Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Dush  The recent scandal involving an sheriff’s deputy under investigation for inappropriate conduct is a bitter reminder of why I should’ve kept some kind of diary during my 20s.

So why am I writing about Kevin E. Dush, a sheriff’s deputy in a town more than two hours away? Well, nearly 20 years ago, that same deputy was very friendly and helpful to this young newspaper reporter in a town where many of the police treated the media with a sense of barely-concealed disgust. Today, Dush is alleged to have, among other things, sent a series of inappropriate sexual text messages to a 24-year-old woman he arrested for shoplifting. Upon hearing of this, I recalled an incident between him and I that’s been burned into my brain… and bears an eerie resonance to the unfortunate circumstances that surround him today.

I was sent to cover a significant drug bust made by two other Isabella County sheriff’s deputies. The county has five active police agencies, each one vying against the others for state and federal funds, so a big hoopla being made over such an incident was not uncommon. What was strange was something Dush said to me after the deputies – one female, one male – arrived for the photo shoot. At the conclusion, Dush leaned over to me and whispered, “Now watch the horndogs come out.”

As if on cue, several male cops from other area police departments descended upon the young female deputy like turkey buzzards zeroing in upon a freshly-killed raccoon. In bold and brazen displays of unoriginal macho energy, these police peacocks unfurled their proverbial plumage in hopes that the dazzling displays of purple and green would be to her liking. In retrospect, the young lady seemed uncomfortable amidst all this testosterone-fueled attention, and Dush and I shared both our disgust and an unspoken understanding of the bizarre floor-show commencing before us.

Now, more than 20 years later, I find myself trying to place that moment in the greater context of what he is facing today.

Was Dush an upstanding guy who underwent some strange transmogrification during his ensuing years on the job? The newspaper article mentions that Dush twice unsuccessfully ran for Sheriff during his time as a deputy; perhaps this and many other of life’s disappointments became too much for him to bear and he just snapped. As someone whose long hours on the job contributed to a nervous breakdown and my own downward spiral, I can certainly relate.

Or maybe Dush was just another “horndog” all along and he was merely projecting these feelings onto his macho brothers-in-blue that day. It’s just as likely that the behavior of the officers provided Dush an uncensored glimpse of his own proverbial reflection in a rather harsh and unforgiving mirror. This is not unlikely, since projection is something many people engage in daily as a means of protecting their egos.

In the end, we’ll likely never know what urged Dush down that rather dark and self-destructive path; he and he alone will have to struggle with the shame of his actions. For whatever it’s worth, I hope he’s able to find a way to keep those somber feelings from crashing down upon him like a tidal wave, pushing him under until he riptide drags him beyond the buoys and leaves him out where the sharks swim. No matter what happens, I’ll always remember him as the friendly, helpful deputy who always took he time to offer a smile and a kind word to a young newspaper reporter looking to make a name for himself.

To bring this full circle, it’s times such as this that made me wish I would’ve kept a journal back then. After all, being a cops and courts reporter gave me a firsthand look at some of the vilest human behavior… and some of the criminals were pretty bad, too. Those names, faces, and downright bizarre incidents that were once part of my daily beat would have made a great book, especially with updates on where the key players are now.

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“Thud!”

The familiar sound of bone crashing into meat, muscle, and tissue reverberated through my head. I knew what happened before the sensation of pain, bright and burning, radiated through my jaw and into my head. I’d been punched in the head, hard! A sharp, stabbing pain in my jaw followed, making it painful to touch, talk, or move; but I was still standing, and still able to turn to face my attacker …

I should start at the beginning.

Back in those halcyon and seemingly carefree days of 1984 (or ’85), I was one of a few of white boys who became enamored with the hip hop, breakdancing, and graffiti art zeitgeist. Our fellow classmates at Hamady High didn’t make it easy on us – the redneck whites tried shaming us for listening to what they called “n***** music,” while the black dudes eyed us with skepticism and the familiar refrain of “white boys don’t have rhythm.” Still, we soldiered on, and the ritual of backspins on flattened cardboard boxes was a familiar site in many a Mt. Morris Township driveway. I was in the thick of it all, happy to have cultivated a talent and the props that came with it.

On the night in question, fellow b-boys M&M, Duster, and Special K asked me to see the Fat Boys at the Capitol Theatre. While I preferred RUN DMC, Newcleus, and the Wild Style soundtrack, I was thrilled that the guys wanted to include me. My pre-teen and teenage years were lonely at best, with few people willing to risk social suicide by hanging out with me after school. I practically jumped into Special K’s car, completely oblivious to the trauma and life-changing events that were about to unfold before me.

So we were standing outside the Capitol, waiting to be let in to the show, when someone sucker-punched me. Turning to confront my attacker, I saw was a sea of various shades of brown skin and what seemed like hundreds of pairs of brown eyes glaring back at me. I’d been in situations where I wasn’t wanted – parties, school functions, etc. – but this was the first time where there was the possibility of dire consequences attached to my “intrusion.” I was outnumbered and painfully aware of how out of place I was. I didn’t belong, and I wanted out!

