A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day this year had a different feel to me for some reason.  Perhaps, my own mortality is beginning to seem more real or the posthumous reuniting of my father and brother has me waxing more nostalgic than usual.

Or, it may be the uncomfortable feelings I felt watching the coverage as it switched from one matter to another. One talking head, personality, veteran, politico or celebrity would speak almost reverently about those who sacrificed their lives for our country.  The very next instant, someone else would be raving about a rack of smoked ribs and lawn parties.

Or, it may have been the almost slapstick antics of some folks followed closely by a tender shot of a military widow and child laying on the grave of their fallen hero. Talk about cognitive dissonance! Whatever the reality, I decided this was not the year for me to write a new piece about Memorial Day.

Instead, I thought it might be appropriate to share pieces from the past people might have forgotten or not have seen.  Accordingly, I offer the following links to pieces from the past that I hope you will find of interest.

Names on the Wall

One Day at a Time

At the Wall

Something Left Behind

Lest We Forget

After the War (video)

 

Posted in National Defense, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Of Peacemakers and Padres

A bit over a year ago, Engage Your Brain was published on An Old Sinner’s Place.  It was my response to someone injecting their understanding of theology into a discussion unnecessarily. Not only was the comment unnecessary, but it was, in my not so humble opinion, inappropriate and offensive.

A short time later, an old friend, a man of the cloth, questioned a post implying police officers were peacemakers as referred to in Matthew 5:9. Both comments were made in response to posts intended to memorialize or remember police officers who fell in the line of duty.

At the time, I simply ignored my old friend’s comment. He is, after all, a bit of a provocateur. Many times his comments are designed to stir the pot or make one think. Yet, in this case, given his openly stated views socially and politically, it seemed clear he was taking exception to images such as the one above. With National Law Enforcement Week, and Peace Officer Memorial Day just past, it seems appropriate to resurrect this issue.

Are police officers peacemakers?  My pastor friend may not think so, and the person taking umbrage with the police version of The Final Inspection might agree.  In fact, it is likely many people in the United States, even the world, view law enforcement as a necessary evil or simply evil.  In some ways, that can be understood.

Anyone paying attention to current events knows that in some parts of the U.S. and many other countries the police are, shall we say, less professional and honest than one would hope. Still, in the States at least, the vast majority of police officers are doing the best they can to protect, serve, and keep the peace.  With that said, is keeping order the same as being a peacemaker, as Jesus used the word? Unfortunately, that is not an easy question to answer.

The problem is multi-faceted. First, there is the language issue. The term peacemaker in Greek can be interpreted in several ways, as can the word peacemaker in English.  In Hebrew, I cannot find a word that directly translates to peacemaker, though peace and tranquility are easy to find.  Then, there is the issue of how did Jesus mean it, and what exactly was he talking about. As with many of His lessons and statements, Jesus did not explain what He meant. With that said, consider the following.

A peacemaker can be defined, in modern terms, as “one who makes peace especially by reconciling parties at variance.” The thought-provoking aspect of this definition may sound a bit heretical, but it is true. Jesus might not fit this definition. In fact, He explicitly denied being a peacemaker, according to Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (10:34) So, where does that leave us on the question of police officers as peacemakers?

The reality, regardless of what anyone feels, police officers are peace officers or peacemakers. Their job is to fulfill the role of peacemaker, which includes several functions according to the current definition. Merriam-Webster provides the following list of synonyms for peacemaker in modern terms.  They include, “broker, buffer, conciliator, go-between, honest broker, interceder, intercessor, intermediary, intermediate, interposer, mediator, middleman.”

Every police officer in every circumstance may not meet all of the criteria set out by our modern understanding of the term peacemaker. Still, every police officer who works for longer than a few days will find him or herself in one of the roles listed above. Even an officer who never does anything beyond enforcing the letter of the law, a complete impossibility, by the way, will be a peacemaker.

