communication, law, Police, travel

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t…

I still have a ton of travel blogging to do, and I’ll be getting to that in a little while. First, I want to write about a situation I read about this morning.

Last month, white mom, Mary MacCarthy, was traveling with her ten year old biracial daughter, Moira. They were on their way to a funeral in Denver, Colorado. Ms. MacCarthy’s brother died suddenly in October, so MacCarthy had to take a last minute flight from her home in California. MacCarthy is a single mom, and her brother was like a father to Moira. The girl was crying when she was boarding the flight, and the two were initially not able to sit together. MacCarthy asked other passengers if someone would be willing to move so that she and her daughter could be next to each other.

Another passenger was kind enough to oblige, and the pair arrived safely in Denver, where they were met on the jet bridge by a couple of Denver police officers. MacCarthy was shocked to be confronted by the cops. She worried that they were there to deliver more bad news. But, it turned out that they wanted to talk to her because someone had called them, suspicious about their behavior. Moira had been crying because her uncle died. Then, afterwards, she was confronted by the police, and terrified because of all of the news coverage about people of color being abused or even killed by the police.

After talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Denver police cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they were free to go. MacCarthy recorded the incident on her phone. The initial police report indicated that a Southwest flight attendant had reported the duo for “suspicious behavior”.

Two weeks later, MacCarthy got a phone call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking unit. The caller said the unit was following up on MacCarthy’s case. It was only then that MacCarthy realized she had been suspected of human trafficking.

MacCarthy sent an email to Southwest Airlines about this incident and, she says, so far they have not apologized. Instead, she claims she has only received two brief automated responses. MacCarthy has retained an attorney and is accusing Southwest Airlines of “racial profiling”. She now wants “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”

Southwest Airlines has said it’s “disheartened” by MacCarthy’s story of the events and has “plans to reach out to her.” In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said:

“We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of Customers who travel with us each year,”

I can’t blame Mary MacCarthy and her daughter for being very upset and traumatized by what happened to them last month. On the other hand, I also have some empathy for the flight attendant who called the police. It sounds like the flight attendant was following protocol based on training. And while it’s certainly possible that the call was based on the flight attendant’s racial biases, I can’t conclude for certain that it was, based on the information I’ve read about this case so far.

Just yesterday, I read another story about a sixteen year old girl who was abducted by a 61 year old man. The girl had seen a hand gesture on Tik Tok called the Signal for Help. She used it while riding in the car with her kidnapper, hoping someone in another car would notice her signal of distress. Fortunately, someone did notice, and called 911. The motorist who made the emergency call also stayed behind the car and updated the police to the kidnapper’s location. That’s how the Laurel County sheriff’s department in Kentucky managed to arrest James Herbert Brick and bring the teenager he’d abducted to safety.

Brick has been charged with two felonies: unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. He was locked up in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., on a $10,000 bond.

In both of these scenarios, people saw something and said something, which is the advice often given to those who are concerned about something that is amiss. I’ve heard that advice given in situations involving potential crimes, as well as in situations that involve potential medical issues. Yes, it’s possible that a person is making much ado about nothing, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”, especially when children are involved.

My heart goes out to Mary MacCarthy and Moira. They were already upset and anxious on that flight to Denver, given the terrible and sudden loss of MacCarthy’s brother, who was only 46 years old. Ms. MacCarthy also says that Moira is only ten, but she looks much older than ten. And it’s almost always scary to be confronted by the police, particularly in this era during which Black people have been injured or killed by American cops.

But… unfortunately, there are people out there who traffic children. Not all traffickers are scary looking men. Sometimes women are involved with trafficking children, and they get away with it, because they don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a trafficker. And flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of people who might be harming children. The flight attendant who called the police reported that Ms. MacCarthy and Moira were among the last to board the flight and the last to buy tickets. And they didn’t speak during the flight. Of course, the flight attendant had no way of knowing the circumstances of why the duo were behaving as they were, and she had many other passengers to look after on the flight. It might not have been possible for her to find out more about the situation before she made her judgment call.

