05 December 2014

I can't be quiet any longer

The man I married challenges me every single day to be a better person.  He doesn't even try; it's just in his nature.  He is the most patient, level-headed person I've ever known.  He grew up reading a lot of comics.  In his mid-thirties, he still loves Superman.  I'm pretty sure he wishes he could be Superman.  But since he isn't from the planet Krypton, he settles for his only option to be a hero: being a police officer.

The transition from civilian family to law enforcement family was a hard one, learning with every call just how awful people could be to each other.  Knowing what humans are capable of leaves absolutely no room for ignorance.  He would come home and silently hug me after working truly heinous crimes as our naivety slowly faded away.  We realized we'd need to grow tough skin, or we'd never make it.  But as his wife, I took comfort in knowing that, when trouble arose, I was married to the man who went running toward the danger to help, to fix it, to keep people safe and stop the people who were trying to hurt or steal.  I have always taken an insane amount of pride in that, to the point that it was worth the possible threat to his life someday.

However, that is no longer the hardest part of this life.  Watching people break laws and hurt each other has actually become the easy part; even the criminals understand the reasons for the law and the repercussions when they break it.  It's logical, and it makes sense.  Instead, nowadays, it's everyone else who seems to have abandoned logic.  And no matter how much I try to wrap my head around it, I can't understand what is going on.

One day, soon after M was accepted to the academy, I stood in the living room of an old friend and shared the great news of his new job.  M was going to be trained to serve and protect.  To keep people safe.  To be his own version of Superman.  I was enormously proud to share this news, both because I was proud of him and because she was an old friend.

Her entire demeanor changed immediately.  Her face twisted, her body cocked to one side.  "Oh, he must be an asshole."

That was it.  She was done.  With those six words, she'd made up her mind on someone she'd never met, never mind the fact that he mattered very much to me.  The respect I had earned in decades of friendship didn't matter.  Giving this person the opportunity to earn his own respect wasn't even an option for her.  She'd already decided.  My entire life changed standing in that living room listening to an old friend slander my husband with zero provocation.  I would've been more livid if I wasn't so completely confused.

Little did I know, however, this discriminating mindset would become my new reality.  To look at my husband, a man I admire over all other men on this planet, and hear thousands of people accuse him of horrible things he wouldn't even consider.  To see it presented on the news, as if it's fact.  To watch people share memes and clips; to see them actually believe it.  It never gets easier.  In fact, every time these skewed accusations rise to the surface, it's harder than the last.

I know my husband.  I know his partner.  I know their squad mates.  I know their spouses, held their children.  I know their training.  I know the reasons behind their training.  I know their morning briefings.  I know their daily interactions.  I've watched them maintain steady control while facing frightening odds.  I know the laws.  I know how the justice system works, and I know the reasons why.  This is my life.  I live and breathe this stuff.  And I have absolutely 100% faith in these people.

And yet, my husband, who chose to protect and serve, is forced to stand in a line receiving heinous insults and untrue accusations for hours on end, bricks and large rocks thrown at his head. Legally, he could arrest these people; they are breaking laws.  But he's been told not to.  Instead, just stand there and take it.  Don't offend anyone.  Seattle civilians got a tiny taste of it at our annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony last week, when the officers were ordered to stand down and allow the group of demonstrators to rush the stage and frighten the children's choir singing carols.

That was 5 measly minutes.  This is been my and my husband's 24/7 reality now.  Destructive "rallies" are scheduled before evidence is revealed, before the courts announce verdicts.  Do facts and law and logic even matter anymore?  Or do people just care about whatever they're told to care about through their televisions, newspapers, and the internet? Because the news media and politicians only care about one thing: ratings.

I'm not even trying to tell people what to think.  My request is simple: stop listening to shock media and simply repeating what you've heard. Get your hands on actual depositions and court documents. Go on a ride-along with your local department. Learn the history and influences. Get the facts, understand. Do proper, thorough research; think critically.  That is how confident I am that the truth speaks for itself.

But so many people don't do any of that.  Instead they continue watching, spouting speculation and conjecture. They make judgment calls before any facts have been presented whatsoever. Things that have been proven to be downright lies are being touted as truths.  Even high ranking politicians are more interested in the people's approval than actual facts.  In the meantime, my husband crawls home, exhausted and dejected, every morning around 2am.  He leaves again at 9am for another 16 hour day of the same, knowing today might be the day he might have to choose to be executed in the street or executed by the media.  There is nothing in between anymore.

