Thank You for Freedom

People who live in fear are not really free, or cannot stay free long with such anxiety, and you are the ones they call in a crisis.

Dave Smith Headshot

Illustration: Sequoia BlankenshipIllustration: Sequoia Blankenship

Recently a young crime fighter wrote to ask me how he could keep a positive attitude in a time when so many people are expressing negative feelings toward law enforcement. How indeed? I have never seen our media, our social institutions, and our political leaders turn so negative toward this country's peacekeepers. And this in spite of the fact that we have done everything short of grabbing cats from trees to try to be liked.

Law enforcement agencies have put sports leagues and youth clubs in poor areas to curb crime, taught drug awareness, conducted gang resistance training, resorted to calling ourselves euphemisms such as "guardians" to endear ourselves to the public. And all to no apparent avail.

Despite it all, the American media, much of the public, and even some of our elected officials have been throwing a collective anti-police fit. Professional athletes run onto fields or courts pantomiming the oddly phrased falsehood, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," while major networks parade groups of self-promoting charlatans and "experts" to expound upon the "failings" of law enforcement.

I have had it, and here in my short soapbox of a column I want to make a few things clear.

First, our whole damn species is nasty and brutish. History is literally the slow, difficult journey of the oppressed learning to live free. In the era when Leonidas fought at the "Gates of Fire" against the Persians, Egyptian culture—the most advanced of that time—didn't even have a word for "freedom." That's how rare the concept was in the ancient world. But today we have peoples from all over the planet living side by side as neighbors in remarkable peace and tranquility.

For instance, we have Serbs living next to Bosnians, Irish next to Brits next to Scots, Catholics next to Mormons, all going about their lives as if oblivious to their ancestral, religious, or racial histories. They may hate each other, but they are not currently at war.

My first political science professor, an Orange Irishman, opened my Political Theory 1 class with this stunning statement: "The history of mankind would show us that our natural state is to be at war, enslaved, and starving, while today in our country we find a people who have known little conflict, are free, and overweight." We spent the rest of the semester learning about Plato, Jefferson, and Marx and the political theories that shaped the modern world.

Freedom, historically a rare status for the average human, takes great sacrifice. It requires force to get it and force to keep it. Go to Washington, D.C., and walk from The Lincoln Memorial to the Smithsonian, and then take a left; there you will find the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The names of fallen officers carved into the walls of this memorial are a sobering reminder that freedom requires constant vigilance and sacrifice. I don't know if the American people will ever remember this, but the men and women who serve and protect never have forgotten it and never will; the walls have empty spaces waiting for the names of the vigilant officers who will continue to sacrifice their lives for "the rest of us."

So when will there be an awakening, a remembrance by the media and many in the public about the nature of freedom and its creation? I don't know and I can't do anything to make it so; all I can do is speak truth to lies and keep living my mission to keep crime fighters as safe as I can. All any of us can do is to keep following our paths, keep our heads high, and keep moving forward. You may not be able to make people like you but you can help them stay safe and free. Each of you is a single atom of freedom that collectively forms a mass that composes a free society of people who live with liberty and trust because you are there, whether they realize it or not.

Tell others that if they want to protect freedom they should wear the uniform, military or civilian; the uniform symbolizes an essential mission in a free society. People who live in fear are not really free, or cannot stay free long with such anxiety, and you are the ones they call in a crisis. Believe in your mission, keep your sense of humor, support each other, and stand against the lies. And if you really need to be loved, wear a uniform that says "Fire Department."

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

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Dave Smith Headshot
Officer (Ret.)
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