…Not Judgement.

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A sign posted on an elementary school wall.

 

Last week when I picked up my 5-year-old niece from her Pre-K class I passed a wall plastered with pictures and stories. In the center was this sign.

Autism is one word trying to describe millions of stories. and underneath, offer support, not judgement.

This may seem sappy, but the sign, the wall, what had been going on in my life at that moment, hit me hard. I did my best to hold it together and walked on to pick up my niece. Walking through a crowded hallway of parents and overly excited 4 to 5 year olds, who jostling each other for a turn at the drinking fountain. I signed my niece out, lead her out of the school, stopping to snap a picture of the sign. Then I thought about writing this blog. But I didn’t write. I thought about it for nearly a week.

I fully feel the support. From friends, family, school teachers and professionals who help us with Alexis’ Autism. It is a wonderful feeling, and I am truly grateful.

Yet at times, I feel the judgement. For many, Autism is just an unknown. They look at it from the outside and see…well they see a new car. See, I thought about the sign for nearly a week, and found an analogy that made sense.

 

Analogy Time!

 

Lets say, for the sake of analogies, Alexis is a new car. Snazzy, looks great on the outside. Sunroof, all the new fangled bells and whistles. I drive this car everyday. So I know this car well.

On occasion I give people rides. They like my new car, say it works like every other new car they know, looks like a normal car to them too. But they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

See, every once in a while, my navigation system won’t talk to me. It is very frustrating. I really need it to work sometime, but it doesn’t some days. Selective Mutism.

Then the fuel system doesn’t work, and my car vapor locks on me. Just stops.  Getting it to work again can take days. Sometimes, I have to take it into the shop. Gastrointestinal issues.

The sun roof is stubborn too. It will open, but refuses to close. Hangs up and the navigation system complains it hurts too much to close. Tactile Issues, Hair.

But everyone sees this awesome car on the outside, and they don’t understand the issues I have with it. I can tell them, and they will listen, but then they look at my new car, and shake their heads at me.

“It’s fine, what are you talking about. Can I have a ride?” They ask.

“Sorry, not today, the fuel system is backed up and the navigation system quit talking to me about it. Sunroof needs an adjustment too.” I tell them.

“You know? You complain about that car too much. It’s fine, you just need to drive it like everyone else who owns a car like that. You probably don’t know how to operate it properly, it looks just fine to me!” I hear. And all I can do is sigh.

Silly as this analogy is, unfortunately it is accurate.

Alexis has issues that come with Autism. Even as high functioning as she is, there are still issues that seem to baffle people.

In her case, Autism is expressed by extreme anxiety. Yet this anxiety is quirky. Things that freak other people out? Like roller coasters? She’s fine with them.

She loves roller coasters.

Yet a word, a phrase, a look can push her anxiety levels to nearly catastrophic levels. She will go mute, she will lash out, she make odd sounds and nervous tics. Then she will become constipated due to her anxiety. Which, a little TMI, becomes a nightmare to deal with. From as little as going through ten pairs of undergarments a day, to doctors visits when it gets severe.

There is also the impression that she needs to learn to behave like other children. Or that this is just a phase she will just grow out of. As if this is a cold she will shake, and I am overreacting.

She will never behave like other children, she will not grow out of it.

She will learn to adjust to our world. Find ways to cope with stresses that plague her now. She will grow, learn, become a productive adult. In her own way. I am so very thankful she will. Other who have autism, are not so lucky.

I don’t doubt her future successes, yet right now she is (and we are) in the adjustment part. Working on routines to keep life on an even keel for her. Because at this point, routines are important for her, and difficult to keep in the busy, fast paced, modern life.

I call Autism The Wicked Little Tailor, because it is. Autism truly is one word to describe Millions of stories. Each person whom it touches, it does so in its own unique way. No two autistics are alike. Each person wears their own little suit of autism, and has to cope with it.

Those of us who are the caregivers, we have to not only help them, but be an advocate for them. Do our best to teach others.

And honestly? It sucks sometimes. Teaching others. They would rather judge than listen.

Because to them, the car is new and shiny, it should work like every other car its age. They are only the occasional rider, they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

 

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A little on the quirky side.

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Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

The Inexplicable.

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Statue of a child reading to a dog. / Photo by KidZond.