His demeanor is changing.  He's slowly deflating.  The man I admire more than anyone I've ever known is slowly having the life beaten out of him by the people he has sworn to protect.  By the people he willingly chose to put his life on the line for.  They spit, they insult, they attack, they accuse of horrible and downright false things, they shove phones in his face, hoping to catch him doing something awful that they can post to YouTube, which they never do. Forget the fact that his goal was to keep 300 armed people from storming onto Interstate 5, a major 6-lane freeway, endangering the lives of thousands of unsuspecting drivers.  300 angry people with weapons against 30 officers backed up against a freeway on-ramp.  One of the few times my husband was actually scared on the job.  But the news-watchers didn't see that; all they saw was the fact that the officers were wearing riot gear, and that made them uncomfortable, and somehow, that was the end of the conversation.

It breaks my heart and makes me angry.  They're there to keep us safe; we're not only making their jobs impossible, we're allowing them - and subsequently everyone else - to be put in even more danger.  Legally, police are not allowed to be victimized, but I am.  And I am.  Ethically, this behavior isn't just disgusting; it's dangerous.  Not only have he and his partners done nothing to deserve this, but these are the people we need more of in this world, not less.

The concept that blatant disrespect for law enforcement is even a viable option literally scares me.  My husband carries firearms every day because he has a target on his back.  All officers do.  They're doing it to protect you.  To serve you.  Your spouse, your children, your loved ones.  They're willingly standing between you and people who would hurt you.  They have established training so that they can maintain order in a world without order.  However, the moment civilians start to think they can interfere or question that authority is the moment everyone's lives are in danger.  Civilians, criminals, bystanders, and especially the officers.  Interfering in police business puts actual human lives in jeopardy.

There are established and approved Facebook groups that support and celebrate murdering officers.  They post graphic images of officers killed in the line of duty, and followers celebrate it.  People chant and threaten to rape and murder me simply because I'm an officer's wife on a daily basis.  Is the general public even aware of that?  And if so, where is the outrage for that disrespect?  How are my friends and family not disgusted by that?  No death or attack should be celebrated.  Ever.  Isn't that exactly the same behavior they're accusing the officers of?  Seeing nothing more than the uniform and operating in some kind of homicidal fervor, solely in their skewed perception of what that means?

I know very intimately the oath my husband has taken, exactly what it means, exactly what standard he is held to.  I also know what incredible weight that responsibility adds to his shoulders every single day.  I know the load those accused officers are likely feeling right now, completely aside from all the additional drama.  I know how much these officers don't want to shoot their firearms or engage in force each and every single day.  I hear the accusations ignorant people hurl, the ones who preach that the police are what is wrong with society. I look at my husband and his coworkers, and they don't line up at all. These people are wrong. THEY'RE WRONG.

If it is laws people don't agree with, I have good news: we live in a democracy.  By all means, exercise your rights, obtain the paperwork, sign petitions, take the proper steps to try to change that law.  God knows there are laws I don't agree with.  But never lash out and destroy other people's property because you're angry.  And furthermore, I challenge you to ask yourself why that law exists in the first place. The most recent cop hater I've dealt with has decided all cops are jerks because he always get speeding tickets.  So I asked him: Are you speeding?  Does it even occur to you that a particular speed limit might have been established after a child was killed by a speeding car?  Or that an out of control vehicle broke through the barrier and plunged down the embankment, killing the driver?  And that officer issuing that citation was the one who held that person as they took their last breath?  Because this is their reality, guys.  They see the stuff we pretend exists only in the periphery, and they see it every single day.

Finally, officers don't have any more influence in making the laws than you or me. Their only job is to enforce the laws we have all voted into power. They're not even allowed to be personally offended by a law; it's in their oath. In many cases, they're forced to protect a law they don't agree with, and they do it because they honor the concept of democracy and order.  The amount of restraint my husband displays on a daily basis astounds me; I know I couldn't do it.  And yet, people have ignorantly decided to continually remind both of us that he is nothing more than a power hungry, racist asshole.

