Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hug a Cop

As you near the top of the escalators in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, you'll notice two or three senior citizens donning red, white and blue and waving little flags. All arriving uniformed military personnel are met by these enthusiastic seniors with clapping, handshakes, and words of thanks. It's probably the same in many of our airports: veterans and average civilians personally thanking our enlisted men and women for "all that [they] do." It's a good thing. Whether or not you agree with our foreign policy the men and women who volunteer for military service do deserve our gratitude.

I find it sad that we don't extend the same gratitude to police officers. Clearly there are differences between the two, and I'm not equating patrolling the streets of Norcross, GA, with those of Kandahar or Kabul. Nonetheless, when you volunteer to become a police officer, to serve and protect, you, too, place your life at risk for the greater good. Many police officers have made the "supreme sacrifice" in their service to our country. How many of you knew that 1) 161 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2010, and 2) that only 16 of those deaths were considered accidental or health-related? Take a look for yourself.

Why don't we give the police the same respect and adoration we give our soldiers? Two reasons come to mind. One is the common (mis)perception that the police can't be trusted, that all police officers are corrupt. "All cops," I've been told, "are bad cops." Unfortunately, there are police officers who engage in racial profiling, destroy evidence, use unnecessary force, commit sexual assaults, and participate in those criminal activities they're charged to stop. However, you can no more say that all police officers are bad because some of them are bad anymore than you can say that all soldiers humiliate and torture prisoners, rape and murder civilians, and throw puppies off of cliffs simply because some of them have done just those things. The Department of Defense contends that such actions on the part of our soldiers are isolated incidents and those soldiers are in no way representative of the majority of men and women serving in the military. And we believe that because we know it to be true; we need it to be true. Well, I contend the same for our police force: the illegal and immoral actions of some officers are not representative of all officers. If you are one of those who believe that all cops are bad based of the actions of a few, then by your own logic, you must also believe that all our soldiers are rapists, murderers and animal abusers.

The other reason people don't readily give hero status to police officers is that the police have the power to punish us for our bad behavior, and we don't like that. Police have the thankless job of keeping us in line. They stop us for speeding, tell us to keep the music down, ticket us for public drunkenness, arrest us for shoplifting. We bitch that a cop is never around when we need one but are just as quick to bitch when they bust us for breaking the law. We want the enforcement of laws to apply to everybody but ourselves. And while we hystericize about police states, we conveniently forget that if it wasn't for the police there would be a lot more wife beaters, child molesters, gang bangers, dog fighters, rapists, burglars, and murderers hanging around neighborhoods, schools, and parks. Why don't we thank them for that?

Soldiers aren't perfect and there are some who aren't worthy of hero status; still, we recognize that most of them do the best they can and we honor and thank them for trying. Your local police officer deserves no less.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Twelve Year Lie

Jackson and I have been together for 12 years. The shelter folks told me it was unlikely I would find a kitten in January since it wasn't "kitten season" but I found him tucked away in a cage, a small orange ball. I lied on the adoption application, saying I lived in a house where pets were allowed and that he would be an indoor cat. My application was approved, and we went home to my 400 sq. ft. apartment where pets were not allowed. I had successfully adopted an out-of-season, red-headed cat using lies and deceit.

Living with Jackson has not always been easy. His younger years found him in constant conflict with the world and me. I can't count the number of objects I've hurled at him to prevent one behavior or another (but he's fast and I always missed). I once had a bean-bag chair that he considered a litter box and a litter box that he considered a sandbox, sending litter far and wide, so I started to let him go outside. He was promptly pounced upon by another cat, chased through the screen door by a dog, and bumped by a car. He remained (and remains) undeterred; the outdoors are his oyster. What with all the cat fights, illnesses, syndromes, and, yes, even an animal behavioralist, I can't calculate the amount of mental and financial resources that have been spent on Jackson's physical and mental well-being. Throw in a 48 hour mystery disappearance and a blundering vet tech who nearly caused Jackson's liver to fail, and you can say he's become quite the drain on resources.

It hasn't been all roses for him either. I use to dip the tip of his tail in Tabasco because he used to suck on it and the sound woke me up. He got blamed for tearing up the toilet paper when it turned out to be Lucy's handiwork, and he eventually had to share his life with three other cats and a dog. Still, he's been a trooper. From Austin to Chicago (and two years stuck in an apartment) to Ithaca to Atlanta, Jackson traveled well, claiming wherever it is we lived as his own and letting everyone know it. He's a model patient, taking his medicine without much complaint or hassle, something that can't be said about the rest of our brood. Jackson's a poor hunter, but that didn't stop him from trying to snag a wild turkey and he twice refused to back down to some shifty deer who thought they had the right of way. And when trouble rings the doorbell, he's quick to cast differences aside and hide under the bed with Algebra.

At 12, Jackson lives a quieter life. I miss seeing that mischievous gleam in his eyes but it's also nice not being forced to walk around the neighborhood shaking keys or tapping his food dish with a spoon trying to lure him home. He still has an attitude problem, and everyone, including Boo the dog, knows to respect his personal space, that our casa is his casa. His lower canines are gone so his bite doesn't inflict the same damage it once did, and at 16 pounds jumping on and off the counter requires more effort. Almost every morning he sits on my lap while I drink coffee and at night he'll get on my lap and lord over the rest of us.

Better (and lesser) writers than me have and will pen their experiences with their cat or dog and become best-selling authors. Over 12 years, Jackson has provided more than enough material for a book, and it's to my discredit that I didn't keep a journal of his escapades, brushes with death, eccentricities, and overall impact on my life. Matt Damon would've made a good me in the movie version.

I did lie on the shelter application, but I've never reneged on my signed pledge to provide Jackson with the best life possible. Few cats have had it better than Jackson; few people have had a better companion. Not all lies have bad endings.