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The stunning manifestation of the better angels of our nature…

September 20, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s hard to get my head around stuff sometimes.

It’s been a tough week for NEPA. A police officer, a husband, a father, was gunned down like a deer during hunting season. We don’t know why. The man who allegedly pulled the trigger is still out there, eluding a massive manhunt. Everybody is on edge. From what we’re being told about the suspect, nobody expects him to go quietly. We all fear more officers falling. I hate to even write that sentence. But I can’t get the thought out of my head.

Pennsylvania State Police and Troopers from nearby states line streets outside St. Peters' Cathedral in Scranton, during funeral procession carrying slain Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Corporal Dickson to the Cathedral for his funeral serviceCpl. Byron Dickson was laid to rest earlier this week, honored by his law enforcement brethren from around the nation in a moving ceremony covered live by local TV. The street in front of St Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton was 20 deep with police standing silently in formation, some stoic, some in tears. All there for the same reason. The brotherhood of man. The manifestation of the better angels of their nature.

It never seems to fail. The worst in us brings out the best in us.

I think of Dickson’s wife….with the eyes of everyone on her….never wavering. Never breaking. Showing her 2 young boys what dignity really means. I think it’s the sort of strength that we don’t know we have. For the rest of their lives her sons will remember that in the face of a swirling vortex of pain and confusion, if they fell, their Mother would be standing over them with hands outstretched. It was awe inspiring. It dawned on everybody….at precisely the same time….that this would not break her.

We learned bits and pieces about the alleged shooter. Rumors are rampant….but nothing seems to stick. It seems so depressingly familiar in our society though. Some middle class non-descript white guy, loaded up with anger and ammo, feels the need to lash out….to inform that world that he’s sick and tired and he’s not gonna take it anymore. So he builds a little fantasy camp in his own head…..and elects himself judge, jury, and executioner. Another little man searching for platform shoes. We’re not really shocked when these guys show themselves. It’s when they could be hiding in the woods behind our homes that we start to screech about it.

From all accounts Cpl. Dickson was a good man. A decent man. The kind of person that is all around us, but we rarely notice. They don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t dress up for the cameras. They don’t lose themselves in make believe. They spend their days doing quietly heroic things. They go to work and earn their pay. They tuck their children into bed….hold their wives….and prepare to do the same the next day. They serve. There are 1000 Dickson’s for every Eric Frein, maybe even 10,000 to 1. What’s sad is we don’t realize this…..because it’s the loudest who carry the day. We live in a maelstrom of noise.

I don’t know when this is going to end. It could be today. It could drag out. There’s so much we don’t know. Frein could be holed up nearby. He could be long gone. He could be laying in the woods with his own bullet in his brain. Time will tell. But it will end. The cameras and the talking heads will move on to the next piece of drama….and those left behind will have to pick through the wreckage alone.

But then again, maybe not. Cpl Dickson’s wife and children will surely be looked after by thousands of guardian angels in blue….each knowing Dickson would have surely done the same for them. Because that’s what good folks do. There is no greater goodness than goodness displayed when others are not watching. It travels from one heart to another. There is no better connection.

So yea….as horrifying as this ordeal has been, it’s not the crazed savagery of an Eric Frein that I’m left with. It’s the stunning collection of hearts that honored the fallen. It’s Mrs Dickson and her young boys. It’s the way a community that can be selfish turned selfless.

I’ll say it again. It was the stunning manifestation of the better angels of our nature.

Cynicism is cheap and easy. It’s also a distraction.

My fervent hope is that this ends with no more grieving widows. No more fatherless children. No more mothers burying sons.

In a bit..


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