Archives for February 2019

The Police and the Dance of Life

police, safety, protest, black lives matter, dance of life, Earth Woman Tree Woman, Deep Hum

Part Three of The Police Controversy:

This is my third post on the role of police in our towns and cities, states and nation.

In the first post, The Police Controversy, I laid out the problem and a little of the discourse around policing.

In the second, Police Officers or Peace Keepers, I presented some of my ideas of how to practically make the changes I think we need. 

In this post I’m going to give you a passage from my book The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet where the main character addresses the police lining the street at a protest march.

The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet is a metaphysical fantasy. The main quest is to bring homo sapiens back into the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all species come together to create the grand compromise that keeps life going on Earth. The characters can shape change into their Tla Twein, mythological animals or characters who represent the strengths the characters wish to acquire.

In this passage the main character, Giselle, becomes her Tla Twei, the Earth Woman Tree Woman:

Police lined the streets, protecting the skyscrapers that loomed above them, helmets on their heads with opaque plastic covering their faces, and plastic body shields held in front of them.

As they reached the starting point, … Monica and Rod made their way over to Giselle. “I don’t like the looks of the police,” muttered Rod.

Giselle turned around in a circle. “They look like robots. They’re dressed so they don’t look human.”

She turned to Rod. “But they are human. We need to remember they’re human, and we need them, just like we need everyone else if we’re to regain our grandsoul – if we’re to become a part of the Tsin Twei.”

She walked over in front of a line of officers, staring at the smoky gray of their helmets, and couldn’t tell if they were looking at her or not.

She smiled as her feet bored deep below the asphalt, reaching into the water and nutrients hidden below. Her arms stretched up, branching, moving higher and higher above the police, above the crowd. The cat, crouching on a thick branch, stared at them and the dogs sat at the base of her trunk.

With a rustling of leaves and a creaking of limbs, she spoke. “You are one of us.”
Her voice cut like a knife through the sounds of the crowd; her branches danced above their heads. The police line faltered a little, and then held still.

She continued, her words resounding off the walls of the skyscrapers that edged the street. “I know you’re afraid for your jobs. I know you believe you’re privileged – a part of the corporate strong men, rather than one of us. But they will sacrifice you, and your families, just as quickly as they sacrifice us, the poor, and the quality of the air and the water.”

She turned swinging her branches down the line of officers. “Your families will not be spared the cancers that come from pollution, or the illnesses that come from poorly inspected food.”

Some of the officers began to shift their feet restlessly.

“When global warming pushes more and more people toward famine and homelessness, your families will also face famine and homelessness.”

She looked at the crowd as her words bounced back and forth in the urban canyon, and then back to the police. “You hide behind these plastic masks trying not to look human, not to look like people who love, and hurt, and care about this world. But I know otherwise. I know that you are people of love, just as we are. You’re one of us.”

The crowd took up the phrase and repeated it over, and over again. “You’re people of love. You’re one of us. You are one of us!”

The Tree Woman took a deep breath. “If you haven’t the courage to take off your masks, lay down your shields, and join us, at least refrain from hurting us,” and she grew taller and taller as she spoke.

“When the orders come to shoot us, or beat us, don’t. Just don’t follow those orders.”
“Don’t follow those orders,” echoed the crowd. “Don’t follow those orders.”

The Earth Woman Tree Woman began to sing:
Remember, we are your family,
Your family!
We are you, and you are us.

The song echoed off the buildings, climbing higher and higher into the sky, reaching even the helicopters that hovered high above.
We are you, and you are us.
We are you, and you are us.

Amen, sang Ayoabia*, her voice deep and resonant. So be it, amen.

This we need to remember as we talk about the role of the police, or of anyone in the conflicts we face today.

All people, police, politicians, CEO’s, are humans. If we are to survive, we must win them to the cause of compassion – we must find ways to show them that we are human, that all people are human regardless of color or ethnicity, regardless of religion, of able-bodiedness, of IQ, of sexual orientation. This means educating “them” until they all are “us,” – until they all understand the need for the power of love in our world.

*We will see more of Ayoabia, who has become my favorite character, in later posts.

 

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558  https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/ *https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Policing Controversy, Part Two

Police Officers or Peace Keepers?

 Police violence against child

In my last post, (http://deephum.com/the-policing-controversy/), I said:

The police have often (not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of the police be?

First, maybe we need to stop calling them “police officers.” I think what we call ourselves makes a difference in how we behave. They are sometimes referred to as “peace officers”, a term first used in 1649.  If they see themselves as spreading peace, rather than as catching villains, they might not be as ready to see others as villains.

And maybe we shouldn’t use the word “officers” which has a military edge to it. According to Wikipedia, “An officer is a person who has a position of authority in a hierarchical organization.” We’re supposed to be a democracy, not a “hierarchy”.

How about “peace keepers”?

Newark Police Department detective Michelle Cote, left, lets 4-year-old Kevin Maresca wear her cap during a visit to Ironbound Community Corp Preschool, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, has partnered with PSEG to develop "Let's Get Ready: Planning Together for Emergencies" and "Here For Each Other: Helping Families After Emergencies" emergency preparedness and response initiatives in English and Spanish. These apps will help families talk with their children about preparing and dealing with emergencies. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Second, we must insist that our “peace keepers” have training in non-violent approaches to people with special needs.  Far too many people with special needs have been killed by police when there was no need.

