law, true crime

Wonder if Josh Duggar will see a video like this when he gets to prison…

A couple of days ago, when I mentioned “diesel therapy” on this blog, I ran across an article written for The Marshall Project by a white collar ex-con, who was initially doing time in a minimum security camp. The author of the article, Michael Rothenberg, was a white collar criminal who had made the mistake of befriending another white collar criminal who escaped from their lockup at FPC Montgomery, in Alabama. Because he had associated with the escapee, prison officials figured he somehow knew the guy was going to escape. They decided to send Rothenberg to a harsher facility in Lovejoy, Georgia. He and other inmates were shackled and handcuffed, then put on a bus with an overflowing toilet for a drive that lasted several hours.

When Rothenberg got to his destination, he was kept in a crowded holding cell for hours. Then, he was shown a video about avoiding prison rape, which freaked him out. Rothenberg had never been to a “real jail” before. His camp in Alabama had been more like a dormitory than a prison. The idea that he might be raped while he was in prison was, naturally, very upsetting.

While I can understand why Rothenberg was unsettled by the video about prison rape, I thought it was kind of progressive. And then, completely by coincidence, I was watching YouTube the other day, and in my queue of suggested videos was a video made by the Alabama Department of Corrections. It was about how to avoid being raped or sexually harassed in prison, and how to make a report if an assault happens. I watched it, and was actually surprised by how respectful and well done it was.

Several inmates spoke about their experiences, and there were also comments by correctional officers and the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections. The commissioner explains that the video was made in response to the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). PREA requires that federal, state and local correctional facilities maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual assault for both inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate misconduct. Given that this is a law that applies to all facilities, I’m surprised that Rothenberg’s first encounter with an anti prison rape video was at the second facility.

I don’t know how seriously people take this video, but it seems like a good idea to show it…

Since Josh is going to a federal facility in Texas, at least initially, he’ll probably see a film much like this one, only it will be made by the feds. I’m not sure how much this video and others like it actually help prevent prison rapes and sexual misconduct. Based on what I’ve heard about prison, a lot of correctional officers don’t care too much about making sure prisoners avoid harassment. It could be that showing this video is just a way to comply with the law. I still thought it was an interesting video, though… and surprisingly well done. It would be nice if the correctional officers who say they want prisoners to get through their time safely really mean what they say. I don’t like Josh Duggar, and I hate what he did, but I don’t wish for him to meet violence. On the other hand, I don’t have high hopes that he can be reformed.

The above video, by the way, comes with a trigger warning. I didn’t think it was hard to watch. It was certainly a lot easier to watch than whatever Josh was watching on the videos that got him sent to prison in the first place. I’m sure it won’t make him as squeamish to watch it as it did Michael Rothenberg.

Rothenberg writes that after he saw the video, he was taken to solitary confinement, where he listened to other inmates scream. One guy passed him a note begging him to give him the food he wasn’t going to eat, since he was starving. Meanwhile, Rothenberg’s wife and children were in Alabama, planning to visit him in the prison camp in Montgomery. They didn’t know he’d been moved. Rothenberg was threatened at the Lovejoy facility, then sent to Oklahoma City, where he spent three weeks of hell before he was sent to South Dakota. On the flight to South Dakota, another prisoner begged to use the toilet, but was denied. The prisoner said he was going to piss himself, and the guard told him he’d tase him if he pissed himself. The prisoner said being tased would also make him piss himself. When he finally did pee on himself, he got tased, as promised.

Rothenberg was then moved to a private facility in Nevada, where he saw lots of ICE detainees. To comply with the kosher diet he maintained as an observant Jew, he was given nothing but celery and rice to eat. Then, from Nevada, he went to Utah, and on the way there, he was shackled to a Neo-Nazi, who had “white power” tattooed on his knuckles. The Nazi told Rothenberg that he was okay with most Jews. He just didn’t like the Jews involved with banking. Rothenberg wrote:

We remained stuck together for the next two weeks. Over that time he told me his story—how he dropped out of school and followed in the footsteps of his older brother, whom he idolized and who was serving time for a hate crime as well. His father had left them. He was not able to afford his mental-health medication. He took a gun and went to the local synagogue. It was empty; he was intending to kill himself. At the last minute, he decided he couldn’t go through with it and emptied his clip into the empty synagogue instead.

He asked me for forgiveness for what he did. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.

When Rothenberg’s mom called to complain and demand accountability as to where her son was, the prison officials said they’d never heard of “diesel therapy”. Hmmm… As I mentioned before, I first heard about “diesel therapy” listening to Jim Bakker, of all people.

Rothenberg is now an ordained Rabbi and prison consultant. It sounds like he’s mended his ways. I hope he avoided being sexually assaulted. I hope Josh does, too. But it’s probably not very comforting to be welcomed to prison with a video about how to avoid and report prison rape. I bet it makes settling in a bit difficult.

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true crime

What was Vicky White thinking when she broke Casey White out of jail? I sure don’t know…

Happy Thursday, everybody. I’m in a pretty good mood today, because Bill and I had a great time at the Keb’ Mo’ show in Mainz last night. I have already written about our experience, so anyone who is curious can pop over to my travel blog and have a look. We had fabulous seats, and Keb’ Mo’ was super entertaining, playing all of the songs I hoped to hear, as well as a few that I need to revisit! The show was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020, which was our 20th wedding anniversary. Of course, we all know what happened in 2020, and that show would go on to be rescheduled three times! Keb’ Mo’ even came out with another album before he had a chance to do last night’s show, which did include some of the newest material. Anyway, it was a great time. I’m not even too perturbed that our upstairs toilet is still kind of “deadlined” until the plumber can get here to fix the flusher.

So now, I’m trying to figure out what today’s post will be about. A couple of days ago, I mentioned the now late Vicky White, a 56 year old former corrections officer from Alabama, who broke her “boyfriend”, 38 year old Casey White, out of jail and absconded with him to Indiana. I enjoy writing about true crime, and this case has “movie of the week” written all over it. I mean, here was a lady who had worked at the jail for years, was second in command, and was highly regarded by her colleagues. And yet, for some reason, she decided to retire several years before she would have turned 60, which is when she could have retired with benefits. She was to retire on her last day of work. She also sold her house for $90,000, which was well below market value. What the hell was she thinking? What caused a respected corrections officer to become a fugitive in her final days of life?

Friend and fellow blogger, Alex Diaz-Granados, commented that he’d like to read my “take” on this bizarre case. At this point, though, like everybody else, I can only make assumptions.

I remember when the story first hit the news. At first, people wondered if maybe Vicky White had been overpowered or manipulated in some way by Casey White (no relation), who is 6’9″ tall. Vicky White, who had been the assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, in Alabama, had told other staffers at the jail that she was going to take Casey White to a mental health evaluation. After that, she said she had intended to seek medical care for herself. When the Whites didn’t return to the jail, some checking was done, and it turned out that the mental health evaluation story was bogus, and Vicky had also lied about going to see a doctor. They also realized that Vicky White had violated policy by traveling alone with the inmate. Naturally, that led investigators to believe that she was complicit in helping Casey White escape the jail and stay on the run for eleven days. Later, investigators said that video footage had proven that the escape was well-planned, although I’m not sure if White planned anything beyond getting Casey White out of jail.

Vicky White right before her death.

In the time following the escape, more research shows that Vicky White had used disguises, forged her name, and used aliases. She and Casey White spent eight whole days in Evansville, Indiana before they were finally confronted by the authorities and led then on a high speed car chase that ended with an accident. White’s final call to 911 has been made available to the press. On May 9, 2022, she shot herself in the head with a handgun before police were able to arrest her. Casey White had asked officers to “help his wife”, although they were not married to each other. Then we hear an officer saying they needed to clear “some of this shit out of the way”. Vicky White still had the gun in her hand after she shot herself with it. She was still breathing at the scene, but later died at a local hospital.

