The young man was walking nonchalantly, just an- other expressionless face in the pedestrian bustle downtown. He was wearing a clean white jacket.
His hands were thrust deep in his pockets as he sauntered
into the large bus shelter where I was sitting.
As he passed in front of me, I noticed a commotion in
the street. A police car pulled to a sudden stop and two
officers leaped into action, springing from the car and
sprinting into the shelter like dogs after a rabbit.
He never saw them coming.
They jumped him from behind and he went down
hard, his face smacking the tile like a steak slapped onto
a butcher block. He didn’t co-operate at first, but neither
did he fight. He just lay unyielding and unbending as the
officer’s knee ground into his back, harshly wrestling rigid
wrists into cuffs.
But once the officers got him secured, the young man
went abruptly limp and whatever spirit he had seemed to
seep into listless compliance.
“Do you have any drugs on you?” asked an officer.
“In my pocket.”
“This one?” asked the officer, grabbing hard and high at
the outer side of the young man’s pant leg. A muffled “yes”
issued from the mouth on the floor. The cop wrenched his
hand into the tight pocket and came out with a baggie of
“Sixteen dollars. In my back pocket.” They extracted it.
The action was happening just a few feet from my
perch on the bench. I never moved. The officers hauled
the young man roughly to his feet and gave him a full pat
down with his face squished up against the wall. They
were not gentle. There was no more chatter in the shelter.
People gave the police a respectful clearing to do their
business and mostly kept their eyes to themselves.
“You’re under arrest for trafficking drugs. Do you
A meek “Yes.”
With these formalities out of the way, the officers frog-
marched the young man out of the shelter and stuffed him
Going down Hard
the need and the danger of presenting a
callous face to the world.
into the backseat of the cruiser. I had a front row seat as they
passed before me. He seemed so young, so docile, so clean,
so full of positive potential. So ill-prepared to face the penalties for drug trafficking – a puppy in a pool of piranhas.
Mask of Indifference
But it’s the blank face that sticks with me still. No emotion
– no anger, no fear, no remorse, no sadness, no aggression.
Not even a hooded shimmer of contempt. He seemed so
indifferent to the fact that this incident seriously jeopardized his prospects for life.
Later, I recounted the incident to a group of friends.
How could he not care? I just didn’t get it! What could turn
a robust young man into such a cold-faced robot?
“Oh, I get that,” replied one of my listeners. And the
story was sad, for she’d seen the same stolid face on one
of her sons who’d lived for a season on the wrong side
of the law. “You can’t show emotion to police officers,”
she explained. “That’s a sign of weakness. If you show
fear, they’ll make you rat on your friends. You’ve got to be
tough, and the way to do that is to act like you don’t care.”
But the tough exterior is a façade. A mother knows,
because the same young man who deals drugs, plays cat
and mouse with the police and fights crazily in the midnight parking lot will also cuddle – shaking with fears and
brimming with tears – with the mother who holds him
tight and prays the tender shoots of his conscience that
push upwards in the lonely times will not be trampled on
the asphalt of his bravado.
She knows the drugs are a big part of the problem.
They distort reality, damage healthy bodies, promote criminal activity and stamp on relationships. She also knows
apathy is a callus that grows unwittingly over those sensitive souls still yearning for love and affection, care and
She knows a pose can conceal better qualities of character lying dormant deep within.
She knows, furthermore, that jail usually nurtures the
wrong impulses. It kills kindness and stifles the human
spirit. It’s a school for deviance, not restoration. She knows
it from bitter experience. And she knows the young man
who went down so hard in front of me is putting on a mask
of unfeeling he might one day grow into.
She prays he will encounter a softhearted listener and
another chance. FT
dOuG KOOP is a Winnipeg writer and spiritual
health specialist. this column is the last in his series.
Faith Today thanks him for his contributions. Watch
for a redesigned Faith Today in September.
BlessedIs TheMan n BY DOUG KOOP