Monday, June 30, 2008

Is this too much to ask?

So there I was today, in the neighborhood CVS, just casually waiting in line while the lone clerk in the store rang up the lady at the head of the growing line. Off to the side of this person was a policeman, in uniform, including a gun and handcuffs, just casually looking at the 20-oz bottles of soda in a nearby refrigerator.

From the back of the store ran a girl, probably about 7 years old, to her mother, who is the aforementioned person at the head of the line.

Said mother to daughter, "did you see the cop?" as she nods in the direction of the policeman.

She may as well have said "did you know that that man is the devil and he is going to eat your heart for dinner?", given the girl's reaction, which was a fearful look at the man in uniform, an accompanying scream, and--I'm not kidding here--a full-speed retreat back to where she came from. Trust me when I say there was no playfulness in her face.

And the mother was looking on at her child with such pride.

I, on the other hand, almost threw up.

Is it too much to ask parents in this society to raise their kids with the understanding that the cops are the good guys? Or that IF you are concerned that a cop might not react to you with a smile, then there's probably something that YOU need to do to change that situation?

Seriously, given the outright fear I saw displayed in this child today, there's no way she'll ever look at a man in uniform with anything but a suspicious eye. And whereas caution MAY BE an appropriate reaction for some people to have if their jurisdiction has a history of corruption in the force (I don't think that's a problem here), I find it hard to swallow that a very very young girl's default position is that dramatic.

Such a shame, too. If this was truly the first time she'd seen a cop (she didn't recognize him standing right next to her mother, although that could have just been inattention to her surroundings), what an awesome opportunity it was to ask some good questions, the kind that only the inquisitive mind of a young child can concoct! Heck, I almost wanted to ask the guy questions, and I know quite a few folks in the law enforcement biz.

Sadly, however, that's an opportunity missed.

I hope she doesn't spend her whole life in fear of the men in uniform. It sure would be an awful dark world if you didn't think that policemen and other uniformed public servants were there to help you.


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