Bodycam footage of the efforts to save Vicky White. I guess she preferred death to what awaited her in the court system.

Thinking about this case, it makes me wonder what in the world had recently happened in her life to cause Vicky White’s life to go off the skids like this. She made some very strange and troubling decisions in her last days on the planet. Having spent so many years in her criminal justice career, I wonder if the realization that she’d made such a huge mistake caused her to implode the way she did. But I really wonder how it was that she came to be in a relationship with Casey White in the first place. In his case, I almost feel like maybe he was hoping a cop would kill him. I guess I can understand that, as it’s definitely not ideal to be incarcerated. And now, thanks to this escape, life for Casey White will probably be sheer hell from now on. I read the police chief in Alabama said White would be cuffed and shackled 24/7 in his cell, and he would definitely have a lot more guards watching his every move. He is now in a state prison, about 100 miles south of the jail from which he had escaped with Vicky White, who had apparently begun a secret relationship with him when he spent time, intermittently, at the jail where she worked for pre-trial hearings. Casey White had initially been locked up for stabbing and killing Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Now, the authorities will add escape charges to his rap sheet.

I feel for the people who worked with Vicky White. No doubt, they had many good memories of working with her, and didn’t want to see her go down this path, or end her life in the way she did. I also feel for Vicky’s family, especially her mother. I guess that Vicky felt she couldn’t face her family, friends, and former colleagues. She probably felt disgraced, and this situation may have seemed hopeless. This year, she was voted “Corrections Employee of the Year”, and it was not the first time she had achieved that honor.

I suspect that Vicky White’s final actions will make things much harder for her former colleagues, too. It will be harder for people to trust each other. And it will make it harder for prisoners, too, who will probably be treated worse.

It surprises me that none of her co-workers saw or said anything about this supposed relationship Vicky White had with Casey White. Didn’t they notice anything? Below is another video, posted two days before they were found in Indiana. Supposedly, Vicky had a “double life”.

Two days later, they were caught, and Vicky White made a tragic and irreversible decision.

One inmate in the above video said that it was “chaotic” in the jail, and she wasn’t surprised Vicky was able to break Casey out of there. It makes me wonder if people who worked there just ignored policies as a matter of course. Someone in the video mentioned that Vicky was divorced, but still lived with her ex husband, who died in January of this year of Parkinson’s Disease. Another person, a former co-worker, says she had a “dark side”, and didn’t resemble the sunny blonde in the photos that were released. He also felt that she knew exactly what she was doing, and had planned this for a long time.

I guess time will reveal whatever can be gleaned from the information that comes up in the wake of this situation. We’ll never really know what motivated Vicky White to take these steps that led to her death. But at least Casey is back behind bars. I’ll be watching to see what else comes from this story. I’m sure someone will write a book. Dr. Todd Grande has already made a video about it.

Todd Grande looks at this case.

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China, healthcare, law

COVID dystopia in China makes me glad to be western…

For the past few days, we’ve been dealing with a minor inconvenience involving my favorite toilet. The toilet, like many in Germany, has its flusher mechanism mounted in the wall. We’d had some issues with the flusher before. At times, the plastic hardware behind the flusher was somehow malfunctioning. In the past, I could usually take the button off and maneuver the innards of the flush mechanism so that it worked properly again. But this time, something broke, rendering the toilet unflushable and irreparable. So now, we have to use the toilet on the main floor until the flusher can be fixed. That’s a bit of a pain in the butt.

Our landlord has assured us the plumber, along with the landlord’s son, who is currently apprenticing with the plumber, will be out this week to fix the issue. I look forward to having the toilet fixed, because it’s annoying and inconvenient to have to go downstairs to pee in the middle of the night. But, I realize it’s a first world problem. We’re very fortunate to be living in a beautiful, large, freestanding home with a backyard. We also have a toilet in the basement that rarely gets used. Things could certainly be much worse. We could be living in an apartment in Shanghai.

