Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
June 25, 2010
I’ve been struggling with the Arizona border brouhaha, and honestly don’t get it. I mean, if you cross the Mexican/U.S. border surreptitiously, most likely at night, there must be something wrong about it, or you wouldn’t have to be so sneaky.
The term “racial profiling” gets batted around like a mosquito in malaria country, mostly by people who clearly live a long way from Arizona’s chaos, people who have absolutely no realistic conception of the rising tide of brown skin headed north and its effect on the neighborhood. Call that racist if you want, but if I said it any other way, I’d be obfuscating the truth while glorifying political correctness. Maybe we should call it “nationality profiling.” Is there something un-American about showing identification?
Early on, I was stopped by the cops for nothing more than being a kid from Woody Creek. OK, maybe an Italian kid from Woody Creek. John Loushin, the town marshal, was happy to chat me up at the old post office, generally including something in there about “Be careful in town.” He was one of my heroes.
Kris Kralicek, a later town marshal, used to flag me down for riding my bike too fast or for being in the “wrong” part of town. “What’re you doing in town? Shouldn’t you be out on the ranch helping your dad?” He taught me a lot about law and order – I’d see his car coming and I’d duck down the alley or through somebody’s yard just to avoid the inquisition.
Those guys were nice, if you take the whole package into consideration. They weren’t calling us Wops or Dagos. That generally got left up to those who didn’t know better, like some of the local businessmen or newcomers. In case you don’t know, Wop always applied to Italians, meaning “without papers,” and was/is a totally derogatory term. We didn’t particularly realize that at the time, or maybe we just didn’t care. Later, I used to reply, without total malice, that “a Wop is a Wop. At least we know our heritage.” Some wise-guy always wanted to know if Gramps had any homemade wine on hand; “Dago red,” they called it.
Aspen got busier and the cops upped the ante. Showing ID became a regular ritual, if they were fast enough to catch us. They’d have never stopped us just for being kids, but we seemed to unintentionally draw attention to ourselves, if nothing else, just by acting suspiciously.
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When a young man finally gets his driver’s license, it’s like opening day of hunting season for cops. I don’t know if they did it maliciously, but I used to get stopped for all sorts of imaginary offenses, from “loose” license plates, dirty headlights, the trunk lid “looked ajar,” even for having my girlfriend sitting “too close” to the driver. Every time I had to be polite and show my driver’s license.
The last time I got a ticket, I was in my 40s, driving through Glenwood Springs when a well-known old man in a station wagon tried to take the front-end off my truck. The cop’s look was derogatory, “You’re from Aspen, huh?” Nobody wanted to hear my side of the story and though I tried, the cop played dumb and handed me a ticket for careless driving. When I protested, he rudely told me to tell it to the judge.
The judge was my last wife’s divorce lawyer, and with a tin ear, he denied my objections. The old man, called as a witness over a $40 traffic violation, showed up with an attorney. They all were determined to see my upvalley ass fry. Nobody told me I could bring a lawyer. Nefariously out-gunned, I was guilty as charged, of course.
Anyway, whether you’re brown, black, yellow, white or green, I don’t understand the problem with showing your ID. Obviously, I’ve been profiled all my life and I’m uncomfortable with any group getting better treatment from the law than me. Maybe I could get the ACLU to help me sue somebody for past transgressions?
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