Don’t Betray Yourself

There is such truth in John Fowles’ words that they stuck in my head all week haunting me. Don’t betray yourself. Have the courage to do good in the face of fear.

This is what drove me out of law enforcement. Day in and day out I was faced with people betraying themselves and choosing to do the easy thing. I was exhausted. It was destroying my soul. To be hated, to give so much of yourself time and again, to be spit on, lied to, attacked, all while seeing no change for the better is beyond demoralizing. It robs you of your connection to humanity.

I abandoned my brothers and sisters in blue and took up teaching. I was not the only cop to leave. Steve moved to Hawaii and became a photographer after holding a dead baby while waiting for paramedics to arrive. The child’s mother shook her to death. Cory arrested a church official for drunk driving and got kicked out of his church. Terry shot and killed a man. It was justified, but he couldn’t deal with having to take a life. Shannon fell on the ice and got a brain bleed. Scott was just too soft hearted. Every shift ate away at him until he was merely a uniform hung loosely upon a hook.

I thought that teaching would be easier and less destructive. I was wrong. How can I engage my students and make them care about Beowulf or Shakespeare when half of them don’t have enough to eat or are living on the streets? How do I get them to focus on school when their minds are in dark places, consumed by the sickness they were born into? I tell them I love them every day. If they take nothing else from my class, hopefully, it is the realization that there is at least one person who cares about what happens to them. If I might be greedy and ask for two things, they will also come away from my class with an appreciation for Eliot. Never before has he been so relevant. We are raising a generation of hollow men.

    We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Read the rest of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men here: