Monday 4 June 2012

Seven Year Old Kid

I have been thinking about criminal intent today and how it has changed the way we live.
I may be totally wrong about this, but I seem to remember that we as Canadians were for the most part a law-abiding population when I was growing up. Just like I don’t remember tornados in Canada at all, I don’t remember someone going into a large mall and shooting people indiscriminately. Sure, we had crime, but it was mostly a misdemeanor kind of thing, littering, jay walking, spitting on the sidewalk and shop lifting. How did we get from there to here?
I don’t think that you can point to one single factor, but it is rather a multitude of tiny things that have piled up over the years and turned our country into the one that none of us wanted it to be, the one south of us. We are all to blame. Yes, you too. With every white lie, every overpayment kept, every road rule we have broken, every time we took a day off “sick” we added to the sickness. How many times have you broken a rule because it is just once and how can one time make any difference? When the big box store didn’t charge you the right amount, did you turn the money back in or did you think to yourself  “I deserve a bit of a break after all of the shopping that I do here.” How many times have you broken a road rule because there is no one on the road and who is to know?
I can remember a time during The Stampede when a crowd of people got off of the LRT and we were all waiting at the corner for the light to change so that we could walk across the street to change trains. There was no traffic, but we all just stood there waiting for the light to change to green. Two young guys came to the corner and just walked across the street against the light. Those of us that had been waiting looked at the two guys and then at each other, the two guys and back at each other. Finally, someone in the crowd said what we were all thinking,  “They must be Americans.” We laughed and nodded, and commented to each other just how true it was until the light changed and we walked across the road totally legally. I know it is silly, but when you don’t abide by the small silly laws, it makes it much easier to break the more important laws. I have heard it said (by others and myself) that there is no sense in passing this bylaw or that bylaw, because they don’t have enough people to enforce the bylaws they have now. We shouldn’t need to have someone with a gun tell us not to pour oil into the sewers or cut down trees on city land. We should just do the right thing!
When I was seven or eight, I desperately wanted to hang out with my brother and his buddies. One day, they were stealing cigarettes from the Kresge’s and for me to be cool, I also had to steal something. I didn’t smoke, so I wandered into the store until I saw something that would make me cool and be useful at the same time. I put a handful of felt markers into my pocket and the minute that I stepped out of the door, A mans hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back into the store. I was a criminal!
The rest of the day is a little hazy, but I know it involved an angry store employee, a very scary policeman and a father that was taking turns being disappointed and furious. I know I was spanked with the clothes brush and I am pretty sure there were tears aplenty. I still have that clothes brush and every now and then I take it out and look at it while I mull over my criminal career. I know what you are thinking, “Stealing a couple of pens doesn’t make you a criminal you idiot!” Well, you would be right in most cases, but it seems that Kresge’s had a zero tolerance when it came to shoplifting and I had to go to court. It wasn’t adult court where I would have been fined or perhaps serve a month or two in the Don Jail, I could have handled that. No, I suffered for years. You see, my dad had to take a day off of work to take me to family court. He must have had to tell his boss why and that must have been embarrassing enough, but when we were in court the judge went on and on about it not being my fault, but my parents had let me down and didn’t do a good job raising me. Was this fucking judge trying to get me killed? 
The next few months involved sessions where I was told how I had let everyone down, being grounded for what seemed like forever, having to do all sorts of demeaning work around the house and getting yelled at for walking into a room at the wrong time. I think the worst part was the smile my brother had on his face every time I was suffering some new indignity. Don’t forget, the only reason I was there was that I was following him and he didn’t get caught.
Ever since that time I have had a respect for the law and other peoples property. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to overcome that feeling from time to time, but it isn’t always easy, and when Maegan questions my morality about “backing up” the DVD’s and CD’S from the library, I really don’t know what to say. 
I feel like that seven year old kid sitting on an oversized wooden chair in family court crying while the woman judge tells Art Harrison he is a bad father. 

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