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Upside Down American Flag 2

Today in Seattle tensions are mounting as a group of people demand the removal of a Confederate monument in Lake View Cemetery. This happens from time to time. You might remember Destroying the Seattle Confederate Memorial  from two years ago in which I mention the diverse parties involved in its dedication.

Earlier today I was informed that Lake View Cemetery might be somehow obscuring this monument in response to calls to remove it, so I called to ask for the facts before I commented. Lake View has respectfully removed vulgarities from this monument over the years just as they would from any monument there. Evidently they’ve been very busy so it will likely take them some time to answer. I should add that they are consistently responsive and helpful, and that this famed burial ground houses people from all walks.

This afternoon I noticed that a story written by a major Seattle news source reported that the inscription on this memorial says “Erected by Robert E. Lee.” It was almost funny because Lee died 56 years before this monument was placed. But this omission of the rest of the inscription, intentional or not, was potentially inflammatory. We don’t need more fuel on the fire of civil unrest. The actual inscription reads “Erected by Robert E. Lee Chapter Number 885 United Daughters of the Confederacy 1926” prefaced by “In Memory of the United Confederate Veterans.”

Because of this omission I contacted this news source and asked if they would correct this on a factual basis. I pointed out that the modern UDC is very clear about standing against racism– in other words, know these women before you criticize them. What followed left me gobsmacked. This is not verbatim but it does convey the sentiment.

I was told that anything supporting the Confederacy supports white supremacy, racism, and slavery. I said, “So anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery?” His answer: yes.

“What about the larger issue of secession?” I asked. (No answer.) I was told that the South fought to keep slavery alive. I believe I said something about expecting more factual reporting and objectivity, but anyway, asked if they would correct their article, politics aside. I haven’t even looked to see if they did after this experience.

That belief, that anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery, underscores the ignorance and assumptions that are dividing our country in two. We are losing the republic by not having our facts straight and not respecting other citizens’ freedoms. Angry, self-righteous, narrow-mindedness that denies others freedom of speech and expression will be the death of our union if we don’t get a grip.

Freedom of Speech 1

In my Generation Xer lifetime I’ve witnessed a remarkable shift from critical thinking, fact-checking, and intelligent civil discourse to politics and activism based more on emotions like anger. Facts seem to have become increasingly unimportant. It’s now hip to wield a broad brush and make scathing generalizations about anyone who disagrees with you, attacking people rather than policy or politics.

In the age of social media we go online calling others Nazis, fascists, racists, bigots, and haters not because they actually are those things, but because these are the labels we slap on those who disagree with us. The frightening aspect to this, one that threatens civilization, is that we are losing track of– or don’t care– what these terms actually mean. Merriam and Webster seem to be anachronistic relics of a less enlightened era.

Nazism advocates totalitarianism. What is totalitarianism? The state rules. The state makes the rules. The state gets total control. Nazism is also equated with fascism. What is facism? It’s similar. The state rules, usually with a dictator at its head. There is no freedom to disagree and there is strict social and economic control. Some fascist states have ruled without employing terror but both ideologies might employ it. Racism tends to be more prevalent in totalitarianism. Scholars can debate the finer points all day but here’s the bottom line: Nazism, totalitarianism, and fascism are all about control and the state controlling individuals.

Here’s an example of irony: Antifrees. At least that’s what I call them. This Antifa group, claiming to be anti-fascist, labels those who disagrees with them fascists and then resorts to violence to protest “fascists.” Do you see what’s wrong with this picture? Antifa and similar organizations are the actual fascists by denying others’ individuals rights and using violence to try to force others into compliance. They are judge, jury, and executioner, showing no respect for the right to have a differing opinion in a free country.

Whatever they call themselves, this  and similar terroristic, thuggish, accusatory ideologies have been tried before. They’ve resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths. Call it totalitarianism, fascism, Nazism, Communism, or what have you, these systems of thought have the same basic idea that causes the same problems: one group has control of a nation and it crushes dissenters. This is accomplished by polarizing and punishing those who advocate for individual rights. These are unquestionably undemocratic philosophies as well.

Note that if you label someone “extreme right,” and they’re just a Reagan Republican who believes in less government, you’re way off. Isms want more government and fewer rights. Isms exist at either side of the traditional political spectrum. A better version of the spectrum would be to put all the liberties-sucking, control-driven, dictatorial ideas on one end and little to no government or governmental control on the other. Extreme isms always bring death. So can anarchy. Stay away from those edges.

