Tag Archives: opinion

Three Cents Short of a Nickel

This is not the beginning or the end. Others have come, others will follow. You are not the first, nor will you be the last. You have to trust life. Life has a purpose for you. Everything will be ok. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t stress, it will only make things worse. Why don’t you talk to someone? It’s not you, it’s me. It will only make you stronger. Time will heal. You need to focus on other things. You should focus on your career. You should focus on yourself. Why don’t you join a class? You should try mediation. You should get out there. It’s time to move on. You should drink lemon with honey. You need to rest. You should take some Tylenol. You need more sleep. You shouldn’t be drinking so much. You should eat lots of garlic. How do you feel? Are you feeling better? You should drink mint tea. Let me rub your back. I’ll make you ginger tea. You shouldn’t smoke so much. You should drink less coffee. Don’t worry so much, everything will be ok. Having you been taking any meds? You should go out for a drink. You should eat something. Drink lots of water. You should wear a jacket, it’s cold outside. Just eat some plain rice. Just eat some bread with butter. Do you have an umbrella? I think it’s going to rain. How many times have I told you? You need to try harder. Are you even trying? Don’t worry, you’ll learn. Just try again. Take it slow. Don’t rush things. You can’t force things in life. If it’s meant to be, it will be. You should call him. Don’t talk to her, it’s too soon. You need to give it space. Don’t see him. Have you told her how you feel. I’ve been there. The exact same thing happened to me. Follow your gut. Well, what do you think you should do? I just want the best for you. I’m worried about you. Don’t over analyze. You need a hobby. We’ll have a girl’s night. You need to get laid. Let’s do shots. You’re way better than her. He doesn’t deserve you. Remember what she did? You don’t need that in your life. You need to concentrate on being healthy. You should eat less red meat. You should eat less processed food. You should go on a walk, it clears the mind. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t still care. Don’t take it personally. He doesn’t know what he wants. You can do way better. You should go fuck that guy. Practice makes perfect. You need to concentrate. You can still be friends. You need to sweat it out. Everything will work out for the best. At least you have your friends. At least you have your family. At least you have your health. Don’t give up. I believe in you. You can always talk to me. I know how it feels. We don’t have to talk if you don’t want too.

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Boob Tube

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I remember as a kid encountering classmates who didn’t own TV’s. I pitied these forsaken children with their hippie parents who thought they were protecting their offspring from brain numbing rubbish. While instead they were unknowingly excluding their children from important cultural references for years to come. We felt it was our duty to invite them over after to school to catch up some mandatory viewing; otherwise how would they know which character to vie for during our lunch time Power Ranger playacts, or maybe it would be to our advantage, one less girl wanting to be Pink. I eventually became one of these kids. When I was just weaning myself off Barney and Sesame Street, ready for some harder stuff; to brave Goosbumps and maybe even test the waters of some dumbed down sitcoms, I was rudely forced into the company of those raw veggie eating, hand me down clothed, children of the Earth. But this wasn’t for any self-betterment on my parent’s part; it was, as usual, to save a buck or two. My father, always out for a long term deal, had made an investment in a satellite dish. This was not the satellite dishes that adorn the roofs of so many suburban houses; this was a satellite dish that sent messages to aliens. It was the size of a trampoline, and was probably why I was never able to get a trampoline; no room and no money. It scarred our backyard, despite my mother’s attempts to fence it off and disguise it in vines. Since part of the long term bargain was that we illegally picked up our satellite signal from our surrounding area, and everyone in the neighborhood was using cable our channel selection was limited and fuzzy at best. The only children’s TV I was exposed to being a promo for a Disney channel, which played the same episodes of My Little Pony every day, leading me to carefully rotate my viewing periods. Therefore, for the most part I grew up with the best of the oldies. When asked to make a personal profile in grade 4, I listed my favourite TV show as Green Acres. When we were given a colouring sheet of the Simpson family I mistakenly, and to the horror of the entire class, coloured Marge’s hair brown. A few years later, after we turned our house into a B&B, my parents finally conceded and got cable and I was eventually able to catch up with my peers, although mystifyingly Power Rangers was still off limits. My parents were convinced some poorly costumed villains fighting in broad daylight in a park was too frighting for me, little did they realize that it was in fact the martians from Sesame Street that haunted my dreams.

