I have long pondered how the deeply dedicated become “traitors” to the profession. How does one seemingly transition from such conviction? How does one defend what is “right” only to fight for what is “wrong”?
Time has a way of exposing reality to expectation. They juxtapose and contort. The scales can become a seesaw, shifting from one side to another. Reality is rich with nuances that expectations are not.
Time has a way of exposing the details, and with it, the Devil.
Reality has a way of exposing the violations of the oaths we all once believed infallible. Reality merges the once black and white into a confusing lens of grey. The oaths become more convoluted. What is “right” and “wrong” becomes twisted. The ends often clear and obtainable, but the means a tangled web. The violations of the oath, observed or lived, can shatter all we thought true.
In war, the oath becomes blood stained. “Prisoners” are killed before becoming a prisoner. Torture becomes a means in pursuit of the once clear end. Desecration of corpses becomes a tit for tat. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. The reality of war exposes one to the details, and with it, the Devil. It can turn one into a traitor of the profession. To fight against everything you once swore to uphold because what you swore to uphold became tarnished in its reality. It can also turn one into a traitor of those most loved in order to uphold the oath of the profession.
In law enforcement, the oath is tarnished. The Constitution is violated for a noble end. The humanity of the chronic stress and turbulence of society begin to weather the soul. Substance abuse becomes a means to cope with the ends. Every violation is excused by the noble ends of “justice.” The swaying scales of Lady Justice become hypnotic and tantalizing in their inconsistency. The reality of law enforcement exposes one to the details, and with it, the Devil. It can turn one into a traitor of the profession and become everything they once despised. It can also turn one into a traitor of the profession in order to fight for everything they swore to uphold.
Sometimes traitors are merely the most human of us all, willing to betray because they are tattered and torn. Sometimes traitors are the noblest of us all, willing to betray to uphold the oath. In the details, we must confront the Devil. We must then decide which oaths to uphold and violate and who we betray. Because in life, there are always conflicting oaths and allegiance.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.