Thursday, June 2, 2011
Wolves at the Door
For some reason this is an extremely difficult post for me to write. It shouldn't be, really - there are so many people out there that do wonderful things, or go beyond the call of duty to put their lives on the line for others. It should be easy to find something to celebrate in that.
Maybe it hits a little too close to home for me. My husband is in law enforcement, and there are certain realities to living with that that most people either cannot or will not ever understand. (And the same can be said for the military, or any sort of emergency personnel - firefighters, etc.)
A lot of that perception is clouded by Hollywood, of course - men who can shoot the gun out of the villain's hand and rescue the girl without breaking a sweat. It's romantic to see in slow motion - white doves flying everywhere as the hero steps through the doorway with his leather trench coat and his cigarette drooping from his lower lip, wolfy snarl curling his mouth as he proceeds to kick ass and take names.
It makes for nice entertainment, anyway.
There's an excellent essay out there where the author indicates that there are three types of people in the world - sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.
It's not about the "sheep mentality" of following the herd and not thinking for yourself so much as it is your personal capacity for violence.
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? What do you have then? 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.
And of course, this isn't to say that every member of sheepdog society is to be held up on a pillar of nobility, either. There are plenty of jerks out there in every walk of life and in every job. And sadly some sheepdogs may actually be wolves biding their time. Most aren't. But a sheepdog has to deal with a lot of crap from the sheep as well. Most people don't trust cops, for example. We find their rules to be an inconvenience or their methods more brusque than we'd like. We look for ways to avoid them when we don't want them, but we're terribly grateful they're around when we need them, aren't we?
I don't always understand why my husband does what he does, to be honest. Not that I'm not inordinately proud of it. I am. But I know I couldn't do it. On his first night out on the street as a rookie, he watched a man bleed out and die right in front of him. The man in question had been dating a girl and her brothers didn't approve. They lured him to their high rise apartment under the guise of friendship and threw him off the balcony.
He doesn't talk about many of his cases with me - but when he does, I listen. I hear about the 8 month old baby being raped by family members. The Asian girl he found in a flipped over car, stabbed multiple times in the chest. The woman beaten half to death with a frying pan by her boyfriend...and who refused to press charges even though he'd been arrested prior for attempting to assault her daughter. The snob who decided that it was worth a call to the police to complain that his neighbor wasn't raking her leaves and just what were the cops going to do about that? (Yeah, sometimes sheep are stupid.)
Dealing with the dregs of humanity on a daily basis is soul sucking in the worst way imaginable. I see his frustration all the time - particularly with the sheep who would prefer to stay in their own private wool bubble, ignorant of anything but what is in front of them. I see his despair that there seems to be so very little left in the world worth protecting.
The beauty of the essay is that it's quite clear that we don't have to remain where we are. Sheep can become sheepdogs in moments of need - one only needs to see a mother lay down her life to save her children, for example. But how much better would it be if the sheep helped to not only protect themselves, but also each other?
All it takes is an awareness of what's going on in the world...and perhaps a good shearing.