Oh shit, Five-Oh!
Let me start by saying that I think that police are great, and I have nothing but contempt for people who say they "hate cops" or whatever. That's fucking ridiculous. For most people in the USA, saying that you "hate cops" is like saying you "hate oxygen". "Damn, Cletus, I just hate this fuckin' air I always gotta be breathin!"
Yeah, sometimes some asshole crop-dusts your table at Bennigans or whatever and you get some bad air, but simply put, assuming you're a law abiding citizen, you'd appreciate air, like cops, a lot more, if all of a sudden it weren't around.
In Okinawa, there was (is) an area outside of base called Kinville. They call it Kinville 'cuz the city is called "Kin" (金武 - weird character combo 'cuz it's Okinawan). Kinville is a scumhole little town 3 streets by 4 streets or so with nothing but dives and drinky bars of varying degrees of scumminess. Since Kinville is literally right across the street from Camp Hansen and filled to the brim with underage, drunken, retarded Teufelhunden, there is a sort of "shore patrol" that walks around and maintains "order". Before a certain incident, I hated 'em. Camp Guard was made up of the dregs of Hansen -- really digging there -- consisting of people who had previously gotten in trouble by Camp Guard. A common punishment for mouthing off to Camp Guard or not doing what they told you was, well, assignment to Camp Guard every weekend for a month. All they ever did to me was tell me to "tuck my shirt in", which really pissed me off, especially when they'd actually enter a bar, come up to my bar-stool, and tell me to do it. You had to comply, though, or you'd be joining 'em.
Anyway, one week there was a typhoon that came through Oki and knocked down a utility pole outside base, blocking the front gate. Word on the street was that Camp Guard wouldn't be patrolling the 'ville. "Good," I thought, "It'll be nice not being devildogged* by some fucking PFC." Was I wrong. Without Camp Guard, Kinville was pande-fucking-monium, and I sat there and watched a group of guys run through a bar and beat the dogshit out of about most of the people in the vicinity. I think I avoided their meticulous, death-squad-like beatdown fest by just pretending like I didn't see them -- I turned around, saw three guys going to town on a bunch of people, and just spun back around in my bar stool and stared at my drink. "Yeesh," I thought, "Here we go again," because I've gotten blasted by a random, consequence free punch while trying to mind my own business a couple of times, so I just waited for my turn. The punch never came, but a friend of mine got a rocks glass smashed on her face, resulting in a nice big scar, and I learned a good lesson -- Don't take public coercive protection forces, i,e. police, for granted, because when left up to their own devices, people will run amok. This lesson was reinforced during my stay in Afghanistan, where I learned that it was important not to leave the police to their own devices, because they'll run amok too. Quis Custodiet ipsos custodes? But all things considered, things aren't so bad in the USA, and people who act like the USA is a police state are fucking retarded. "Police" aren't scary. "La Policia" are. Go to a country with "La Policia" and tell me how bad you think the USA is.
Japan is great police-wise, maybe even better than the USA, and the fact that organized crime generally doesn't involve outside parties makes it a really safe place to be. Over here, the cops hang out in these places called Koban, or "police boxes", where instead of having a huge precinct full of cops, each neighborhood had a few little buildings scattered around housing 2 or 3 cops, who are in charge of that area and know everyone around the vicinity. Japan also has an incredibly high prosecution rate, though some of their practices may be a bit questionable to Americans, for example the right to hold someone without charges for up to a little over 3 weeks. And not releasing until the last day for really stupid reasons, like "...oh you didn't show enough remorse" or "...we didn't like your attitude," both of which have happened to friends of mine. The cops here have the reputation for being real dicks, and I've had mixed experiences, but after last night I'm changing my tune.
Oh sheeeyuzeeyuhtt nyuhnkuh it's the Peaux-Peaux!
I was sitting in my car near my girl's apartment while she ran inside a bookstore to grab something right quick when all of a sudden a police car whizzes by, stops right in front of me, and 4 cops roll up on me with a sense of urgency. "Great," I thought as always, so I just pretended like I didn't notice them until they knocked on my window. I figured they were going to tell me that I was illegally stopped, which I was, but the policeman leaned in with a friendly smile and said, "...Are you doing some shopping?"