Nowadays, almost everyone I talk to chooses not to own a TV, and they say so proudly; they’ve been on the commercial-free wagon for 6 months and no low price cable package is going to tempt them off. I can understand, with computers you can watch what you want, when you want, and best of all, for free. (I just hope I’m not the only one prepared for this joyride to end abruptly any time soon.) The last time I was home and surfing the channels, after about, 3 years of being clean, I witnessed how far basic cable had degraded. I wouldn’t have thought it possible near the end of my TV viewing years, what with each new reality shows trying to top the others with ridiculousness and grotesqueness. I thought it couldn’t be beat after witnessing a bachelorette type show, where all the contestants wore wrestling style masks throughout, so the decision couldn’t be based on appearance, and it was hosted by Monica Lewinsky. Now the majority of the channels were devoted to shopping networks, there were a few more foreign channels and the few channels I was actually able to watch were ran the likes of Two and a Half Men, with whatever washed up cast they have managed to scrounge up at this point and dumb blonde bitches trying to tackle day to day tasks, breathing and so on. The only time I could stomach to watch was late-night.

Gone are the days of channel surfing, unless you constantly want to have your finger on the next channel button. And the sans TV option, is no longer the hippie family choice but the sensible one if you want to keep any wits about you. Let’s just hope that when our satellite finally does make contact with the outer realms, that it transmits Honey West rather than Honey Boo Boo, otherwise they may invade us for our own good.

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Never Never Land

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Remember platform sneakers and blue lipstick, playing Girl Talk with your girls, in a room adorned with posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and The Hansons, Much Dance 2000 playing in the background. Or munching on Cool Ranch Doritos and slurping back Orbit while watching  Jem or Darkwin Duck or TGIF. Maybe you recall painful waiting on dail-up internet or when cell phones where the size of your head.

I’ve barely completed the first quarter of my life (perhaps that’s wishful thinking, let’s say third) and I’m already being perpetually invited to walk down memory lane. I understand feeling nostalgia for your childhood; the carefree summer days, the creative possibilities that were viewed in every found object, slumber parties and first crushes, and the constant giddiness that was so easily stirred up, before cynicism crept into our bones. As we are making our transition to adulthood, much slower and reluctantly than previous generations, we say good-bye to our youth, make a clean break and move on to spawn youth of our own. Now, with Facebook and websites, such as Buzzfeed, I’m stagnating in nostalgia as I’m constantly reminded of every significant emblem or moment commonly shared by others of my generation. It can be fun to reminisce at times, but it’s also slightly disturbing. Should I be experiencing such bittersweet feelings recalling my past when it is just barely behind me. Not only is technology ruining certain moments I used to savor, such as the satisfaction when you finally remembering, ‘what’s-his-name, from that movie, you know…’ after it’s been bugging you (and as a result everyone around you) for hours, or running into an old classmate you haven’t seen in years, and instead of catching up on where your lives have taken you seen you last met, there’s no need, since you’ve been constantly updated on Facebook. But now the internet is messing with my memories; this has gone too far. Forty years from now I want to be walking with my child/grandchild/godchild (we’ll see what happens) and tell them how candy used to be 5 cents, we used to write with pen and paper, and didn’t have chips embedded in our brains that thought for us. Now, I stumble home from the bar with my friends and stopping at the corner store recall how 5 cents candies didn’t used to have taxes on them, how we should go home and youtube Strawberry Shortcake, oh my god, remember trolls, we could totally buy one off ebay.

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A US Cutsom

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Recently, while watching a movie that took place in the 1970’s which involved numerous interactions at the airport; it was about a terrorist organization, I felt a little envious at the ease in which they were able to travel in those days. Characters weren’t harassed in customs, walked freely even after displaying suspicious behavior, holding copies of fake passports was considered not enough cause to be held, and they were able to puff a continuous stream of smoke from their mouths throughout.