I am not excusing racism.  I am not giving police free reign.  Far from that, actually.  I'm trying to point out that, statistically, police are the ones that can and should be trusted.  The majority of law enforcement are racially diverse people who became officers because they respect law and order and want to help others. Do they intimidate you?  Do you think them unapproachable?  Consider what kind of danger and mistrust these men and women encounter hundreds of times a day, especially with the current media climate. If they have their badge on, they will have their guard up.  They will be hyper-vigilant. This does not make them bad people with a bad attitude.  It keeps them alive, it keeps you alive, it keeps your children and loved ones alive, because if you are a law-abiding citizen, they consider your life and safety their personal responsibility.  And if you approach them with respect for that responsibility and weighted position, you'll quickly find how open and helpful they are and want to be.

Finally, and I can't say this loud enough: on the rare occasions that an officer is acting out of conduct, no one wants to catch and stop them more than all the other officers out there.  Upholding the honor of their profession is a solemn issue to them.  This is the truth; this is the majority of these men and women in blue. Officer profiling is just as discriminating and unjust as racial, sexual, or gender profiling, prejudging based solely on a minority stereotype.  However, we as civilians cannot even begin to comprehend the intricacies of the situations they are faced with.  They are judged by a jury of their peers for a reason; their reality is very different from ours.  We must realize we can't relate, because unless we've worn a badge and felt the weight of that Kevlar vest, we simply can't.

You do not want a world without police officers, nor do you want a police officer whose hands are completely tied.  And if you think you do, you don't understand.  I'm not talking about no more speeding tickets or jaywalking warnings.  I'm talking about execution-style murder in the middle of the night over $50.  I'm talking about someone molesting your child.  I'm talking about bomb threats at libraries.  I'm talking about a man tripping on acid with a loaded firearm.  I'm talking about being pushed in front of a train to steal your purse or getting shivved for a single smart phone.  I'm talking about convincing your friend on the roof line not to jump.  I'm talking about your children kidnapped for sex trafficking.  I'm talking about hiding outside in a bush after being raped, naked and terrified, not knowing where you are. I'm talking about a baby lying in a pool of his mother's blood after she was killed by her lover with a barbeque fork. I'm talking about very real situations my husband has personally faced in his career. Very possible, very terrifying things that these men and women in uniform will drop everything to rescue you from or throw themselves in front of for you and those you love.  This isn't just my husband's 9-to-5; this is his oath to you.

Officers are people.  Real people.  With heartbeats and families and dreams and hurts and lives, just like you.  Just like the people you think you're defending.  An officer dies in the line of duty every other day, and I guarantee the majority of those deaths were entirely unjust and unnecessary.  Does my heart break for the families of those civilians who've recently died?  Of course it does.  But these lives are over because they made poor choices and broke the law.  This was not forced upon them (and if you don't agree, I once again challenge you to read the court documents).  Yet,  despite being proven innocent every single time, the lives of those officers are over, as well.  They were thrown into a situation by someone else's poor choices, and now their honor, their livelihoods, and their families are done.  Their lives are literally threatened now; they have to go into hiding as if they should be ashamed.  And the very same could happen to my well-intended husband and therefore to me.  Today, tomorrow, any day.  And not because of the law or logic, but because of people's complete disregard of it.  Because of this overwhelming mob mentality that everyone has subscribed to.  Despite making the best choices we know to make, our lives could be ruined at any moment by people who don't care to understand, and all because my husband chose to make a career of helping others.  It doesn't make sense.

I have never known judgment and hate like I've known it as a police wife; never. And the more I attempt to defend myself and my husband, the more illogical, seething hatred is dumped upon me.  So I bite my tongue, trying not to let it make me bitter and hateful.  Attempt to ignore the wall of uninformed anger pointed at me and my spouse, even though we've done absolutely nothing to deserve it. To try to deflect the ignorant vitriol that tries to seep into my life everywhere I turn, especially online. To take a deep breath when I read someone post a warning to be suspicious of me and my husband, simply because of his work uniform. To silently remind myself that just because the respect we've earned isn't recognized by certain people doesn't mean it isn't valid to those that care to look for it.

Every night, despite everything he faces on a daily basis, my husband prays for peace and comfort for the families of those who've died recently.  For an end to this anger.  He leaves a shockingly unbalanced atmosphere of rage, blame, and destruction, and he still prays for them.  It astounds me.  He is still inspiring me to be a better person every single day.  This, dear world, is a police officer.