Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Noose Around Their Necks

Grant mentioned recently that he would like to see some of my police experiences written about in this space.
So much is remembered and could be discussed. Most of it is interesting to me, but also often scary or even grim for the casual reader.
In order to make such a recounting meaningful it is helpful (I think) to draw a parallel between a story and a cultural or social situation. In that way maybe the story has some thought value beyond “hey, here is a police story.”
The story below will attempt to draw a line between the story and the current illegal immigrant discussion, though the line may wave and weave along the way. In fact it may actually disappear, though I will focus on keeping it visible.

I was on patrol when the dispatcher radioed to me that she needed help back at the station. Her explanation was that an inmate in our municipal jail was trying to kill himself. Her job duty meant never going outside her control room and certainly never entering the jail block under any circumstance. However, one of our incarcerated was banging on his cell door and yelling at her to have someone stop this suicide attempt.
I drew the black bean on this one simply because I happened to be the senior statesman out on the streets at that moment.
I tried to calm her down and told her I would be back there to the jail in a jiffy. When I arrived she explained the situation and buzzed the cell block door open for me. Going into a cell block, particularly alone, can be dangerous and all weapons are removed and secured before entering. This is done so that any fighting or struggling does not result in having your weapon used against you. So, you go in with the playing field leveled between you and prisoner.
When I came to the cell in question I had dispatch buzz the door open. The doors were solid steel doors with a small window at around five foot high. I went inside.
The man in front of me was wearing a noose around his neck and had tears in his eyes. Contrary to what this image might present to you I honestly had to suppress a feeling to laugh. The prisoner had removed the plastic mattress edging in long strands. Imagine a bare mattress and the nylon chord that goes around the edges, holding the mattress covers together. That material was his hanging weapon.
He had tied this nylon chord around his neck and was jumping from the top of a double bunk attempting to end his life. On each attempt the chord would break under the load of his body. He would remove more chord and try again. He eventually ran out of ‘hanging material.’ The sight in front of me consisted of a man wearing a handmade noose of nylon chord insufficient to do the job. The chord extending from the noose portion stuck up above his head in a rigid vertical line, its failure clearly evident. In the odd way that things can strike us it was actually a little funny to me. Funny, I guess, because of the complete irrationality of the entire situation.
This man was in our jail waiting transfer to the county jail system because we had arrested him for passing bad checks at grocery stores. He would write rubber checks and get cash for them. He had been ‘handled’ many times before and this was a repeat felony, now of sufficient quantity to land him in the Texas prison system for a long stretch.
I could tell you the whole story of my conversation with him. I will not do that for fear of an extraordinarily long post. I worked my way toward understanding his desire for leaving earth.
What he told me was unsettling in its blindness and in its confusion. He told me that yes indeed he does write phony ID checks. He said the problem in his life was that the police continued to arrest him for doing this.
He told me I was responsible for his wanting to kill himself. He said he had a wife and four children and needed to feed them. He told me if we would just stop arresting him he could get ahead and would no longer need to break the law. If he passed enough bad checks and we just left him alone, then soon he would be able to get a regular job and become a good citizen. But, now we had arrested him enough times that he would not be able to take care of his family at all. Why, he asked, didn’t we understand this?
I tried to help him understand that writing bad checks was the same as stealing because when all was accounted for he had in fact actually stolen the money from another human. He reasoned that he was stealing the money from a grocery store not a human. For him this reasoning led to the belief that he had not harmed anyone at all.
His working philosophy appeared to be “Let me break the law so that I can become solvent enough to not need to break the law. I’m not really hurting anyone.”

This sounds familiar maybe? Waves of immigrants that are telling us ‘let me break the law until I become solvent enough to not break the law. And just as in the prisoner’s situation it is reckoned that there are no victims of the action. They believe it is the US government that is paying the way not individual American citizens via taxation.

Now I think there are multiple ways to run with this discussion and each of us can choose which way we want to go.

