Today, I am thinking out loud. On my mind all week have been a lot of thoughts about the “Code of Silence” – that unspoken CODE that is part of police departments throughout the world. Yes, the world. I cannot tell you how many televisions shows – GOOD television shows on the BBC and USA stations ( hardly the world) that I have watched in which people see (cops and bystanders) what happened and don’t tell. Reasons differ but most of all, the common denominator seems to be “fear of reprisal”. Maybe I shouldn’t try to speak for “the world”.
This is not new news for me. In fact, when I was a little girl, I saw things with my own eyes and was either instructed, threatened, or afraid to say anything.
My earliest memory was in the dining room when we were living in the house on Cleveland Road. I was standing in the doorway. I must have been around 4 or 5. I was supposed to be in bed. One night, Daddy came home drunk. Mother was yelling at him. Daddy was trying to get to the telephone, and Mother hit him on the head with a black skillet frying pan. I was terrified that something had happened to Daddy and that Mother had killed him while I was watching. I did not know what to do. That event was never mentioned again.
Another memory comes to mind. Most of my friends’ fathers were drunks. It was a dry county. Ray Knickerbocker was a drunk. My friend was Alice. Her mother Mary Lydia was always letting us bake cookies in the kitchen. We would make a huge mess and mostly eat the chocolate chip dough before cooking the cookies. She didn’t care. Ray would come home and disappear. I could tell he was drunk. I knew because I saw him. He was a jolly drunk who would come into the kitchen to say hello. I knew because I could tell when Daddy was drunk. Johnny Lilly was Daddy’s best friend. He was a drunk. Carolyn Lilly was my friend. She went with us on a lot of vacations. Cliff Porter was a drunk. Angela Porter was my friend. Her mother Emily was always working at the “laundry” when women were not entrepreneurs. Cliff was supposed to help her, but he was always drunk. I knew because I saw him. Charlie Martin was a drunk. He stayed in the bed most days in a different bedroom by himself. I knew because I saw him. Janice Martin was my best friend. Nobody talked about any of it. EVER. I may get in trouble by writing this because it is not OK to name names. EVER. We children pretended and were to pretend like everything at home was fine. And, why did they all seem to spend a lot of time in the bedrooms when friends were over to play with their children? Where did they all get their booze? Not beer, not wine, not moonshine. Hard liquor. Daddy was “Jack Daniels” by the case. And, nothing could be worse than being called a “tattle-tail”, telling “tattletales’.
Yet, almost EVERYBODY went to church on Sundays. Either the First Baptist, the First Methodist, or the Presbyterian. Everyone pretended everything was fine. Praying and taking communion. I hated the hypocrisy. I KNEW everything was NOT fine. I knew because I had seen it with my own eyes. I blamed the nagging women and the Elks Club downstairs bar. Men only. Members only. No ladies allowed. – in the Club or in the Bar. But we never said anything about it, yet we could all see what was happening.
I was molested by Uncle Joe. For a couple of years. I never told. EVER. At some point, I told Mother before she died. She never knew. I knew secrets about other family members, a lot of my friends, their friends, their families. I never mentioned them. I knew secrets about Mother, Daddy, and their families growing up. I knew secrets about my sisters. I never told.
Where am I going with all of this? We were diligently taught to lie and conceal the truth at a very early age by grown-ups or the church or teachers or friends or family or,…… I used to think this was a Southern trait. No. I find it is world-wide. And, here we are. In 2020. Wondering why we accept a president who blatantly lies about things we see with our own eyes, think policemen should report the truth while we lie to friends and family to spare their feelings.
Most of us don’t want to tell the truth. It hurts people’s feelings; it is rude; it is not mannerly; it is not acceptable behavior. Whatever the reason. Most of us don’t recognize the truth and have no problems with lying. A lot of times, NONE OF US REALLY KNOWs the truth. We will never know the truth because we ALL keep a code of silence. We all hide the truth. We all tell people what they want to hear. That is the way to get along with people.
Movies have been made about this. “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH”. (Daniel Kaffee, a US military lawyer, defends two US marines charged with murdering a fellow marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The needle of suspicion, thus, points to a colonel.) Initial release: December 9, 1992 , A Few Good Men – Director: Rob Reiner; Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin
Playwrights have written plays about it. Henrik Ibsen “The Wild Duck”
“The Emperor has new clothes.”
“The Elephant in the Room”.
And, on and on……
But, for the most part, it goes unmentioned. It is an unaccepted reality of life. It is a CODE OF SILENCE that exists in all of us and taught to us when we are children. I am blown away by the thoughts of this reality that may or may not be obvious to all but me. I knew but now I know better in a different way. “Me thinks she doth protest too loudly.” I have gotten into a lot of trouble by trying to tell the truth. I have lost a lot of friends by telling the truth. I have lost friends for just saying what I think. I may be “allowed” to think it but not to say it. And, I am not talking about Facebook. Haha. I told the truth to my children. They think I am lying. Truth or lie? I have found that I can think or say anything I want to. I can choose. It is risky to tell the truth. Few people can face the truth. Do we even recognize the truth. To those I have offended, I apologize. But, it is my blog...
By the way, this has nothing to do with being racists. That is a topic for another day. This is about humanity’s CODE OF SILENCE that is universally pervasive. We all have it. Just saying……. Stay tuned……