Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting the police department you deserve.

Simply put, the command staff of the department is really messed up. There are bad officers out there. The guild is being irresponsible with the President talking about de-policing.

What needs to happen is that the guild, and the rank and file, need to get off their asses and speak out about bad cops. It is very unlikely to happen because no one wants to be next. But it has to happen. The Guild doesn't protect rookie officers on FTO from abuse, but they protect bad cops from investigation and punishment. Until that changes it will be the command against the rank and file and nothing will change.

Someone put a fake Seattle Times front page with a message from the Seattle police.  It said, "We are trying to kill everyone."  In various forums, people said it was cool, that they liked it, that it was awesome and funny.

My point about the political and protest statement that people think is so cool, is it will cause a great majority of the officers (who are good officers by the way) to entrench even more. You don't want your officers to feel like they are targets for violence (Monfort ring a bell and the calls for "well, they deserved it?") any more than you want your citizens to become targets for violence.

The only way for this ugly situation to stop is for three things to happen:

1) The populace decides to support the good cops instead of spouting all the hateful and often misleading rhetoric about how their jobs aren't that dangerous, how they are fat and sit around and eat donuts every day, how they look for excuses and opportunities to use violence against us, how all cops are murders, and on and on. To stop taking out your bad mood about getting a speeding ticket you damn deserved, because you were speeding, out on the officers who you ask to control traffic. To get between the little anarchist thugs and the cops who are trying to protect you and your property and who, by the way, would like to go home at night to their families, just like you.

2) The officers to demand, of their command staff and their union to do what is right to *get rid* of substandard cops, to demand higher standards and higher pay to go along with it (and we should pay it if they meet those standards), to push for professionalism in their ranks, to reach out to the populace, drop the officiousness and defensiveness and serve the community. They also need to tell their union to stop the political whining in the guardian about having to learn about cultures other than those created by straight, white, men.

3) The command staff needs to stop playing politics with police jobs, support their good officers, give the substandard officers a chance to come up to standards, get rid of the officers who don't and challenge the union to work with them to do the same.

Then, we get the police department we deserve, and police get the support and respect they deserve.

Until then, attacking the police as if they were one single organism reinforces the problem. You want a jumpy, entrenched police force who, struggling with the demands of the job and wanting to make it home at the end of the night alive, errs on the side of their fears and uses force too quickly or goes too far?

Keep celebrating events like the actions of Monfort, and saying the police are all drunks and murderers.

You just might create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And you will deserve what you get.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentines Day

Today is Valentines Day. I'm not playing. I'll tell you why. I may sound cynical at first. I may seem that I'm passing judgment on others.  I am not.  Bear with me as I explain what "not playing" means.

In the past, I've had more than one love. I am, by nature, polyamorous. I've sometimes had more than one intimate friend aside from those loves. Some I called loves because we saw each other that way and some I didn't because we didn't feel the word is appropriate yet, if ever. The distinction isn't really that important.  What is important is what being poly taught me about this holiday and what love means to me.

So...Love and Valentines Day.

The labels, the expectations, the baggage that comes with using the L word aren't really necessary to express a relationship. I don't need to say "I love you" for my partner to know I do. Oh, I still say it.  It's fun and beautiful to say. The thing is, I don't need to. They don't need me to.  Why?  To me, love is not expressed through words.  It is expressed through my actions, though my attention, caring, closeness.  Anyone who has ever watched a silent couple, clearly in love, understands this concept.

Words aren't love.  They are merely the wrapping and bows on the true gift of our affection.

And a 'holiday' built around Love feeds on those expectations around speech. In our monogamous society, where Love is everything, Love rules our expectations, Love is misunderstood, Love is misused, Love is a hammer to some, Valentines Day points out the inherent problems with speech (I'm equating shallow actions as speech too) *as* Love.

And this is me, poet and songwriter, who has written poetry for love and learned to play the guitar so I could sing my poems of love.  Speech is not love.  Physical gifts are not love.

While words are indeed nice, they cannot make my actions what they are not. A crappy present all dressed up in pretty bows and paper is still a crappy present. I could not make up for 364 days of inattention, not keeping commitments, not being focused, not being involved, not being present, with a triple heart diamond ring from the Shane company that has been stuffed up the butt of a cheap teddy bear. That is what we are told we are supposed to do.  There are news stories for weeks about the perfect gift, which chocolate is better, why gold is better than silver, which flowers are best, how you have to get your order for flowers in right now, before it's too late...and so on.  Hurry, before it's too late.

There is such a big commercial deal made of Valentines day. It's business.

