|Saturday, August 15, 2020
The Upside and Downside of Pigs, Both Porcine and Human
We see a lot of disparagement of law enforcement these days. It reminds some of us of the Viet Nam war protests back in the late 1960s, when the police were often called “pigs.” Don’t worry, this post is not a political rant; if I got going, there isn’t enough digital space to accommodate my opinion on that subject. But it tickles me to uncover some history about the connection between pigs and police. So, here are a few tidbits that may tickle you, too.
Some religions and cultures revere pigs, others revile them. From GonGoff.com, under “Symbolism,” I learned that the pig was sacred to the mythical goddesses of agriculture – Isis in Egypt, Ceres in Rome, Demeter in Greece, to the Celts in the British Isles, and to Native Americans. To Hindus it represented Vajravarahi, the female aspect of Vishnu. On the Chinese zodiac, it stands for integrity. Greeks, Celts, and Japanese admire the entire pig family for strength and ferocity.
On the negative side, in Buddhist culture the pig embodies ignorance. Western tradition sees the pig as exemplifying brutality, lust, and sin. Jews and Muslims regard it as unclean and they will not eat pork. Early Christians believed the pig “as a vile, rude creature, a symbol of the sins of the flesh, and in particular as an expression of greed.” It didn’t take long for Christians to associate the pig with Satan because of the “marks of the devil,” the pig’s footprints.
Our love-hate relationship with pigs may stem from shared similarities. Pacific island cannibals referred to human flesh as “long pig,” explaining to early explorers that we taste like pork. Maybe that’s because both species are omnivores. No explanation, however, makes the concept comfortable.
The fly-covered pig’s head impaled on a stake in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies personifies the pure evil of Satan. A scholarly analysis from eNotes.com states, “Beelzebub is another name for the devil, which translates to the Lord of the Flies.”
The innocent pig needs a new press agent. It is a highly intelligent creature, smarter than most dogs, simians, and some humans. It keeps itself clean if allowed to. It cannot sweat, so it must wallow in mud to regulate its body temperature. It once kept the streets clean of offal in European and American cities. It is trained in France to sniff out the exotic underground mushroom, the truffle.
Mankind uses every part of the pig – culinary (fresh and smoked meats), sports (football), personal grooming (boar bristle brushes, lard for soap) – except (it is said) the squeal. And let’s not forget entertainment – Porky Pig closing Looney Tunes cartoons with his signature “Abbada abbada abbada, that’s all, folks!”
Depiction of the police as pigs predates the 1960s by almost 200 years, although the term tends to sleep for decades between moments of popularity. It first appeared in 1785, in Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. In 1874, the front page of Harper’s Weekly featured a cartoon of porcine police officers herding forty-three women to the jail for publicly praying for the closure of saloons. (Note that some of the civilians are also portrayed as pigs.)
A year ago, Graceland Auctions (yes, that Graceland) auctioned a watch of Elvis Presley’s, which had a police pig on its face. This was an item that reflected law enforcement’s mid-20th century appropriation of the insult: “P.I.G.” stands for “Pride, Integrity, Guts.” (The fine print at the bottom of the face says the copyright date is 1970.)
The Falmouth [Maine] Police Department adopted the acronym, displaying a sign with these words on the front door, below which sat a concrete pig lawn ornament wearing a police hat. I smiled at it when I ran an errand there in the early 1990s. The current police chief, who joined the force in 1997, remembers the pig, but he doesn’t know what happened to it when the department moved into new headquarters.
I hope the Falmouth police chief puts out an A.P.B. to find the pig and restore it to its rightful place, once again greeting visitors at the entrance.
To Tease Your Mind
“You cannot do a kindness too soon,
for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins
(b. 3/24/1986 – LODD EOW August 23, 2019)
Trooper Hopkins, a 10-year veteran of the force, was shot to death while serving a warrant for the arrest of a drug dealer. His family, friends, colleagues, and community confirm that the philosophy in this quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson, favored by Hopkins (whose grandfather taught it to him), illustrates perfectly the trooper’s legacy.