Every time I’m ushered through US Customs I feel as if I’m interrogated. It doesn’t help that I get nervous when faced with authority. Anyone who has the power to make things very unpleasant for me if they so wish and I feel the pressure of  undergoing a test I’m bound to fail. The unsmiling, doubting faces make me question if I am indeed who I proclaim to be. ‘I’m sure I was born in Victoria, at least that’s what my parents told me, and…and, I’ve seen the birth certificate, it certainly didn’t look as if it’d been tampered with.’ Filling out my declaration form, I’m calm, I’m a world traveller, I know the routine, I’m cool and savvy when it comes to airports. The line is moving quickly, look how easily those citizens of the world are cakewalking through, all ages, races, modes of dress. Then it’s my turn, my heart starts to race as I make my way to the counter. What if they don’t believe me; is my story drill-proof. I don’t have a job right now, but I can’t tell them that, they’ll think I’m going to jump ship instead of catching my connecting flight and find work at the next farm I pass. I’m an English Teacher, I can hold that story up, I was an English Teacher not too long ago and can remember most of the facts about my job. They’ll ask me how much money I have on me, which, including the $20 stored in my wallet for a snack and a magazine, amounts to a little over $100. Am I even allowed to land on US soil with so little money to my name? I’m sure I’ll pop up on their computer as suspicious. Maybe after that time a friend and I were searched.  We didn’t completely fit the hippie vagabond look worn by so many heading to California on a Greyhound, but were backpack toting and guitar strapped nonetheless. After recounting a story that didn’t quite hold, ‘So, you don’t know the name and addresses of who you’re going to stay with in California?’ Stuttering my reply, ‘I was going to figure it out when I got there.’ I was given a mild talking to about working illegally in the states. Come on, I was thinking, out of work, youngsters, who’s bag are filled with beat classics don’t come to kick it in Cali with an itinerary, plus I really did have family in Sacramento. My slight annoyance at being disbelieved and stereotyped was overshadowed by the fact that I was indeed coming down to work illegally, on a weed farm nonetheless, and I should be happy that I made it through at all.  Or maybe they made a slight note when I was ‘randomly’ selected to have my dirty laundry sifted through on a return flight from Cuba. If anything, my Arab sounding last name would be a sure sign of compatriotism with a terrorist organization.

I manage to stumble my way through questioning, slightly flushed and gulping a few to many times, I vow not to make any detours on my way to my next flight, that no mysterious man in sunglasses handed me an unmarked package, and, a personal promise to myself, that I will avoid any more stopovers in the land of the free if at all possible. Now if only I were able to have that cigarette.

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Taking It Lying Down

It’s generally acknowledged among the younger, libertarian, left leaning crowd that Harper is our enemy, yet heated discussion on the topic is hard to come by, few citizens are really aware of what is happening in Canadian politics, or care for that matter, we are not inundated with political campaign propaganda,  extreme mouth pieces like the states, no Fox news or satiric Daily Show. We lack the controversy, the flash and essentially the significance. Of course, there are many countries who probably don’t feel their politics are of global influence, but the sentiment is more acute for us because of our powerful neighbors who look, act and are exposed to the same things we are, yet  constantly are getting international press coverage, whereas when we make it to global news, the immediate reaction is, what stupid thing have we done now? Although, being constantly in the press is not usually a good thing, other than feel good pieces like the Olympics the top nations to grace the front page are usually undergoing tumultuous times. So, when we hear, on a local level, of threats to our public healthcare, privatization of our resources and infrastructure, all the changes that Harper is planning, and has actually been able to implement now that he has a majority government, such as raising retirement age, pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, we shrug, we don’t really feel threatened. We hear about how the protest movement is dead with the dawn of the internet, but then we see the occupy movement that spawned a global trend, when we have a demonstration, for example the tuition protests in Quebec, the rest of Canada looks on a little baffled, is this where our energy is going, an already privileged group that does not want to give up its spoils.

