Conversations, first-hand accounts and both sides | Mark’s Remarks

marksI am a fan of Ryan’s column. He’s the guy who writes “Planet Ryan.” Most of the time you can find him in a southwest direction from my corner of the paper. When I begin to tire of my own tales of the hijinks of my kids or more stories about the teaching profession, I always find meatier and more in-depth subject matter in his column.

When people ask my opinion on certain issues, I am sometimes cowardly. I don’t like to share my views on politics or many of the hard hitting issues of the day. You see, I tend to be a little too no-nonsense and very old-fashioned when it comes to those topics. Plus, I often feel I’m not smart enough to articulate what I always want to say; you know, “foot in mouth” disease.

I make no apologies for my views. Maybe it’s just easier to write about what I usually write about.

It was intriguing to read about Ryan’s visit to Ferguson, Mo., a few weeks back. He verified what many of us had suspected; the whole scene was probably not as bad as we thought. Although there were times, I’m sure, that things got scary down there, we must remember we are only seeing events unfold on television. Those media folks do a good job of reporting the stuff that makes us tune in. Ratings, you know.

As I read, I started thinking about the many stories I have heard in the past week. I’ve had conversations and I’ve heard stories that just weren’t true. It’s amazing to me how things sometimes get sensationalized when something like this is going on.

If you are like me, you find yourself not knowing what to think. Small town, rural folks like us have lived around prejudice our entire lives. Many of us grew up just thinking it was the norm. Even if we fancy ourselves as politically correct people, we still have little things pop up in our heads when we hear news reports. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit to having attitudes and preconceived notions about the things we hear about people who commit crimes. I have to agree there is still plenty of racism and hatred around here in this day and age. Some would say that these opinions are warranted. They’ve dealt with incidents that make them fearful.

On and on it goes.

From the very beginning of this whole ordeal, I have had but one thought: I just want the facts. I felt everyone needed to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Was that even possible?

Shouldn’t we be finding out exactly what happened and who was involved first? Do you agree? I didn’t want to hear speculation and assumptions. I wanted to know exactly what happened before I got up in the air and before I expressed my opinion. Heck, we still don’t know all the facts.

I am very cautious about pointing the finger at any group. I don’t know how hard it is to be a police officer. Most of us don’t have a clue what they deal with. The only folks who truly know what went on that night are the people who were there.

How can we truly get mad at a police officer until we hear the whole story? Did he overreact? Was he just doing his job? We really don’t know yet, do we? One of my good friends grew up in northern St. Louis and remembers a time when the area was different. His family lived in a large, very nice home. The neighborhood he grew up in was full of middle-class, hard working folks.

When he grew older, he began noticing the decline of the area. He began dealing with his friends getting in trouble for things they did not do. He was also aware that some of the folks he knew were involved in crimes and questionable activities.

For a time period, my friend was mistaken for another gentleman who had the same name as his. He was pulled over several times in a row, taken to the police station and questioned, and then released. Each time, he would tell them that this had happened before. Each time, the police would find he had the same name as the man they were looking for. Each time, he would be released. Imagine driving home from work each day and having this happen to you.

One day, he decided he’d had enough. He had worked all day. He hadn’t done anything wrong. So, when the police tried to pull him over, he kept driving. Even though this had happened many times before and some of the same officers were involved… well, it was happening yet again.

My friend’s tires were shot out. He was pulled from the car and beaten. Severely. The officers placed a phone book against his head while they beat him so that they wouldn’t leave marks on his face and head. They took him in, yet again, and once again surmised he was not the man they were looking for.

I would have to agree that this is indeed police brutality. My friend is honest and hardworking. Were the police just doing their job?

I’m sure there are many, many stories of this nature. Hearing them, we can begin to understand, to an extent, why some folks don’t trust. We can understand why they are not ready to be outwardly friendly or appear to be sullen. We can understand bitterness.

This particular incident, in all fairness, happened several years ago. We would hope that things have improved and gotten
better. Have they? Again, how in the world are we supposed to know for sure unless we hear the truth?

I’m still waiting for all the facts. How about you?

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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