Officer Friendly (was Violence and Revolution)

Joseph F. Lockard lockard at
Sat Jun 10 04:38:28 MDT 1995

Matt dramatizes:

>Sheriff:  Leo, those nigger gals down at the catfish plant are blocking the
>          damn gates again.  I need you to get down there and clear 'em out.
>Leo:      Sir, please don't make those sort of racist comments.  (Hefts
>          club, heads out to the patrol car.)
>Striker:  Nothing gets in or out until management recognizes our union!
>Leo:      I have sympathy for your legitimate grievances.  I hope you'll
>          believe me when I tell you that this is going to hurt me as much
>          as it hurts you... <<CRACK!!!>>
>Striker:  Ouch!

Gee, I haven't seen such graceful directness since that opening sentence of
Ngugi wa Thiongo's _Matigari_, which runs something like "He stood on a
hill overlooking the river, holding an AK-47 in his hand." (inexact quote,
no copy immediately available)

One of the less ethical purposes of parody, met here, is to simplify,
distort, and eventually dehumanize.  Ideological abstraction and political
generalizations frequently need rehumanization, and Leo served as a
specific human.  It's interesting to watch how you prefer to deal with him
as an iconic figure, as a cardboard cutout.  Human complexities can be
dangerous, of course, if we view them as threatening ideological
convictions instead of challenging and enriching social thought.  Good
intelligent police are axiomatic oxymorons because all cops are vicious

Let's get this straight:  the police are not Class Enemy Number One.  They
are humans working within vastly imperfect social systems, humans who can
be charged with a variety of functions, either politically positive and
malevolent.  I hope you share my affection for Chester Himes crime novels,
where an ex-con is writing a paradoxical heroization of two black cops
while distancing himself/Grave Digger/Ed Coffin from the racist power
structure of the Harlem police stations from which they operate.  That
paradox expresses Himes' capacity to humanize police characters and
mentalities, to exercise powers of discernment of good and bad, to
understand that there are nice cops and ugly cops, and even that an
individual cop can incorporate a multiplicity of qualities.

But hey, this isn't class analysis anymore, is it?  That's part of the
problem echoing through these threads, where police have been both
implicitly and explicitly addressed as a discrete, unified and concrete
class.  And there's been no discussion of what sort of police forces we
want to see, what sort of changes are needed to root out racism, power
abuse, and corruption.  That would require understanding instead of
demonization, wouldn't it?

Moral of the story:  go kiss a cop.  Millions of regular folks do.  What an
appalling thought, huh?

Best, JOE


Joe Lockard                          Tel. (972) 2-246470 [H]
Kibbutz Teachers College             E-mail lockard at
149 Derekh Namir
Tel Aviv / ISRAEL
Rehov Nissim Behar 3
Jerusalem / ISRAEL


     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list