel safe – I feel like I need to watch my back, and that someday I may find myself needing to protect my family and my pets from the people who are supposed to be protecting us.