The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

SED QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES? : A policeman’s lot is never a happy one, as I’m sure you knew already. No sooner do all and sundry proclaim the virtues of the hero cop who single-handedly disarms a heavily armed miscreant with mayhem and larceny on his mind or solves some crime so complex that it would give Albert Einstein a mental cramp than the very same people who proclaimed his virtue on Sunday morning are denouncing him as a brutal, corrupt, racist pig on Thursday evening. The constant whipsawing between panegyrics and opprobrium can strain the nerves of many a good officer and drive him from the nuanced world of law enforcement into the Manichean arms of the fire department. Everyone loves fire fighters, after all, and the job has a clarity often missing from police work. No one, after all, thinks that pouring prodigious amounts of water on a fire violates the fire’s civil rights in some way, nor do most people care how a fire is put out so long as it is put out.

I bring this up because the local gendarmes are none too happy at the moment. The United States Department of Justice has publicly proclaimed, in a blow to the collective occupational ego, that our Finest aren’t as fine as they ought to be, what with those charges of brutality and all, and that the department’s leadership leaves something to be desired, that something being a bit ambiguous in the Justice Department’s report, but seems to rest on the belief that while Mack Sennett and his model of urban policing may have worked wonders a century ago, modern times requires the gendarmerie here to use more up to day methods of crime prevention and detection. The Feds were quick with suggestions to correct this lamentable situation, as we all are when we don’t have to pay to put the suggestions into effect, two of which are to count the number of bullets each officer goes out on patrol with and to forbid these very same officers from using their personal weapons when on official police business.

I understand the theory behind these suggestions but I must say our happy little burg will lose no small measure of sleep if the local department actually implements these ideas. The citizenry here have always slept well in their beds at night, content in the knowledge that our boys packed truly humongous heat in their squad cars. Heavy machine guns, assault rifles, and the odd RPG or two all went into the mix that protected the law-abiding citizen of our happy little burg from miscreants, malcontents, and feral Nutmeggers.

Nutmeggers, you ask? Yes indeed, Nutmeggers; the line between civilization and barbarity is not that far away from us. You may find this hard to credit, but our happy little burg is a sea of tranquility, only without the lunar lander and the rest of the junk we left up there, but it is a tenuous tranquility at best, bought with eternal vigilance and box tops. The river forms the natural line of defense between the depredations of the Nutmeggers and our town, and we are on the wrong side of the river, you see. We stand upon the eastern shore, on the same side as these heathen savages, with only a bridge to get the women and children away should all our strength come to naught and the Nutmeggers break in upon us. And directly across the river from us, well, the less said the better of that slough of urban despond. Should the Nutmeggers attack we cannot expect any assistance from those sloughers, who will hem and haw and wonder what the sack of our happy little burg has to do with them; some of them will, no doubt, allow themselves a schadenfreudenous cackle of glee as they contemplate our predicament.

So between the Nutmeggers waiting for their chance to charge across the border to sack and pillage the local malls stand our brave (and heavily armed) boys in blue and the mountains that have always guarded us. These mountains were once taller than the Himalayas in the halcyon days of the silent era, but after The Jazz Singer came out, that was that, the end of a long and distinguished career. The mountains, like Moses, were slow of speech and spoke with an odd sort of accent, as though they were trying to recite Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner with a heavy cold while a half-mad duckling tried to hatch in their throats, and after a while they couldn’t even get character parts. So they got out of the business entirely; half of show business is knowing when to make a graceful exit, they say; and wound up in the military after Pearl Harbor. Today the mountains form the glacis that protects this our demi-paradise from the envy of less happy lands, especially the blighted universe of the Nutmeggers.

The mountains can’t do it alone, of course, not in our modern age where occupational specialization is the order of the day, and the gendarmerie must do their parts, as they always do. As I mentioned before, we sleep well here knowing that our local patrolmen has everything they need to send the weasel Nutmegger coming over the border, playing the mouse in the absence of the cat, scurrying back to their stinking hellholes posthaste and yelping in pain. Nutmeggers are an unusually scurvy crew of knaves, much given to giving their children silly nicknames, raising tobacco from the dead, and restoring early 20th century neo-Jungian archetypewriters to their original condition. A rum lot at the best of times, as I’m sure you’ll agree, and entirely untrustworthy. A civilized person can scarcely imagine the orgy of rapine and pillage that would befall us if the local gendarmes, the same lads that the Feds would disarm over some perceived laxity with firearms, did not maintain their eternal vigilance, so if they want to carry some extra weaponry the more power to them, I say.

I am sure that there are some here who will support the Feds’ position; the last Nutmegger raid was a while ago and most people only remember dangers while they are still fresh in their minds. These are the same people who will tell you that there was never really much of a problem to begin with, that the whole issue got blown out of proportion by people who should have known better, and that if we understood the Nutmeggers better then we would all get along like so many pickles in a jar. Such foolish attitudes invariably create fresh disasters; these people will sing a different tune when Nutmegger border ruffians burn their houses to the ground and steal their daughters away across the border and force them into concubinage. Then there will be regrets galore and I’ll enjoy saying I told you so; for an otherwise counterproductive emotion schadenfreude certainly feels good, like your first bite of an especially rich and creamy chocolate bar.

I will not argue that some of our local police officers use their weapons, official and unofficial, in an inappropriate manner; I think we can all do without them shooting out the electrical transformers just because they explode in a tremendous shower of sparks, leaving our demi-paradise in the dark for weeks at a time, and I will certainly agree that mowing down a peaceable citizen for the crime of dunking a jelly doughnut, the jelly being either strawberry or raspberry—the reports are unclear at this time—into a cup of decaf coffee with two sugars and just enough half and half to turn the coffee a darkish khaki color was an overreaction on the officers’ part, understandable as such a reaction might be to the discerning connoisseur of coffee and doughnuts. One must say in the officers’ defense, however, that the misguided citizen chose to abuse a doughnut in a Dunkin Donuts full of police officers, thereby provoking the reaction he faced, and that he will recover nicely, according to the last press reports, just as soon as the doctors finish stitching him back together again. Perhaps the offending officers did what they did because the doughnut in question was a jelly doughnut and that there might have been a different reaction had the doughnut in question been cinnamon or even a cruller. I hope not; this sort of privileging one doughnut over another smacks of racism of the worst sort and has no place in modern American policing.


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