5/01/2007

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?

2 comments:

Assal said...

Nazy joon, I have a strange little memory to share with you:

When I was younger and we were visiting Iran, I remember having this conversation one night with my younger cousin. I said, "You're going to love America if you come visit me". And she replied, "But it is so dangerous, I think America is filled with violence and police. That's all you see in American movies."

I remember being so upset with her, but she didn't know any better. I love Iran, but it is truly a privilege to be here. To go out into the streets any time I want and know that "the good guys" are just a 911 call away. Police, to me, are the heroes, the protectors, and just regular dads and brothers and sons. In America, you have to worry about random violence, but not the police.

In Iran, I feel like they are viewed as some other species, like the boogeyman. It's so sad, because if they are viewed as the enemy, how is someone supposed to feel safe? What do you comfort yourself with? Who do you think will be there for you when you're in danger?

Did this make sense?

Nazy said...

Yes, Assal Jan. It does make sense to me. It is bitter and I don't like it, but I understand it. People don't feel "one" as the government and its employees, most particularly the police. I think most of that is because the Iranian police have the awful responsibility of enforcing interference in people's private lives. Public employees must invoke a sense of trust in people, not the view of merceneries because, after all, people's tax money pays for their employment.