How about the ‘phobes? It is hip right now to call someone a ______phobe if they disagree with you. If you speak out against elements of Islam that contradict our Constitution or disregard women’s, human, or animal rights, you an Islamophobe. What is a phobia? It’s an extreme, irrational fear. Irrational implies that there’s little to no logical basis for that fear. It’s just a knee jerk reaction that’s likely unfounded and unfair. It doesn’t matter if you track human rights violations like female genital mutilation or domestic violence; you speak out on one issue, you’re a ‘phobe on all counts.

Xenophobe is another term thrown around like popcorn in the bed of a ’64 pickup on a bumpy back road. You might be against immigration for financial reasons and want to take care of homeless veterans or the elderly or foster children in your own country first. But– shazam– you’re a xenophobe because you’re clearly against foreigners. Xenophobes shouldn’t be concerned with our astronomical national debt and the financial train wreck we are leaving our children.

How dare you take care of your own people first. Worse yet, you’ve shown the desire to put your nation first. You’re a patriotic nationalist! Nationalists surely must be racists. Using popular warped logic, that makes you a fascist! If you are a fascist, then you are a Nazi! This is the new math of politics. It doesn’t care about facts. It just accuses. You are an ist of every ilk no matter what you actually, factually believe.

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Then there’s the very popular label of “hater.” “Hate” has nearly lost its meaning. If you agree with the possibility that a local criminal is a sociopath, you’re a hater. If you advocate for punishment instead of reformation, you’re a hater. If you’re a churchgoer and peacefully disagree while showing respect to those different from you, but take a public stand on a moral issue, you’re a hater. “Choose love,” they say, using “love” as a reason to ostracize others.

It’s getting to the point that unless you agree that anything goes, you’re a hater. Superman’s Bizarro World where up is down and backwards is forwards is consuming our culture. True hate and intolerance are unacceptable to me. Calling someone a hater or intolerant because I disagree with them is just an excuse not to have a rational, constitutionally-based defense to my beliefs ready.

It is alarming to see a nation devolve into high school bullying. What happened to the ability to sit down and have a civil conversation with someone different than ourselves? Instead I see a profession that claims to be objective engaged in 24/7 obsession with manic oppression. The media seems to have gone mad, tilting at windmills, laser-focused on perceived slights when much larger injustices and issues plague our world.

After various media personalities become incensed, emotional, and loud, social media erupts with “so and so demolished or destroyed so and so.” I listen, and most of the time I just see a feelings-charged freak out with no real facts or logic behind it. Most of these tirades can’t even address the original “offense” point by point. It’s just lashing out. So-called entertainers do this night after night and people laud their rationale as if it’s the best way to fight against figures and philosophies they frown upon.

The current national climate is also like domestic violence: “You are what I say you are!” Remember that? For those who’ve been in abusive relationships, a huge portion of our population, you know what it’s like to be called filthy words you never deserved that bear no resemblance to reality. If anything, the abuser was projecting onto you words that described themselves. If you yell, “Fascist! Nazi! Bigot!” at me and try to shut me down because I have an opinion that is different from yours, think about that. Who’s trying to control who?

Most importantly, you don’t have to agree with what your neighbor/spouse/friend/congressman/coworker/pastor/teacher/pet sitter is saying. They have a right to freedom of speech and expression backed by the mighty U.S. Constitution. Yes, this is a constitutional right. You don’t have to be happy about it. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to listen or agree or applaud. That is your right. But you have no right to try and limit someone else’s rights. Your rights end where their nose begins. Their rights are just as important and guaranteed as yours.

Returning to the Confederacy issue that sparked this post, there is a swelling movement to tear down all Confederate monuments. Using the sanctimonious statement I encountered earlier today, all Confederate monuments are a celebration of white supremacy, racism, and slavery. On that note, tearing them down sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to celebrate that? Hold on. Could there are have been other reasons for these monuments? Could these be freedom of speech? Have we bothered to read the history or understand why or are we just making assumptions to feel superior about ourselves?

Of course slavery is one of the horrors of human history. Speaking of that, there are more slaves now than there ever were before. How many of these masked protesters would go into battle to save even one trafficked girl? Per my Christian beliefs, racism is denying that we are all made in His image and have equal value. Devaluing or persecuting someone based on the color of their skin– as if they even control that!– is astoundingly ignorant. I’ve often said that supremacists of all shades need to go have DNA tests and, hello, Jesus wasn’t a white guy. I’m sure that most Americans agree that slavery, racism, and race-based supremacy are detrimental.