Pacifism is in our nature, but with this also comes indifference and complacency. This goes even to the top, take for example when the controversial painting of Jacob Zuma, South African Prime Minister, was destroyed by saboteurs, there were protests, attempts by the government to get it removed from the museum, likewise when a compromising depiction of Harper surfaced, reclining naked on a chaise lounge there were maybe a few snide giggles, even Harper took it with good humour, the only controversy was whether it was appropriate to hang it in a room where children might see it. Not that this attitude is a bad thing, being good natured is something that defines us along with our politeness, bacon and hockey, but how far do we have to be pushed before we feel compelled to act. To use my friend as an example, he is a strong NDP supporter, he donates to the party, he volunteers and avidly follows the issues, yet he maintains that there is no point in being angry with Harper because it will get no where, whether this is a personal decision to quell the rage that would otherwise be brewing inside him, or a representation of how we as a country approach politics, likewise, if an American were in a similar position it would take very little to witness party bashing. There’s no doubt we have a good situation in Canada and it’s hard to predict how much this is at risk, but considering how our country is already established, Harper’s ideology would be a huge step backwards, unless he were to fulfill his agenda completely, and therefore change a system that is working for Cananda, we might be left with a few half-baked schemes that will require a lot of backtracking and huge sums of money when (and if) we switch parties. It is already telling that the NDP, which was always an outlier party, only having much popularity in BC, has become a major opposition to Harper,  this could be a further emulation of Americas polar parties or signify a deeper dissatisfaction that is furthering the divide between the two leanings. There was always an issue of regions feeling under represented in Canada, due to our huge geographic dispersion and varied interests, but with the resource rich prairies getting all the attention, dissatisfaction is becoming apparent with citizens turning to a more polar parties, but very little public opposition is visible to the standing party, aside from snide remarks made at social gatherings.  Not saying that we should become like the states, which has turned into a circus, but a little more interest in what’s going on in our country would help prevent the shock and feeling of helpless when these changes actually start affecting us on a personal level.

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Missed Shots

 

Street children dressed in ragged clothing engrossed in a game of cards under the eaves of a convenience store, a young man standing stoically atop a truck bed of grain feed, a woman holding a bright red umbrella walking along a shanty town boardwalk, I watched helplessly as these perfect photo opportunities passed by, either on a bus or a tricycle or not in a comfortable environment where I would want to flash my camera. Sometimes I’ll make an attempt to reach for my bag, but know by the time I get my camera out it will be to late, even if I do attempt a shot through the filth smeared window that’s zooming by my desired scene, I know I’ll only look through my pictures later and casually erase the picture, forgetting what I was attempting to capture in the first place. Do you have a missed photo opportunity that haunts you?

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Seen That, Been There, Done That

On the National Day of the People's Republic of China, tourists from the country and overseas came to Badaling Great Wall to celebrate.(Xinhua)

In our age of excess and exposure, lower flight costs, package tourism and organized tour groups, the list of undiscovered, obscure or adventurous destinations is dwindling. No longer are we fascinated by expeditions to the arctic, if we can afford the hefty sum we can join a neon orange thermal suit clad troop of fellow adventurers, so many climbers are attempting Everest now that people are dying just waiting in line for access to the ladder, beaches that were once whispered secrets among locals, known for their serenity and solitude have now become frequent stops for booze cruisers, with all day happy hours and salacious locals. Now those wishing to pursue the off the beaten track destinations are presented with new challenges, either having to resort to venturing somewhere with mildly less tourists, maybe since it doesn’t offer ease of passage, going somewhere that perhaps has no particular draw for tourists, a common village that bodes no sightseeing attraction or travel somewhere that is considered too dangerous for the common traveler.
I can understand the attraction to package tourism, and have fallen victim to it several times, it’s convenient, reasonably priced, you feel like you’re getting all the bases covered, but in the end you feel a little cheated, as if you’ve had a short-changed experience, and not just by all the hawkers with their cheap trinkets and the exponentially priced water, but as if you’re not really getting to know the place you are in, only a filtered, for foreigners version, and it’s a lot harder to escape the bubble when you’re limiting your interaction with locals. Perhaps these are the laments of a jaded traveler, who, despite its convenience, prefers not to travel with a Lonely Planet in tote, and having grown up with stories of Mallory and Shackleton, reading Heart of Darkness and One Hundred Years of Solitude, liked to imagine there was an unadulterated land to be discovered. And ultimately I shouldn’t complain, because considering if I lived during these times of  the ‘real’ adventurers, I no doubt would not have had an opportunity to travel like I do, unless I were to become a missionary, or want to subject myself to an extremely uncomfortable, disease ridden voyage. Now, instead of just looking at picture books of wonders of world and dreaming of the unattainable mysteries the world had to offer, I now have the opportunity, with several months of scrimping and saving, taking a teaching job abroad or various other methods available to me, to see these sights in real life, something that was unimaginable in my parents generation. I live in the age of convince and accessibility, and have to accept that there may be others who share my same passion for exploring the world, and perhaps I should be grateful, there’s no better way to bond with new friends than in sharing travel stories, and maybe there’s hope for a western society that is largely viewed as ignorant as we are entering a burgeoning global playing field.  So, although it can be frustrating at times, trekking a well-beaten path with hordes of foreigners, or encountering a mass of out-of-town drunkards who smear the Wests already tarnished image, there are also the travelers who provide you with valuable inside tips, who offer a helping hand when you are failing to communicate that the guy who just ran out of the bar and left you with the tab was not actually with you or provide some much-needed company when you felt like your starting to lose you mother tongue and  might just talk in simplified phrases from now on, the world is becoming a smaller place and with that, hopefully will come more understanding and tolerance, and there’s always plenty of Vino, Cervaza, Ouzo, Pisco, Soju, Sake, Rakia, ect. to go around.

