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Many of us have heard the sentence, “He died for you,” only in church. Life rarely requires that sort of sacrifice of us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, King James Bible) I’ve heard of instances: refugees saving their children, soldiers protecting their comrades in arms, disaster victims relinquishing their chance at rescue. Usually, the ultimate sacrifice is for loved ones. We all understand that, even if not all of us would be capable of being so unselfish. But how many are willing to lay down their lives for strangers—in this case our elected leaders? Could you? Could I?
When I watched the little box that was all that remains of Capital Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick as it was carefully placed in the Capital Rotunda, I cried. I cried for his family standing by. I know too well how helpless and hopeless they felt; I’ve been there. I cried for the officers who had stood with him through so many shifts. I cried because that young, handsome military veteran died for me. No, I’m not trying to be melodramatic. He faced that crazed mob because it was his chosen duty. Like so many others, he had sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States—which included defending our federal legislators—for us, the people. I doubt he expected to have to protect our government leaders from hundreds of other Americans. Like parents who have turned in their own children for being killers, that fact must have hurt far worse than fighting in a foreign land. He stood before the mob in place of all of us at home who—regardless of party—would have been devastated to watch people who could have been our neighbors brutally murder representatives of both parties, endangering our country. Later, we learned someone in the mob enthusiastically smashed Officer Sicknick in the head with a fire extinguisher, and he wasn’t the only law enforcement officer to suffer grievous, life-altering harm. The barbarity of the terrorists echoed the frenzied mob of former school boys in the book/films LORD OF THE FLIES, chanting, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” before they killed their schoolmate. No justice seems strong enough. How do you teach morality?
Others who have sworn to defend the Constitution never bothered to consider what their vows meant or even what the Constitution means. Like bad religious leaders, they reinterpreted and edited what they knew (if anything) until they were convinced they were heroes, justified in behaving like the villains in a bad film. They enjoy believing might makes right. Many think their oaths were simply fancy words you say before you grab power. They can shrug off the death of Officer Sicknick as they shrug off the plights of others they push around or use as pawns. No less love hath any man than this, that a man—or woman—destroy other lives to make their own more comfortable. White/straight/male supremacy is a myth that needs to be exposed for the lie it is. As I think of Officer Sicknick and those who may share his choice in the future, a line from the play DEATH OF A SALESMAN sticks in my head: “Attention, attention must be paid to such a man.”