The Posture of Innocence, day 20.5

in writing •  3 months ago  (edited)

In the "Mushroom Suit" freewrite, Commissioner Scott is received warmly by "Hamiltown," Captain Hamilton and his large family -- but after the little ones are in bed, the serious conversations about facts, and faith, happen ...

To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, and day 20!

the posture of innocence, little version.png

Like Captain Lee, Captain Hamilton was a master investigator whose strength came from really listening. Commissioner Scott had dropped a bunch of clues to his character just by showing up and being truly present with the Hamilton family; other clues had come from how much quiet confidence Captain Lee had in him. When the commissioner spoke for himself about what he had been going through, and what help he needed, Captain Hamilton logged him among the “good guys” in Lofton County's policing.

There were no “perfect guys,” of course – Commissioner Scott was 15 years older than Captains Hamilton and Lee and about that much less flexible about racial issues, but while he certainly had his prejudices, he was interested in “doing what's right in policing everybody. Just because I don't like Negroes doesn't mean I think we should be putting them back into slavery, and that I should be slave-catcher-in-chief-and-commissioner in Lofton County. Just because I don't care for them in person doesn't mean I'm not going to make sure that my department treats them fairly.”

“It is a rare man,” Captain Hamilton said, “that can separate strong personal feelings from his professional duties nowadays.”

“Look, Captain, I'll level with you. I don't like most of us White men either. I'm too old to just be all fired up about the potentials of humanity and all that – I've seen way too much to be all excited about that. But I will be perfectly toasted and roasted in the Pit before I let other people's shortcomings run me – there are standards we swore to uphold, and I didn't see anything about race in them, and I don't go for unspoken gentleman's agreements. The Constitution lays it out: citizens are citizens, and that's that. My opinion doesn't matter; my oath is to uphold the law, and that's that.

“Now I need to get these Negroes – or African Americans – or whatever the term is nowadays – off my back from the Lofton County Free Voice, but not because I'm a White man. I need to get some news of what we are doing better out to keep my department trying to do better, but the Free Voice has us completely smothered. All those ghosts of commissioner's past – they're ghosts! They're gone! I need to be able to get out what is happening now, and I can't get a hearing!

“And then there's Mr. Jetson Black – and if I may say so, son, he is indeed jet black – .”

Captain Hamilton put his head in his hand.

“Don't repeat that anywhere else, Commissioner,” he said, “because that is terrible, and you know that would run wild in today's environment.”

“You know you smiled,” the commissioner said.

“And I'm ashamed of it for good reason,” the captain retorted, and that made Captain Lee smile slightly.

“I get it, Hamilton, I do,” said Commissioner Scott. “I can't be perfect on it yet, but I get it. I had to get it out of my system in a safe space for White men, because that man will be in my office tomorrow, and I have to be on my best behavior to try to get that man not to go back to the Free Voice and bury the department if he doesn't get his way. I'm not used to being in that position. I'm an older white man. I don't know what to do. I can't beg. I can't just be made a slave to these people.

“It's not just personal – because you know, I can think of the needs of the people that look to me, and I could humble down if I thought it would do some good. Because it has to do some good, Captain Hamilton. I'm running out of options. As you know, my department was fertile ground for that latest domestic terrorism incidens – more than 40 people were known to be involved and a bunch more are out on leave waiting to be fired – like another 40 or so. It still is fertile ground. I've got people telling me what's the use of doing better when the Negroes don't appreciate anything, when they are running us into the ground every day. I know that isn't right. Lofton County has been running Negroes into the ground for the better part of 400 years, so we ought to be able to endure a few months. But my people are just Southern people, proud white Virginians. They haven't grown enough to endure it. I can't chance that. Mr. Black coming through and not getting his way and going to the Free Voice may blow things up to a greater degree.

“You have experience with these newfangled forward Black folks, Captain. I don't. They seem to have left you alone, and there even seems to be mutual respect. I need to know how you got that done for your department, so I can do it with mine, and I need to know how to even have a good conversation with Mr. Black tomorrow so that both of us can be satisfied with what we get out of the interaction. I don't know how to do that. I belong to the time period when I could have almost always have been sure I would have gotten what I want. I freely admit that the environment where we are expected to just draw even with Black people at best – even though I know that is what free people expect of one another – is new to me. I need your help.”

Captain Hamilton listened, and then took a long moment to think.

“Your honesty and humility is what really commends you to do what you need to do here,” he said gently, and just watched the commissioner get the first wind of relief. “I just have a couple of tips that I have found useful.”

“Just a couple?” the commissioner said.

“You have already reached so many correct conclusions that I don't need to add a lot.”

Captain Hamilton watched a second wind of relief come over the commissioner, and a slight smile come to the face of Captain Lee.

“I know that this is very hard for men like us to come to,” Captain Hamilton continued, “but do you realize that all the Free Voice has done in making our lives hard is to establish, after 400 years, that there is no way forward but to get to drawing even, as you put it?”