It seems to me that Ms. MacCarthy is legitimately upset because she’s offended. I don’t blame her for being offended. But I would also hate to see people being discouraged from calling for help when they see something that doesn’t look right. I understand that calling the police on matters involving people of color can lead to tragic consequences. It shouldn’t be that way, though. People should feel free to call for help if they think help is needed. And I think in this case, the flight attendant was obviously concerned and felt that the situation merited calling the police. It turned out that she was wrong, but what if she hadn’t been wrong?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed several people hitting a post I wrote earlier this year about how the “Karen” stigma can actually be deadly. That post was about a column I read in The Atlantic magazine, about a woman who was concerned that her pharmacy wasn’t requiring people to wear face masks at the drive in pickup station. But she didn’t want to be a “Karen”, so she didn’t say anything about it.

That post was written in late January of this year, before a lot of people had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The incident the article it was based on occurred even earlier than that. The point I made in that post is that being overly concerned about being labeled a “Karen” or a “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patty” could actually cause harm to people. If there is a situation that is potentially dangerous, a person should feel okay about asking for help from people who have the ability to investigate. In a perfect world, making such a call would be perfectly safe, and would not result in someone being hurt, killed, or even humiliated.

Ms. MacCarthy assumes that she and her daughter were questioned because they don’t look alike. And it’s possible that racism played a part in the reason the flight attendant noticed them and called the cops. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the flight attendant was legitimately concerned and believed the duo were throwing up major red flags. The end result was that Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared and allowed to go on their way. Yes, it was traumatic, embarrassing, and scary, but in the end, no one was hurt or killed, and no one actually was being trafficked. Those are good things, even if Southwest Airlines hasn’t apologized for the mistake.

For the record, yes, I do think the airline owes Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter a sincere apology. I’m sure that Southwest Airlines will eventually settle with Ms. MacCarthy. Hopefully, the settlement will be appropriate and make the situation less horrifying for MacCarthy and her daughter. According to NBC news:

“At this point they can speak with my attorneys,” MacCarthy said.

She says it’s about more than an apology.

“I travel with my daughter’s birth certificate because I’m ready to answer any questions if necessary,” she said. “The fact that we’re mother and daughter, the fact that I’m a single parent traveling with my daughter. It’s the right of TSA to ask those questions, I’m open to that. But the way this was handled was so unprofessional.

“I will do whatever it takes to speak out against the type of ignorant behavior and policies that lead to families being treated this way.”

I think people involved with serving and protecting the public have a tough and often thankless job. But I also think that these kinds of situations, where an offended person pursues legal remedies against those who act out of caution– especially when it involves children— could have a chilling effect that might lead to more children being harmed or killed. If someone sees something that raises a red flag, but they decide not to act because of the danger of being sued or even just being called a “Karen”, there could be even more tragedies. I’m sure the young lady who gave the Signal for Help while being driven through multiple states with her 61 year old captor is happy that someone acted and called the police.

But… in Mary MacCarthy’s defense, I also think that once the Denver Police cleared her and her daughter, that should have been the end of it. The human trafficking department should not have called her to “follow up”. I think if that hadn’t have happened, this story would have a different trajectory. And I do believe her when she says that Moira is traumatized by what happened.

I hope someday, the police situation in the United States will be overhauled, so that officers can actually be thought of as good people to call for help, rather than just threatening and potentially deadly. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. And… on another note, flying has gotten to be pretty terrible these days. Stories like these make me want to avoid flying even more than ever.

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narcissists, psychology, true crime, videos, YouTube

Should we have all seen it coming?

Although she’s been all over the news all week, I’ve been cautiously waiting to write more about Gabrielle Petito. Even though I kind of knew deep down that the dead body found in Wyoming would probably end up belonging to her, I hesitated to state outright that she was deceased. I didn’t want to get on the bandwagon of assumptions that people often get on in cases like hers.

This is so sad. She was such a lovely young woman with her whole life ahead of her.

