There was a meeting this afternoon in the “activities” room in our building. About 20 people came, women and only two men representing the tenants. Attending were two members of the Police Department; one, a young woman, who seemed to be involved in public relations and a little later, a man in uniform, an officer also came to listen and to offer information.
Seems what is going on is a situation among some of the ladies who are tenants feeling intimidated by some of the men on the streets. According to their testimony, they attempt to walk on the street on their various missions, asking to be excused to walk, only to be ignored. It seems they expect to be acknowledged and to pass. It seems they also expect their worst fears to befall them: that they will be accosted and hurt. They feel intimidated.
I watch myself as I go about my way in my chair and there are times when I must shout out my ‘excuse me’ to be heard above the din of noise and behind the ear buds in ears. I also sit with patience to wait for the crowd in my path to shift; and then I smile and laugh, and if there is some smarty joke, I throw it all in for surprise to crack the tension.
So, there is a recognizable situation that is prevalent in our area here in the downtown east side. The crowds of street people, addicts in various stages from manic to nearly comatose, sellers and buyers milling around the sidewalks, campers, girls and boys loaded with their worldly possessions in bags over their shoulders, in grocery pull carts, on trolleys hauling tents, blankets, clothing, household gear, styrofoam trays of charity meals and an almost indescribable lot of stuff forming a mass of people and matter spread all over the place. Along with trash in unbelievable quantity. There are various gaggles of older men in dirty caps leaning in the doorways; men hang out against walls and garbage cans in the alleys, people sit all day on the benches in Pidgeon Park. The case can be made that all this is intimidating. Because the substances and their life circumstances rob people of their soft sentiments, invariably they are raging on a hair trigger; there can be very vicious lashing out.
The ladies that have been ‘properly’ brought up are fearful and intimidated by what they do not understand.
But, for me, although I know that the police presence is noticeable on the streets, and reliable, there are limits to their services simply because it would require at least two of them for every one of our neighbors to create absolute safety. The cost is prohibitive and unjustified.
There is a solution, but it does not involve the outside authorities; the authority must come to live within me. And that is the point of this piece.
The other side of this is that the solution here will bypass those ladies who feel intimidated. It will not mitigate their various ‘reasons’ they have for feeling ignored nor will this alleviate their fear patterns. It will be another offering on an ongoing conversation about what it takes to live in a truly dysfunctional society.
All of it is really about my taking responsibility for myself. I am the one who chooses to align with the police authority to keep the peace, which the civic true goal. We all wish to live in peace.
Is there is anyone awake to the idea of building the peace? What would their behavior be like if they were working on the peace instead of just making sure that they have a right to pass?
In some of my younger days, in my late 30’s and early 40’s in the lower east side of New York, in ghettos in Los Angeles, I developed an idea to live the Law of Love. I asked myself what it would be like if I were peaceful. Along with work on myself about my own addictions, this came to me as I worked to forgive the perpetrators of abuse in my young life discovering as I did so that I was releasing myself from the woundedness I had chosen to lug around as a burden. Simply, I ditched the whole steaming mess finally understanding to unhook from the story that I had made about it. I became peaceful.
All this felt like taking off an old, worn dirty and ill-fitting coat that did not become me in the first place. This psychological move restored my own personal sovereignty and esteem to an extent that I became unintimidated by anything I might encounter except direct and unmistakable violence aimed directly at my person. That kind of stuff takes action and it’s another situation entirely.
I relieved myself of the duty of my pretense of being a victim. All victims are victimizers. This is not peaceful. I really made a personal agreement with myself to shed the mantle of victimhood. The idea of becoming peaceful settled my mind to the hyper vigilance that being a victim entailed.
Our streets are in bad shape. It’s no one’s fault. But it is in our own best interests to watch and learn by what goes on about how to conduct ourselves in our local world. It’s not about politics either; nor is it city government, or about the cops. It is, when I am out there, all about me and all about what I am doing to build the peace which surely does begin within me. The result for all this is that I can and do roll on the streets easily. I do not hold fear and I do have fun here. I talk to my people and I tell them jokes and we all laugh. When I am not afraid of myself, how indeed, can I be afraid of my fellow man?