Not so recently, the Aberdeen Iron Birds, the Single A farm team affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, chose to adorn their uniforms with a patch of the Thin Blue Line American Flag in order to honor two police officers who lost their lives while protecting the citizens of that community. The patch is small, very subtle, on the back of the players’ uniforms. However, quite recently, when an “offended” bystander vaguely posted about this on social media, the team’s manager had to respond. The response was seemingly simple to understand, “It was sewn onto the jerseys shortly after Hartford County Sheriff’s Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon were killed in the line of duty in 2016.” The baseball team’s management chose to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech. They chose to honor people they admired, people that had paid the ultimate price in order to make their community safer. Kudos to all involved for working through this rather than caving to uneducated, social justice warrior commentary.
But why would anyone get offended by a flag supporting our nation’s fallen law enforcement officers? It seems to be everywhere you look, there are multiple versions of it, and we often see it with the tagline “Blue Lives Matter.” Admittedly this tagline originally appeared in response to the anti-police “Black Lives Matter” narrative that began after the death of Trayvon Martin (who as a reminder was NOT killed by law enforcement) but really ramped up after Ferguson. That is not what the flag was originally designed for, it was designed to show support for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect all people.
But what is the history of this original thin blue line design? The concept itself is that, “police officers stand as a thin line that protects society from evil and chaos.” To provide an alternate definition from Oxford Dictionaries, the Thin Blue Line is, “a reference to police, in the context of maintaining order during unrest.” That sounds about right. It first appeared in the 1960’s during a time of much civil unrest. It was designed to symbolize the brotherhood in law enforcement. It was necessary to remind one another they were standing together, that the Thin Blue Line was all that separated good from evil. It is a symbol, a symbol for a group working towards a goal. Much like a baseball team has a mascot and emblem, law enforcement has this symbol. It stands as a reminder of who we are and that we are held to a high standard, that what one does reflects upon us all. Officer misconduct hurts us all. Misconduct is a choice, not a mistake. No one wants that person held accountable more than other cops. We will not allow them to remain in service and weaken that Thin Blue Line.
As a veteran, no symbol is more important to me than the American Flag. I will not permit it to be hung improperly, to become tattered, nor will I allow it to touch the ground. For the record, it is not wrong to place a blue line on a black and white flag. You cannot alter an American Flag in its pure form. No one is putting a blue line on an
American Flag. This Thin Blue Line flag is an entirely new flag. In our garage gym, we proudly display both the American Flag and a Thin Blue Line flag. The American Flag is positioned on the left, slightly higher than the Thin Blue Line flag. They are not the same thing.
A State Capitol Police Officer in Connecticut donated a handcrafted wood rendering of the Thin Blue Line flag for display at the State Capitol. It was removed after some legislators felt it could be, “interpreted as anti-Black Lives Matter.” This flag was hung in Police Memorial Hall. While this seems perfectly appropriate and was originally approved by the Office of Legislative Management, the opinions of a group represented by Rep. Brandon McGee, chairman of the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus, were interpreted to be more relevant than the actual meaning of the image. Without educating himself first, Rep. McGee called for the removal of the flag. After caving to pressure it was removed. McGee was interviewed and later quoted as stating, “he would be open to seeing the flag reinstated after becoming more “educated” on its meaning during a conversation with John Krupinsky, president of the Connecticut State Fraternal Order of Police. Imagine that; asking a question and educating ourselves before charging ahead based on opinions. That is the biggest issue today, rushing to judgement and making decisions based on misinformation polluting social media.
Let’s look a little deeper at why this a topic is so apt to elicit political rhetoric. It could get pretty frightening if we reach into history and change the intent of every action. History has been made. Not every action was something other than it was intended to be. If a white supremacist in Charlottesville waves a Thin Blue Line flag, it does not mean the flag itself was created as a symbol of their cause. If we change the meaning of this symbol that was created for police officers (who incidentally are white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian, men, women, gay, straight, etc.), they have already been given power they should never be entitled to. In essence, they have been allowed to change history and that very permission was provided by those who oppose what they stand for. So while attacking the Thin Blue Line, the actual problem remains shielded. The actual racist goes unnoticed and the flag they misused and the community it represents pays the price. The racist wins.
Empowering those who degrade other human beings is a dangerous path to embark upon. If we take symbols that have supported our humanity, our selfless service of others, and abolish them because they are misrepresented far beyond their original purpose, who are we protecting?
I for one will continue to display the Thin Blue Line in my home, on my vehicle, and anywhere else I can put it to honor the brothers and sisters we have lost. They chose to give their lives to protect all people, ALL LIVES, including mine. I challenge you to do the same. Cops on the road deserve to know they are supported. That means more than any “tweet” or “post” from someone who isn’t brave enough to stand in front of, and protect others regardless of their beliefs. Everyone has the freedom to express their opinions, because honorable men and women hold the Thin Blue Line.
Chasmar, J. (2019). The Washington Times, “’Thin blue line’ flag honoring police removed from Connecticut State Capitol after Dems complain” Retrieved from: https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/feb/21/connecticut-state-capitol-removes-thin-blue-line-f/
Gaydos, R. (2019), Fox News. Retrieved from: https://www.foxnews.com/sports/blue-lives-matter-aberdeen-ironbirds-maryland-baseball
Rossman, S. (2017). Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/18/thin-blue-line-what-does-american-flag-wit-flag-maker-condemns-use-white-supremacists-charlottesvill/580694001/
Roufa, T. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-the-thin-blue-line-974603