“I don't understand,” the commissioner said.

“Let me put it to you this way,” Captain Hamilton said. “Previous to the Free Voice, did we see the Black citizens of the county – fully 39 percent of them – as having power and standing such they could make it so we would even have to consider drawing even?”

“No,” the commissioner said. “That's not generally done by Southern white men in our position. I see your point now.”

“I know Mr. Black, and the men at the heart of the Free Voice,” said Captain Hamilton. “I know they want for themselves, and their families, what we want for ours – a full opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of any and all opportunities that will lead to their happiness in life. They want not to be impeded because they are Black. They are willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that happens, just like you would be or I would be or Captain Lee would be. They have enough power to have drawn even.

“Here's some information you need. The stand at the Gilligan House Burning is credited largely to me, because I am White and official and it is both convenient and safer for everyone involved for it to be so – but the folks at the Free Voice had enough people willing and able and ready, had planned it all out, and only reached out to me when they thought I was sufficiently righteous to take my small role of being White and official and give them cover.”

“What?”

“Yes, Commissioner. The casualties would have been greater on all sides, but the folks at the Free Voice had figured out that the county's police departments released all that FOIA in order to be able to track it and those who had demanded it to a central location. So, the principals of the Free Voice set up a trap at the Gilligan House, and turned out all the Black men who would make that stand – practically every able-bodied Black man in town, with help from across the county. They then invited exactly three token White men – two of which are sitting here with you. We helped out a little, and covered them in the media. The plan was theirs.”

“Are you serious?”

“Black folks are smart, Commissioner – if they weren't, there would not have been centuries of effort in keeping them from gaining knowledge. We always knew they were intelligent; the trick was keeping that knowledge from them. They are in no way inferior, and the types we now have in Lofton County will not be treated as if they are. But again: they are no threat to those who are no threat to them. They are, through Mr. Black, pushing the envelope with you, and they are vindicating innocent Black people against your department, but they don't know you yet, so they won't mean you any harm until they find out you mean them harm. Don't give Mr. Black that impression. He is going to ask for what he wants, and you can bet the Free Voice* has lined up its power behind him. Ask for what you want too, and go tomorrow with the mindset that you can draw even, in a positive way. These men are all eminently reasonable men; you can work with them fairly.”

“My other worry, Captain – and it's not really germane except to the future of our children and grandchildren – is that with all these concessions we are being asked for, they are setting a stage to ask for some sort of reparations – they'll bankrupt the county and everyone in it with the settlements we owe.”

“What did you just say – settlements we what?

Commissioner Scott slumped.

“I guess I am an honest man after all, to let that slip out,” he said. “I'm scared, Captain, I am.”

“So am I. There is a big, big debt. But, it is going to come due one way or another. I tell myself I refuse to add to the burden of debt that is owed. I also tell myself that's above my pay grade. My job is to uphold the law justly, and in Lofton County, that includes repairing the injustice that has been done by my department. Simple as that. We put no more innocent men of any color behind bars; we unearth the evidence our predecessors concealed to get innocent men out of prison and the guilty men that have run free into prison in their place. That's the only future I can be concerned with right now. I'm a Christian; I have to let God run the other parts of the future.”

“You're starting to sound like my wife now,” the commissioner said. “She went on and got saved and now is doing all this praying for me, and I think she thinks this whole crisis is meant to bring me in.”

“Maybe it is,” Captain Hamilton said, “since you brought it up.”

“Maybe it is,” the commissioner repeated. “God knows I have learned in this last few months what a mess I am, how inadequate I am to deal with life, much less eternity. I keep thinking about my grandmother, too … how she got over her prejudices and just was full of love for everyone. I had an old woman in my office who showed me the other way to get old with this needless hate sitting inside of you … and I know what men like us have done for hate, all through this country's history. I don't want to end up like that … and I'm scared, Captain, scared of what the idea of confronting Mr. Black has told me about my own heart. I'm doing the professional thing as best I can, but I know God knows on the inside how I really am, and how that on the inside is going to come out, probably at the worst moment possible for everything good I'm trying to do, because an evil heart can't do good in the end. I see that.”

“Now,” said Captain Lee, his voice shocking the commissioner in its fullness of emotion, “is always the accepted time, sir.”

Two hours later, the commissioner went home to his wife, who had waited up for him, and did what she always did; asked about his day, and ran him a bath. She was overjoyed with what he said.

“Della, everything is going to be all right now. I still am not sure what I am going to do tomorrow during my meeting with Mr. Black, but I know Who is going to help me do right. Your God is now my God, Della, and your Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, is my Savior.”

The Scotts rejoiced, with the angels and God and all of God's people who knew … another son had come into the family of God, and one more soldier and ambassador for God's true kingdom, a kingdom embracing every tribe and nation and bringing representatives of them into equality in Christ, was now in the earth.

Day 21 is up!

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