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INDIANAPOLIS — On a cloudy Thursday, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Indy Public Safety Foundation’s Melissa Proffitt Reese and I sat in a radio studio and talked about police staffing.
Because the conversation was about law enforcement funding, we talked a lot about budgets, about spending and about taxes. That’s what we do in this tax-conscious time.
A few hours after we went off the air, Indianapolis police officer Rod Bradway got shot after he kicked in the door of an apartment where a woman and a child had been held at gunpoint for three hours. Bradway returned fire and wounded the man who shot him. Another police officer killed the man in a further exchange of shots.
Emergency personnel transported Bradway to Wishard Hospital, but he died there soon after arriving.
And a cloudy night turned a lot gloomier.
Bradway kicked down the door and took the bullet that killed him because a woman had called for help. He tried to help her.
That’s what police officers do. When we complain about government these days, we often talk as if it were something separate from us. We speak of it as if it were some alien entity divorced from our neighborhoods, our communities, our lives. We seem to think of government as something other than us. It isn’t.
Rod Bradway was a police officer, which made him a government employee. His salary, his pension and his other benefits all came from our taxes.
It’s hard to argue now that we’re the ones who got the worst end of that deal.
In all other ways, Bradway was just like a lot of other Hoosiers, a lot of other Americans. He came from a small town in northern Indiana, Nappanee. In some ways, he was better than a lot of us. He was a decorated police officer who had been awarded the Medal for Bravery just last year.
He was a husband, a father, a friend and a neighbor. He leaves behind a grieving wife, two grieving children, grieving friends, grieving neighbors, grieving colleagues and a grieving community.
He was one of us, and he died trying to help another one of us.
I understand why people get so anxious about taxes and government spending. I like to hold onto my money just as much as the next person does.
But I often am mystified by the anger — even rage — that otherwise reasonable people can summon up when they start talking about government and taxes. They talk about it as if it were something impersonal, something inhuman, something that cannot be hurt.
It’s not. At every level, our government is made up of people. Some of them may be cynical, insensitive or corrupt, but most of them just want to do a good job. Most of them just want to help people.
Among them are the people who teach our children, the people who clean our streets, the people who put out our fires, the people who tend to our wounded veterans ….
And the people, like Rod Bradway, who try to protect us when we’re hurt, threatened or just plain scared.
That’s why I’ve grown tired — very tired — of the presumption that any tax increase has to be an evil thing. There are many, many things on which I want to drive hard bargains and get as cheap as I can.
But not all things. Like most Americans and most Hoosiers, I want the people who take care of what matters most to me — my family, my friends, my neighbors — to be well-paid. I want the best for the people who do that work, because I want the best for the people I love.
If that means that I have to pay more in taxes to see that someone like Rod Bradway earns a decent living for doing a difficult and dangerous job, so be it. And if it means that I have to pay still more in taxes to see that his widow and his orphans are well cared for, I’m fine with that, too.
Others can continue to rage and complain about government and taxes and disparage government employees if they wish. It’s a free country.
But I’m going to continue to remember that, in this country, the government is made up of people like us — people who work hard and give the rest of us an awful lot.
Some of them, like Rod Bradway, give us everything they have.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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