Community

Up to now, Fox Lake's claim to fame was that it was a favourite vacation spot for some of Al Capone's gang who spent a lot of time drinking and gambling at the Mineola Hotel.  Otherwise, it's a generally quiet place with some pretty scenery.  Working class families live here.  Neighbors might have weekend barbecues, and you have to take it slow on the side streets because it's not unusual to encounter packs of kids playing ball or riding bikes.  There's been a different tone since Tuesday.

I say "here" not in the just-passing-through way you may have heard reporters use on the news lately.  No, "here" is where I live.  Fox Lake has been my home for around 20 years now.  That abandoned cement plant they referenced in the early reports of this crisis is the very same I posted about here (though it's now devoid of its cheerful graffiti.)  I passed by it on my way to work only about 10 minutes before the crime that day.  While I did not know Lt. Gliniewicz personally, I certainly recognized him when his picture started circulating.  He's a familiar face around here.

As I'm sure you've heard, Lt. Gliniewicz radioed for help as he pursued three suspects Tuesday morning.  When backup arrived, they found the officer shot, and ever since, there's been a massive effort to find the killers.  It's the kind of story you hear from a distance, that happens somewhere safely far away and is resolved soon after.  Only, there's been little to go on so far, and the suspects are still out there somewhere.  AND, somewhere is probably fairly nearby for me and my family.  This is not the kind of crime we're accustomed to in Fox Lake, and it has everyone more than a little unsettled.  In the past, I have walked around town alone at night without fear.  I like to leave the doors open when the weather is nice or sit outside on the deck reading or writing until it's too dark to see.  And, as I've said, there are often packs of unescorted children playing outside like children will do in a generally safe neighborhood...because it is a generally safe neighborhood.  While we're all much tighter on the security as the helicopters make passes over the area and armed patrols investigate every lead, I still have faith in the basic benevolent nature of my town.

Part of that, oddly enough, is based on this intense reaction to the tragedy.  One man was killed, and that was so significant, so abnormal and horrible, that it brought hundreds of officers from all the surrounding communities out to help find the killers.  Schools and other public buildings locked down to prevent fleeing suspects from threatening more innocents.  Our town and our whole area is focused on defeating the danger and protecting the people from further harm.  Citizens have offered an outpouring of sympathy for the slain officer's family and support for the professionals who are investigating the murder.  The entire response to this tragedy has been, in effect, to declare, "this does not happen here."  It makes me proud to call this place home and certain that when this current situation is over, I'll go back to feeling as safe as ever in my community.

What's more, the details about Lt. Gliniewicz that friends and colleagues have been sharing are cause to have faith in my neighbors.  Here was a man whose whole life seems to have been directed toward helping others.  His long career in law enforcement was marked by commitment to the community and mentoring teens.  Clearly, he was well loved and the kind of police officer we all learned about in kindergarten before we grew up and got cynical.

I know that there is a lot of anger about police officers now, and the incidents that have sparked that anger are certainly worth some outrage.  I'm not so happy, myself, with the tendency of some officers to give blind loyalty to those among them who commit crimes.  The truth is, some rotten apples with power issues will be attracted to a profession that gives them opportunities to indulge in that.  Police are people.  There will be bad apples in the bunch, but there will also be shining examples like the man who lost his life this week.  And there will be brave men who are attracted to the profession for the opportunities to protect and serve.

I think, with the current climate of hostility between police and protesters in some parts of this country, it might help to look at what's going on in Fox Lake.  There may be criminals in this world who would shoot a cop, but most people would stand behind their police officers.  There may be bad cops in the world, but most are honest people trying to do a dangerous job.  We're all just people, and nobody should be judged blindly for the uniform they wear, or the colour of their skin, or the beliefs they may hold.  We each have a responsibility to see the human beneath all the distinctions and to value the good in them.  That's how you become community.

**The results of the investigation were revealed on November 4, challenging all of us to find something positive in what has become an even more unfortunate situation.  For more about the community reaction to this crime, see my next blog post.

Comments

  1. I hadn't heard about this in the UK and am sorry your community is going through it. A well balanced post but I wonder if it makes you re-consider America's gun laws?

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  2. I certainly think America's gun laws could be changed for the better. Our culture has very strong links to its weapons, and there are some good reasons for that historically. Responsible gun ownership and use is possible, but there are a lot of problems with laws and practices that end up making gun violence (and accidents) all too common. I think the biggest problem with fixing that issue is the defensive reaction to any mention of the issue, and the fear sown by gun lobbies among otherwise reasonable citizens. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your genuine concern.

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