Words Matter!

Many people in OneOldCop’s generation grew up hearing,“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This, or some variation of it, was a standard response from parents and others when a child came home crying or upset because someone called them a name or used a hurtful term to refer to the child.

Today, we are much more aware of the power words have to hurt someone. Either that or the failure of parents to teach their children the little saying above has created several generations of thin-skinned crybabies. Whatever the reality, there is a problem with the old adage. A problem that has nothing to do with the fact young people today often need safe spaces and Play-Doh to deal with the world.

Certainly, each of us has a choice about how to respond when assaulted with thoughtless words or outright verbal abuse. We can, as in times past, simply try to ignore it, or if that is not possible, there are places one can seek help to deal with the consequences of such taunting or bullying. The problem arises when one becomes the victim of an assault or other crime, because of the thoughtless words of others.

Someone trying to create an adage similar to the sticks and stones saying of old would face a problem today. Today, the adage might need to go something like this, “Stick, stones, baseball bats, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and other weapons may hurt me, and the hateful words of others may kill me!”

In 1992, OneOldCop published an article in Law and Order discussing the danger inherent in the way we speak of others. The piece targeted the law enforcement community, but the principles upon which it was based apply to everyone.1

The basic principle is simple. The use of certain words to describe a person, a person’s actions, or a group of people can lead to a form of conditioning in the minds of those using or hearing the words. This concept is nothing new, but it has been traditionally attached to issues of racism and discrimination.

There is little doubt that a child raised in a home, or general environment, where one group of people is referred to in less than flattering ways will learn to identify them the same way. Race, gender and other characteristics normally identified with racism and discrimination have no bearing on the matter.

Take the centuries old conflict in Ireland. There people groups that have lived on the same island for centuries, have turned the labels Protestant and Catholic into hate speech. The same can be true in other cultures where labels such as Sunni and Shia carry distasteful connotations similar to words used to describe people of color in the United States in times past.

In 1992 police trainers, executives and administrators were trying to find ways to change the language of police officers so they would see the people they handled as human beings instead of some form of subhuman life. While some may feel the efforts of police leadership did not bear fruit, that is simply not true. The vast majority of police officers are professional and objective. The problem now is the very same people who were trying to control cops during the turbulence of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s are the ones who need to watch their language.

As this is being written, pundits and politicians continue to talk of political rhetoric. They want the political rhetoric toned down because it is driving people over the edge. It is true, the rhetoric is out of control, but the reason it is out of control is the way words are being used in the rhetorical outbursts.

The fellow who spent months plotting to kill Republican Congressmen did not take his actions because of political rhetoric. He armed himself and hunted down members of Congress because the words used to describe these officials were influencing him the way words can influence a police officer.

Police officers who mistreat or overreact to the people with whom they deal do so because they do not see them as people. They see them as scumbags, pukes or some other colorful term that dehumanizes them. Now, their bosses, the politicians who want to lead the country or the local government, engage in the same name calling.

The man who attempted to kill multiple Congressmen in Virginia was not making a political statement. He was hunting down those deplorable, Republican haters who were ruining his country. The problem is he did not dream up those ideas on own. They were shouted from the campaign platforms of his party, and are still being spouted by talking heads and political hacks.

Political rhetoric can be uplifting, depressing or enraging. Yet, political rhetoric does not bring an otherwise sane man to a ball field in Virginia where he intends to assassinate elected officials. Labeling is what brings someone to commit such an act. Those were not elected officials he was attempting to kill. They were Deplorables. They were haters. They were crooks who were stealing money from old people and children. They were the corrupt capitalists standing in the way of the Leftist dream of socialized medicine and a guaranteed income.

Words, and the way they are used, matter. Everyone with a public platform needs to remember that, no matter which side of the aisle they inhabit.

  1. Law and Order online archives do not include 1992.  Article available through National Coalition Building Institute.
Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Manners, Police, Political Extremes, Politics, Public Speaking | Tagged , , , , ,

One Day at a Time

Yesterday, May 29, 2017, was Memorial Day. It is the day we remember the men and women who died in defense of the country. One of those we remember is David C. M. Jackson, my brother. His name is engraved on Panel 61, Line 38 of the Vietnam War Memorial. I wrote about David on the anniversary of his death earlier this year, and I’ll write about him again in the future. Today, I am writing about another class of veteran and hero.

