Veteran Arrested for Possessing "Two Flasks, Two Beakers, and a Condenser"

At the height of the Cold War -- when the United States, and humanity itself, faced the threat of complete nuclear annihilation -- Americans were perceived around the world as a scientifically and technologically advanced people. The space race proved to the world that our creativity had no boundaries, and countless TV shows showcased to the masses the go-lucky kid in the suburbs who used his ample yard or lawn to conduct science experiments. That was, however, before the advent of the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs has turned America into a veritable gulag. We incarcerate more people than any other country on earth; our prison population (at 2.3 million) surpasses that of China by over one million. On top of incarcerating 25% of the world's prisoners, we also keep 5 million Americans under the supervision of either parole or probation officers. 65 million Americans have criminal records, and with that limited rights in almost all aspects of civil and social life -- from voting to traveling.

The War on Drugs has brought us private prisons lobbying for mandatory minimum sentences which take away a judge's discretionary power to punish a defendant justly. Those same private prison CEOs lobby for "three strikes" laws which have seen defendants sentenced to life in prison for stealing petty items under 200 dollars. The lives of many Americans has been commodified, and the average American is completely unaware.

The War on Terror has brought us mass hysteria, mass suspicion, and has turned Americans into a people more scrutinized than the citizens of East Germany during the height of the Stasis' efficiency. There are as many or more than 40,000 SWAT raids per year in America; Maximus Sallam, a decorated veteran, had his home raided by a militarized team in one of those by now very common home invasions. 

Mr. Sallam tutors high school and middle school students in science, but he made the mistake of keeping flasks, beakers, and a condenser in his home. In a country where "the practice of trading information for guilt is so pervasive that it has literally become a thriving business," someone saw an opportunity to report Mr. Sallam's equipment.

ABC23 interviewed some of the residents and picked the juiciest quote from one Cheyenne Cleveland: "I've notice a real bad smell around here but didn't know where it was coming from." So, Cheyenne was probably asked if they had smelled something around the neighborhood, but in the end it's not important what kind of smell it was or where it came from; we're just supposed to be terrified because there was a smell and then the police came, proving how dangerous a bad smell can be.

America faced the daily threat of a nuclear holocaust during our parent's generation, but people today live in absolute fear that they will be taken out by a shoe-bomber or some other deranged lunatic. Sadly, an American is eight (8) times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. Americans live in more safety and comfort today than previous generations could have dreamt of, but minor threats mean that we have to give up our liberties and that we are all guilty until proven innocent.  Mr. Sallam is fortunate that he was not the victim of a no-knock raid which resulted in the death of his pet or himself. 

Though it is now apparent that Mr. Sallam was the victim of a heavy-handed system that relies on unreliable informants who profit from smears, others are not so fortunate. Mr. Sallam risked his life in the service of America, but his country repays him with an unjust home invasion.