By Heather Wilhelm

A few years ago, when my husband and I lived in the Chicago area, we joined a Bible study group through our church. It was a nice, well-mannered, cordial collection of eight couples who met monthly for dinner and discussion. Upon reflection, our approach was a little unorthodox. After about five to 10 minutes of valiant attempts to stay on topic, we would inevitably drift into wild conversational territory light-years away from the Bible passage at hand. Did I mention we served wine with dinner?

One particularly memorable session, hosted at our house, involved my husband demanding an up-or-down vote on whether or not America was becoming “a fascist police state.” Some people laughed. A few looked horrified. I think I reached for more wine. But as I recall, two voters at that table shot their hands up, ramrod straight, smiles absent, within milliseconds.

I was reminded of the Great Presbyterian Fascist Police State Vote this week when I read the story of Kari Anne Roy, an Austin children’s book author whose recent run-in with Child Protective Services rivals a scene in a George Orwell novel. Roy reports that she let her 6-year-old play outside, by himself, within sight of her house. Within about 10 minutes, her doorbell rang: It was a woman she didn’t know, wearing sunglasses, with Roy’s son in tow. She was “returning” him to safety, served with a side dish of neighborly scorn.

I’ll interrupt this story to admit that I am a bit of a paranoid helicopter parent. I have not yet let my kids play outside alone. However, due to my vigilant training, I would hope that my kids would run screaming from a sunglass-faced stranger getting all up in their business. In this instance, Roy’s son might have been wise to do the same: That “helpful” neighbor ended up calling the police, who visited Roy that same day. Child Protective Services paid a visit the following week.

What unfolded then was a bit of a horror show: A CPS officer interviewed each of Roy’s children, alone. “She asked my 12-year-old if he had ever done drugs or alcohol. She asked my 8-year-old daughter if she had ever seen movies with people’s private parts, so my daughter, who didn’t know that things like that exist, does now,” Roy told Lenore Skenazy, who wrote about the incident at Reason. “Thank you, CPS.”

So, there you have it, folks: childhood innocence, shattered, courtesy of your local government. Roy notes that her son cried himself to sleep the night of the incident, fearing that “someone was going to call the police because it was past bedtime and he was still awake”—and hey, after the way his day went, that seems like a pretty reasonable concern. He’s lucky OSHA didn’t show up to examine his blankie for dust mites.

Kari Anne Roy and her family got a very real and very unfortunate introduction to our growing police state. It’s a state that normal people increasingly brush elbows with on a day-to-day basis—and those elbows, it should be noted, are becoming absurdly sharp.

This week, as writer Kevin Williamson noted at the National Review, “Los Angeles Unified School District police officials are considering whether they need the armored vehicle and grenade launchers they received from the U.S. military.” Please, everyone, take the time to re-read and digest that sentence. It is a real sentence. It involves grenade launchers used as back-to-school supplies. How are we not rebelling?

“Answer your own question, lady,” you might be thinking. “You’re the one writing the column.” OK, fair enough. We aren’t rebelling, I would argue, because we’ve slowly gotten used to it. The creeping American police state has made us believe it is normal, not insane.

Reflecting on Ms. Roy’s run-in with Child Protective Services, it’s worth noting that she didn’t know the neighbor who turned her in. If you read up on similar cases, that variable shows up again and again. With this in mind, perhaps the first step to fighting America’s creeping police state—right after reviewing your Fourth Amendment rights—is simple: Get to know your neighbors, and get involved in your community. Friends rarely call the cops as a first resort. Alienated strangers often do—and isolated, atomized communities are often the first to hand over authority to a faceless, overpowering state.


Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin, Texas.

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