I also initially couldn’t bring myself to comment much on this case. So many people were offering opinions that they were very certain about. I still didn’t feel like I had enough information, although the signs were certainly there that Gabrielle Petito was a victim of abuse perpetrated by her boyfriend. Even now, in spite of the many creepy and disturbing signs that Gabby’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, is an abuser and potentially a murderer, I don’t want to make that statement outright. Because, in spite of all of the damning signs, I still don’t know for sure. I can only strongly assume, and I feel like there’s enough assuming going on right now. The truth is, a lot of this story is still pretty mysterious, especially since Mr. Laundrie is still missing. At this point, he’s still just a “person of interest”.

What I do know is that abusers come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, and flavors. So, I also hesitate to be among my friends who have been posting things like this…

While I totally agree about trying to teach children not to be abusive, I also know from personal experience that this is a lesson that EVERYONE needs to learn. And sometimes even when you try to teach it, the lesson still gets lost.

Also, sadly, I don’t think this is a lesson that can always be taught. Sometimes a parent can do their very best to teach their children right from wrong, and the kid still grows up to be an abuser. I think some people are just naturally prone to have bad intentions. I can think of a lot of families I’ve known… good, hardworking, decent folks… who have one or two people in their ranks that aren’t quite as upstanding as the rest of the family. So I don’t automatically put the actions of an abuser on the parents. It’s not always their fault.

I don’t know a thing about Brian Laundrie or his parents, so at this point, I really can’t judge the parents for what their son might have done to his girlfriend. But, the other day, I did watch the entire body cam video of the traffic stop involving Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito in Moab, Utah. The video was over an hour in length, so I can’t say I was watching it very intently. I do remember hearing how friendly and at ease Brian seemed to be with the police, even as Gabrielle was crying and clearly upset.

I wonder how the officers involved in this case feel now…

I do want to commend the cops for treating Petito and Laundrie professionally. They were especially kind to Gabby, letting her sit in air conditioning and giving her water. On the other hand, I heard the main cop, who was primarily in charge, repeatedly talking about Gabby to Brian as if they were buddies. He related his story about his own wife, who has “anxiety issues” and needs medication. I don’t think the cop’s wife’s mental health issues are necessarily relevant to this situation. It sounded to me like the officer was making some assumptions without knowing all of the facts. I can’t blame him too much for that. We all do it to some extent. I also think he truly was trying to help, which is commendable, although I think maybe he got a little too friendly with Laundrie. I wonder if the cop would have been as friendly if Laundrie and Petito weren’t young, attractive, white people.

In the wake of the video and the news about Petito’s remains being found, more people have come out to say that they saw Brian mistreating Gabby in public. But even if those people had come forward sooner, I’m not sure what could have been done. I do remember reading one account of a park ranger who told Gabby that her relationship with Brian appeared to be “toxic”. Melissa Hulls, a visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park in Utah, was among the officers who dealt with the couple when they were stopped in Utah. We don’t see much of what was said to Gabby during the stop, although I do remember hearing the officers discuss whether or not they were going to arrest her for domestic violence against Brian Laundrie. According to the link:

“I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life,” Hulls said of Petito, who was living with Laundrie and his parents in Florida prior to the trip.

“She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida,” Hulls added.

I remember all too well crying like Gabby in the calm, assured faces of abusers. They made it seem like I was the “crazy” one. For a long time, I felt like I was crazy. And then, when no one else was watching– or the only other witness was a “flying monkey”– the abusers would go off on a rage. I can also see a red flag in Melissa Hulls’ statement about how Gabby was afraid to be away from Brian. Abusive people like to isolate their victims. They get to the point at which they don’t think they can function on their own. That’s how the abuser wants it to be, because then the victim will always be there to take more abuse.

In the end, the cops decided not to file charges against Petito. Even if they had arrested her, I’m not sure if the outcome would have been any different in the long run. But the fact that Gabby might have been arrested is another wrinkle in this situation. Oftentimes, people who are being abused don’t want to ask for help because if they do fight back, there is a chance that they will be the ones who end up in cuffs. My husband was abused by his ex wife in just about every possible way. He never reported her behavior to the police because he knew that it was just as likely that he’d wind up in trouble. She also had him convinced that everything was his fault. In the above police body cam video, you can hear Gabby talking about how she’d made Brian angry.

