De-Friend the Police: You and I
I wrote this back in October of 2016, long before I knew of today’s turbulent times. Who knew …
You and I
We grew up together, you and I.
I attended kindergarten with you and your friends.
I played football and freeze tag and hide and seek with you and your cousins.
We were like family.
We hung out together at the drug store, reading comic books and eating ice cream cones.
I was at your sixteenth birthday party and you were at mine.
You and I and our friends had a blast at the prom.
I remember when your brother joined the military and went off to war.
I was there when the news came that he wouldn’t be returning home.
I sat with you on the front porch, listening as you remembered the good old days.
You cried and I never told anyone that you did.
We went away to college and remained friends, even though we were many miles apart.
You and I both married our childhood sweethearts.
You went to work for a big company.
You mom died and I traveled a long ways to be by your side.
Because that’s what we did, you and I.
My father passed away and you were there for me.
After college you returned and went to work for a big company.
I became a cop.
Then you hated me.
Was it because of my uniform?
That my job was to enforce the law?
I didn’t make the rules.
Heck, I don’t even like some of them.
But it’s my job.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t like several of your company’s products and rules and policies.
But when one of your coworkers tells me to not touch something or that I may not go “out” the “in” door, I listen and do as asked.
But, even when I don’t agree with your company’s rules I don’t throw rocks at you and your fellow employees.
I don’t run to social media and post despicable things about you and your family.
I don’t write that you and your wife and kids should all die.
I don’t encourage the world to attack you.
I don’t go to your parking lot and overturn and set fire to your cars.
I don’t shoot at you, or punch and kick or spit on you.
I don’t kill your friends simply because of the suits they wear, or because one of your office mates did something despicably wrong.
I don’t trap you and your coworkers inside your office building and then set fire to the place because a heartless guy on the opposite side of the country killed a man.
I don’t toss deadly explosives at you and your fellow work mates simply because of your choice of employment, or because I disagree with the rules.
No, I didn’t make the rules. Not a single one of them.
I’m just a guy doing a job, a job I happen to love.
The vast majority of the laws of our country were in place long before I first pinned a badge to my shirt.
I’m still the same guy you hung out with in high school.
I’m still the same guy who drove you home from the party after you’d had one too many drinks.
I’m still the same guy who played catch with you in my front yard for hours on Saturday afternoons.
I’m still the same guy who made you laugh with my Daffy Duck imitations.
I’m still the guy who stood beside you the day you married the love of your life.
Why did “you and I” become “you against me?”
Because I’m still the same guy.
I just happen to wear a uniform when I go to work.
I’m a cop and I love my job and I still help people, even when they hate me.
I still help people while dodging those rocks, bottles, bullets, and insults.
I still think about the days when we were close.
And I’ll still come if you call.
Even though you hate me,
Merely because I’m a cop.
We’re still the same guys.
Who wear a different set of clothes.
It’s us …
Guys who were once best friends,
You and I.
So thoughtful and well put!
As I’m sure you know, and I don’t expect it’s any comfort, but the police are the latest in a long line of society’s scapegoats. Hitler had his Jews, the Romans their Christians, etc. America’s principal legal ancestor, England, did not have anything resembling an organized police force until the 1850s and these folks were often characterized by the public as “spies” and the relationship between the police and the “common man” has always been problematic. I’m no psychologist, but today in the US, with the police, we have a scapegoat based upon guilt, fear and convenience. Most folks have cut some corners and carry around some regrets or guilt (real or assumed). We will be found out, will be punished, etc. Justice is more palatable as an objective concept than a subjective one, i.e., applied to others and not ourselves. American fascination with criminals is a more robust component of our culture than our interest in the actual heroes of our culture, e.g. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and for a more modern and truly ironic figure, given the current fashion of violent disorder, Martin Luther King. Media has made a deeper exploration of the lives of Jesse James, Al Capone and Charlie Manson than it has of the previously named figures, so there is a fascination and even a sympathy with these folks for, I suppose, any number of reasons. Society’s ills – who do we blame? Who do we punish? Who can we rely on to make things healthy for all? Much misery is economics based, but there is nowhere to turn there. Politicians are owned and certainly obligated to banks, big business, insurance companies, etc. To these entities, the citizen is a mark and defenseless as an individual. People like Jesse James and Al Capone took it upon themselves to “make things right” on their own terms, and for a limited time, they were able to rub their success in the face of authority. Charlie Manson was like all con