Reese Witherspoon v. Police: America Is a Police State and Nobody Minds

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Last week Reese Witherspoon’s husband was arrested for driving drunk. But Reese was arrested, too. Why? She got out of the car! Reese v. the police — guess who won? America is a police state and nobody seems to notice, or mind.

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(05-06-2013, updated 07-15-2018)   Last week Reese Witherspoon’s husband was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Bad! Bad-bad-bad-bad-bad! You get no argument from me there. But Reese was arrested, too. Why? She got out of her car! That’s not all. When the cop ordered her back in the car, she told him she had a right to stand on American soil. Gasp! The horror! How dare she!?! And it didn’t stop there. No sirree! When the cop put on the handcuffs, she asked him . . .

. . . if he knew who she was!!!

This got her arrested for verbally assaulting a police officer.

It was all over the news all week, and Reese Witherspoon went on talk shows to apologize as profusely as I’ve ever seen anyone apologize. She had had one glass of wine too many; she was incredibly embarrassed and very sorry; she couldn’t believe she had behaved that way; she has cops in her family; she works with police all the time, etc.

This is one of those things I will never get used to. America is a police state and nobody even notices!

When T and I drove around America and Canada for more than three months in 1992, we got pulled over in Louisiana. By then T and I had known each other almost a year and we had lived together for seven months. So he told me that whatever happened, I was to stay in the car and keep, my, mouth, shut. When he got back in the car, he told me we were pulled over because he was speeding. Which was hardly true–two miles over the speed limit. They had asked him where he was from, where we were going, how come we had so much time for a vacation, how he made his money, etc.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t there during this interrogation, because I would have told the cop that it was none of his business after the first question, and that would have landed us in the county jail. In what other kind of countries do you think the police can randomly interrogate you on the street like that? America is a police state!

In Washington, D.C. we visited one of T’s college friends, who was working at the Holocaust Museum, which was not yet open at the time. His job was cataloging photos at the Holocaust Museum photo archive. One evening we had just come from the Lincoln memorial–you know, the giant statue of Lincoln in a chair, the guy who said:

lincoln quote

Anyway, we were just walking across a little road around the memorial, on  a zebra crossing, when a car that was parked to the right of the crossing suddenly backed up and almost hit T’s friend S. So he yelled “Hey!” and slapped the back of the car. A totally appropriate reaction, in my view. If only because it made the driver stop, thus preventing him or her from killing or at least seriously maiming S.

The driver stopped and got out. Turns out she was a cop. She asked S if he had a problem, in that notoriously aggressive American-cop tone everyone in the entire world knows from movies and TV. “You’re damn straight I have a problem, lady! You almost drove over me. Don’t cops learn to look in their rear view mirror anymore?” That’s what I expected him to say. But no. “No, officer, there’s no problem. I’m sorry officer.” And everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the woman left it at that and got back in her car. Without apologizing.

I was aghast. S was an educated guy, whose job at that time was cataloging pictures of what happens when people in uniform get too much power. And he just backed down, apologizing almost obsequiously for making the mistake of stopping this cop from running over him. And when I voiced my shock, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s just the way it is. You don’t ever talk back to a cop”.

So forget about this being the land of the free. Forget about freedom of speech. This may technically be a democracy because folks vote, but the authoritarianism surrounding those in uniform is no different than in any dictatorship. In this country you can be stopped for any reason and interrogated about anything, and everyone thinks this is perfectly normal. All someone has to do is wear a police uniform and tell them to stay put and they will say, “Yes, officer; whatever you say, officer; thank you, officer; have a nice day, officer.” Americans’ respect for authority is so extreme that you’ve given away your freedom and you don’t even know it. You just repeat the automatic refrain — you live in the best country on Earth — without ever really asking yourselves if that is even remotely true.

Wake up! America is a police state!

Reese Witherspoon didn’t stay put and she voiced her admittedly drunken anger when she was clasped in irons for no good reason, and now she is down on her knees, not only apologizing to the police, but to the American people, hoping they will find it in their hearts to forgive her, so she will remain America’s sweetheart, the kind of gal who would never ever do anything as shocking as talk back to a cop.

I’m thoroughly disgusted.