 

So now what? It happened again, as it has happened before. A person with a grudge, or madness, or maybe just disconnected with humanity, took innocent lives.

Pundits abound, and yes, even me. Yet don’t expect answers from me. I don’t have any, only questions, many questions.

The first question I have is Gun Control. Logically, and let’s be real here, logically we should have stricter gun control. National Registry, more in-depth background checks, maybe even restricting who can have guns. You can’t possess alcohol in the United States until you are 21. Smoke until you are 18. Defend your Nation until you are 18. Why should children touch weapons until then? Logical question.

But we know the answer. Whether you are “Pro-Gun” or “Anti-Gun” the ability to control some 300 Million firearms is daunting, if not impossible. From lawsuits to skirting the law by schematics, to definitions as to what exactly is a dangerous firearm. Gun Control, as noble and lofty as is sounds, is impractical for prevention of gun violence.

The 2nd Amendment needs to be repealed argument comes up. Considering that we only have 27 Amendments in our “241 years” as a nation, should tell you something about how hard that would be. Yes some Amendments have been repealed, but the 2nd Amendment? That is not going to happen.

Of course Mental Illness has entered the discussion. With many using Mental Illness as a foil to this scourge just like others, who use an inanimate object as the foil. Obviously the teen in Texas had to be mad, because sane people do not just kill people. So goes the argument. Yet many suffer from mental illness and live out productive, well-adjusted lives, never once posing a threat to others, much less themselves.

And whether those who perpetrate these crimes are mentally ill or not, labeling a whole group, or suggesting this group alone is responsible, is damning to our society. Especially to sufferers who want nothing more than to be accepted. Try telling your boss you take medicine for depression and not have them start to ‘watch you’. Bantering about mental illness as the sole cause is absurd.

Then there are those who say it is societies fault. That if we just had fathers in those children’s home, or if we didn’t have video games full of violence, they would grow up just fine. However many people grow up in broken homes. Homes filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Yet they do not go out and murder people.

You could say this is all due to a lack of Faith. That God has been stricken from the classroom and demeaned to the point of being called a fairytale, and this is the root cause. However it was religious zealots who took down the Twin Towers in New York City. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and dozens of examples exist to say that Religion doesn’t prevent mass killings. Of course Stalin wasn’t a very religious guy and he murdered millions. Individual shooters in recent events have not professed great faith or lack there of.

 

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Daniele Crespi – Cain Killing Abel/Wiki Commons.

 

One possibility to this issue can be found in an old archetype story from the Bible. The story of Cain and Able. The ‘First Murder’.

In the story Cain’s offerings to God are rejected. His brother Able’s are accepted. This implied jealousy finally drives Cain to murder his brother Able.

So the story goes.

However the story has other meanings that are missed. At one point, God warns Cain that Evil is ‘knocking at the door’ (paraphrasing the passage). God tells Cain to be wary of his feelings and attitude. Cain, ignores this and slays his brother.

And while there are many other metaphors that can be taken from this story, this warning from God stands out to me.

See, when it comes down to it, it is the individuals decision that casts the die. They are the ones that plan out their heinous acts. They are the only one who readies themselves. Who, if so inclined, has to confront what evil they plan to do. And if they have self-doubt, or find their humanity, and sanity to turn away from their deed, change their own mind and stop themselves.

No matter what we do as a society, what laws we pass, amendments we repeal, court ordered mental evaluations, those who wish to do harm to others, they, and only they, can stop themselves.

This doesn’t negate our responsibility as members of society. We should be vigilant to stop those who wander the path of Cain. We should exam all avenues that can prevent these terrible crimes, to protect the innocent, and make us safer.

No one political or ideological solution will solve this. Blaming others to make sense of these tragic events does not one damn bit of good. Finding solutions to stop future tragedies is not based on Gun Control, 2nd Amendment Rights, School Security, Mental Health, or Legal solutions. It is based on all of these combined, working in concert, to solve a greater issue. Stopping the inexplicable, less we find ourselves wandering in the land of Nod forever.

 

[Opinions expressed in this Blog are the Authors and the Authors alone.]
https://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cain_and_Abel

 

The Lefthanded side of White Privilage.

