Ask The Sophist
Dear The Sophist,
OVER A 36-HOUR vacation in the coastal South, I was pulled over thrice on three different highways by three separate state troopers, first for speeding 16 mph over the ambiguous limit, then for soberly driving drunk-like on the broken shoulder of an interstate, my stupid ass blinded or something by the dusk light and a burst of climate rain. The third time, the trooper found me in an island parking lot with a flat I got from time two, and he took an hour of his Sunday to drive me to a tow truck on the mainland. How could this be, this generosity and congeniality? Each time, I was cleared, and the catharsis I got from release made me ashamed of myself, sucking up so much. So submissive. These guys weren't even trying to be in charge of me, just filling time, and I drove so little as a New Yorker that I forgot that's how roads worked.
It felt wrong. There was no way in hell I'd have gotten the white doily treatment were I most anyone else. I don't think that they ran my plates—almost certainly not, even, given that I got off all three times in the span of, what, nothing? It was like no time had passed, generationally, in this brutal state. And the troopers were nice to me, too nice. Am I to believe all cops are this nice? They wore no masks—not nice—but they stood the required feet away in front of my closed window. My suspicion was that they were wearing the uniform they had to wear by whatever laws and guidance rule them, and nice guys on the side, at least selectively. I felt fooled; I had in an earlier life stage seen police in other cities tie up and beat protestors' asses, which I assumed they were doing when they weren't on island beat. Maybe their bosses weren't as nice to them as they were to me? Maybe they were on an island of the mind, being good citizens? Is that even morally possible in their position? I didn't think so at all, now I don't know.
Sophist, you know shit. Care to comment? Are these good country people? Haven't—have I, me, been punished enough?
Once, Twice, Three Times Deniee
You already understand part of this question from the other direction, The Sophist is sure. It can't have escaped you, as an urbanite estranged from the asphalt of sprawled-out America, that among the people in your citified piece of the world who are fighting for sustainable eating or Medicare for All or police abolition are some folks who are, interpersonally speaking, unbearable assholes. You have met a militant vegan or two? You have a passing knowledge of the people who were esteemed and successful before MeToo got them reappraised?
So: the human race. Not all bastards are cops. Are all cops bastards? A central failure of Americans' self-understanding is the belief that bad people are constantly, identifiably bad—that the monstrous social forces we live with are the work of individuals who go around being obvious monsters all the time. But inequity and injustice aren't generalized misery or cruelty; they're discrimination. Jim Crow was the handiwork of white people who were fathers, grandmothers, church deacons, warm and welcoming diner waitresses—until an innocent person of the wrong type walked through the door. The groping, predatory bosses who terrorize young women can be wise mentors to young men, and respectful pals to the women in their professional peer group.
If the cops treated everyone abusively all the time, nobody would put up with the cops. If the cops treated everyone like these cops treated you, they wouldn't be cops. Even so, you don't describe yourself as having a good time; you describe feeling submissive. But it was something greater that you were submitting to, or partaking in: The cops weren't acting like they were in charge of you because they were in control of something much bigger than yourself. You were driving in the wrong lane—and people have been killed for less—but you were in the right place. You fit the profile. Their job is to divide people like you from people not like you, and make sure (the verb is, in fact, "police") that each kind stays where it belongs.
Does the fact that the cops were so nice to you mean that you are, yourself, a bastard? A little bit! It's a bastard of a system, and you live inside it. Still, it's not as if there were anything you could have done about it in the moment. And maybe the time they spent assuring you that you belonged was time they weren't spending telling someone else that they didn't.
Since your passivity about the whole thing is still bothering you, look up the fine for going 16 over the limit in whatever piece of the coastal South you were visiting—a little light Googling suggests South Carolina would be $50 to $75—and then look up the bail fund nearest to there and write them a check for that amount. Or more, if you want to cover your other moving violations.
Freedom isn't free,
The Sophist is here to tell you why you're right. Send your questions to AskTheSophist@hmmweekly.com, and get the answers you want.
Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly
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SANDWICH RECIPES DEP’T.
WE GET YET one more squeeze out of our presentation of select recipes from the leviathan and encyclopedic 1896 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School, with a selection of items from
RECIPES ESPECIALLY PREPARED FOR THE SICK.
Never consult the patient as to his menu. If there is anything he especially desires, you will be informed. Anticipation often creates appetite. Serve in small quantities; the sight of too much food often destroys the appetite. If liquid diet must be adhered to, give as great variety as is allowable. If patient is restricted to milk diet, and milk is somewhat objectionable, it may be tolerated by serving in different ways—such as Koumiss, Albumenized Milk, or by addition of Apollinaris, Seltzer water, or rennet.
After the completion of the meal, the tray should be removed at once from the sick-room. If any solid food remains, it should be burned, and liquids disposed of at once.
1 large sour apple.
2 tablespoons sugar.
1 cup boiling water.
Wipe, core, and pare apple. Put sugar in the cavity. Bake until tender; mash, pour over water, let stand one-half hour, and strain.
2 tablespoons preserved tamarinds.
1 cup boiling water.
Pour water over tamarinds; stir until well mixed. Let stand twenty minutes and strain. Sweeten to taste.
2 tablespoons currant juice or
2 tablespoons currant jelly.
2/3 cup cold water.
Mix juice and water, then sweeten; or beat jelly with a fork, dissolve in water, and if not sweet enough add sugar.
1 1/2 cups Concord grapes.
1 cup cold water.
1/2 cup sugar.
Wash, pick over, and remove stems from grapes; add water, and cook one and one-half hours in a double boiler. Add sugar, and cook twenty minutes. Strain and cool.
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