Nineteen years ago we saw heroism and integrity, compassion and sacrifice in action. As the twin towers were hit by vile men of hatred, men and women of valor ran into those burning, collapsing buildings to save lives; many of them at the expense of their own lives.
These men and women, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders, were viewed and hailed as heroes in 2001, and rightfully so. Ignoring the risk to their own lives, choosing not to focus on what it might cost their own loved ones, they did whatever they could to save their fellow Americans, their fellow human beings, from a death wished upon them by hearts of hatred.
Now, nearly 20 years later there are those in our nation who would lead you to believe that the hearts and souls of our men and women in blue have changed. That they are no longer people of compassion and sacrifice, people of integrity who are willing to spend themselves in order to serve others.
You need to be aware that the people who denigrate law enforcement officers are infected with the same kind of hatred we saw cause planes to fall from the sky above New York City 19 years ago. They embrace the same kind of misguided hatred that took the lives of thousands of innocent victims of virtually every race; young and old people, women, men, and children. They didn’t care who the victims were, they just acted in hate.
Those men and women who sacrificed themselves didn’t stop to ask who was in the buildings. They didn’t care about your race, nationality, or gender. They didn’t care if you spoke English, or if you could speak at all; their one objective was to save your life if they could, even if it cost them their own life — a life that could never be replaced.
How sad, how pathetic that 19 years later we can see the movement of a few people filled with hatred impact our nation so much in an attempt to convince us that ALL police are bad. How despicable they are willing to resort to lawlessness, to rioting, to looting, even to killing in an attempt to convince us that it is law enforcement that needs to be reeled in or removed, when in reality it is the violent protesters who are doing in just months far beyond what they claim the police have done over decades.
Are there bad police? Of course there are, but they are the small, small few, and they must be removed when discovered. But let me ask you, are there bad mayors; are there bad doctors; are there bad lawyers; are there bad pastors; are there bad mothers or fathers? Absolutely! Yet we don’t protest, riot, commit arson and murder to get rid of parents, or judges, or doctors, or pastors. We hold the individuals accountable. In fact, we don’t even riot, commit arson and murder to get rid of violent protesters who burn and kill. But we should hold them accountable.
Regardless of what these mindless protesters and violent lawbreakers will tell you, this is a great country. In fact, this is the greatest country the world has ever seen, and has ever been impacted by.
This nation was born with the view that all people are created equal by God, and that we needed to have a society where that truth could be realized and lived out.
The freedoms brought about through the sacrificial work of our founding fathers have become a beacon of hope throughout the world for over 200 years. The American experiment has encouraged many others around the world to believe there is something wonderful and achievable for their countries, so that many have striven to modify and change, even to completely rebuild from scratch, the governing structures they had, in order to emulate what they see in this great nation. Why do you think so many people from around the world would love to live in this country?
Has this great country had its problems and weaknesses? Of course we have. But praise God the founding fathers built into the wonderful document known as the Constitution of the United States of America the ability — even more the right and obligation — to correct the wrongs discovered; even if those wrongs existed at the founding of this nation.
We do not need to break laws, burn businesses and homes, and take lives to make change. The great document of our nation tells us we have the right and the power to make those changes. And we have seen many such changes over the last 244 years of this nation’s existence.
If change is needed, and your leaders refuse to make those changes, then replace your leaders with ones who care about what is right, what is compassionate, or what is needed.
I can’t help but think of a great American — Martin Luther King Jr. — who saw a great need for change, but also realized that true change could only be brought about by peaceful, thoughtful, unyielding perseverance accompanied by a message of hope and freedom for everyone, not just for a certain segment of our population.
If he were alive today he would be ashamed of what he would see going on in many of the cities of our nation. He would be appalled by the race baiting and race card manipulations that try to force what can only truly be brought about in a lasting way by standing for truth, standing for truth next to your neighbor, no matter their color, race, ethnicity, gender, or preferences.
If we look further back we find another American hero — Abraham Lincoln — a president who was greatly hated by his opponents. He also would be appalled and amazed that we would be trying to tear apart what cost the lives of over 600,000 Americans to keep together, and even more, to enable us to move step-by-step closer to what the founding fathers envisioned our nation could become — that city shining on the hill, home to any and all who chose freedom over tyranny.
We are at a crossroads in our nation today. We can choose to sit back and let the naysayers fueled by hate and a desire to divide continue to attempt to bring our nation to ruin, so that they can rebuild it in their image, or we can put down our cell phones or remotes and stand up for what is right, including the right to have civil and constructive dialogue about the challenges we face as a nation.
We can choose to recognize these are not black and white issues; these are issues that affect Hispanics and Asians and Native Americans and Caucasians, and every other race and ethnicity that lives in this great nation. We are all affected, and so we all must speak to each other; speak with each other.
As I began, law enforcement is not our enemy. Other races or ethnicities are not our enemy. We — neighbors in our communities, in our counties, in our states, or in our nation — are not the enemy.
The enemy is hatred, and those who chose to wield hate, fear, and violence in an attempt to divide us, and to keep us from having an honest dialogue with each other.
You have heard it often: “Give peace a chance.” Those perpetrating violence and division in our cities today are not looking for peace. Let us choose to ignore their ways. Let us choose to be like those heroes of 9-11; let us run into the burning aspects of our nation to save who we can, and in doing so to save ourselves from the fate the haters would have us exist in.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.