Eric Bosse ~Ten Trolley Problems for 2020 Cops

  1. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward a crowd of pro­test­ers car­ry­ing “BLUE LIVES MURDER” signs. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead hits a board­ed up, emp­ty Starbucks. What do you do?
  2. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward Bank of America’s head­quar­ters. A col­li­sion would destroy the bank’s com­put­er net­work, which would hurt the stock mar­ket and could start a cas­cade of events that would bring cap­i­tal­ism to its knees and ush­er in a new era for human­i­ty. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley hits only a cute baby doll that your three-year-old daugh­ter would adore. What do you do?
  3. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward sev­en pro­test­ers, from behind. One of them—a nerdy-look­ing woman car­ry­ing med­ical supplies—looks famil­iar. Five of them car­ry signs protest­ing police vio­lence. The sev­enth is a fit young jour­nal­ist with a trendy hair­cut you could nev­er pull off. You can just tell he’s super smug behind his Covid mask. There is no lever, but you could warn the pro­test­ers in time for them to move to safe­ty. Alternatively, you could use tear gas to force them out of the way, or you could do noth­ing and watch. What do you do?
  4. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward a pro­test­er. He is hel­la annoy­ing, a strong Black man, and his sign says rude things about your law enforce­ment brethren. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley hits anoth­er protester—possibly a Black trans woman, but it’s hard to tell—who is equal­ly hel­la annoy­ing but whose sign mere­ly calls for defund­ing the police. Or you could pull the lever even far­ther to a third posi­tion, split­ting the trol­ley in half to strike both pro­test­ers. What do you do?
  5. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward the flam­boy­ant­ly woke city coun­cil mem­ber who called for dis­man­tling the police. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley hits a dif­fer­ent coun­cil mem­ber who is friend­lier to police, but who has called for bans on choke­holds, kneel­ing on sus­pects, and off switch­es for body cams. What do you do?
  6. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward a fel­low offi­cer whom you wit­nessed mur­der­ing three pro­test­ers in an alley, where no one else saw or took video. He has a Confederate flag on his truck, on his house, and tat­tooed on his chest next to a swasti­ka and a por­trait of Hitler. Once, on a long stake­out, he con­fessed to poi­son­ing his grand­moth­er, who had screamed at him for steal­ing the tent and bed­ding of a home­less fam­i­ly with sick chil­dren. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead hits the armored Humvee your depart­ment received as a gift from the Army. It’s a sweet vehi­cle worth a ton of mon­ey, and you always feel like a badass rolling down the street in that beast. But it’s just a vehi­cle. A human life is sure­ly worth more. What do you do?
  7. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward a pro­test­er you rec­og­nize as a fre­quent com­menter on your les­bian sister’s Facebook posts. This pro­test­er is also a les­bian, you’re pret­ty sure, because of the angry way she con­fronts you in the com­ments. You have heard your par­ents shout that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is a sin and a sign of moral weak­ness, which is why you always shove down that feel­ing that you, your­self, might be gay, because when­ev­er you watch porn you’re turned on by the dicks as much as by the breasts. Must. Not. Think. About. It. OK, calm down. Pull it togeth­er. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead hits the ass­hole respon­si­ble for the faulty design that so fre­quent­ly caus­es trol­leys to hur­tle at peo­ple. What do you do?
  8. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward you. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead strikes only the rot­ten parts of your soul, but then you would nev­er be the same. You would act with integri­ty. You would be kind to strangers. You would feel no loy­al­ty to cor­rupt peo­ple. What do you do?
  9. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward an angry Black man who is shout­ing at you through your riot shield and face shield, with his emp­ty hands held wide to indi­cate that he is not a threat. The trol­ley would hit him, not you. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead safe­ly rolls down the street, unim­ped­ed, away from every­one. What do you do?
  10. An out-of-con­trol trol­ley hur­tles toward for­mer President Barack Obama. You could pull a lever so the trol­ley instead smash­es into a ten-foot-tall but­ton that ini­ti­ates a time machine that could car­ry you back across the decades and cen­turies, there­by enabling you to eas­i­ly inter­vene and save every sin­gle Black per­son, every Native per­son, and every per­son of col­or who has ever been lynched or mas­sa­cred or mur­dered by white folks in the his­to­ry of the United States and the colo­nial times that came before. Truly, offi­cer, you could sin­gle-hand­ed­ly heal the per­pet­u­al fes­ter­ing wound upon the heart of our nation. So tell us, what do you do?

~

Eric Bosse is the author of Magnificent Mistakes, in more sens­es than one. His sto­ries have appeared in The Sun, Zoetrope, The Collagist, FRiGG, Wigleaf, Hobart, and twice before in New World Writing.