Because we generally agree that these things are bad, we want to erase symbols of them. But the cry to tear down Confederate memorials is ridiculously subjective. It dictates how others can or can’t memorialize their dead and their history. They say, “because it is Confederate, it needs to go!” Let’s try this logic on other quasi-random concepts:

-If the state of California were to successfully secede from the union, a movement largely driven by Progressives, then their names should be stricken from history and it should be illegal to memorialize this act in any way.

-The State of Washington should be renamed because George Washington owned slaves. So should D.C.

-Anyone who believed in preserving the union but owned slaves should not be considered a Unionist. Take down all likenesses.

-Any Southerner who fought out of loyalty to their family, state, or states’ rights is a supremacist bigot. None of them ever changed their views either.

-Because our English ancestors oppressed our Scottish ancestors– or our Arab ancestors sold our African ancestors into slavery– or insert any conflict between people groups on any continent– we should disavow that people group in its entirety. Don’t value anything admirable. They’re just evil.

-If I say you’re a racobigofascitotaliphobahateaholic, you are. Disregard the long-accepted and objective definitions of these terms and just go with it. It’s what the cool kids do.

-There’s a monument to William Henry Seward just next door to Lake View Cemetery in Volunteer Park. His family owned slaves. Should that statue be removed despite his own opposition to slavery and tremendous sacrifices on behalf on the Union? Some Alaskans didn’t want sculptures of what they deemed an imperialist white man in Juneau.

-If there’s a monument that offends me, I have the right to vandalize it, desecrate it, and tear it down, even over someone’s grave. Their remains and resting place are no longer sacred.

-It doesn’t matter if a monument is on private property. It should be subject to the same laws that public property is. (Totalitarianism, anyone? That distinction must remain.)

-Symbols of Christianity and Judaism are offensive to me as well as the Confederacy. I demand that those be taken down as well.

-Should we progress to book burning? Why not? (Does anyone see parallels to the “isms” here? See why some consider this Marxist revisionism?)

When does it stop? Where do we draw the line? This could go on and on. If it does, it becomes one group taking freedoms from others and dictating what is acceptable. They could even demand replacements that enshrine ideals and individuals that are just as offensive to huge groups of other Americans. Instead, we need to have dialogues, conversations, respectful exchanges. We need to study our history and stand in others’ shoes for a moment to try to understand where they’re coming from.

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I don’t have the right to go break anything I think is bigoted. If I did, I’d be down in Fremont right now taking a sledgehammer to the abhorrent monstrosity that is the Vladimir Lenin statute. Oh, no big deal, millions were murdered in the Red Holocaust, but it’s just a neat piece of art that blends nicely into Seattle’s kitsch. If it offends someone who came to America to escape such oppression, they just don’t get the joke.

As I said in another forum today, some of us have been telling Seattle to take the Lenin out of its own eye for a while. The hypocrisy of having Lenin there while demanding that other monuments be taken down bothers some more than the actual statue, which could be construed as an homage to one of humanity’s greatest mass murderers. Some have wondered if Ted Bundy and Hitler would be okay there too.

(It could be argued that the structure celebrates what was good about Lenin. Or it’s just art that’s well done. Alright, then please stay on that track when addressing other monuments.)

Broad brushes. Grandiose generalizations. Feelings freak outs. These can be lazy and disrespectful ways to get your points across. Many of you know not to try these tactics on your children– “You always do this!” “You overreact every time!” “You make me crazy!” Your kids will out logic you and/or suffer because you aren’t acting like an adult. It’s okay to use this behavior with adults you disagree with though?

We need to return to our roots. People will die if we continue to allow these subjective labels, violence, and terrorism to continue. Try empathy– understanding the backstory. Try respect– you can speak respectfully even during strong disagreements (think Lincoln-Douglas). Try objectivity– being true to the classic definitions of words and concepts we throw at others. Try having friends who believe differently than you and celebrate what you have in common instead. Try patriotism– being proud of the diverse people who make up this country and the checks and balances our differences provide.

Ultimately there are forces in this world that are savoring every moment of Americans turning on other Americans. If we divide ourselves, we destroy ourselves, making us subject to some other nation or coalition that is an ism– something that won’t value our rights or property or freedoms. Have you considered that we’re playing right into some greater evil’s hands by so flippantly labeling and deriding our neighbors?

Don’t be a useful idiot. Be a passionate individual who expresses yourself and intelligently speaks out for what you believe in. Exercise your American freedoms and use them to achieve justice for others. Having both strong Democrat and Republican role models growing up, I greatly admire people who blaze with enthusiasm for their core values and can advocate for them without alienating their neighbors. They are the people who draw varying opinions into conversations, not insult them and spit them out. They are the brave souls who actually achieve reform and change the world rather than dividing it.

