the mercer weave

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Archive for the tag “Police”

The Terror

There has been a fascinating conversation going on at The Daily Dish  about ‘catcalling’ and it’s influence on women (and some men.) This link references the last in the series of posts but  it is worth reading back through the previous entries. In particular, I was struck but this piece by a reader of the Dish:

“You struck a nerve with this one, as I was just discussing this very thing a few weeks ago with a group of high-school freshmen in my English class. We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.

The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.”But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”

             The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked. 

            “So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”

As I read the posts, I was surprised to feel the rush of  memories of my own experiences as a young teen and what struck me was how my memory wasn’t of anger, but of fear. And one could argue that the fear wasn’t rational – I wasn’t in a darkened alley or parking garage – it was broad daylight, but the discomfort was overwhelmingly real. It happened mostly when I was a teenager, shortly after I began to ‘blossom’ as they say. It was startling, disarming and ultimately left more of an impression than I realized until I took that walk down memory lane while reading these posts.  Although it continued after I moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, the last straw for me happened in Italy. With my family on a crowded bus in Rome, I endured what we in the business refer to as ‘frottage.’  You know the drill; some creep helplessly ‘crammed’ into you by virtue of a crowded bus, has no other options but to rub his crotch against you for the duration of the ride.  Keep in mind, this was Italy in the 70’s. There was nothing to be done. But that was it for me.

When I moved to Seattle, I quickly adopted the look for feministy leaning women with a ‘y.’  Cargo pants and plaid flannel shirts. And that was before I realized I was gay. In hindsight, I think it was my unconscious effort to steel myself against the comments from strange men on the street. It was kind of like cotton kryptonite, if you will. And for the most part, it worked. Now I see my niece-in-laws and how they dress and how they hold themselves and I am so proud of them. Woe be to the idiot who says the wrong thing to them on the street. He’s likely to be tasting his nuggets by the time they are done with him.

And lastly, I was reminded of a conversation with a male friend about his experience in an elevator of his new apartment building in a largely gay area of Seattle. He recounted how uncomfortable he was being propositioned daily (he’s not gay) and I just laughed at him. The look on his face belied his confusion. I simply said, “Now you know what it feels like to be a woman.”

And it felt so,  well, vindicating.

 

San Francisco Police Department Rocks – It Gets Better Project Release

Incredibly well produced video for the It’s Get Better Project.

Compassion is Hard

This past weekend in a small town southeast of Seattle, Josh Powell killed himself and his two young sons. The news crawled along the bottom of the television screen during the pre-Super bowl coverage on a dark red banner. This story has monopolized the news in the Pacific Northwest off and on since Powell’s wife disappeared in Utah in 2009. Being a cop, I don’t tend to react as strongly as many people do to this kind of news because it’s so much a part of the culture of policing. We constantly encounter people at the worst moment of their life and there is often pressure to maintain a certain stoicism in the face of abject tragedy.

It is often a challenge to maintain one’s humanity while investigating horrible things, while looking at death, grief and violence perpetuated by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally. Many of us create a coat of armor, a rigid exterior that we hope is un-penetrable but we suspect is deeply flawed.  We have that suspicion because even as hard as we try to not let it affect us, we can’t control that subconscious troll that creeps into our dreams in the darkest moments of night. It is impossible to see these kinds of things without being profoundly changed.

As I sat in the comfort of my home on Sunday, I thought of the first responders arriving at the Powell house fully engulfed after a violent explosion. And I couldn’t help but think of the day they thought they had ahead of them – football at the fire station, answering a few aid calls, making dinner for the crew. And I thought about the neighbors and the families and of course, about the two children killed and how life can change in a flash of fiery rage when one man’s delusion consumed something so innocent and loved so no one else could have it.

And I tried to have compassion for that man because that’s what I’m striving for with my practice. And although I didn’t quite make it there because I think this would qualify as advanced compassion, in my humble opinion, I have committed myself to try.

And Then There Is This

In police work, the use of the word ‘enemy’ can get you into trouble. But the reality for most of us in this line of work is that the real enemy is often unseen and unheard.  Sure, it’s easy to point to the guy that called you all sorts of inventive names when you put on the handcuffs or the woman who suddenly turned on you when you arrived at her house (after she called 911) to shield her from her half-crazed, drunken husband. Suddenly, you aren’t there to help – you’re there to ruin his life. After all, she just wanted the police to scare him – not arrest him – for beating her to a pulp.

It’s not my job to scare people. I’m not exactly an intimidating figure. At 5’2 and 52, I’m a gray haired Lilliputian in a world of large men with ‘high and tight’ haircuts. But in the end, we are all tasked to do the same thing, under the same circumstances. Sometimes you can arrive with a plan and it succeeds. Other times, everything goes sideways like a slow motion carnival ride careening off the tracks. And what follows can be ugly, cruel and wasteful.

Cops are control freaks. There, I said it.  And we readily admit it to ourselves but not to anyone else. There are very few jobs where every day brings complete and utter mystery to each moment. You train for the low frequency incidents. You are generally prepared to address the routine but even that annoying neighborhood drunk can wake up one day and decide he wants you to kill him. It’s impossible to control that moment, only pray that you make the right decision.

So the enemy isn’t really a person. It’s the unknown. It’s that instant in which the world comes to a halt, when the sight of a dead newborn in the arms of her mother or the mutilated body of a murder victim causes you to struggle to assign normalcy to something so horrible. When knocking on the door to a quaint Craftsman bungalow with news of a loved one’s death turns your heart into a heap of insurmountable sadness.

For many officers, religion plays an important role in their life. Others reason that a loving God couldn’t possibly condemn so many with such cataclysmic grief.  There are a few of us who balance our spiritual lives in the center, trying to find a ‘middle way.’ We hope, we practice, we pray, we negotiate. In the end, the enemy will never destroy that indomitable spirit that lies within the heart. It just takes a little patience to get it right.

Prequel to Real Happiness 2012 Challenge

It’s such an honor to be a part of the meditation challenge again this year. When it was over at the end of February last year, I was reminded of when I was a child and felt that mixture of melancholy and excitement when school ended for summer break. I missed the routine and comfort of knowing I had a place to share my experience on the cushion while realizing it was time to take off the training wheels and give it a spin on my own.

 I haven’t been the ‘best’ student, often neglecting my practice out of pure laziness. (There’s really no excuse not to make the time for myself.)   But I’ve never lost sight of how profound the experience of meditating can be and how it helps to reinforce the beauty of simplicity and presence.

 I’m ready. Let’s go.

 

http://www.sharonsalzberg.com/realhappiness/blog

 

 

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