Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Walk Into the Heart of Darkness...

If you have no capacity for violence 
then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. 
If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, 
then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. 
But what if you have a capacity for violence, 
and a deep love for your fellow citizens? 
Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, 
Someone who is walking the hero’s path.  
Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, 
Into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.   
- Lt. Col. David Grossman  

As I get older and even more disagreeable and cantankerous than I was a much younger man - and I assure you that I was no bargain "back in the day" - I have a more difficult time than I once did letting go of certain things.  The death of a police officer is such a thing.  Doubly so when I look at the face of this young man, whose acquaintance I never made, and am stricken by just how young he was.  He was a five-year veteran of the nation's finest police department.  Yet, he also appeared to have been a young man whose face had not yet needed a reason to formally introduce itself to his razor.  

Forever young he shall remain.  The opportunity to grow old having been taken from him through a senseless act of violence.  Those who do for a living what Brian Moore did to earn his are often driven to do what they do by a sense of duty, a sense of obligation that many of the rest of us simply do not feel.  The business of "serving and protecting" is not for everyone.   As we see every now and again, it should not necessarily be the business of all of those who have chosen it as their own.  

By all accounts, both the family who shall have the sad duty of gathering to bury their boy Brian on Friday and the city for which Police Officer Moore died while protecting have suffered a substantive loss.  A young man whose DNA was coded NYPD dedicated his life to protecting those around him.  Both those who he knew and loved and those to whom he was a stranger and vice versa.  The latter received the benefit of his service and his protection as an innate extension of the oath he took and was duty-bound to uphold. 

Whenever this happens, which is to say whenever a man or woman such as Police Officer Moore is killed in the service of the community he or she serves, my mind's eye is drawn through the surface level of the photograph and into the layers that lie beneath it.  It is drawn in fact to another photograph of another face.  A face that belongs to a young man imbued with a sense of purpose similar to that of Police Officer Moore.  And I wonder - as I do every now and again - and perhaps even more than I should:  Who protects the protectors?  Who is it who keeps an eye out for them?  

From my admittedly limited perspective, the responsibility for protecting the sheepdog rests with the flock.  If not the flock, then to whom does that responsibility fall?  If the flock is not willing to accept that responsibility, then what fucking right do we have to seek out and to rely upon the sheepdog to protect us?  

The problem with Lt. Colonel Grossman's recitation is that its last statement is a misstatement.  There is no guarantee that the sheepdog shall "walk out unscathed".  There is an ever-present possibility that the sheepdog - once engaged - shall not walk out, unscathed or otherwise.

Yet forward he moves, never relenting and never wavering, into the "universal human phobia".  



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