I understand why some want the Confederate memorial in Lake View Cemetery removed. But I disagree with actually removing it. It would be removed on the basis that it’s about racism, white supremacy, and slavery. It is more than that. It is a part of our collective history, a history that should never be forgotten. Americans should be allowed to commemorate their ancestors and graves especially should be off limits. We should not cave in to terrorism and criminal behavior either. If this is taken down, it will just cause even bigger fires. And is this the best thing Seattle has to do considering the state of its mayoral office and widespread human suffering?

We are Americans. To survive we must stay united. We are allowing ourselves to be divided by petty preconceptions and money-making mayhem manufacturers. Allowing one side to issue orders to another about what is right and acceptable without any constructive dialogue or fact-checking is just unleashing the wrecking ball that will take us out. Leave the dead where they lie and focus on saving the living. Let’s leave future generations an intact democratic republic instead of a black hole.

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Update, 8/17/17: Here is verbiage from one of the online petitions demanding that the monument in Lake View come down. Note that these petitions claim that this monument was raised in the name of white supremacy– they are completely ignorant of the monument’s history. They obviously haven’t bothered to talk to the UDC or read their explicitly anti-racist creed. It’s their own version of reality, demanding that a structure on private property be subject to the same rules as public property.

How dare they blindly accuse this group of women as being white supremacist and racist. How dare they trample on others’ freedom of speech. They claim the monument serves no historical purpose– wow. One petition says that because you can see it from the road, it should be considered to be in the right-of-way and the land it’s on should be treated like a public place (!).

This is radical, dangerous thinking that ignores facts, didn’t even attempt to have a dialogue, and wants the government to force a private property owner to do their misinformed bidding. These sentiments are divisive and tear at the very bedrock of our Constitution. They have no right to prevent someone else from memorializing their people on private land. I’m sure some supporters mean well and are trying to do the right thing, but some just plain want to label and control other people’s business in some misguided quest to sanitize our nation of anything that disagrees with them. This has happened before, it got out of control, and hundreds of millions died.

This isn’t bigotry. This is history. Deal with it and stop falsely accusing others.

Erected in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was built to memorialize and commemorate the hate that ripped our country in two. It seeks to remind everyone that – despite losing a war – that White Supremacy is still alive and revered as a positive trait for (white) Americans to have. The fact that it still stands is a testament to how desperately White people clench to their race-based power.

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See also Rantz: On private statues, Murray should mind his own business

With respect to the mayor, he should mind his own business on political speech or historic symbolism when they’re erected on private property. It’s not the role of the government to chill free speech rights, even if we find it abhorrent. He knows he has no power to compel them to remove the memorial, so all this statement does is serve as a heavy-handed dose of virtue signaling that injects him into a national conversation that he should have no part in.

And perhaps, given the allegations against the Mayor, I’m not sure he should hold himself up there as a moral authority in any fight to stand up against oppressors.

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While Depeche Mode’s politics likely differ from my own, they knocked it out of the park with this song. This is the kind of fearless statement that can and should ignite constructive dialogues.

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jakob Bjarnason Ceremony 5-10-17 13A

Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

It helps when you ask someone with the ability to find an ideal solution.

Last summer I’d finally sat down to read the Spring issue of the Nordic Heritage Museum’s Nordic Kultur magazine. Long a fan of this museum, I’d always been intrigued by one of their displays about an early 20th century Ballard police officer named Jakob Bjarnason.

Something about his eyes and slight smile always made me pause. There was something… whimsical and honest in those windows to the soul. Something that made me think I would have liked to have known him.

Enter page 42: Big Jake Bjarnason: The Gentle Giant by Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson. This well-written article by a relative of Bjarnason’s told the story of a respected local cop who had immigrated from Iceland. He actively worked to honor his native culture and heritage while working and helping raise his daughter’s sister. Big Jake also had a wonderful sense of humor.

Standing at well over seven feet tall, Bjarnason was an imposing presence with a heart to match. When he died suddenly in 1927, 2000 people attended his funeral. That speaks volumes. Unfortunately, his grave was marked with a small temporary marker that, local history buff John Haggem told me, cost a dollar. Haggem and others also found that the birth date listed on the marker was off by a decade.

Guðmundsson’s piece said that the marker is now covered by grass. When I read that, I got out of my chair, slapped down the magazine, and said, “That isn’t right.” It isn’t. No one should be forgotten. Especially not someone who dedicated their life to service and family. So I added “get Jake a proper marker” to my never-ending historical to-do list.

