October 1, 2020
I don’t know about you, but I am trying to understand what appears to be, at some level, the polarization of our country. This is painful for me and for many others who have shared their thoughts about this with me, regardless of which side of the argument we might find ourselves on. Recently my wife and I took off on a day trip to visit a couple of small town antique stores in search of a few more treasures. More importantly, we felt the need to get out of the house. We found the once busy country roads and antique stores were pretty much vacant.
One of our stops was in Weatherford, Texas. Weatherford has several antique stores and lots of small shops in addition to picturesque churches and old buildings. As we approached the old courthouse on the square, we could see that there were people on both sides of the road that circles around the court house. As we got closer, we saw a lot of law enforcement personnel from various agencies. When we got close to the center of town it became very clear to us that we were in the middle of a protest. On one side the street were people that were supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement. On the opposite side of the road were people that were supporting a different view. I have to admit as we drove past both groups it caused us to have feelings of concern and uneasiness even though we were in our car and there were lots and lots of uniformed law enforcement officers present from all sorts of agencies. For us, it was shocking that this small town was having such drama!
We passed through the two groups and felt a sense of relief and then decided to drive around the block. I looked at my wife and said, “We are going to park and get out and walk around between the two groups.” She gave me the standard “Are you crazy, I’m not going” look that I have seen a million times in our 30 plus years of marriage. I parked the car and looked at her with my most loving and direct look and said, “You’re going because if our future grandchildren ever ask us about these crazy times, I want to be able to share with them first hand factual information.”
She got out of the car and we walked toward the crowd of people holding “Black Lives Matter” signs. As we slowly looked around the crowd, we were shocked to see so many people holding what appeared to be automatic rifles and wearing quasi-military looking clothing. I asked a police officer where we could get a cold drink and he pointed to a cafe on the square. We went there and it was a good place for us to study the crowd. It did not take long for a young lady to share with us her feelings about “them” people. We were amazed at the number of Texas Department of Public Safety officers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers on both sides of the street. After a while we departed the cafe and crossed the street to travel through the other group of protestors. I will never forget a lady holding a pink assault looking rifle warning us about “them” people on the other side of the street, pointing to the crowd that we had just left.
We cautiously walked through the second crowd and felt uncomfortable. The two groups were hollering at each other and it was hard for me to make sense of what either side was saying. The closer I scanned both groups, the more I felt like I was in a hostile military zone. There were people in strategic defense positions on both sides of the street. I cannot help but wonder how the law enforcement officers who stood between the groups felt, knowing that there was what seemed like an armed militia standing right behind them. The entire time we walked through the groups and around the courthouse, I was maintaining situational awareness with a conscious protection and exit plan. I damn sure did not share these thoughts with my wide-eyed wife, but I am sure she was having similar thoughts.
We walked about two blocks to our car, feeling a little confused and numb about this new experience. As we headed to our next treasure hunt stop, I began to think. (This is the dangerous part, me thinking). I looked at both groups and thought about all the things that all the groups on that square, including the law enforcement officers, have in common as human beings. There were sons, daughters, mothers, dads, brothers, and sisters out there. I wondered to myself how the hollering back and forth was going to help anyone. I learned from one of the antique shop owners that protests had taken place in Weatherford for a couple weeks in a row but they usually stop around 4PM. I wondered how the unofficial decision to stop the protest at the same time each weekend was determined. What I really wonder is why we can’t or don’t focus as Americans on what we have in common with our fellow man and focus on how to fix areas that need to be fixed. For me, this is like servant leadership. I cannot fix the world, but I can do something about how I act and how I treat other people in my small place in the world. For me, you and I are “them” people. We are all God’s children and as Americans we should be proud, blessed and honored to be “them” people. May we all pray for the wisdom to mend some fences that sorely need to be fixed in a “love thy neighbor” spirit.
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.