Years ago I saw the following statement, which - as a veteran - I thought was entirely accurate: "A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America,' for an amount up to and including their life." It goes without saying that military life is not for everyone; it requires a willingness to sacrifice selflessly for others. Together with my brothers-in-arms, we missed countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, births, and deaths - all in the name of preventing those who would do harm from reaching the shores of our nation. I can't say that we always did this without complaint, because sooner or later the sacrifices weigh heavy on everyone's conscience. Even still, the military is an honorable profession; we collectively chose to make sacrifices so that others might live in peace, and often for less pay than someone makes flipping burgers at McDonalds. In the end, we all sacrificed something, although some - tragically - sacrificed everything. The number of spouses, children, fathers, mothers, and siblings who will grow older with a void in their lives where a loved one used to be is incalculable.
But I'd like to shift gears for a moment. A couple years ago I shared on Facebook that my wife - who is a registered nurse - saved someone's life on a flight that was about to take off from Phoenix. The man had a heart attack and lost consciousness, but thankfully my wife and an EMT were both on the flight, and the two of them took turns administering CPR. They managed to revive the man, who had been legally dead for several minutes, and he lived without complications. But that's not the end of the story. Several months later, the Phoenix Police Department invited my wife to an awards ceremony, where they presented her with a certificate to commemorate her for her lifesaving skills and willingness to save the lives of others.
It was quite the honor, but the evening wasn't only about my wife; it was an annual ceremony for the Police Department, wherein the sacrifices of police officers from the Phoenix area were officially recognized for their outstanding achievements. As the ceremony progressed, I was amazed at what I heard. For example, several officers prevented a terrorist attack at the Phoenix Comic-Con, which otherwise would have resulted in an unknown number of casualties. Story after story of personal sacrifice and heroism had me enraptured, and over time I grew angry - because I never heard any of these stories on the news. Apparently it just isn't newsworthy when a police officer stands between a crazy person with a loaded weapon and an innocent civilian. The more I heard, the more I realized that these police officers made the same deal on behalf of their fellow citizens that I once did. They made all the same sacrifices as my brothers-in-arms: they missed countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, births, and deaths - all in the name of preventing harm from reaching the homes of their communities. And - tragically - some of these officers sacrificed everything, too. It was abundantly clear to me that these officers had also written a blank check made payable to the citizens of Phoenix for an amount up to and including their life. And like my fellow veterans, these officers do so for a terrible paycheck, all the while having to endure the constant scorn and contempt of those dregs of society who are incapable of policing themselves.
I cannot count the number of times in my life I have heard people complain about "some jerk police officer" who wrote them a ticket for speeding, or running a red light, or driving under the influence. I almost never hear any personal culpability from these people about their own guilt in their situation; it's always the police officer's fault. I'd like to take a moment to set the record straight - if you're pulled over for speeding, it's your fault if you get a ticket. If the police officer decides to let you off with a warning, that's his prerogative - and it might just be your lucky day. But if you have to pay a fine for something that you did wrong, it's not the officer's fault; get down off your self-righteous horse, take responsibility for a change, and shut your mouth about it. You don't have to like it, but maybe next time you'll remember to obey the law.
However, I'd like to take this train of thought a step further - there are some people in this world who do not share your sense of right and wrong. I've traveled around the world, and I've met all sorts of people who think that cheating, or stealing, or killing are perfectly acceptable ways of life. In our society, we have collectively decided that those behaviors are unacceptable, but not everyone agrees. We have our own collection of moral degenerates who still believe that cheating, and stealing, and killing are perfectly acceptable ways of life - regardless of what laws we pass or what we teach in our schools. When that happens, who is left to prevent these moral degenerates from reducing society to a maelstrom of anarchy, chaos, and suffering?
We are often told not to judge a segment of society by the transgressions of a few. We are told not to hold all African Americans responsible for the crimes of a few. We are also told not to judge all Hispanics for the crimes of a few. In a like manner, we should not judge all Caucasians for the racist stupidity of a few. Nor should we judge all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Nor should we judge all Christians for the stupidity of a few. The same follows true for police officers; we MUST NOT judge all police officers for the bad actions of a few. Because when all is said and done, and regardless of your opinion on the matter, when society starts to fall apart, sometimes the only line of defense we have is an underpaid and underappreciated police officer, who will still put himself or herself between you and a bad guy.
If you take everything that I have said into account, and you still want to destroy an institution that consistently sacrifices everything so that others can live in peace, then I suggest the following: you should join the police. If you're a good person and you think they're all bad, then join up and change them from within. On the other hand, if you can't bear the thought of living on the trivial amount of pay that police officers receive, or you can't handle the level of selfless sacrifice that is required to be a police officer, or you can't handle the thought of having to step into a domestic dispute or robbery or even a traffic stop where someone might be armed and pull the trigger before you have a chance to draw your own weapon to protect yourself, then you have no right - and I mean that sincerely - you have NO RIGHT to act as judge and jury and executioner where our police officers are concerned. Despite their many faults, most police officers are better than their peers, because these officers typically serve their communities - unthanked and unrewarded - for days on end, in harm's way, making sure that the rest of us are safe. So if you still feel the need to denigrate and defund the men and women in blue, whom I honestly regard as my fellow brothers-in-arms, then let me make this clear - you are a wicked, evil, twisted person. And yet, I hope the day never comes when you need a police officer to save you from another wicked, evil, twisted person who wants to do you harm.