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A Heart pierced by an Arrow. / Illustration by an Evil Left-hander. [KidZond]

I think it was the post that set me off. Yes, I had heard the term ‘White Privilege’ for quite some time. It had been bantered about on the News, Talk Radio, Social Media and from a few friends mouths. I read this story where two men who check different boxes on official forms have a discussion and the guy who checks ‘White/ Non-Hispanic’ makes his point and… golly gee, all is well. White Privilege is vanquished.

I have to admit I bought into that. I check the same box, ‘White/Non-Hispanic’ and well yeah, I don’t feel privileged. It was rather simple for me to believe this. I am not privileged.

See, like many people who check the same box as I do on official forms, I live a pretty basic life. I work hard, pay bills, struggle with bills, have the same issues as any average American. How was my being white giving me privilege? I certainly didn’t feel privileged.

It angered me because those I heard from, read about, posted stories and comment on the subject of white privilege, kept talking about how I was racist because of the color of my skin.

And that was the element to the narrative the irritated me. That White Privilege equaled racism.

It was when I read a post from a friend who invoked those very sentiments that I wanted to know more about White Privilege. Why had so many equate it with racism? How was the color of ones skin a determination factor on who they were as an individual?

For those who check another box, other than I do…sound familiar?

Then I made a startling discovery. White Privilege, as many use the term, is a misnomer. It doesn’t refer to racism, it refers to Left-handedness.

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Right-handed Scissors./Photo by KidZond.

Are you Right-handed or Left-handed? Most likely you are right-handed, most of humanity is. But not all. I was born left-handed, but switched over to use my right hand. Fairly common back in the 60’s. My eldest daughter is left-handed, and one day she found something that upset her. A little jocular note my wife (Who is also left-handed) had on our fridge. It simply stated this:

“Left-handed people are more likely to die in accidents than right-handed people.”

She asked me if that was true. I told her I doubted that, and for the record, it is not true. But, I did say there was some kernel of truth to the matter. She of course, asked how? And I explained.

They world is built for Right-handed people. Everything you use, pick up, open, close, write on, is built for those who use their right hand. I told her she would always have that obstacle to deal with. She will need to either deal with easy to get right-handed scissors, or buy a pair of left-handed scissors at some out-of-the-way store. Little things for sure, but annoying things.

My daughter, a left-hander, lived in a right-hand world. And there was nothing she could do about it.

Consider the common phrases you hear everyday. Right hand man, raise your right hand, right hand of God. Then there are more simple things. Ever open a door by grabbing the knob on the left? No? When you shake someones hand which hand do you use? And that is exactly what White Privilege is.

Now was this done by design? Yes.

It was done because those who created the system, well, they were all ‘Right-Handers’. Despite the common narrative to keep others down, no, not really. They were simply never factored into the equation. Those ‘Left-Handers’ just didn’t matter enough to even bother about. So all those ‘right-handers’ who check that box, well, the world is built for them.

It may seem minor to some. It may seem that we have reached equality. We think so, we believe this to be true. Yet try living in a left-hand world when you use your right-hand. Wouldn’t be so easy would it? Little reminders everyday that you are different. That the world is not made for you, but revolves around those ‘right-handers’.

I do not have a solution. I’ll leave that to smarter minds. Yet I hope this little comparison takes the debate away from strictly racial ideologies. White Privilege is not about racism. It’s about being left-handed in a right-handed world…and having to use those damn scissors for a living, without the option to buy a pair that fit your hand.

 

Millennials and their love of Net Neutrality.

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Photo by Rama. Wikipedia Commons.

 

Have to admit it, getting older has its perks. The biggest perk is what my father used to say to me all the time when I did something stupid.

“I’m not smarter than you, I’ve just lived longer and experienced more.”

Which, to my chagrin, was true. Enter a point I was trying to make to a group of Millennials this week on Facebook. The subject? Net Neutrality. To this up and coming generation, it is the end of the world. Big corporations are now going to ruin the internet with fees for every click.

(I probably will owe Google/ Comcast/ and Joe’s ISP Services a few hundred by the end of this post.)

While I could argue the pros and cons of Net Neutrality in this blog post, I would rather concentrate on the Millennials reactions, here are the highlights:

I was called stupid.

I was called a Rich Repugnant (I assume Republican)

I was called ‘tinfoil hat wearing Nostradamus’ (My personal favorite)

And incoherent.

I will give them credit at insults and tear downs. By far, they are superior to my abilities. Which was sort of my point in the back and forth. I was in their territory.

Consider the stylish computer at the top of this article. I learned about computers on one of these in my Senior year of High School…back in 1982. It ran on DOS, and only DOS. My smartphone can do more than that old personal computer. Yet at the time? It was cutting edge.

As a Baby Boomer I grew up with 3 network channels, newspapers and the radio. Research meant going to the library. A lot of time and effort had to be put into knowledge. In my childhood, and even into my twenties, the world was a very small place. You learned patience, not because you wanted to be patient, but you had to be.

Want those pictures of a night out with friends? Take them to a little booth in the parking lot of the nearest K-Mart and drop off your film. Come back in a couple of days and pick up your prints. Oh, you are going to have to drive over to your friend’s place to show them. Mail a print if they were visiting from out-of-town. Hopefully your finger wasn’t on the lens, retakes and do overs didn’t happen back then. The inventors of Instagram weren’t even born yet.

So, am I another older generation whining about the softer younger generation?

No. I am not.

I love this day and age. This to me? Is just flipping awesome. You have no idea, unless you are of my age or older. Even Generation Xers can’t really relate. They had Cable and Atari games. For me, and many of my Baby Boomer friends and relatives, this is an amazing time to be alive. It is the capability to have knowledge at the tip of my fingers that still gets me. I so dearly wish I grew up with this technology.

However, if I did, would I have as deep of an appreciation for it as I do now? Doubtful. I never appreciated indoor plumbing. Never thought much about the automobiles my parents had when I grew up. Color Television was cool when we got ours. Yet we always had a television in my house (B&W T.V.’s were very common up until the 80’s). My parents, even with T.V.’s, still listen to the radio often.

There are many things I grew up with that I took for granted. My parents thought they were marvels. My grandparents were even more in awe by modern inventions. Then again, they thought my parents were soft. Guess when you remember when automobiles first came out, and you didn’t have to hitch up the horses to the wagon to go to town, those who grew up with automobiles would be ‘soft’.

Millennials, and I have two of them myself, grew up with immediacy. The world was at their fingertips almost at their beginnings. Oh, they remember flip phones, and when smartphones came out. Most, however, can’t ever remember not being around computers. If not at home, certainly in school. This is a generation that has grown up with the internet, everything that has the utmost meaning to them came from the internet. They connect with friends via the internet, they find love through it, they find causes to believe in. It has, by default, become their Sacred Sanctuary.

My little ‘argument’ on the Facebook post was a little experiment into the psychology of Millennials. While I am not a professional in mental health, I am a curious person. I purposely found ways to politely antagonize those Millennials into defending Net Neutrality. While I made some good points, I have a confession.

I really don’t know squat about Net Neutrality. Just a tidbit here and there. And honestly? I am not that concerned. I do not believe my internet bill is going to skyrocket. Nor do I believe innovation will be crushed by corporate giants. Sorry Millennials, I have been around too long. I’ve seen this before, and I can promise you, you will see it again.

What I do believe is that Millennials see Net Neutrality as more than a cause du jour. This is tantamount to Tipper Gore’s desire to ban Heavy Metal, or banning the Beatles Music from radio play. The internet is their “Everything” and those who dare to curb it, charge for it, or defy it, they…well they will face the wrath of a Generation.

Across the Thin Blue Line.

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A home with Blue Lights Photo by Jenelle Kendrick

By Js Kendrick

 

 

I have noticed something different about my city this week. Many of the standard white porch lights have been replaced by blue porch lights.

I first noticed this on my drive home from work at night, one here, one there. At first I wasn’t exactly sure of the reason. I knew that a tragic event had happened involving a Police Officer, yet I knew nothing of the blue lights.

As far as I can find out, the concept of the blue porch light to honor fallen officers began in 1989. It was started by Mrs. Dolly Craig who had lost her son-in-law in the line of duty on June 5, 1986 and her daughter in a car accident in August of 1989. The couple had left behind six children that were now without parents. Mrs. Craig wrote to the organization Concerns of Police Survivors that she was going to put two blue candles in her window that holiday season to honor both her son-in-law and daughter.

The idea caught on and candles were replaced by blue porch lights.

Then in 2014 a Virginia man, Daniel Jessup, came up with the idea to create a Blue Light Week, beginning January 1st 2015 till January 7th. It became an idea to show support for Law Enforcement, which at that time period, had been experiencing negative media coverage for incidents involving police shootings.

When the Major of my city, Tom McNamara, had the lights over a bridge changed to blue. It started the movement in my city. Soon people were buying blue lights left and right. So much so that stores ran out of stock. He wanted to show respect for the fallen officer, asking people to put up blue lights, and ordered the flags in our city flown at half mast.

The sad reason for all this happened on November 5th, 2017 at 1 a.m. in the morning during a routine traffic stop.

Two men, who most likely had never met before, were to meet. And before too long both men would be dead. Leaving family and friends, and a city, grieving and wondering what had transpired to cause this tragedy.

Officer Jamie Cox, just 30 years old, a Veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard and who had previously worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had joined the Rockford Police Department in 2016. He had been on the job as a police officer for just 11 months.

He had pulled over 49-year-old Eddie Patterson, a father and grandfather, a man who had for the last 14 years worked at a local event center in my city. He was driving a pick up truck with plates that didn’t match the truck.

What we do know at this time is very little. For reasons unknown Mr. Patterson decided to drive off. Officer Cox became entangled in Patterson’s truck and discharged his side arm killing Mr. Patterson whose truck crashed two blocks away from the original stop. Officer Cox was mortally wounded by the impact. He was able to call for assistance and was transported to a local hospital where he died a short time later.

There wasn’t a dash camera in the squad car, nor was Officer Cox wearing a body camera. As of this writing, no eye witnesses have come forward to give the police additional information. A Task Force has been assigned to determine exactly what transpired that night.

As the news and information came trickling out, many took to social media to ask how this could happen. Why did Mr. Patterson drive off? How did Officer Cox become entangled in Patterson’s truck? What caused this tragic event?

Unfortunately an added component to this tragedy is the factor of Race. Officer Cox was White. Mr. Patterson was Black. In an era of exacerbated racial tensions, this component wasn’t lost to those on social media. That Officer Cox shot Mr. Patterson, who to our knowledge was unarmed, and that Mr. Patterson drove off with Officer Cox attached, has the community asking questions. It also has the community taking sides.

Those on both sides of the argument who are rushing to judgement to lay blame are doing a grave disservice to the memories of both Officer Cox and Mr. Patterson. The only people who truly know what happened that night are them. And sadly, neither one can tell us their story.

There is a Task Force that is investigating this incident. Yet others are asking for the Federal Government to investigate this incident. Concerns that the Police department would not be forthcoming. Another sign of our times, trust is a rare commodity these days.

Personally, I feel the story will end with the simplest of reasons. Human error, on both sides. For some reason Mr. Patterson panicked, and Officer Cox tried to stop him from driving off. Sadly, this human element of our nature, will most likely be the root cause of this tragedy. Yet, this is just my opinion, and all the facts are not known yet. And everyone should do the oddest of things, we should wait. Be patient.

In this day and age of instant information, being patient has become a problem with our society. We rarely have to wait for anything anymore. The world is at our fingertips, and news cycles usually exceed the facts. Facts take time, they take patience. People have become unaccustomed to waiting for information. They want it now. Yet this is not reality. Investigations, especially of this sort, take time. Rushing to judgement only polarize communities and creates an air of distrust and cover-up. None of which seems to be the case in this incident. The police are taking time, keeping silent, and going over the facts in a painstaking way. Social Media doesn’t really care for that. They want to know, and know now.

 

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Photo by Jenelle Kendrick

 

Till we know the full story, let the investigations play out, blue lights will adorn the porches of my city, Rockford Illinois, for the month of November. To honor the fallen Officer. Yet in a larger sense, it should stand as a reminder that two men lost their lives that night. That try as we might to be perfect, and not to make mistakes, we are only human. And that waiting, is truly the hardest part of this process.

 

 

 

Sources: http://www.nationalcops.org / http://www.sun-gazing.com / http://www.rrstar.com/news/20171106/