Sunday, November 10, 2013

Warm Fuzzies

Back in the 1960's when I was a bona fide hippy that protested against the war in Vietnam and marched in favor of civil rights, "the fuzz" were decidedly not my friends. Baton wielding, helmeted, leather booted fellows in blue frequently had me on the run. If the batons didn't reach my fellow marchers and me, tear gas certainly did.

But violent protest has always been foreign to my nature, so when I found myself caught up in a crowd of thousands smashing their way down Wall Street with rocks and bricks, I decided to take another path. Although the military-industrial complex remains to this day an inextricably linked marriage from hell, still, breaking bank windows didn't seem like the logical solution. And so I left the movement and headed out west to San Francisco, the mecca of flower children.

Behaving as hippies tended to behave, fuzz paranoia continued to be a constant companion. The police hated long-hairs and as dope (cannibis) was always around somewhere, on someone, the threat of arrest added a negative thrill factor of high pitched tenor.

I didn't make it through the 60's without an overnight incarceration for possession of marijuana and another one nighter in the bullpen for protesting Richard Nixon's election. But all in all, I graduated from a top college with honors and remained somewhere in the mix of society, never totally dropping out -- even if Timothy Leary egged us on with his phony public relations phrase "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out." (Yes, my friends, he was indeed faux-counterculture.)

Skipping a few decades into the 1990s, while driving back to my nice suburban house in my nice Volvo station wagon with my cute little 3 year old girl, I pulled into my driveway and only then noticed the police car with its red lights flashing, hot on my tail. He had been following me for 2 miles and I had simply not noticed. Apparently my inner hippy was alive and well because the siren sounds had been drowned out by a Jefferson Airplane cassette tape playing at top volume. However, I can't explain not picking up on flashing lights in the rear view mirror for two miles. (Could it be a post traumatic cannabis event?)

Rolling down my window, I had a shock. The policeman looked young enough to be my son. And he was slightly nervous, having to take on a tax-paying home owner on his affluent beat. And then I got it, albeit with a weird mixture of amusement and jarring awareness. As a white woman over forty, living in a tony suburb, driving a nice car, with an adorable blond girl child in her fancy-ass car seat, the police were public servants. 

Ask any young black male or Hispanic (or better yet ask President Obama) and the police do not have the same warm fuzzies for that demographic. Power and privilege drive attitudes, which is great for the powerful and privileged, but a sorry fact of life for more vulnerable humans -- the ones most in need of protection from societal prejudices.

As old habits die hard, it still amazes me when I cross paths with a policeman on my turf and experience him as a community buddy with whom I share warm fuzzies. I'm not complaining, mind you. Just wondering when we will all be judged by our humanity and not our outward color or material trappings.


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