You Won’t Get It Until It Happens to You

Inspired by an incident 18 years ago today…

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

Shake your head at the perp being led

from the cop car in cuffs.

Just shrug off the one shot dead.

After all, he deserved it.

Validate the stereotypes of your set.

Identify with your race, your income, your politics.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

It was cold that night back in ’99,

2AM when the police pulled us over,

four friends ironically

on the way back from a donut run.

Why? I asked the officer.

“For changing lanes and making u-turns.”

But I never got a ticket.

No, something worse went down.

The big cop was a bully

and I was incensed at the injustice,

What I said was,

(and under my breath):

“You’ll see me in court.”

The bully had good ears

and appeared at my window,

“What did you say?”

I should have said nothing more,

but my wounded pride repeated

my powerless threat.

The bully changed that.

Made me get out of my car,

searched me spread eagle on his hood,

then sat me like a criminal

in the back of the police car.

Then the big cop

gave me a long talk.

“We can pull over anybody we want,

whenever we want.”

I stayed quiet,

but it was too late.

They turned a deserted street

into a stage that night.

Pulled me from the cop car,

and marched me out but not far.

The rookie cop cuffs me in front of my friends,

while the bully who gave the speech pretends

to find something

in the back seat of his own cop car.

With a fast sweep of a long arm,

he reaches down and then,

like a magician produces

into the cold thin

air of a February night

a charred plastic baggy.

“Your youth minister’s a doper!”

he slandered loudly

to the gape-mouthed young men

in my car.

It sounded like a joke

or a B movie line,

but he waved his charred baggy

to prove the lie.

The cops made my passengers walk

in the middle of a cold night,

even though one offered to drive

my car.

The cops maced him

and took the two of us jail.

For what?

Possession of what the officer

actually had in his own possession.

My life changed after that night:

even though I was innocent,

even though my first and only drug screen

was clean,

even though I passed

a police polygraph,

even though the DA dismissed the case

without me having to plead.

For too many people an arrest is enough.

Innocent until proven guilty?

A reputation can be ruined by an accusation.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

So don’t jump so fast

to those conclusions

Sometimes the “guilty” are not.

Sometimes the good guys are not.

But you won’t get it until it happens to you.

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