To the Editor:
For eight minutes and 46 seconds, we witnessed the murder of a black man on the pavement of one of our city streets by four police officers sworn to serve and protect the citizens of that city.
While George Floyd’s murder was graphically recorded and witnessed, we know that many other murders and abuses, especially of people of color, occur every day unwitnessed and unacknowledged.
In 1968, in a small village in south Vietnam (My Lai) between 347 and 500 women, infants, children and older people were machine-gunned — some gang-raped and mutilated — by U.S. soldiers under the command of a Lt. William Calley. This unthinkable butchery was only stopped when a heroic helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, placed his gun ship between the soldiers and remaining villagers and threatened to fire on them if they didn’t desist.
The military covered up this horrific crime for over a year, until another heroic soldier, Ron Riddenhour, at great risk to himself, got the cover up exposed.
While many officers were charged with this crime and cover-up, only Calley was sentenced and he served only four years of a life sentence.
I don’t bring this history up to in anyway dishonor our soldiers and military, but rather to emphasize that if such an unthinkable crime could be committed, covered up, and when finally acknowledged, have no significant consequences, we should have no doubt that similar outcomes can be expected, even anticipated, in our current civil system.
And, while most of us don’t think of ourselves as heroes, nor do we have gunships, we do have our voices, our votes and our conscience.