A TV blared momentarily behind us as I was chatting with Louis Lee, the spokesman for the Tennessee state guard who was telling me about the guard’s constitutional foundations and the lack of power the federal government has to “federalize” it and require it to make war in foreign lands.
The story that swirled in the background of our conversation was the Boston “lockdown,” the seizure of many parts of a major American city by police agencies and national guardsmen of Massachusetts. These police and combat-equipped peace officers were swarming Watertown. My Aunt Elaine tonight is in a Watertown hospital following a fall, my cousin Loraine Yellick of Northborough forbidden to pay a visit to this 90-year-old spinster who worked for years at Perkins School for the Blind and had been a nanny to the Robert Kennedy family
Watertown, Mass., was shut down; so were parts of greater Boston. No one could use cars. Businesses were not allowed to open. Police were on a manhunt for a punk, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whom newscasters called “a terrorist.” He is someone dreaming of the liberation of Chechnya from Russian occupation, and may be a Muslim. Several thousand police and national guardsman were going “door to door,” as Brian Ross at ABC put it, searching for the surviving man whose brother was killed in a gunbattle with police. It was said that the surviving brother is armed with a weapon and explosives.
ABC said “the city of Boston was placed under a ‘shelter in place’ lockdown since this morning due to the manhunt, with public transportation and taxi service shut down.” As my interlocutor, Mr. Lee, clad in a military uniform, and I chatted about the Tennessee State Guard and its public safety mission, we saw video of vacated streets.
Local economy in Watertown and parts of Boston — dead.
Local economy yields (once again) to top-down solutions
The Tennessee state guard is an an organization that lets civilians organize under the military department in Nashville for the purpose of being “force multiplier” for the Tennessee national guard, which because it receives federal dollars is subject to no longer just a defensive mission (a guardianship), but to an offensive mission, as in the war on Iraq.
The idea of a civilian quasi-army indicates Tennessee has confidence in common people, just as it does in putting every man between age 18 and 45 into the Tennessee militia. This body includes every able bodied man in the state, places him in an unorganized militia that can be called into action by the governor, with the general assembly’s consent.
The Boston lockdown expresses just the opposite perspective. It reveals a hostility to the common man. It suggests that if a criminal is on the loose, that the state and its professional police are the sole party to secure his capture.
Gov. Deval Patrick, in ordering people to imprison themselves in their homes and businesses and stay off the public thoroughfares, declared, “Please understand we have an armed and dangerous person(s) still at large and police actively pursuing every lead in this active emergency event.”
Yes, the police are “pursuing every lead.” But how does shutting down local economy benefit the apprehension of the fugitive? It doesn’t. It shuts down the free movement of people. It claps a fisted hand on the ears of the community. It puts a gloved fist over the eye of the townfolk. Commerce, trade, business, travel, eating out, shopping, schooling, random acts of time-killing — all are silenced. With thoroughfares empty, no one moves; no one’s eyes are darting about. The fugitive dares make no move from his hiding place. He’s dying of thirst, there under a bridge, or under a residential crawlspace; if there were people about, regular traffic patterns, he might yield to the temptation to flee his hidey hole and seek refreshment. If he moves might he be found. Only if Mr. Tsarnaev feels he can hide with the crowd and mingle and possibly escape, will be emerge. Only then, if he emerges, will people sight him, and phone in that tip at 911.
Shutting down local economy shuts down the eyes, ears, good sense and genius of members of the public. The search committee for the fugitive in Boston is only for people on payroll, the professionals and careerists.
Local economy — whether in Chattanooga or Watertown, Mass. — has a law enforcement value. The relationalism of local economy needs to be allowed to flow, so that the odd character, the alien, the stranger, might better stand out.
What about search warrants?
Finally, it must be noted that the police state tactics in Massachusetts amplify the threat of this teenager, who has no military training and who is on the run, on the defensive.
I expect the busloads of Boston and other police who arrived in Watertown are having an exciting time — an exciting search. They are in a heady occasion; they are part of the national story, and they are going to make the most grimness of it they can.
Questions that TV people and reporters are not asking — lines of inquiry that require circumspection and a sense of proportion.
➤ How are police officers getting warrants in searching all those private residences in Watertown? A complicated process. (Or is that legal nicety being ignored?)
➤ How many people have refused entry to armored and helmeted soldiers bristling with automatic rifles? How are their rights being respected?
➤ Do police have authority to enter ANYONE’S HOUSE without a warrant?
These are local economy questions in that they are jealous of the castle doctrine. That legal teaching says no officer or agent of the state can enter a man’s house to search it without a warrant signed under oath. Necessity is the tyrant’s plea, but grace and patience are local economy’s better offer.