Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Minstrel Police Officers

"Wearing blue camouflage fatigues and crooning about Islamic holy war, the five members of Hamas's Protectors of the Homeland police band are trying to boost morale in Gaza with an arsenal of anti-Israel numbers."
Ok, just to be clear, I in no way support the goals of this band. However, the headline of the Washington Post article, from which this quotation is taken, caught my attention and imagination: Hamas's singing policemen boost morale in Gaza.

I had envisioned jolly looking officers strolling around town with a guitar while singing songs about friendship, kindness, and good citizenship (kind of like this picture of a policeman in India). Instead, it turns out the policemen are more of a USO show designed to boost troops' spirit.

At first I was disappointed, but then I realized, even if the minstrel police officers I had hoped for don't actually exist, there's no reason why they shouldn't.

How nice would it be if, in the cities and towns of America and the world, a component of police work included going around and trying to make a precinct a more cheerful and welcoming place through music. Perhaps instead of feeling nervous in the presence of police officers, honest citizens would feel safe and comfortable. Perhaps communities would stop viewing police as outsiders to be distrusted, but instead as friends and helpers .

I don't know, perhaps this is a bit naive of me. Perhaps I should leave the enforcement of law to state policy makers, and instead encourage churches to do this kind of work...still, I think the world would be a better place if the neighborhood cop carried a guitar instead of a gun.


Lucas Johnson said...
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Lucas Johnson said...

I think one example of a U.S. version of the police minstrels you write about and long for might be the marching, kilt-wearing bagpipe-and-drum police bands. I'm not sure how common they are out on the west coast, but in the northeast they are everywhere. These police bands often march in parades and perform with high school bands, college bands, and and other civic groups. I think music does promote a common sense of order and purpose. Music can bring deeper dignity to traditions.

Those playing music and those hearing music feel like they are on the same sheet of music, and I think this raises the spirits of all. In the most difficult of circumstances, misery loves company, and music can be quite effective at accomplishing this. Perhaps this is why there are minstrel police officers in Gaza and pipe-and-drum police bands here in the U.S.