Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Fuck the Police.
But not for the reasons you think. My next heartfelt statement: Law enforcement in our country is not valued enough. So here's the deal:
A few days ago a cop followed me home to say that I'd been reported for speeding by an off-duty cop and I should slow down. The message delivered was a valid one. I probably was driving too fast, and should indeed slow down. I can accept that message. He was just doing his job, he is protecting the people... whatever. But it got me thinking about the way our culture perceives policemen and -women and the way this influences them.
A culture communicates the way in which they value different professions by how much money those positions earn. In our country social service, teachers, and the police are highly undervalued--in my opinion, of course, as no culture is wrong, just different. (Frau Weir-ism <--) I believe that education is undervalued. In order to be a fiscally competitive nation, we need an educated society. Public schools lack the funding needed to give kids opportunities they would benefit from or recognize the importance of teachers. Social services need more money, because the condition of poverty, due to our severely unbalanced distribution of wealth leave families unable to obtain birth control (not to mention, the Republican war against its use, completely), inability to provide for their children, as well as their inability to obtain mental health care that would help them cope with their feelings of inadequacy, physiological and mental disorders, and the feeling of hopelessness in their environment. Our society makes sure that those who are less fortunate believe it's their fault. Growing up around the children's home, I know how undervalued those employees are and how little they make. It's a hard job and it requires very valuable and dedicated workers to keep the place running. Yet funding cuts always manage to hit social work. Where do we put our money?
We have holidays recognizing the importance of teachers and of their contribution to society, but really? We pay them next to nothing. Clearly they are not valued as much as wealthy doctors, lawyers, and CEOs. Those people in less-valued positions put their defenses up. They assert their belief in their position through slogans. No farms, no food. If you can read this, thank a teacher. And I've noticed that among more feminine people, the reaction is one of verbalized concern. Among more masculine people, there is a different reaction. Men, in our culture, are clearly labelled as breadwinners, "head of the family," and are expected to earn their respect through strength and perseverance. When more feminine speakers are in a position in which they feel insecure or unimportant, they tend to speak less. When a more masculine speaker feels insecure or unimportant, they tend to speak more and use bigger words. (Notice I say feminine and not female. I'm a female, but I tend to posses some more masculine speaking traits because of the role women in my life have played. I've been surrounded and encouraged by very powerful and even dominant women.)
That policeman used phrases such as "high rate of speed," instead of "too fast." He said "This is something I do understand," instead of "I get that." Sometimes they even misuse these words because they don't use them in their regular vocabulary. I was young and pretty clearly receiving a college education with my backpack coming from Terre Haute. I was driving a nice car (although it's not mine). I pulled up to a pretty nice house. And I was dressed up because I'd just come from an awards ceremony. I looked like I was coming from somewhere important, (even though it was Greek Awards). It's possible he didn't expect me to be the person I was. I may have intimidated him a little. He doesn't know me well enough of course to realize that I'm not all that intimidating. I'm kind of quirky, I'm a little insecure, and I do recognize the value of his position. I knew what he was doing with those big words, so the tactic didn't really work on me. I'm a student of language and linguistics. I listen for these things.
Another interesting point I'll make is that I've noticed this in educated African Americans. Because our culture devalued and continues to senselessly devalue African Americans, they've developed a very specific and separated culture--which I still blame on history and some modern ignorance. African Americans tend to put Miss or Mister in front of first names, as a sign of respect, or perhaps more accurately as a sign of their knowledge of polite behavior. They tend to use very beautiful, poetic, and eloquent speech. If you read a novel written by an African American, it's going to use words I need to look up and long, flowing sentences. However, this culture of educated (or just plain intelligent) African Americans tend to use those words correctly. They are nearly constantly placed in a position in which they have to prove themselves and overcome prejudice. Therefore, this language is part of their everyday speech, which I genuinely believe has made these people more interesting and intelligent speakers than your average white Americans.
As a student of language, I take the sentence, "I was informed that you were very driving at a high rate of speed," and write a whole freaking blog post about it. It makes me mad that they use that silly tactic to assert their power over me and to try to intimidate me. But it makes me more angry that they feel the need to do so in the first place because our culture doesn't value the role they play in society.