Thursday, June 11, 2015

“Midnight Musings”

“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe- some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others- some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men.
But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.”
―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
            I know the difficulty of law enforcement officers. They go, sometimes blindly, into situations that scream danger. However, my father took great pride that he only drew his gun once while on duty--at a distraught, suicidal man who was threatening to kill his entire family. Dad talked him "down" and the man got the help he needed. Dad taught me that his job required the ability to quickly assess a situation and to do his best to reduce the possibility of violence. This skill requires constant training and a mindset that the officer must deescalate a situation.
            I know, first hand, how families of officers feel and deal with the stress of this career. If the phone rang in the middle of the night, I'd bolt out of sleep and say, "Dad's been shot." That was my greatest fear.
            My father went into law enforcement late in his life. He was the oldest man to ever graduate from the sheriff's academy for his county! He honestly liked almost everyone he met, and the people under his care respected and trusted him. Because he maintained the same patrol for many years, he built a personal relationship with the residents and business owners in his area. Maybe our police force needs to revisit the importance of the "cop on the beat," the cop who lives in his or her neighborhood.
            Before he retired, Dad worked at the county jail and taught GED classes. He prided himself on having a high success rate of students getting this diploma. Over and over again, he stressed that many of the inmates with whom he worked came from poverty or had little education.
            Now I know that many, many of my students snubbed their noses at the opportunities offered to them through public education. They were, after all, children; and unfortunately children make mistakes that impact their entire lives. Most of them had parents who also started their pattern of poor decisions early in life. Generational problems weave themselves into the very tapestry of a family history and become the knotted threads that all of us must untangle. People who don’t have this type of family dynamic find it difficult to comprehend and easy to condemn.   
            We have fractures cracking through the structures of our society. What if these foundations fail? What happens if we hold distrust towards those who should protect and serve? What happens when we feel disenfranchised and disillusioned?
            I can spend the rest of my life listing the problems within our society, but solutions begin when we embrace differences and walk in another person’s shoes. We can talk about poverty, drug abuse, and violence in homes and on the streets. We can point our fingers and place blame on almost everyone and everything. But until we learn tolerance, we will continue to disintegrate into fragments.

 Copyright 2015 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman          

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