This piece isn’t strictly related to PTSD or trauma, but I think there are enough elements in it that it will strike a chord with many readers.
Ten minutes after I got up this morning, I was crying. When they started to roll down my cheeks, I was by myself, sipping coffee and reading the morning’s news. The house was silent, my thoughts were silent, my tears were silent. But they were there nonetheless.
This is not going to be a political piece. I’m not a politician, an aspiring politician, or retired politician. I am not-pro or anti-gun, I’m not pro or anti any race, and I don’t particularly care who wins the US presidential election in a few months. I don’t care what Barack Obama, Donald Trump, or Hilary Clinton have to say on Twitter.
I believe that all men and women are created equal but that time, circumstances, homelife and upbringing create our heroes, our monsters, and our average citizens. In other words, I believe in nurture over nature.
But none of that matters to me today.
What matters to me is that police officers, men and women who did nothing more than put on their uniforms every day, reported for work in Dallas last night where they were given the detail to monitor and protect a rally. A peaceful rally, but a protest rally that was directly aimed at them, both in race and in profession.
But they still showed up. They showed up and they put on their armor and weapon and made their way to a march route. Whether they agreed with what the march was about or not is irrelevant; they were given an assignment to protect and serve and they did so.
And because of that, they were gunned down by someone who hated them, not for who they were, but for the colour of their skin and the shirts on their backs. Five dead. Six wounded.
The mass shooting of police officers is not, unfortunately, an unheard of occurrence in North America. I can think of two times in the last decade in Canada when multiple Mounties were shot in ambush style attacks. But for some reason, the chaos in Dallas hit me today. I felt nauseous at the thought that five men I’d never met but who swore the same oath and who wanted to do the same job, who wanted to go to work, make a difference and then go home at the end of their shift to their loved ones, were dead all within minutes of each other.
As more and more news keeps coming out of this debacle, there appears to be some bright spots even amidst the carnage. Protesters provided information to officers and helped track down the shooter(s). Officers put protesters in their cruisers to keep them out of the way of gunfire and moved them from the scene. I saw at least one picture of a protester and a police officer, both crying, holding each other for support, when just a few hours before they had been at odds over issues of race, politics, and the power to take a life. Bright spots that show that not every cop is a racist and that not every protester is a radical; but that both are simply human beings who turned to each other in a moment of heartbreak.
In a week, a month, that has seen endless debate about gun control, race, sexuality, and bigotry, all tied in with violence, has any one message or one voice stood out above the others? I think not. There is chaos enough, blame enough, to go around. A homophobe opening fire on a known gay nightclub. Two black men who died after encounters with police. Five officers who were shot dead at a rally to protest racism in policing. All senseless, all tragic, all irreversible.
All leading up to a point where a whole country will come to a tipping point where there will inevitably be a decision to rebuild, to heal, to make whole….or to rip itself apart in an orgy of race violence, political posturing, and civil unrest.
But that is in the future.
In the now, five men lie dead, their families mourning, their partners and other uniforms mourning, a whole country mourning. Trauma is already starting to take its hold on those involved, those who lost loved ones, those who were at the scene and saw bullets fly and police officers fall.
Across North America, likely across the world, other police officers are discussing these deaths – in squad rooms, in cruisers, at coffee, around the dinner table. Some of them are probably trying to reassure their families that they will come home tomorrow morning, even though they know they are working on what is likely one of the most emotionally charged days in American history. Some are probably trying to explain to their kids why one group of people is so mad at police officers and attempting to make their kids remember that the police are the good guys, even if Facebook and Twitter and the people on TV say otherwise.
My heart aches at the loss of these officers, the chaos their deaths will cause, and the violence that led up to it. Dying on the job is a risk that we all accept; most officers hope that if they are killed on duty, that their job is a ‘good death’, that they die protecting someone so that their sacrifice is not in vain. In a few days, these officers will be sent to whatever lies beyond with full honours, with thousands of other men and women in uniform there to send them off-duty permanently.
But all the pomp and pageantry won’t change anything. Five good men will still be dead.
I cried this morning – for my brothers in uniform who died, for my brothers in uniform who had to go on working today, and for the whole damn world in general. But there was also pride in those tears, and honour, and determination that the fight has to go on.
In a few days, when they lay to rest those five cops from Dallas, I’ll probably cry again.