Anyone, including the highest authority in any religion, who does not understand police officers are peacemakers needs to do a bit more than play word games. That pastor, priest, preacher, reverend, minister, imam, or chief potentate needs to do some soul searching, and a lot of praying about the matter before opining police officers do not fit the definition, biblically or otherwise, of peacemaker.

 

© oneoldcop.com

Posted in Ethics, Law Enforcement, Morality, Police, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Once Upon a Time . . . special deputy

Writing “Once Upon a Time . . . the news” reminded me of something only other old cops might fully appreciate. Still, I thought it might be fun to share, as it highlights a tiny bit of Fort Worth history and politics.

My dad, Ralph Marshall Jackson was a lot of things. I won’t go into most of them, but the one that takes front and center today was his gift for gab. He was a first-class schmoozer, and his prowess in this area brought him a good deal of short term success over the years. It also put him in the hot-seat on more than one occasion.

His award-winning coverage of the 1958 military airplane crash near Bridgeport, Texas was one of those good news-bad news situations. It won him praise from executives at WFAA Television, ABC Television, and national exposure through Movietone News. On the other hand, he caught a lot of flack from the other reporters, freelancers, and news agencies covering the tragedy because of the way he scooped them.  Of course, one-upmanship and professional jealousies were part and parcel of the news business.  The real problem, for him, in the long run, was the political impact of his actions.

In those days, law enforcement was much like the old western movies. A sheriff could pretty much deputize anyone, and Ralph Jackson always wanted a badge and a gun. He couldn’t talk fast enough to warrant carrying a six-shooter. Still, he talked smoothly enough to convince then Sheriff Harlan Wright he should be a “Special Deputy.” That won him a badge, and permission to equip his personal vehicle with red lights, sirens, and a police radio.

At that time, he was driving a bright red, 1957 Dodge coupe. Equipped with red lights, in the grill, a police frequency two-way radio, and the 102″ whip antenna required by the radio, it looked more like a fire department vehicle than a cop car. Dad could not care less. All he cared about was tooling around town at night monitoring the police radio, and getting to stories before anyone else would even know something was going down.

Most people, including the reporters and other folks in the news business, did not have a problem with the arrangement. Sheriffs were not all-powerful, but they had a lot of leeway. Sheriff Wright ran his department as he pleased. Also, truth be known, none of the other news folks wanted to go to the trouble and expense involved with installing police equipment in their cars. They were content to let dad play deputy. That is, they were okay with it until the Bridgeport crash.

I mentioned in the story about the crash dad was the first Dallas-Fort Worth reporter on the scene. He was the first on the scene because he used his red lights and siren to beat everyone else to the crash site. He then used them to take his film to the television station in Dallas, allowing Channel 8 to show footage of the crash hours before the other stations.

To say the other reporters and their bosses were upset would be like saying Hillary Clinton was a bit miffed that Donald Trump won the election. First, they realized dad’s relationship with the sheriff had given him a significant advantage in reporting the biggest story of the year, if not the decade. Additionally, some of them were more than a little embarrassed when they realized that red car with lights and siren they pulled over for was the competition, not the authorities.

They were hopping mad, and they let anyone who would listen, know it. Dad, of course, was happy as a clam. The sheriff did remind him he was not a real deputy, and getting to a news story was not an emergency. Other than that dad continued to operate as he pleased, for a time.

Two years later the sheriff may have regretted letting dad slide. Lon Evans defeated Sheriff Wright in the election. As I remember it, one of Mr. Evan’s campaign promises was to stop the abuse of the sheriff’s authority in the area of special deputies.

