March 26, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 13

Dr. Wes

The Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial, like a St. Christopher statue, symbolizes safety

By Dr. Wes Browning

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I live comfortably with my mind. I’m proud of that; it’s tricky business. It’s like living in a studio apartment as a dozen loose cobras and one busy mongoose. Not living with those creatures, but as them.

I manage just fine. Part of the trick is, I don’t identify entirely with the mongoose. I mean, I’m the loose snakes, too. All of us, inside my head, have our role to play in the grand scheme of me.

Yesterday, I was cooking a big pan of meat, which I would eat. I planned to eat the meat on bread with mayonnaise. I only needed it cooked first, in order to carry out my plan. I peppered it. Then I reached for the salt. The salt was not where it should be. For two minutes I screamed. The mongoose in me screamed and shrieked. Where’s my salt? Then, a calm came over me. I became the missing salt, safe in my hiding place from the wild screaming man. A hiding place so good, even I didn’t know where I was.

Then, the wild screaming man found me on the other side of the counter, and we reconciled.

What I’m saying is, life’s frustrations don’t make me crazy. Nobody and nothing is ever going to make me crazy. I already am crazy. I got crazy down.

The word “chill” does not refer to a real condition to me. It’s a move in a game. Simon says chill, so I pretend to chill. I know what it looks like, at least.

So I’m awestruck when other people can maintain equanimity in any and every situation. I wonder where the other parts of their minds are locked up. They must keep the screaming man locked in a closet in the basement of their mind, bound in duct tape.

I’ve been trying to figure out the incident that occurred earlier this week at the Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial in Occidental Park. Piecing the accounts together, it seems to have gone like this:

Some people, according to news reports, objected to a homeless man sleeping at the memorial, so they kicked him and stomped on him. Then, they took a cane away from another man and hit that man repeatedly with his own cane. Then, the assailants went to a nearby bar to call the police and lied, saying they were the ones assaulted, even though the attack occurred in broad daylight in front of multiple witnesses.

Presumably the thinking was, they had attacked homeless people, so if they reported that the homeless people attacked them instead, their lies would be believed. Because homeless people are always in the wrong, no matter how many witnesses there are.

But that’s not the part that gets me. The part that gets me is that, having called the police to offer their lie up, the assailants allegedly went back to Occidental Park to try to beat up on homeless people some more, and it was then, and only then, that one of them got stabbed by a man defending himself.

Who waits ’till he’s been attacked three times before defending himself?

Welcome to Seattle, where even our homeless people being attacked are laid-back, at least the first couple of times.

I have just one other general comment. The whole thing apparently began with the idea that the homeless people were “desecrating” the memorial and somehow dishonoring firefighters by sleeping there.

The truth is, sleeping out in public areas downtown is very risky and makes you subject to attack all the time. So there is a natural impulse to pick a place where you are surrounded by people who might serve as witnesses. And it’s also natural to choose to be near symbols of safety. Firefighters protect people, so they are symbols of safety. The memorial is the urban secular equivalent of a St. Christopher statue.

The people sleeping weren’t dishonoring firefighters, they were honoring them, by imagining them as protectors, if only unconsciously.

The notion that they were dishonoring the memorial can only be accounted for by hatred.



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