Mariner was a young lad, well, not really young, he had progressed a bit in his career and was working as a staff consultant assisting all state law enforcement agencies in complying with new Federal regulations about reporting law enforcement activities to a State database. Let’s just say he had a full head of hair with a flat top.
The work was both tedious and fraught with conflicts about changing behaviors that had long existed in local police agencies. After a hard Friday, we all stopped after work to enjoy a happy hour at a local pub. It was a good release from a difficult day and, after a couple of hours, mariner had had an uncounted number of half-priced gin and tonics. Needless to say, as he left for home, he had an accident on the interstate. One is supposed to slow a bit when taking a tight exit ramp, which mariner failed to do.
But the accident is only a set-up for a genuine insight that has stayed with mariner throughout his life and sets his belief in what democracy is all about.
Mariner rolled his jeep-like vehicle and totaled it. He crawled out the back window virtually unhurt. The first person to be there as he crawled out of the vehicle was a nurse who checked him for critical injuries, determined he would survive and left. The second person to greet mariner simultaneous to the nurse fed him two breath mints to help ward off law enforcement analysis of his inebriation and left. The third person redirected traffic. There was no judgment of mariner’s behavior; there was no judgment of inconvenience; there was no judgment of moral principles. Mariner was a fellow interstate traveler. Further, because he was in law enforcement and reported to the Secretary of Public Safety, police officers saw to it that there were no ticketing or other law enforcement transactions as a result of the accident.
This tale has nothing to do with regulatory justice, alcohol, or nuisance among interstate travelers. What mariner learned is that he belonged. He was a fellow interstate traveler; he was a fellow law enforcement employee; he was a fellow human being. He belonged. Not only that, he was accountable to other travelers for the same concern about wellbeing. He learned that judgment and prejudice are not the rules for living together. Just the opposite, it is compassion and understanding that hold us together.
At this time we are confronted in our nation with a despot president, an unjust economic system and many citizens suffering from innumerable injustices in daily life. Democracy is at risk. Our nation is not so far from the cliff not to be concerned about abject collapse into a so-so nation that will be left behind in the artificial intelligence age. Already our allies are drifting away.
The solution is to feel that we belong. We are one of many. Also, we are among the many that care for the one. Democracy requires unity and mutual participation without judgment.
Ignore the fake news concerned about prejudice and malfeasance. Go outside and look for someone who needs to belong. While you’re at it, let yourself belong to the nation as well – without judgment.