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.
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.