 There are Valentines days sales at jewelers, florists, *car dealerships*, everywhere. We are supposed to consume to express our Love, as some sign, some validation of our relationship. One year I did that for three of my partners and after it was complete, I recognized the trap. You see, if you have one love, you buy them their gift. Since you are giving this special gift to no other, as you are supposed to with your heart, no comparison can be made in either. You are supposed to have one valentine -- one love. However, if you have more than one, and if you follow the monogamy model of the 'holiday', you buy separate gifts for each. As I was shopping, in the almost Christmas crowds, I realized that these gifts, however appropriate, were not my love. So, what the hell was I doing? Why was I playing the "I'm proving that I love you and don't love another more than I love you by giving you a special gift" monogamy game?

Many years have passed since that day. My relationships have changed somewhat,  as is my energy and outlook towards being able to expend my emotional energy much beyond my Kerry. My outlook on this holiday has not changed and I'm very fortunate indeed to have a partner who understands what love is truly about.

Kerry and I are not playing today.  No flowers, candy, diamonds, cars, or presents.  We agreed on this without being asked.  I figure that, the best present I can give her, as my good friend Ted posted, is to love her today no more than I do any other day.

So I'm left standing here, watching the monogamy game play itself out, with people rushing about for their various reasons. I'm also watching my single friends, some feeling left out, some rebelling in their singleness against the onslaught of Valentines Day-ness.  Of those participating, some of them are simply using this special day to acknowledge their love and I think that's a great thing.  Others are using it to validate their relationship, or make up for neglecting their partner, or assure their partner that they aren't cheating, or aren't cheating anymore. Yes, that thought occurs to me. How many people are giving a partner a gift that promises monogamy and are currently cheating on their partner? But I digress..

My relationships are what they are. A single date in February, a charge on a credit card, a UPS shipping number for my gift on the way, the pretty wrappings around a bauble, do not those relationships make. My relationships with people I care about are made though my actions, expressed in my attention, my caring, my mentorship, sacrifice, dedication throughout the year -- including today.  Today is no different.

This is not a Hallmark moment.

This is my life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

But, but, political rhetoric has always been violent...

Those of you on the political part of the spectrum who say, "Well, political discourse has always been nasty, so what's the big deal?" and go on to cite examples, are rationalizing, excuse wielding fools who don't understand the bigger picture and the desire of rational people to get beyond such inhumanity. There. I. Said. It.

I won't let such excuses pass by without offering the strongest dismissal and disdain for such intellectual laziness.  Really?  You really want to support, justify, excuse, rationalize in order to support whatever political beliefs you have?

You think shunning those that spout violent speech is censorship?  You don't understand what censorship is.  You think that treating those that whip up the crazy in society, with their violent rhetoric are innocent of their contribution to the actions of the crazy, is somehow unfair?

Too bad, I say.  Too bad.

You are wrong.  Those that spout rhetoric like this, and let the crazies do their dirty work are covered in blood just as well.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Opening our hands, opening our hearts, stopping the violence.

I sit here, thinking about the link I just posted, about Bill Zeller, who recently committed suicide instead of facing the "darkness" as he called it. I sit here remembering a time, long ago, when I felt lost, when I wondered if it were easier to just stop. Just. Stop.

I lived though a long dark time. It wasn't sexual abuse, nothing that Bill had to endure. My own personal hell was one of continuous, brutal, unrelenting, physical abuse, both at the hands of my mother and, because of the victim that was born out of that, the hands of the various bullies that populated my life. She created, in me, a fearful, jumpy, shy, cringing little coward. From when I could remember, until I turned about 13, I gave up. I didn't fight back anymore. You see, when you are that small, you learn early that everyone is bigger and stronger than you and -- you cannot win.

First you lost to her anger, her brutality, her rationalization, the manifestation of her own history of physical abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father and sadistic brother. Your memories at five, six, seven and eight, are of constant beatings at the hands of an angry harpie, swooping down upon you for some transgression (manufactured or real), to deliver unto you some punishment for your crime.

Sometimes that crime was not being able to quiet down. A six year old boy being loud. Who would have thought of it?

I just noted here that the language I use said, "your crime" and "swooping down upon you." Odd that. It didn't happen to you.  It happened to me.  No, it was my crime that I owned and it was her swooping down upon me; and it changed me. Even when I tried to fight back and defend myself when cornered at school, in the third grade, at eight years of age, I was beaten for fighting when I got home.

And in the sixth grade, a girl, a girl, backs you (see I did it again -- not you, it was me) into a corner and takes my lunch money. She wasn't larger than me. She didn't even have to hit me. The coward that I was just handed over all the change I had and chose going hungry over what I imagined she would do to me if I didn't give her fifty cents.

