Of all the many strange things about this year to consider, wandering around town and feeling as if we’re living in a literal police state is up there with that whole global pandemic thing in terms of “Welp, I certainly didn’t see that coming.” And yet, here we are, in Portland, Oregon in July 2020.
I’m not (just) talking about the federal occupation of the city, with Department of Homeland Security and Customs & Border Patrol agents showing up in armor at riots with live ammunition and a seeming desire to start shit no matter what; I’m not even (just) talking about the fact that protesters are being pulled off the streets and into unmarked rental vans by federal agents who don’t identify themselves, nor have any legal right to arrest the people they’re snatching — although even the fact that those things are actually happening for real feels utterly surreal and horrifying.
No, I’m talking about the fact that, in an evening walk recently, we ran into the police patrolling the streets no less than five times, despite the fact that the walk lasted around, at best, 20-30 minutes. (We were going to the local movie store to return some films.) On two of those five times of seeing the police, they’d stopped to confront people who… didn’t seem to be doing much of anything, to my eyes.
Add to that, the number of nearby sirens I’m hearing daily, or the helicopters flying overhead each night. To say nothing of the sound of flashbangs in the distance every night.
Let me clarify something: I live in a relatively quiet part of the city. It’s certainly far from anything I’d describe as dangerous, and the last time I felt under threat in this neighborhood — outside of seeing the police driving around, checking everyone out at a time when the city’s under the thumb of the authorities, I mean — was more than a year ago, and purely the result of my own paranoia. There is, to put it bluntly, no need for the amount of police presence I’m seeing out there right now.
And yet. And yet.
It’s genuinely surreal to think about where 2020 has taken us so far, and scary, too. I dread to think what could be next.