In the 19 years since 9/11, Police Officers have gone from being celebrated as heroes, to villainized as domestic enemies.
Where once the sound of applause greeted an Officer in blue, now they are met with an array of attacks from bullets, spit, blinding lasers, frozen water bottles, and even Malatov cocktails, not to mention obscenities of all kinds.
It was the slightest of shifts at first. Slowly, we began to forget about the stories of heroism and sacrifice. Gradually, the notion that over 697,000 human beings who are Police Officers in the United States (Statista.com 2019 stats ) must somehow be infallible began to rise. Then one instance of a Police Officer abusing his power appeared on social media. Then another. Each time one Officer out of the hundreds of thousands who served committed a criminal offense, the entire police force was held accountable. A cry for an end to police brutality became louder, until it exploded with the horrific video of George Floyd dying while forcefully restrained by a Police Officer.
For a few moments the entire country stood together on this. Conversations about racism and police reform began to be held. Americans united to condemn this abuse of power and awaited justice together.
But this occurred in an election year, as one party desperately attempts to overthrow another. One of those parties pounced on this tragedy, sacrificing unity and positive change on the altar of power. The result was coordinated assaults on Police Officers, entire blocks of once-peaceful cities being overtaken by armed anarchists, the random destruction of businesses in the name of Black Lives Matter – even if those businesses were owned by Black Americans.
Social media became a bloodbath of its own, with anyone who refused to recite specified slogans being labeled racists or mocked for their white privilege.
In short, all hell broke loose, and much of it rained down on the honorable men and women who serve as Police Officers.
Americans forgot that underneath the badge is a human being with frailties and fears and families of their own. They dismissed the notion that the actions of one segment of the Police force who abuse their power is vastly outnumbered by the massive segment of the Police force who wants nothing more than to rid the uniform of those who dishonor it and who use it as an outlet to take their racism to extremes.
Politicians and policy makers publicly denounced the police and joined in support of defunding them.
Hundreds of Police Officers resigned. Children of Police Officers sought were threatened. “Protestors” shined lasers at Police Officers, blinding some of them, with impunity. Police Officers who showed up to serve and protect were shot, assaulted, and demonized – again, with impunity.
The dehumanization of Police Officers, the unjust attacks on men and women whose only crime was to step forward to serve their communities, felt like deja vu as history repeated itself.
It wasn’t that long ago that Americans stooped to similar although less lethal lows, when Vietnam Veterans who were lucky enough to live through their deployments were also villainized. There was no hero’s welcome for them. They were often spat at, called Baby Killers, and rejected from professional paths because of their service. The discrimination and hatred for them was viewed as an acceptable outlet for Americans to express their rage and frustration with our government.
Vietnam veterans had every right to turn their backs on the country that turned its back on them. Instead, for decades, many have stepped forward time and again to become leaders in their communities and to support others. They are determined to make sure no veteran or military family experiences what they did, and they make it their mission to take care of one another as well.
So it was no surprise to us that many Vietnam veterans resonate with the struggles Police Officers face today.
Seeing the unjust attacks on those who serve honorably, being validated as acceptable outlets to express rage over crimes committed by others, doesn’t sit well with them
We gathered groups of these veterans together to get their thoughts on what Police Officers are experiencing, and their words of advice. Watch this video to hear what they had to say.