Last year for Memorial Day I wrote Something Left Behind. In some ways this piece is reminiscent of Left Behind. In others it is different. Each of us leaves a piece of him or herself in the past at times. A piece of me is stuck on a cold wet highway in north Texas where I stood among the battered and broken bodies of a carload of college students who had just celebrated their last Halloween. It stands next to the piece of me I left at the side of a six-year-old girl whose father ran one stop sign too many.

As bad as those incidents were, I never watched a buddy in combat go out on patrol and fail to return. I never came out of my bunker after the bombing stopped to find a bunkmate had earned a posthumous Purple Heart. I never had to watch as men I trained with, sweated with, drank with, and bled with spent their last moments on earth charging an enemy position in some third world hellhole that most people didn’t know existed. I have had the honor to know such men, and in a few cases I’ve had the privilege of helping them expunge at least some of the demons haunting them. I am writing today for those veterans.

Their lives are caught somewhere between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. They are here to honor the memory of their fallen comrades, and they will hopefully be here in November to be honored for their service. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no day to honor or even acknowledge them for dealing with the pain and guilt they feel for living when others died. I want to acknowledge them here.

These are the men, and women, who spend their days working, raising their families, loving their grand kids, and helping their communities. Most of the time they are fine, but sometimes they wonder. For every name on the Vietnam Memorial, for every headstone in a National Cemetery, for every lost soul whose body was not recovered there is at least one who wonders. He wonders why his name is not engraved in stone. She wonders why her name is not cast in bronze. They wonder why they are not the ones remembered sadly on birthdays and anniversaries. They wonder, what they did to deserve life.

I wish I had the answer for each and everyone who feels that way. I don’t, but I am certain there is a reason. I do know everyone dies, and some never live. Those who survived have a choice. In some cases they make that choice one day a time. Maybe the song below has a message for those waking up every morning and wondering why. I hope it does.

Not Every Man Lives

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Family Vaules, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , ,

At the Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or as it is more commonly known, The Wall, is something one must see to appreciate. Approaching it, or looking at it from a distance does not do the memorial justice, and finding the name you seek can be distracting.

The best way to appreciate the wall, in OneOldCop’s experience, is to simply walk down to the wall and let the majest of it touch you. It is, in a much different way, similar to the experience of visiting something as vast as Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Upon arrival, the immensity of the bay is hard to comprehend. One looks at the surrounding mountains and glaciers. One sees the sea gulls and other birds in the water and on pieces of ice floating in the bay. It takes time for the immensity and magnificence to sink in. Once it begins, the excited voices begin to fade away and an awed silence takes its place.

The Wall can have the same effect. Visitors may ooh and ah as they recognize the size and dark beauty of the wall, but the immensity of the it soon sinks in. Looking one way, the Washington Monument points skyward, but seems to be little more than a sign post pointing to heaven. Visitors may chatter, reading names, looking for loved ones, or simply marveling at the 58,286 names inscribed on The Wall. A wall that is 493 feet in length, and a bit over 10 feet tall at the highest point.

As one stands, taking it in, voices will still, or one’s awareness of them will wane. Either way, there is a feeling of magnificence and stillness that grows the longer one contemplates the meaning of this place. After the peace, after the silence, after the reverence, then on can look for a name engraved on the wall. Finding the name, most will kneel or stand before it, remembering and experiencing the moment.

My words cannot convey the true feeling of standing in that spot. The feeling that envelopes one while reading the names of those lost to the ravages of war. Everyone’s experience will be different, depending on who they are and why they are visiting. I can however, share something with you that might give you a taste of that feeling. The link below is a tribute to some of the names on that wall, and their comrades who made it home.

More than a Name

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , ,

Culture of Chaos?

“Of Chaos and Politics” was a piece expressing OneOldCop’s concerns about the direction in which the United States seemed headed. More recent pieces written in response to the chaos created by criminals and political dissidents posing as protestors support the concerns expressed in Chaos. While some may think this writer is being an alarmist, it seems clear the United States is on the edge of becoming a society and culture that accepts chaos as the norm.

“Of Chaos and Politics” opined that modern communication systems, including social media, might be leading to a culture in which the memory of trigger events does not fade. Not only do they not fade, they can be recycled because of  a form of societal attention deficit disorder.

Instantaneous, twenty-four hour news changes focus and concerns constantly. Add that constantly changing focus to information overload, and many people will forget the horrible injustice of an incident yesterday until it resurfaces next week. Then they will be outraged again. The constant cycle of outrage seems to be causing the social equivalent of a chain reaction.

If that is not the case, how does one explain the recent barrage of airline related horror stories? The airline industry has a less than stellar reputation in the customer service area for many reasons. It is likely one passenger or another is mistreated, misled or simply ignored daily somewhere, if not more often. Yet, one horrible appearing incident of a man being dragged from a plane makes the news, and the news is full of similar stories of outrage and mistreatment. Of course, that means Congress feels compelled to hold a hearing on the matter, and the chaos cycle is in full swing.

The latest airline related incident of chaos and anarchy was the knockdown, drag-out brawl at an airport in Florida. Due to an alleged job action by airline pilots, the airline cancelled a number of flights, and irate passengers ran amuck. Video of people fighting cops, cops fighting people, people being arrested, and general chaos were on the national news before the ink on the arrest paperwork was dry. Additionally, news personalities were opining new chaos would reign the next morning because more flights were being cancelled.

Sociologically and behaviorally speaking there are likely numerous possible causes for the chaos that seems to be spreading across the United States like a plague in the middle ages. Another writer opined the chaos is due to the fact people do not feel they have a voice, and this is the only way they can be heard. OneOldCop has a different opinion.

The government, educational system, and so-called progressives have been sending mixed messages to society for decades. Kids, and others, receive trophies for participation. Bullies and the kids they are bullying are both punished if the victim fights back. Kids can go to a movie or watch television where guns, bombs, knives, and ninja death grips are more common than curse words, but heaven help a kid pointing a finger at a playmate during recess.  That child gets suspended.

If that is not enough, the news or social media regularly report of someone praising protestors for destroying police cars, the corner grocery, and putting cops in the hospital. Then they report the words of someone who claims to be a religious leader speaking out against law and order in the name of what they claim is tolerance, acceptance and coexistence.

The bottom line is this. Today’s world is one of relativism and confusion. When everyone’s view is valid, depending upon his, her, or their perspective, nothing is valid. When society and culture refuse to define right and wrong, while attacking moral codes which do, stability and decency are in jeopardy.

Get used to it America.  We are, socially and politically at least, becoming a third world country.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Uncategorized

Scientifically Clueless?

For Earth Day 2017 thousands of people in the United States marched in support of science and the planet. They displayed signs, made speeches, and generally let it be known they backed science and scientist. Reportedly, they believe science is under attack, and if those attacking science are successful, the world will go to hell in a handbasket.

The unfortunate truth is many of those speaking in support of science do not have a clue about the topic. If science is under attack, the people attacking science are not the people against whom these marchers railed. The people named and despised, directly or by implication, are not against science. They are questioning the claims of some who call themselves scientists.

The sad part of this situation is the fact people generally do not understand science. For the record, science is not a bunch of people with PhD behind their name looking at a broad spectrum of data and deciding the data means a certain outcome is inevitable. That sort of science has as much validity as their critics going over the same data and dismissing any possibility they have a point. On the other hand, both sides have a right to their opinion and to debate the issue.

Apparently, that is something those marching for science do not understand. They seem to feel science and scientists, at least the ones they support, cannot be criticized. Criticism and debate have always been a part of science. That is how advances were made in the past.

A scientist or group of scientists would say this or that is true or untrue. Others would look at the data to see if they could prove or disprove the other side’s theory or conclusion. Sometimes, the data was confirmed, and sometimes it was not. For example, consider the sound barrier or sonic barrier for aircraft.

