As I write this, a little window in the corner of my computer screen is showing the funeral of 4 slain Oakland Police officers live from the Oakland Coliseum.
At the same time, I am finishing up the planning for a going-away party for a friend & work colleague who is heading to Iraq in the upcoming deployment of his unit of the Oregon National Guard.
This juxtaposition of events has me thinking…..
I grew up in a left-of-center household during the 1960s. I became politically aware at a time when our society was undergoing some significant upheaval. The Civil Rights and the Anti Vietnam War movements had been challenging the moral authority of ‘the Establishment’ for the first decade of my life. The Norman Rockewell image of the friendly beat cop had given way to the much different images of the police from 1963 Birmingham and 1967 Chicago as brutal, armed protectors of the political establishment.
Cops were now ‘the Pigs’ and the American Soldier was no longer the brave WWII liberator, but were being chastised as pawns for taking part in conflicts that were not of their making or their
Coming from that beginning, sometimes I have to make an effort to overcome some of the prejudices instilled from that era….to remember that not all cops are out to bust heads ….and
not every soldier is a jingoistic ignorant kid who is either to poor or too dumb to know better than to get sucked in by some predatory recruiter.
Sometimes it is hard to avoid the stereotypes…especially when, for example, the same week as we are honoring the slain Oakland Police officers, another story regarding a police encounter comes to light:
A police officer detained an NFL player in a hospital parking lot while the player’s Mother-in-law died inside the hospital.
While there are always different perspectives to any story, from my viewing of the video, the officer in Dallas who detained Ryan Moats seemed more interested in imposing his authority than
dealing reasonably with the situation. These are the stories that strengthen the stereotypes rather than help us overcome them.
Over the years I have known policemen and women whose only desire in taking the job was to help and serve their community, NOT just for gaining the power that some seek in that position. And
I also know some incredibly intelligent, caring people, like my friend James, whose decision in joining the military came from a deep-seated belief in participatory democracy, and
from not wanting to let ‘others’ do the hard work in his name…
Yet, sometimes my own instict is to fall into the trap of viewing the police through an adversarial lens….and to view those in the military as ill-informed at best….even though I know this is not always true.
So, as the words from the friends, family and colleagues of officers Dunakin, Romans, Sakai, & Hege come to me across this little screen, I shed a tear for the senseless loss of life. And as I prepare to say goodbye to my friend James who his heading for Fallujah soon, I pray for his safe return.
Finally, I write this note to remind myself and others that there are brave and good people who put their lives on the line each and every day for every one of us….and this is an amazing and admirable thing. It is a thing we should never take for granted.
And we should be eternally grateful.