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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am an 84-year-old woman who would like to play the devil's advocate, but in this case, I would like to know who the devil is.

An officer of the law, whose job it is to reprimand anyone who is breaking the law, must drive 80 to 100 miles an hour on a freeway, chasing someone who is endangering the lives of everyone on the freeway, including himself.

Abby, how can we expect a police officer (who doesn't know whether he will go home to his wife and kids that night) to drive at breakneck speed for an hour or more, and keep his composure when he finally catches up with the criminal? If he's human, he will lash out at the culprit. Then, it seems to me, everyone is appalled at the behavior of the police officer -- instead of the one who is breaking the law.

Ten-to-one, the criminal is high on something, and though the marks on him are visible, I'll bet he didn't feel the blows as much as the high he was getting on the substance, which gave him the courage to drive that fast.

What say you, Abby? -- ELEANOR FROM BROOKLYN

DEAR ELEANOR: I can understand your frustration, but tolerating police brutality will not reduce our crime rate. The police are trained (and paid) to apprehend criminals. They are NOT vigilantes who may enforce their own code of punishment.

All citizens would be in great danger if taking the law into our own hands became acceptable.

DEAR ABBY: What is your opinion of people who take photographs -- and, in some instances, motion pictures -- of strangers in a public area without their permission?

I am not referring to celebrities, but the general public. -- A.O. IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR A.O.: Photographing strangers without permission is a clear invasion of their privacy. Most people may have no objections, but on the chance that they do, they should be asked first.

DEAR ABBY: Some time ago, you reprinted a brief essay about death. I don't remember the exact wording, but the gist of the piece was likening the individual to a ship -- seen by one group of people as leaving, and at the same time seen by another group as arriving.

This piece impressed me so much that I want it to be read at my funeral.

I wasn't able to keep the newspaper. If you recognize this essay, will you please print it again? -- ELAINE HARPER, NASHVILLE, TENN.

DEAR ELAINE: The piece was titled "A Parable of Immortality," by Henry Van Dyke. Not only have I published it before, it's also in my "Keepers" booklet. Here it is:

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!'

"Gone where? Gone from my sight -- that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the places of destination.

"Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, 'There she goes!' there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, 'Here she comes!'"

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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