I’m thinking a lot about Father’s Day this year.
No, not because I’m a father to three wonderful kids. No, not because my son-in-law is a great father to our first grandchild.
No, I’m thinking about Father’s Day because of two kids at a school where I work.
After retiring from a career teaching high school English, I work part-time at a Gilbert elementary school. Talk about culture shock: I have no idea how those great teachers I work with juggle so much each day and do it so gracefully and meaningfully. It’s amazing.
In one of the classes where I help with writing, I met two little fourth graders. Nice kids. Smart, funny, polite, kids their parents should be proud of, which I’m certain they are.
One day, the kids told me about their parents, including the work their fathers do.
Both are police officers, one in Gilbert, the other in Mesa. The kids told me this matter of factly, as I guess you’d expect from a couple of 9-year-olds still naïve to the world.
But I was struck immediately by their fathers’ profession, in my mind the most dangerous work anyone can do, short of soldiers in battle.
These kids seemed oblivious to the dangers their fathers face on a daily basis, and that’s OK. They’re little kids, they shouldn’t be terrified about their fathers’ work.
But increasingly, that work becomes ridiculously dangerous.
We all know about the increase in officer-involved shootings. Here in the Phoenix area, those shootings increased last year, with 50 of those, almost all of which involved armed criminals. Assaults against officers have increased steadily since 2008. In 2012, more officers were assaulted with a firearm than at any time in the five previous years.
It seems that common criminals don’t fear the police as they once might have, in part, I’m guessing, because they come armed sometimes with more potent weapons than the officers have. And lately, it seems we’re seeing crazies target police for what is clearly assassinations.
Just last week in Canada, a young man filled with anti-police propaganda and with conspiracy theories rolling around in his mind, dressed up in camouflage and carrying high-powered rifles, assassinated three Royal Canadian Mounties.
And this past weekend, two more crazies, stoked by anti-government conspiracy theories, assassinated two Las Vegas police officers eating lunch in a pizza place. The two, who apparently believe murdering police is part of a “revolution,” walked up to the officers and calmly shot them dead, stripping them of their weapons and placing a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag over their lifeless bodies, scattering white supremacist literature on the floor.
The shooters in both cases have one thing in common: an apparent anger at government and using the police as targets of that anger. An anger that adds to the danger the police officers of those two fourth graders I mentioned earlier face now.
And the common denominator of the victims: all fathers.
As Father’s Day approaches, I think of those two kids and their brave fathers. I pray for their safety and the safety of all police who willingly put their lives on the line for the rest of us every day.