Some scientists and engineers believed it would be impossible for an aircraft to travel faster than the speed of sound. The naysayers of the time had good reason to believe this was the case. They knew it was possible for some objects to break the sound barrier, but aircraft approaching those speeds did not survive.

Others believed supersonic flight was possible. As it turned out, they were right. The first supersonic flight occurred on October 14, 1947. Since then, supersonic flight has become common places. Modern combat aircraft exceed the speed of sound regularly. The private sector even operated supersonic passenger planes for a time, and such planes may fly again soon.

There are other examples of scientists or other researchers having their work challenged by others. In some cases, the challengers were wrong, in others the challengers were right. The same dynamic goes on today within the world of science and research, and most people do not know or care. The exception is when political or other agendas are involved.

Climate change is undoubtedly real. Based on the evidence available to scientists today, the climate has changed significantly over the ages. What is in dispute today is the cause and time frame of the change. Archaeological data is understood to show that significant climate changes occurred over thousands of years, if not longer periods of time. Now, people are forecasting climate change leading to a catastrophe in just a few decades. To make that forecast believable, proponents had to identify a cause. They focused on industrialization and some forms of carbon emissions.

It is possible those making the prediction of catastrophic change in the foreseeable future are correct. It is also possible they are wrong. In times past challenging the catastrophic climate change proponents would have been expected. Today, due to the charged political atmosphere, challenging them is tantamount to blasphemy in the days of the inquisition.

The politically charged atmosphere means climate change proponents do not need to respond to criticisms of their data or admit data may exist which calls theirs into question. For instance, one of the largest and most rapid glacier melts in the last few centuries occurred in North America before massive industrialization and automobiles. One might think this could be evidence that climate change is not as closely tied to industrialization as some claim.

The location in question is Glacier Bay, Alaska. According to the National Park Service, “Glacier Bay is a dynamic place. Glaciers have ebbed and flowed here for thousands of years. In fact, Glacier Bay National Park was established for the purpose of studying these natural cycles.” Wow, natural cycles, thousands of years, one might think that would be some evidence that climate change just happens. Fat chance!

The facts indicate the latest massive melt started more than 300 years ago. At that time, there was no bay, just one massive glacier. Almost 100 years after the initial explorers mapped the area another group of explorers found the glacier had receded dramatically, creating a bay. This was almost 200 years ago, since that time, the glacier continued to recede.

The magnificent bay and tourist spot is the result of glacier melt occurring in a remote part of the continent long before Ford built his first carbon emitting car. While many might find these facts interesting, they are apparently considered unimportant and researching them is difficult. If the history of the bay is mentioned at all, it will be downplayed as it is on the web page from which the quotation above was taken. After that comment, the page immediately transitions into the climate change dialogue, ignoring the evidence presented by the bay itself.

Before closing, there is one other sad point to be made here. Within the group of people marching for science are many such as one quoted in CNN’s coverage of the Washington, D.C. event. A thirty-eight-year-old neurophysiology graduate student said she was marching because of the president. CNN quoted her as saying, “Science is really important, and the current administration is making decisions that are counter to climate change, genetically modified food and vaccinations.”

There you have it. The mind set of many who support marches such as the ones inspiring this piece. Science is important, as long as I agree with it. This highly educated graduate student supports the scientists who push the mainstream climate change hysteria. She does not however, support other scientists and their work.

Who does she think developed the genetically modified food and vaccinations she mentioned? Scientists developed genetically modified food, using scientific principles and research. Likewise, scientists and doctors developed the vaccines that save the lives of millions of people annually. Additionally, scientists and doctors almost unanimously agree these advances in food production and medicine are beneficial, but this marcher and many others do not believe that science.

The truth is science and scientists must be questioned and challenged. Scientists developing genetically modified plants should be challenged on their safety. Scientists developing vaccines should be challenged on their effectiveness and safety. Just as scientists who champion climate change should be challenged to prove there is anything more to their case than an agenda.

