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The Kings of Unrest

TOM BURKEIf you’re a Vietnam War veteran or a product of the ’60s or ’70s, the civil unrest in May and June was nothing new. We were the kings of unrest. Our cause was a little different, however. We tried to end a war that our government lied to us about. Our brothers were being splattered all over the battlefield needlessly in a war no one understood. Hundreds of thousands of us came home to a country we fought for that did not want us. That was our nightmare. We suffered in silence for a long time. But our country finally came around. We survived. But we continue to fight.

Today events in my home state of Minnesota have exposed America’s nightmare of social injustice. They cry out differently and yet the same: for justice, to keep human beings from being needlessly killed on a different kind of battlefield. Police forcibly held down a fellow human being and killed him while he was in handcuffs, unable to defend himself. Other officers stood by watching and did nothing.

I have seen a lot of senseless acts in my life. The police actions in Minnesota rank right up there at the top. I can only assume that it was the result of being improperly trained. They most definitely used excessive force. We should be asking, “What have we learned?” And ask again: “When will it end?”

We as Vietnam veterans asked these questions during the 1960s and here we are again. Today’s young people haven’t learned a thing from their history books. Perhaps they did not study anything about the Sixties or the Vietnam War. We all know their history books contain little about it. They did not learn anything from our protests of the ’60s and ’70s, if, indeed, they are even aware of them. Well, let me tell you something: Violence, looting, and destruction of property never helps anyone’s cause. If fact, it does the exact opposite. It draws a negative response. It draws negative action.

More importantly, senseless riots and destruction do nothing to show respect to George Floyd or his family. This man died in a senseless, brutal act of a few, not the many. Most abhor the way this went down. But why do some seem to have to destroy our own cities and towns?

Let us try to learn from the past. When will we learn to live with our brothers of different colors and ethnic backgrounds? When will we learn to be more tolerant of one another?

We are all Americans. On the battlefield we had each other’s backs. Why do we not remember and act like that all the time? Do we have problems? Of course. But this is the USA, the Land of the Free. We can overcome this if we try hard enough.





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