This morning, as I was pondering what I wanted to write about today, I consulted CNN. I saw the bizarre news story about the now late Vicky White, a former Alabama corrections officer who helped inmate Casey White escape the jail where she was working. I had seen the headlines about that story and was sort of casually following it. In a prior life, I probably would have been very interested in writing about White and her inexplicable choice to consort with an inmate who, by most accounts, is a very dangerous man. I like to write about true crime, and this story has “movie of the week” written all over it. Maybe I will write about that case at a later date, as new details come out. I am pretty tired of writing about COVID, Ex, and my other “pet subjects”. However, though I am so sick of thinking and writing about COVID, I feel compelled to write about the situation in Shanghai today.

Wow.

Even though things have gotten more “normal” in Europe over the past few weeks, they’re most definitely not normal everywhere. Especially in Asia. In Shanghai, residents are being forced to endure incredibly harsh lockdowns in the fruitless quest to quash COVID-19. The situation is really shocking, especially if you’re a westerner. I don’t know how closely my fellow Americans have been following this story out of China. It definitely makes me question if the Asian approach is the best one, even though so many people seem to think they have it right.

Ever since this COVID drama started two years ago, I’ve seen many people hail east Asian peoples as having the “right” ideas about controlling the virus. So many smug, self-righteous western commenters on news articles about COVID have held up east Asians as being so much kinder toward their fellow man. I’ve totally lost count of how many pro-mask people have pointed to how Asians voluntarily and cheerfully wear face masks when they’re sick. Then, those same people accuse their countrymen of being selfish, narcissistic and even sociopathic, because they don’t want to be subjected to ongoing COVID-19 rules and restrictions.

While I completely understand that face masks were necessary, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, and I’m all for promoting vaccinations and quarantines when they are necessary, I can’t get on the east Asia love bandwagon when it comes to their extreme approaches to public health. Especially in Shanghai. This morning, I watched in shock and horror as video footage of police officers in hazmat suits played on my computer screens. The Chinese cops are showing up at the homes of people who have the misfortune of living near someone who tested positive for the virus. Under new harsh guidelines, not only are COVID positive people forced into government run quarantine centers, but so are their neighbors, even if they’ve tested negative. And the police are breaking down the doors to private residences to drag the people away.

According to the article on CNN, pleas from private citizens are falling on deaf ears.

“From now on, people who live on the same floor (as Covid cases) must be transported (into quarantine),” a police officer says in the video.

“It’s not that you can do whatever you want — unless you’re in America. This is China,” another police officer says sternly, waving a bottle of disinfectant in his hand. “Stop asking me why. There is no why. We have to obey our country’s regulations and epidemic control policies.”

The article I linked from CNN shows just how outrageous things have gotten, particularly in Shanghai, but also in other Chinese cities. I realize that China isn’t all of Asia. Maybe it’s not nearly as bad in other Asian cities. But given how many people live in China, I think it’s bad enough. One video shows citizens being forced to hand over their apartment keys so they can be locked into their homes from the outside. Those who refuse to give officials their keys have holes drilled into the walls, so padlocks can be installed on their doors. The video also shows workers installing bars on windows to keep residents locked inside their homes.

Yikes!

The quarantine centers are said to be squalid, and it seems that no one is safe. One reporter described people in their 90s being dragged off to the centers. Another spoke of babies not being allowed on the subway system, because they couldn’t produce negative COVID-19 test results. Local citizens who speak out against the draconian rules are censored. Some people have become so despondent over the endless rules that they have committed suicide. One CNN correspondent said that she’s been locked in a hotel room for two weeks, with one more week to go, before she can go to her final destination of Beijing.

Of course, we don’t have anything like this going on in the western world. A lot of people are legitimately selfish about COVID-19 and the pursuit of their own “freedoms”. I’m not saying that people who completely ignore concerns about the virus are right. I think we all should take reasonable precautions against COVID and other viruses. But there’s a limit to how far people should be expected to go. I don’t think the Asian approach to COVID, or anything else, is necessarily the best. In fact, my heart goes out to the people who are enduring that hell in China right now. I can understand why some people have concluded that life isn’t worth living anymore.

