I grew up in a small, sheltered town on Long Island, where families went to church, and had large gatherings around BBQ’s, pools, and at beaches. Kids rode bikes wherever they wanted, and I routinely stayed out after dark, without any fear. Our unincorporated village was “idyllic”, like most you see in old fashioned post cards, or in those corny black and white television shows from the 1950′ and ’60’s.
My family was Catholic. Some of my friends were “Public”. That’s how I saw it. The Publics were mostly Jewish and Protestant, but to me they were “Public” because they didn’t go to our church or school, and went to “Public” school. Oh, the simplicity of life and labels.
We were taught to respect authority. Authority was the teacher, parent, a nun, the policeman (we didn’t have any police women at that time) the priest, your boss, the store owner, etc. We said please and thank you, and never smart mouthed an adult. Sure, we got into trouble, and pushed boundaries once we got to a certain age, but that’s just called “growing up”.
If memory serves me right, there were only about 3 or 4 police officers employed by the village. I remember one of them, an attractive, dark haired guy, who used to patrol on foot up and down Main St. He flirted with me and my friends. Sometimes the flirtations made us uncomfortable. We were 13 or 14 years old. But, we were taught to respect our elders, so we never thought to complain about him.
There was another cop that sold pot to kids at the McDonald’s parking lot, just outside of the village, when I was in high school. Again, we wouldn’t have thought to report that to anyone.
I had a male teacher when I was in 7th grade, and all the girls fell in love with him. He was fresh out of college. While nothing ever happened in school, he did show up 4 years later, at the beach where I was a life guard, and ask me out. I went out with him twice, and wasn’t interested, but also felt like it was a little creepy that he wanted to date a girl that he taught when she was 13.
I was involved in a near fatal head on collision on Christmas Eve, my senior year of High School. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital with a serious head injury, in and out of consciousness. I remember being examined one time, but the Neurosurgeon, and he lifted my shirt, and fondled my breasts. There was no one else in the room. He was the doctor. He was supposed to know what he was doing. The authority. I didn’t report him. I told my parents that I didn’t like him but didn’t go into details.
During college, I took some drama classes and managed to get the lead role in the Spring play. I poured myself into the role, and got several rave reviews from the college paper as well as the local town paper. The production was to count for a huge part of our grade, and I was confident that I would do well. I enjoyed the class, and got along with everyone, including the professor. When grades came out and I was given a “C” in the class, I was stunned. I went to the professor’s private office, to find out what had happened, and he told me in no uncertain terms, how I could get my grade up to an “A”. I could have done that right then, in his office. In the blink of an eye. I kept the “C”, and it forever affected my GPA. He was an authority figure. I was supposed to respect him. I didn’t report him. I hadn’t found my voice yet.
So many more experiences…some I don’t care to face, even in my own mind. Years have passed and I have stuffed those memories away in a safe place. Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
When my kids were in grade school, the priest scandal was exposed. I was sickened. Disgusted. Hurt. I found out that my Diocese assigned our then-Pastor to the Parish, after it was known that he was a child mollester. I finally found my voice and sent a scathing letter to the Archdiocese. He was removed, but I’m sure my letter had nothing to do with it. Those scandals continue. Men in authority, preying on innocents that are too afraid to speak. Like me.
Authority figures. Police. Respect them?
I don’t pretend to know all of the exact details in every case of these all-too-common altercations that are plastered all over the news and social media. I can’t fathom the intensity of the situations surrounding some of the incidents, and the “in the moment” decisions that forever change the lives of those involved. I am NOT the person to give judgement or advice, but I am the person who now has a voice.
I weep for the dead. I weep for the families on both sides. I weep for America, where it’s assumed that if you support ONE cause, you HATE another. I am angered that the color of your skin determines how you are treated. I hate that an innocent man, obeying the “rules” at a simple traffic stop, is shot at point blank range and dies in front of his girlfriend and a child, for simply reaching for his wallet. I hate that our black community has to walk on eggshells and even when they do, they risk getting SHOT AT BY OUR WHITE COPS! Can I say that any louder?
To the black community: Please hear me. I am with you. Will you accept my support, even though I am what is considered to be a “Privileged white”?
To police officers everywhere: Please be careful. Please be well trained. Please be smart. Please DON’T BE RASIST! Please be the authority we can all respect, once again.
I am enraged that white police around the country are now targets for the mere fact that they are wearing a uniform. The police in Dallas had NOTHING to do with the events in Minnesota and Louisiana. The only thing they shared was a badge. And now 5 are dead. This is all wrong. WRONG! We live in America and for God’s sake, this is 2016! Why all the hate? Why all the racism? Why all the fear? STOP IT! You can’t justify ANY killing as retaliation for another.
I am sickened to my core that the world is full of hate and mistrust, and that people can’t walk safely down the streets of our cities, without the imminent threat of violence. I hate that people feel the need to carry guns on their bodies, to protect themselves. I hate that when I enter a building, I make sure to know where every possible exit is, in case some crazed person with a gun starts shooting. I hate that every time I enter a public place where there is a crowd, I fear that something terrible might happen.
How does this end? I don’t know. I can’t fix this. YOU can’t fix this. Authorities can’t fix this. I naively want to return to that corny post card time, and ride my bike wherever I want, without fear. Don’t you?