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2009 and the tipping point of trust

The shooting of two Pierce County deputies in Washington and the media’s high profile reporting of the pistol-bearing snowballed detective in Washington D.C. ended this year exactly as it began, with an eroding trust between the people and their government and growing fear for all concerned. The irony of a near-record low in deaths among law enforcement officers is the marked increase of officers murdered, and single incidents in which multiple officers were shot.

The media has had a field day this year with controversy and implied evils (of action and intent) on law enforcement’s part. The media has fanned the flames of fear over government encroachment and made worse an odd social unrest among a broad range of social groups normally at odds. The Tea Party movement combined with such things as the National Night out against Police Violence held in Seattle seem to epitomize the odd way the ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ show fear of government — one fearful of infringement through legislative action and the other fearful of police action.

At the risk of being a little too esoteric, freedom is dependent upon trust. I have to trust you, you me, you and me our government, and by implication those who form the various arms of government. In his landmark book Trust, Francis Fukuyama described how important that trust has always been, and how modern times and pressures have eroded that essential social quality.

This trust is mutual in all human transactions, so we can say the law enforcement officer acts out of a certain level of trust in dealing with citizens, the department, and other arms of government. Generally, we can count on others to act for the good of all. While Adam Smith might reaffirm this is the only logical “selfish” choice an individual can make to be free, we actually consider “selfishness” a vice and socially reproach it. The “selflessness” of the warrior has always been held in high esteem until recent years when some have even referred to our all-volunteer military as “mercenaries.”

When a young BART officer accidentally shot a resisting fellow early New Year’s Day, the media found no room for trust — only condemnation, accusation, and agitation — striking a blow against the social trust of the police. The subsequent horror of four Oakland heroes gunned down created an intense conflict between those who support the police, the families of law enforcement, the warriors themselves, and certain elements in the media that found excuse, rationalization, and, in some radical corners, justification, for the vile act.

Ft. Hood, Pittsburg, Okaloosa County, Seminole County, and Lakewood are all attacks with not just the physical loss of our brothers and sisters but also our sense of trust in the people we protect! Whether this is a trend that will continue is impossible to tell this close to history, so next December we will reevaluate the state of our Nation and the times we live in. The Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” is being visited upon us.  If we have not already reached the tipping point of trust — the time at which we know whether we’re gaining or losing it as a nation — in 2009, it is most certainly approaching.

The media, politicians, organizations, and citizens must reaffirm their trust in us as an essential and honorable function of government. We must simply live our path, the warrior’s path of duty, honor, selflessness, strength, loyalty, and most importantly courage. The courage to keep going, believing in the ideal of freedom and the root decency and trust of our fellow man, and risking our lives on that sacred ideal that each man and woman is a sacred trust of ours to protect and serve! Believing in your mission makes you stronger, more resilient, harder to kill and maybe most importantly, happier.

In the Iliad, Hector reminds his beloved wife “all who are born die, the hero as well as the coward, and I choose to live as a valiant one!”

We are reminded the gift of life is not if we die, but how we live, and your choice should be celebrated! But do not wait for the masses to do so, do it yourself. Rejoice in the adventure you live and trust your mission. With your citizens, trust but verify!

So my brothers and sisters, this sad year finally is coming to an end, and as our family draws around us this Christmas we will toast to all of you who serve us everyday at home and abroad and pray for your safety, and your strength. Selfishly, I hope the nations that love freedom remember from where that liberty springs from and where the safety and security to trust is actually born...in the bosoms of the warriors.

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