What a week it was! Great for me, not so great perhaps for Esperanza Aguirre, President of the Partido Popular Madrid branch, who resigned amidst yet another corruption scandal in the party! Oh well, good news for some it definitely was!
I also had my first ever visit to the inside of a Spanish courtroom and I went through many emotions whilst there – disbelief and disappointment amongst them. I was there to support my friend whose son was up on charges for resisting arrest (I really don’t blame him) and I was impressed by his maturity, honesty and handling of the matter in the courtroom.
However, I was more than a little surprised and occasionally stunned by the other participants in this drama! At one point, one of the lawyers for the prosecution told my friend’s son to kindly address her and use the formal you, the same as she was using to address him. I’m sorry – what did she just say?!
As a speaker of Spanish and having grown up without a formal you in English, I have long had my own issue with the usted, the formal you. I waiver between feeling insulted when it is used to address me, especially with those who are younger than me, as well as feeling quite uncomfortable.
It’s one of those situations that has me constantly on my guard – do I use it, dare I not use it? As a consequence, I have made many mistakes in my 24 years of living in Mallorca, sometimes not using it and receiving very clear messages that that is not acceptable and occasionally being given the freedom to throw it to one side.
The moment the youngish lawyer said that to my younger friend, I realised just how great the gulf is between people. At no point had the young man lost his respect to this individual; at no point was he rude to this person or any of the others – six more esteemed colleagues including the judge were in the courtroom. I felt it was entirely unnecessary for her to stop him mid-flow and point this out to him especially as he had not really addressed her with the informal you. It seemed a clear case of “mind your place” and “I am so much more than you” and it was a shame, especially as the qualities demonstrated by this young man on this particular day were those that make the world a much better place – honesty, respect, humility, repentance, a willingness to move on and above all, a better wisdom and understanding about himself and life in general.
The soap opera continued with the testimonies of the other three young men implicated in the case, and again they were consistent with the story, as well as honest, open and respectful. I could not say the same for two of the five police officers I managed to hear. What a situation! Their stories differed and at times made no sense, indeed the lawyers for the defence were as puzzled as the rest of us. At one point, when the same lawyer for the prosecution, read out – once again – the list of insults my young friend had apparently hurled at the police office, the policeman actually said he was used to such insults but couldn’t explain therefore why such a physical altercation ensued.
Obviously I don’t work in law enforcement and can’t comment on the training received, but I can comment that what I saw that day were two officers disillusioned with their jobs, burnt out with the absurdity of it all, but more worryingly, buying into stereotypes as to the type of people who surround them. I can more than imagine that on a regular basis they have to put up with aggression, bad manners, physical threats, rudeness, insults and more, but I can also see that they “see” certain people in ways that are not real.
It is time we looked beyond the make-up, beyond the stereotype and that goes for both sides in this case. The policeman could look beyond the young, male skater and my friend could look beyond the uniform. Perhaps if two years ago they could have been given the opportunity to truly hear the other’s story, we could have avoided this sorry spectacle of waste: energy, time, money and spirit. Perhaps the police officer could have heard a young man’s passion for his sport, needing to practise it every day, living a life that is creative, disciplined, supportive and adventurous. Perhaps my young friend could have heard of a man’s dreams that led him into the force and perhaps how those dreams were not all he imagined.
We have to go back to court in one month to hear what the sentence will be. The prosecution changed her mind and now wants three years instead of two. I hope it gets thrown out where it belongs and I hope my young friend does not have his life ruined from one mistake. Sadly, that’s all it takes nowadays, one mistake. However, if you’re a politician or a member of the royal family in Spain, you can be let off for planning a longterm systematic theft of public funds! There’s still time though, watch out people, justice might just catch up with you.