OF BOTTLECAPS AND TOY GUNS: CITY OF CLEVELAND “BUYBACK” PROGRAM OF “FAKE GUNS” TAKES “DANGEROUS TOYS” OFF STREET
TO BEGIN, A TRUE STORY:
The story you are about to read is a true one. The name of the perpetrator has been retained to castigate the guilty.
Once when the author of this post was the ripe old age of 4 years old, he had a “run-in” with the police. This is what happened:
My friend and I were waiting one day, outside our apartment on Superior Road, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the station wagon to pick us up and take us to nursery school, as it did every weekday. In those days, back in the 50s – which gives you some idea how old I am now – mothers did not wait with their children on a corner of the street for the school bus or school van. Sure, there were sexual predators back then as there are now but, apparently, they did not exist in the numbers we have today. And the mainstream news media did not drone on endlessly about such things, unlike today, to secure readership through unapologetic sensationalism. Anyway, as my friend and I were waiting for the nursery school wagon to take us to school, I got the bright idea of going to the park, down the street, to have some fun. It would only be a few minutes. School could wait. My friend agreed, and we walked toward the park, about one-quarter of a mile away. A long, hard-packed dirt footpath sloped down to the park. Once at the park, we noticed “tons” of shiny bottle caps on the ground by the park benches. These were gems to us. We began to fill our pockets full of bottle caps. Soon mine were swollen with caps. The sky-blue and gold Anchor steam beer bottle caps particularly attracted me. As might be expected to happen with young boys, my friend and I lost all track of time.
In retrospect, as I think about it, at least one-half hour must have passed while we were in the park. We can only surmise what had occurred on the street above us as the driver of the nursery school wagon saw no one at a corner where two very young boys were supposed to be. The driver must have notified the mothers that we were absent. And the mothers immediately notified the police. As I was walking up the path, from the park to the street above, I noticed a police station wagon pulling up into the park. My friend lagged behind me and he was still in the park when the car arrived. I often wonder what road the police had taken that enabled them to get into the park as I was only aware of one entrance into the park, namely, the footpath we took.
A police officer emerged from the car and pulled my friend into the backseat. The officer saw me on the path and yelled, angrily, for me to come down. What should I do? I thought for a second, “it’s okay; I’m on my way home now. I’ll meet you guys there.” But, I knew better. When a man in uniform with a badge, and a gun, and authority tells you to do something, you don’t ignore him; you certainly don’t argue with him, or disparage him; you don’t wave a gun or a toy gun at him, or a knife, or a hammer, or a baseball bat; and you don’t throw bottle caps at him. You obey him quickly and to the letter. I did so. I too was pulled into the backseat of the car. I saw two officers in the front seat of the car. My friend and I said nothing either to the officers or to each other. We were a trifle frightened to be sure, but also a bit bewildered. What was the big deal? One of the officers made a call. I felt, “oh, boy; we are in for it now.” When the police car drove up to the apartment, both our mothers were on the curb, waiting for us, mildly hysterical. The nursery school wagon was at the curb too, the driver outside the vehicle.
We didn’t go to nursery school that day. Upstairs in the apartment, I unloaded “my haul” onto the kitchen table. I was given a “talking to.” And that was that. Thereafter, I never strolled away alone to the park. I dutifully waited for the nursery school wagon to take me to school. I learned my lesson very well and that was a good thing. For, never again did I find myself in the backseat of a police car.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
When a police officer orders you to do something, you do it; time enough to fight the legitimacy of the officer’s behavior in a court of law. Now, I was 4 years old when I had my “run-in” with the law and I had enough sense to recognize authority and to obey a police officer’s command. Tamir Rice – who was 12 years old and who, arguably, looked much older at 5’7” and 195 pounds, according to news accounts – was three times my age, and he disobeyed a command that should have been clear enough to understand and important enough to obey whether one is an adult, a teenager, a pre-teen, or a child. He didn’t. He died. A mother has lost her son. The son has lost his future. And a police officer may have lost his career and, certainly, forever after, his peace of mind.
ONE ANSWER: GET RID OF THE “FAKE GUNS!”
On the front page of the Sunday December 14, 2014 edition of the Plain Dealer, an article appears, titled “120 fake weapons are turned in.” The Plain Dealer has previously written about “real” gun buyback programs which may have political coin, but are a joke and an affront to the American public. Moreover, apropos of the City’s novel “toy gun” buyback program, I wish to point out that, when I was a child, we played with “cap guns” that had the heft and appearance of real six-shooters. There were no calls for buybacks of these toy guns back then; there was no lunacy or hysteria on the part of the newspapers calling for gun control (and, now, toy gun control); and there was an absence of moronic behavior on the part of some members of the public when confronted by understandably nervous police officers.
So, what has changed and, perhaps, more to the point, why? Is there something in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in the air we breathe?
The writer of the December 14th Plain Dealer front page article quotes Jan Thorpe, executive director of Inner Visions of Cleveland, one of the toy gun buyback sponsors as saying, “‘guns that were once a symbol of death will become a symbol of life because we will crush them and turn the pieces into some sort of mosaic.’” How smug. Thorpe is talking about toys here, not guns, merely toys in the shape of guns. Boys play with toy guns. I played with toy guns in my youth. My neighborhood friends and I played soldier, and cops and robbers, and cowboys and Indians. This was normal, this was decent. This was our rite of passage as American boys who would one day be men. This is in the natural order of things.
What has changed? I will tell you: lack of belief in and trust in the indomitability of the human spirit; the loss of personal accountability and responsibility; governmental, indeed, societal mistrust of the individual; and loss of faith in one’s own true self.
Wake up America! The salient problem with our Country is not the presence of guns, or toy guns, or any other toy or implement. The problem is lack of faith and trust in one’s own abilities and in one’s own sanctity. Giving up this or that implement – and now toy – because a newspaper tells us that this is the sane thing to do shows, rather, how insanity in the guise of sanity has permeated our society and is slowly draining the lifeblood out of each and every one of us.Copyright © 2014 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour).