It was July 4th, in Lakeville, Minnesota. We had just been witness to the worst fireworks show since Christopher Columbus arrived on our fair shores, the natives celebrating with their Gattling guns, shooting glittered cherry pits into the air, peppering the smelly white folk with scented ash (hey…if David Barton can embellish history, I can too!).
We had a long walk back to the car. Two blocks, that is. Long Lakeville blocks. Traffic was everyone, everyone trying at once to get back home, faster than the next person. At 10:30PM on a Monday night, who wouldn’t want to be home faster than everyone else?
Police whistles cut the air and hurt your ears, the closer you came to an intersection. As we waited at the corner, Fred (11) watched with pure happiness on his face, as the officers waved their lighted wands, directing traffic against the lights. Then, they let us go, whistling unnecessarily, somewhat irritable.
Stepping off the curb onto the street, Fred stumbled over the feet of the crowd, making sure to continually catch a glimpse of the officers with every step he took. Pure joy was on his face.
“Daddy, I’m going to be a cop when I grow up, so I can do that.”
I bristled. A cop? You mean that police force that feels as if they’re on the clock when they encounter someone with a mental health condition? You mean the officers that treat me like a criminal during a simple traffic stop? You mean those men in blue that spout racist comments on social media, even encouraging people to run over protesters and activists calling for equal justice and actual due process, as afforded by our Constitution? You mean the men and women who sit on top of defenseless human being, citizens with every right to exist, and shoot them in the back? You mean those?
But I didn’t say that. I looked at my son and saw a generation of rebirth. One cog in the wheel of changing the system that my generation is attempting to start for him. He would have the opportunity to be a foot soldier in a new era of policing. One with recognition of rights and equality. One with empathy, sense of community, restraint, trustworthiness, yes, even love.
“Which kind? A good cop or a bad cop?”
With a look of utter disdain, side-eyeballing me with deep suspicion, wondering why the hell I have the audacity to question his character, he muttered under his breath, “You know the one, of course.”
I tousled his hair as we stepped up on the curb on the other side of the street, hoping the system won’t get to him before he brings hell to them.