Saturday, December 26, 2009

Radiating Out

I just finished reading a post at The Roanoke Cop about the flip side of Christmas: people drinking and beating their housemates, people pulling guns in parking lots. At Second City Cop, one commenter mentioned trying to restore order in a holiday domestic disturbance where "the kid has a new X-Box and roaches are crawling everywhere." At Pepper Spray Me, One Time recently wrote about a young man in a house like that, still trying to hang onto a sense of right and wrong. I have a hundred examples available to me from a few months of reading my own blogroll.

The Christmas holidays are not kind to everyone. I don't even believe they are kind to most people.

Someone who beats up his two-timing girlfriend, someone who regularly finds herself pulling a gun over a parking space: they'll have some reason why this was funny or justified. And what they did radiates out, spreading fear, anger, recklessness, misery. That's a kind of unrestrained power. Everyone did what they wanted: They got the parking space. The spouse brought them a brew or a rock against their better judgement. Everybody suffered.

I'm not sentimental. I can confirm the immediate limits of intervention:  the momentary pause usually doesn't change the bad script. One Time's young man is still at that horrible house. Dozens of extra drunks wave guns, drive dangerously, beat someone at home, but TRC can only take them one at a time. People steal or are stolen from, kill or lie murdered. Law enforcement officers get dragged down by seeing nothing but shameless crap. They get cursed and shot and sometimes die. I learn from this to support those that support me. I learn not to take them for granted.

I also learn they take themselves for granted. I learn they despair, and I wish I could take some measure of that despair away. I know they carry another kind of power, the power that stops shameless behavior in its tracks. They have the power that locks bad people up for drunk driving or beating on someone. They also carry the power of restrained behavior. This power also radiates out.

The Power of Restraint
Other households, enduring drunken abuse of a less violent nature, also are controlled by each and every police call, every single act of backup. Other parking space competitions end peacefully. Deep down, there is a level of restraint in the unhappy living rooms or crowded storefronts where the police are never called. Because we can call and know we will find help, often we do not have to call. We can stick up for restraint, inside ourselves and with others, with more confidence. That is also a result of police work. That is police presence.

The example of restrained power makes the difference. It spreads beyond the incident, the house, neighborhood, or beat and goes to universal. It enters people's consciousness as at least a warning or a consequence. And sometimes this example enters their conscience as an ideal, an example to be followed or reinforced in daily living.

Good v. Evil
Between good and evil, which has more power? The cops I mentioned earlier saw nothing but evil all day. But then they weren't looking at themselves as agents of the good. They also weren't called to the places that were improved by the fact of their daily witness, either.

I say that because of them, good has the power. Law enforcement is a force multiplier against the bad. Because we have police, we do not have the war of all against all, the anarchy that makes every single daily encounter or transaction a battle. That's true even in the worst neighborhoods: law might be failing there. But everybody still knows what the law is. They are even still depending on it when they go outside, drive a car, buy groceries, become afraid.

Many times I have encountered trouble, and I always knew I had a recourse against my failure to uphold the good. And so I thank all of law enforcement for being the presence that restrains the frightening, miserable crap in my world. For backing me up hundreds of times, metaphorically or in the flesh. For taking over when it was beyond my power to stand up alone.

You give me courage. You give me the freedom to live with everyday respect and with self-respect.

For those of you that worked the unkind holidays, I hope you get a holiday. Happy holiday, whenever it may be, to you.

Just now I hear sirens passing outside my window--keep you safe--


The Observer said...

Ann T.
What a great post! I have had my scanner on today and yesterday, and have heard several calls go out for family disputes. Also one call for someone who showed a gun when asked to move their car from the middle of the street. It is always happening, but it stands out more in the holiday season.
I am truly thankful for the police. To me, they are carrying the grace of God as they work, even if they themselves are not believers. They are part of that common Grace, and are used by God to keep order, to save lives and even be a path to salvation and second chances.
I hope your Christmas was a good one. We did get lots of snow, and some photos are up!
The Observer

Texas Ghostrider said...

I loved your post! Keep it up, God Bless You!

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer and Texas Ghostrider,
It means a lot to hear this. Thank you for your kind comments!

I'll be stopping by your places,
Ann T.