Later in the year, I contacted the Nordic Heritage Museum and Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, not knowing that others, including John Heggem, had the same idea. I asked how we could get Big Jake a proper marker. Little did I know that Officer Jim Ritter, who heads the police museum, would find an even better answer than I could have envisioned.

In short order, Officer Ritter designed a grave marker that honored Bjarnason’s service to both the Ballard and Seattle Police Departments. For those outside of the Seattle area, Ballard was its own entity until May 29th, 1907 when it was absorbed by the City of Seattle. Those against annexation flew their flags at half-mast that day. 110 years later, some of us locals still sport “Free Ballard” bumper stickers.

Quiring Monuments of Seattle donated their services to make the marker come alive. Evergreen Washelli, the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Icelandic Club of Greater Seattle, and the Washington State Archives became involved. I jokingly nicknamed this coalition Team Jakob (nod to the silly Edward vs. Jacob meme of years past).

Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson poured more heart, soul, and research into this effort. David Johnson of the Icelandic Club had me traipsing around the Crown Hill Cemetery looking for examples of 1920s Icelandic grave markers (before I knew Ritter had designed a fitting tribute). Our fabulous Washington State Archivist Steve Excell and his “cold cases don’t stand a chance” genealogy expert Dr. Jewell Lorenz Dunn focused on demolishing a brick wall that had prevented investigative journalist Guðmundsson from finding any of Big Jake’s sister’s offspring.

I and others had visited Jakob’s grave site in the cemetery. It took me a while to find his marker mid-winter as it was covered with debris again. Once found, I noted that his resting place above the Seagull Pond had a direct view of Home Depot.

I also had to get out a measuring tape because I couldn’t fathom how a man who was 7’4″ could have been buried in that spot without using his western neighbor’s head as a footrest. But once Evergreen Washelli explained it was clear that there was enough room. One thing I remain partially stymied by is finding an inside out pair of Carhartt pants nearby, but cemeteries deal with the strangest things.

In the meantime, Ritter was tapping his media contacts and setting up a day to remember. The talented Arnfridur Sigurdardottir became involved as the team’s (other) Icelandic language specialist. As things moved along, it became apparent that Evergreen Washelli, Quiring, and Officer Ritter were cooking up something special.

On April 5th, KING 5 broke the story Ballard’s ‘Big Jake’ receives overdue recognition. You can read John Heggem’s letter there. KING 5 has done a great job covering this process yet one error appeared in this account and the most recent. May 10th is Big Jake’s birthday, not the anniversary of his death. He passed away 90 years ago on October 6th.

On April 12th, the Washington State Archives disclosed that they had located living descendants of Gudridur Bjarnadottir, later known as Grace Ryan Bell, Bjarnason’s sister. All this time the relevant genealogy records on the web had been tied to a wrong person. These relatives were surprised to find out they were a part of this story and made plans to attend the May 10th ceremony at which the new marker would be dedicated.

As someone who believes that bagpipes should be part of every major life event, be it childbirth, a new car purchase, or a Bar Mitzvah, I hesitated to suggest having pipers present since Iceland seems to be the only country on earth without a history of bagpipes. I come from generations of public servants and have that background myself so it’s not a party without the pipes.

I was delighted to learn that Ritter had arranged for the Seattle Police Department Honor Guard and pipes and drums to be present. Score! This man thinks of everything. He also asked Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole to officiate. Guðmundsson, in the meantime, had contacted his newly found relatives and Team Jakob (okay, only I called it that) began inviting others.

One of the invitations went to the people who currently reside in Jakob’s home. Friðrik had shared Jakob’s registration papers from World War I and I realized the address was still valid. As a history buff, I’m used to making such cold calls and following up with supporting documentation, so I contacted the male resident. I asked if a 7’4″ man could have maneuvered well in their home. He said he’s tall and he’s never had a problem. I still wonder if Jakob had to duck through every doorway. Sadly, this neighborhood could be rezoned, which means yet another historic Ballard home could be lost to soulless boxlike condos.

Wednesday was May 10th, which would have been Big Jake’s 143rd birthday. Despite having experienced the wettest six month stretch in Seattle history with freak thunderstorms the week prior, Wednesday was a stunning sunny 70 degree day. Mother Nature was on her best behavior, bathing that morning in an almost magical glow.

At 11 A.M., Wednesday, May 10th, 2017, a crowd gathered to give Jakob Bjarnason, the Gentle Giant, the rest of his funeral, this time with a marker designed to last.

Enter the Seattle Police Pipes and Drums.

