The Police and Deadly Force

I’ve historically been a supporter of law enforcement.  (I confess to having made jokes about donuts, etc., but in fairness, I also make preacher jokes.)   Among other things, I’ve always been taught that police officers have great courage and have the discipline to show great restraint, even under very tense situations. I’ve watched shows that portray officers going through a staged environment where cardboard cut-outs spring up.  I’ve watched as they fire shots into the mocked-up thug pointing a gun, while NOT firing at the cardboard paper boy.  Honesty, I’ve always thought that I could never do that!  Those that can get my admiration.

In light of recent circumstances, however, I questioned what was considered proper for police officers to use deadly force. I had my own beliefs but I wanted to have that belief either confirmed or denied. Doing a little research, I found this diagram to explain when officers use deadly force:

Another person sent me a copy of text directly from an officer’s manual. It is is worth reading::

“Deadly force is force that is intended to or likely to cause death.  Whenever safety permits, police officers should identify themselves and state their intent to shoot prior to using a firearm.  Officers are to discharge their weapons to stop an assailant from completing a potentially deadly act as described.  Officers should shoot to stop the threat and to minimize danger to innocent bystanders.

An officer may use deadly force:

  1. As a last resort in defense of oneself, when there is reasonable cause to believe that the officer is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
  2. As a last resort in defense of another person, whom the officer has reasonable cause to believe is being unlawfully attacked and is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
  3. As a last resort to prevent escape of a suspect where the officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has used deadly force in the commission of a felony and the officer reasonably believes there is no other way to make the arrest or retain the custody of the person once arrested, or the person to be arrested can reasonably be thought to be intent on endangering human life or upon inflicting serious bodily harm.  In any event, the officer should not use deadly force unless he/she believes it is necessary and then only as a last resort.”

That diagram and that excerpt from an officer’s manual go right along with what I’ve always believed.  Lethal action hinges on terms like, “last resort,” and, “imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”  I repeat that I’ve always had great admiration and respect for officers for having the courage, restraint, and discipline to follow these principles.  I know it wouldn’t be easy.  I don’t believe I would have the nerve, so kudos to those men and women in uniform who do.

Now, I want to illustrate the principle as I understand it:  If I’m standing five feet in front of an officer, with my back turned to the officer, with a gun in my hand pointed at the ground, the officer is supposed to show courage, discipline, and restraint and not shoot me.  (While I have a weapon, since I am facing away and pointing at the ground I am not showing intent nor am I able to shoot anyone from that position.)  If I then begin the raise the weapon and suddenly spin to face the officer, that IS creating imminent danger and the officer would be justified, as a last resort, to shoot me.

Now, in the wake of the, “officer-involved shooting,” of suspect, Jacob Blake, a video has circulated showing the suspect ignoring instructions from police officers and trying to get away from them.  As he tries to access a vehicle, an officer pulls on his shirt from behind and fires seven shots into his back.  Jacob Blake survived (probably paralyzed but he lived) but I think there is widespread agreement that seven shots meets the definition of deadly force (“likely to cause death”).   There may be a lot of factors and variables that we don’t know and that is why we await the final report from the investigation.

Meanwhile, however, without having the final report and without knowing of additional details, I’m repeatedly reading, from multiple sources, that hypothetically, since the suspect had a record and was non-compliant, and since the officer didn’t know why the suspect was trying to access the vehicle, the officer was fully justified to use deadly force.

I’m sorry to say that this hypothetical stance concerns me.   When analyzed, it is but a lightly-cloaked version of, “shoot first and ask questions later.”  It reveals a standard very different from, “last resort,” and, “imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.” 

Again, restating the disclaimer that the final post-investigation report is not available yet, hypothetically, I would rather believe that this kind of shooting is an anomaly; that it represents a failure to adhere to established principles.  I would rather believe that it is not standard operating procedure for our police officers to shoot a person in the back because MAYBE the situation was going to escalate.  I would rather believe that the vast, vast majority of our police officers are still exhibiting the courage, restraint, and discipline to reserve deadly force as a, “last resort” when under “threat of imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”

I say Kudos to all the men and women in law enforcement who live up to that high ideal.  Those officers have my support.  To those who can’t (or won’t) live up to that high ideal, sorry, but law enforcement is not for them.