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It’s a Nice Idea, But…

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Have you ever the blurb on the back of a movie or book and were immediately intrigued by the plot line, you get it home, eager to see how it will pan out, only to be disappointed at the unfulfilled potential concept. This happened recently with Will Self’s Book of Dave. I forget how I first heard of it, but I had it in the back of my mind to read for a while. The plot is basically about a disenchanted cab driver who writes an angry tirade on life, only to have it dug up years later, after an apocalypse, and taken as a religious text. I thought it was a fairly original idea and an interesting commentary on religion, but was mildly disappointed once I started reading it by a sub par plot line, a few obvious ‘aha’ moments and a not entirely convincing dialogue style. Sometimes an ‘interesting’ idea is harder to play out than to come up with. It’s easier to be carried by the idea and pay less attention to the details, essentially the need to make it believable and relatable to the audience, or to over compensate by the unlikely circumstances, bogging the story down in semantics, further distancing the reader.
Another example that springs to mind is Waterworld, showing how a creative idea was ruined by lazy writers resorting to cliche driven dialogue, and subtexting the plot with typical Hollywood scenarios. Or the science fiction genre, which is full of fascinating ideas, but is probably held back by its more limited appeal, and has only been beautifully orchestrated a handful of times, it usually appears in a camp, b-movie sort of style.

On the other hand, stories that appear rather dull can actually be surprisingly good, such as
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Waiting for Godot, Rememberance of Things Past, if you were to read the plot lines of these pieces they’re less than intriguing, a women waiting at a train station and recalling her past affair, two men waiting for the appearance of an equivocal character, a man reliving, in painful detail, his childhood memories, but the subdued subject matter allows more freedom for the author to fully explore all the facets of their focus. Same with film, such as Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Lost in Translation, Jim Jarmush’s and Walt Stillman’s work. These films have very little action, the focus mainly being the dialogue. Again the creators are able to fully realize the characters, and create a realistic representation of life, which rarely involves much action, and where seemingly slight occurances bear significant repercussions. Both subdued plots and extreme plots come with their own challenges, maybe the trick is to approach far out storylines as banal material and common place plots as the most compelling thing to ever happen.

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To Suffer or Not to Suffer

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Many artists are famously known to have suffered from depression, mental illness, or have led impoverished lifestyles, sometimes the torment is obvious in the work they create, perhaps it’s what draws us to it, a connection to a similar inner darkness we may hold. And when artists die tragically at a young age it creates a certain mystique around them and their body of work, as if they had a deeper understanding of pain. Although we would never wish suffering on anyone, how different would the art world be without it?
There are often complaints about government cutting funding to the arts, and although it is great for a country to support and foster their culture, isn’t it partially the struggle that produces passionate art. Dickens surely wouldn’t have been as popular if he wrote Comfortable Times instead of Hard Times, Orwell purposely chose to work menial jobs in order to experience the working man’s life, chronicaling his experiences in Down and Out in Paris and London, Keroac went between living at his aunts and crashing on peoples couches, Henry Miller worked as a mail clerk, the list goes on, and of course the myriads of artists who were only discovered after their death and lived their entire lives in poverty. It’s the struggle that makes it easy to relate too, it’s comforting to realize there are others who have it as bad as you, or worse, someone who can understands and can conceptualize your pain. There are plenty of affluent artists too, but the more popular ones tend to comment on the ridiculousness of the posh lifestyle, with all it’s silly formalities and mannerisms.

I recently tried an anti psychotic drug that was given to me to help me sleep on a long plane flight. My friend had told me about a similar one she had taken and how she stopped taking it because of its affects, it caused her loose her more reflective thoughts, and although they were perhaps painful thoughts, it was better to have them than not. I experienced a similar feeling, after the pill set in I was unable to concentrate on any thought pattern, a word would enter my head, then fly out, I was unable to string together a coherent idea, it reminded me of the desired state of emptiness attained through meditation. This lasted for maybe an hour, before I fell into blissful sleep. Although I tend to over think and analyze everything, I feared what life would be like if I was in this constant numb state. Ignorance is bliss perhaps, but it doesn’t lead to a meaningful existence, and is it better to suppress the demons or allow these demons to inspire creative output?
If this sort medication was around in some artists lifetime, and no doubt it was for some of them, could it have made an impact on the art world? Would we have encountered more serene landscapes, and jolly Rockefeller-like depictions of life, rather than Munch’s The Scream and Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son? Although, I question how popular it would have been if it was available, there is a certain satisfaction in misery, perhaps even a feeling of superiority that you have been bestowed with insight into the true suffering of humanity, you have, in a sense, been outside the matrix, and there’s no returning to a naive existence.

Whether human suffering is an integral part of the creative process or not, for many artists, having a creative outlet may be their only escape from their burdens, and the best form of therapy. But any form of extreme emotion provides valid insight into a part of the human psyche, and people who are experiencing a bout of melancholy or strife are more likely to seek solace in art they can relate to as opposed to someone who is experiencing a period of joy feeling compelled to see cheerful portrayals of life, not to exclude art that evokes other powerful emotions, but pain is a particularly potent one. As  So, although, it may not validate an artists ability, suffering perhaps draws a more captive audience, if only as mild comfort that we are not solely bearing the burden of life’s miseries, whether it’s a purveyor finding consolation in art or an artists reminding us, what all there is to be miserable about.

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Bad Press F*** the Police

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The most common stories you hear about police these days appear to be of the scandalous sort, rash shootings, misuse of tazers, battling protesters, racial stereotyping, how come these people who are supposed to be our protectors, so often fall into the role of villain? Even in films criminals are often in the protagonist role, we sympathize with the gangsters plight, or the pathetic characters who are drawn to crime out of desperation. Cops are rarely put in a hero position, they are either shown as corrupt or unwitting victims and if they do save the day, they have to break the law in order to do so.
Although it probably not fair the bad representation cops get, criticism is an inevitable job description that come with any position of authority, and there will always be those who misuse their power and try to hide behind their seemingly untouchable guise. Romanticizing criminals may seem like an unjust representation of reality, but it rarely leads to sympathizing with everyday law breakers, or encouraging crime, other than in those already prone to it. The imbalance in positive to negative stories about the police is probably down to what sells, of course misdemeanors must be accounted for, but they media is more likely to publish a scandal than a story of praise. Even though we may turn a corner when we see a cop car, dissipate when they crash our parties, cringe in disgust when we hear another unnecessary death at their hands, we would hope that if we ever were in a moment of desperation we could rely on them. It’s an often times thankless job, and as in any situation, it’s easy to make mass assumptions based on a few prominent cases. There are heroes and there are assholes, just hope you encounter the right one at the right time.

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