The Police States of America.
I was walking down High Street in Columbus, Ohio with my friend Jeff, a tall, lanky young man with pale skin, a light, scraggly beard and three year’s growth of long, tangled dreadlocks. I was railing against the American police state as we went, when we passed a dense line gathered outside of the Newport Concert Hall. The sidewalk was blocked, and with no traffic in the immediate vicinity I stepped 6 inches into the street and walked around the crowd before returning to the sidewalk.
A moment later, a police cruiser pulled up beside me and the passenger side window rolled down.
“Hey! Come over here!” I heard a voice from inside the cruiser.
“Yeah?” I asked, looking into the vehicle and seeing a young cop with blonde hair, cold grey eyes and an arrogant smirk across his face. “You need to talk to me, man?”
“Yeah, I need to talk to you,” he said, spitting out the final word with surprising contempt. “What were you doing walking in the middle of the road?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, almost thinking that he was joking. I looked back at the broad line outside of the concert hall and pointed in that direction.
“Uhh, there’s a long line over there,” I remarked. “I had to go around it.”
“Look, there’s a half ton vehicle coming right at you and you just step right out in front of it. Why did you do that? You could get hit or cause someone to wreck cause’ you’re walkin’ in the street… huh?! Why did you do that?!”
I suddenly realized that he wasn’t joking at all, and eyed him a bit more closely, noting his short posture and squirrel-like disposition. He didn’t seem to be under the influence of any drugs, at least none other than a notion of power and invulnerability to the law.
I looked back at the concert hall and almost laughed at the ridiculousness of his accusation.
“Huh?’ he continued somewhat incoherently. “Why did you do that…? Now apologize. Excuse yourself for walking in front of me.”
I shook my head in disbelief and looked back at the crowd one more time, now with an uneasy grin. Deep anger swelled up in my chest and I felt like just ignoring him and walking away, but he continued berating me.
“Excuse yourself,” he went on with a contemptuous smirk. “Say you’re sorry.”
I leered back at him, but remained silent. I contemplated my recent encounters with Columbus police, including an outrageously expensive open-container charge a few weeks before, and wondered if my basic civil liberties were more important than my economic and legal well-being.
As I stood on the sidewalk glaring into his jaunty, despicable eyes, a large police truck pulled up beside the squad car, and I watched nervously as they conversed for a moment. Now three of “Columbus’ finest” were blocking all northward traffic on High Street, the main north-south route through the city, and I wondered how far the situation would escalate. Finally, after their cross-car conference, they all turned their eyes to me, and the original “peace officer” spoke up again.
“Excuse yourself,” he repeated for the last time. “Then you can go.”
“Excuse me… I’m sorry,” I said with a disgust that I had never felt for four words spoken together in my life.
He nodded and both cars drove away, and I turned bitterly to Jeff.
“They’re such fucking assholes,” Jeff said, his jaw slackened in surprise at what he had just witnessed.
“Yeah, man,” I said, feeling suddenly sick to my stomach. “Fucking pigs.”
As we walked further down the road, frequently jay-walking, I contemplated what America had become. No where else I had been in the world had I been threatened, harassed or insulted by those in “authority” the way I had in the United States. However, as we continued, I found some peace within the bitterness that churned in my belly. Arrogance is the sin most effectively punished by karma, and I had no doubt that anyone who behaved in such a way would be held accountable in one respect or another, even if it’s just having to look in the mirror every day and realize his own worthlessness.
Later that night, as I lie in the back of my van, I contemplated the absurdity of the society around me. In a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country, where rapes, muggings, break-ins, and all sorts of violent crime are ever more commonplace and there is a growing movement of tent-cities of the poor and displaced, the government spends immense resources to equip, train, and pay an incredibly corrupt and delinquent police force that spreads more fear and hate than justice.
Leaving Columbus was once again the best experience I could muster in that forlorn dumpster of a city.
[_Editor: whereas America is one of the worst places to go to jail, it ought to be mentioned that American cops are angels compared to the police in places like India or the Ukraine]