I’ve had so many thoughts racing through my head about how to approach this topic. This has been a weight on my chest for weeks. As many of you know, I got involved with the stuff going on at Fort Rucker with the students training to be pilots, and I got emotional about it. Without delving too far into what was taking place (feel free to comb through my Instagram over the last month to find out if you so desire), students were being punished for outlandish things, the different echelons of command all the way up to the commanding general were not being consistent with orders given and the consequences of breaking those orders, and I felt it on a personal level. I started thinking about the military world we live in and the lack of oversight beyond the four walls we live in. I thought about the hundreds of examples I’ve personally witnessed in my career regarding those in authority; the lack of justice given to an individual and their inability to do anything about it at all. They’re often forced to accept whatever decision and judgment is handed out without appeal or proper defense. I dwelled on the idea of people abusing the power given to them, and it sank into my soul, causing me to brood on it for days.
George Floyd. Now that’s a name everyone knows by now. George Floyd was a man who was caught on film as he pleaded with the detaining police that he couldn’t breathe. It was a horrifying video. I was enraged. The idea that a man was murdered by the law, in cold blood on the streets while a crowd watched, tore violently at my sensibilities as a human being. The country erupted and fell into a state of upheaval because of it. There are so many opinions regarding the use of force, racial relations, and even who George Floyd was, himself. The pundits and politicians have leveraged every ounce of this issue to tack on their own personal agendas, and there is chaos on the streets. I knew from the start that celebrities and every voice on the news would talk about the skin color of the men involved. You see, the cop who put his knee into Floyd’s neck was white. George Floyd was black. I was well aware how this would play out. I only thought of one issue though; abuse of power.
How did we get here? Have we always been here? Has it always been this way in America, where a man could be executed in plain sight by the law, the government, and we were just forced to accept it? Had my “white privilege” (I hate even using that term) been so ingrained that I had simply ignored the news around me for so long? Obviously I don’t think America is the same everywhere. This country is massive, it contains every walk of life which brings its own unique flavor of culture from around the world, and people are a product of the environment they grow up in. We are also living in a world of incredibly fast moving information. An event can happen in Tokyo and be front page news in the US in minutes. There have been a number of events, similar to this, that have incensed us to our core over the years. However, there seemed to be extenuating circumstances that allowed arguments on all sides of the fence to be heard each time something took place. “A video was shot from a distance and I can’t really make it out, the man resisted and was shot because the police feared for their lives, the man was a violent criminal and was coming after the cops,” or whatever the case may be. This time around, there is nothing. There is nothing but injustice. Was George Floyd a criminal? He was. He was a matter of fact, violent felon. I can tell you none of that matters though. He was in police custody, they were charged with his care at that point, and they killed him without so much as a thought to the life draining out of him. I believe the abuses of this one cop had been overlooked for so long (he had a very long list of grievances and violations), that he felt he was above the law. That’s when I started to dwell on the system we live in where people’s constitutional rights can be violated with impunity, regardless of their skin color, and we’re left with almost no recourse.
When I raised my right hand, I swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I didn’t swear to protect the people. I didn’t swear to be a moral or righteous man. Those are things expected of us as soldiers, officers, but it was not an oath. I hear regularly that “we gave up our rights when we joined.” I’ve often said those same things. To a small degree, we lost some of the rights we had as civilians due to the fact we have to obey the orders of those appointed over us. I will deny right here and now that we lost our constitutional rights, however. We are afforded the same due process as everyone else. When we aren’t, as has been the case so many times, it is the duty of everyone in uniform to cry out so that the voice of one can be heard. The officers appointed over us have a responsibility to judicially carry out their duties and make prudent and wise choices in concert with the weight of their rank. They are given more, therefore more is expected. This same principal applies to our civilian authorities as well. That badge, that gavel, that seat you were elected by the people to sit in, does not place you above the law. It does not give you the blanket authority to do whatever you want. Because more has been given to you, MORE WILL BE EXPECTED! Going back to our duty in uniform, we have an obligation to uphold the constitution because we swore to defend it under oath. When ANYONE is denied due process, or any other right given them under the founding principles of this land, it is our DUTY to fight back against those violators, to demand justice, and to speak out with any means necessary to correct these violations. If we hold our tongues and say nothing, because “it didn’t happen to me, I don’t want to rock the boat, or I may get in trouble,” then we have not upheld our oaths. We have forsaken our integrity and honor for mild comforts that may, or may not, be around tomorrow. Martin Luther King so famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If you took an oath, hold fast to that oath, stand up for those whose liberties have been violated, and be a voice for those who have none.