Another story that I haven’t adequately explored is the war in Ukraine. Again… watching and reading the stories about that situation make me feel very fortunate to be where I am. I have read several heartbreaking stories about Ukrainian women whose husbands have been murdered in front of them. Then, some Russian soldiers have raped the surviving women, who then must endure the rumors and gossip spread by their neighbors. I know that if I had the misfortune of being in that situation, I would try to deal with it, as those women have. I would have no choice. But it still seems insane to me… I don’t understand the level of complete disdain for other human beings that has been shown, both in Ukraine and in China. It’s as if they have no hearts for others. It’s just horrifying.

Well… I suppose I should “embrace the suck” and “count my blessings”. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt to have to deal with a busted toilet flusher. But I guess these stories from CNN are a stark reminder that my problems are really first world problems. I have been extraordinarily lucky on so many levels. Reading these stories have inspired a few moments of sheer gratitude.

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healthcare, social media, stupid people

Alabama doctor gets “threats” after warning people on Facebook about COVID-19!

Hey guys… I know I’m on a short vacation, but I need to make a comment. And right now, Mr. Bill is about to take a shower, so I have a few minutes to vent about this.

A couple of days ago, I read a heartbreaking story about Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist in Alabama, who shared an emotional Facebook post about the realities some of the people who don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 will face if they get sick. She wrote:

I’ve made a LOT of progress encouraging people to get vaccinated lately!!! Do you want to know how? I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.

As always, I am an open book. Please bring me your questions and I will tell you everything I know and everything I don’t.

It’s not too late, but some day it might be.

It got picked up by multiple news outlets and shared in the article I found on MSNBC. I shared it on my page, and one of my friends, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has been taking care of COVID patients from the beginning, wrote about how she took care of a person who asked her if they were going to die that night. That person, who was unvaccinated and asked for the vaccine while hospitalized, didn’t die. However, another unvaccinated person who was being taken care of by my friend at the same time did die. Both were previously healthy people in their 40s. She still thinks about both of them, and countless others who have been under her care.

Then yesterday, a friend of mine and Bill’s– a Trump devotee from Alabama who was smart enough to get the vaccine– wrote that his daughter is currently in the hospital with COVID-19 and she is VERY sick. She was not vaccinated, so her life is now in danger. Our Trump loving friend– and he really is a friend we knew when we lived in northern Virginia– wrote a heartfelt post to his friends and family members about the vaccine, encouraging them to get it. Most of his friends were respectful and kind, although one referred to the vaccine as “poison” and felt free to opine about how things are in Europe. Bill needed to set her straight on that. I also added my two cents, which I rarely do on this guy’s Facebook, because his friends are even more conservative than some of my relatives are.

People– COVID is NOT a political thing. It’s a public health crisis. Vaccines have been around for hundreds of years, and they WORK. Is there a small chance of experiencing adverse effects? Yes, there are risks in everything we do. But your chances of getting very sick and dying decrease dramatically with the vaccine. I am a big believer in people making their own choices, but some folks are just plain being stupid about this and they are paying with their lives. And their choices are affecting so many other people.

Making matters worse is that some of the terrified people out there in Internet land, offended or angered by Dr. Cobia’s pleading on Facebook, have issued THREATS to her, and her mother! What the hell is wrong with people? It’s never okay to threaten people, especially when they’re being kind enough to tell you the TRUTH. Below is a quote from the Washington Post about Dr. Cobia’s Facebook crusade and the aftermath:


Cobia said that she initially “agreed to a few interviews to help spread the word because I think the message is so important,” but she and her mother have since received “a lot of harassing and threatening messages.”

“So I just need to take a step back from everything right now and let the post circulate and hope it does its job and changes some minds!”

Cobia, and her husband, who is a neurosurgeon, both got COVID last year. Cobia was 27 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time, and chose to deliver early out of precaution. So this is not just about a doctor treating people with the virus. It’s also about someone who got the virus and survived. She knows firsthand about it, although she was lucky enough to have a somewhat mild case. Cobia says she got the vaccine as soon as it was available and even breastfed afterwards.

