It’s A Secret Service

Charles McCain
photo: Charles McCain

I’ve been fascinated by the United States’ Secret Service ever since 1981 when I watched television coverage of men in suits emerging from the shadows to throw themselves in front of a wounded President Reagan.

As disturbing as it was for a second grader to watch a deranged man shooting other men on television, it was also incredibly inspiring to see good men run into danger to put an end to it.

What is it that causes a man to unquestioningly step in front of a bullet for another?

While we admire the kind of bravery that gets put on display in situations of duress, most of us don’t ask what comes after these moments of bravery.

Especially if you live through them.

We tend to think that staying alive is it’s own reward, but consider that the victor usually gets to:

Clean up the carnage.

Rebuild what has been destroyed,

Then tend to their own wounds.

There’s a human toll that comes from protecting people. Sentinels and their famlies make sacrifices to operate in a world where long stretches of the mundane are punctuated by moments of tangible horror and violence.

Not acknowledging this leads to a naivetee that expects heroes to step in front of bulllets because they are supermen, immune to the damage and suffering that evil breeds.

As a result, we begin asking others to defend our country, but not expecting a human toll to come in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This leads to pretending that untreated PTSD doesn’t lead to substance abuse, financial ruin, or divorce.

When the damage is done where does someone turn to relieve the suffering, anxiety, or stress that comes with heroism?

For some it looks an awful lot like self-indulgence, a hard-earned respite from the crushing responsibiility that protecting human life brings.

History reveals that high-level military/security personell have enjoyed the privilege of women and alcohol as “morale” incentives. The historian Herodotus details that the Persian Empire’s elite fighting forces were allowed to take their concubines with them on battle deployment.

The idea behind this indulgence is the noble belief that great risk is accompanied by great reward.

The only problem is that this model identifies women and wine as payment for dangerous services rendered.

This is dehumanizing and destructive.

This blending of stress, violence, and alcohol doesn’t truly heal accumulated pain, it merely numbs it for a time, placing all parties involved in more danger… even if they aren’t forced to perform their “services.”

Each of us needs to understand, and empathize, with the high cost paid by our service men, both the uniformed and the un-uniformed variety, because it brings a reality check for all parties involved.

This understanding and empathy tempers the expectations we place on our heroes, and it keep us from believing that “secret services” provided for Secret Servants is an acceptable privilege or mental health-care plan.

Whatever it is that causes a person to step in front of a bullet for someone else might actually cost them their life… and when it doesn’t, they deserve better rewards than self-medication and self-destructive behaviors.

Demonstrating, expecting, and then demanding this doesn’t just flow from the top down, it also grows from the bottom up doesn’t it?

Expecting a soldier, sailor, or a spy, to steer clear from vice while we self-medicate as the result of a broken family situation or lost wages is a level of hypocrisy that is unacceptable for humans regardless of patriotism or political affiliation.

I’d encourage each of us eager to take a shot at the U.S. Secret Service members accused of improprieties in South America to take a moment to examine ourselves before we begin throwing boulders at people in situations much more dangerous than our own…

Am I guilty of buying a handful of Scratch-It’s to make up for overspending on food?

Have I mistreated a friend because “I haven’t had my coffee yet?”

How many glasses of red wine do I need to “take the edge off” of a rough day at work?

Have I cheated on my wife because I thought I earned it?

Have I imagined doing it?

These “lesser medications” for “lesser stresses” are still the same kinds of offenses aren’t they?

Most of us aren’t actually facing the possibility of gunfire tomorrow are we?

Because of my humanity, I find that it’s easier to revel in the drama of someone else’s sins than to actually confront my own. I’d rather drink in the news reports of someone else’s wrong doing that take a moment of self-examination.

When I live selfishly I allow someone else’s sin to make me feel comfortable about my own, but when I live with the human cost of sin in mind, I allow God to “search me and see if there is any wicked way in me”.

One of these ways of living solves problems, while the other simply dramatizes and propogates them.

One is irresponsible.

One is heroic.

We may not all be capable of staring down a bullet for someone else’s benefit, but we are all capable of staring down ourselves…

…for everybody’s sake.

2 Responses to “It’s A Secret Service”

  1. Amanda April 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Well written and true. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sharon O April 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    So true, and so disappointing that ‘those’ who should protect were indulging in other ‘activities’ but as you say, are we any different? We would hope so but do we know that to be true?? Good thoughts.

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