Thank you, Municipal Guards of Rio. You help keep the city safe. I saw a group of you walking down the street today, and wanted to stop you to thank you in person – but coward that I am, I didn’t. So I want to thank you now… You go out alone on the streets (with only your bus full of friends to help), weaponless (except for your wooden batons the length of a baseball bat), defenseless (except for your storm-trooper armor) – all to protect the citizens of Rio de Janeiro from the horrible scourge that haunts this city…
Yes, it is the plague of the street vendors – those who have no work, yet try to support their families by selling candy, soft drinks, and pens, repairing watches, and other such menaces to polite society. I thank you for your special vigilance around Christmas. The young man who sells wrapping paper by the bus stop must be stopped. The father selling Hershey’s Kisses (TM) – how DARE he? The boy selling stuffed animals with his father – they all must be stopped, no matter the cost.
Oh, and look, the cute pink elephant the boy was selling would also make a great gift for your daughter. No, I insist. After all, it’s more efficient this way. Why shouldn’t you be allowed to do your Christmas shopping for your family at the same time as you beat down the man who is struggling to support his family. After all, he’s not going to need it anymore – and otherwise, it’s just get thrown away. Just killing two birds with one stone. Or maybe killing two birds with one swipe of your baton. But make sure you actually kill the birds, cause otherwise, it’s just a horrible mess.
On a similar note, we found out yesterday that a young mother we’ve been getting to know this past month was shot and killed by a private security guard on a busy, crowded street not far from where this photo was taken. Downtown Rio, the week after Christmas… I don’t know the whole story. It’s possible she tried to steal something from the store. Or it’s possible that the security guard simply abused his authority and power in the worst way possible.
Good-bye Alane – we’ll miss you.
It’s not just the “good guys” who I get angry at. On Thursday there was general unrest by the drug factions of Rio – busses burned, police stations attacked, police and civilians killed. I hate that it happens. I hate seeing boys with guns and grenades, who have been prepped to kill. But I hate even more seeing those who are supposed to PROTECT others abusing their power and authority. And I have no answers, except to say that tonight, I will not just sit at home and watch TV and forget what I have seen.
Maybe by naming the problem – by stating flat out “This is wrong!” – we can begin… praying for, working towards, living out a society where justice is not just for the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, the light-skinned, and the perfumed, but for every man, woman, and child on this earth, regardless of race, country of birth, education, and social status.
Happy New Year…
In postscript, I do want to say that I am grateful for those who do not abuse their power – the honest police officers and municipal guard – I know they are out there, and they exist, and I respect them – I have no desire to make their work harder. I know it’s gotta be an incredibly tough job to be an honest cop here – low pay, lots of risk, opportunity for corruption… An honest “thank you” to those who do your best to do your job and do it with integrity.