Getting the vaccine doesn’t mean you won’t get COVID. However, it does make it a hell of a lot less likely that you’ll die from it or be hospitalized. And you are much less likely to be sitting in a hospital bed, holding hands with a doctor like Brytney Cobia, BEGGING for the vaccine, only to be told it’s too late, and you are forced to die alone.

Please… for the love of Christ, get your information from healthcare professionals and, if you can, consider getting vaccinated. When you get seriously ill, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you, including the people who have to take care of you. And no matter what, DO NOT THREATEN PEOPLE WITH DEATH BECAUSE THEY SPEAK THE TRUTH! That is just insanity!

I hope the people who issue threats are caught and dealt with appropriately. There is absolutely no excuse for that!

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Police

Nowadays, even burgers are political…

A couple of days ago, I read about how several people working at Five Guys in Daphne, Alabama took it upon themselves not to serve some police officers who came in for dinner. Apparently, they cops didn’t have masks as they approached. They went back to their vehicles to get the masks and when they returned, one of the cops overheard a worker say, “I’m not serving them,” as other employees turned their backs on them. The officers took their business elsewhere, complained to the store’s management, and the incident became international news. The employees involved in the incident have all either been suspended or terminated, and everyone working at the Daphne, Alabama outlet of Five Guys has had to endure extra training.

I was left shaking my head as I read this story. I had originally shared it on my Facebook page with the comment, “Not cool.” A friend asked which part of the story wasn’t cool. My response was that the employees choosing not to serve the police officers wasn’t cool. He approved of that comment, as I figured he would. I have a feeling he thinks I’m a bleeding heart liberal through and through. The fact is, I’m really not that liberal about all things. I don’t like corrupt politicians, and there are plenty of those on either side of the political spectrum. Hell, I don’t like corrupt “PEOPLE”. I’m no Trump fan, as most people know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t embrace some conservative values, like doing one’s job when one is on the clock, being paid.

One of my very liberal friends decided to weigh in on the issue. She supported what the workers did, because of #blacklivesmatter and #defundthepolice. I had posted that not all cops are corrupt, but she maintained that the Five Guys workers had every right to turn the police officers’ mealtime into a political statement because some cops are corrupt. She also thinks that since this is now “news”, the people who decided to protest the police on company time have done a great service to the movement. I disagree, of course, and here’s why.

I don’t know much about Daphne, Alabama, and I know nothing about the people who chose to protest on company time. But I do know something about living in the South. A cursory look at Daphne on Google tells me that it’s kind of a suburb of Mobile, Alabama, which is a pretty good sized city. So maybe, if the people working in that restaurant have their own transportation, being fired from Five Guys isn’t a big deal. They can go out and get another job with ease. My friend also pointed out that it’s a “fast food” place, and those jobs are a dime a dozen, and that’s usually true, especially when you live in a city…

But it looks like Daphne isn’t the biggest town. I grew up in a town much the same size. I left there permanently over twenty years ago, and people there still remember me. That was BEFORE the Internet really took off, which has made the world a smaller place than it used to be. Although I haven’t seen the names or pictures of the people who protested, my guess is that local people know who was involved. That might make getting a new job in Daphne problematic for them. Consider, too, that the people in that town probably don’t appreciate such a stunt. Based on the negative comments on the restaurant’s Facebook page, it looks like maybe the “message” sent by the protest was lost on the local populace, who would be the people I would expect the protesters were targeting.

Again– if the people involved have access to their own transportation, maybe it’s not a big deal. But what if one or more of them has to walk to and from work? It can be a real pisser if your commute by foot goes from a half a mile to two or three miles, especially in July in Alabama. Does Daphne have a bus system? I don’t know. Taxis can be very expensive. So is gas, especially if you don’t have a job. On the other hand, that could also work the other way. Perhaps it’s a minor point.

Of course, I don’t know anything about the ex employee protesters. Maybe the Five Guys gig was a second job that provided extra cash, rather than a main stream of income. Maybe they could afford to lose the job. But what if they couldn’t? Now they’ll probably have to look for new work during a pandemic. That might not be easy for them, and again, I’m not sure what they did really changed anyone’s hearts and minds about the police.

Another thing that occurred to me is that the workers were basically protesting unfair treatment and discrimination by the police toward black and brown people. It seems kind of strange to me that their response to that problem is to turn around and do the same thing. Fight discrimination by being discriminatory toward a group of people who do police work? Even if the police officers were exemplary cops who had made the town safer? And even now, a few days later, it’s not exactly clear to me if that was what they were doing when they turned their backs on the cops. At first, it seemed like the protest was about #blacklivesmatter, but then I saw something about face masks and how the cops didn’t have them at first. So were they being refused service due to a lack of masks? Or was this a statement on the corrupt nature of the police? Did they plan to do this in advance, or was this a spontaneous decision? What was the message?

Finally, the very essence of working in a fast food restaurant is service. If you’re a fast food worker who chooses not to serve someone simply on the basis of their employment, you’re not doing your job. For that reason, you deserve to be fired, and other employers would be within their rights not to hire you for a similar position. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe the people who got fired don’t want or need a similar position. BUT– my guess is that if they do decide they want to work at one of Five Guys’ competitors or any other service related job, this issue will arise anew. Cops are people too, and they have needs. If you’re unwilling or unable to serve them, then you’re not a good fit for the service industry.

I don’t blame people for being angry about the way some police officers have treated some people. I also know about a certain very famous football player who famously “takes a knee” when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. Many people who take issue with Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel in protest say that he shouldn’t be protesting while on the clock. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other if he kneels, because I don’t follow football, and ultimately when he plays football, he is doing his job. Kneeling while the anthem plays may be disrespectful, but it doesn’t affect his actual work. However, Colin Kaepernick is also a famous football star, and he can probably afford to use his platform in such a way. Google tells me that he makes about $7 million a year, and I see that he recently signed a deal with Disney. He’s not easily replaced. People who work in fast food restaurants, unfortunately, are not usually quite so special.

As I write this, I am reminded of an incident that happened in Lexington, Virginia at a restaurant called The Red Hen. The proprietor there declined to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders based on her employees’ reluctance. But, in that situation, the restaurant’s co-owner ultimately made the decision. It was her business, and therefore her right to make that call. The same is not true in the Five Guys situation. My family is actually from a community not far from Lexington; it’s the town where I got married. When I go back there, I plan to stop by The Red Hen.

In the Five Guys incident, the people who took a stand were employees of a franchise. Their decision to refuse to serve the police officers affects the chain as a whole, because it became international news. Moreover, it’s not like the owner of the restaurant said, “It’s alright with me if you protest on company time.” Those workers apparently took it upon themselves to make personal statements that affected their place of business. In the Red Hen incident, the employees had the backing of the person who had the most to lose. Also, Sarah Sanders Huckabee is a public figure– one person whose actions are definitely protest worthy. The police officers in Daphne are simply folks who do police work for a living. Maybe one or more of them have done protest worthy things, but it’s not clear from the news stories I’ve seen so far.

I do think that the United States criminal justice system must be reformed. People have every right to be angry that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have been killed by police officers. I see nothing wrong with protesting on one’s own time. The Five Guys employees had every right to protest. But doing it while on the job was just asking to be fired. Maybe they don’t care about that, but they might want to consider that it could affect their prospects of being hired by someone else. That might make it more difficult to be an effective protester in the long run.

Anyway, here in Germany, things are pretty good. There are problems here, but police officers are generally respected and respectable. And because people have been cooperating, the COVID-19 issue isn’t so bad here. Bill and I even got to enjoy a lovely lunch on Sunday… and we were told we did NOT need our masks AT ALL, even to go inside to use the rest room. That was really awesome– although as far as I know, masks are still required in shops and on public transportation.

I think Americans can take a lesson from the Germans. Mutual respect and consideration is a good thing and it leads to a better life for everyone.

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