Part I: Naked he Fled.
Sometimes, by chance or by choice, you happen to be in a place when everything changes. Like that naked young man. Who was he, and what was he doing in the story?
Unused to standing in hard-soled shoes, after a pandemic year of attending mass via YouTube in my stocking feet, while seated in a comfy chair, I shifted from foot-to-foot during the very long Palm Sunday gospel about the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Suddenly, making a cameo appearance in Mark 14:5-52, “There was a young man following him who was covered by nothing but a linen cloth. As they seized him he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.” Had that walk-on part always been there? How many times had I heard it without ever noticing it?
Later, I asked Father Ellis, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. It turns out, that particular reading comes around every three years. Mathew, Mark, and Luke each get a turn in the three-year cycle, John doesn’t. He’s sprinkled in, here and there. According to Fr. Ellis, no one knows, for sure, the significance of this young man. He appears only in Mark. Some people say that the young man represents Mark, himself. I pondered all the scribes, through millennia, transcribed this little anecdote without ever knowing who this young man was, or what his significance was.
To me, the young man is one of the hordes of anonymous witnesses. No Bible scholar, for me his appearance widened the lens and I saw a bigger picture. There were countless other people in the garden and around it. Lots of people would have traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. This young man might have been camping, nearby. Maybe it was hot, so he slept au naturel, covered only with a linen cloth. Awakened by the commotion, he grabbed up the linen cloth, wrapped it around himself, and ran to see what was happening. He would have been terrified when he saw the Romans, known to be extremely brutal, arresting Jesus. So he fled. He’d rather flee in naked embarrassment than face the alternative. Like many others, he was there when history was being made, but he didn’t stick around long enough to see what happened next. I don’t blame him.
Part II: Fate, Fortune cookies, and a Tortoise
Recently, my husband, Randy, and I sat at our dining room table eating chicken chow mein and fortune cookies, while watching our neighbors jog, walk their dogs, and take their little kids out for stroller rides. The lady on the next block was minding her giant tortoise as it browsed the grass on her front lawn. The tortoise is a neighborhood sensation and it never fails to attract the attention of neighborhood kids and dogs. That day, a man stopped to let his dog investigate the tortoise, while he chatted up the tortoise’s owner.
“Go for it. You never know what happen (sic) next,” read the fortune in the third fortune cookie that I cracked open. The s in the word “happens” was missing, but at least there was a fortune inside of it. The first two cookies I cracked open were empty. Signifying what? The meaninglessness and emptiness of existence? More likely, it signified a below-par batch of Chang Pin fortune cookies and the reason that the local takeout joint, Huie’s Chow Mein, sold them to me for the paltry sum of ten-for-a-dollar. So there we were, eating fortune cookies when a police car pulled up and parked across the street from the tortoise, et.al.
“Oh, oh, this can’t be good,” my husband said.
For context, we live just a few blocks from where George Floyd was killed by the cop, now ex-cop, Derek Chauvin last summer. Mr. Floyd was killed while being arrested for a misdemeanor–allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill. In the aftermath of his death, our neighborhood stores were looted and burned. Some of them are just starting to reopen, some are still boarded up and likely will never reopen. Naturally, the recent televised trial was of great interest to us. Chauvin’s lawyer claimed he had been frightened and distracted by a handful of bystanders, and that’s why he couldn’t take his knee off of Mr. Floyd’s neck. The jury didn’t buy it. Chauvin was found guilty.
“I hope the cop doesn’t shoot the turtle,” I said. “Scary turtle! They may have to defend themselves against it.”
“And, obviously, they can’t outrun it,” he said.
While we entertained ourselves with attempts at dark humor, we warily watched for the cop to jump out of the squad car and start harassing our neighbor for illegal turtle ownership, or the like. But, nothing happened. Then, a man walked past the squad car, pushing a baby in a stroller.
“He should be arrested for child endangerment,” Randy quipped.
“You mean because the cop might shoot the baby?” I asked.
For context, in 2017 Justine Damen, who lived in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, just south of Lake Harriet, made the fatal mistake of calling the police to report a possible crime. When they finally got there, she approached the driver’s side of the squad car. Then, the cop sitting on the passenger side, now ex-cop, Mohamed Noor, shot across his partner, through the driver’s side window, and killed her. He claimed that a loud noise had so frightened him that he shot the first thing he saw move. Furthermore, he was aware of something that had happened to a cop in New York City which made him nervous.
Some people are always on the side of the police, no matter how egregious their behavior. They suggested that Justine must have banged on the car, creating a scary noise. As if that would be enough to justify shooting her. But, she didn’t do that. Her fingerprints weren’t on the squad car. She didn’t do anything, except approach them. The jury didn’t buy it. Noor was found guilty.
“Going for it,” is one of those ambiguous pieces of advice one gets from fortune cookies. But going for it can lead in any direction. You could “go for it” by literally going to a convenience store for a snack, for example, and end up being a crucial witness at a trial.
This was what happened to 17-year-old Darnella. One day in May 2020, as she later testified at Mr. Chauvin’s trial, she took her younger cousin to Cup Foods store. She had walked there “hundreds, even thousands of times because it was close to her home,” (npr.org). That evening was different. She saw that something didn’t seem right and stopped to video record it with her phone. She didn’t know Mr. Floyd or the significance of what was happening. But, she stuck around when it would have been easier, and safer, to leave.
If she hadn’t stopped, or if her phone’s battery had run out things might have been very different. Some things might have been better. Some things might have been worse. Chauvin might never have been tried. He might still be out on the street, free to kill another person. She was a brave young lady.
I had supposed that after Justine Damond was killed, the city would do something to reform its police force. I was wrong. Her death had a big impact on me since I’m also a woman who has called the police and approached squad cars. I’ve called 911 to report loud arguments or late-night parties. I’ve approached squad cars to talk with the police. Never again! After she was shot, I decided it was best to never call the police about anything, short of a murder in progress. Calling the police, or approaching them, is just too dangerous for anything less than matters of life or death.
These two people who lost their lives at the hands of the police are, by no means, the only ones. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics released in 2015 (per Wikipedia) around 1,000 people are killed by the police in the U.S. each year.
These two cases also cost us, the taxpayers of Minneapolis, a lot of money. Justine Damond’s family received $20 million in her wrongful death settlement. The family of George Floyd received $27 million in his wrongful-death settlement.
I bet most cops are good cops. But, just as in any other occupation, some are better than others. And, some people are just not cut out for the job. They are too nervous, too aggressive, or too easily distracted. There has to be a way to keep them out of the police force or remove them if they slip in. There are a lot of laws, rules, regulations, recruiting practices, training practices, and discipline procedures that need to change. We could start by paying them more, so there is a larger pool to pick from, and then demanding more from them. Maybe, at long last, the time has come to take action and create the future.
Bonnie-Another good story; did the Cop stop to check out the turtle and visit? Did he/she get out of the vehicle? Tim
On Wed, May 5, 2021 at 4:54 PM Bonnie’s Books & Things wrote:
> bkoldre posted: ” Part I: Naked he Fled. Sometimes, by chance or by > choice, you happen to be in a place when everything changes. Like that > naked young man. Who was he, and what was he doing in the story? Unused to > standing in hard-soled shoes, after a pandemic year” >
No, he/she just sat in the squad car for 20-30 minutes. Maybe on a break. But the mere presence of the police invoked worry, for the reasons I mentioned. They are not as scary as the Roman senturions, but not reassuring, either. Thanks for reading and commenting.🙂