By WAYNE MORELAND

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, we were told that the burning of the American flag, the spitting on returning members of the military, the burning of a ROTC building at the University of Oregon and the calling of police officers as pigs were all acceptable forms of protest and the exercise of free speech.

Well, it was disrespectful to the flag, the people and the nation. It was disrespectful then and it is disrespectful now. The disrespect began last year, before Donald Trump became President Trump. Granted, the speech the president made at a political rally (not a policy speech) made the matter front page stuff. But to blame the speech is to turn a blind eye to the actions from a year earlier.

It is said that who we are as an individual is the sum of our experiences that led us to this point in time. My experiences in law enforcement and in the U.S. Air Force have obviously brought me to a different place than the editor of this publication. I see no gray. Rather, I see the actions of the NFL and its players as blatant disrespect of this country and those who have served. If their issue was with the police, there are many officers at all their games that they could approach with their grievances. But, of course, it takes moral courage to do that.

Hardly a day goes by without news of a police officer somewhere being pictured while sticking their head into a burning car to rescue someone. And all too often, news of officers being slain doing their duty for their community. In fact, if you care to look, there’s a memorial in front of the Public Service Bldg. in the Capitol Mall dedicated to Oregon State Police troopers who gave their life in service to the state of Oregon. Take a look sometime; I personally knew and worked with several of them. Are there some bad cops? Of course; I worked with a couple of them, too. But to disrespect the nation and the thousands of officers who serve and have served with pride and honor far outweighs the few that have made the news. And, incidentally, they weren’t all bad. Remember “Hands up, don’t shoot?” Well, court records indicate that didn’t even happen.

As I write this, the headlines are all about the insanity in Las Vegas. And once again, there were uniformed police, fire, EMS and likely some military rushing towards that gunfire. Others remained at the scene to render aid, because it was the right thing to do. Let’s see how the NFL complainers handle Las Vegas this weekend. If they continue to disrespect the people who do right, shame on them.

So be careful of who you name as the heroes and villains of today’s America. Do the players and their ilk have the right to protest? Certainly. But when their protest adds to the division and disrespect of America, I’m done. After a fan of more than 70 years, I won’t even look at the scores, yet alone another game.

And as to the president’s speech, I find little difference between “The cops acted stupidly” and “John McCain was no hero.” Disrespect is disrespect.

(Wayne A. Moreland lives in Keizer.)