Friday, July 22, 2005

Going to Hell in the proverbial handbasket

What does that mean, anyway? OK. I know what it means. But whence cometh such an odd phrase? Googled the phrase and no one else seems to know the derivation, either. Apparently, going to heaven in a handbasket happened first, though.

I can't imagine using such transportation for either trip, though. Makes me think of Dorothy coming home from Oz in the balloon. She did come home in a hot-air balloon, didn't she? Out here in the Midwest, everything is hot, so such a mistake would be easy to make right about now.

The local news is hot, too. Last week, we had the
Meeks mini-scandal , where a local pastor and state Senator had a gun pulled on him during a traffic stop. Meeks being black and the cop being white, this quickly became something racial. Short story appears to be that Meeks' car pulled around the cop, the cop pulled Meeks' car over, Meeks got out of the car and was immediately told to "get the bleep back into the car". Meeks identified himself, to no avail, as the police officer than pulled and pointed his gun, acknowledging who Meeks was and telling Meeks to return to the vehicle.

Much whoha in the press, much talk radio talk. Much talk about proper conduct for motorists pulled over by cops. Much talk about proper conduct of cops. In the end, I'm not sure what to make of it all. Local columnist Mary Mitchell said the police officer's behavior toward a black man getting out of the car at night during a routine traffic stop indicated a lack of respect. I don't know.

I'm totally with her on the swearing and waving a gun part. That's swaggery and stupid. Is it common sense among cops that it helps make a traffic stop go well to yell fuck and wave guns? Wouldn't staying calm and respect have a better shot of engendering calm and respectfulness? Clean up your act, police officers.

But ordering Meeks to get back into the car? That's common sense, as far as I'm concerned. City traffic stops are dangerous for cops. Isn't that common knowledge, for those of us who are in the city? I just don't get the attitude that it's ok to hop out of your car, approach the police car, announce you're a state official and pastor, and expect a conversation. Why couldn't Meeks have a conversation from the back seat of the car with his hands placed where the cop could see them, as anyone else would do? Getting out of the car seems a bit swaggery and stupid on Meeks' part, too.

Would this have happened if it were, say, Don Harmon, white state Senator from Oak Park? I dunno. Frankly, I doubt it. I really want to believe that it would come down exactly the same way. But I doubt it. I think there'd be a calmer and much more respectful approach toward the Senator, even if he were directed to return to his vehicle.And how wrong is that? Really wrong.

In one of her
columns, Mary Mitchell said "People of goodwill know that something is terribly wrong in our city when a prominent black man cannot get out of his car and explain himself during a traffic stop." Well, duh. Something IS terribly wrong in our city. We have lots of crime, some of it directed at cops, who risk their lives to protect us. And we have lots of cops, some of whom are dirty and foul and racist, mocking the very oath they take to risk their lives to protect us. All of us.

Why can't the cops clean themselves up? Why don't white people get as angry as African Americans do when racism persists? Why do we tolerate it in a profession that must have trust from the public to protect it?

And why can't we clean ourselves up? Why don't we get as angry as cops do when one of their own is shot? Why do we tolerate crime against the very profession that needs our cooperation in order to do their job?

I don't know.

Until tomorrow,


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