Free Smiles For Everyone
I stepped out to go to lunch, and I noticed that just outside our office building the police had closed the streets leading to Berkeley City Hall. I looked across, and found a group of demonstrators standing near the City Hall building. They were "immigrant rights activists" who were demanding citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a halt to planned increases in citizenship fees, guest worker proposals, arrests and deportations and increased border policing. They also wanted an end to the war in Iraq and policies that they said punish the poor. They were a lively crowd, it seemed. I am used to seeing demonstrations around Berkeley. This city and its citizens have always stood for something a little different, a characteristic I love and cherish about this part of the world. What was interesting to me, in view of what has been happening in Tehran, was that the police officers who had closed the streets leading to the City Hall, and were standing there keeping an eye on the crowd were all relaxed, seemed to be in good spirits, had smiles on their faces, and actually looked like they were enjoying themselves in the sun. I remembered the pictures I saw of the Tehran police talking to Iranians on the street just this past week, and remembered that none of them were smiling, none of them seemed relaxed and kind, not really. That made me sad. I know some people might say why in the middle of everything else, I am comparing Tehran police to Berkeley police--to that I say that I am not talking about their patrol cars, uniforms, or wages. I'm not even talking about the excellent physical condition of the young and handsome male and female police officers I saw today. I am talking about the way each police force looks at the very citizens they are supposed to protect. I am talking about a smile. It won't cost people anything to smile, will it? It won't hurt anyone to look kindly at the very people who pay their salary and wages. Kindness is free, isn't it?