Hulls adds that when the stop was made, the police officers really did think it was a mental health situation caused by the two of them being together for too long, living in austere conditions. They had no reason to believe at the time that either party was truly in any danger. More than once, I heard the police refer to Gabrielle’s diminutive size compared to Brian’s, although Brian was the one with visible injuries. And Brian was very calm and friendly, while Gabby was crying and distraught. I think it’s important for people to remember that police officers aren’t necessarily mental health experts. Their job is to assess whether or not crimes are committed and enforce the laws. But clearly, Melissa Hulls got a bad feeling about Brian Laundrie.

Another couple from Louisiana, who happened to be vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming when Gabby and Brian were passing through, remember witnessing a “commotion” at a restaurant. Nina Angelo, and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw Gabby and Brian leaving The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant on August 27th. Brian was reportedly clearly agitated and angry, going in and out of the restaurant and being abusive toward the wait staff and hostess. The waitress who took care of Gabby and Brian also experienced abuse from Brian and was very shaken. Later that same day, Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, received a strange text that supposedly came from Gabby. It was the last communication she got from her daughter.

Later, on August 29th, a couple in Wyoming gave Brian a ride. They said he offered to pay $200 for the ride, even before he got in their car. The couple said Brian told them Gabby was at the van, working on her blog. But when it turned out the couple was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, rather than Jackson, Brian allegedly became “very agitated” and asked them to stop the car. He got out of the vehicle near Jackson Dam, less than 30 minutes after they’d picked him up.

These signs that are surfacing now tell us that maybe people should have done more. I think it’s hard to take action in a case that doesn’t seem cut and dry. We’re taught to mind our own business and give people the benefit of the doubt… and there’s also the very real risk that the abuser will turn on those who intervene. There were a few people who did try to do something.

On August 12, someone called the police to report a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie. In the 911 call, the caller says “We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl… Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.” Another bystander named Chris reported to the police that he saw Gabby and Brian fighting in Utah. He heard Gabby say something along the lines of “Why do you have to be so mean?” He also saw Gabby punching Brian in the arm and the face, trying to take a cell phone from him. He described their interaction as “aggressive.” Below is a video by the Body Language Guy, who analyzes Laundrie’s body language.

Jesus Enrique Rosas is convinced that Gabby was a victim of abuse.

And yet, even though all of this was going on, no one was willing or able to intervene in time to stop Gabrielle Petito’s murder. The autopsy does confirm that she was killed in a homicide. It certainly looks very much like Brian Laundrie had something to do with it. In fact, it looks like he had everything to do with it. I will be very surprised if it turns out he’s innocent. But until I know that for sure, I hesitate to say he’s asbolutely guilty of murder, because we haven’t heard the whole story yet. What I do think is clear is that he regularly abused his girlfriend and, whether or not she “gave as good as she got”, she’s the one who is definitely dead.

Of course, at this point, it looks like Brian might possibly also be deceased. He has somehow disappeared in Florida, and officials there have brought in deep divers and special equipment to see if he’s somewhere at the bottom of an alligator and snake infested swamp or something. The mystery continues.

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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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true crime

Really giving her something to cry about…

Yesterday, I decided to spend the day catching up on my reading. The weather was cold and snowy, and it was dark outside. It was the perfect weather for finishing my latest book, Rachael Denhollander’s What is a Girl Worth. I’ll probably review it later, if I don’t have any technical issues with the blog. For some reason, I’ve been having some technical difficulties this morning.

Anyway, while I was reading my book, I happened to catch one of Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook posts. She shared a news article from the Orlando Sentinel about a shocking incident that occurred in September of last year. Reporter Grace Toohey wrote about the horrifying arrest of six-year-old Kaia Rolle, who attended Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy last fall.

Kaia suffers from sleep apnea that causes her to act out. School staff members were aware of Kaia’s condition and working with her to overcome it. On the day of her arrest, Kaia had a pretty serious temper tantrum at school, possibly brought on by her sleep apnea. Kaia had punched and kicked three school employees. But she later calmed down, and was quietly listening to a story being read to her by a staff member when former police officer Dennis Turner and a colleague arrived on the scene.

When Kaia saw the big cop with zip ties in his hands, she asked “What are those for?”

Turner said, “They’re for you.” He handed them to his colleague, while Kaia figured out what was about to happen.

The other officer tightened the zip ties around Kaia’s wrists as she started crying, begging, and screaming for help. Then, former Officer Turner marched the little girl out of the school and put her in the back of his police car. She was charged with misdemeanor battery, though the charges were dropped the next day. That same day, Turner arrested a six year old boy at the same school for the same crime, although the boy’s arrest was stopped by superiors before he’d gone through the whole process. Kaia was actually taken to a juvenile center, fingerprinted, and mugshot. She was so tiny that staff had to get her to stand on a step stool so her photo could be taken.

I’ve found the body cam video for this incident several places on the Internet, but almost all of them cut off the end. The most accessible videos only show Turner putting Kaia in the back of a police SUV, probably without a booster seat. She’s clearly terrified and traumatized, but that part was somehow less shocking to me than the very end of the video, which is visible on the Orlando Sentinel’s article. Supposedly, Turner arrested Kaia because one of the school’s staff members she’d punched and kicked had wanted to press charges. School officials denied that was ever the case.

On the longer video, we can see Turner going back into the school and speaking to staffers. The school officials were clearly concerned about Kaia. They asked Turner if it was really necessary to restrain the girl with zip ties. Turner said that if Kaia had been bigger, she’d be wearing regular handcuffs. Then, as if to boast, he said he’d arrested over 6,000 people and the youngest one was about seven years old. When he was told that Kaia was six, he said with a touch of amusement that she’d “broken the record”. He wasn’t the slightest bit dismayed or concerned as he made his statement. He actually sounded kind of proud of himself. None of the staff members tried to stop the arrest, although they did seem rather non-plussed by it.

As horrified as I was by the news story, I was especially shocked as I watched the video. The child is tiny, and Turner is a very large man who had backup. No wonder Kaia was petrified. While I understand that the police have a dangerous job, especially nowadays, it really seems like overkill that such a little girl had to be restrained in that way. There’s no way she was a physical threat to anyone.

When I listen to Kaia speak, I’m surprised by how bright and articulate she is. I can’t imagine, at that age, having the presence of mind to beg a police officer for “a second chance”, or even knowing what zip ties are. I remember seeing little kids meltdown when I was that age. I probably had a few tantrums in school myself. But back in those days, there weren’t “zero tolerance” policies that required arresting small children for age appropriate temper tantrums. When I was a kid, the principal would handle the discipline. Granted, that might mean getting paddled. I don’t necessarily approve of that, either. But at least most young kids had a fighting chance of getting through grade school without a police record.

Fortunately, Dennis Turner has been dismissed from his job, even though Florida has no minimum age for arrest. Turner had violated his department’s policy, which requires officers to get approval from a supervisor before arresting anyone under age 12. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Turner retired from the Orlando Police Department last year, after 23 years on the job. He was employed by the OPD’s Reserve Unit, which is made of retired officers who do part-time work for the agency. However, despite Turner’s long tenure as an Orlando cop, his record as a police officer is troubling. Prior to retiring last year, Turner was disciplined seven times for violating department policies. The complaints ranged from unsafe driving to a child abuse charge involving his own seven-year-old son. In 2009, he was accused of sending threatening text messages to his ex wife. He’s also been accused of racial profiling. What the hell was this man doing on the police force? He should have been fired many years ago!

