LIFE’S MOMENTS OF GREAT CHANGE
As I began the process of mentally creating this article, memories came flooding in about moments in my lifetime which were profound. Many of them brought significant change – some of which could never be reversed or undone.
I invite you to meander through your own memories as I bring forward a few events for you to ‘chew’ on.
My wedding day has at its memory peak words my mother said as we left home on the way to the ceremony at the church. As I stepped through the front door of the house, Mom looked me in the eye and said, “That was a one-way trip.”
Birth of our first child was a monumental day in our marriage – a day we had waited, hoped and prayed about for six long years. I held my newborn son in my arms feeling more joy than I had ever known. Later that day, my Dad said to me, “No matter how long you live, from this day forward you will forever be a parent.” My son is thirty-seven now and my Dad’s words are still good.
Children leave home and go away to college. More than I could have known at the time, these were watershed events with both of our children. Life would never again be the same. They were more than just the end of a chapter; they ended entire volumes as we saw the culmination of everything we had endeavored to do as parents. We smiled; we cried; we held our breath.
Pinning on the Badge & taking the Oath to become a police officer. I could not have fathomed all of the changes that would happen – including how others would view me from that day forward. It was pointed out to me then that my oath to protect and defend the Constitution along with all of the other promises made have no expiration date. Someone once said, “Once a cop – always a cop.” Amen.
A NATION AT THE PRECIPICE
I am penning this missive the day preceding the Presidential inauguration of a man who is overwhelmingly unique in the political world. From the day his candidacy was announced, he upset every past practice, every tradition, every norm that Americans have historically associated with running for public office – any office.
Based on every indication available, that pattern of disrupting the old ways in Washington is about to change – radically. Each of us will handle change in our own way. Some embrace it comfortably; others, no so much. But much like skydiving out of an airplane – once we jump, there is no turning back.
CHECK THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR
It can be said that what’s coming bears great resemblance to our nation’s roots. In times before I was around, politicians were NOT part of a professional political class. In fact, the primarily agricultural society sent its farmers to the Capitol for a few months each year (or season). They quickly handled business and then returned home. To be sure, they were part-time.
People who got elected to an office expected to serve a term or two and then return to their regular life. The political experience was expected to be TEMPORARY. We all know what happened to that.
Another aspect which was different a hundred (or so) years ago is this: government existed solely to handle those tasks that people could not accomplish as individuals. Government was also a good vehicle for handling tasks that a community wanted in common. Some examples:
- Mail service
- Military, i.e. common defense
- Keeping the peace, i.e. law enforcement
- Minting money
- Education of the young
- Settling disputes, i.e. the courts
In those days, government was not expected to provide services to its own citizens especially in the area which today we might term, “quality-of-life” issues. My Grandfather was born in 1891. Below is a comprehensive list of what he expected the government to provide him:
THE 20TH CENTURY – EVERYTHING CHANGED
During the early years of the 20th Century thinking took hold that the government should be taking an active role in the daily lives of its citizens. New services and protections came to be – in part as a remedy to the Great Depression. This would be the foundation of getting us where we are today:
Government is deeply involved in regulating, controlling or just monitoring every aspect of the daily lives of most Americans. Here are just a tiny fraction of the ways government grew so enormous:
- Social Security
- Unemployment benefits
- Various consumer protection laws & programs
- Limitations on business
- Health care / insurance
- Child care and rearing
- Basic life needs, e.g. welfare, food stamps, etc.
There are hundreds of programs today which led to the now famous quote, “It takes a VILLAGE to raise a child.” <ahem>
The sixties saw the beginning of more radical change. There was deep disagreement and unrest over the Vietnam War. There was born the openly discussed “free love” or otherwise said very relaxed views on human sexuality. The drug culture moved into the spotlight.
The government had one of the most profound periods of expansion in our history with the War on Poverty, The Great Society and the War on Drugs. Many would argue that all three have been collosal failures.
The most important events of the sixties was the loss of respect
- for the institutions of society
- for each other.
- for ourselves, individually.
We have arrived at a point where today, when anything goes awry in our lives, we look to the government to fix it.
- We call the police to settle an argument with our neighbor.
- If we buy a product that turns out to be defective, we want the government to pass a law or close down the manufacturer.
- We want the government to protect us from unscrupulous business people. The time-test notion of, “Let the Buyer Beware” has shifted that responsibility to the government.
- Criminals endeavor to place the blame for their bad behavior anywhere but on themselves.
We have come to the point where personal responsibility is no longer in vogue. Hell, we even want the government to protect us from being offended or hearing the speech of someone with whom we disagree.
In total, it seemed as if the professional politicians were in charge and had forever changed government vastly expanding it beyond the expectations of the Founders.
THE SLEEPING GIANT AWAKENS
The outcome of last November’s election is much different from what had been expected and predicted by the “experts.”
Now, with the inauguration only hours away, as a nation we are standing at the door of the airplane in flight. Like a skydiver, within hours, we will jump and there will be no turning back. For our country and maybe for the world, this will be a life-changing event.
As cops, what can we hope for? What is our role in the upcoming changes?
- As a nation, we must regain our respect for ourselves. We must demand that each of us performs to the best of our ability.
- We must regain our respect for each other. We can agree to disagree. At the bottom line, we’re all Americans. We are one people. The Golden Rule applies to all of us.
- We must regain our respect for authority and institutions. It is fundamentally necessary for our mutual survival.
We must return to being self-sufficient. If a problem exists, the responsibility for correction lies within the individual.
It is my job to provide for my needs and the needs of my family. Responsibility doesn’t belong to the government or some ‘program’ to feed and house me – or my kids.
Protection of me, my family and our property starts with the individual.
THE COP’S ROLE
If we are going to expect those we serve to perform responsibly as citizens, it is important to ensure that as the Sheepdogs, we too are ready. Consider the following in your own life.
- As asked by President George Bush, “How’s your faith?” This may be a good time for a checkup.
- Are you prepared? Are your skills and knowledge up to date?
- Is your own private life in order? If not, do you have an actionable plan to get it there?
- When you ‘gear-up’ and get ready to hit the streets, are you squared-away? Could you pass a detailed inspection without advance notice? Do you look the part of a professional law enforcement officer who has his act together?
- Most important: maintaining a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE.
Let’s all do our part to ensure that the changes which are coming will indeed, Make America Great Again. We have an important role in the success of our nation.
Some closing thoughts:
Give every person the maximum respect their behavior allows.
Try to make every contact a fresh contact. Our judgement of people has nothing to do with their color, their language, their economic circumstances or the job they hold. IT’S ALL ABOUT BEHAVIOR.
Expect the best and settle for nothing less.
Based on all of the evidence, life in the United States is going to substantially change over the next few years. Let’s do all we can as individuals to ensure that our country succeeds and becomes better than it has ever been.
For you sergeants who hold daily briefing/roll call: how about re-introducing the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by your officers? It might just put them in a good frame of mind at the beginning of each shift.
Remember, at the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.