Natterings & Noodlings: A Kindness On Time
This piece stretches the limit of “flash fiction,” which averages 1000 words. It’s more important, however, that a story sets its own boundaries, rather than the author worrying about word counts or strict definitions. Every story is as individual as its author.
Traffic decelerates as soon as drivers spot him. They imagine, absurdly, that he knows they broke the speed limit somewhere last week, but weren’t caught, so they drop ten or twenty miles per hour below the posted limit. He ought to ticket them for going too slow. Their foolishness frustrates the drivers behind them, a potential hazard.
It used to make him chuckle, but nothing amuses him lately. Public attitude toward law enforcement deteriorates daily, under a warped notion that police officers’ sole mission is to brutalize everyone in sight. He’s sick of the nonsense, the lies. Yeah, every force has a bad apple or two, but that doesn’t apply to the whole apple cart. Cops want to serve their communities, keep the peace, protect the citizenry. But these days, the bad guys are idolized, especially when they kill a cop.
Used to be he enjoyed his morning routine, his crisp, clean uniform, his polished shoes, his neatly tended cruiser. Used to be he liked being on patrol. Used to be he surged with energy after coming to someone’s aid.
Used to be. Used to be.
Yesterday he stopped a woman who lurched all over the road while texting. There’s a law against that, so it was his responsibility to warn her. He had intended only to remind her of the law and send her on her way; but no, she had to get ugly.
“You have no right to pull me over!” she screamed. She laid into him with language that would embarrass a longshoreman, calling him names so vicious that thinking them makes him uncomfortable. He’s no prude, but he’s never polluted his mind with such filth. Her unwarranted fury made it more distasteful.
And you eat with that mouth? he thought while he waited for her to draw breath. If I did, I’d get indigestion. She hasn’t a clue that her antagonism is delaying her more than I am.
“Have a nice day,” he said mildly, handing her the ticket. When he has to put up with such garbage, he makes sure that the “client” pays for spewing it.
“F*** you, asshole!” she screeched as she rolled up her window.
She ought to keep that window open to air out all that blue smoke from her mouth.
Goading the police is thugs’ favorite hobby now. How far we can push this pig before he breaks? Then we can sue his ass off for police brutality. Better yet, kill him.
Four years ago in Chicago, a crackbrained couple planned a martyrdom. The cop stopped them for something diddly like a light being out. Before he got to the car, the woman in the passenger seat began to yell. “Don’t shoot him! Don’t shoot him!” she shrieked. “He doesn’t have a gun!” But the driver did have a gun and fired it as the officer approached. The officer fired back, killing the driver. The woman threatened to sue the cop for killing her “unarmed” husband, more incensed that the cop had the audacity to defend himself than that her husband was dead. By the time investigations revealed that the whole thing was a set-up, the officer had been drawn and quartered in the court of social media.
Can’t allow the facts to obstruct the juicy destruction of a man doing his job.
The worse the abuse, verbal or physical, the less he cares. It makes him numb. To his job. To his personal interests. To life. His habits of precise dressing and keeping his cruiser clean of coffee break litter are listless, his actions robotic.
What’s the point? The department issues lip service to the force instead of support. The town council is worse, cutting the budget in half but demanding we undergo “awareness” training. Awareness of what? Is training supposed to eliminate our personal stake in the human race? They remove our authority, command us to ignore crime, punish us whether we do or don’t, then make us accountable.
How much longer can he hold out? It’s getting harder to avoid the bottle off-duty. He considers drugs to ease the stress. They’re easier than ever to get since the district attorney banned police from interfering with drug dealers. Used to be they sold their wares on the seedier corners of town; now they flaunt them boldly in the better neighborhoods.
Those jerks – drug lords, district attorneys, and every ass in between – they’d sing a different tune if they walked in a pair of military low-quarters. But cowards never put their money where their mouth is. It’s more fun to condemn those who protect their right to behave badly.
No one sees police officers as humans with lives like everyone else, with problems like everyone else, with feelings like everyone else. No, they must be automatons. A mistake is a premeditated atrocity, especially when it’s not a mistake. Nobody can withstand the endless unrelenting, unwarranted punishment.