As a roundeye in Japan, there are many situations (like this) where we make a split-second decision -- Should I pretend not to speak Japanese or not? I try not to do this because it's shadey, and people play "dumb gaijin" all the time to get out of paying for shit, which I am whole-heartedly against, so I tend to bust out with the Japaneazy unless the person is being a complete asshole (which happens from time to time). But this guy wasn't. He was being horribly polite, and he totally took me off guard. I was expecting a dickhead cop with some bullshit officious tone, bristling up to me with some stupid demand to see my passport and ask me a bunch of stupid questions or imply that I was a criminal (happened when I was a student), but his kindness totally took me off guard. I had no choice but to respond in the native speaky.
"Um, no," I said, "I'm just waiting here for a second. My girlfriend is buying a book, but she should be out soon."
...At which point she came out, looking surprised to see her chariot and prince surrounded by the Po-Po. When she hopped in, Mr Po-Lease-Mayun said something like, "We've been checking cars recently because a lot of bad people have been cruising around with knives and whatnot in their car, so would it be OK if we checked your trunk? I'm sooo sorry to impose like this, it being Christmas and all..."
Lesser gaijin would scream RACISM! Oh shit, he saw my car, which is gangsterish by Japanese standards, or he saw my Yankee-plates, and he's persecuting me for being a roundeye! Fucking racist Japanese people! I knew this would fuggin happen!!! If Japan had anything resembling the ACLU I'd SOOOO call them.
I've seen it happen in stores, on the street, in bars, everywhere in Japan -- some asshole foreigner will feel slighted and pull the racism card. It's like they just got their racism card recently issued to them, and now that they're a minority they're just dying to pull it on someone. Or pull it. However the racism card exchange is transacted. Anyway, sometimes foreigners get so racism-card-crazy, they accuse other foreigners of racism, which is just classic. I saw this one dude at the door of a bar flipping out on a nigerian doorman because the bar was "racist". Sweet.
...but to be honest, it didn't really cross my mind that I might be getting profiled until I noticed that some Japanese guy was getting searched right behind me. "Oh, I guess they're searching everyone who's stopped," I thought, "I guess it ain't a gaijin thing huh..."
Since this cop was polite, jovial, and just all-around nice, it never crossed my mind that I was being "oppressed," and since I had nothing to hide, I opened my trunk and tried to be as polite as possible in return.
That kinda got me thinkin'...
That's the Christmas spirit, folks. Carrying out the plan of the day in a polite, professional manner, when you could (in the opinion of many, I'm sure) be a complete asshole about everything. He didn't have to be nice about it -- he was doing his job, and in keeping with my own personal philosophies, had every right to specifically target my car for searching, as it fits the profile for someone who might be "up to no good" over here. He didn't have to apologize to me. He didn't have to apologize to my girl, saying that he was sorry because "...it is Christmas, after all!" He could have been an officious prick about everything, but he wasn't.
...So here's to those folks who are out there doing shitty, thankless jobs to ensure that ungrateful slobs like me can protest the holiday seasons while enjoying the days off of work. It may sound corny but a little politeness goes a long way. I'm grateful there are dudes like Mr Xmas Popo running around Tokyo keepin' me safe, and it's good to see a copper who understands how disarming a little politeness can be.
Happy Holidays (again)!
* being "devil dogged" or "lifed" in the USMC is when someone corrects you in some superfluous, stupid way, in an attempt to alpha male you. The "lifing" (called "lifing" because it's usually issued by a "lifer") usually begins with someone referring to you as "devil dog". ex, "Hey Devil Dog, I dunno why you got your hands in your pockets." People of lower ranks do not call people of higher ranks "devil dog," even though some belt-fed mofrackies would beg to differ. Furthermore, people do not call each other "devil dog" in all seriousness unless they are complete douchebags. Despite it's cool history, it's a generally pejorative term when one person uses it to address another. (The word "Marine" is also used in a similar fashion, as is "killer".)