(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “Reese and the Police”, 05-06-2013)

  • Header image: public domain
  • Lincoln memorial quote: mine

12 thoughts on “Reese Witherspoon v. Police: America Is a Police State and Nobody Minds

  1. I think you’re letting your prejudices against America skew your perception of the situation.
    When a cop stops a drunk driver, he does NOT want to deal with any other drunken occupants of the car for a very good reason . . . he doesn’t want Drunk #2 SHOOTING HIM while he’s attempting to get Drunk #1 off the road.
    Reese should have stayed in the car.
    She should have kept her mouth shut.
    She should NOT have tried to trade in on her celebrity.
    I’m glad she was arrested . . . and had the good sense to apologize.

  2. You are so right. Unless you carry one of their “cards” the police are always to be feared. I always thank my lucky stars that I am not a person of color living in this country…One of my colleagues was constantly pulled over because “what are you doing in such a nice car?”

    1. Exactly. Of course for Reese Witherspoon it was only a PR booboo, but for many people it’s a serious problem that the police can pretty much do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, without reason, and without apologizing when they step over the line.

  3. A bold, yet true, post, my friend. I notice that many people in this country complain about police officers, until something like the Boston Marathon bombing happens, then police officers (temporarily) become heroes that we are not allowed to malign for some unspecified period of time. Then our amnesia kicks in again and we go back to the way things were until the next tragedy.

    1. Yes, people complain, but no one tells a police officer that their questions are none of their business. Although, I take that back. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this. I think it’s way too easy in most cities and counties to become a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. It seems like almost any idiot who wants a badge, a uniform, and a gun for the wrong reasons can get one somewhere. At the same time, I think being a police officer is a grossly undervalued profession in our country in terms of respect and income which doesn’t exactly attract intelligent, ethical, emotionally stable people in large numbers to become public protectors.

    1. I agree. Police training in this country is a joke. It’s a few months at most, and most of that is spent honing shooting skills. I also agree that the profession doesn’t attract enough smart people. It’s like teaching in that way.

  5. Exactly! We entrust our children every day to people who aren’t even paid a living wage and who are expected to manage large classes, sometimes frightening student (and parent) behavior, constant interference by school administration and state legislatures, ridiculous state-mandated standardized testing schedules and still they are expected to find the time, creativity and inclination to provide the kids with a meaningful education. It’s teacher-appreciation week at our schools and you know what we are encouraged to send them? Office supplies – because the schools won’t supply them enough and everyone knows the teachers are expected to dip into their own pockets to provide what their students need. Try to deliver a lesson plan when you’re not even allowed enough paper for hand-outs or when half your kids come to class without pencils. We treat schools like daycare and teachers like badly-paid servants (and hold them accountable for the failings of the parents and legislators), and then we wonder why intelligent, dedicated people aren’t drawn to the profession. Sorry. Stepping off my soapbox now. This is one of those issues that makes me crazy – what a mess we’ve made of public education.

  6. My first ever ticket was for “running a stop sign” in San Marcos. I was maybe 19 at the time.
    I was on an awkward piece of roadway where traffic to the left is completely obscured by the bend in the road and trees that grow along it. I stopped, pulled forward to see around the bend and stopped again. A minute or two went by as the traffic moved past me. I still couldn’t see beyond the trees, so I pulled forward a bit more, as I had plenty of room; the sign and the white line were well away from the actual intersection.
    A few moments later, a San Marcos police officer coming from my left stopped in the roadway, turned on his dome light (it was starting to get dark) and waved me across. I thought that he was being a nice guy, but no. He turned on his overheads and pulled me over.
    I immediately got out of my car and asked him why he pulled me over. He was maybe all of 22. He then proceeded to tell me that I ran a stop sign. I told him that was ludicrous, as I had been stopped for several minutes before he waved me on. He wasn’t there to see my initial stop and he missed out on how many times I moved forward, always stopping fully while waiting for my chance to enter the flow of traffic.
    He disagreed with me, so that’s when I said, “I guess your shift must be almost up and I’m your last stop of the day so you can meet your quota?!”
    He didn’t reply. I took my ticket and the next day, I went to the station and complained about it. They told me that my only recourse was to see the judge and have the cop present. But I knew I had other options – I ended up taking a driving course at Bergstrom (it was free) and I got out of the ticket that way. I had experienced the horrors first-hand of what small-town cops and judges get away with, and wasn’t interested in playing that game.

    1. And chances are, the cop simply wouldn’t show up for the hearing. Yes, I agree that the quotas don’t help. Policing should be measured by more than how many people you can write up in a day.

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