BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The location is Thermopylae, the “hot gates,” a narrow pass between the Aegean Sea and central Greece. The year is 480 B.C. and a young King of Sparta, Leonidas I, saw the urgent need to protect his homeland against the onslaught of the Persian Army.
The heroic commitment of Leonidas is legendary. With 300 men, he held off for 10 grueling days a Persian military advance of a million men.
As a king, he was committed to the protection of the people. As a realist, he knew that this battle would be lost. As a visionary, he understood that his heroism and the bravery of his men would resonate with the residents of Sparta and scores of other Greek city-states, spurring them on to renewed patriotism and unity.
Unfortunately, the multitude of Persian archers darkened the sky with flying arrows and the Persians under the General Xerxes and his “10,000 Immortals” defeated the 300 brave Spartans. Before the battle had ended on Aug. 14, King Leonidas had sent a message to his subjects: “Go and Tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their laws.” The message when received ignited a vibrant and renewed spirit among the Greeks.
By sending this message to the citizens of Sparta and the other Greek city-states, Leonidas was informing the people of Greece that defending the law and protecting the rule of law was a quest that transcended self-interest.
I was reminded of the virtues of such personal integrity recently when visiting the Peace Officers’ Memorial at the state Capitol in Sacramento, CA. Just down the hall from the chambers of the California Assembly is a book that contains the names of every California peace officer who has lost their life in the line of duty, those whose lives have been sacrificed “in obedience” to the laws of the people.
The book contains many blank pages that will one day be filled.
I am reminded of the Oklahoma peace officers who have fallen “in obedience” to our laws while protecting the rule of law in our state. I am reminded that the shield shaped badge that the Oklahoma peace officer wears protects us just like the shield of the Spartans protected the Greeks.
To defend the peoples’ law requires a commitment that all expect, but only a few will make.
As a state representative, the responsibility of passing legislation worthy of protection is sobering. The legislative process is neither a game nor folly. The men and women of Oklahoma who wear a badge and enforce our laws deserve much more than our accolades.
Whether they are members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, a state agency, a county sheriff’s department or a municipal police department, they deserve our respect, our constant and continuing thanks and compensation in such an amount that they will be able to provide for their spouse and children without having to rely on food stamps, government programs or private charity.
These men and women and their families face the unthinkable every single time they go to work. We do not need another study to know that their pay is well below private sector pay and well below the pay scale in surrounding states. They deserve more than the empty promises and petty politics received by the OHP during the last legislative session.
Not only do our law enforcement officers share the integrity of Leonidas, they also share his understanding of the reality of their situation. Leonidas’ wife constantly worried about the day that he would meet death while protecting the people of Sparta. When she wondered aloud about what she would do when he failed to return, Leonidas replied, “Marry a good man who will treat you well, bear him children, and live a good life.”
That “wing and a prayer” is little consolation for the service and sacrifice of Oklahoma lawmen who place obedience to the law above their self-interest.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives