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

 

Howling in the Night, an Eerie Wonder

170px-HowlsnowWouldn’t you like to leap, and spin around and over your friends, and end up out of breath in a mush pile, a laughing heap of beings? That’s what wolf pups do. The wolf is one of the animals that call to me, one of my Tla Twein.  (see my earlier post on the Tla Twein) 

I notice that many people love wolves. For some of my piano students, the stickers of wolves that I receive in the mail from conservation organizations are the first choice to put on a finished song.

Two conflicting ideas about wolves are prevalent: One is of the “lone wolf”, solitary, strong, but alone; the other about the close warm ties between the members of a wolf pack, working together to gather their food and raise their babies. Different members of the pack help out by babysitting the cubs while the mother is out hunting.

But when we think of what draws us to the wolves, perhaps these two images are not so conflicting. Perhaps we yearn for the camaraderie, the playful closeness of the pack, and yet feel like the lone wolf who is seeking a pack. On the other hand, sometimes we need the solitary aloneness (but not lonely) of the “lone wolf”.  Sometimes we need to move away from the pull toward compliance of the pack. We need to find our own path.

The lone wolf doesn’t stay completely alone. Sometimes in the night the lone wolf howls. If others can hear them, they respond, and the song echoes back and forth across the miles. This howling in the night is an eerie wonder – wolves singing together reaching with their songs across long distances to lone wolves and other packs (and all the other species that can hear them). Strange dissonances send thrills up our spine, bring new ideas of harmony, new possibilities.

Solitary singing is good, but when we sing in a group there is something so powerful and breathtaking that happens that I, at least, can hardly contain the joy. And when a human composer brings in the forbidden dissonances we hear in the wolf songs, I tremble with some combination of fear and delight. It’s clear, when we watch videos of wolves howling, that this power of harmony and dissonance happens for the wolves, too.

I confess, when the husky down the street howls in her yard as my dogs and I go past, I cannot restrain myself from howling back. Sometimes if she isn’t howling, I’ll give a little howl and she joins me. What a thrill! I wish I dared throw my head back and howl with all my might. My little dogs don’t howl with the husky, only with the fire sirens. But when they howl, they sit up so straight, so earnest, so involved in the howl, that I know it’s a spiritual ritual, a solemn invocation of….?

What is it that I need to learn from the wolf as my Tla Twei? Perhaps it’s the cooperative bonding of the pack for the serious business of the hunt – in my case to take on the serious problems of the world – and the restful dance of playtime ending in the physical closeness of the mush pile.

And in the night, the ritual of singing in strange harmonies, reaching joyfully to my fellow humans on the other side of the valley or the world.

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the Tla Twein are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and order print versions from your local independent bookstore.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can attend a three hour workshop on April 28th in Oakland where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. The fee is “pay what you can”. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put Tla Twein Workshop in the subject line.

March for Our Lives and the March for the Dance of Life

Last Saturday I listened to the speakers at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on the radio.  I laughed, I cried, I clapped my hands to one, four, and ten.  I tried to sing along to “We Will Shine.” I wasn’t there, but I joined the march where I was.

I have marched before, for women, for Black Lives Matter, and many years ago for the Civil Rights Movement, and over, and over again during my long life for the end of some particular war. Marches have brought me hope, which is probably why the climax of my mystical fantasy novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, is a march by a group called One Earth Together that is joined by people all over the earth.  Each group has its own song, its own particular story, and its own Tla Twein. (See my last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein).

For instance, an “island nation” is described:

“… another group swept in, a deep red and black sparkling with bright colors pouring into the amphitheater like lava from a volcano, their island song flowing like an undercurrent through the songs of the others.

We are the land in the sea, sun cooled by sea breeze.
Bright blossoms, many-colored joy,
mirrored in darting fish, corals, and anemone,
in the depths of the clear blue sea.

We come from our creator-destroyer,
fierce goddess, dark beauty,
erupting in fire from the deep,
flowing in red-yellow rivers,
pouring in black writhing smoke,
building our soft gentle island
our land in the sea.

Protect our island. Protect our sea.
Come, our tempestuous island goddess,
pour your fierce love,
fierce and fiery love, into me.

We come from creation-destruction.
In death, new life will be.
We risk death in defiance.
A sacrifice, so Gaia can be freed.

As they sing their songs they are swept up to Ninas Twei, the mystical world of the Dance of Life, the place where all the species dance together to ensure the continuance of life on earth.

You can join in singing and dancing one of these climatic songs by going to http://earthwomantreewoman.com/index.php/arise/  The words are:

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
See the world in the Dance of Life.
Beat your feet
To the beat of your heart!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Peace, peace, Laughter and dance!
Joy and life for us all.
Sing your tears, Sing your fears,
Defy oppression through the years,
Dance the Dance of Life!

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Read more about the Dance of Life in The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and through independent book stores everywhere.

Want to know more about your Tla Twein? (see last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein) If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area I am holding a workshop where we can explore our Tla Twein through dance, song, art and poetry on April 28th from 2-5 pm in Oakland.  Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.