It’s an awkward situation to be in when someone you know passes away. Proximity to the person (both literally and emotionally), the way in which they passed (expected or unexpected) … something so predictable shouldn’t be so complicated.
Let me clarify that. As it turns out, we all have a shelf life. Some run like a Duracell, some like the cheap battery that came with your Comcast remote.
I was young when I started this job, and at first it didn’t make sense, the randomness of it all, the “unfairness.” The triathlete who is diagnosed with a stage IV cancer never before seen after a lifetime of cardio and bland meals. The obese pedophile who dies on a recliner in his home or a jail cot at age 87. The honest career cop who is killed two years before retirement by a college student who fell asleep at the wheel. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it as an until-then “normal person.”
A decade or two later it still doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I have gained the wisdom to realize I can’t do a damn thing about it except in the infinitesimally rare circumstances when I can put my body between life and impending death. Privilege or curse, that circumstance doesn’t present itself very often. I’m just left to act as a Stenographer for the Dead after the fact.
I’m branching off here into a field that will piss some people off for more than one reason, but let me make an inappropriate comparison between cops and angels: As a kid, I read the stories (a word used specifically during my formative years) about beings beholden to God as Christians knew it/Him at His side, yet were tasked with things such as turning cities full of people to salt and the killing of firstborn children, or allowing it to be committed. I remember wondering how such a creature could exist under such a paradox, and I never found an answer until I accidentally became a cop.
Tasked with upholding man’s law and held to a higher (aka “different”) standard, cops are representative of the shining majesty and purity of the State, yet tasked with dealing with the dregs of society. We must answer to the highest authority and live to its highest standards, yet dwell amongst the worst humanity has to offer day after day and remain unaffected in most cases.
There is a logical link here, like it or not, and all ego aside, cops, like angels, must do an impossible job. And if we’re no angels (as cops), what are angels themselves?
Deep thoughts with no answers so many presidents and portable music formats later. But like most of the questions I have, I don’t really want the answers.
Instead, it really is easier just to trudge on and let your gut feelings take care of the rest. We were trained that way for a reason—because it works, as cops and soldiers from decades and centuries past could surely attest.
We’re a strange species, human beings. We consume one another, both literally and societally. Cannibals, and unapologetic about it in any form. “Bring Order, but Bring it with Cleanliness.”
What complete son-of-a-bitch would ask such an impossible thing? All of us, is the answer. But funny that you could say “the devil is in the details,” then leave the details to the Angels and the Cops … and spooks, and soldiers, and all those charged with our safety.
Set up to fail, yet success is demanded.
I have no God complex. I fully expect hell to be my destination for the things I have had to do, and I am well aware that neither I, nor anyone I have ever worked with, is an angel. But the logic applies, and it would be even more cruel to deny that.
I take chances with the things I do and, more strangely, with the things that I say publicly. A friend who was only privately able to applaud my words just unexpectedly passed away, hence the introspective blathering. But the thoughts are real, and I would appreciate your feedback, friend or foe.
Give it a think and respond to the address at the end of this column. If you choose not to, at least consider what I’m saying.
I contemplate such with every breath I draw, every day I live, and so does any real cop, soldier or agent you have ever known or never met, blessed and cursed may they all be.
But I don’t think I’ll ever get the answer. And that’s why I’m here, dear reader, asking the same question and expecting different results. Madness, isn’t it?
(Rest in Peace, Robert. Yours was a life well lived, and I’ll see you sooner rather than later, I think.)
Columnist Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.