artists, a sociopath who built his own society, rejecting and for a while escaping the one around him. And who eventually puts these people down? Law Enforcement, of course. But unlike today, they were supported by government leadership, or at least enough of it to get the job done. So what we have today is just another turn of the screw: people who feel that they have no chance of beating the system are choosing to destroy it in the hope that they will build a better one. This is an illusion, historically proven over and over again. Whatever evolves will always conform to human nature and the seven deadly sins, from which no one and no society has proven immune. Today, as always, people perceive the police as the people who will be sent to enforce the rule of law. However, for many, the dreams of today are not a good job and a happy home, but some grandiose paradise only obtainable by destroying the ones coming between them and their dreams. And who provides the muscle for the bad guys? Law Enforcement of course. Politicians and social con artists who don’t have the power and money they crave have convinced these folks that the dream crushers are solely the police, not the police backed by authority and certainly not their own illusions. The real change today is that “authority” used to include the government, but trust in politicians and their water carriers (behind the scenes bureaucrats) has eroded to a null point. Many people consider the government to be purely malevolent, or at best no factor at all. To disassociate themselves from the role of bad guy dream crusher, politicians (for the most part) have tried to distance themselves from the rule of law and its human component, law enforcement officers. Therefore, scapegoat of convenience, for both the politician and the citizen. The citizen can’t beat the state and the politicians will wait in the weeds to see how it all shakes out. Unfortunately, the only corrective, I think, is that people will need to witness even more destruction until they become so appalled that the perceived cure, socialism/anarchy, will be rejected and its adherents, in one way or another, neutralized. At that point, those who will destroy society will reemerge as the true enemy and the police will, at least as much as it ever has, be regarded as an ally. Your essay is demonstrable of a sad truth, I think: whatever illusion we had about people being more tolerant and looking at “content of character” as being more important than identity, is myth rather than fact. We have had groups benefitting from (and manipulating [human nature in action again] what can be characterized as an enlightened principle and goal, but in point of fact, when the going gets rough, out comes the eternal fear-based hatreds. The irony of those fighting for “justice” and simultaneously seeking a scapegoat is a hypocrisy people are obviously unwilling to face. Confront people with this contradiction or, today, challenge them or present the possibility of challenge and you become the enemy, fit only for annihilation. So with the police, hyped by the media and scamster politicians as the sole challenging force standing between the dreamers and their dreams, you have a scapegoat you can blame and lend justification to all your actions. I remember, in the New York City of the 1960s and ‘70s arguing with SDS and Black Panther folks and even though they may have despised me, at least you could have a discussion with them. Many of these people today will just beat you to death with what they perceive as the tacit and sometimes overt support of politicians, businesses, celebrities and sports figures. Sad and in the end, sad for all. Even them. Eventually, after they have served their purpose, the politicians, celebrities and the media will turn their backs on them and you will have a lot of eternally bewildered frustrated and angry people, which is no way to live.
Me, too. Praying for all the brave men and women who put on a uniform and do the very hardest of things to help the rest of us. Thanks for a beautiful work, Lee.
This was heartbreaking to me. I’ve had a lot of cops in my family over the years. I remember when we admired our police officers and treated them with respect. Yes, some have done some incredibly horrendous things. I’ve been a nurse for umpteen years. There are nurses who’ve done incredibly horrendous things – like murder children. The same can be said for every profession out there. Some people do evil things.
Most cops are decent men and women who are trying to help people. When my mother was dying, one of our cop friends sat in the ICU waiting room with us for hours on end. He would come in before he went on duty and he was come back when he was off duty. He loved a family that was hurting. A few years later, he was murdered in the line of duty, but I’ve heard so many stories about this man. He loved people and his goal in life was to protect and serve. These are the types of officers I’ve known all of my life.
For many years, I watched as the trend become more and more common to hate cops and lump all officers into the same group as the few who’ve done horrid things. It’s appalling.
Thank you for all of your years of service. Many of us still appreciate the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect and serve.
It’s not an easy job. I admire anyone who has the courage to take on such a challenge!
Heartbreaking, and so damned true
This is so poignant and sad but also, so true.
I love this! It’s very powerful.
Not me! Never, gonna’ happen.
This makes me so sad.