Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Odds & Ends: There, But for the Grace of God go....

(CNN) -- Newspaper, magazines, Web sites and a few book publishers are tapping into a curious American fascination: mug shots.
You don't have to commit a violent crime; you don't have to be convicted; you don't even have to be a celebrity (though for some publications, it helps).
Just get arrested -- no charge is too small -- and your mug could grace the pages of a local magazine or Web site

Some people say there's even a word for mug shot cruising now. I don't know what it is, but I admit that for a long time, when I was bored at work (which was every day on that job), I would check out the local mugshots.
What surprised me was not the number of people I knew (it wasn't a huge town), but the number of people I knew who seemed to be arrested for vagrancy, trespassing, or for varying degrees of public intoxication again and again. Not just one time, but repeatedly, every few months or so. Each time their pictures looked a little rougher.

I knew all these guys when they were young. At that time they seemed like average, run-of-the-mill people. They definitely fell into the "normal" range of intelligence. A couple of them, when I knew them, even had their own businesses. I worked with two of them and had friends who worked with the others. Altogether unremarkable it seemed.

One of them did tell me, however, "I'm not like you. You shouldn't really be talking to me." I remember being somewhat taken aback, but when someone says something like that, what can you say or do? I said, "OK," and moved on. The real meaning of his words escaped me, until I started seeing him in the Sheriff's log twenty years later.

You sort of wonder, if he didn't have sort of a predestinarian vision of where he was headed.
If there's any common thread through these lives, you can be pretty sure that it's substance abuse. Whether it's booze or drugs, you might say that a physiological propensity coupled with relative ease of availability led to these fellows' downfall.
As far a crime goes, it appears that the victim (aside from the Sense of Public Order) is the individual himself.

"Who steals my purse steals trash.
'Twas something, 'tis nothing,
'Twas mine, 'tis his,
And hath been slave to thousands.
But he who filches from me my good name,
Steal that which cannot enrich him,
But leaves me very poor indeed."
--Shakespeare in Othello

In these cases the damage has been self-inflicted. For them it might simply have been better to heed Nancy Reagan's "Just say NO to drugs."
Not to condemn, for there, but for the Grace of God, go we all....

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