Friday, February 22, 2008

Ruminating on the memory of Steve Cox

It’s been over a year since Deputy Sheriff Steve Cox was gunned down while investigating a shooting in White Center. For the White Center neighborhood the trauma refuses to abate. There is a dull pain that will not go away. I feel it and I know others do as well. Steve’s absence is like a missing limb –you feel its presence but when you go to use it, you find that it is gone. We keep waiting for Steve to swing around the corner in his cruiser and check in, like he used to and announce, “how are things goin’ here?” But there is no cruiser and there is no Steve Cox. There’s just his absence and that hollow pain.

I see Steve’s mother around the neighborhood. She still wears the grief that she clearly feels. I cannot imagine the pain a mother must feel burying her son. I wonder if the pain ever ceases.

Steve’s widow has sued Washington State for contributing to Steve’s death by failing to monitor the punk who killed him. The lavish funeral and the hero’s wake do not still the rancor that remains. And we, the survivors, are left to sort out Steve’s legacy.

Who speaks for the dead?

As I write this piece, various groups and individuals assert their entitlement to bear Steve Cox’s legacy. A memorial committee labors on but is deeply divided over issues both symbolic and trivial. To whom should we defer? Steve’s widow, Maria? Steve’s mother, Joan? Steve’s brother, Ron? Steve’s fellow deputies? Or the community that Steve served? Who should have greater say? Who loved him more and who is best suited to honor his memory. Antipathy grows.

White Center is today a divided community. The encomiums to Steve Cox’s legacy have exposed simmering rifts. Annexation becomes a flash point. Pro-Burien folks challenge the legitimacy of the pro-Seattle folks. Old timers challenge the legitimacy of newer arrivals. Other rifts are exposed: those between business owners and home owners; between black and white, immigrants and non-immigrants, professionals and craft-workers, Latinos and non-Latino, etc.

Ironically, the mass held on the anniversary of Steve’s death drew only a handful of people. Unlike the public ceremony following Steve’s death, at the mass there was no governor, no police chief, and no mayor in attendance at this mass. There were a few law enforcement colleagues and a few community members, but that was it. For some people, it seems that the time to honor the man, Steve Cox, has passed. What remains is the fight over his legacy, and for that we need no encomiums. So the battle begins.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Appreciation sets in while reading your thoughts and perception regarding a man and his legacy. Time spent spinning to sort it all out musters a sense of you deeply being touched by him and his presence. The pain you speak of is still there in the Center and will subside when he is left alone to rest in peace, when individuals realize and come to grasp that no one person is entitled to bear this man’s legacy. When indeed, no one speaks in vain of such claims and when no one commits acts in vain of such claims in his name.

There is nothing to sort out, and in each relationship and friendship carried out by this man through out his actions through life, he touched each individual differently. You can hear it everywhere you turn and by truly listening you can hear his legacy, a legacy that he created by his actions and words, perhaps a very simple legacy with in a complicated world.

No one can bear a sole right you speak of to any one human’s honor in memory of. It is only perceptions of one’s feelings and ideas of and for one’s own comfort of expression in their thoughts and visions surrounding a man’s life legacy after death; perhaps it even validates the feelings of such significant loss. Humans are not commodities even after their expired life and no one can speak for the dead, it is not their right.

All people touched by his life have had and still have opportunity of expression about what he meant to them, this is how a man’s legacy lives on. He was liked, loved, and hated from all different perspectives and there is no measuring tool to weigh any of this.

Honoring the deceased is a ceremonial ritual, not celebrating their death, but celebrating their life. No one has the right to dictate to another, a time to honor a man, a way in which they should honor a man, or that they should at all. It is a private quest within your conscious based on your own beliefs and this can not be measured either.

Why was this man a hero?