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised and dismayed that Dennis Turner enjoyed such a long career as a police officer, particularly considering that he was working in Florida. I must admit, though, that reading this story really upset me. I don’t even recognize the United States anymore. It’s turned into a place where there is no more common sense or decency. The police are required for every intervention and it seems like the only response is to arrest people and put them behind bars. It absolutely ridiculous, particularly when an incident involves a small child like Kaia.

The Orlando Police Department is now doing serious damage control.

Kaia Rolle no longer attends Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy. She now goes to a private school, because she refuses to attend a school with a police officer on campus. I’m sure Kaia is left with a lingering fear of the police, which could turn out to be tragic for her if she ever needs their help. These kids are so young, and they have their whole lives ahead of them. What has happened to our society that we have people wearing badges and carrying weapons, thinking this is an appropriate response to a small child having a temper tantrum at school? It seems like a scary number of Americans have completely lost their sense of humanity and common sense. It makes me glad I don’t have any children.

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music

Here’s to Life…

No… I have not become a pro-lifer. I just have life on the brain this morning, for a couple of reasons. First off, I learned this morning that Amy Jordan Duggar King (whichever last name she’s going by these days) just had her first baby, a son named Daxton Ryan King. It seems like nowadays, we’ve given up all the names that were incarnations of Aiden… Jayden, Braden, Hayden, Kayden, and Maiden… Now “axton” has become the popular suffix of modern names. We have Jaxton, Braxton, Saxton, and now Daxton. Well, as long he’s healthy and happy, I guess that’s all that matters. Amy had a C-section in a hospital. She looks like she’s over the moon due to the arrival of her son. Good on her! I hope the planet is good to him as he grows up.

Sigh… I love this song.

“Here’s to Life” is also the name of a beautiful song I first heard in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Composed by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary, this is a wistful song about the passage of life. The song was made popular by Shirley Horn, but the version I heard was done very movingly by the Jordan Family, a musical family from New Orleans who, at the time of the Katrina fundraiser in 2005, were still missing a couple of people due to the flooding. The above video is a beautiful live version done on the second anniversary after Katrina hit.

Artie Butler talks about how he came to write this beautiful song and Phyllis Molinary wrote the lyrics. He wrote it for his dad.

I would love to do the jazzy rendition done by the Jordan Family, but it’s not available. Since I just updated my iMac to Catalina, I wanted to see if my music library was affected, in terms of DRM. I had Barbra Streisand’s karaoke version of “Here’s to Life” that I never uploaded, so I decided to do it this morning. I don’t know that I ever listened to Barbra’s version before this morning. Barbra Streisand is one of those singers whom many people love. Personally, she’s not my favorite, even though I recognize her brilliance. I would rather watch her act than listen to her sing. I feel the same way about Bette Midler, whom I think is a wonderful comedienne. But I do like what Miss Streisand did with “Here’s to Life”. Below is her version.

This is very nice. I like the arrangement very much, although it kind of misses the gut wrenching emotion of Stephanie Jordan’s version, which I can tell really came from her heart.

I also did a version this morning. In a former life, I may have been a torch singer. The lyrics are especially meaningful to me lately. Zane, the wonder beagle, has been on my mind a lot. I really miss him. I probably miss him more than some of the people I’ve lost over the past few years. Arran, our other dog, has been adjusting to the loss… it’s almost like Zane jumped into him and imparted some manners. He’s been very snuggly and cuddly, obviously enjoying not having to share the attention with Zane. We’ve had fewer behavioral issues. It’s been nice, although it doesn’t make up for the hole in our little family. Last night, we had beautiful rainbows as the sun came out during a rainstorm. Although I know it’s just a weather phenomenon, it made me think of Zane and made me wonder if maybe he was saying “hello”… So I took a few photos.

Even if he wasn’t greeting us, the rainbows made me think of Zane, and how quickly almost ten years can fly by. He would have turned eleven next month and we would have celebrated ten years with him in December. And now he’s gone. “Here’s to Life” reminds me that life is fleeting, and it’s a good thing to savor every moment if you can. Zane was one of those creatures who was almost always happy, and he made me happy. I was not blessed with a naturally cheerful personality, so I have to work at seeing the bright side of things sometimes. I try to maintain perspective as much as possible. I think that’s something everyone should do. Unfortunately, some people aren’t able.

