Today the word “hero” is overused. Heroes do exist, but not everyone who does a good, brave thing is a hero, according to my definition. A hero should be someone extraordinary, so that the phrase “everyday heroes” is an oxymoron. To call thousands of people heroes debases the term. In ancient literature heroes were often divine, godlike figures.
In a few days American police have ceased to be heroes helping other types of first responders with the Covid-19 crisis while protecting society from violent crimes. Instead, they have become murderous villians, who kill without compunction. It reminds me, as a Vietnam veteran, of how attitudes toward veterans have changed over the years. When we came back from Vietnam, we were definitely not heroes. We were called war criminals, baby killers, and other horrible things. I don’t know of any Vietnam veterans who were actually spit upon, but that was a common way of describing how they felt when they returned.
Until recently, veterans were looked upon as good people who were protecting the nation and should be thanked for doing so. They may be losing some of this luster as a result of Trump’s calls for them to control domestic demonstrations for the rights of blacks. Attitudes change rapidly in these days where good and bad are defined by social media.
Most police are good people trying to do their job of maintaining a peaceful society, although there are clearly some bad apples. Today social media is focusing on the bad apples, and all police are tarred with their failures. Police have become an object of hatred by the black community. Blacks are stopped more often than whites, perhaps treated more roughly than whites, but statistics show that the blacks are more likely to be criminals than whites, and police are justified in being more suspicious of blacks than whites. However, police should not violate the law while enforcing the law.
It is encouraging that recent demonstrations by the black lives matter movement have become more peaceful, with less looting and destruction, but the fact that looting characterized the early days of the demonstrations was a bad sign.
It looks to me like America is changing for the worse. It is becoming more violent, less civil, less law abiding. I hope I am wrong. Maybe the police will return to America’s good graces, as the military did in the years after Vietnam.