A man and a woman have been pulled over at the roadside by their local police.
To complicate matters further – at least for the man and woman in question – they are black.
The burly copper asks, ever so seriously, if they are aware of some obscure motoring infringement they might have made. It’s a belting hot Continental Summer mid-day and you can practically feel them sweating.
You might have seen the video.
Just when you think something awful’s going to happen, the second policeman produces two ice-creams – one each for the driver and passenger – and says it’s against Highway regulations to be driving without ice-cream.
The woman literally screams with laughter and as she and her passenger accept the proffered ice-creams the conversation becomes a little more natural – but only just – between more laughs. At which point I’m left thinking:
- Isn’t that a Happy Ending!
Now then. I’m not fully au fait with the past record of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s finest. Are they generally known as a friendly, approachable bunch, or do they have some ‘issues’ in their past (or worse, their present)?
And if the latter, or if – heaven help us – someone like Chicago’s force should try a stunt like this, what are we to make of it?
Meanwhile, I write my fiction. And in among the characters I’ve created is someone whose past deeds are dreadful but who has – quite literally – had a change of mind (this is sci-fi, after all). His ‘new’ character craves forgiveness from a past victim – or at the very least wants the said victim to trust him enough that they can carry out a scheme which both would want done, together.
How is one to write the new, ‘reformed’, character believably? Or in fact any ‘reformed’ character under more normal circumstances?
Because a writer of a tale involving ‘redemption’ has to deal with this dilemma: if the character changes too little, are they forgivable? And if they change too much, are they ‘credible’?
I think this little vignette shows a way.
Let’s imagine two police officers who have genuinely abused their power in the past take it upon themselves to imitate our two Nova Scotians’ cunning stunt.
Although their intentions may be laudable, and they are doing no-one any direct harm this time round, they are nevertheless putting themselves in a position of massive power over their ‘victims’. And in that way, although they look – and believe themselves – reformed characters, they still want to exercise power. In that one crucial dimension, even though they’ve gone from ‘evil’ to ‘good’, deep down they haven’t changed.