Friday, October 17, 2008

Police & Politics

The Park Central Library, 2pm, Yesterday

I couldn't help but watch the commotion as I locked my bike up outside the Park Central library downtown. A small crowd of square 'regulars' I'll call them, were all watching as a drunk man on a stretcher was loaded into an ambulance. You could almost cut the tension between the cops and the 'regulars' with a knife.

In the library, minutes later, I began to speak with library worker and friend, Alan, about the ruckus. Just then one of the cops walked in and traded some civilities with Alan. "Does this happen often?" I found myself asking. "Just about every day." the Policeman answered. "Usually some drunk with suicidal tendencies who, once he discovers he can't get meds, will be back on the street by tonight."


Wasted tax dollars was then introduced into the conversation and then my rant entitled 'alcohol should be illegal' which then led to a debate about responsible use vs irresponsible use.

I had to agree with the officer's point. In the 15 minutes which followed- we proceeded to delve into several 'key topics' such as the War in Iraq vs the on in Vietnam (and all the similarities there in)-I believe this is the moment when poor Alan wondered off ;)- Food stamps, the Economy, socializing Health care, McCain's service to the US (and his time as POW- which, along with his well-documented history of PTSD should render him ineligible-- added by me), Oh and of course one Mr. Obama.

The debate was healthy and at all times cordial. I felt as if we were equals. I wasn't scared of him in the least. (Not like during my other encounters with police which usually leave me paying a fine or in court.)

I tried my best to be empathetic to his arguments. To understand where he was coming from. The officer (who's name shall remain nameless) felt that the majority of Americans were lazy, uninvolved and above all looking for a 'handout'. While I couldn't disagree more, I told him I understood what he was saying and that "he must live quite a different reality than me as he was surrounded day in and day out by the disadvantaged of society, IE the homeless, the drug dealers, the drunks etc. I daresay all my goodwill and empathy were lost on him.

All in all it was a good debate- and was actually quite fun- at one point I even quoted the Deceleration of Independence and the US Constitution. (nerd-alert)...

However, I couldn't help but laugh to myself as the conversation devolved into a series of Fox News talking points. I began to suspect he was an avid fan of the fine "News" program as he launched into "80% of the Media is liberal" speech. It was solidified when he brought the Obama-Ayers connection into play. "I wouldn't trust any of the TV news media to tell you the truth" I said. "I haven't really watched TV in almost a year now, I only get my news from a wide variety of Internet sources." A blank expression covered his face at the word "Internet".

"If you don't mind me asking," I queried, "where do you get your news for the most part."

"Oh, mainly Fox News and some CNN and NBC." He ignored my subsequent query of his favorite radio news sources...

I showed no biases against his answer. Although I couldn't help but replace his answer in my mind with "All Fox News all the Time, Limbaugh in the Car, drill baby drill, etc"

Though I wanted desperately to tell him everything I thought about Fox "News", I realized, though, that the conversation was beginning to wear thin. After a couple of failed attempts at a polite exit, I finally shook his hand and thanked him for the conversation. "I'm so glad we can talk about these things. Thanks Officer."

Before we parted ways, he commented on a statement I had made earlier about Obama being a hero of mine. "You should never have a politician as a hero. Your parents are much better role models." He said.

"My parents are my heroes, you're a hero too (I had to say it. Part of me meant it too.) And I couldn't help but throw in- "and Obama isn't a politician that is exactly why he is a hero. Look how far he's made it playing by HIS rules. And staying true to his words and morals all the while."

He shook his head, I just smiled sublimely.

From the conversation, I learned a few things:

1. Civility in a debate is key. As is Empathy.

2. Police Officers- though they do look quite nice in their uniforms- aren't always as smart or all-knowing as they seem AND they are EQUAL to ordinary citizens, no matter what they would like you to think. We do have rights. (a no-brainer yes but it was nice to have these things reaffirmed.)

3. Public Discourse needs to make a comeback!! I would like to create a public forum in which we can all have lively debates once a month. How to go about doing this is yet to be determined.


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