My Town and the Police

8:17 PM


by Rudolfo Carrillo

Here is my story about this town and the police. It ain't much. Don't get me confused for a journalist or commentator; I am one of those writers that lives mostly in his own head. My ideas have proven to be outlandish, for example, among humans best described by the geometric form whose perimeter is determined by the formula 4s.

Anyway, by now you've been practically drowned with words and pictures from experts about all of this; I don't even need to name it in this paragraph. It's been well-recorded and we will all be able to take glimpses of what happened here, what has been happening here, years from today. The people that come after us will be able to viddy it too.

There is plenty of violence in nature. Think about predation, the slaughterhouse on the outskirts of town, the effects of pesticides on songbirds. Interestingly, some animals display aggression and perform violence against their own kind. Usually this sort of behavior has to do with acquiring and demonstrating power over others. The animals responsible here are mostly mammals, I am pretty certain, but fill me in if I am wrong.

As we evolve as a species, the common assumption is that lust for power over other individuals, violence, aggression, territoriality, will fade, will be replaced by more rational and compassionate responses to each other and ourselves.

The only problem with the evolution hypothesis is that it is taking a god-damned long time to realize and we want peace now. But how can we have peace when we still can't feed and clothe the poor among us? By what magic can we institute respect for individuals and the state when we live in the simulacra of a beautiful oasis, surrounded by the reality of the smoke and noise of perpetual war?

***

The nation's popular culture transmitters continue to strongly imply that violence and aggression are adequate solutions to a vast array of problems confronting the human world. Aggression and competition for power and dominance are seen as a positive qualities in the corporate milieu. The gap between rich and poor continues to heave outward. Some research suggests that up to 80% of Americans are armed.

Through the twisted logic of wartime paranoia and corporatist values invoked by a series of now thoroughly discredited right wing administrations, the police have become seriously militarized, weapons are easy to come by, the surveillance state has been realized, yet many Americans seem totally fine with our dark inheritance. They can't respond because they are comfortable.

One of the most disturbing speakers I heard at this week's city council meeting went on and on about some officer's military record, his valor fighting terrorists in faraway oil depots and strategically located warm-water harbors. That is just fine, but how does such experience translate to serving and protecting citizens in a small city? I am glad the man conquered IEDs and tanks, grenades and automatic weapons fire. But we don't have much of that stuff here, unless you count the Police Department.

***

I've been stopped for speeding. I was pulled over near Tingley beach for exceeding the 25 MPH speed limit. I was doing about 30, I reckon, passed by a APD cruiser and knew he might pull me over. I continued though, and slowed down to wait for him. About 30 seconds later, the policeman came up behind me doing about 40 or 50, lights and siren blaring.

I pulled over. The red-faced officer, probably about 23 years old, rushed over to my car. I rolled down the window and noticed he had his hand on his gun and was fiddling with the strap that kept it in the holster. He looked in the car and said, "What are you running from?" When I tried to reason with him, he began a tirade, claiming that I intended to elude him. He would not let me talk and acted all itchy and irritated. He finally went back to his car, wrote me a ticket and I signed it. Afterwards, he stormed off with his fists clenched and I drove away, terrified. Serio.

I really believe that events like the ones I've described in this essay happen because we let them happen. All of us are responsible for making the world into what it has become. In evolutionary terms, we find ourselves at a dead end. Obviously we can't go back, we can't un-choose the choices that led us here. So this is where the branch bifurcates.

***

Choosing another way means giving up a collectively false sense of comfort, a perpetual retreat into acquisition, our outward presentation as conquering super-heroes, the belief some humans are better than others. I want to believe my species is capable of that, that I can make the leap too.

This effort will require something very ultra-non-violent called a cultural revolution; capitalism will have to be modified and imbued with compassion, corporations and advertising put aside entirely. Money spent on the war machine will need to be spent on health care, education, infrastructure, social programs to empower all the folks of America. The unemployed can be put to work, their dignity restored by involvement in building bridges, solar power plants and schools; maybe after a couple hundred years of that, space stations and star ships can be added to the to do list. 

In that future, all of the policemen and policewomen in my town are trustworthy protectors, reasonable representatives of an advanced and evolved civilization, by the way.



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