Wake Up

One of the greatest things about youth is a feeling of invincibility. Energy and agility are two things heavily in your favor. You feel like you can stop on a dime and give up change. You begin to get out and see some of the world and it’s all in your hip pocket. An event will then come along and strongly suggest you pump your brakes.

My wake up call took place when I was about 16. I had just overcome my “gump” phase (see nerd). I was hanging with the best of the band members going to picnics and ride-outs to Belle Isle. Somebody mentioned an abandoned mansion down by the river that just might be haunted. I don’t remember the first time we hung out down there but I’ll never forget the last. Ignoring the no trespassing signs we had at least a dozen of the crew on this night. Underneath the huge pipe organ in what had to be the ballroom we drank beer and smoked weed. “Cops!”

The proverbial jig had risen. We made a mad dash to just get the hell out of there and people ran all types of whichway. A large group left the property but I was in another group that felt hiding in the tall brush was sufficient. The feeling was the cops wouldn’t see us and continue on their way. Laying face down in the scratchy grass I heard a click right next to my ear followed by the words, “You move you a dead motherfucker!” I thought it sounded like a gun. What am I, in a movie?

About 5 of us were corralled into a clearing lined up side by side. The cops were behind us and we all thought we were about to be shot in the ass. One of my legs couldn’t stop shaking while the cops took their time scaring the shit out of us.

“What are you DOING HERE?!
“Clearly marked PRIVATE PROPERTY.”
“You wanna GO TO JAIL?!”

Oh no, this simply could not be happening. In no way did I want to go to the big house. I begged my leg not to buckle and my bowels not to vacate. The cops shined flashlights on our butts and snickered. If this scene had been photographed the caption would have read: “Dear sweet Jesus, let me out of this mess and I will never get in trouble again.”

We were let go when the cops felt we had been sufficiently spooked. I have not had a run in with the cops since.

William Stephenson

Good Cop Bad Cop

Good Cop, Bad Pop

Nowadays, it seems cop dramas are unavoidable if you’re turning on the TV. Perhaps it’s the sensationalism that explains why we are so inundated with these kinds of TV shows; the more dramatic and shocking, the less the producers have to worry about the quality of writing or acting.

These programs also have constructed a sort of mega-masculine archetype of the male cops. They embody a lot of the aspects of what our society holds to be important in a man: righteous at any cost, strong, a real “individual” who puts his position of “protector” above all else, including his family or romantic life.

A clear example of this kind of cop is Jimmy McNulty of The Wire, portrayed by Dominic West. He has trouble following direction, which is both a liability and an asset at times because he will investigate off a “hunch” and ignore the bureaucracy that is often an obstacle to solving crimes. The viewer roots for him, a typical anti-hero character that has been enhanced greatly due to West’s acting and the series’ writing. As the show goes on, his personal life unravels but he becomes more and more determined to bust a drug ring even at the expense of his career and relationships with both his children and women.

At one point, he sees one of the suspects when he is out with his two boys, and he takes the children on a stakeout. It’s clear at this point that he has focused all of himself on catching the drug lords and not on being a father. Besides the questions of safety arising from taking his kids on a stakeout, the scenario also shows that even on his time off, he prefers seeking justice to being with his children.

The Killing, a more recent show, has a similar detective to McNulty, Sarah Linden (portrayed by Mireille Enos). She is also a parent and puts her pursuit of justice before raising her son. Neither she nor McNulty are emotionally available to their children or anyone else, really. Her character is what would be considered more typically “masculine” in our society–mostly fearless, unable to connect to people, and a workaholic. Obviously, these characteristics are not exclusively male, but they are more traditionally thought to be so.

The similarities between these characters are staggering. They put their jobs before their relationships, they can’t emotionally connect to their children, and they use sex as one of the few ways they can relate to others. Yet there’s something we hold so sacred in motherhood that makes Linden’s neglect come across as much more terrible. Granted, she began the show with full custody of her boy, which makes a difference as McNulty never had full custody. However, even when her child’s father (rightfully so) intervenes and takes him, there’s a residual sense of her wronging her son that isn’t as strong as the feeling of McNulty and his equally half-assed parenting. Seems to me, there is something so intrinsically important about having an involved mother, and I’m not sure if that’s an entirely misogynistic point of view. On one hand, the irreplaceable value of motherhood is shown, but on the other hand, there’s a message the most important thing a woman can do is to become a parent, and every other part of her life should take a backseat, always.

I wish we felt the same way about fatherhood that we do about motherhood. To see the value in both roles, and not let the roles define a person. Some people are not meant to be parents, and yet they are. When it is a woman letting down her child; however, it affects us more than an absent father. Rather than lowering the stakes on mothering so that it “equals” out, I think we need to hold the fathers in our society more accountable for themselves. Parents should also know that while being a parent is a very important role, it isn’t their only role in life because someday their children will grow up, and they will need lives of their own.