City The Absolute Lord
This is the site of a recent death.
On August 12, Officer Joselito Barber was brutally undone here, 23rd and Yesler, by a Yukon that charged through a red light and smashed his patrol car, and himself, into nothing. The shrine that has since grown at this site of tragedy contains pictures of youthful Barber by himself and with his youthful wife, a cross with handcuffs and a badge on it, flowers of every type, various toys, flags, condolence cards, and other thoughtful items. In shifts, one or two cop cars park next to the ad-hoc shrine and observe it with activated emergency lights. On Sunday, a group of people gathered in the bus shelter and prayed for the thing they believed continued without Barber’s body, his soul. The worshippers formed a primitive circle, closed their eyes tightly, bowed their heads as if before a brilliant king, and whispered words of worship to this invisible king. The sun was strong that day.
Let’s now get to the root of all this sympathy, loyalty, and open display of communal sorrow. This particular death is powerful for three reasons, all of which correspond with three ideological categories that dominate the American mind: one, Barber died young; two, Barber died while doing his job; three, Barber was a pure victim.
The pure victim line leads to the American belief that there are in life situations that really don’t have a political, racial, or personal agenda. Each of these final situations is made up of a clear good and a clear bad. And a practical mind can see the practical truth. The woman in the Yukon is pure wrong and Barber in the cop car is pure right. As for Barber dying while doing his job, this has two components: one, the American ethic of working, of paying your bills, of buying property, of being productive; and two, because police work is also war work—a war against crime, a war against drugs, a war against public disorder—Barber died in the line of duty (this connects a patriotic connotation to the connotation of being an industrious member of society). Finally, Barber died at the physical peak of life. The beastly drug addict, that zero of a human being, robbed him of the best experience that the body itself has to offer. After your 20s, it’s a matter of increasing muscle aches, bone pains, and poor performance. Americans worship youth.