Jakob Bjarnason Ceremony 5-10-17 1

Here Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson, who started it all and flew out from Iceland for the event, meets cousin Daniel Bell’s family for the first time. It was a joyous occasion that KING 5 captured some great video of. Bell’s family brought photos of relatives that Guðmundsson immediately recognized.

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A view of the venue before the ceremony. Evergreen Washelli always puts on classy events and donated their time and services to honor Bjarnason this day.

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The Seattle Police Honor Guard added a reverent and respectful air to the ceremony.

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While some malign bagpipes as the secret behind crop circles, there are few sounds more glorious when you are celebrating a life. Or otherwise. It stirs the blood.

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Officer Jim Ritter prepares to speak.

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Ritter pointed out that Jakob Bjarnason was practicing community-oriented policing long before it was cool. He knew his community, he was involved in his community, and his community respected him for it.

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Friðrik and Daniel, together at last, listen to Ritter speak about their uncle. One of the men who made this possible, John Heggem, is in the foreground. I later learned that John’s mother and other relatives are buried just a hop, skip, and a jump from Big Jake. For Jake, that could be just a couple of strides.

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Chief Kathleen O’Toole addresses the audience.

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Friðrik’s turn. He gave a rousing speech about his Uncle Jakob, pronouncing his name Yah-cawb as the Icelanders say.

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The man of the hour, Jakob Bjarnason himself. The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum owns this bust of Big Jake. Evidently the matching set of Jake’s hands is missing. Anyone have a couple of giant plaster hands in their attic?

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It’s possible that Bjarnason’s original funeral could have looked very much like this.

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Jakob at the microphones. Having “him” there added depth to the celebration of his life. It already felt like he was looking down upon this smiling and “his” presence made that more real.

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Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Officer Ritter present Friðrik and Daniel with an American flag.

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Friðrik explained that because Daniel is more closely related to Jakob, he would offer the flag to him.

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The moment arrives… the Evergreen Washelli crew backed their tractor into position to place the permanent marker.

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Jakob’s bust watches the marker’s placement from the podium.

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Friðrik and Daniel peel back the protective plastic to reveal Quiring’s amazing craftsmanship.

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The Honor Guard looks on.

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Jakob appears to admire the handiwork.

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One of these officers said he had served the City of Seattle for 47 years!

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Not only did Arnfridur Sigurdardottir read a poem in Icelandic written by Jakob’s neighbor, but local Icelanders attended as well.

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This is what teamwork looks like. Well done, Seattle PD and associates.

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Bonus: Ritter drove an original 1970 Plymouth Seattle Police cruiser to the event. Some of us got a kick out of discussing the particulars and asking him to pop the hood later. Evidently the car was located out of state and brought back to Seattle.

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Here it is… the culmination of months of hard work. Now visitors will know who Officer Bjarnason is. When you live a life of honest service, people will remember you nearly a century after you die. And beyond.

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Post-ceremony, Friðrik gives another interview in this idyllic setting.

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Evergreen Washelli had clear signage everywhere including on the way to the indoor reception.

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Cool cake! The inside was marbled with what appeared to be several different flavors. Thank you again to Evergreen Washelli for hosting this.

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Daniel is holding a copy of the essay Jakob wrote just before dying courtesy of the Nordic Heritage Museum. It was explained that Jakob was a contributor to the local Icelandic journal and was expounding upon his belief that Leif Erikson was Icelandic, not Norwegian.

Feeling unwell, he went into the bathroom to shave, probably to prepare for a doctor visit. He collapsed and died of heart trouble. He was only 53 years old.

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The Gentle Giant’s birthday ride. One of his relatives, looking in the window, quipped, “He can’t possibly be 7’4″!”

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And so the festivities ended. Generous donations and Team Captain Jim Ritter made this a day to remember. Please check out KING 5’s feature Descendants travel far and wide to honor legendary Seattle police officer.

Iceland

Translation:

I pray I may rest
where the priests and the best
of farmers have trod,
with faith in God
and themselves strong as stone —
as strong as my own! —
and where life flows bright
amid bounties of light.

-Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson, Home

Happy Birthday Big Jake. You’ve certainly given those who’ve come after you some mighty big shoes to fill.

Jakob Bjarnason Ceremony 5-10-17 34

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Update: Friday, May 12th. We were having to pack up our desks at work for a move. I pulled a pair of seldom-used work gloves out of my bottom filing cabinet drawer and gasped when I saw what they said.

You’re welcome.

jakob-bjarnason-ceremony-5-10-17-35.jpg

*************************************************************************************Disclaimer: This is a personal, nonprofit blog and it is not endorsed by any participants in this project or parties in this story. I do hope that the museums and organizations mentioned will benefit from their roles in this amazing project. 

