When I blogged about the experience I had at a local café in Portland where my daughter and I were having a quiet conversation with a Portland Police officer before we were interrupted by the café owner, who asked the police officer to leave, I never dreamed that the response would be so passionate or so numerous — to be honest, I don’t receive a lot of comments on my blog. I suppose I have not written about such an emotional issue before. I surely did not intend any controversy or to bash an establishment. I merely wanted to share my story. (I had actually gone to the Red and Black out of curiosity as I was working on a story for The Oregonian about Matt Mikalatos, the author of the book Imaginary Jesus, http://imaginaryjesus.com/ whose story is set at the Red and Black.)
I just had to write about it.
I write because that is how I process life. I write because I have to put my heart on paper. I write because I like to share stories. I write to bring light to the world. I write to share good things people are doing. And, as a believer, I write for justice.
I write because I have to write. It is what I do. It is who I am.
As I read through the comments, I am amazed at the amount of support that the Police enjoys in this city. I am intrigued with the many articulate thought provoking comments people made about the good that the police do. I was moved by the comments from the families of Police, Fire or EMT who serve tirelessly without a lot of fanfare or recognition.
I think of the comments from supporters of the decision of the café to ask the police officer to leave its establishment. I was surprised at how volatile people were toward the Police in general, and not just Portland Police. One comment implied that I had not taken the time to find out what the café owner believed and why they felt “unsafe” with the officer there. I did speak at length with the café co-owner, and we just did not get very far as he spoke of this notion how, in the case of a robbery, he would call his friends rather than the police. What does that look like practically, I wondered?
One reader commented that I was simply a white, suburbanite who has no idea what it is like in North Portland. And I answer that the very point of what I was trying to talk to the police officer at the café about, was our Sudan refugee friends who lived in North Portland, one of whom – a 14 year old — the Police saved.
As I spoke with the café owner, I really never got a direct answer as to why he personally felt unsafe with a police officer in his establishment.
Bottom line, I think especially of the policeman I met at the red and black, Officer James Crooker, a human being who should be treated with respect and honor, like all human beings. I think of how humiliating it must have been to be asked to leave a café for no other reason than your profession. It was pure and simple discrimination. Yet, he handled it with such class and dignity. I was sad for him. My point was not to start a dialogue of whether people felt Police was necessary in America, but instead to simply ask why was a police officer asked to leave a café?
I wanted the police officer to know that so many people support what they do to try to keep the rest of us safe. He kept talking about the importance of education. What the officer wants is to start a dialogue in this city, to talk reasonably about issues, to let them know he will always respond with kindness to people even if they are unkind. He is there to do his job.
What I did not want to happen in my original blog post was for it to become a place for meanness and finger pointing and name calling. I just wanted to share my story, to bring light to what happened. There were several blog comments that I just did not want to publish as they used profanity and speculation and labeling. From both sides of the issue.
My hope is the same as what the officer hopes for — open conversation, honest dialogue, without name calling. For justice on all sides.
Exactly the reason why I write.