As law enforcement officers we have faced or will face nearly every kind of bizarre and dangerous situation that the human mind can conjure up.
Yet in most of those scenarios, be it through training or reflex or plain common sense, we figure out a way to come out on top and usually without having to hurt anyone.
As we get deeper into our careers, we often realize that navigating department or union politics, or figuring out how to do your job with more restrictions and less support, stricter regulations and the danger of video being taken out of context can be just as harrowing as facing down a criminal.
But what we all should be concerned with today, whether we have 30 years in or got our badge pinned yesterday, is that fact that you can now be branded a racist/sexist/misogynist simply for having a different political perspective as your neighbor.
It’s the first time in my life that I can remember actually having to fear for your safety in many large American cities if you publicly express support for a sitting president or political party. And whether you lean right or left, that should trouble you.
This is the first time that major colleges and universities silence speech of students and guest speakers if it doesn’t fit the “group-think” narrative that is well established in academia.
We have entered an era where those who watch or do business with the largest cable news network in the nation are branded as “white-nationalists” simply for their choice of media outlet.
What I find most disconcerting is that these slanderous op-ed pieces, social media posts and dissertations are not coming from a fringe element of society. They are coming from individuals who have served in the highest levels of government or from those who are seeking positions in the highest offices in the country.
Here’s the reality: When towers fell in Manhattan in 2001, those who rushed in didn’t look to save only those who looked like them or agreed with them politically.
When a crowd in Dallas came under fire during a “Black Lives Matter” rally, officers of every color and demographic rushed to danger to protect those protesters. Five of them gave their lives in that effort (9 others were injured).
And more recently in El Paso and Dayton, officers who were white, black, and Hispanic all ran to the sound of gunfire. I think it’s safe to say that in that group of first responders there were Republicans and there were Democrats.
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Some may agree with what comes out of the White House these days and others may be fans of the last presidential administration. But in all likelihood, among these police officers, firemen and EMTs who never hesitate to do what is needed, you will find very few (if any) racists.
You probably won’t find any burning hatred for those who watch a different news station. While some may disagree on the issues, it’s unlikely you will discover any deep seeded rancor of those they are sworn to serve.
In fact, many thought provoking and mind broadening conversations have happened between partners in the front seat of a police car or ambulance and the inside of a fire station. We tend to, by our very nature be problem solvers and we know that often means finding common ground.
And that is the very thing that make today’s environment which attempts to poison the character of anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly buy in to what a political ideology is selling all that more concerning. Don’t agree with me on (insert volatile political topic here)? Using facts and reason are what will win the day, not a constant barrage of insults and character assassinations.
While I have solid beliefs on what I think are the best ways to see our nation succeed, I have friends from both sides of the political spectrum. We have had persuasive discussions that sometimes have led to us not being able to move the other from their entrenched position on a topic. We don’t yell at each other; we don’t degrade each other. But occasionally we make the other think outside their comfort zones.
I adhere to the belief that most of us do, and that is when we are working the public shouldn’t even be able to tell what our politics are. In the overwhelming majority of cases they don’t. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have them, and just because they do not align with the politician that is in favor with the media, doesn’t make us vile, evil or racist.
So tomorrow while police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and members of our military go about their duties of working to improve their communities and to keep our nation safe from various threats, stop trying to use innuendo and erroneous double-talk to malign a whole sub-set of society who continue to prove that even under the most difficult of conditions they will put the public safety before their own.
Not only is it unbecoming and disingenuous, it shows the world you have nothing of value to bring to the table.