Why I don't Unfriend Friends Who Speak Out Against Police
I was elbows deep in dish water (our dishwasher bit the bullet years ago, so now it’s just a lovely stainless steel storage unit that once cost hundreds of dolla dolla bills) when I felt that familiar pit in my stomach. The 6 o’clock news was on in the background and I once again heard the anger and verbalized distrust of a local police force.
I’ve heard this story before. We’ve all heard it before. And for me, it seems as if every summer in recent memory has brought out some of the most painful, angry, and sometimes vitriolic voices in our communities. Any intro to psychology student can tell you that crime and tempers tend to flare in the summertime, so it’s really no surprise a pattern is forming as the temperatures rise. Throw in 1 part hot weather, 2 parts sensationalism, and 3 parts deeply rooted mistrust of authority and you have a recipe for: never quite getting the full story. I’ve been sharing life with a cop for 10 years, but I seem to grow the most as a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) wife during the summer months. Particularly, as Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies have been at the front of the news coverage and also due in part to joining Backing the Blue Line (BtBL).
Social media/the internet have played some integral roles in my life. I mean, I met my husband on the internets, so it’s fair to say I am in deep with the world wide web. When I am not listening to the news while basking in my domestic glory, rubber gloves and all, I find and seek my information online. I remember signing up for Facebook with my college bestie who had just returned from a semester in exotic and foreign NYC. She showed me the ropes of Facebook long before there was even such a thing as a smartphone and grandmas were worried about how to send money to estranged arabian princes. As a self-proclaimed founding member of Facebook, I am still waiting for my royalties check. Zuckerberg, are you listening? Seriously like $10 bucks would be cool. And make it a roll of quarters. I could pay forward SO much shopping cart love at Aldi. I quickly bid adieu to AOL AIM and it’s lame away messages, and was hooked immediately on this new outlet. As an extrovert and energy seeking person, I LOVED reconnecting with hometown friends and adding the new college ones. Anyone who knows the early 20’s version of me is aware that I lived for a random hometown run-in. I loved seeing what people were up to, where they were headed, or just the familiarity of a face I had known since kindergarten. If you walked this earth in the late 1990’s you might remember a little move called “Can’t Hardly Wait.” Melissa Joan Hart’s nutty yearbook signing character juuuuust might be my spirit animal. I sewed my wild oats (mild, but sewed them nevertheless) in the dawning age of social media.
Now, as a mid-30’s-mother of twins-donkey married to an elephant-law enforcement spouse and teacher, my feed looks and feels a bit different. It’s full of DIY tips, real estate listings, PBS and NPR, book and Netflix’s recommendations, and my favorite shopping apps. It’s sprinkled with the voices of my BtBL gal pals, experts like Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Jen Hatmaker, and my mom’s snapshots of whatever strange the dogs got into recently. And tucked in neatly between my Amazon hacks, tips on losing tummy fat, and my Moms of Multiples support group, are the men and women of the last 12 years of my life who have done me the honor of “friend-ing” me. Sometimes they share cat videos. Sometimes they share recipes. And sometimes they share their distrust of law enforcement.
Cue the pit in the stomach, again. So why don’t I just save myself the misery and “unfriend” them? Some would've said “Bye Felicia” years ago. We've not even connected with one another in person in years. So why hang on? From what you read earlier, you may think it’s to spare myself the loss of some popularity. Like one less Facebook pal would destroy my ego. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’d have to have been living under a rock or ignoring all forms of information to not know that law enforcement, nationally, has taken an enormous blow from the media. I could get all melodramatic and say this rhetoric and challenging press hurts my feelings and puts a sour taste in my mouth, but it doesn’t. I learned a long time ago to ignore the news. Do I read it? Yes. Do I seek it out? Of course. Do I believe all of it? 50/50. The real story exists only between the people involved and the good Lord-the truth can never be owned by the one’s sharing it. I tend to give it the same credibility as the folks who plea for you to “copy and share this meme of a dog dressed like a hot dog or have 25 years of bad luck.” Meh. Hard pass.
An old friend and roommate of mine (an intelligent, beautiful old-soul, who could drink beer and belch better than anyone I know) recently posted a well written, painful, and poetic plea for us to recognize the pain imposed on our babies when they witness or experience “murder” or “brutality” at the hands of police officers (I am quoting her because they are the words she used). She called on educators and parents to speak the names of the men who have died by deadly force. She asked that we call them heroes. She most certainly was not recognizing any heroics for the men and women in blue. She shared about race, and struggle, and this colossal dichotomy white people seem to live in. Caught between being a good person, understanding and owning our privilege, but also making reparations for old and new damages to our brothers and sisters. I share her heart for reconciliation. Truly. But I am still caught in a much wider, and broader net. One that ties me to the other side of these painful stories. And I'm still trying to get a grip on it.
A few scrolls down my former co-worker-an intense advocate and badass teacher for children with disabilities- also an unapologetic liberal-shared a meme of man on a victorian bike trying to outrun a cop in a horse and buggy. She and her friends had a good laugh at it. In the comments, they made fun of cops and “the man,” most of it pretty malicious.
But I will be darned if I let these Facebook friends go. You know that pit in my stomach? The one I was referring to while washing the dishes? It reared its ugly head because I knew this incident and hot news topic would further drive a wedge between friends who were once kindred spirits and the new realities we can only see of each other on our computers and phones.
But these angry, frustrated, and hurt Facebook friends? I will keep them.
I keep them because I have learned to grow thick skin-it just doesn’t cover my ears.
I keep them to challenge me. To dig my heels in, too.
I keep them because their experience and perspective is part of their personal truth. Something I can honor-even if it is provocative to my own.
I keep them because, to me, a friend is a friend is a friend...forever (that may be a Saved by the Bell reference, but I meant it with sincerity).
I keep them because our wedding verse “Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8), hangs by my front door. A front door I’d open to anyone of them.
I keep them because I believe justice is attainable. It’s our greed, shame, and circumstances that screw it up.
I keep them because they share spicy memes and videos of cats riding roombas.
I keep them because the patriotism, righteousness, and hope this country was founded on exists in all of us and that I, too, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
I keep them because Mark Zuckerberg pays me.
I keep them because if they called me at 3am to change a flat tire-I’d show up.
I keep them because if they needed emergency help-my family in maroon, my sister-in-law in green, my baby brother in blue-if they called on them-they’d sure as hell show up, too.
About the writer: Caitlin is still in her rookie year as a Backing the Blue Line member. She is a member of the marketing committee, a SWAT attendee, and a professional "heart emoji clicker" in BTBL's private Facebook group. She is a middle school special education teacher and chief chaos coordinator of twin boys. Her dream job would be a talk radio DJ. But only if she could talk about the fluffy stuff. Her husband, a Minnesota State Trooper, has been in law enforcement for 10 years. He is literally and figuratively the brakes to her lead foot. More of Caitlin can be found on her blog, Minnesota Gingham.