I never thought I would ever like a show like The Walking Dead. One day I decided to watch the first episode which led me to watch the second one. Next thing I knew, I had completed all the seasons that Netflix had posted and was looking forward to the new season. I guess that means I am officially hooked.
I must admit that it’s kind of gory. It’s not a pleasant sight watching the survivors driving a knife or sword or any other object through the head of a Zombie. It’s even worse when the survivors have to resort to other methods such as chopping the heads off or stomping their heads until they split open like a melon.
The more I watch the show I have come to the realization that the problem is not the zombies, also known as the “Walkers” or the “Biters”. As much as they do pose numerous problems and challenges, the zombies are not the real problem.
The real problem and challenge facing the survivors is the survivors.
In the beginning of the series the issue of trust is a real challenge. You really don’t know who you can trust, even within those who are part of your group. There are always one or two individuals who want to be in charge and be the one who calls the shots. It gets so bad that you don’t dare turn your back on anyone and you sleep with one eye open.
So you have all the ingredients of a dysfunctional, disgruntled and divided group of people. You have lying, betrayal, conspiracy, backstabbing, lack of communication, second guessing decisions and all the other kind group dynamics that usually lead to the crumbling of the infrastructure of the group. All this makes it impossible to effectively fight the ones who pose a danger to the survival of the group.
The more I watch this show the more I can’t help but see how it reflects some of the very problems we have to deal with. Many times the problem is not with the bad guys as much as it is with those of us who are supposed to be catching the bad guys. We are very often our own worst enemy.
There will always be internal conflict within the rank and file of any organization. We will not always agree with each other and there will be times when somebody is going to make someone else madder than a wet hen, which, by the way, makes me wonder how mad a wet hen really gets. Decisions made by the “powers that be” will very often be met with stiff disagreement. There will be times your partner will say something or do something that is downright offensive. Somebody is going to get a promotion that others think they are deserving of.
I can guarantee that there will be seasons of discord within any community, agency or any other context where there are people. You can count on it. The thing we need to do is to not allow any of those things drive a wedge between us.
One of the most serious of all these negative group dynamics is the lack of trust. There is a popular saying among law enforcement that goes something like this: “In God we trust. All others we run through NCIC (National Crime Information Center).” Of course this applies to those who are on the other side of law enforcement. As law enforcement officers we are trained to be careful how we trust and believe what the criminal says. The problem is when that kind of distrust becomes a dynamic among those of us who are dealing with those we should not trust.
I remember back several years ago I was executing a search warrant on a residence in another city. This required me having to go to that particular jurisdiction to obtain the search warrant and then, with the help of that local agency, served the search warrant at the house where there was probable cause to believe that the crime of financial transaction card fraud was being committed. As I made contact with the home owner, who was the mother of the individual that was under suspicion, I found her to be resentfully cooperative. The search warrant gave me that authority to seize any kind of electronic device that was capable of ordering any kind of merchandise with the use of a financial transaction card number. A couple of the items that were seized were a laptop and a blackberry phone, both of which belonged to the homeowner. As I was trying to be diplomatic with the lady and tell her how I understood why she was upset she told me that her trust factor of the police sucked. I kindly told her that I had the same kind of trust factor toward those I had to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t think I will ever forget that statement.
Trust is a very tricky and costly thing. It can be easily broken and sometimes it is irreparable. It can be broken in a matter of minutes and may take a lifetime to be fixed and even then it may never be what it once was. And the fact that we are to trust one another who, by the way, are capable of lying, betrayal, backstabbing and all kinds of behaviors that tend to ruin the trust we are to have for one another, it is almost a “Catch 22.” But if we were to get to that point where we have a good and healthy trust of one another in this field of work where the trust factor is kind of low, we might just make some ground. And it has to go deeper that just trusting your colleague to have your back in a life and death situation which is sometimes the only kind of trust we can muster up.
There is too much at stake for us to allow anything to cause us to become so dysfunctional that we are not able to accomplish our mission – whatever that mission is. There is too much at stake for us to be griping and complaining about everything we don’t agree with because fact is we cannot all have our way about everything.
This is not the time to be throwing tantrums because things are not the way we want them to be. We need to stop focusing on the things that are “wrong” within the organization and start focusing on what we are all about. We need to put aside our attitudes and whatever else it is that is keeping us from doing what needs to be done. This is not the time to be pulling rank or position or having an attitude that says, “Well that’s not my immediate responsibility or what I have been trained to do.”
We are already outnumbered by the bad guys, which is now beginning to include many citizens who are questioning everything we are doing. We are under fire and being scrutinized like never before. We cannot afford to entertain the very things that will destroy us.
And let me say this about something else that has the potential of bringing us down – which is another pet peeve of mine and something of which I have commented on before. Politics. Politics will always be an issue which means there will always be someone who makes a decision that we do not agree with and, quite frankly, ones that are downright wrong. It’s always been that way and probably always will be. Those who make such decisions will have to answer for what they have done but that does not diminish the responsibility we have to do what we know is the right thing. At least we can say that we did what we was right.
Let me take you back to that scripture in the book of Romans where the Apostle Paul writes, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
We often look at these verses and think about how we are part of that system of authority and that the citizens of our communities are to submit to our God given authority. In reality, those of us who are part of that God given system of authority also have a responsibility to submit to those who are over us. It might not be the easy way but it is the right way. And if we would do things the right way, we might just be able to contend with the zombies without being concerned about who might be moving up the food chain faster than we are.
So let’s take a Lesson from the Walking Dead. Let’s not let them get the best of us so that we can give our best to one another and to the fight we are in.
Sergeant David Underwood is a 12 year veteran of the Moultrie (GA) Police Department. He currently serves as the department’s evidence custodian, crime scene technician, general instructor and department chaplain. Prior to law enforcement, he was a pastor for two decades.