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Friday, November 9, 2018

Familiarity Breeds Taffy Love

In the last few blogs I have discussed my relationship with my surrogate children.  I will tell you quite frankly my mission was not to demand they see me as a disciplinarian nor, for that matter, as a authoritarian.  For me the path to influence was to hope and pray that they see me primarily as a reliable source of support.  (Lucky for me, this proved to be far more than a pocket-book issue.) 

Once a large group of my kids became a huge challenge in their Sunday school class.  In desperation, the male teacher ask me to sit in hoping that they would settle down a bit to the serious matter of being inculcated with Judeo-Christian values.  I attended and nothing whatever changed.  It was utter bedlam.  The teacher looked at me incredulous that I did not lower the boom.  Here again we return to equilibrium mathematics. 

My intention was to introduce them to a different type of authority than that which ground them in the dirt day-after day.  Of course, I speak of the larger society, not the bedrock love they found at home.  I wanted them most essentially to associate authority with spiritual, moral, and, yes personalized material support.  The elixir that would make this possible must be “bubbly,” NOT “brittle.”  This ruled out many somber endeavors that are standard issue castor oil treatments for the disadvantaged.  To put it bluntly, I wanted them to have fun, and luckily for me, it was a favor they wanted to return….oh, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It seems to me that equality combined with a sense of fun all round surely helps the medicine go down.

This morning very early I had breakfast at IHOP.  I sat next a black family.  Needing to elevate my foot, I ask the young black man (maybe in mid-twenties) at the adjoining table if I could use a chair next him.  He said sure, he got up and even positioned the chair under my leg…and then went to a third table to replace the chair he had given me.  Unbeknownst to me, there was another member of his party that would eventually return.  I thanked the whole table and remarked I moved to St Pete in the 70’s and was always impressed by how blacks always treated me as an equal.  They expressed appreciation, but the young man grimly expressed frustration with the attitude of the police.  (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that very same complaint.)  The family left before me as they apparently had arrived well before me.  I was finishing up and two police officers skirted past two chairs near the entrance to indicate an area of tables unused at that early hour.  The walked all way to the front windows of the restaurant and sat down (it was still dark outside.)

After a while I walked over to greet them and apologized for interrupting what no doubt was a valuable repast of peace and quiet as well nourishment.  On my inquiry, they told me they were midway though their shift. I asked if I may ask a few questions, but at any time feel free to tell me to leave.  I mentioned the attitude I generally found in the black community and contrasted that to how we feel when I see a police cruiser parked at church on Sunday.  I said we understand that the church is paying for the presence of-- bottom line--the Sword of the State, yet we generally perceive the officer as a provider of an important public service role involving an overall feeling for us of security and well-being.  The two found no easy answer for this phenomenon.  Understanding they were “off the clock” and how pissed I’d be if during a precious lunch hour a customer bent my ear, I retreated.

Yet I thought how nice it would be if the police could just for an hour, take the starch out of their clothes and let the public see them sitting at the next table telling stories, laughing out loud, maybe now and then having some food drop on the front of their uniform or accidentally turning over a glass of water--  Not being “apart, beyond. And alone” might be just the ticket for everybody—including the police themselves.  As unwise as this may sound, when in the community I would like to see them address other citizens as equals (yet, of course, like everyone else, having a job to do) and—lord forbid—learn how to spice their job with a little pep and spirit.

(I am sure that most of us have tried that little experiment in which we intentionally and arbitrarily fly off-the-handle in anger for 30 seconds or so, only to find that a rather weird and frighteningly easily produced mood change has crept pervasively and forebodingly over us.)

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