Remember, Don’t Honor

Benedict Arnold was a great officer—until he wasn’t!    He was a brilliant strategist who led us to victory in multiple battles and was promoted to the rank of major general and given charge of fortifications at West Point.  He then planned to clandestinely surrender West Point to the British!   His plan was disrupted and he defected to the British where he was given the rank of brigadier general and led troops against the United States. 

Do you know any Americans who attended Benedict Arnold Elementary School?  Do you know any veteran who was ever stationed at Fort Arnold?  Have you ever posed for a picture standing by a statue of Benedict Arnold?   No, to all of those questions.  (There is a statue of a boot that is said to commemorate Benedict Arnold but his name isn’t even on it.  There was also a Fort Arnold but it was renamed after his betrayal.)  Without those honors, we have never forgotten him or what he did.  The same should be true with regards to the Confederate States of America and its leaders.   

Think about the actual words of the Pledge of Allegiance:  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We are the “UNITED States.”  The Confederate States tried to break that unity.

We are “ONE NATION.”  The Confederate States tried to make us two.

We are “INDIVISIBLE.”  The Confederate States took up arms to divide us.

We proclaim “LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”  The Confederate States did what they did primarily in defense of slavery which is diametrically opposed to liberty and justice for all.

It is true that the Civil War and the Confederacy are a part of our history and should never be forgotten. That history should be commemorated in museums and on historical markers at significant locations; it should be written about in our text books and taught in our schools.  

But we must remember that while the Confederacy should never be forgotten, it should never be praised, glorified, or honored.  (It is not hyperbole to say that Confederate leaders, both civilian and military, were treasonous.  Taking up arms against the United States is the very definition of treason.)   But the truth is, we have already done so.   We’ve also placed statues in town squares and other places of honor.  We have flown their flag in front of government offices, courts, and on our military bases.  We have even honorifically named schools, parks, and military bases in their honor.  

The time has come to remedy that mistake.  Statues in places of honor (town squares, in front of public libraries, etc.) should be relocated to museums and/or proper historical sites.  Schools, military bases, parks, streets, etc., that have been named in honor of Confederate leaders should be renamed.  It’s time the southern states that formed the Confederacy recognize that the Civil War is a scar in their history, not a highlight.  It should not be seen as bragging rights, but as an embarrassment. It’s time they identify and lift up new heroes and new symbols to express their southern pride.

A Bike Ride (Photo Essay)

The wafting flag reveals the otherwise invisible wind. Sometimes it’s a headwind with which you must do battle. Other times it assists you from behind.

At times our paths are clearly marked and it is clear which way to go.

At other times, options present themselves and choices must be made.

At times the journey before you is smooth and straight.

At other times, you can’t see what might be around the next bend.

We encounter places where people have created environments of openness and visibility.

Other places have been designed for invisibility and isolation.

There are places of natural beauty.

And there are scarred and ugly places.

There are times and places where rules and regulations are explicit and which of necessity must be more closely obeyed.

Barriers crop up which must circumvented.

There are times and places to work and be productive.

There are also places to play!

Renewal is often called for but it is usually messy and gets worse before it gets better.

At times we are forbidden entrance to enticing places.

Regardless of the places you journey through, it takes work.

And at times we need to take the opportunity to stop and rest.

As it turns out, a bike ride is like life itself!

(On May 30, 2020, I took a 15-mile ride; 7.5 miles north then 7.5 miles back south. The route was strung together from the Kenosha Country Trail, Racine Country Trail, and Racine’s Root River Pathway, These photos were all taken on that route.)

I’m Not a Cycling Fanatic!

I have some friends who think I’m a cycling fanatic. I used to think so myself but I’ve learned that clearly I’m not.  Really.

I have a bike, not a bevy of bikes.  The bike I have cost me hundreds, not thousands.   I don’t display it in the living room, I store it in the garage.  I have supplemented it with a few accessories but I don’t have a warehouse full of gear. I can tell you that it is a, “21 speed,” but I can’t converse about tooth counts or gear ratios.  Furthermore, I think and speak in terms of parts rather than components.

Generally speaking, I don’t use the term local bike shop often enough to warrant shortening it to LBS.  I did buy my bike from the LBS but I don’t consider an LBS to be tourist attractions when I travel.  (See what I did there?)

I own a spoke wrench but I don’t own a truing stand.  I’ve “met” both Presta and Shrader though I don’t always remember which is which and I certainly can’t debate their relative merits.  My concept of maintenance is airing the tires and lubing the chain; beyond that involves a trip to the LBS.

I ride hundreds of miles a year, not hundreds of miles a week.  I ride in t-shirts not jerseys and the shorts I wear don’t have bibs or padding.  I pass and get passed; I don’t break away or get dropped.  I don’t spin or mash, I simply pedal.  I’ve been known to complain that a particular hill was steep but I’ve never bemoaned that I had to climb an X percent grade. I’ve ridden in a group but I’ve never been party to an echelon or peloton. I know that a “century” isn’t a hundred years but rather a hundred miles in one day. A century is not something I make a habit of but something to which I aspire.

I fill my water bottles with water, not electrolytes. I eat but I don’t carbo load.  Sometimes, I stop and have a snack but I don’t grab energy gels at feed stations.

Lastly, winterizing my bike means storing it, not adding bar mitts and mounting snow tires! Oh yeah, and I have hobbies besides riding… like writing.

On Impeachment

I offer this solely as an American citizen…

Our nation was formed in response to tyranny. (See the Declaration of Independence.) We sought ideals like equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Again, see the Declaration of Independence.) In order to secure these ideals “we the people” created and adopted our Constitution. (See the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States.)

There are two over-arching principles woven into the fabric of our Constitution that are responsible for our nation’s success in combating tyranny and providing those ideals mentioned above. Those two principles are, “balance/separation of power,” and, “checks and balances.” Our constitutional framers achieved balance of power through our three-branch system: executive, legislative, and judicial. Checks and balances was achieved by assigning to those three branches, oversight and accountability over one another.

Impeachment is a core element of our constitution as a means of oversight and accountability. Specifically with regards to the President, if there are charges of wrongdoing that the House of Representatives believes to be credible, it is their constitutional duty to impeach (charge) the President. When that happens, it then becomes the Senate’s constitutional duty job to try those charges with the Chief Justice serving as judge.

My point here is that these oversight and accountability responsibilities are built into the very fabric of what makes America great. Carrying out these responsibilities is not illegal; carrying out these responsibilities does not constitute treason; carrying out these responsibilities does not constitute a coup d’état; carrying out these responsibilities should not precipitate a civil war like division.

Simply put, one cannot claim to respect (much less preserve, protect, and defend) the Constitution while at the same time opposing this process. Regardless of whether we personally hope for conviction and removal from office or acquittal and exoneration we should embrace the process and let the Constitution do its job.

A Generative Old Dog Learning New Tricks

I volunteered this morning for the Kenosha Chess Association’s National Chess Day Event.  I started by helping set up boards.


Then I spent most of my time  (nearly an hour and a half) giving a one-on-one beginners lesson to a very elderly gentleman.  Just from I learned and observed about him during our time across the board from each other I came to admire him and consider him a good role model as we continue to age.

  1. First of all, I learned that he volunteers as a tutor for a fifth grader. I admire him for being generative in his old age. (Generative has been defined as the ability to care for another person rather than just yourself.)  Some spend their retirement years lazily or selfishly; that is, doing almost nothing or doing whatever they do solely to please themselves.  This man is giving time and energy for someone else, in this case a previously unknown fifth grader.
  2. Secondly, there was his motive for attending this event.  His assigned fifth grader has been badgering him to play chess but he says he knows nothing about the game.  He saw in the paper that a beginners lesson could be had at the library today.   I admire him for caring enough to go above and beyond the call of duty by  trying to learn chess so he can accommodate his assigned youngster.
  3. Thirdly, I admire him for not believing the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  A lot of people would have sinmply said, “Sorry, kid, I’m too old to take up chess now.”  He was willing to tackle something new; something that can be intimidating.
  4. Fourthly, I admire how seriously he took his task of learning.  He took notes, showed concentration, asked questions, etc.  I’ve had people in the past ask me to teach them something only to have them give up as soon as they realized that it wasn’t gong to take more than just a casual effort.

I hope that when I find myself living out my latter years that I’m the kind of guy that will give of myself, care enough to go above and beyond the call of duty, try new things, and be willing to put in a strong effort.  How about you?

“Land of the Free” – Let’s Keep it that Way

O. say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Thus ends our national anthem. It has been long standing tradition in our country to include the singing of our national anthem before athletic events. Included in that tradition is the habit of the competitors, and the fans, to stand during its performance as a gesture of honor and respect to our nation.

Of late, there has been a growing trend for some to abstain from that particular show of respect. Rather, as a form of protest they remain seated or they “take a knee.” They choose to protest in this way because they believe the freedom the song celebrates, falls short in reality. They perceive themselves to be discriminated against. They question why they should stand in honor of freedom while they themselves feel shackled by discrimination, racism, and prejudice. They believe we can and should do better than we are currently doing.

I do not wish to enter the debate about whether or not they are right or whether or not their chosen form of protest is appropriate. Rather, I wish to address the response to their protest. I expect and understand people being in disagreement. I get it that people are upset about this. However, it goes further than that. I have read the suggestion that those who protest in this manner should be expelled from the country. I’ve read the suggestion that those who protest in this manner should be punished. There was even a new story of a pee wee football team (11 year-olds) choosing to “take a knee” rather than stand, and then receiving death threats for doing so. Even without the death threats, this is going too far.

Do we really want to find ourselves in a situation where we love freedom so much that we want to dictate a person’s posture when we sing about freedom? If we expel, or punish, or in any other way prohibit forms of protest that we don’t agree with, then we will find ourselves in a nation where the Star-Spangled Banner still waves, but it won’t be the land of the free, o’er which it waves.

That’s something to cerebrate.

On Learning a New Trick

What is it we humans have against change?

Within the genre of fast food sandwich shops, I like Cousin’s Subs. There used to be one just about a mile north of my house. Not anymore. Instead it is now an independent sandwich shop called, Varsitea Flats. Same local owners. Same employees, as near as I could tell. The owners had simply decided to let go of their Cousin’s Subs franchise and go independent.

During my second visit post-Cousin’s, while waiting for my Italian Bomber, a lady came in not paying very close attention. As she got ready to order she looked at the menu board and apparently looked a little confused because the cashier broke the silence with, “This isn’t Cousin’s anymore.”

What is it we humans have against change?

The lady looked dismayed. The cashier asked, “Well what were you going to order?” “A club,” she answered. The cashier offered, “I can make you one of those using our bomber buns.” But the thrown-for a-loop customer politely declined, then turned and walked out the door.

Mentally, I was shaking my head thinking, “I can’t believe she is that set in her ways and that opposed to change.” But I had to admit to myself: It had only been a few days earlier that I had walked in and unexpectedly discovered the sudden changeover, myself. I had stood there and mentally debated walking out without ordering. It was only after a good deal of inner coaxing that I made myself stay and try something new. I had examined the menu and found a sandwich that approximated the Italian Cheesesteak I usually ordered from Cousin’s: The Italian Bomber.

What is it we humans have against change?

I’m one of those guys that loves Gary Larson’s, The Far Side, cartoons. The setting of one of my favorites is inside a circus tent. There’s a dog juggling while riding a unicycle on a high wire. The caption reads, “High above the hushed crowd, Rex tried to remain focused. Still he couldn’t shake one nagging thought: He was an old dog and this was a new trick.”

I’m patting myself on the back for being like Rex. Even though it’s a new trick, I’m trying it. I can adapt. I will go back to Varsitea Flats. From their expanded menu featuring a wide variety of new paninis and flatbread sandwiches, I’ll probably order an Italian Bomber. Again. I could try a different sandwich but I don’t want to get carried away with this change stuff. After all, I am an old dog…



Keeping Christ in Christmas

“Let’s Keep Christ in Christmas”

That has become a very popular slogan. We hear it and see it everywhere. I’m writing this pre-Thanksgiving Day, yet I’ve already seen the slogan on Facebook today more than once. I expect to see it and hear it a lot more over the next few weeks. When most people proclaim it, they are fighting a battle on two particular fronts:

  1. They want to make sure people say, “Merry Christmas,” rather than, “Happy Holidays.
  2. They want to make sure people spell out, “C h r i s t m a s,” rather than abbreviate with, “X m a s.”

While I really like the idea of keeping Christ in Christmas, I’m afraid that even if we win on those two particular fronts, that won’t mean we’ve accomplished our objective. If we really want to keep Christ in Christmas the place to start is in our hearts, not in our oral greetings or on our cards and signs. Therefore, I suggest that we turn our attention to two different areas if we really want to keep Christ in Christmas.

  1. To keep Christ in Christmas, let’s make Christmas Christ-centered.
  2. To keep Christ in Christmas, let’s strive to be Christlike throughout the season.

I fear we are victims of a subtle evolution. Over a long period of time we have developed many customs and traditions for the express purpose of helping us celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. We have time off from work, we visit family and friends, we have celebratory parties and dinners, we enhance our surroundings with festive decorations and lights, we exchange gifts, and we even schedule special events and programs at church. The problem is, that we’ve let Christmas become ABOUT those things rather than using those things to help us celebrate what Christmas is really about.

On top of that, it is both ironic and sad that all those traditions and means of celebrating often create so much stress and pressure that the very act of participating in them can make it difficult to be like Christ! We often end up like little time bombs just waiting to explode. Then there’s the whole gift aspect; I’m afraid that for many, the gift tradition has shifted to being about getting instead of giving. Think about it: When was the last time you heard someone ask, “What did you give this year?”)

It would be nice if I could list seven simple steps to make Christmas Christ-centered and for helping you to be Christlike. As it happens, I don’t believe there is a universal list. What I need to do isn’t necessarily the same thing you need to do. What you need to do isn’t the same thing your neighbor needs to do. What your neighbor needs to do… You get the idea.

However, I do believe I can suggest a universal starting point. It’s simple: Pray and ask God to show you what you need to do to help keep Christ in Christmas and to remain Christlike.

I’d be surprised if he were to tell you to just make sure you say, “Christmas,” instead of, “holiday,” and to spell it out instead of abbreviating it. Keeping Christ in Christmas; it’s certainly something to cerebrate.

Why I Want a Christian President

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.  That is, I believe the government should neither promote nor prohibit any particular religion or religious practice.  But I still want a Christian president.  So much so, that to the extent that I have the choice, it will impact my vote.  I want to briefly share some of my reasons…

Here in the United States we enjoy the privilege of choosing our president via free elections.  We have, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Unlike some other forms of government, this means that we are not simply “ruled” by the President. Rather we are in a partnership with the President.   He leads, we follow; this arrangement is our collective choice.  Back in the nineties, the Republican Party talked about a, “Contract with America.”  The language of, “contract,” is another expression of what I’m talking about.  In essence, when we elect our President every four years, we are entering a contract or partnership–which brings me to the Bible.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, it says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers…”    We most often hear this principle taught in the context of marriage.  However, I believe the principle applies in the context of our “government by the people, for the people.”  It is no stretch of the meaning to suggest that voluntarily electing a person to be our president for the next four years is “yoking” us to that person.  As a Christian, I cannot fathom voluntarily yoking myself in that manner to an unbeliever.  I believe doing so would be to ignore an important Biblical principle.

Perhaps you picked up from the previous paragraph that I don’t see the Bible the way I see any other book.  I believe that as a Christian, I ought to follow its teachings.  Its principles should shape my values, priorities, attitudes, and actions.  I believe that living according to Biblical principles is the best and right way to live.  It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why I would want a President who also believes this!  I want a Christian president because I want a president whose values, priorities, attitudes and actions are shaped by the same Biblical principles that shape mine.

I want to return again to some words of Abraham Lincoln.  During the trying days of his presidency he once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”  That is more than just a sweet sentimentality.  The guidance and strength that God gives through the Holy Spirit to his followers in response to prayer cannot be underestimated.  As a Christian, I want a President that can and does rely on God for guidance and strength.

Now I have Christian friends who don’t see this the way I do.  They don’t think a person’s faith is relevant to their choice for a President.  Perhaps you are one of them.  Perhaps you won’t find the reasons I’ve shared to be persuasive.  I hope you at least find them to be something to cerebrate.