“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” by Cheryl K. Chumley (WND Books, 240 pages, in stores)
Imagine this: Police want to use your house for a neighborhood stakeout. You refuse, so they arrest you for obstruction and take over your house anyway. Or late at night, police are pursuing a suspect through your neighborhood when they see a house — yours — with an open window. They’ve lost the suspect, so they crawl in through your window, search your house and then handcuff and interrogate you.
Imagine your son’s harmless sidewalk lemonade stand being shut down because he doesn’t have a $50 permit. Or perhaps your daughter takes a bag lunch to school but at lunchtime is forced to accept and eat a school lunch because the school says it is “healthier” than the lunch you packed for her.
Imagine taking a stroll through your neighborhood, blissfully unaware that the streetlights overhead could be recording your every move — and even your conversations.
Imagine being pulled over by a police officer for a minor traffic violation, and as he conducts his duties, he sees a wad of cash on your passenger seat and immediately jumps to the conclusion that you are either a drug dealer or involved in money laundering. Your car, cash and belongings are confiscated and you end up in jail — without being charged with anything. When you’re released you spend months trying to get back what rightfully belongs to you.
Imagine opening your front door and stepping into the potential for these and similar situations on a daily basis. But perhaps imagination is not necessary. Author Cheryl K. Chumley says this is the current state of America.
Although not an academic, in-depth analysis, “Police State USA” is a concise and informative overview of many issues intruding upon the concept of privacy in America (the situations above are all discussed in the book), and the underlying question being asked is, “How much is too much?”
The book could be considered a warning about the consequences of living in a time when privacy has been increasingly devalued. Or it could be seen as an overly alarmist generalization from relatively rare specifics. The reader’s personal politics likely will determine whether the book is seen as useful or irrelevant.
It certainly cannot be called pointless, though, as the author drives home her point on every page. Each chapter is devoted to a hot button topic that ranges from daily activities like shopping all the way up to presidential policies that affect not only us but the rest of the world, as well.
Often, she writes, a policy from one area may bleed over into another. For example, how did a push in our military for a better “clean energy program” result in the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to prevent people from using wood-burning stoves in their own homes? “Environmentalism,” writes Chumley, “is not so much about commonsense measure ... but more about control.”
We’ve become so accustomed to the ubiquitous transfer of electronic information in our daily lives that many of us probably never give a second thought to what’s being done with our personal information. A father who takes his family on a Disney theme park vacation is probably not aware that “Disney is a big-time trader on the information market,” sharing its guests’ personal information with both subsidiaries and outside corporations. The simple fact that you exist and can be identified means that someone, somewhere is somehow profiting from that identifying information.
Some of the other topics covered include the Patriot Act (three days from conception to inception), the National Security Agency’s PRISM program (brought to light by Edward Snowden), the militarization of police, the use of drones and, in a nod to George Orwell’s concept of Big Brother from “1984,” a chapter on “Orwellian Technology” that discusses some current developments that are just asking to be abused. “At what point do we admit that government cannot guarantee our security and save us all from harm?” asks Chumley.
You won’t necessarily find answers here, but then, this isn’t that kind of book. It is a book designed to make you think. Are we, as Chumley asserts, “turning into a nation ruled by fear?” And if so, is there any way to avoid “an intrusive government, a burdensome regulatory climate, a state of continuous federal overreach, and a police state atmosphere?”
Chumley has done a fine job of bringing awareness to and providing examples of some of the many ways in which those in authority and big business tend to overstep their bounds, and “Police State USA” is an excellent source for initiating discussion.
In the end, though, it’s up to you to discover your own answers.
— Jim Basile, for The Oklahoman