Knowing Better: My Father’s Police Legacy and Those Who Wanted to Remember Him For Me

I’ve mentioned my dad here on previously. I don’t generally make a big deal out of the fact that he was a cop who was killed on the job, and I have friends who have known me for years who don’t find it out until there’s a reason to discuss it. It happened, after all, over 40 years ago.

Yet I have always been proud of him, and the sacrifice he made in the line of duty. I am proud of all who do so, whether they’re cops, or firefighters, or serving in the military. And I have always tried to honor his memory in my own ways.

In addition, there is a page about him on the Officer Down Memorial as well as a memorial to him in the city hall where he served. And a few years ago the graduating class of the St. Louis Police Academy dedicated their class to him, recounting his life, telling his story – it was a touching tribute.

So it came as a bit of a surprise recently when I was contacted out of the blue by someone who wanted to put up a ‘memorial page’ about him, and was asking some rather personal details about his burial location and whatnot.

Now, people have all kinds of unusual hobbies. But there are also scam artists of every stripe, and I’ve seen people try and bilk the elderly or emotionally vulnerable. I was skeptical enough that I did a bit of checking on the gentleman who had contacted me. And I found out that he seems legit – just someone who had this unusual hobby, along with others, of wanting to create “memorials” for people. He was a retired cop from a neighboring city where my dad served, and while he didn’t know my dad, he knew people who knew my dad.

OK, fair enough. I gave him some of the info he asked for, corrected some mistakes in what he thought he knew, and promised to check into some specific things that I didn’t know off the top of my head. It had been 40 years, after all.

My initial efforts to get the info he wanted didn’t pan out, and I told him I would look further. He started pestering me for the info. Then he started pestering other family members. He then wanted to be ‘facebook friends’ with me, and I declined – I don’t like being pestered – but I tried to be polite about it.

No big deal, right? And what has this got to do with, anyway?

Well, I mentioned this whole episode in a personal blog post the other day. Naturally, the fellow saw it. You can see his whole response here, if you’re interested. I also had other personal messages from him. The upshot of it all is that he thinks I have been a less-than-dutiful son because I don’t want to help him with his memorial to my dad.

Consider that for a moment. This fellow has decided that he knows better than I and the rest of my family do what is appropriate concerning a deceased family member.

And that right there is why I wanted to bring this up on Not to just exploit my dad’s death and this whole sordid business, but because this guy is typical of so many people – he thinks he knows better than we do how to handle such a personal and private matter.

Now, I don’t like neighborhood gossip interfering in my personal affairs. I don’t like it when this guy does it. I don’t like it when a certain religious cult decides to “protest” the funerals of the fallen servicepeople because they think they know better what God thinks. And I sure as hell don’t like it when the government decides it knows better than I do who I sleep with or what guns I should own.

There’s a quote from the movie Serenity (towards the end) that sums this up:

“Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people…better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.”

Yeah, there are some things we have to all put up with for society to function, but we should always strive to keep that to the bare minimum. We owe it to ourselves – we owe it to all those who have sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedoms – we owe it to Americans yet unborn – to stop putting up with the hubris of someone who tells you “I know better than you do.”

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