Not to Be-Labor the Point

white lion in repose

On Friday night as I got ready for bed I looked out the bedroom window and thought to myself, “Wow. Three whole days.” It seemed like a long time then, but now we are nearly finished with day two, it seems to be going by very quickly. It may be the start of Meteorological Autumn, but in North Central Texas, it’s still most definitely summer. My dogs and I discovered this today as we went on a lovely walk in the park this morning. I waited til about 9:30, and kept insisting that I was going “before it got too hot.” It was already hot. Not dangerously so, but not a lovely spring walk. We only saw two other dogs there today, one was a precious black Lab puppy, maybe eight weeks old. He went the other way. The other was a white toy poodle mix who was with a Frisbee golfer who was playing alone.

I have unfairly characterized the park we walked in this morning as lacking in comparison to the park Abigail (our older dog, 7) and I used to walk in. The trail is not very long, but being a person who always tries, and sometimes succeeds, to find the good in everything and everyone. The park has some good hills-better for my ham hocks (yes, I know they are really hamstrings.) But even better, today I realized I can leave the dogs off leash for most of the walk. The trail is all dirt, which means there are no bicyclists to put at risk with dogs running back and forth from side to side. The dogs get more exercise that way, but so do I. I can keep a steady pace when I don’t keep having to give them a minute to do dog stuff. Win-win. Leo is free to chase the rare rabbit coming out to taunt him, Abigail can go to check out other sounds and smells, which is why she has actually caught a rabbit and a couple of birds and Leo hasn’t.

With our very wet spring I thought we wouldn’t have quite the infestation of grasshoppers as usual. That has been true in the neighborhood, but there were thousands on the trail this morning. They would jump on me, be confused by my sweaty arms, then jump back into the tall grass and wild summer flora, making almost enough noise that I was afraid Leo would think there were rabbits in them tall weeds. Mostly the dogs wanted to get to a part of the creek they could get into easily and drink, and sit to cool their tummies. This creek is very rocky, I’m sure it’s man made, and the water is very, very clear. Maybe it’s they summer heat clearing out microscopic microbes, but it’s not smelly like the creeks we played in as kids.

There must be a large contingent of Frisbee golfers in our town, because that is what the trail has intermittently along is Frisbee golf goals, or whatever they are called. The most people I ever see on the trail playing that game. They will sometimes pet the dogs, and we go on. I do miss the other walkers, some with dogs, and some without. Walkers are consistently (in my experience) the friendlier people on the trails. They always seem to be happy to see someone else walking, and are almost always friendly. Runners will grunt acknowledgment, and bicyclists are not often friendly. I do understand they are trying to avoid injury or damage to their bikes by not getting tangled with dogs. But I stand by my judgment on their friendliness.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a very wet spring. In early summer this year we had some of the worst mosquito numbers I’ve seen. But when cities began finding West Nile Virus in the standing water they sprayed and the mosquitoes disappeared, only to be replaced by a horror movie quantity of flies. Now the flies seem to be gone, and a few mosquitoes are coming back. On Friday as I got ready for work there was one buzzing around me, and then it landed on the mirror. For some reason, it is always easy for me to get one if it’s on the mirror. Smash!!! Does the reflection confuse them? Why exactly is that?

The White Lion has a sad conundrum. My brother has been a police officer for twenty-six years. He’s a good cop. He’s never shot anyone, and he really cares about ethics in his profession, and he is unafraid of prosecution of any officer who breaks the law or oversteps his bounds. He and I are also very open about the things on which we disagree, such as pretty much everything political. But as an unapologetic liberal. the killing of young black men by police officers has disturbed me, but left me struggling with what side to take. At a recent family gathering I asked him if we could talk privately, and I asked him his take. At first he was defensive, but after many assurances that I didn’t mean the question from the position of an enemy,  he was able to talk about it with me in a rational way, though just like in the medical profession, the legal profession, and many others, he wanted to take the side of police officers in most of those cases. More than anything he wishes the public could realize how very little a cell phone video really shows. For one thing, no one turns on the video until he/she thinks there is something going on. By that time, in the situation at hand, a lifetime of events have occurred that would tell the story more completely. I’m not sure if it is even possible for our minds to grasp that concept in our excessively connected, stimulation rich society. Tales can’t be told backwards, and by the time there lies a dead man on the ground, the story is being filmed in reverse. It is still clear to me that in some of these cases, the police were wrong. Dead wrong. Shooting an unarmed man in the back as he runs away, then trying to change his position and plant a taser on him has no “two sides” to tell. That is crime/murder by police. Some of the other stories aren’t so clear. And I realize everyone of these stories must be taken on a case by case basis, and in some the police should be convicted, and in some they should be exonerated. The public at large is not qualified to judge these, and in most cases the juries have more evidence available that the national public does. Both the Ferguson, Missouri review and the Federal Department of Justice found that Michael Brown was at fault in that shooting, not Officer Darren Wilson. This case is still being used by protesters and talking heads in the opinion business are using that tragedy as a flash point for racial relations in this country.

There is no doubt in my mind that racism is still a festering sore in this country. No group wants to cede power when they have had it unquestioned for centuries. It is visible in access to opportunity, in the treatment of many black people in public settings, retail stores, hailing a cab, etc. But we are evolving as a nation, and all reports I’ve read say that the current generation of young adults really have no problem with people of other races. I knew early on (when busing was suggested) that it would start changing with young people. If one grows up with all kinds of people, one develops that tribal connection based on other things.

But the recent spate of killings of police officers is different. Whether we know the whole story or not, there is a reason that there is police contact in the situations that too often lead to the tragic death of an unarmed teenager. But these police killings keep happening when the human being who happens to wear a uniform are nothing but executions. The two in New York city who were eating in their squad car, the one who was pumping gas, were not involved in any kind of public contact, good or bad. These are also husbands, fathers, sons; human beings who did not deserve to be murdered in cold blood. The torture-murder of the police officer in Abilene, TX, we don’t know if the timing was coincidental, but he was not killed in the line of duty. Nor was the man in Illinois who was killed last week.

It seems to me an almost trite, knee jerk reaction to talk about the tragedy of the murder of anyone, to say that we acknowledge that “most policemen are not bad people.” But just as Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and so many others were given the benefit of the doubt until the evidence was in, these murder victims who happen to be killed because they chose the wrong career for that particular day, deserve the same. They are victims. Whoever shot them is criminal and should be tried by a jury of their peers in order to determine their guilt or innocence.

In the meantime, it makes me feel better to know that my brother, the only one I have, doesn’t have to wear a blue uniform in the job he has now.