Monday, August 29, 2011

Cee-Cee Chews Me Out

(I'm going to run again a short series of posts regarding justice matters. ACLU blood runs in my veins, and although I'm often not the righteous champion for justice that I should be...I think people should at least try.)

The background to this post is that I write letters to the editor, early and often. I like to think of these letters as bold and illuminating, but friends keep me from vanity with remarks like, "I see where you were gassing away in the paper again," or simply "blah, blah, blah."

My friend Cee-Cee (not her real name) is a retired policewoman. I met her, if that's the right word, when she called me up very late and out of the blue, to chew me out, grind me up and spit me out for a letter I'd just written. The letter concerned what I saw as a poor judgment call on the part of a police officer.

Cee-Cee is not the officer I wrote about. To this day, I don't know if she was a friend of the officer, or if she just reacted like a lionness to any criticism of a brother or sister in arms.

Keep in mind that this was around midnight. I'd been asleep. Cee-Cee, a stranger to me then, has a voice of mighty thunder when upset, sort of like God and Thor combined. She said, or shouted, that although the facts in my letter were "technically correct," I had written it in a spirit of smug fault-finding and from a place of ignorance. Like most civilians, I had no idea of the thousands of judgment calls which every officer is required to make, often under severe stress. Neither I nor any other civilian would hear about the great majority which turned out to be right.

I was speechless for once. You would be too, if the side of a mountain suddenly split off and fell on your head, or if an avenging angel suddenly swooped down out of heaven and began flogging you like a racehorse. But I come from a long line of bossy teachers and ministers confident in their salvation, and those genes kicked in. I told Cee-Cee the truth. I said I admired the police, because they have such a tough job. I said that I would never say or even think a single harsh word about an officer, as long as he seemed to keep alive in the front of his mind the fact that he'd promised to protect and serve the public. He had not vowed to protect and serve himself.

Cee-Cee said bluntly, "I bet if you ever needed help, you'd be the very first to be yelling for the police to come and save your puny butt!"

"You got that right," I said, "I would be the first, and if there were some word before First, I would be that. If I was threatened by some criminal, I would stand there screaming like a toddler into my cell phone for the police to come and rescue me, to come charging up in their shiny cars and obliterate whoever was menacing me, to sweep me to a place of safety. That is their duty. That's what 'Protect and Serve' means!"

Unexpectedly I heard Cee-Cee's deep, jolly laugh for the first time. She said, "You don't expect much, do you? Just your own squad of knights. Damn, you certainly are a STUBBORN little shit."

I wasn't thrilled to be called a stubborn little shit, but her tone had warmed up. I don't know if she had decided I was mentally delayed and therefore forgivable, but the conversation became much more amicable. She even finally allowed that my letter had been "an honest, though stupid, mistake."

And a few minutes later, after a thoughtful pause, she said slowly, "Not that every single cop who ever existed has been an altar boy or altar girl. There's a story or two I could tell you--no names, though."

"Over a glass of good red," I said. "My treat."

"Deal, " she said, and laughed.

And I think that Cee-Cee is a woman who keeps her word.


  1. Hey I get all the coolness that comes with having a strong opinion. I just wouldn't want to be called a Stubborn you know what.

  2. great story - I'm not sure I would have had the cool you did in the face of such screaming while asleep - I tend to react badly or completely nonchalant when someone yells at me. Depends on the particular flashback I get - my father or my guru...
    it is always nice to make new friends.

  3. oh, and I yes, the ACLU is awesome, even in misstep it is misstepping for the right reasons. After all, we cannot enjoy our right to speech if we do not allow others theirs no matter how ugly. I cannot trust anyone who cannot see why the ACLU is one of the few truly important organizations out there today.

