Transcript: “Police. Protesters. People.” by Jocko Willink

Something happened on Christmas Eve in 1914 in the trenches.

World War I.

During the Battle of Ypres.

And World War I was the most sickening of wars as far as I can tell. A world of death and destruction and fire and pain and mud. And suffering.

And as the British prepared for an attack that Christmas Eve, they heard the Germans – their enemy – across the way. And they heard the Germans laughing, singing Christmas carols. And eventually, the Germans called out, “Come on over, Tommy!” which was slang for a British soldier. And they said, “We won’t fire at you.” 

Eventually, the British cautiously started to head over. And the Germans came out and started to head over. They head toward each other and eventually they all met in no man’s land. When they got there, they talked and they laughed and they sang and they joked and they told stories… and the legend is that they even played some soccer.

And most important, at that moment, they saw each other as humans. As fellow human beings. And eventually, as the morning came on, they all went back to their trenches and when they got back to their trenches they put down their weapons. They sat there and they yelled jokes back and forth. And they didn’t fight.

And for a couple of days, there was peace. And the soldiers thought to themselves, what are we even fighting for? How did we end up here and why are we killing each other?

And these soldiers on both sides – the Germans and the British – realized that their supposedly monstrous enemy… they were just other men. Other men with different backgrounds and different cultures and different languages, but they realized that their enemy was just men – like them.

They realized they were all people.

On the third day, the Germans were ordered from High Command to shoot their machine guns. And so the Germans told the British what time they were going to shoot. And they said they were going to shoot high so the British should get low and take cover around that certain time to make sure nobody got hurt. And that’s what happened. The Germans shot high and no one got hurt.

And another couple of days of peace went by. 

But then an order came from the British headquarters and it said that anyone found fraternizing with the enemy would be court-martialed. If they were not fighting the enemy and they were found guilty of that, they would be executed.

And the generals got their way. They got what they wanted.

And that night, the war – the horrendous war on that patch of land – commenced again.

And the bombs and the mortars and the fire and bullets… they all came to extract their toll and destroy and maim and kill these men – on both sides.

And that is an awful end to a beautiful story. It takes that beautiful story and turns it into a nightmare.

But in that story, there’s a glimpse of hope.

The hope is that we, as human beings, can see other people as human beings.

And I know we can. And I know it’s not always easy, but we need to do this, on both sides of the trenches. 

And if you’re a protester looking at a police officer or looking at a National Guard soldier, please take a moment to remember that that police officer or that soldier is a son or a father or a mother or a daughter or a brother or a sister. Remember that that soldier or that officer is a person.

And if you are a police officer or you’re a soldier and you’re looking at a protester or even a rioter, please, please remember the same thing. That you are looking at a person. A person like you. A person with a family, a person with aspirations, a person with hope, a person with pain and sadness and joy and misery, a person with hate, and a person with love. A person like you.

Look, it can be easy to dehumanize others. And when we dehumanize, we separate people from who we are. From what we are. And it becomes easy to hate them because they are different from us. Well, I’m telling you: they are not that different.

The person you are looking at? That is a person.

And yes, they’re angry, and yes, they’re frustrated, and yes, they’re scared and they’re tired and they’re fed up, and they’re aggravated, and they’re full of potential. And they are deeply flawed.

In other words, they are a person – just like you.

Please remember that. Be safe out there.

And try to take care of one another.


Police. Protesters. People. was posted on June 5, 2020 by Jocko Willink.

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