But I grew up indoctrinated with the notion that there are two main "tells" for a police state - the bad guys. One is torture: The good guys never torture people. America, of course, crossed that river several years ago.Yup. Watch any of the old war movies or spy shows that were weekend UHF (ask your parents, kids) rerun staples when I was growing up, and you can tell when the good guys are behind enemy lines and in deep dookie when you hear one of two phrases: "Your papers, please," or "Ve haff vays of making you talk."
The other is internal checkpoints. "Your papers, please" is a sign that you're living under SecPol, and no longer in the Land of the Free. The bad guys do that, the good guys would never dream of it.
Unfortunately, it seems that America, a land where you could walk down the street without worrying about ever hearing those two phrases (unless you were guilty of certain heinous crimes like being swarthy in public) is as quaint a historical relic as those Saturday UHF reruns.