That police man said, “Mister Cool, if you ain’t drunk, then you’re a fool.”
I said, “If that’s against the law, then tell me why I never saw a man locked in that jail of yours who wasn’t just as lowdown poor as me?” – Kris Kristofferson
Listening to The Best of all Possible Worlds by Kris Kristofferson always reminds me of an old friend and the night we received free lodgings courtesy of the local police constabulary. Although we were both in an illegal state of mind at the time, I believe it was the song, actually me paraphrasing the song to a police officer, that resulted in our overnight stay in the drunk tank.
D.J. and I were having a few at his place and ran out of mix and munchies. We should have called it a night, but we foolheartedly decided to take our last drinks, plus a few doobies, for a walk to the corner store for pop and snacks. On route, we stopped at a nearby park for a break but stayed until we finished our drinks and joints. At that point, we decided to call it a night and head back to his place to crash.
When we left the park, we were met by two police cars with blaring sirens and flashing lights. Apparently, the police had been watching us and had decided that the two puny long-haired kids having a toke in the park were being a menace to society. Fortunately, being the conscientious young men we were at the time, we had carefully placed our empty bottles in a garbage bin and had also ensured that any remnants of marijuana were in us rather than on us. As a result, the ensuing police search found nothing that could be construed as evidence of juvenile delinquency.
We almost talked ourselves out of the situation, but then I decided to do my worst ever Kristofferson imitation by asking if they had anything better to do than pick on a couple of hippie kids having a bit of fun. That was when someone turned out the lights, and we wound up in jail to spend the night.
But this post is not about youthful discretions or lost glory days. This post is about prejudice, inequality, discrimination, and profiling. It’s also about the sad realisation that our societal prejudices of yesteryear are still with us today.
I recently discovered that Kristofferson had been asked to change the words of his song when it was recorded in 1969. The verse, I never saw a man locked in that jail of yours who wasn’t just as lowdown poor as me, was originally written as I never saw a man locked in that jail of yours who wasn’t neither black or poor as me. That was then, and this is now: The poor are getting poorer and non-whites are being carded, hated, and misunderstood. In 1969, Kristofferson was talking about the prejudices of the time. In 2017, we continue down the road of hate.
I may have lost touch with my friend D.J. and my days of youthful discretion are only distant memories, but the lyrics of Kristofferson’s song still hold true. We are not where we should be, but I am still dreaming for the best of all possible worlds.
March 21, 2017
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination