Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hanging Up on the FOP (The Fraternal Order of Police) [20 June 2013]

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      I've made phone calls for political campaigns, and I may've got drafted once or twice to phone people soliciting money for charities (I have a vague memory of participating in some sort of charity telethon.) Anyway, I've been on the other end of the line, so I try to be at least polite to people who call me for political campaigns, political causes, or charities.

      And it's been easier to be polite lately, since I turned off the ringer on my landline and rarely talk to solicitors.

     I answered the phone yesterday afternoon, though — say about 4:30 Pacific Daylight-Savings Time — and I wasn't exactly rude, but I was curt; and I wondered why I was curt.

     The conversation went something like, "Mumble mumble" on the other end as I picked up the phone, and I gave my usual greeting, "Rich Erlich here. How may I help you?" The voice on the line told me that the speaker was from the Fraternal Order of Police and that the call would be recorded and was that okay? And I mumbled a kind of minimal "no objection" to being recorded and then paused and said, "I'm hanging up now. Have a nice day" — and I was as sincere about "Have a nice day" as I usually am, or a bit more so. (This was on a Wednesday, so I wouldn't do my more generous variation on the theme with "Have a good weekend" or "Have a good week.")

     But I've been wondering, why, this time, did I hang up?

     In part it's because something good happened: after four years of trying, off and on, I was able to renegotiate my mortgage loan, which means I could finally just about finish the work on my retirement condo, which meant that I took the call outside a kitchen where they'd just finished the "demolition" stage, and I really don't like mess, and, because of the destruction, I didn't get my nap.

     (Since at least college — for sure since my master's year when I was 22 or so — I've slept four to seven hours a night but took a nap each afternoon, although for much of my working career I'd do afternoon Transcendental Meditation and then fall asleep: good Puritan-derived Americans will wake one from a nap but usually won't disturb meditation.)

     Anyway, my apartment was a mess; I hadn't had my nap, and I was cranky. That had to be part of it.

     Still, I'm cranky fairly often and don't get curt with people; more was involved.

     Another part had to be that the call was to be recorded. For a long time, I'd stopped telephone solicitors who told me our conversation would be or could be monitored and tell them, "Call me back on an untapped line." I stopped doing that because most of the calls I got were recorded and because most came from commercial phone banks and I didn't want to add to the misery of young workers trapped in pretty bad jobs. Still, with all the recent to-do about electronic spying by NSA et al., I may go to "Get back to me in an untapped medium" — and I certainly was in no mood to have my call monitored by any organization related to the police powers of the State.

     Another contributor to my curtness was that the call — monitored or not was from the Fraternal Order of Police, and I feel ambivalent about cops.

     First off here, the guy calling me sounded like a cop and like a post-1970 cop. I.e., there was something of the Cadet-Lt.-Douglas-C.-Niedermeyer sound: the last time I heard a voice quite like that, it was ordering me to fall in. I don't feel ambivalent about the militarization of US police departments: I'm against it.

     The second-off reason is even more personal. I'm currently relatively well-to-do as the world goes; I went from being young and small and relatively weak to being old and even smaller — the discs in my spine are less than they once were, and at least one is gone — and a potential target. I won't keep a gun, so I depend on the cops for protection (well, and a couple serious knives). And a member of the Indiana Highway Patrol once saved me serious inconvenience and just possibly a lot worse: he ordered some toll-takers to let me into their building to call for aid when my car threw a rod on the Indiana turnpike during a blizzard.

     Still, the one time I was beaten up as a kid there were no cops around, and the couple times I was seriously physically threatened — I didn't and don't take seriously the 1970 death-threat from the Minutemen — the two times I was seriously threatened, the threats came from cops.

     I was at Michigan Avenue and Balbo Drive in Chicago in the summer of 1968 when the police riot started, and I was on the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois and demonstrating against the Vietnam War fairly regularly in 1970, when the Illinois State Police occupied us, with name tags removed and riot batons at the ready. (We welcomed the Illinois National Guard as actual keepers of the peace.)

     I have forgiven the police I encountered — although not the segregation enforcers from the Black Civil Rights struggle — and I hope a number have forgiven me for what they probably still see as treason; but few have forgotten, and I certainly am not among those few.

And such experiences affect one's attitude and actions.

     Although the effects can get complicated: One of the results of my bad experience with cops in "the long 1960s" was making sure I had an "FOP Donor" sticker on my car bumper, next to the Left-wing or liberal bumper stickers.

     Insurance, so to speak.

     I purchased such FOP stickers a couple cars ago, however, and prior to the data deluge that includes appeals from worthy causes stuffed in my physical and computer mailboxes and my increasingly anxious search to find appeals for my money and time I can ignore.

     So, I'm neutral on police officers feeling an emotion we need a term for in English: I don't like cops, but neither do I dislike cops. I appreciate the work they do, and never yelled, "Kill the pigs!" or allowed unremarked slurs against the police in my presence. The Peace Party line was that military people and the cops were potential allies and not to be attacked or even spoken against harshly, and I agreed with the figurative Party line. Still, I also appreciate the dangerous work of fishermen and miners, and I'll contribute to Amnesty International, United Farm Workers, and Juvenile Diabetes Foundation before I send a check for fishing families or the United Mine Workers — and I'll probably contribute to the UMW before the FOP. 

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