Decisions, Decisions, Death
While we watch, frozen in ice cubes of ideology, the trial of ex-police office Derek Chauvin proceeds. Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd until Floyd was dead. The prosecution wants to convince you it was murder. The defense wants you to believe Floyd dropped dead while being strangled. This theory gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "insanity defense."
The hardest thing we expect of police officers is we expect the training to react, and not the officer. It's hard to make a robot of a man or woman, but it is the end goal of people who train police officers, soldiers and factory workers. Any method used is full of flaws.
"You'd be surprised how far the training will take you," an old beat cop once told me when I presented him with that theory.
Of course, the old cop was at the stage of his career when he regarded the last seven years as nothing but an obstacle between him and the pension, which is the holy grail of all government employment. Most of us in the private sector have never had even the promise of a pension, but the pension is a towering god to police officers, firefighters, teachers and even the underpaid clerks in city hall.
Chauvin revolted against the entire notion of the pension, the comfy check, the opportunity to buy an RV and "just drive around the country." No deep-sea fishing in Florida. No taking the grandkids to Disney World. It would be understandable in a young cop. They don't really believe in the pension. But it is incomprehensible in an older cop because older cops usually know to the minute when they can retire; even if they were bad at math in high school, they can easily navigate the complex formula needed to calculate nearly any kind of government benefit.
I was in the newspaper business for nearly 40 years. I've watched cops throw away the pension on liquor, greed, gambling and intravenous drugs. A smaller number I've watched throw away their pension on rage, entitlement and the exercise of power. I think Chauvin was one of the last kind. I've seen this before.
Cops make quick decisions. It's part of the job. Chauvin didn't make a decision. He knelt on Floyd's neck for nine minutes.
You're driving down the street. You come to an intersection. The people on the cross street have a stop sign. You don't. You enter the intersection. A car coming down the cross street doesn't stop at the stop sign, and rolls into the intersection just in front of you. You have maybe five seconds to make a decision. Swerve? Hit the brakes? Five seconds. Chances are you'll hit the brakes. It's the natural thing to do, even if swerving might be a better idea. You've had no training in how to avoid being hit by drivers who ignore stop signs.
You can be forgiven for almost anything that happens.
You're driving down the street. About nine minutes ahead of where you are, a car runs a stop sign and blows through the intersection. You have nine minutes to make a decision. Don't worry. You'll be fine.
Moments in time. Some longer. Some shorter. Sometimes one of them is the last moment, if not for you, then for someone else.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in The Ashes of America" is a collection of his best columns. It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.