Monday, June 23, 2014

Running Lights

This essay was originally published on PRP.FM as a Carp O'Diem, and expressed my worry about the mix on our roadways of people encased in a car and people not so protected by a big metal shell.

"So I was working out at the gym one morning and on TV I see a story about when people are most likely to run red lights. Apparently you’re most likely to run a red light between one to five on a Friday. Well, yeah!

Which brings me to a pet peeve, which is, we get so focused on our next urgent appointment that we don’t see the human beings who get in our way.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Starman, mostly because I love it when Jeff Bridges, the alien who is learning how to drive, says to Karen Allen, “I watched you very carefully. Red light, stop. Green light, go. Yellow light, go very fast.” Luckily, he didn’t know my first husband, who believed that if you’d seen a green light at any time while you were approaching the intersection, well! Drive on through!

And this sounds funny, but actually it’s not, because sometimes there’s someone already in the intersection. Sometimes it’s a pedestrian or a bicyclist who doesn’t have a big metal shell around them. Maybe they’re talking on their cell phone, or taking their time. They might even be breaking a traffic rule. And you might be in a rush yourself or have the sun in your eyes, and then someone gets hurt. And it’s probably not you.

So please.  Give yourself a little bit more time today so that you notice the mother with the stroller who is crossing the street in front of your car.

Green light, go. Red light, stop. It was true in kindergarten and it still is."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Let the Little Children

This Carp O'Diem aired on Portland Radio Project June 9. 

"It sure seems like we get a lot of reports of police mistreatment of the mentally ill or people of color. Now last month we got the news that we have to be vigilant about how officers treat little kids, too.

According to the Portland Mercury and The Oregonian, two police officers handcuffed a nine-year-old girl and took her to an adult holding cell at a police station a week after she had been involved in a fight at a Boys and Girls Club. This was a year ago April.

Both girls had apologized to each other. Staff members told police there hadn’t been any obvious injuries. They sent the girl home and suspended her from the club. Okay. A week later, officers came to her house where she was running through a sprinkler in a swimsuit, questioned her, perp-walked her to the police car and took her away. They didn’t give her time to get dressed and they wouldn’t let her mother come with her.

The girl, who was a TAG student at Rosa Parks, is still recovering emotionally.

The police said they didn’t like her answers when they asked her about the fight. I’ve raised two kids and there’ve been plenty of times when I didn’t like their answers, but hey, they were kids. Besides, there’s this little thing we have here in the U.S. called Miranda rights. If you’re going to be treated like an adult to the extent of being led away in handcuffs, I think you should get the full deal including your civil rights.

According to the police bureau, the officers didn’t violate any policies. By the way, the Citizen Review Committee is now evaluating city and police guidelines that govern taking children into custody.

There are many things that disturb me about this. The fact that it took a year for it to hit the news. The language being used. “They didn’t violate any policies.” She was nine years old. I don’t care if they didn’t break any rules. That doesn’t make it right. The child’s mother thinks the officers were trying to scare and humiliate the girl, when all she needed was a good ‘talking to.’ I agree with her."

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