What is the "Thin Blue Line"?

There are American flags with a blue line down the middle.  Or the flags of other nations modified to show the blue line.

City flags with blue lines down the middle.

T-shirts espousing that the blue line will be defended.

Spartan helmets and the infamous Punisher skull with a blue line on them.

When a cop is killed profile pictures change and a blue line runs across the photo.

So what is the "Thin Blue Line"?  Is it a symbol of white supremacy and an alt-right movement?  A symbol of a code of silence where a cop can get away with everything under the sun and never have anything happen to them because no other cop will say anything?

Or something more poetic.  Perhaps a recognition that police are the ones that figuratively, and at times literally, separate normal citizenry from the evil that lurks within their fellow man? 

As the idea that George Orwell so plainly put forth: people sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men and women stand ready to do violence on their behalf

Or the well pinned and plastered on shirts and mugs that the few naysayers need to be reminded that police are all that stand between the monsters and the weak.

Now before anyone gets their undies in a twist, but no means am I advocating for reckless and lawless violence perpetrated by police.  Or that the general public are frail and weak individuals, but that there is some sense of bravado and nobility that is required to be willing to hold a person as they receive news of the passing of a family member, to run into chaos and danger of an active shooter or violent fight, or to hold the hand of a brother or sister who has borne the badge of police work as they struggle to stay alive after being attacked.

Some say it's a code of silence.  That we cover for the wrong doings of other cops just because they are cops.  While an investigation or court case is happening people always ask their cop friends what do they think.  And when we remain silent or excuse ourselves from the conversation it immediately is because we support the cop in their wrong doing.  Or silence is consent that we agree; our silence is damning.

Yet we wear or bear the thin blue line as a sort of badge of honor.  It is a symbol of fraternity amongst each other.  We can meet any cop from any part of the world, shake a hand, and look each other in the eye and know. 

Know the pain of being underappreciated.
Know the fear of not making it home.
Know the apprehension of second guessing our every move.
Know the regret of having done what we could, but unable to save a life.
Know the unbelievable struggle of holding back our emotions as we witness a family lose their son or daughter to street violence.

We also know that the thin blue line is us.  It's the calling we fulfill everyday.  It is the long shift work hours, mandatory overtime, canceled days off, worked holidays, another missed dinner or birthday or anniversary.  It is 20 or 30 or 40 lbs of gear we wear daily that batters our body. 

It is the knowledge we carry the potential death sentence on our hips for our fellow man that batters our mind. 

It is looking across a sea of fellow officer's faces at another funeral for a fallen officer that we can see that pain, anger, sadness, or frustration buried beneath the stoic and expressionless faces as the bagpipes start their drone as the casket is carefully placed into the hearse that batters our heart.

The thin blue line is us giving the initial benefit of the doubt to our fellow officer that what they did is right.  And when we are made aware of the facts and evidence, we put our faith in the judicial system that proper judgement, and potential punishment, is executed.  Our silence or personal reclusion from a conversation of police misconduct is because our hope and prayer is that officer conducted themselves in the highest fashion and with a marked sense of nobility.  Because that is how we would carry ourselves.  Because that is our expectation of professionalism.

When we find out that those expectations weren't met.  That a fellow officer acted in opposition of what we believe, that thin blue line becomes sullied.  All of our badges, stars, and shields become tarnished.  We become the spokesperson for their misdeeds.

The thin blue line is both an honor and a burden.  It is what holds all officers together worldwide.  It allows us to be there for each other, to know the pain and challenges we all face.  That we freely admit we are not without our flaws as a profession and as individuals.

But it is also there for you, the citizenry we are sworn to protect; the laws we took an oath to uphold.  There will always be those who do accomplish unspeakable acts of savagery to their fellow human. Where life has no value and unjust acts are carried out with ease. 

It is the times when evil directs its gaze towards you that, when those flashing lights and wailing sirens arrive, when the men and women run directly at that evil and confront it without regards for their wellbeing, that the thin blue line is seen.  It is that thin blue line, represented by men and women of every nation, color, creed, and religion, that protects you. 

And it does so with no regards to what God or gods you worship or don't.  The color of your skin.  The nation you call home.

When you see a flag with a blue line running down or across it, perhaps don't look for what is wrong.  Look at who is holding it.  Judge their character as an individual called to carry that symbol with honor and nobility.  And when an officers fails, and there will always be cops that misrepresent and drag their fellow officers into the mud, again look at the individual officer standing before you, carrying that banner, and I'm guessing you'll find one who walks righteously along the thin blue line they so proudly represent.

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