Opinion | Biff America: Cops and dreams
I spent much of my teenage years running from the police.
After reaching adulthood, I was honestly surprised when I learned that wasn’t the case with many of my adult friends.
It wasn’t as if I was a criminal or anything — just that my friends and I would do stuff that was “technically” illegal. Often, when that happened, someone would call the cops on us, cops would arrive, and we would run away.
And I’m not talking about “high crimes” here. I’m talking about stuff we thought was less of an offense but more a teenage inalienable right — like smoking pot or drinking beer in a park that was closed at night, having bottle rocket and egg fights or the occasional feud settled by a brawl in a vacant lot.
For the most part, we knew the cops who were chasing us. Many of them were former athletes and tough guys from our hometown. Luckily for me, most were former linemen and linebackers, and at that time, I was a current halfback, so they were easy to outrun. Plus, I don’t think they tried too hard to catch us.
While in high school, I would play handball and lift weights at the Brockton YMCA in the afternoons with some of the same cops who had chased me the night before. I recognized them, and I think they pretended not to recognize me.
Even at that young age, I think I was able to compartmentalize our roles. I was doing something I knew was illegal, and it was their job to try to stop me. It wasn’t personal. I have a vivid recollection of throwing eggs at a cop car on Halloween night, seeing that same cop the next day at the gym and giving him a “spot” while he bench pressed.
In my 20s, I will admit some of my brushes with the law were more serious. But again, I knew what I was doing and took that risk. I will also point out that I am white, middle class and not raised in the inner city. Had I not been those things, it is very likely my experiences would have been much different.
There recently was a “support our police” rally in my hometown. I do support our police in my town, county and country. In fact, I think that police and public school teachers are two of the most underpaid, yet most important, members of the workforce. But my feeling that way about the police does not lessen my belief that in many parts of the nation, there is a racial bias in policing and the judicial system. I also believe there is systemic racism in America.
I think it is just as unfair that the entire policing apparatus is judged by the acts of a small percentage of bad cops as it is the entire protest movement is judged by the acts of a small percentage of violent looters. Moreover, I think it is possible and valid to support both our police and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Such is the pity of the current political climate. Various sides have laid claim to various causes — often causes that should not be in conflict. If you didn’t know better, you would think only the right supports the police, and the left only believes that minorities are inordinately questioned, arrested, imprisoned and, in some cases, murdered by our justice system.
At the same time I might have attended the pro-police rally, I instead attended an event hosted by Mountain Dreamers, an organization that “educates and empowers everyone to stand up for immigrants’ rights.”
Readers recited heartfelt stories of the plight of immigrant children, who were brought to this country as children or infants, raised as Americans and now, as young adults, find themselves contemplating the possibility of being forced to leave the only life, nation and language, in some cases, they know, and move to a country and life of which they have no recollection. I would wager many attending one event would support the causes of the other. But I also wager fewer of them would feel comfortable doing so in public.
Categories both define and constrain us. No one group has the market cornered on patriotism, compassion and spiritualism.
So with all that said, I’d like to go on record saying I support Black Lives Matter, Dreamers and the police. At my age, I’m sure they all can out run me.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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