|Lady Justice at Supreme Court Building|
When I see unethical or immoral behavior, I speak out. I have faith in the goodness of our society...and this faith extends to the belief that society joins me in my quest to rid the world of injustice. When a reasonable person speaks out against a transgression, I expect others will listen, stand up and say, "We must do something to right this wrong!"
But over and over again, nobody stands up. Worse, nobody likes that one trouble-maker who cries foul.
How silly of me to think otherwise.
I learned this lesson again this summer where one would expect little trouble: on the High Trestle Bike Trail in Central Iowa. I began to ride this year--was even thinking about trying a few days of RAGBRAI. A good friend generously invited me to join her group who rides, and I enjoyed one day so much (what a beautiful trail!), I decided to join another Sunday ride. As my friend and I approached a stop sign ( according to a fellow rider, there are 27 stop signs on the 19 mile stretch of trail between Madrid and Ankeny), I noted a deputy sheriff was slowly inching his car down the road the trail crosses. I slowed, thinking he might wave us through the sign like many drivers do. When he did not, I stopped, along with my friend. Without leaving his vehicle, without engaging his lights, without even putting his car in gear, he leaned out his window and said in a malevolent and disrespectful tone: "Do you girls know what a red octagon sign means?"
And this is a problem. The first words he speaks are belittling and rude and accusatory--and are partnered with a mocking tone. I prickle and sense injustice. Here I am out enjoying a bike ride on a beautiful trail, not one iota of my being feels that I'm causing trouble or hurting anyone, yet I am getting harassed and treated disrespectfully by this officer. However, I did not wish to cause any trouble, so I simply replied, "Yes."
"Did you stop?" he asked. Again, since we were sitting fully stopped at the sign, I thought his behavior was ridiculous, harassing and disrespectful, and my "no-tolerance-of-injustice" streak is tugging at me, but I answered politely: "Yes."
"Were you going to stop?"
He's killing me! Now I'm being harranged for something an officer suspected I might/might not do? AGAIN I think his behavior is ridiculous, harassing, and disrespectful, but I simply and calmly state the truth: "Yes." The deputy grimaced, pointed at my friend, and said, "Well, she wasn't going to! She had to emergency brake!"
Now injustice is in full swing...emergency brake? Seriously?? He didn't like the manner in which my friend stopped, and that is cause to belittle us from his car window? I fear that I am going to say something as disrespectful as he rants on about the dangers of not stopping at stop signs (Really?? It's dangerous not to stop at stop signs?? Yes, you may detect sarcasm ) and how rude the bikers in this area have been. Since he never engaged his lights, nor left his vehicle, nor even put his car into park... and since he seemed satisfied that I indeed had planned on stopping and was not addressing me, I thought I would ride around the outrageous deputy in his car and wait on the other side of the road for my emergency-braking friend. "I shall let this injustice slide without outburst or objection," I thought to myself proudly as I removed myself from the insulting situation.
This was the wrong choice. Suddenly I hear a commotion behind me. I turn from where I am stopped and see the deputy in his car racing down the trail to chase me down!! I feared for a moment he was going to run me over, but he did stop, leave his vehicle (which has never yet engaged its red lights of arrest), and charged up so close to me, I can feel his breath. I stand in shock. "Just what is it you think you are doing today?" he asked.
"I'm just trying to enjoy a bike ride on a beautiful trail."
"Well," he sneered. "I'm about to rain on your parade." Wow. He went to his car, and 30 minutes later emerged with two tickets: one for failure to stop at a stop sign ($100), and another for failure to comply with a police officer's orders ($200). Double Wow. As I protested a steep fine for doing nothing wrong, he threatened to impound my bike and take me to jail! I decided injustice was not to be fought for on the High Trestle Trail.
The saga has a chapter two. It is in this chapter I lost my faith in the basic good of people; specifically, the goodness of police officers.
Motivated by horror stories of inappropriate behavior involving this same deputy told to me by other riders on the trail, I foolishly filed a complaint. I thought those in charge of this unbalanced deputy should know how their officer behaves, and such unhinged behavior (you should have seen him tear down that bike trail!) needed to be documented. After all, it's men like this who give their profession a bad name.
How silly of me.
These "complaint investigators" interrogated me like I was a criminal, accused me of dropping the F bomb to this deputy, stated I disrespected and threatened him. When I said this was absolutely untrue, they claimed they had interviewed people who lived along the trail and heard me using the f word repeatedly and had said, "That rude woman got just what she deserved." I was so shocked and scared and mad, I rambled like an idiot, then said, "Just check the audio tape...I have requested it. It will prove I never did those things."
The investigator looked down and began doodling. "There is no audio tape. It only begins recording when the officer turns on his lights, and since he never turned on his lights, there is no recording."
I smell injustice but plod on...interrupting the investigators as a new false accusation or characterization occurs. "Please let me finish," the officer begs. But I don't. I keep pleading for justice...hoping to see some kindness in his eyes, but I find none. "It's rude that you keep interrupting me," he says, and he is right. I am being rude.
But I want to cry and yell, "YOU started it! You are accusing me of all these terrible things. You are not kind to me, like I expected!! Can't you see I am a good person only trying to do what's right??"
No, they don't see this. Why did I think they would? Instead, this sergeant says to me, "We have people come in all the time and act like they are an Irish nun here, but out on the road, they were nothing like that." I drop my head and feel my faith in justice and goodness drift away. I leave defeated and beaten.
This may sound over-the-top, but I now have a greater understanding why women so rarely report a rape; it's ghastly and horrifying to bring a wrong to the attention of policemen only to have them accuse you...have them throw lies about yourself at you. "What do you mean he was harassing to you?" they say. "Didn't you ask for it with your behavior?" Soon, you don't know what to think.
But I do know this: I don't feel like working for justice anymore. As I sit here, dazed and sick, I wish I would NEVER have filed that complaint. Injustice? Hmmpf! These investigators didn't care about me nor my injustice. My day was spent accomplishing nothing but bringing more humiliation and anguish upon myself. Why did I have faith in the goodness of people and the value of justice?
How silly of me.