During all of this, a strange feeling of calm came over me. It’s called “normalcy bias,” and it’s something I wouldn’t learn about until 30 years later. The term refers to the state of calm that overtakes some people during disaster or emergency situations. Rather than going into a blind panic or doing something to save themselves, those afflicted with normalcy bias will calmly sit or stand in place, waiting for help to arrive or the situation to right itself. Sadly, those who are paralyzed by normalcy bias often die … even when safety is one simple decision away.

So there I stood, feet frozen to the sidewalk, not knowing what to do. The irrational part of my mind kept expecting someone, anyone, to come to my rescue. But who? My friends? Security? Prince Markie Dee? I was helpless and alone, afraid to confront my unknown attacker, yet equally terrified to say anything to my friends. I was afraid that my need for safety would’ve ruined everyone’s night. It sounds silly now, but that was my reality then – the legacy of Trauma Central, where my family’s happiness was my responsibility, and their miseries my fault.)

I did the only thing I thought I could do: I scooted a bit closer to my group and continued to stand there, my back to the crowd that no doubt aided and abetted my attacker.

“Thud!”

So one punch to my jaw not enough for him; I was an idiot to think that it would be. Again, the pain radiated throughout my head and again, my mind was flooded with the most powerful feelings of terror and shame … a rather toxic cocktail. I also felt anger, the kind that anyone feels when caught in a helpless and hopeless situation. If there was any good that came out of that second haymaker, it was that it jarred me out of the normalcy bias that had me in its thrall.

No doubt seeing the look of sheer terror upon my face as I scooted closer still, M&M asked, “What’s wrong, Ribner?”

“Someone fuckin’ hit me!” My reply came out in a forced whisper.

“Who?”

“I don’t know.”

M&M quickly told Duster and Special K what was going on, and an impromptu plan was formed. Switching places with M&M, placing my back against the brick wall of the Capitol, while Special K – the oldest and most streetwise of our group – stood facing the crowd and my attacker. As if in response, a young man approached M&M and, after a brief exchange, opened his jacket to give us all a look at the handgun he had in a holster, secured to his side.

“Gimme whatchu got,” he demanded, “and I’ll make sure dey don’t fuck wit chu.”

Wanting to protect me, M&M, Duster, and Special K forked over whatever they had between them and gave it to the stranger while I stood on the periphery. There was a lull in the attacks as we waited for the line to move; but with the adrenaline coursing through my veins and my heart pounding inside my chest, each minute was an eternity. Eventually, the line inched forward a bit, and then a bit more … we kept moving like herded cattle, unable to keep from casting nervous glances over our shoulders as we did.

Suddenly, the double glass doors of the Capitol Theatre opened and the crowd burst forward.We got jostled around in the movement and I found myself beside my friends; there was no one between me and the attacker in the crowd. My heart sank as I knew I was once again in a bad place, but all I could do was keep moving forward and not get separated from my friends.

“Thud!”

Ears ringing and vision blurry, it was clear that the Cheap-Shot Artist wasn’t deterred by the presence of our erstwhile guardian. (As we suspected then and still do now, the two were likely in on it from the beginning … the opportunity to bilk and beat some pussy-ass, cracka-ass, honky, peckerwood muthfuckaz was no doubt too tempting to ignore.)

Within seconds, we were sucked into that huge, gothic structure known as the Capitol and we found ourselves standing elbow-to-elbow with each other – and everyone else who had been in front and behind us – in the lobby. Then, as if on cue, everyone stopped and we were once again standing still. I was fortunate to not have lost my friends, but somewhere in the crowd, my attacker – whose identity was still unknown to me – was nearby. I was trapped, and I knew a decision had to be made …

Here’s Part II …

And Part III …

And finally, Part IV …

I’m proud to be from Flint, Michigan! And when I think of my beloved hometown, I don’t see images of violence, poverty, and desolation … I see creativity, talent, and an undying dream to raise this city up to its shining promise.

Flint is the center of some awesome revitalization efforts, and the air is practically buzzing with the positive energy this is creating. The city is also host to a homegrown arts/music/literature scene that’s both vibrant and growing. I’m pleasantly surprised at how many amazingly talented writers call “Vehicle City” their home. These folks are most deserving of all the support they can get, so starting next Sunday, I’ll be featuring one Flint writer on this blog. I’ll discuss what they’ve written, why they write, and how Flint continues to play a part in their creative process. I’ll be featuring one new Flint writer each week until Labor Day.

If you’re a Flint writer who’d like to be featured – or you know one –contact me here on Facebook, or email: jp(underscore)ribner(at)yahoo(dot)com. The goal is to feature as many Flint writers as I possibly can by getting their names out there.

Flinttown represent!