Monday, September 1, 2008

My Hometown

Over the long Labor Day weekend, I had the opportunity to go back to my hometown and spend some quality time with my family -- both extended, nuclear, and otherwise.

Now, I've always considered myself to be an amateur philosopher, albeit, an incredibly poor one. I've yet to come up with that snappy phrase that will ever end up in a quotes book.

But, there is something about going back to your hometown that makes you philosophical. You can't help it.

I'm from a small town in Texas (I won't name it, on the off chance that you are one of the three people who still haven't figured out who I am). It's a great town, and it is one that I'm glad that I grew up in.

But, it's an extremely innocent town, and in turn, growing up in it, I was a very innocent kid.

It was a town that revered it's law enforcement officials. I can remember a police shooting where the local paper ran an article talking about how there was no controversy over the shooting and how we should all be very proud of the fact that we have the officers who would so bravely face off against bad men. (NOTE: Not that I disagreed with that position, but I can't imagine the Chronicle ever running anything similar).

It was a town where the policeman was the guy that made sure all the kiddos got home safely at night. It was a town where every crime was the most serious violation of public trust and needed the most severe of punishments. It was a town where everyone believed in their public officials (unless they had been rude at a dinner party you were throwing). You married that first girl you ever loved -- that marriage lasted forever, and if (God forbid), it went south, that was the biggest scandal you could possibly imagine.

Anybody else recognizing their hometowns in this description?

The reason I'm going into this rather self-indulgent rambling is that it was very strange for me to return to it this weekend.

I've been involved in the Harris County Criminal Justice System for well over ten years now, and part of me felt . . . well, dirty . . . returning to a town that always seemed so pristine in my childhood memories.

I'm clearly not the same person that I was when I left there in 1996.

I'm more cynical. Angrier. Uglier (both physically and emotionally).

Being at home, having a drink with my family -- it made me wonder, would I have been better off if I had never ventured into the Big City known as Houston? Would I have been a happier person if I didn't know that there are people that kill when their pride is slightly wounded? People who think it's okay to abuse children (sexually or otherwise). Where the crack head who lives on the corner really ain't no big deal?

Am I a better person for having come here and engaged in the seedier side of life?

Am I a step above my brethren who stayed there and lived their lives, happily oblivious to the ugly part of life -- the poverty, the drug addiction, the violence.

Honestly, I don't know.

One of my closest friends (who posts under the name of Pro. Victims) recently said that a high school of friend of his had been forced to point out to him that the vast majority of people in the world are good people and that the vast majority of children grow up without ever being abused.

It was something that my good friend Pro. Victims had, understandably, lost sight of due to his job.

If you are looking for a definitive position out of this particular post, you may want to just skip on to the next one. Because, I will be damned if I know what would have been the best course of action (staying home versus having your mind expanded to the point it breaks your heart).

But I do know this, I think that all of us who come to the Big City and experience it in all of it's Beauty and Disgrace, have a step up on those who never ventured off their home turf.

We've seen something that so many people never see, and that is the fact that there are, very often, more than two sides to every story. Some excusable. Some explainable.

Some not.

But, at the end of the day, I'm kind of glad that I have a more grounded insight into the world in which we live in. Sure, it would be nice to go at bed night believing that the majority of the world was like Ward and June Cleaver.

But it isn't.

In a perverse way, I'm kind of glad that I shook off that innocence a long time ago.

But, in other ways, it was kind of nice to go to sleep in a town where you don't have to lock your doors at night --

And where marriages did, in fact, last forever.


whimsicalrandomness said...

i wouldn't give up the city life for the world... at times, i wonder how nice it would be to live in one of those 'home towns' but all i've ever known was houston... it's all relative, i guess. we do have too many options living in a big city and we are probably more insignificant than your common joe in a small town, but when you can look at your life in this point in time and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, while living in a city like houston, you know that life is good. glad you had a nice holiday weekend.

jigmeister said...

I have seen both now and I will take Green Acres.

The Punisher said...

Having been born and raised in the Houston area, I agree with whimiscalrandomness...its all relative. I wouldn't trade living here for anything. Of course, I do enjoy the comfort of the suburbs, but Houston and all the craziness that goes with it is home for me. Your hometown sounds like somewhere nice to visit, have a drink on the porch and enjoy a family holiday before having to head back to the trudges of the criminal justice center. We have the same thing here, just a little more chaotic, and in fact, marriages can last forever here too! The downside is of course, you go home with knowledge that the civilian world doesn't ever have to endure. Sounds like you had a nice holiday, maybe you should visit more often and RELAX!

Anonymous said...

I have been a defense attorney for 20 years, and I have not yet been able to explain to my family, who is also in one of those lovely little small towns, what I do or why I do it. My sister, on a rare visit, was with me at the CJC when I met with a new client, and she sat there quietly in the room as he told me his tale of woe, and when we were done, she informed me that she had not understood one word we said and asked what language we were speaking. Being a librarian, she was totally unacquainted with Ebonics, New Orleans dialect. She was astounded by the people she encountered in the CJC, and in spite of more visits, has declined any further invitations to accompany me to the courthouse. Staying at my home watching Law & Order reruns is now enough for her.

Anonymous said...

Your dilemma is as old as time, even documented in a book you might have heard of with a tale about an apple. I grew up in a small city, not quite as sheltered as you, and if given the chance to do it all over again, I'm not sure I'd know what to do either...

Anonymous said...

One day, AHCL, I hope I can learn the name of the town where you grew up. It sounds like the place I need to be raising my family. If it as you say, I'm ready to move today.

I'm guessing this town is not in Texas. Having been a seeker of "the perfect small town in Texas" to one day move to, I have yet to find it. Oh yes, there are nice towns, but crack and more often, meth, are rampant in most of the small towns where I'd like to live. Murders are less frequent in most small towns, but unfortunately the child abuse goes on at some alarming rates in some small towns that you would think would be pretty nice.

Oh well, a toast to small towns and those who live quiet, peaceful and law abiding lives in them.


A Harris County Lawyer said...

You know, on the drive in this morning, I realized again how much I do truly love this city. It is great to home and recharge the old "innocence" batteries every once in awhile, but I don't think there is any place I'd rather be right now than Houston.

And Tex, shoot me an e-mail off blog and I'll tell you where I grew up.