Science by consensus is the danger, not those who question the claims of such science.


© OneOldCop –

Posted in Political Extremes, Politics, Science | Tagged , , , ,

Collateral Damage

President Trump’s critics love to hammer him over his “xenophobic” tendencies. They claim his efforts to control the number of questionable refugees and illegal immigrants entering the country are the products of his bigotry and hate. When confronted with evidence of criminal or terrorist activity within some of these groups, they claim the status of a person’s residency is immaterial.  In other cases, they claim the risks to the public from refugees or illegal immigrants is so low as to be insignificant. In some ways there is validity to their arguments, but there are times when the worst misrepresentations are based on facts.

Consider the example floating around social media and the news using the number 0.00003. This reportedly illustrates how unlikely it is that someone in the United States will be killed by a foreign terrorist. In other words, as you read this the chance that a foreign terrorist will kill you, or anyone else this year, is 0.00003 percent. The implication is that anyone worried about refugees from the middle east is a xenophobe and alarmist. After all, one is much more likely to be killed by a shark than a middle eastern terrorist.

It would be possible to quibble with the data used to develop the 0.00003 number. In fact, some so-called fact checking groups pointed out some misrepresentations made by those using this figure or related data. Their findings were, in the terms of such groups, that the information was used in ways that made it a mixture of true and false. Of course, the false aspects were inconsequential. Therefore, the concerns of people opposed to unfettered immigration were unfounded.

OneOldCop tends to agree with the fact-checkers’ analysis. One’s chance of dying at the hands of a criminal in any major city is much higher than one’s chance of being killed by a jihadist. Likewise, one is more likely to be killed crossing the street in his or her hometown than being killed by an ISIS operative hiding among the thousands of people fleeing Syria. Additionally, the chances a fourteen-year-old school girl will be sexually assaulted by one of her native-born classmates are just as likely as her being assaulted by a classmate who is in the country illegally.

The foregoing notwithstanding there is a bit of a difference if one is killed by a terrorist or assaulted by someone who entered the country illegally when compared to victims of citizens. The refugee, immigrant or whatever is here because this country allowed the person to be here to commit the crime.1 Whether advocates like it or not, that is a difference.

Any assault or killing is unacceptable. Society should do everything it can to prevent those crimes or punish offenders, without regard to their citizenship or other status. Still, the idea the crimes are equivalent is ludicrous. To OneOldCop that makes as much sense as saying a vehicular homicide committed by a first time DWI is the same as one committed by someone convicted of DWI multiple times. Not only does OneOldCop believe there is a difference, it is likely many who oppose controls on immigration would not hesitate to support stricter sanctions for those who continuously put themselves and others at risk by driving drunk.2

If this were a debate, a forum or another discussion format we could engage in a good bit of give and take at this point. The problem is we would be discussing the wrong point. The foregoing was offered simply to lay the groundwork for the title of this piece.
The one thing no one discusses or quotes when tossing the 0.0003 or other terms around is the conclusion of the study from which much of this is taken. The CATO Institute is often quoted as the source of this data, and they are at least one source. What is never mentioned is the conclusion reached in the study. When this writer read the study, one point stood out starkly.

The conclusion of the institute’s 2016 study of this issue begins, “Foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low probability event that imposes high costs on its victims despite relatively small risks and low costs on Americans as a whole.”3 The conclusion goes on to speak to the economic benefit of immigration and how the risk is manageable given the overall benefit to the economy.

In case you do not translate academic jargon easily, the CATO Institute is saying a certain level of collateral damage is acceptable for economic reasons. Some politicians say the same thing using different words, and some of the bleeding hearts out there think the handful of people killed by foreign terrorists to date are the price we must pay to live up to our American values.

How does it feel to be expendable?

  1. For the nit-pickers out there, as used here the term ‘allowed’ means failed to prevent illegal entry, failed to deport, allowed entry without proper vetting or failed to monitor potential threats properly and take appropriate action.
  2.  Let me save you an email. I know some critics will claim that is a strawman, or some other logical fallacy, but the truth is most of the people making such claims are guilty of thinking illogically.
  3.  Emphasis added.

© OneOldCop – 2017

Posted in Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, National Defense, Police, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Simplistically Speaking

If only the woes of the world could be solved with a meme! It would be grand if one could post a meme, a symbol or a photo-shopped miracle cloud formation that would magically inspire people to see the error of their ways.  Unfortunately, as OnOldCop has noted before, most memes are simply ways to get likes and shares.  For example, consider the memes floating around showing two characters facing each other across a symbol drawn on the ground. One character claims the symbol is a “6.” The other claims it is a “9.”

Those sharing the meme are undoubtedly well meaning. It is clearly being offered as an attempt to encourage open mindedness and understanding. After all, people see or understand situations differently, depending on their experiences. One person sees a 6. The other sees a 9. How simple. No! How simplistic!

It is true that experience, language, beliefs and other factors may lead people to see things differently. That does not mean two people can both look at the same fact or data and see the truth in it differently. Can one really choose to see a 6 while another chooses to see a 9, simply because of where they stand or how they found themselves in that position? Where one of us stands does not change the fact six is not nine, and that fact might be important.

Okay! It is only a three point difference, and in the real world it is unlikely we would be arguing over the value of the figure. After all, the placement of the figure, the context in which it was used, and other factors would help us know the value was 6 or 9, or would it?

As long as we are speaking hypothetically, using simplistic analogies, consider this one. You and a coworker are called into your boss’s office. The boss says you are both perfectly qualified for a new position, and the selection committee could not decide which of you to promote. Accordingly, the boss, who loves puzzles and contests, tells you he has devised a test of your perception, intuition and problem solving ability to fill the new position.

The boss says the door code for the new office one of you will occupy is printed on a piece of paper. He explains that each of you will have one try to open the door, and you must decide which of you gets the first try. He then slides a sheet of paper across the desk. From your side of the desk the numbers are 60606. From your coworker’s side of the table they read 90909.

Silly? Of course it is a bit silly. It is also silly to think that a meme showing two cartoon people standing at the top and bottom of a symbol on the ground has any meaning beyond the number of likes and shares it receives.

A more serious example of perceptions differing from reality is a situation occurring in a small Texas community in 2015. A black female living in the community was out for her morning constitutional. The local police stopped her as she was walking down the street.

In a day or two, her story was all over social media and the news. She issued a public statement claiming she had been stopped for “walking while black.”  She believed the police profiled her because the community is predominately white. Also, she made other claims that put the officers and their department in a bad light. After all the dust settled, her position changed a bit.

The incident was captured on dash cam video which clearly showed the officers acted legally.  After the release of the video, the individual issued a statement indicating some of her facts and assumptions leading to her public complaint may have been wrong, but her fear had been real.  The individual was asked if the video changed her feelings about the police contact.  She responded with comments about seeing something from different perspectives, concluding with the charge the video showed just one perspective.

What you might wonder is the purpose of this piece? Is it a dogmatic defense of absolutes? Is it a last stand for this writer’s perception that shades of gray don’t exist in the world? No, the piece is simply a statement of fact. Each person bases what they understand of the world on their life experiences, their cognitive abilities and other influences. That does not change the fact there are truths in the world.

The cartoon showing two characters arguing about the number due to their position is cute nonsense. The number is either a six or a nine. One’s perspective does not change the value. The situation with the lady and the cops is more complex, but the truth is the officers did nothing wrong. Her perspective led her to see their actions as inappropriate, but that only proves eye witness testimony is questionable, especially if the witness is involved in the incident.

Does that mean this writer or anyone else should not consider another’s perspective or point of view? Of course that is not the case. It is also not the case that this writer, or anyone else, has to agree to another’s point of view. It is possible to agree to disagree, and it is possible for people who think differently to live together in peace. Unfortunately, the society in which we live today seems to think we should be willing to call a six a nine simply because others see it that way.

© OneOldCop – 2017


Posted in Daily Life, Ethics, Leadership, Politics, Uncategorized, Verbal Communication | Tagged , , , , , ,