  4. This was really intriguing to read. I'd like to read the letter you wrote too! Hope you get together with Cee Cee and let us know more about her. As an activist in the 60s I guess I was pretty anti-cop. But then I was there in Chicago during the riots...and the law came down quite brutally on anti-war protesters. Since all that, both the police image and the image of the soldier as well have had to go through some 'social re-engineering'. Rebuilding them as agents of peace keeping. Whether this is a real change, I can't say. As I recall, the Colt revolver was first hailed as a 'peace-maker'. I can't make any judgement calls here, just ramblng on in response to your post...let's hear more.

  5. Haaaaaaaaaa, too, too funny!

    (Er, what's the ACLU?)

    Most folk dread that dead-in-the night phonecall from a police officer - but rarely for fear of being taken to task by one..

    I do believe this could quite possiblly prove a friendship made in heaven, crikey - watch out world!

    I can't wait for further up-dates.

  6. You can definitely hold your own! I wouldn't want to get on your bad side.

  7. You handled Cee-Cee's aggressive call with grace and tact. I would've more likely cut off my phone service and relocated to another country. Scary. Glad you call her a "friend" now. It sounds like she had/has a chip on her shoulder and chose to flick it off at you, but respects you for standing your ground. And that she should. Police officers aren't above making stupid decisions and abusing their powers. They need to be called out on that crap.

  8. Whether or not they like hearing it, MANY cops, are in fact cops, because they have control and/or anger issues. My son in law is a cop and he has both!
    I think you handled her very well...
    I put the ACLU and labor unions in the same bag. As long they remember why they were formed, they are great. Sometimes, both groups forget and try fight for things that don't need, or have no reason to be fought for.
    Great post!

  9. Copyboy--Hey, I don't like being called a "stubborn little shit" either! I guess we're funny that way.

    willfulresemblance--Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you will again!I too hate to be yelled at. I think there are two responses to aggressive behavior. The first is to be crushed. The second is to become steely and fight back. I believe in the second kind. And you're right about the ACLU, it's a fine organization. Columnist Molly Ivins is my hero--she gave half of her large estate to the ACLU.

    mythopolis--thank you, Cee-Cee is a pretty intriguing person. I know what you mean about changing conceptions of the police from the 60's stereotypical attitude. I meant what I said to Cee-Cee--I have a lot of respect for the good ones.

    Shrinky, you divine femme-- when Cee-Cee got on the phone to me at midnight it wasn't my favorite wake-up call ever, but it definitely got my blood zinging around, blew out my sinuses and maybe had value as a tonic! :^) About the ACLU, it is the American Civil Liberties Union and protects people and institutions whose constitutional rights are threatened.

    Mrs A--thank you! Obviously during the conversation with Cee-Cee I wasn't taking notes, and wonder if my memory made me somewhat smarter and quicker in response than the facts warrant!! But I hope not. Cee-Cee is pretty unforgettable.

    Robyn--thank you, babe. After the initial shouting, Cee-Cee and I did have a conversation--sort of. I think we came to understand each other better. As for calling her a friend, maybe I jumped the gun a little! Can you be a friend with someone who calls you a "stubborn little shit"? But I'd sort of like to be. She's an interesting person.

    Pat--I think there must be as many different personality types among police as there are among civilians, but yeah, seems likely some join up because they like control. In regard to the ACLU, as you've probably guessed, for me it's sort of a holy organization; but I admit there are a few times when I read about some new case the ACLU has undertaken that is in the "WTF!" category. In general, though, I'm all for a group of people who study and work to uphold the Constitution. I wish there were more of them.

  10. That is funny!

    You know I have often thought about cornering one of those people who always writes letters to the local paper - often views that are totally different to my perception of whatever the subject is....

  11. Rock Chef - I have that feeling whenever I read Tea Party-type letters to the editor! And I'm sure my letters make them equally ill.

  12. Oh, man. If CeeCee had called me and yelled at me, I would have said, "sorry, he doesn't live here," hung up, taken the phone off the hook and slept with the lights on, whimpering. You've got guts, going toe to toe with Thunder-Voice.

  13. Professor Chaos--if I'd had time to stop and think, that is probably exactly what I would have done! But I found myself with no time to reflect and so just went with the conversation.