Last week I burst into tears when I saw the crowd funding campaign that had raised over $144,000 for the homeless guy who grabbed a trolley and rammed it into the terrorist in Bourke St in Melbourne the week before.
When the “Trolleyman” intervened, the terrorist was chasing two police officers around the street with a knife, having already
blown up his truck, killed a 74 year old man who tried to help him, and stabbed another two.
I watched the footage over and over puzzling about how it all went down, how the police jumped around, backing away from the enraged terrorist and seemingly letting the guy stab them in the shoulder for a lot longer than you’d expect before one of them finally shot him.
As soon as I saw the guy run in with a trolley, I thought “what a total legend”, so when I found out he was homeless and saw the crowd funding campaign, I immediately jumped on and donated him some money
despite him openly admitting he had been to jail for burglaries many times and had a long history of drug addiction.
With my small donation I wrote “No matter how much you’ve f*%ed up in the past, you did us a huge service today, you legend” – and as I pressed send,
my stomach dropped as I realised I’d missed something massive.
To the “Trolleyman”, we gave hero status and $144,000.
To the two police officers who risked their lives that day, as they do every day, we gave criticism and scorn.
The public reaction went two ways: “Why didn’t the police stop faffing about and shoot him sooner” or on the other side – “Why did they have to kill him, why don’t they shoot him in the arm to disable him?” or “Why didn’t you just taser him?” Victorian police don’t have tasers.
Growing up, one of my family members hated police and was in and out of jail, so
I grew up calling the police “the pigs” and thinking that they were a pain in the arse at best.
Now, one of the kindest, most generous and honourable people I’ve ever known is in the police force, and since knowing him, and hearing his stories, my perception of police has changed radically.
Police risk their lives every day with very little reward.
In fact, they often work 8, 9, 10+ hours straight without a break to eat, because they don’t have time to “pause” in a string of emergency situations. If you think your work days are hard, put yourselves in their shoes.
The Trolleyman himself said “I’m not saying what I did wasn’t good, but you know, you’ve got the police, you’ve got the army, you’ve got the ambulance — you’ve got better heroes than me.
I’m grateful, but I’m not in the same league as others.”
The people whose lives police save on a daily basis never hesitate to spit in their face, undermine them, hurl insults at them, or at the least, shout at their TVs and criticise them from behind their computer screens.
We all seem to forget that police are just doing their jobs like the rest of us –
they’re not out to ruin our fun, they’re just doing their job, keeping us safe.
These days we’re all so incredibly quick to judge each other based on things we don’t understand. Our minds are out of control –
we shame and blame and judge others online and in our heads without first trying to put ourselves in their shoes.
The guy that shot the terrorist – he’s a junior cop who’s probably only recently come out of training – and now he’ll live with the trauma of having killed someone for the rest of his life. Even though most people agree it was what needed to be done to save others getting killed – he will still be at risk of developing PTSD. He’ll probably require counselling for a long time to come, and it’s quite likely he won’t get it because of the macho “man-up” culture in Australia.
The majority of us hurling our advice at police have never wielded a gun, never been trained on how to be careful when you fire at a moving target because of the likelihood you’ll miss and hit a civilian in the background, never been told that if you have to shoot, you shoot to kill, and you aim for the biggest mass because the likelihood of aiming for an arm or a leg and missing is too high and you could easily kill an innocent person instead.
We’ve got to start respecting the emergency services and the armed forces who train to save our lives and spend their work days risking their lives for us.
They deserve to be treated like heroes, not hated on and talked down to by the public at every turn.
When a heart surgeon is operating, we all know that they have expertise we’ll never understand, and we don’t walk in and give them advice based on a book we read about coconut oil.
We need to stop thinking that our opinion on how/what/when to shoot is all that valid if we’ve never held a gun before, nor been put in a life threatening situation.
It’s time that we stop taking our mind’s judgements and opinions so seriously,
and stop criticising others for things we don’t understand.
Every time you notice your mind come up with a harsh judgement or criticism of anyone (not just police), pause for a second.
Zoom out from the limited, biased perspective of that voice in your head, and see if you can first put yourself in their shoes.
In the words of Brené Brown –