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Seen on the bulletin board at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Thank you to whoever posted this and took the time to rightfully put the cemetery’s flag at half-staff. 

Scalia

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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We Are Safe

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What do you plan to do about it?

Here’s one option. Ask your church or faith-based community organization to take the pledge to become a Safe Faith Community. The team behind Document the Abuse has unveiled this new initiative at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month to encourage faith-based organizations to be a safe place for domestic violence victims.

For years I’ve said that the church should be the first place domestic violence victims should go for help, yet it is often the last place they’ll go because of the legalism, judgment, and condemnation they might face. Many churches don’t know how to connect victims with resources in their communities either. In addition, those in the ministry who don’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence can provide misinformed and even dangerous counsel.

Too often victims are told that if they would just improve their own behavior or be more attractive their abuser wouldn’t be so inclined to hurt them, be that physically, financially, sexually, or psychologically. Abuse takes many forms. I call this the “just put a bow in your hair, act like nothing’s wrong, and make a nice casserole” syndrome. Victims are frequently guilted into staying in unhealthy and unsafe situations with the Bible erroneously used as justification for why they should endure. Power and control is at the root of this evil. The victim is not causing it and they cannot make their abuser change.

The church’s first concern should be whether the victims are safe, not how to reconcile the relationship, not to treat the victim as an equally guilty party who needs marriage counseling, not telling them God will punish them if they get a divorce in order to keep themselves or their children safe. Churches can become havens for abusers and predators when more concern is given to the possibility that they might make things right with God than to the immediate and even life-threatening matters their victims are facing. Churches too have pathological personalities like narcissists and sociopaths who might have no interest in improving their behavior but have obsessive interests in controlling or stalking their victims.

Statistically, domestic violence is just as prevalent in the church as it is in the rest of the world. It’s probably the single biggest issue facing church families, but the least talked about. It’s high time for churches to start showing domestic violence victims the grace of God more generously and to speak out with one voice against this atrocity. It’s all around us. If we believe in a higher moral authority, why then are we not more interested in living according to that law rather than our own selfish and immature desires that cause others pain? What point is there in believing in Him if our behavior is no different than those without that hope?

Purple Ribbon DV

The Safe Faith Community Project is asking faith leaders to make these promises:

1. Learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence.

2. Stand with victims of domestic violence as they desire and seek healing and wholeness.

3. Never coerce or require a victim of domestic violence to reconcile with their abuser.

4. Share at least one sermon each October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) about the epidemic of domestic violence and how the church can respond.

5. Connect with a domestic violence shelter in our city/town.

6. Show that our faith community is a designated safe place by prominently placing Safe Faith Community decal on your site or social media.

7. Offer the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse (training optional for staff or selected individuals), found at documenttheabuse.com or at the Apple Store, and a copy of the book, “Time’s Up,” to each victim of domestic violence we encounter.

This is going to challenge churches to get out of their comfort zone and walk the walk! I already sense that some will have a problem with #3. I’ve known people and churches who treat divorce as if it’s the unforgivable sin, so counsel victims to remain with dangerous and unstable people. I was so weighed down by such legalism (man-made rules on top of God’s) that I nearly waited too long to get out of a marriage rife with death threats. Some believers try to convince victims that they’ll go to hell if they marry again.

Really? God’s grace does not extend to victims of abuse? It is His will that they spend the rest of their lives in submission to godless individuals who do the enemy’s work instead of His? That’s like having a curse put on you that supposedly not even God Himself can lift. It’s like being in a macabre fairy tale where someone is changed into a beast or put into a deep sleep, but the prince or rescuer never comes.

Note a tool mentioned in this pledge called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, or EAA. It is a way of documenting abuse so that the victim can speak for themselves in court if they are missing, incapacitated, or dead. By gathering certain documents and photos and using templates in the Time’s Up book, the victim can videotape their testimony and have it notarized and stored in the cloud where their abuser can’t get to it. This is intended to get around the hearsay rule in court—this is unaltered testimony coming straight from the victim. See Document the Abuse for more information.

Join the movement. Share this website with your church leadership and dare them to step out in faith on behalf of those affected by domestic violence. This is not a partisan or a denominational issue; domestic violence affects people of all faiths and creeds.

This will become a nationwide, if not worldwide, movement. Faith communities need to focus on eliminating domestic violence rather than enabling it. This is a great first step. Will you pass it on?

Safefaithcommunity.com. See also the Document the Abuse Facebook page.

From http://beckerimpact.blogspot.com/2012/10/joining-million-voices.html*************************************************************************************

Change starts when someone sees the next step. –William Drayton

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Be protective of your sheep because the wolves are coming.