Dad’s little stunt to scoop everyone on the Bridgeport story helped unseat Sheriff Wright. Since there was a new sheriff in town, literally, dad’s badge, red lights, and radio were quickly history.  That, folks, is the story of my dad’s life. He spent a lot of his time pedal to the metal, red lights flashing, siren wailing, laughing at those who could not keep up, and never considering the consequences until they bit him on the butt.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in family, Law Enforcement, Old Fort Worth, Police | Tagged , , ,

Of Critical Mass and Open Borders

Critical mass and open borders are not terms you might expect to see paired as they are here.  After all, critical mass is a term customarily related to nuclear bombs.  No! I am not proposing nuking the borders or caravans. I am, however, about to argue the situation at the border is a societal problem that could be as devastating in some ways as nuclear war.

If you are still reading, there are likely one of two reasons. First, you may be wanting to see if I can support my last statement.  Second, you are waiting to see how big a fool or nut case I am.  Either way, thanks for sticking around.

At one time, I could assume most people reading this would understand the term critical mass.  Unfortunately, that is not the case today.  Whether one blames the lack of knowledge on changes in educational emphasis or the amount of time students today spend on social media, an understanding of science is not a high priority in the modern world.

The term critical mass came from the world of physics and was first used, according to one source, in 1945.  At that point, it referred to the amount of nuclear material needed to begin the process of nuclear fission. Then, scientists were talking about the tipping point beyond which an atomic reaction became uncontrollable. In other words, when an atomic bomb might go boom. In less explosive terms, it is the point at which one kind of matter or another overcomes the constraints placed upon it by other forces.

For instance, think of a dam, levee, waterway or flood control channel. Anyone living near or downstream from something of this nature should understand they are designed to control a particular kind of matter; water. The residents in those areas should also understand the possibility of the water achieving critical mass is real. If that happens, the results can be catastrophic.

A dam can fail, the levee can break, or the flood channel can overflow.  The result, as many discovered during Hurricane Harvey and the massive flooding in other parts of the country this past winter, can be devastating.

Even if the dam or other barrier is not allowed to fail, the necessity of keeping the amount of water below the point of critical mass can wreak havoc.  Just ask the folks living downstream from the Lake Conroe dam outside of Houston. There, officials were forced to open floodgates in the dam to avoid it collapsing due to the mass of water behind it.

So, you say, what do nuclear material or water have to do with the border? I am so glad you asked.

In their natural state, uranium and water are merely part of the environment in which we live. Both can be dangerous in some circumstances, but, for the most part, every human on this planet is exposed to these elements daily, with no ill effects.  They are only dangerous under specific circumstances, concentrations or amounts (masses), which brings me back to the border.

Immigration, legal, illegal, intentional, accidental, or whatever, is not necessarily dangerous in the short term.  However, as with water and uranium, as the mass (of immigrants) increases the more unstable the situation (society) can become.

Think back to the question of the water behind a dam.  The dam has no problem holding the water back daily.  Even when it rains for a few days, most such barriers continue to function normally.  The problem arises when a deluge comes and continues.  Eventually, water will need to be released in quantities so large homes, and land below the dam are endangered or damaged. Worse, in spite of the efforts to control the mass, the dam may collapse, and everything below it is swept away.

As with any simile or allegory, the water and uranium comparison begins to break down at some point.  The border, walled or otherwise, is not a dam.  The immigrants are not water or nuclear material.  On the other hand, the impact the immigrants will eventually have on the United States unless something is done will be just as damaging to the economy, society, and to the lives of all who live in this country as flood waters and explosions are to the physical world.

Critical mass as it applies to immigration will be when the number of people entering the country, legally or illegally, is so high, they can lawfully or unlawfully control the civil processes driving society. Public school systems and publicly supported health care are already challenged by the needs of the resident population.  Adding hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of immigrants who, in many cases, cannot support themselves to the mix will make the challenges even more significant.

Yes, the country as it exists today would not exist if it had not been for immigration. From the original immigrants to those forced to immigrate against their will to those who fled the horrors of two world wars, immigrants played an integral part in the development of the United States. With that said, believing current and future immigration will play a similar role in the country is unrealistic.

In past generations, immigrants could be self-sufficient much more quickly than today.  A farmer from Russia, a cobbler from Europe, a seamstress from France, a baker from Germany, a butcher from Poland, or an artisan from Spain could find work or start a business. The country was growing, needs were expanding, and land was plentiful. From sharecroppers to wheelwrights, it was possible for an immigrant to provide for a family, and survive. Today that is not the case.

Today, immigrants and refugees can find themselves dependent on government and charitable support for survival. As more and more arrive, the number depending on government assistance becomes greater. At some point, the socio-economic imbalance will overwhelm the systems, and implosion will occur.

At that point, as with the dam simile, it will make little difference which side of the issue one finds him or herself. Chaos and disaster will be just one mistake, one unexpected problem away.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Daily Life, National Defense, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Just for the fun of it: A Battle Revisited!

The fun thing about pretending to be a writer is the various ways one can say I’m sorry, thank you, or way to go scout. Today I am altering my publication schedule to do all three. First, an apology for not sending a happy birthday message to my Austin grandson, Ryan, on his birthday.

Happy Birthday Ryan, a day late.  And, while I am at it, thank you for putting up with us when Gram and I kick you out of your game room to visit.  Also, way to go scout! At your age, I was working part-time in a warehouse, and here you are a successful entrepreneur with some of your buddies working for you.  Finally, you’ve proved more than once you have the will to succeed, even when the odds are stacked against you!

So, there is my mia culpa. Now, on to one of the privileges of being a grandfather, embarrassing the grandkids.  Accordingly, the link below will take you to one of my early posts on this site.  It is the riveting tale of all-out war between a bunch of preteen boys, and some old geezers who should have known better.

The Battle of Dripping Springs

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, Uncategorized

An Unexpected Reunion

Run Silent, Run Deep” was a Veteran’s Day homage of sorts to those who served and their families. Using the stories of my father and brother as examples, I hoped to raise awareness of the problems veterans and their families sometimes face.  Their stories played into that piece perfectly, and I thought that would be the last time they would appear together in An Old Cop’s Place.  It turned out, I was mistaken.

The problem was my failure to factor in the Jackson family phenomenon. We, past, present, and likely future tend to complicate everything beyond the norm. For us, matters which are already confusing, divorce, new relationships, building futures, can become ridiculously convoluted. Consider what should have been a rather ordinary ending for the first Jackson family.

Initially, it seemed to be a straightforward middle-age crisis story.  A husband becomes infatuated with a younger woman and fantasizes about starting a new family.  One thing leads to another, a divorce ensues, and the middle-aged Romeo heads off to begin his new life. Sound familiar?  Well, that scenario was way too commonplace for the Jackson clan.

Technically and legally, the original Jackson family dissolved in the manner noted above.   The reality, however, was messy and confusing to all involved. Thankfully, the details of the saga are unimportant. I bring the matter up merely to lay a bit of groundwork for how the story played out. For example, when the dust settled, mom and I were still in Texas, while my younger brother was in Indiana with dad and his new wife.

In most families, the future relationships of the people involved follow fairly standard paths. The former spouses might have a somewhat cordial relationship, the children would remain connected, the new wife and new siblings would be integrated into the lineage in some fashion and life would go on.  Again, not for this family.

First, dear old dad and the first Mrs. Jackson never wholly separated. They maintained an under the radar relationship for years. Dad kept mom informed about his life, his new kids, and just about everything else. He resisted any effort mom made to move on, especially if another man was involved. Thank goodness they were separated by 900 or so miles.  Otherwise, the matter might have become even more complex and disturbing.

Looking back from today, the situation is somewhat amusing. In fact, it could be the basis for a heck of a sitcom on one of the subscription television services. Still, there was one aspect of it that was not in the least amusing, regardless of one’s sense of humor.  The day David, his new stepmother, and our father left Texas for Indiana was the last time I saw my brother alive, which brings me back to the primary reason for sharing this.

David Charles Marshall Jackson died February 26, 1969, as the result of hostile action in Vietnam.  Our father, Ralph Marshall Jackson, died in McAllen, Texas of multiple health-related issues almost two decades later, February 23, 1987. I cannot swear there is any significance to dad passing nearly eighteen years to the day from David becoming a casualty of the war.  I can say, my brothers from Ralph’s second family feel our dad never forgave himself for encouraging David to enlist in the army.  Perhaps his failed second marriage, his failing health, and survivor’s guilt finally got the best of him.  Whatever the reality, some might consider it more than a coincidence.

Coincidence or not, their deaths and the handling of their deaths relate back to what I said above. Jackson’s never do anything the easy way.  For example, David’s death in combat set the military’s notification protocols into motion.  Of course, good old dad could not let things play out for us as they did for the tens of thousands of other families losing loved ones during Vietnam.  Somehow, he got a jump on the process, leading to an uncomfortable situation.

The usual process is for parents and other family members to be advised of a military death by members of the military. These men and women are trained, to a degree at least, to make such notifications.  Their job is to officially notify the family members, then advise them of options, plans, assistance available, and help the family deal with the shock of the moment. Again, that was not good enough for our crew.

Instead, my father called me at work. I knew immediately it was something unusual, as he and I never talked in those days.  He brought me up to speed and told me I needed to get to mom before the notification team. He wanted me to tell her what happened, not a couple of soldiers.

I realize he was trying to make certain mom was not alone with a couple of folks she did not know when she received horrific news.  Still, asking me to break the news to her was a bit much.  David was her baby! She’d lost him a few years earlier due to her husband’s infidelity and manipulative behavior. Now, he was dead!

Later in life, as a police officer, I notified many parents or other loved ones about a death. In “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” I told the tale of a family attempting to pick up grandma on the way to a family Christmas gathering.  When she did not answer the door, the fire department and I forced our way into the house to check on her.  If you think walking back outside and confirming to a family their grandma had passed was uncomfortable, imagine what it was like to walk into my mother’s home and drop the bombshell her baby was killed in Vietnam.  I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

Thankfully, that was the only unusual aspect of dealing with David’s death. His body made it safely home and he received a property military funeral. Our dad, on the other hand, had anything but a routine transition from life to afterlife.

His death was not totally unexpected.  He’d been in poor health for some time.  Then, he and my oldest younger brother almost died in a severe traffic accident.  Given his already poor health, I don’t know if dad ever fully recovered from the wreck. If that were not enough, he’d lost his second wife and daughter to divorce, and his younger son had moved away to go to school. No, his death was not that unexpected or unusual. The aftermath, on the other hand, was vintage Jackson.

There was no service, at least as far as I know.  He was cremated, and as far as I could tell there were no plans on what to do with his ashes.  In fact, when I inquired about his cremains later, I was told they were misplaced.  I have no idea how this happened, but to me, it was merely another example of what one might call the Jackson phenomenon.  At some point in the process of moving on with their lives, someone packed the urn and stored it. To be fair the family was going in three different directions, and dad apparently got lost in the shuffle.

I am happy to say the urn was relocated in a few years.  Unfortunately, all the paperwork relating to his death had disappeared, and it is not possible to legally bury someone’s cremains without the proper documentation.  Eventually, we secured the proper documentation through the Texas Department of Vital Statistics.

Monday, April 8, 2019, on the 99th anniversary of his birth, Ralph Marshall Jackson was finally laid to rest. Of course, in keeping with the Jackson phenomenon, his burial was not without its own head-scratching aspects.

First, dad is sharing David’s gravesite. Second, he and David are immediately adjacent to the first Mrs. Jackson’s grave and I will eventually be buried in the next plot over. So, fifty years or so after bugging out, he is back with us. Second, some religious traditions hold one’s soul is trapped on earth or someplace between heaven and earth until the body is properly buried. I have no idea if there is any validity to such a claim.  If there is, however, dad has or will check in somewhere in the afterlife. If mom is nearby, he may get an earful.

At some point in the future, perhaps I’ll be joining them. If so, I may have a couple of things to say, and I’ll be interested in knowing how the reunion went.

Until then, may they rest in peace.

© onoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, infidelity, Morality, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , ,

Incoming!

“INCOMING!” is the last thing anyone wants to hear in a war zone. It means you have seconds to find cover before the stuff hits the fan. In the modern world, outside of the numerous battle zones spread across the globe, incoming, as it is used here, means something a bit less dangerous, but in some ways almost as concerning.

People today are continually being bombarded in ways their parents, grandparents, even soldiers in a battle zone might find disconcerting. They are bombarded by telephone calls, text messages, alerts from their smart devices, motion alerts from their doorbells, security cameras, and their car’s lane departure alarm, just to name a few. If those are not bad enough, Siri, Alexa, Echo, and who knows what are listening to every sound, and may respond in distracting, even confusing ways.

Perhaps fortunately, the human mind is quite adaptable. I say perhaps fortunately because how the mind adapts may not always be positive. Take for example the lead character in the movie “The Hurt Locker.” He became so energized by the serious, and dangerous, nature of his work, it made the rest of life pale in comparison. Accordingly, he took chances he needn’t take, and when given the opportunity to live a normal life returned to the battlefield.

Yes, soldiers can become so attuned to the battlefield they find normal life almost unbearable. If anyone doubts that, do an internet search for suicide rates among veterans. No one can say for sure why it is high, but the odds are the transition to civilian life leaves them empty in a way most of us cannot imagine.

The rest of us, unfortunately, can suffer similar, if less serious issues. We can become so attuned to the constant barrage of distractions, disturbances, and opportunities to immerse ourselves in the plethora of stimuli surrounding us we lose touch with the more critical aspects of life. If we’re lucky, our reaction is not as dangerous as what veterans face, but the suicide rate among all age groups is increasing at what should be an alarming rate.

It would be appropriate now to wonder if this piece is another example of chicken-little syndrome. After all, depending on the so-called authority making the charge, everything we have taken for granted in years past is deadly. From climate change to vaccines, the world as we know it is in peril. At least, in the minds of many people.

Alarmism or fearmongering is a concern in the world of social media and twenty-four-hour news. Yet, all one needs to do is observe those around them to know there is reason for concern in the area of overstimulation. Consider the following bits of anecdotal data.

In the United States at least, we have become so comfortable with being overstimulated we have trouble relaxing. Otherwise normal adults will admit if pressed, they are not comfortable doing just one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has become the non-narcotic addiction of the modern era.

That is why movie theaters have rules and incentives to curtail the use of handheld devices during the feature. It is why some people will admit they cannot merely watch television. They must be playing a game on their computer as well. In some cases, if we are honest, we spend time with loved ones watching television while browsing the web, playing Free Cell, or researching the actors playing various roles in the program we are allegedly watching.

If spending time with another person while watching television and playing a computer game is not enough of a drain on our psyches, our environments offer other potential distractions or sensory overload possibilities. Imagine you are playing back one of your favorite television shows. Of course, you are keeping the remote handy, so you can fast forward through commercials.

Simultaneously, you are playing Texas Hold-em on your tablet. Additionally, your home monitoring system beeps, chimes or whatever any time a large vehicle drives down the street or the neighbor’s dog runs through your yard. If that were not enough, one of your AI devices or systems breaks in intermittently to announce “Invalid Number” is calling.

Whew! Just writing the last few paragraphs made me feel the need for some form of mood-altering medication. Or, it could be I am feeling a bit too focused at the moment. After all, it is hard, not impossible, but hard to multi-task while writing something like this. I did get a slight break a few paragraphs ago when I researched suicide rates to verify I was not off base in my assertions.

Oops, my phone just told me its time to take my medication.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, Progress, social media | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment