You aren't just what you think you are

@History in Pictures is a great twitter feed that mines photo archives for stunning moments from the past - some grandiose, some intimate, some curious, some utterly bizarre. Just one example:

There are many different ways to unpack and interpret this image, some of them outside my experience and understanding. Certainly, there are some who would pose the question - why protect an avowed racist from the impact of his beliefs? Why should he receive governmental protection that is less commonly afforded to those he vilifies and would gladly oppress? On the other hand, if we aren't willing protect the rights of all citizens, who decides whose freedoms will be protected, and whose will be ignored?

Looking at this image, though, I mostly feel sympathy for the police officer. Although my job is wildly different from law enforcement, I also wear a uniform, and I'm often perceived foremost as my role, not as a man who will go home at the end of my shift.

That's not such a bad thing. People who call me should be able to count on me to fulfill the duties of my role. They shouldn't have to negotiate with a fallible man, and potentially face criticism if I disapprove of their decisions or lifestyle. The uniform should represent something reliable, fixed, steadfast. 

My uniform provides a benefit to me as well. Although I'm not a wild fan of the superhero genre, I understand on a visceral level why we envision them wearing costumes. My uniform is protective - it shields my psyche from what I see on the job, In theory, it's something I can remove when I return to my everyday life. 

I've been in situations, like this officer, in which I do what I'm there to do, regardless of my opinions. I treat all patients, regardless of who they are or what they've done. I do my job, because in certain moments, my job is actually more important than I am. It outranks me, my personal preferences, and my opinions, because someone has to do it, and on that particular day, I happen to be the one. 

Maybe your job isn't your job, but I'd be willing to bet you've got work to do out there, things that are bigger than you and me.