I despised myself.

So I escaped into books, into getting off at the wrong bus stop, living with my heart in my throat at school bus stops in the mornings, hoping they wouldn't get bored and notice me; hoping for invisibility.

Then it I started thinking about it. I went down that road at about 11 years of age. I started feelings so worthless, so unloved, so much a target, with no alternatives, no one to really help me escape the bullying, that I started planning. I would walk in front of a speeding car. I would ride my bike off an overpass. Maybe I'd swim out farther than I could return? Would someone miss me then? Would someone love me then? Would she feel bad? I really wondered these things. I wondered if I'd show them, leave a note, and they would finally know what they did to me. I tried talking myself into it, into ending my torment. Obviously, I talked myself out of it instead; hence you are reading this.

I even turned towards a potential rapist during this time.  Ed was a family friend who took me on camping trips.  When everyone was beating the shit out of me, when I was friendless and alone, Ed was my friend.  We went to Gettysburg together, Washington D.C., camping in Pennsylvania, in the backwoods of New Jersey, and a host of other places.  I didn't know what Ed was doing until one night, alone camping in his truck he asked if I wanted a "hand" as it were.  He said many boys did it, when they were out camping.  It was a normal thing.   I turned him down.  Ed was supposed to feel safe for this 13 year old. I turned him down and he never spoke of it again.

He's now serving a 25 year prison term for raping multiple young boys.  Some of whom I knew back in 1973 or so.  And to think, to be driven into the arms of a rapist, just because I felt no one else loved me.  I dodged that bullet and continued my ordeal.

Then, one day, at 14, as I sat there on the floor of the junior high school hallway, after taking a shove or two, and a fist in the mouth, from one of the local bullies, someone chose to care. Someone chose to offer me a hand, offer me love, offer me an out. As Eric loomed over me, as I expected another beating, I was -- disappointed? All I saw were his shoes. I heard him saying something, something that, translated in my fear addled brain as anything other than what he said, "hey, are you ok?"

He had to repeat himself more than once, with me cringing through the tears, spitting the blood on my shirt, to finally notice his hand. His hand was open. It was open.

Shaking in fear, I took it. I don't know why, but I trusted it.

Helping me up, brushing me off, wiping the blood from my face he asked, "are you tired of this?"

"Y...yes," I stuttered. I stuttered a lot then.

"Come hang out with me in the library," he said. "It's safe there. I want to talk to you."

You see, at just 16 years old, Eric was a brown belt in Judo and, at six feet tall, wasn't a target for anything but respect from anyone.

So I sat with him, still afraid, but listening. I listened to him as he gave me another alternative to what I had been thinking. He gave me an alternative to killing myself with the 12 gauge shotgun I had gotten as a birthday present -- some of my family were hunters. He gave me his hand, his time, and his guidance. I spent weeks with him, learning, gaining confidence, gaining strength. I hid next to Eric, at lunch, in the halls, on the way home from school. He was my guardian and my friend.  He was my sensei.

Six months later, during a particularly brutal beating for some minor infraction, I stood up, took the belt from my enraged mothers hands, pulled my pants up, and said, "You aren't hitting me anymore." The only time I recall her looking smaller, more afraid, was a couple weeks before her death, as stood next to her in the hospital, my hand on her forehead, telling her I loved her.

Within a week, I was the target of a bully again. I heard the words, saw the fist coming, and executed a pretty effective shoulder throw, putting the bully against the lockers and onto his head. People started leaving me alone after that. When I moved to California at 14, no one bothered me at all. Maybe the only thing that needed to die, needed to walk into that traffic, was the coward within me.

My life has gone many places since that time. I carried various forms of that fear for decades, showing anger where it wasn't appropriate, fearing where it wasn't necessary, manifesting a host of behaviors that don't make a very good human being. It took decades to stop sabotaging myself, to let that scared little boy learn he didn't have to fear, not really, no really, you don't have to fear, anymore.

So when I read of the despair of someone like Bill Zeller, of not being able to escape the darkness, I wish that someone, somewhere had held out a hand to him that could have trusted. I wish he didn't have to make the choice he made, a choice that I tried to talk myself into and, thankfully, found a reason to talk myself out of. People won't have understood if I had taken that road. People won't understand why Bill did what he did. That doesn't change where I was, where Bill went.

We need to stop the violence in our society, be it physical violence, sexual violence, or violent rhetoric. We need to excise violence as a necessary thing, as an alternative, from our families, our society, our world.

Hands closed into fists need to be opened so people like Bill don't think that the choice they made is the only way out.

Thank you, Eric. For your open hand.