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  • Writer's pictureJoanna P. Basile

The Karma Police

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

An unsuspecting woman was rattled awake by someone attempting to get into her home late last night. That woman was me.

It was about midnight, and I was dreaming a dream in which a knock at the door would have made complete sense. It wasn’t like a recent fantasy where I was making love to an ex-boyfriend I regretfully treated poorly once in my waking life. We were naked and happy in a vast, stark white space. I was less into the location; it was more remarkable to me that the two of us were 22 again as he was 15 years my senior when we met. That’s for an entirely different essay.

In this heavy slumber, I found myself in a reddish-orange hallway with stairs... and then I heard loud and lucid noises. It’s someone knocking. No really, it’s someone knocking on the front door.

Sit up, Joanna. Sit up now. Someone is not only at your door, but they are trying to get in.

I shot straight up and pawed around for the phone. Of course when you need it, it’s not right there. I made myself a promise that if I watched the vice presidential debates that I would not spend countless hours on Twitter afterwards like I did the last time. I made good on my agreement and read a chapter or two of Didion’s The White Album instead, and now I’m fucked because of it. Thanks, Joan. I tried my hardest to remain calm while I blindly searched in the pitch black for the damn thing.

Still in a fog, my head begins to try to make sense of it. Is it a woman pretending to need assistance, and when I answer the door, her accomplice pushes his way in to assault and rob me at gunpoint? Is it the neighbor, and something has gone terribly awry next door? Could it be the police? Is there a perpetrator on the loose and they are looking for them in my yard?

I finally found the phone on the nightstand. The knocking had now turned into pounding. They kept trying the door handle. Did I lock the storm door? Did I arm the alarm? Where is the dog? God how I wished my gun were in that same nightstand right about now. Should I leave my aligners in like a mouth guard from my fighting days? I decide to lay them on that same side table in the event I had to bite someone.

I called for Duke, loudly, in my the best man voice I could muster. Pre-pandemic, I used to dial friends and family, including my father, and pretend I was a random male on the line. It would send me into a fit of uncontainable laughter because they always believed me. Let’s hope whoever is at my door believes it now.

As I dial 911 from the doorway of my bedroom, I see a flashlight shining into the front door window, dancing around the hallway I am in. My blood runs cold. It is clearly not the neighbor.

Duke has since rallied, and is doing his job in the living room, making his 100lb presence well known. His vicious barking does not deter the intruder; the pounding still incessant. The dispatcher then informs me it is not the police at my door – in truth, they are nowhere near the vicinity. The hand gripping my blunt, heavy flashlight begins to shake.

“Please get here now. Please get here.”

She reminds me that it isn’t her that is coming to my aid. I remind her that I was just woken up from a deep sleep, and that I am completely freaked out and know she’s not coming. I ask her what she thinks I should do, as I start to see what appears to be flashlights in the back yard. They’ll be trying to break in the back door any minute now.

I’m told I could lock myself in the bedroom and wait for an officer. I imagined myself holed up in the bathroom instead, where the window is high and the toilet available. After all, I had to pee and anyone that knows me knows I cannot think when I have to pee. And this is definitely not helping the situation. At least I could deduce that me locked in anywhere would put Duke out there alone. He’d certainly be hurt or killed.

“Please get here. Please get here.” I say it over and over. From the hallway.

She asks me what I see. “I see nothing right now,” I say. “I forgot to put my glasses on.” The same glasses I always keep next to me in the event of an emergency. Without time to spare I somehow easily locate my specs in the dark and place them on my frightened nose.

I make my way back to the hall. There is silence for the first time in what feels like eternity. With the dispatcher on the phone and Duke knowingly at my side, I tiptoe to the front room and look outside through the round, porthole window. Nothing. Not a thing.

I start to wonder if it was all in my head.

“I just figured it out,” the dispatcher says in a subdued yet somewhat excited voice. “It was officers; they were at the wrong address.”

After a request to send the police back to my home to confirm it was in fact them, I hung up the phone and sat stunned on the bed. They did not identify themselves. Not once.

A typo had me terrified for my life.

I looked at the time, and text my best friend on the West coast hoping he’d be up. I needed someone to be a witness to my scare. I wanted my fear validated.

“This could have been tragic,” he typed.

I may now know a little of what those young adults felt that night in Louisville. I am glad I didn’t have a registered firearm nearby. I am glad they never got in – otherwise Duke may not have been with me any longer.

They never announced themselves. Not once.

I have since shared this information with the proper authorities. “This is an opportunity to fix this,” I wrote. “As if the case in Louisville wasn’t enough, this is another reminder that officers should be without a doubt identifying themselves when attempting to enter a home.”

I trust it will be addressed. It was confirmed that dispatch records show a residential panic alarm at the same house number on a street that sounds just like mine at that exact same time. I was assured that they would not have entered my home unless they found a door already open, nonetheless I am told “it would be normal for officers to have yelled ‘POLICE’ while knocking at the door – especially at that hour.” But they didn’t.

When they eventually came back to the scene of no crime, they did however say they were sorry.

I’ve driven through Louisville since Breonna Taylor was killed. I think about her story often, whether reminded by breaking news, through a tribute or by an artist or athlete using their platform to create awareness and call for justice. I’ve been following the recent developments from credible news sources. Both the internal investigation of the LMPD and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s desire to keep the grand jury proceedings and testimony a secret are beyond concerning. There is a reason we the people are protesting.

I try to be objective, to see both sides of every issue. I’ve tried to imagine being a cop, thinking they were apprehending the right person with a warrant, and being fired at from inside a bedroom. But given the facts, were they not trained properly? Was there blatant racial bias not just in the lack of accountability but was there bias in the actual execution of the warrant? Why was the raid executed at that hour? Why was the

ambulance not on standby? Why did they not attend to her for 20 minutes? What are the facts that were left blank? Was that indeed intentional? Why raid her address and not the perpetrator's to begin with? Why the coverups? And why did they not identify themselves as police?

We read about the indiscretions of her ex-boyfriend and of Breonna’s unsavory past – but that is subjective and irrelevant and meant to dissuade us from the truth, manipulating us into thinking that what those men did that night was justified - as if our past automatically absolves someone of wrongdoing when treating us less-than. Sadly, I know this game all too well.

The very people that are to serve and protect made a huge, deadly mistake and are not being held accountable for it because of antiquated protections. And if that isn’t bad enough, they failed to properly record and report what happened. But yet the authorities and some media outlets are trying to sell us the story that “karma” caught up with her.

Karma knows the right address. It is the address.

There’s all this talk of karma in recent days with the President contracting COVID after his administration’s response to the virus – or lack thereof - may have caused the death of 213,000 Americans thus far. Some are quick to say “Karma's a bitch.”

In Yoga, karma is the path of unselfish action. It teaches us to act according to dharma, or universal truth, without being attached to personal consequences or benefits. We rid ourselves of ego through this practice. The Bhagavad Gita says that Karma Yoga purifies the mind.

Karma is the cycle of cause and effect. It is neither punishment nor reward. Yes, it is the sum of a person’s actions in this life, however according to some beliefs, it includes previous states of existence – and viewed as fate in future existences. So maybe Trump will come back as a cockroach, but he is not being penalized for his evil deeds in this lifetime. He could have Coronavirus simply because he failed to heed warnings by people much smarter than him, and refused to wear a mask, downplaying the very virus he ended up contracting.

This idea of being held accountable for my past has come up countless times, especially now that I am getting older. My life choices have put me in a position where I can see myself elderly and alone, drooling in the corner of a state-run facility for the forgotten. Whether it is the non-linear life I lead or the judgment I endure because of my own unsavory past, somedays it feels like it’s catching up with me. Other times, like when the police are beating down your door in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, you stop and wonder if this is payback for something wretched you’ve done. It’s not; they had the wrong address.

My father used to call it the “Basile Curse,” these random and numerous occurrences that could only happen to us. As if there is some force propelling jealousy, hardship and "bad karma" our way. Up until the day he died he had a thing for the evil eye. I hope he now knows having gone to the other side that there is no such thing as bad karma. Or the Basile Curse. Now inherited trauma... that too is for another composition.

Once I stopped pinning my faith on the ancestral hex, I began to live in my truth. I forgave myself and continuously try to clean up my karmic debt by just being a good person according to cosmic law in this moment. And this is why after reconciliation of what had happened and a short text exchange, I was able to fall back to sleep.

For some, there is a force propelling jealousy, hardship and "bad karma" their way. And this force is racism in all its forms, seen and unseen. And it doesn't always identify itself.

I know in my being that justice also knows the right address.

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