Third, we must educate our “peace keepers” in the cultures of people from all the different ethnicities that make up our communities.  Yes, ethnic studies.

And fourth, let’s make their uniforms less intimidating and more friendly.  During the 1960’s when I attended my first protest march in Berkeley, the Berkeley police wore khaki uniforms.  They lined the march, but seemed friendly and protective.  We got to the Oakland border and the police were wearing black uniforms and swinging bully clubs.  To me, at 22 years old, they were very frightening.  If the police are working for us, they should not appear frightening to us.

We spend lots of time teaching our police how to shoot a gun, how to physically restrain people, ramping up their adrenal reactions to situations, and very little time training them how to approach a situation slowly and calmly, how to read the body language of people with a different cultural background than their own, and yes, how to take the “flight” reaction rather than the “fight” one when faced with “flight or fight” situations.  Simply moving to a protected place from which to negotiate with someone who is out of control rather than shooting them seems much more logical to me.

Our jails are full of people with mental illness. Why are they there instead of in institutions designed to help them? Our jails are full of very young men who behaved stupidly, as teenagers of all races and ethnicities are apt to do.

Interesting that black and brown boys are in jail, and the white ones released to their parents. The police are the first in line to effect this, often taking kids down to the station and calling their parents. Judges, of course, are second in line here giving probation or community service to white boys and jail to black kids.  (See corroborating articles listed below.)

Who wants to be a police officer?  It would be interesting to interview various officers to find what drew them to policing? There are many good officers out there. Why did they join?

We also know that there are many who join because they want the power and the gun. These folks need to be weeded out. Our “peace keepers” need to cease being a symbol of authoritarian power and start being a symbol of someone who can help – for all peoples, not just the wealthy and the white.

Please feel free to add your suggestions on policing in the comments or on my posting of this article on Facebook or Twitter.  My next post will continue the discussion.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558  https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/ *https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Policing Controversy

(Important to know as you read this: I am an older white woman of privilege, born in 1943, so these early memories of police encounters come from the nineteen- forties.)

One of my earliest memories – I must have been three or four years old – is of following the wrong coat out of a department store in a town twenty or so miles away from my home town. I had been playing under the dresses on a rack of clothes my mother was looking at. I saw the hem of her coat move away from the rack and followed it out the door of the store. When the woman in the coat turned around and looked at me, I realized she was not my mother.

She gave me a strange look and walked away.

I don’t remember what happened next, I just know that the next memory is of being in a police station – it was a small round building, I think, and white – and sitting inside with the nice policemen eating an ice cream cone waiting for my mother to come pick me up.

In later years my mother and I talked about this event, but I don’t remember being aware of the sheer terror my mother must have felt – that I certainly would have felt – when she looked under the rack of clothes and I wasn’t there. The only moment of terror I remember was when I looked at the woman’s face and she wasn’t my mama and she wasn’t smiling.

I do remember feeling happy with the policemen at the police station.

I know in the neighborhood where I grew up, the role of the police was to make sure the “wrong” people didn’t come into our neighborhood. My father worked for a publishing house. I must have been around eight one night when an author who was coming to our house for dinner was picked up by the police as he walked to our house from the train station. They were polite to him. Asked him where he was headed and gave him a ride to our house, coming to the door with him.

“Why did they do that,” I asked my father, feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing.

“They were just making sure that he really belonged here,” he assured me. The author was a white Englishman who lived in India. I remember that his clothes didn’t look quite the same as an American businessman which probably drew the attention of the police. He wasn’t wearing the uniform of the privileged men of our neighborhood.

Imagine if he’d been black.

Today I live in a traditionally black neighborhood  in Berkeley, CA that is being gentrified.

On my neighborhood elist there has been a lot of discussion about “police.” Many are concerned because people are not applying for police jobs in our community (and apparently in many, many other places) and our police department is understaffed. Some people attribute this to Black Lives Matter and the restrictions placed on police. (Actually, the restrictions have been there. What is different is the call for enforcement of those restrictions.)

Some don’t think that more policing is the answer. Some don’t want any police at all.

There hasn’t been a lot of discussion on my neighborhood elist about the role of police.

Historical research shows police have traditionally been about protecting the rich. In the south policing came about from the slave patrols who chased down runaway slaves. In England the first police were “marine police” who were protecting the cargoes of ship owners. (https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1)

In his article, Guardians or Warriors? The Changing Role of Law Enforcement, Timothy Roufa says:

When the concept of a uniformed police force was first championed by Sir Robert Peel in London in the early 1800s, he was met with much resistance due to fears of what would essentially be a standing army within the city; comparisons were made to police as a government-sanctioned occupying force. The problem of how to enforce laws while preserving rights is not at all new. (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558)

It’s clear to me that this has become a real problem. The police have often (certainly not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of police officers be?

I will continue this discussion in my next posts. Please send me your suggestions and ideas through the comments section or on my facebook or twitter link to this post.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558
https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/*https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover