Land of the free, home of the brave

Published 8:37 pm Monday, August 18, 2014

By Joseph Bass

The Star-Spangled Banner is said to wave over “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But having freedom and being brave are not guaranteed. There are more than a few examples in our history of freedoms and safety being taken away by repressive government and local terrorists.

I lived in South Central Los Angeles for five years before I moved to Virginia. South Central has a well-deserved reputation for being the home of violent gangs fighting over “turf’ for control of the drug trade. What is not commonly known is that the reputation is based on the actions of a few terrorists (the gang members), and the repressive government that has taken away the right of citizens to secure their own safety.

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Previous to living in gang territory, I lived in the relative safety of suburbia. I was used to being involved in positive community activities and acting as a witness for police when I saw one of the few crimes that occurred. But the Los Angeles area was different in many ways.

Unlike other areas of California, governments in the L.A. area are known to take a gun control approach to crime. Politicians actively promote the idea that quality policing can take the place of armed citizens providing for their own safety. One major problem with this is that it has been known for decades that even the best-equipped police department can have only a moderate influence on violent crime. Another major problem is that police officers, believing the politicians, strive to accomplish what the elected officials claim they can do.

Attempting to accomplish politicians’ view that policing can effectively suppress violent crime, police officers actively and regularly violated the civil rights of the many good citizens. For example, it was, and probably still is, common practice for police officers to pull over, without just cause, any car occupied by three, young black men. It was common for officers to talk down to citizens as if they were superior. These types of actions alienated the police from the citizens they were supposed to serve. The police were just another gang attempting to control what they considered “their turf.”

When I first moved into South Central I helped the police as a witness to several crimes. But soon my life was threatened by a couple of gang members that obviously knew of my efforts to be a good citizen. “You just keep helping the ‘fuzz’ and you’ll see what happens!” I applied for a concealed carry permit. California being a state where permits are only available to the rich and famous, the police treated me like I was a criminal.

Not too long after my permit application was denied, I was seen to help police again. About two weeks later a local drug dealer came to my door on a nice Sunday morning, pushed a gun under my nose, and said, “You just keep helping the police and I’ll be back.”

Not too long afterward, I moved to Virginia. It’s a little difficult to be brave when the police act like gang members and their repressive government disarms the good people.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at