Police suicide is skyrocketing. Two weeks ago, a friend of his, an officer over in Canterfield, quit his life with the business end of his service revolver. His friend must have felt even more numb than he does. No one ever can know what triggers such action, but the idea is seductive. Desperately appealing, simultaneously appalling.
This morning, his eyes glaze over as cars and trucks cruise by. He’s had this assignment for a week. Recent commercial expansion has doubled the volume on this stretch of road, previously considered a minor artery.
A young woman in a two-door subcompact, old and beat up compared to the huge, shiny SUVs that predominate the traffic, drives by at the speed limit. He notices because that so rarely happens.
The next day she passes at the same time, evidently on her way to work. Her hand comes up to the window. Is that a wave? More likely, she’s brushing her short hair with her fingers. He watches until she’s out of sight.
On the third day, she comes along and again, her hand rises as she casts a glance at him.
Yes, that’s a wave. She’s waving at me? Why?
She waves every day. It’s oddly cheering. Its effect resides with him until bedtime and lingers like dream wisps. He begins to tighten the slack that has eroded his preparation for his day. He gently chides himself for having let his habits go a bit, and as gently chides himself for dressing to impress her. It’s not like I’ll ever meet her.
But that fancy niggles his curiosity. The next week he decides to find out why she waves. One morning he parks closer to the edge of the road, hoping traffic will be light when she comes by.
He spots her. His heart thumping, he puts the cruiser into drive, turns on the blue strobes, and moves out behind her. He hopes he won’t have to hit the siren. He shouldn’t do this, but he has to know. It won’t go into his log.
She slows and pulls onto the wide gravel shoulder, well off the traveled way. He stops ten feet behind her car, gets out, secures his hat on his head, and approaches. He’s cautious; his gut waffles. Then he’s at the window, and she’s handing her registration and license out to him.
She looks a little nervous, but turns a pleasant face to him, freckled, eyes bright green in the morning light. “What is the matter, officer?” she asks.
I’m old enough to be her father, he thinks, although she’s probably older than she looks. He coughs uncertainly. Get on with it.
“Um, I don’t need those, miss. You haven’t done anything wrong, and I’m sorry if stopping you is embarrassing. But,” he hesitates, “but over the past couple of weeks, you’ve waved at me every morning.” He clears his throat and shifts his feet. “Please tell me why.”
Her smooth forehead creases with a puzzled look, as if he should know the answer. “With the crazy war on police across the country today, cops need a thumbs-up.”
“Uh …” Astonished, he stumbles over his tongue.
“Police get blamed for doing their jobs and are murdered for no reason,” she goes on. “It breaks my heart. I can’t do much about it, but I can show that I appreciate you, all of you. So, when I saw you parked there, I started waving.”
He’s glad that his sunglasses shield his eyes so she can’t see them. Their sudden moisture surprises him, as does the lump in his throat.
“So you know you have friends, you know,” she adds, “even if we never met.”
“Thank you, miss,” he says. “Thank you.” His voice goes squirrelly, pitched with more feeling than he intends. He swallows and struggles to control it. “You have no idea how much it means to hear that.”
Oxford English Dictionary
pig [OED definitions extend for two full pages]
origin: obscure, probably early Middle English; dating from 12th Century
- n. the young of swine; the swine of any age; a hog.
- n. pork flesh, in cooking
- n. an insulting name for a person
- n. slang for a sixpence; for a police officer
- n. an oblong block of metal; an ingot
- n. an earthenware pot or other vessel
- v. to give birth to piglets
- v. to huddle together in disorder
pig origin – Mid. Engl. pigge; nouns dating from 13th C., verbs from 15th C.
- n. a wild or domesticated swine, regardless of age or weight
- n. a dirty, gluttonous, or repulsive person
- n. a crude casting of metal
- n. an immoral woman
- n. a police officer [slang]
- v. to farrow (give birth to piglets)
- v. to live like a pig
“The Pig – symbolism” by GonGoff.com
Pig’s head representing Satan
Harper’s Weekly, Thomas Nast, June 13, 1874
Elvis Presley’s P.I.G. Watch
Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins