What happens when we die? Barring some scientific discovery we are all going to die. Regardless of what you believe happens after the end of your mortal life, at some point in your future you are going to stop living and leave behind those who you love – and who love you. Perhaps you believe that you and your loved ones will be reunited on the other side, or perhaps you believe that you become worm food and that’s all she wrote. Whatever the case, there will be this big “you” shaped hole left behind in your current life.
If you could speak to those left behind, and offer some words that might comfort them, what would you say?
Sullivan Ballou tried just before he lead his men into the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run for you Yankees):
July the 14th, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days – perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure – and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows – when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children – is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death — and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours – always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
Ballou fell at Manassas, along with 23 of his men from the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry Regiment.
150 years later and our technical skills in writing have improved from quill and ink to bits, bytes and blogs. Our writing is not quite so formal, or elegant, but humanity hasn’t changed. We still fight wars, we still leave behind the people we love, and we still want to reach out and comfort them in case of our death.
January 04, 2008
“I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here.”
This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits…As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know. I hope so. It’s frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won’t get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.
What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss…Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I’m telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It’ll be our little secret, ok?
If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don’t cite my name as an example of someone’s life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I’d prefer that you did so.
On a similar note, while you’re free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I’ll tell you you’re wrong. We’re all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.
I wish I could say I’d at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history’s Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I would have liked to have done more, but it’s a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that’s probably not too bad.
Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I’m facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn’t have a sense of humor?
This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again…I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she’s better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I’ll bear forever.
I wasn’t the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her
Major Andrew Olmsted was the officer in charge of the Military Transition Team assigned to the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division and was deployed to Iraq this past summer. The job was to train and prepare Iraqi Military forces to defend their nation. He was a prolific blogger, posting at his own website and as a blogger/contributor for the Rocky Mountain News.
His final post was written several months ago, finalized in July and the entrusted to a friend with instructions to post it to his blog in the event of his death.
IMMEDIATE RELEASENo. 0013-08
January 04, 2008DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 3 in As Sadiyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using small arms fire during combat operations. Both Soldiers were assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Maj. Andrew J. Olmsted, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Cpt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M.
How striking are the similarities between the thoughts of Majors Ballou and Olmsted, separated by a century and a half, pondering the same things. Thinking about the burdens of duty and wondering what will happen if the end comes while serving. Timeless thoughts expressed by men at war throughout time.
I don’t know what the letter writing habits of the ancient Romans were like, but I can imagine a Centurion on the eve of the Battle of Zama wishing he could send a message home. The themes would be the same. The call of service and the obligations of my duty have taken me far from you, and I fear that the next dawn will the my last. There is a conflict between my desire to hold you again and stay here and do what I have committed myself to. Service seems a burden in that light, but it is a burden that I yoked myself to freely. If I fall under its weight you must know that I fell regretting the pain that will come to you, but this is the task, the place and time that I am called and dedicated to. My love for you is too strong to be defeated by death, and if there is some way to reach back across the abyss to hold and protect you, I will find it or spend eternity trying.
One of the good things about working for a large police department is that you can be somewhat insulated from politics. While policies and strategies that affect how you do your job are too often based on someone’s hopes for reelection, for the most part you tend not to be big enough of a player to worry about the ins and outs of local politics. Small town cops, who are likely to write the mayor’s daughter a speeding ticket, or live next door to a political player, have more to worry about.
Regardless of the size of the stage upon which you find yourself, if ambition propels you (or fate drags you) onto the stage, then you become a player, and will find yourself subject to new rules. At best, it won’t be pretty, and at worst it can be very ugly.
When I was a kid I got drafted to help one of my uncles hook his home up to the city’s sewer system. I was employed as the chief, and sole, digger of the ditch that went from the back of the house to the street. While I was slaving away with my shovel I was present when a crew came to clean out and remove the old holding tank that was part of the septic system. Being the curious sort, I took a few moments to observe as they removed the lid from the septic tank. The sight, and odor, was memorable in an unpleasant way. Some things are best left out of sight and out of mind – outside of plumbers, none of us wants to know the details of what happens after the flush handle is pressed. I guess we all want to look at that freshly washed clean porcelain and know only that the job is being accomplished and it looks good from this side of things. But, while we know there is some nastiness somewhere in the system, as long as we are not confronted with it we can ignore it.
That expresses my feelings about politics. I know there is some really foul stuff moving through the pipes, but if I don’t have to deal with it I can ignore it. And anyone who willingly immerses themselves in the filth has to be suspect. When someone screwed up and pushed me far enough up the ladder to the place where I was actually in charge of something at SCPD, I got a sudden and unwanted look at the inside of the political septic tank. It was ugly and nasty and full of underhanded people – and I wanted nothing to do with it. I started formulating an exit strategy.
The beginning of my career at SCPD coincided with those of two other men who went on to immerse themselves in the filth. We attended the academy together and two of us were never candidates for president of the other’s fan club. We will call him Person A. The third man (Person B) and I got along alright, but his incredibly close friendship with Person A was a barrier to our friendship. For the first several years of our careers we were the three out of our class that were promoted while most of the others elected to stay at the officer rank. My motivation for promotion was because I wanted to move into investigations (detective work) and getting promoted was also the only way to get a pay raise in those days. Persons A and B made it very clear that they wanted to be “in-charge”.
My colleagues changed course in mid-stream and went to law school and politics. “A” was elected to two high profile local offices and “B” received a political appointment. Each, in his own way, made spectacular errors in judgment that eventually ended their careers. The news media made hay of their respective screwups, and the general consensus of opinion mirrored my own – “A” was an amoral and arrogant idiot who thought he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it, and “B” was woefully unsuited for the position to which he had been appointed. The first man was outed by news media investigations into his abuse of privileges and power, and when he reacted poorly they went on to beat him up in a very public way. The feeding frenzy left the water frothy with blood and he lost his bid for reelection in a political massacre. His dog might think he got screwed over, but everyone else familiar with the man knows it was a good riddance.
Mr. B’s career ended in an even more fantastic explosion of abuse. Eventually appointed to a greater position of trust and responsibility by an equally inept politician, he was able to carry on a charade that made it appear as if everything was running well in his agency. Until the hidden flaws in the machine became apparent – and the wheels fell off and the train wreck was gory. Peoples’ lives were affected, careers ended, injustice had been done, and the resulting damage is still a huge gaping wound. The cascade of disasters made national news and the never ending story of the fallout is still frequently cited as a classic example of how not to do things. He also shuffled off the stage.
My relationship with Person C was different. In some ways we were similar, worker bees who moved up in position but stayed out of the limelight and away from politics. He was very good at what he did, although he occasionally made small errors in judgment that were noted briefly by the media. There were a few times the reporters took a small bite out of my ass as well, but not to the same extent. None of us are perfect and after reaching a certain degree of a public profile the sharks start circling when they smell the tiniest bit of blood. But we differed in that eventually he also faced the gaping maw of the political machine – and he jumped in. In his case it was more out of a desire to survive than a desire to be in charge. He correctly decided that if he did not make the move that his past loyalty to his elected official boss made him a target for the next boss who took over. It was a choice between being elected to his retired boss’s job or be shuffled to the side and out the door. It was not the choice I would have made, but I’m not him.
Mr. C soon found himself faced with some tough decisions that were just part of the job. He made choices that quickly brought him under attack. However, he was soon confronted with the volcanic eruption caused by Mr. B, and he did not perform well. In a position to, and somewhat responsible for, cleaning up much of Mr. B’s messes, he elected to try and muddle through without actually accomplishing anything. Not only did he bring a lot of discredit upon himself, but his failure to aggressively try and amelioriate what B had wrought aggravated the situation and made it endure well past the point of being tolerable.
Ultimately, in a decision that I still don’t comprehend, he brought forward allegations about something Mr. B had done that was a classic example of the horrible leader and arrogant ass that Mr. B had become. However, compared to all of the other things that B did, it was such a minuscule act that it compared to a pimple on an elephant’s behind. Mr. B found himself under indictment and removed from his position. He eventually was exonerated in a trial that was seen as a total defeat for Mr. C, but what was seen as a gratuitous kick while on the ground infuriated Mr. B.
Fast forward to today, and I am witnessing a very public attack on Mr. C that has been orchestrated by Messrs. A and B. All coincidentally taking place after Mr. B has announced that he will run for Mr. C’s position and just as the deadline for others to file for positions on the ballot closes. It involves a minor point of personal failing on the part of Mr. C that some might think reflects negatively on his suitability for office. However, it actually is more along the lines of Mr. C’s attack against B several years ago.
Politics, at its base, does not illustrate the clean water swirling on porcelain, but is all about what is inside the septic tank.
It was Mr. C’s attack on B several years ago that lead to me being shoved forward to the edge of the septic tank. I was a minor player in the scheme of things, but I was faced with the choice of doing the backstroke in a pool of feces, or backing away from the edge. As I watch three men, all covered in each others’ shit, act out an inverse morality play, I am pleased with my choice
Two years ago, when a police officer blogger was told by her employer to kill her blog, I furiously set about learning where my freedom of speech rights were limited by my employer’s rights to maintain discipline and effectiveness. Another blog written by a police officer has bitten the dust within the last week – although I think it was a case of self-censorship / self-preservation. His employer had read his blog, and while having minor problems with one or two posts, the blogger told me he was thinking of making the blog disappear rather than trying to fight the man.
After completing my research a couple of years ago, I published my thoughts as a service to other officers who blog. I sent a copy to the officer who recently yanked his blog in an effort to give him some background information on which to do his own research and reach a decision.
I’m going to republish that old post here:
A cop blogger, whose name and agency I will not mention here, has been forced to yank a blog because of adverse reaction at work. A letter of reprimand was placed in this blogger’s personnel file because combining work issues and personal opinions was perceived as a breach of conduct rules.
I am sure many of you are thinking, “pffft, big deal! Bloggers get dooced all of the time just because they blog.” You would get my agreement on that point because, in general, I think taking action against an employee for writing about their employment and their opinions is wrong. However, as we all know now, most people in this country are in “at will” jobs, which means they can be sacked whenever the employer decides it doesn’t like the cut of their jib.
But, government employees are different.
Not because we are a special class of people deserving of more rights than anyone else. No, it’s because our employers are special creatures. We all work for “The Government”. Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As we all know, although the Amendment’s wording restricts Congress, it applies all the way down to the lowest, least consequential body of government. Congress cannot send a FBI SWAT team to my house to haul me off because they don’t like what I said about Hilary Clinton any more than the City of the ‘Burbs can kick in my door to haul me away because I wrote something derogatory about the Mayor.
“So”, you may ask, “what the hell does that have to do with government employees and Freedom of Speech?”
Damn, you are sharp. I am glad that you asked that question.
The Amendments restrict government from screwing with our rights and freedoms. If I worked at IBM and they wanted to fire me because they don’t like seeing their name mentioned on my blog, that is their privilege. The Amendments aren’t aimed at private businesses interfering with my rights, just the government.
All of this does not mean that I get to say anything I want and stand behind the First Amendment any more than any other citizen can shout “fire!” in the proverbial crowded theater. Government has to be able to protect its interests when they are valid and legitimate things that a government is supposed to concern itself with. Like public safety and national defense. Imagine how ineffectively such functions would be if employees had an unfettered freedom of speech regarding the work place.
The Supremes have been dealing with this particular aspect of Freedom of Speech since the 1960’s, and here is what it looks like today:
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all citizens, including governmental employees, the right to speak on matters of public interest. This right is, however, not absolute, and analysis of any particular set of facts will involve a balancing of the various issues at stake.
The Court generally upheld the application of First Amendment protections to governmental employees, establishing a balancing standard weighing the employee’s interest in commenting on matters of public concern against the employer’s interest in promoting the efficiency of the public services it renders.
In other words, if you are pissed at your supervisor because he is critical of your work, that is a private matter and not of concern to the rest of the public.
If your agency is releasing nuclear waste into the water supply, well that is a major concern to the populace as a whole.
Since the employees all work for the government, and so much of what they do involves public interests, a balancing test was developed to determine whose interests are more important, the employee or the government: How disruptive to operations was the speech, was it public or private speech, and to what degree did the speech touch on matter of public concern?
The final question to be answered is easy, was there a significant harm done to the employee and was it caused as a retribution for the exercise of freedom of speech?
So, here are the Cerberus Rules of Cop Blogging: Please bear in mind that I am completely unqualified to offer such opinions; you should check with your physician before starting this program, actual results may vary, your individual financial situation may be different, and tax, title and license fees are not included. In other words, if you get fired following my advice without doing your own research, you are clearly an idiot and deserve what you got.
1. Don’t do it. Seriously, if you don’t do it you won’t get zapped. But, if you really want to cop blog, I recommend that you,
2. Never specifically identify anything or anyone at your place of work. (See: Cerberus, Some City, and Giant Red State. All figments of my imagination). How can I interfere with or harm the operations of an imaginary agency in a place that never existed?
3. If you are going to break rules # 1 and # 2, then you damn sure better be certain that what you are cop blogging about is a MATTER OF PUBLIC CONCERN.
4. Read and know your agency’s policies on employee freedom of speech, respecting other employees, insubordination, and releasing reports and confidential information. Understand what all the words mean in the context of the policy manual (usually there is a definitions section with all of the legalistic definitions for specific words like “may” and “shall”). Having memorized the policies, carefully blog by not breaking the rules. Imagine your supervisor, commander, some jerkoff in IAD, and the Chief of Police (actually his rat-faced attorney), all carefully reviewing every post you ever wrote. See them with their highlighters, the well-thumbed policy manual open and a stack of blog entries printed out? It’s late at night and cigarette smoke curls in the lamplight as a magnifying glass is used. Now, imagine them jumping up with glee and shouting “Aha! I got you now, you son of a bitch!” Finally, see them running down to HR to start the paperwork on your career change.
5. Consider carefully what you publish to be sure that is does not cause undo interference or disruption of the operations of the police department. What exactly does that mean? (Hell, I don’t know. Ask me something easy, like how many crackheads does it take to clear a city block of all aluminum cans. ) It’s probably a question of proportionality. Does the public interest outweigh whatever harm is done? If you publish pictures of the Chief stealing dope out of the back door of the evidence room, the resulting disruption caused by his firing and indictment is probably acceptable in light of the public need to have a non criminal running the agency. On the other hand, if you have video of the man picking his nose, well the resulting disruption from his public embarrassment is probably not worth whatever mild interest your publication may have found in some dark corner of the world.
6. DO IT ON YOUR OWN TIME, USING YOUR OWN FORUM AND EQUIPMENT. Don’t be a dumbass and blog from work. Don’t even read your blog from work. When IAD tells the computer evidence techs to “take a look at his machine”, your history will be found and I bet your agency has some rules about “conducting personal business while on duty”, “misappropriation of city property”, “being available to superiors, subordinates and citizens”, and “attention to duties”. (We even have one that prohibits reading any non-work related material while on duty. I’m not sure why there are always newspapers laying around in the crapper – perhaps they are for emergency backups when the TP runs out).
7. Don’t gossip or assassinate someone’s character. If you engage in personal attacks (The only reason Bob got the new car and his choice of days off is because he sucks the Sergeant’s….) you make your speech more of a personal thing rather than the protected public interest speech.
8. Decide now what you will do when they call you in. Note, that I didn’t say “if they call you in”, because you need to be prepared now. Are you willing to go to war with the brass over your blog, or do you want to follow one of Cerberus’s Addendum to Murphy’s Laws of Police Work? (Giant Bureaucracies have crappy memories. When you screw up, if you manage to keep your job, just keep your head down and within 2-5 years everyone will have forgotten about it.
When I was a Sergeant in Narcotics, I was sitting in my Lieutenant’s office one day talking with him and another Sergeant. The conversation turned to the latest attempts to legalize Marijuana and we were debating if we would see it happen in our lifetimes. It turned into a discussion about what would happen if the weed were legalized.
Personally, I think of Marijuana as the Stupefying Weed – because every regular user I’ve ever come across acts as if half of their brain were turned off. I suspect it might also deserve to be called the Apathy Herb, because chronic users seem to have as much ambition as a dead goldfish. In a rough-sketch, broad-strokes, cop-on-the-street kind of way, I generally equate Marijuana with alcohol, and for that reason alone I don’t think we should legalize it.
Considering the pain and loss that Demon Rum already causes us, can you imagine what it would be like once we tossed Yerba out there? No thanks, society is already fucked up enough as it is.
Our discussion turned to the topic of cops who might choose to smoke a legal Marijuana. While SCPD had rules about what amount of pre-employment drug use was experimentation and how much too much, the Narcotics Division had more restrictive policies. When the Briar Patch is full of untold millions of dollars in dope and cash, you don’t throw Brer Rabbit in there without knowing his feelings on the subject of Briar Patches in general.
Our boss made the statement that, if he had anything to say about it, no officer who smoked legal Marijuana would ever work in Narcotics. My fellow Sergeant and I took him to task over that, and my co-worker made a great statement in support of our position:
Wait a minute. Are you saying it’s okay for a cop to go home and drink legal beer, wine or booze, but it wouldn’t be right for him to smoke legal Marijuana? That’s just crazy. Imagine how many cops go home and turn on their television while sipping a cocktail to watch The Untouchables. There they are with a nice scotch in one hand and remote in the other, watching Kevin Costner fight a war against the very substance they are holding in their hands, all while thinking “That Elliott Ness was one bad motherfucker.”
The conversation went to hell once we discovered that we were hitting a couple of his buttons pretty hard. We sank into total malarkey when we announced that we would have a huge weed smoking party on the day it was legalized, and he was invited. He kicked us out of his office.
So, everybody knows that while Marijuana is illegal in Amsterdam there is a policy of non-enforcement for users that extends to other so-called “soft drugs” like Hashish and Psyilocybin mushrooms. Amsterdam, which also has a long history of tolerance toward prostitution before the Netherlands legalized it, may be discovering that too much tolerance can lead to undesirable and unintended consequences. Decriminalization does not equal to the absence of criminal behavior. Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen is the Netherlands’ National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, she works independently and reports to the Dutch government:
“We have tried to decriminalize the prostitution sector by legalising it, by making it liable for permits and we have seen that it really doesn’t work that way. Many of these women in the legalized sector are being forced and violently treated so the Dutch government is now thinking are we on the right track?”
The city is trying to come to grips with some of the undesirable effects resulting when legalizing and tolerating go a little too far. It’s going to clean up the Red Light District and replace the famous prostitutes in the windows with upscale stores. Amsterdam’s Mayor, Job Cohen said recently,
“The romantic picture of the area is outdated if you see the abuses in the sex industry and that is why the council has to act,” he said. “We don’t want to get rid of prostitution but we do want to cut crime significantly.” While legalization was supposed to turn prostitutes into self-employed taxpayers who did not need pimps for protection, the city said the industry is still dominated by criminals attracted by the 370 euros each woman can earn a day.
He has also announced efforts to close coffee shops and so-called smart shops, which sell other “soft drugs” drugs such as magic mushrooms.
Deputy mayor Lodewijk Asscher said the city wants to restore a number of historic buildings and reverse the decline of a large central area where brothels, sex clubs and the coffee shops that sell marijuana line the city’s canals. “It will always be an exciting city with more freedom and more tolerance than elsewhere in the world,” Asscher said. “There will be other tourists and maybe more tourists but if you go here as a tourist you don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed about what you see.”
Among the announced reforms is a new code of conduct for police officers in Amsterdam – the same cops who have operated under a policy that fostered the situation that has now apparently gotten out of hand. Unlike every other citizen, and tourist, who can go into the local smokery and light up, they are being forbidden from smoking Marijuana in their off duty time. They are not happy with the new code that requires them to abstain when they are off duty.
It has been their duty for years to operate a policy of nonenforcement over the coffee shop culture. Now the police union will back its members in defying the cannabis ban. The union has vowed to bring a test case in court against the first officer to fall foul of the new rules, claiming that they amount to an unjustified intrusion into personal life.
People who support legalization of “minor” offenses such as Marijuana and prostitution have, at the very base of their positions, the belief that they can partake of such things and not be harmed or hurt society. The truth is that there are some percentage of the population that can do all manner of things and be responsible about it. However, society has all these other people who are not responsible and can’t handle it, and they are also the targets of even less-responsible criminals looking to take advantage. Go to Amsterdam and see the results when the irresponsible many are given privileges that only a responsible few can handle appropriately.
I am a vehement opponent of what I see as a trend in government to over protect people from themselves. The Nanny State goes too far sometimes, but there is a difference between protecting people against themselves and protecting an entire society. There are some privileges that we restrict – the right to vote, drink alcohol, sign a contract, carry a weapon, etc. – because we know that allowing everyone to do it can lead to chaos and disaster. Not that every 21 year-old is ready to handle alcohol, or every 18 year-old will vote responsibly, but we believe that most of them are capable of it. And while there are some people in society who can use what they call “soft drugs” in Amsterdam without society going into the crapper, the reality is that too many people can’t.
Part of the territory of being a police officer is that sometimes you have to enforce laws that you may think are silly or wrong. I’ve always believed that the Constitution provides an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that adults who aren’t criminals, drunks or crazy people should be allowed to carry firearms provided they act responsibly. However, when I started my law enforcement career it was illegal in Texas for an ordinary citizen to carry a firearm just because he thought he had a Constitutional right to do so. It was a stupid law, and one that I personally thought offended the Constitution. However, it was the law and all the court cases challenging it had upheld the Constitutionality of the law. I lost count of how many people I arrested for the offense of Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon, but I bet you could fill a nice sized banquet hall if you got them all together in one place.
The police don’t get to usurp the power of the people as expressed in laws that society’s legislatures and courts decides are just and proper – our job is to enforce them. Enforce them in a reasonable and responsible manner, but we don’t get to unilaterally declare a law null and void because we don’t like it.
If Amsterdam’s government was telling its cops – “We’re enforcing this law now and it applies to you as well” – I would believe any cop caught smoking dope should be fired and prosecuted. But that’s not what Mayor Cohen is proposing.
The Dutch have put themselves, and their cops, in a tricky situation. Police agencies have to prioritize the use of their resources because there are always too many laws and lawbreakers, and not enough time, money or people to enforce them all. But in Amsterdam they made a decision to ignore the law as a matter of policy, not prioritization, and that is a moral failure. Either something is against the law, and that law is enforced as best as demand requires and resources allow, or the law is wrong and should be rescinded. And making a political decision to not enforce the law in the case of ordinary citizens while enforcing it for police officers is too stupid to describe.
There is no sense in telling police officers that a law applies to everyone, but forbid them from enforcing it, only to tell them they have to obey that same law.
HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — An apparent ongoing dispute between three parents erupted into a physical fight at an elementary school’s Christmas program Tuesday night.
In the account, Roberts writes that chairs were thrown, obscenities were yelled and three mothers physically punched each other while two other mothers attempted to break up the fight.
My hope is that the kids look at the trashy behavior of their parents and silently vow, “I’ll never be like my Mom”.
I’m afraid the truth is that we shall never run out of trashy people who provide us with entertainment of this nature.
Six centuries from now, after we have mastered space travel, some advanced race will make first contact with humans in a distant galaxy. As they get a tour of the human spacecraft they will be astounded to see two women fighting in the cafeteria over line breaking.
Some improvement over the primitive 21st century humans will be evident: They will use telekinetic energy to throw chairs at each other.
According to the calendar it is damn near Christmas and I think now is a good time for me to slow the pace of the
writing typing and spend some time with the kids and the Blond Woman who birthed them. Be peaceful, and kind to others, and if you have some good cheer to spare – spread it around. This is the one time of the year in which you can show genuine affection for your fellow man and woman without them questioning your sanity.
Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope that the new year brings you good health and plenty of memorable moments of happiness.
Speaking of sanity – or the lack of it – how do you know when the criminals run your country?
When there are vast regions of the second biggest city in the nation are places no-go zones for cops unless they go in like the freaking army.
Most of Rio De Janeiro’s 700-plus slums are controlled by drug traffickers and are not regularly patrolled by police, who instead go into the slums in military-style raids, often using helicopters and armored vehicles.
One night I was working in New York with an NYPD detective looking at some locations when he started pointing out the various characters in the street drug trade. At one point he did some curious maneuver to go around the block that involved us going far out of the way. When I asked why we did that, he said “We don’t go down that block without two or three units if we can help it.” Apparently there were some place in New York where you only go in force.
Policing in Some City is different in a number of aspects from what it is in New York. We don’t have the density of population that they have, nor do we have compact neighborhoods with thousands of hiding places and escape routes for bad guys. Still, we have experienced neighborhoods here that occasionally become the home for concentrations of criminals, gangs and all sorts of ne’er do wells. Such things have a way of snowballing and getting out of control and that’s when we go in an do something about it. As a former boss used to say, “every now and then the patients have to be reminded that they don’t run the damn asylum.”
Back to Rio. Last Sunday a helicopter and pilot were hired to take an actor, dressed as Santa Claus, to the Nova Mare slum where he would pass out toys to children. As it flew toward Nova Mare, it passed over the neighboring “shantytown” of Vila Joao. The bad guys of Vila Joao heard the helo and thought they were being raided by the police. They opened fire on Santa and his flying machine.
“They thought it was a police operation and started shooting. Luckily, nobody was hurt,” a police official said. The helicopter had to return to its base after the attack. Two bullet holes were found in its fuselage.Santa later returned to Nova Mare by car to distribute Christmas presents.
700 slums, the police can’t go in except in force, and the bad guys shoot at helicopters? The Rio Police need to wave a white flag and call it a day because I don’t think they have what it takes to fix something that is so far out of control. The military might, but the cops don’t.
Anyway, too many years of thinking about how to fix problems like this, coupled with my offbeat sense of humor, gave me an idea how I would handle it:
Hello Boys! I’m baaaaccckk!
Girlfriend needs some training. Lesson Number One: Maintain Your Hold on the Pole – Or, the drag coefficient of blue jeans is terrible, but skin sticks.