This morning, I was looking through memories on Facebook and was reminded of an argument I had with a conservative friend of mine. He’s a police officer and, I think, is a bit embittered by the so-called “liberal media”. I had shared a video of a black woman who was in tears because she was pulled over by a white police officer for driving too slowly. She was absolutely terrified that she would be arrested, wounded, or killed by the officer. I was responding to this woman’s palpable distress at being pulled over and not understanding why the cop had stopped her. She obviously felt her life was in jeopardy and there was nothing she could do about it.

The police officer clearly felt terrible that the woman was so upset. He really was a good officer who was legitimately concerned about her safety. He gave her a hug and begged her not to cry. But the woman was still legitimately afraid. I thought her story was heartbreaking, and said so. My cop friend tried to make himself and other police officers out to be victims of the “liberal media”, who make people like the woman in the video terrified. But it’s a fact that unarmed people of color have been killed by law enforcement. The woman’s fear is not unfounded or unreasonable, and I empathized with that reality. That was what I was responding to, even as I understand that my cop friend feels badly when people complain about police officers abusing their power.

Here are a few comments from our discussion. He claims I “misread” his intent.

Not that I want to rehash this discussion, per se… this is more a comment on perspectives. My friend John has the perspective of a police officer. I can see his perspective on a cognitive level. I also see the terrified woman’s perspective. Being pulled over is scary enough when you’re not in a group who is regularly targeted simply due to your appearance. I can see why the lady in the video was so frightened and, as a fellow human being, I related to her pain. It doesn’t mean I can’t empathize with John. I just didn’t feel like we needed to turn the narrative of this particular video into something about the poor police officers.

I know that most cops don’t abuse their power. Too many of them do, though… and people sometimes get hurt or killed. A nice lady who was driving a little bit under the speed limit should not be reduced to tears of terror simply because someone who is supposed to protect and serve pulls her over due to legitimate worries about her ability to drive safely. The cop described in the video was doing his job well, and I commend him. He is a credit to his profession, and reminds us that no situation is truly “black and white”, and almost nothing is all good or all bad. But that doesn’t mean the woman was “wrong” to be scared, nor is her legitimate fear necessarily the media’s fault.

Black and white thinking– assuming someone or something is all good or all bad– is a bad habit a lot of us get into. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people are not all good or all bad. Most of us are middle of the road. I don’t assume all police officers are horrible people based on a few media reports. However, I also don’t assume that people like the woman in the video are wrong to be scared when they get pulled over by the cops. Unfortunately, by sharing this video, I got into a minor argument that ultimately got kind of negative. But even this discussion led to something good. We had a discussion, and it’s a part of what inspires me to write today.

Zane, the wonder beagle, taught me that most everyone is inherently good on some level. He maintained a positive attitude and didn’t engage in black and white thinking. It’s easy to be bogged down by negativity and hatred when someone or something causes a negative reaction. But almost every situation has a silver lining, and that’s why it’s so good to try to maintain perspective. Even bad situations can lead to something positive and hopeful.

For instance, in 2012, when we lost our sweet “bagel” MacGregor, Arran came into our lives and brightened it. We also made several new friends in North Carolina. Zane brought good things to our lives, too. And now that he’s gone, his life still makes a difference… even if it’s just in the form of inspiration that comes from singing a song, taking a photo, or writing a blog post.

John Rasmussen, the awesome artist who made this, was inspired by Zane, too. Check out his Facebook page.

Well… this post turned into a roundabout discussion, didn’t it? I do enjoy my “music” days, even if other people don’t. I feel good when I can make music for myself and anyone who cares to share it with me. I write most days and writing often brings me satisfaction, but music brings me joy. I’d probably be a happier person if I could do more music and less writing… at the very least, I’d get into less trouble. So “here’s to life”… and here’s to you. And here’s to realizing that if you want to see rainbows, a little rain must fall.

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