Saturday, October 24, 2020

Our Struggles Continue

More Straight Talk

Since the unfortunate death of George Floyd on May 25, America has been spiraling out of control. The two officers that held knees onto Floyd for 9 minutes while he begged for his life, as well as the other two officers who just stood to one side were wrong. They have been arrested and charged in Mr. Floyd’s death and they will now be tried in a court of law and be held accountable for their actions. This is what we call “justice” in our country and they will be afforded every opportunity to defend themselves as well as any other person charged in a similar crime.

We’ve come a long way in the country from frontier justice or that of lynch mobs who thought they were the law. We have also come a long way in race relations. Are we there yet? Is it a perfect world? Hell no. We do have to commit ourselves every day for being better than we were the day before.

I do support with every ounce of my soul the right for Americans to protest. Free Speech in this nation is guaranteed under the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Americans young and old have given their lives to protect that freedom.

The line between peaceful protest and chaotic violence can become blurred in a moment. You can see examples of how that happens without even leaving the safety of your own living rooms as the media brings it to you in living color. I was amazed at a reporter in Minneapolis reporting that the protests were relatively calm, while a city block was ablaze in the background where that reporter was being silhouetted by those very flames, but more about that later.

Law enforcement officers, 99.9% of whom are doing their jobs on a daily basis in an outstanding manner. Unfortunately, many have had targets placed on them by those that are using these difficult times to mask their intent to rain terror and fear to their advantage.

I am not telling you that that officers lacking proper oversight and training can’t shift the tone of a peaceful protest to violence through their behavior and presentation. It is why I strongly support more funding being directed towards training and the participation in the regionalization of some of those costs and the available instructional courses. 

Officers and command staff on Marco, combined with the Sheriff’s personnel, did a wonderful job during a recent protest. The protesters were young and vocal, but for the most part handled themselves well, with the exception of a small incident. 

However, and yes, there will always be a ‘however’ in any discussions we hold, because we are all human beings. We are subject to our own human frailties and the fluid nature of situations that are constantly changing. 

Is there better psychological testing that can result in a clearer overview of a potential candidate’s proclivity towards truthfulness, his or her acceptance of supervision and his or her predisposition to the overuse of force? 

All of these personality traits factor into how an officer will work within the community. Unfortunately, some of these flaws do not bubble to the surface until after the hiring and probationary periods of new officers. A well-trained and experienced Field Training Officer (FTO) may be the best barometer of those personality flaws. 

Therefore, the need for better training of those FTO personnel, and understanding that not all those riding in the seat next to a new probationary officer is the right person. 

As I think about an example of a peaceful protest action that became one of the foundations of the civil rights movement in its early stages, I can’t help but think about the courage of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1st, 1955, the 42-year-old seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus when directed to do so by the bus driver.

That helped to ignite the fight against racial segregation throughout the nation and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became central to the national fight for civil rights.

Now can you imagine being an American soldier, laying beside your fellow infantryman in a fox hole somewhere in Europe, on the frozen battlefield in Korea or in the jungles of Vietnam? You then come home to a nation, which through segregation laws refused you the basic right to use a restroom with that same man.

I am proud that we as a nation and a people recognized the injustice of segregation, but I am sad that it took so long. We need to continue to dedicate our efforts to ensure that no one is denied those basic human rights because of race, color, nationality or creed.

Likewise, we need to stop this insane overreaction regarding our history. The larger question becomes, ‘how much is enough?’ Tearing down statues, renaming maple syrup brands, removing school mascots. All of this is due to a social media backlash and an overreaction due to the times, in addition to a lack of backbone by corporate executives. 

What’s next? Uncle Ben’s Rice tearing down of the Washington and Jefferson Memorials. My own high school changed the name of our high school mascot 15 years ago and removed the Penacook Indian image from the school. It was adopted back in the 30s and recognized the courage and strength of the Native American Tribe that inhabited that geographical region. Political correctness required its removal, and that was a sad day in my opinion.

I love Aunt Jemima syrup. I love Uncle Ben’s Rice. It has nothing to do with race or being insulting, it had to do with it being a great product. If you travel through the south, you love the wonderful array of great food which is a staple of the tradition of Southern living. Should that be eliminated?

One of my favorite places to eat in Alabama was in Tuscaloosa and its name was Dreamland Bar-B-Que. Located high on the ridge looking down on the city, John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened his first Dreamland Café in 1958. I met him in 1991 when I attended a meeting of the Alabama Fire Chiefs in Tuscaloosa up on Jerusalem Heights at his first place. My host that evening took me to Dreamland, and I met Mr. Bishop, standing next to this large stone oven outside where he was cooking his ribs.

He was pleased that a New England boy might like his ribs. I proved it to him that night as we laughed together and he told me some great stories of Coach Bryant bringing up guests to eat there, and the surprise on their faces when Mr. Bishop slapped down a loaf of white bread and a slab of ribs for them to eat. Soaking up the juice was a treat I will never forget, nor will the downhome reception I received. 

I am so pleased to have met and laughed with John “Big Daddy” Bishop, a true legend in Southern Cooking. He passed from us in 1997, but I am a better man for meeting him and sharing a beer and his ribs, we were always just two men, enjoying a story or two, and that is how it should be.

 

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