-Jimmy Meeks, police officer, minister, and owner of Sheepdog Seminars

Five days ago a 21 year-old walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people. He reloaded his weapon five times during his killing spree. Friends say Dylan Roof wanted to shoot up a nearby university but couldn’t get past security, so he decided on the likely gun-free church instead, taking advantage of their warm welcome and inclusiveness.

As is always the case when a mass shooting happens, there were red flags ahead of time. Roof had told friends of his hatred toward black Americans and about some of his plans at least a week before. He posed in pictures highlighting his bigoted interests that were shared online. His aspirations were not a secret. In a move that is atypical of related acts of violence, he spent an hour in the church before opening fire, which could be another indication of advance planning.

Is America a free country? Yes. So reporting everyone who has biases or passionate opinions to the authorities isn’t called for. We are a land of diverse beliefs and freedom of speech is protected by our Constitution. But if someone you know is threatening to go kill others, discuss it with the authorities. Who knows what horrors you might prevent if they take it seriously. See how this killing spree was averted by an alert father, Father Tips Off Police to Son’s Alleged ISIS Sympathies, Authorities Say.

A common response to this tragedy has been, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!” I understand the feelings of shock, horror, and disbelief. No one wants to believe this could happen to them, or their family, or in their church. Start believing it. This is the world we live in.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives in church violence in America and Christian persecution is rampant around the world. This is not by any means the first time this has happened, and it is far from being the last. Given the volatile state of our planet, and increasing animosity towards Christians and Jews, I expect to see more of the same and worse.

For some graphic examples of what is happening to Christians in other countries, see the Gatestone Institute’s recent report Jihad on Christians. Some will protest that I’m drawing a parallel to Islamic terrorism, but reality is that this rabid intolerance of other belief systems is universal. There are millions upon millions of human beings today who think they are justified in violating and killing others because they’re different.

Going back to, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!”, this is a wake up call to all churches in America. You should have a security committee. You should have a security plan. You should be ready for natural disasters and emergencies. The church should be the most prepared private entity in any given community as community members will look to you in times of crisis. You’re also responsible for the well-being of a lot of those same people. Stop worrying about being nice and start thinking of how to save lives.

Jimmy Meeks again, from Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting:

“The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches,” said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People “don’t listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done.”

The popular WWJD campaign years ago always depicted Jesus as doing “something sweet” and often overlooked Christ’s cautious or protective actions, Meeks said. “What about John 2:24b-25 — Jesus ‘knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man’? What’s wrong with not trusting people you don’t know? Be watchful of them.”

Some church leaders say, “we don’t have the money!” You can increase security and be better prepared without money. You just need to start with a few good men and women willing to sit down and develop some standard operating procedures. Ask the obvious questions–what if there’s a fire? Active shooter? Earthquake? Tornado? Controversial guest speaker? Bomb threat? Kidnapping? Domestic abuser who keeps showing up at the church threatening his ex-wife?

Discuss how you would ideally handle such events and draw up a plan. Consider that some of the biggest threats might come from or have to do with your church family itself. Domestic violence often becomes workplace violence– similarly, an abuser usually knows where their ex goes to church and might want to take her out among others in a blaze of glory. A noncustodial parent might try to remove their child from a nursery. Protesters could show up and try to disrupt an event.

Brainstorm. Take notes. Don’t consider any question or scenario too outrageous or unlikely. Consider all events at the church, not just large services. Involve your local law enforcement agency to get their insights. They will often do security assessments or consultations. Some offer security training for churches. There are also private security firms who provide these services. Obtain copies of plans other congregations or agencies have written up and work from them. Train your staff members and volunteers in basic emergency protocols. Got CERTs? Got parishioners who carry firearms? Got first responders? Know your assets. Don’t require people to disclose, just ask for volunteers.

This mass murder has caused the age-old debate about firearms to flare up again. I’ve reviewed countless news articles about this story and people are either saying, “This is why we should ban firearms!” or “We need to increase armed security in church.” If your church already has one or more uniformed police officers on hand during Sunday services, then you already know the value of meeting any threat with an appropriate level of force. You acknowledge the value of having someone with certain training and skills standing by.

The fastest way to take down an active shooter and keep him from reloading five times can be an armed good guy. The use of firearms in a crowded room is obviously risky, but chances are not many people, on zero notice, are going to want to rush a gunman even though statistical chances of surviving such an incident are greater the more quickly the threat can be neutralized. Let’s not forget what one armed off duty cop was able to do in Colorado, