Although I hated nearly every minute of my time in the Army, it gave me an education on life that I could never receive anywhere else.
Probably the most significant part of that education was on race. Where my best friend growing up was Mexican, I did not view him as such - he was just my best friend. I believe there were two blacks at my high school - and I did not look any differently on them then I did the rest of the students.
Enter the military. Good lord, did I ever learn there were differences, and in a hurry. In basic training my room had six blacks and myself. I'll talk more about that later on.
There are race problems in America today - heck, there are race problems all over the world. But the recent deaths of two young black men at the hands of police officers in Louisiana were not the first and sadly will not be the last.
I will not rush to judgment. While the video that has been released looks pretty damning toward the officers, video often does not tell the whole story. And the premise of innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone in this nation, including police officers.
Look at Ferguson, Mo. While at first the officer was condemned for shooting down an innocent young man while trying to surrender, once the evidence surfaced it showed the deceased was anything but innocent and was not trying to surrender.
But that did not stop the rioting, looting and violence. And as I have said many times, when crowds become unruly and block streets and even freeways it is time to bring out the water cannons. People have the right to peaceably assemble, not spread chaos and anarchy.
If the officers involved in the recent incidents are found guilty, then let them hang. Just like there should be a special place in hell for the priests who abused children, so should there be a special place in jail for police officers who abused their power.
I am going to put forth a scenario here - that the recent deaths were the officers' faults. I am going to expand on that scenario - I am going to say that every week for the next year a young black man will die unjustly at the hands of a white police officer.
If I was a member of the black community, I would be outraged. I would demand justice, and justifiably so. There would be demonstrations, riots and mayhem in the streets. There would be anger.
But in the time period that those 52 young men would have died, how many young men would have died as a result of black-on-black crime? Hundreds? Thousands? Where exactly should the rage and anger be focused? Where should we place efforts be placed to reduce the carnage?
It is easier to look away from a problem and deflect blame by finding another problem to illuminate - which brings me back to my basic training roommates. All were about my age - teenagers - except Smoky.
I did not particularly care for Smoky. He was shiftless and he was lazy. But all the other roommates looked up to him. Why? Well, he was 24 and when you are 18 or 19, 24 seems like an accomplished adult. Also, he had fathered three kids through three different women, and he wore that like a badge of honor.
One night I had just about had it with his crap. Not having learned the finer points of tact and decorum yet, I told him that my father told me I would run across a man like him, and his response was, "You mean a black man like me?"
I was floored. Speechless. Race had never entered my mind, but I just had the race card hit me in the forehead like a baseball bat. It is people like Smoky who look at their race as a crutch that do much more harm than good for the problems we face today.
And what of his progeny? What kind of life did they have? How many more did he sire? Those kids would be in their 40s now, and if the apples did not fall far from the tree, there could be two more generations of young fatherless blacks trying to make it in the world.
So yes, hold the police accountable. Get rid of those who have no business wearing a badge. But hold the Smokies of the world accountable as well. Maybe a little less adoration and a little more condemnation of his ilk from his peers would go a long way to solve some of the most glaring problems facing society today.
Or else just continue to blame others. How has that worked out?