This Just In: #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter are more alike than they are different
In this season of good wishes, a special variety of kindness has broken out in some of the communities we cover with our CSI Media newspapers.
I first noticed it earlier this month in a Facebook post from the Rockton Police Department. One of our papers, the Stateline News, covers the village located just over the border in Illinois.
The post showed a photo of a Starbucks gift card with the now familiar hashtag #bluelivesmatter, which began on Twitter in support of those who serve in law enforcement.
The gift card was given to two Rockton police officers by a resident and his son who wanted to show their appreciation for the work that they do.
About the same time, the Boone County Sheriff's office posted a photo of a restaurant receipt on which the server had written, "#bluelivesmatter Stay safe out there."
According to the department's Facebook page, two deputies had stopped into a Culver's for dinner earlier this month. As they began to eat, they happened to glance down at their receipt and noticed the message.
The post has been shared nearly 300 times so far.
Good deed doers struck in Loves Park as well.
Officer Eric Jacobsen of the Loves Park Police Department was on his morning shift Dec. 3 at Harlem Middle School watching traffic and making sure students were arriving safely, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.
He was approached by a student who handed him a Steak and Shake gift card with sticker on the back on which was written, once again, #bluelivesmatter.
"Those random acts of kindness really make the officers' day, week or even month, since they often deal with so many depressing things," read the post. "The Loves Park Police Department wants to extend the biggest thank you to this student and his mother for making this very kind gesture."
Blue lives matter gained life in response to the black lives matter movement that grew out of several high-profile killings of African-Americans by police officers.
That movement has taken new urgency in the Chicago area after video was released in late November showing a police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on a Chicago street.
True, McDonald was armed with a knife, but a dash cam video showed him walking past officers when he was fatally shot 16 times.
Regardless of his culpability, I think most would agree that people in this country shouldn't be deprived of their life and liberty without due process.
It's easy to conclude that blue lives matter and black lives matter as opposing sides of a political and social struggle.
Black lives matter probably would be more accurate if it was billed as black lives also matter.
Their point is that black lives should matter as much as anyone else, and there has been a significant amount of evidence over the past few years that it isn't always true.
But the thing about the small communities we live in, you tend to know a lot of people from every walk of life.
It's easy to paint people that you hear about on television with a broad brush, but in town, it's not uncommon to run into your local officers in the grocery store or church.
It's also not uncommon to know your kids' friends from school who may happen to be white, black, Hispanic or Asian.
If you get past the television opinion programs and listen closely, both groups are arguing for the same thing: Respect, understanding and a demand for a safe community for all of its residents.
For the members of law enforcement that I know, they spend every day trying to protect the rights and freedoms outlined in our Constitution. They demand it of themselves just as all members of our communities demand it for themselves.
It's the same for the citizens who live here.
Now if we could just see #bluelivesmatter and #blacklivesmatter written on the same gift card, we'd be making real progress.
Dan Plutchak is the editor of CSI Media, publisher of the Janesville Messenger, Walworth County Sunday and the Stateline News. Contact him at [email protected], on Facebook.com/DanPlutchak or on Twitter @danplutchak