Never forget the massacre in Waco

Yes, it can happen here. That should be the lesson of the massacre in Waco, Texas, 24 years ago today. It seems unreal that we are almost at a quarter century since the Clinton Administration sent tanks and other military equipment to attack American citizens on American soil. Waco reminds us to never forget that we are only a couple steps away from an authoritarian, oppressive totalitarian government.

The Waco story actually started a couple months earlier, with a paramilitary raid on the Branch Davidian cultists’ compound. It was a classic example of excessive force, and was incredibly foolish given that the raid was on a doomsday cult that expected the federal government would eventually come for them. The Clinton administration only managed to confirm this paranoia and make it into a reality. As was pointed out many times over the last quarter century, federal law enforcement could have picked up David Koresh without the need for a paramilitary raid.

The worst, though, would come 24 years ago today. I cannot emphasize enough how shocking it should have been for the federal government to send tanks after our own citizens. If this was a one-off event, that would be disturbing enough, but law enforcement has become increasingly militarized over the last few decades, to the point that even regulatory agencies have SWAT teams. Even the Bloomington Police Department tried to get a mine resistant ambush protected military vehicle more suited for Iraq or Afghanistan than Kirkwood Avenue – something I protested when I was running for city council in 2015.

It is highly unlikely that we will become a dictatorship in one fell swoop from a military coup. However, we have been sliding more and more into a police state mentality through the combination of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Too many people are willing to make little compromises here and there in the name of “safety.” But when the government becomes all-powerful, how much safety will we really have? Remember, the worst human rights abuses in history have not come from terrorists or criminals, but from governments.

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