A few years ago, I left the town I grew up in and moved far away, leaving behind a number of siblings. All were (at that time) wonderful people -- kind, generous, great people. Shortly before we left, my younger sister announced that she was going to fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer and enrolled in a police academy.
During my stay away from home, I noticed my sister beginning to change when we would speak on the telephone; her attitudes were hardening toward "civilians." She began referring to people as "males" and "females" in casual conversation; she actually referred to a friend of mine who she has known for years as being a "black female." I told her how disturbing I found this to be, but she responded by brushing it off, telling me not to worry, she was just feeling the stresses of her new life.
Now, I've moved back to my home state, and I am absolutely horrified at what she has become. She is a sheriff's deputy now, putting in her obligatory years working as a guard in the county lockup. She is engaged to another police officer who works in the same jail. Cary, she has become, for lack of a better word, a monster. She has no patience any longer for any civil or human right of anyone who breaks the law; everyone who even is questioned by the police is just automatically a lifetime criminal. She packs a pistol in her belt and another one on her ankle everywhere she goes -- church, our parents' house and elsewhere. Everything you fear about the Patriot Act comes to life in her. For the sake of space, I won't repeat the things I've heard her say -- but you, and your readers, can just imagine your worst cop nightmare coming to life.
So my question is this: How do I love my sister even though she has become what I fear and loathe the most? She is a monster cop; I am ... well, I'm not. I've never been so disappointed in my life. Should I give her more credit for the life she leads? In her defense, she is exposed to some of the worst things society has to offer.
Name Withheld for Fear of Recrimination
Dear Name Withheld,
Man, that's a tough one.
Best I can figure, siblings want to differentiate, but it gets out of control. It's almost like they pick the one thing they know will drive their siblings bananas, and then they do it -- with glee!
This is just my layman's observation, you understand, but people who seek that kind of power in society, police power, it seems to me -- and this is admittedly pretty predictable and possibly a crude stereotype -- that sometimes they're really wounded and vulnerable and hurt, but all they show us is anger and aggression and emotional armor. I see cops who are so bulked up, it's as though they were wearing suits of armor. Sure, you need a suit of armor if you're going into battle. But was it going into battle that called for that suit of armor? Or was the suit of armor what they needed in the first place, and being a cop was a way of justifying a certain approach to the world? Does their work make them that way? I imagine it's a little of both.
Granted, I'm just an ex-hippie looking at cops and not knowing anything about the cop life, so no disrespect is meant. I've just never really gotten to know a single cop well. That kind of sucks when you think about it. But I've never worked the cop beat and it just seems as if not many cops play in rock bands or work at alternative weeklies, so where were we going to meet, except on the street as I'm being dragged away?
There should be more mixing of occupational categories, so we get to understand one another better. And also I guess, OK, truth be told, I wasn't always so law-abiding, so I've got an instinctive wariness about people who have the power to put me in jail.
Also, there are no cops in my family. So I fit the liberal stereotype of somebody who doesn't know anything about cops or the cop life.
I'm just laying my cards on the table. I'd be as baffled as you are.
And how about the routine reduction of people to their race and gender? Isn't that weird? And the whole kind of antiseptic, clinical language of cops. Again, in the environment that police work in, I'm sure it makes sense to use these terms, for a variety of reasons -- to not personalize things, to keep to the facts, to avoid racial stereotyping and name-calling. But when you start to refer to your friends as, like, Caucasian male of medium build, Caucasian female in red windbreaker, it's weird. Way weird.
Well, our families will always surprise us, that's for sure.
It's as if siblings sit around dreaming up the one thing they can do that will completely dumbfound you. And then they do it and act like it's the most normal thing in the world. So you feel a little crazy for even thinking that it's weird.
So what can I tell you that might make life easier for you? I guess you just accept that this is what your sister is doing and she's fulfilling a useful purpose in society and we need cops and we just don't usually figure that certain people are going to go the direction they go, but more power to them if they do. You could get into a whole analysis of state power and creeping fascism, which is fine if you want, but I don't think it's going to change your sister.
Families are so full of secrets and confusion and misunderstandings; she may have all kinds of reasons that she will never articulate. That has been my experience, anyway -- that when people take a certain path, when they wall themselves off like that, well, you could camp out on her doorstep for years waiting for an explanation and never really get what you're looking for.
Which is what, incidentally? That's sort of the bottom line here. What do you want, concretely, from her? Why don't you really seriously ask yourself that. Do you want an explanation? Do you want to know if she still loves you? Do you want to be able to kid around with her like you used to? Do you want her approval? Do her actions indicate a disregard for your viewpoint?
Answer these questions for yourself. Say to yourself, This is what I'm wanting from my sister.
And then admit it: Too bad, I'm not going to get it. That's the way the world goes.
And just let it go.
You sure as hell can't change people. They get these notions and they set off on something and that's that. You're just another civilian!
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What? You want more?