Elvis had a tremendous respect for law enforcement. I highly doubt he collected badges for the sake of collecting. It ran much deeper than flashy material objects to polish and shine and ooh over and display. He had more than enough jewelry to cover that if that were the case. It was the representation the badges carried.
From his 1971 Jaycee speech where he speaks of being a dreamer, he also mentions heroics. Little boys need heroes. They need men who model bravery and ideals, men whom they can applaud and hold in high regard and look up to with appropriate hero worship – men of an impeccable moral compass. Little boys look to bravery as they are learning to navigate the world around them. Police officers, firefighters, soldiers, astronauts are common career goals of many little boys (and girls). Elvis was likely no different.
When my now 20 something boys were little, all wanted to be a “police.” They played with their Fisher Price Rescue Heroes figures and Jake Justice on his blue motorcycle was a favorite, followed closely by Billy Blazes with his red firetruck. As they got a little older and moved from figures to pretend play, many hours were spent as Walker and Trivette and they were cowboy hat wearing, gun totin’ Texas Rangers chasing and outsmarting the bad guys. I was one of those moms who only allowed toy guns if they didn’t look like real guns so they’d run around with their bright purple and neon green firearms on the lookout for criminals and injustice in our backyard.
In my father’s generation, his heroes were cowboy stars on the trail of the outlaws. Fist fights didn’t show cuts and bruises and gun shots never bled on that black and white silver screen. In my generation, from what I recall, most of the boys played with GI Joe’s or little green army men setting up battles and assigning strategies to siege the unseen enemy.
“I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie.”
Elvis saw law enforcement as heroes. It didn’t matter what he had accomplished career wise, this was different. This wasn’t a respect for what they did, such as entertainers’ and actors’ abilities, but rather respect for who the these men and women were. It equaled character with a reverence for their ideals.
Where have all our heroes gone?
Just as Elvis believed, I also believe they’re still around, just sometimes hidden in plain sight. For every bad deed, there are a thousand good and heroic ones. For every wrong show of force, there are countless appropriate ones. Those aren’t as news worthy.
I also have no doubt, voicing my opinion, that our guy who valued and looked up to those who upheld the law, would have little tolerance for those abusing their positions. He certainly didn’t tolerate such abuse from those around him. He took time to always listen and respect. It showed in his relationship with his contemporaries and his fans.
I grew up in Houston in the 60’s and 70’s. Areas of the city were well separated by general knowledge although not officially. When my father opened his wallet, there was a Harris County Deputy badge front and center although he wasn’t paid law enforcement. His work took him to some of the poorest and roughest areas of town, both day and night. As far as I know, he never faced any issues. Yes, he had the badge, but more importantly, he carried a mutual respect for the people. They all knew him and he took the time to know them. Mutual respect makes all the difference. Being heard makes all the difference. Listening matters greatly.
Like in his speech, Elvis looked to who the heroes were and what the heroes represented within rather than what they did. Anyone can put on a uniform but not all are qualified to wear it. Those qualifications were the mainstay. Elvis Presley stood for the little guy, the underdog, and he used his wealth and generosity to assist many in that position, more often than not, without show. It was his way of playing cop and being the hero, the best way he knew how. It showed his character.
“When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer.
I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.
These gentlemen over there, these are the type who care, are dedicated.
You realize if it’s not possible that they might be building the kingdom,
It’s not far-fetched from reality.
I’d like to say that I learned very early in life that:
‘Without a song the day would never end
Without a song a man ain’t got a friend
Without a song the road would never bend
Without a song…‘
So I keep singing the song
Krista read this article aloud for the facebook group Elvis: A Celebration of the Man and his Music