Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cultural Diversity, the LAPD and my Uncle from Chicago

Cultural tolerance is a term that encompasses and encourages various forms of inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity. Thus, when a physicist is able to talk calmly and politely to a political scientist, this is an example of "cultural tolerance".

Cultural tolerance is understanding that there are different ways of doing things and that if we are to get along peacefully in this world that we must allow for these differences in spite of the fact that our way is always the best way. It would be better for all foreigners to learn to do things our way but it isn't practical to do so when they first arrive. Thus it is important to be patient and tolerant when dealing with visitors and new arrivals from other places. We must explain the way we do things around here and only then throw them in jail or beat them up if they do things differently.

I have a favorite anecdote demonstrating excellent cultural tolerance on the part of a representative of law and order here in Los Angeles, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) a fine institution noted throughout the world for its own special style of corruption and racism. This story demonstrates that they can act with tolerance towards visitors in an enlightened and possibly even humororous fashion. A visitor from a very far away place, the north side of Chicago, came to our fair city and with complete innocence and naivete got himself into serious trouble.

The person was my favorite uncle visiting us and his mother, my grandmother, from Chicago. The time period must have been the mid 1960's. There are many good things I can say about my uncle, he was one of my favorite people in the world: a successful businessman, an intellectual, the president of his reform temple in Highland Park, Illinois, and a very nice man, married to a classic jewish intellectual neurotic woman who was also one of my favorite people in the world.

We were coming back from somewhere, probably to visit my grandmother, when the problems began. He was driving and did so with an enthusiastic driving procedure which consisted of driving at high speeds on the freeway while moving from lane to lane at will and turning his head around to talk to us, his favorite nephews, cowering in the back seat of the car. We were saved from probable death or disfigurement by a police officer who pulled him over and asked to see his driver's license.

And then my uncle got himself into really big trouble.

You see, in Chicago when something like this happens, there is a standard procedure. And that is what my uncle proceeded to do: which was to hand the police officer his driver's license with $100 bill attached. My guess is that he did not give it a second thought. With his driving skills, I figured, he had probably done this many times before in Chicago.

The police officer looked at the driver's license and "honorarium" and said: "Ah, Mr. Hanig, I see you are from Chicago. Put your money away and never do that again and I won't put you in jail this time".

In retrospect, I think that was a very humorous thing for the police officer to say and that my uncle was very lucky. He could easily have spent the afternoon in LA County Jail.

You see, in this town, you do not try to bribe individual police officers. That would be an incredibly stupid thing to do. The way it works here, as I understand it, is that you bribe the top guy, the Chief of Police, or the Mayor or someone like that. Then they do what needs to be done.

I cherish the memory of the police officer recognizing that,  being from Chicago,  the driver thought that bribing a police officer was a normal thing to do and making allowances for this visitor from a distant place.   

No comments:

Post a Comment