In a recent Facebook discussion, we talked about the value of occupations where people put their life on the line. This of course arose out of a conversation about the currently chaotic situation involving the police and the Black Lives Matter movement. A friend of mind said he leaned towards siding with police because they lay their lives on the line every day. Many people feel this way and it is oft used to not only build respect towards police officers, but also people in the military.
On one hand there is certainly courage getting up each day, knowing this could be a day you die…or rather a higher than normal percentage for the average citizen. Of course the average cop may have as good of odds as the average person who grows up in inner city areas that have a high crime and murder rate. That aside I agree that it still takes courage, but the stress of such a situation is likely not healthy without a good deal of treatment to deal with the stress. That kind of stress is likely to make you more likely to take less chances in any given interaction with the citizenry to protect your own life. Particularly in areas where there is a lot of crime, and for a job which doesn’t pay that well given the cost of your life.
On the other hand, one wonders what compels someone to choose that line of work? Do people say…”I really want to put my life on the line every day and be a cop or join the military, protecting people?” I am sure some of them do. Such nobility does exist. But I am sure there are plenty of reasons that come into play as well. Some may join because they can’t afford or don’t want to go to college. For the military, some may join for the opportunity to go to college, or the job opportunities that will be more plentiful upon graduation. Many join the military simply as a way to get out of poverty. Other factors may come into play, like trying to escape an abusive or dysfunctional household, doing it because your father and/or brother(s) did it. Other less noble reasons could also exist like just wanting the respect that comes with the uniform, picturing yourself as some action hero not even thinking about the consequences of you doing or wanting that instant authority over people. This has always been the trouble I have had with simply thinking of all cops or military personnel as noble heroes for being willing to lay down their life for others, because it’s unclear to me how much of this courage really factors into their decision to do the job.
But they do, do the job. At the end of the day isn’t that all that matters? Perhaps, but if laying down your life, whatever your initial intentions were make you a person with courage then such courage should also be bestowed on all people who have dangerous jobs. And there are such jobs even though they in no way are protecting other people. People who are loggers, fishers, and roofers come in the top 3. Here is a list of the top 20 most dangerous professions per capita (Police come in at 15). We also must then laud all those who lay their life down for a cause. This then includes your rebels, your gangs, your suicide bombers. This people also risk their life, sometimes end their lives for a cause they believe in. I think we can agree that this is not the type of person we want to elevate to nobility. Of course it is the values they hold, the values they fight for, the goodness that they protect. So if we can’t guarantee the motivations of all people who don the uniform, if there are more dangerous professions, and if what makes someone is a hero is the values they represent, it seems to me like “laying down one’s life” isn’t an overly relevant reason to elevate one to a position of automatic respect.
But you may say, “Big talk person with blog, but would you be willing to do the same?”. And I think it’s a fair question to ask and it’s also an important question I think to ask one’s self. “Is there a cause for which I’m willing to die for?” I certainly think I have the courage for it, but I know for me the death part isn’t what would hold me back. If there was truly no other way besides carrying a gun to solve the problem, then it is my passion that would override my fear of death, at least initially. It would simply feel like the right thing to do regardless of the consequences. What I will say is that I am definitely capable of making a mistake, and possibly a deadly one. Dying to me is quite honestly less scary than taking the life of someone who did feel I deserve it. Had I shot Tamir Rice. I would be wishing myself dead, and if they didn’t lock me up, I’d quickly turn in my badge. Because, how are you going to live with that?
When it comes the situation between cops and blacks in the U.S., all I can say is that there is definitely racism in the justice system, and most cops are simply doing their best. They see the worst of society and the see it every day. There is no question this wears on them, and there is no question in changes the brain. But so does poverty and racism. The key is I think is to reach out to all those who need help. You don’t have to lay down your life to support the police and black people. Things have to change or a lot more people are going to die and those are the lives we all need to work together to save.