These are authentic human compassion issues to wrestle with; illegals hurting to provide for their families. There are U.S. citizen victims of this crime.

For the record my position is that the problem is not a U.S. problem at its genesis. If we look deep into the nucleus of the situation this is a Mexican government and cultural crisis. There is a long-standing problem of government and business corruption in Mexico. The U.S. difficulty with illegal immigration is merely a symptom of this corruption malignancy deeply embeddded in Mexico. Until the Mexican people are given the opportunities in Mexico that they find in the U.S. we will continue to wrestle with the ‘noose around their necks’.

Perhaps this protest energy might be better applied a little farther south? Yes, I know citizens of Mexico will die in protests in Mexico. Yes, I know it will not be easy to reform decades of power abuse and corruption. Still all journeys begin with the first step and I think the first steps become more necessary as the steps into America become more difficult, or at least more legal.


patti_cake said...

Great post Rick, and good analogy. I am for the adage, paddle your own canod. If we don't paddle our own canoe the big canoe will sink.

Sereena X said...

This is also one of the reasons "idealistic" anarchy will never prevail. Too many people expect "others" to automatically provide for them. And too many people are unwilling to take responsibility for the outcome of their own actions.

Angie said...

I'm not sure that would even work, Rick. As long as living in this country -legally or illegally- is viewed as superior to where they are currently living, we will always be a target for immigration. Even if they fix the Mexican government it will take years to repair their economy to the point that it will be able to sustain the population. In the meantime, the mass exodus will continue. I'm not saying we shouldn't fix the underlying issue but I think it's going to take a multi-faceted approach to actually contain and then correct the issue.

*On another note, this piece was very well written...nice job ;)

Seven said...

No problems agreeing with the long term negative prospects of 'anarchy' as Serenna phrases it or your very accurate assessment that it would be a long time coming and the grass is too green over here to create a call to action in Mexico. Agreed on all.
However, if the green grass were not so readily obtainable then powers of discontent that ignite anarchy gain far more fuel.

Kelly said...

I often wonder if all the 'third world countries' bordered ours~ would we be obliged to welcome them all with open arms. Perhaps are only salvation will be for all the U.S. Citizens who feel illegal aliens should have a right to our basic governmental benefits should perhaps give up their own to support them. It only takes a glance around our own back alleys,big city streets, etc. to see that you can't give away what you don't have.
Great post,Rick! I can imagine that you were a dedicated and compassionate officer. (even if you do find attempted hangings amusing) ;)

Grant said...

You should have shown the guy how to double up the cord so it would have the strenght to suspend him. Or brought him some real rope. Somehow I think our society could survive his passing.

Next time, tell a us gory tale that will feck your loyal readers up for life. Don't worry about me - after J-horror, there's nothing reality can throw at me that will make me flinch.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

So many good points in your comments, Rick! What a smart savvy bunch of fans you have!

I've blogged about the whole situation before...and I don't believe we should just start handing out benefits left and right....I feel they should have to earn it JUST LIKE those of us who were born and raised here. Pay taxes, pay into Medicaide/Medicare and all those other government programs that we have to pay into...just like the rest of us.

There are SO MANY more items to cover in this whole immigration's a real mess.

Angie said...

Agreed. But getting the bleeding hearts here to understand that is a different issue.

I say we bar the windows & the doors and hang a "by appointment only" sign on the Statue of Liberty! lol

Seven said...

I have had a day on a treadmill here everybody and I was away from the computer for long periods.
I will say this; I see a 'type' of congealing around some central thoughts here. It appears everyone wants new citizens to 'earn it', but we all seem to have the compassion to offer the task to each person without reservations.
Now that really is the American spirit I think.

Reach said...

As I thought about your intentions, my mind regressed to the term- education.
The education within our borders allow the citizenship to maintain higher acheivements. As our citizens rise, in both economics and status, we become the desire of much of the Third World Countries; especially, recognized from the regionally accessable Southern neighbors.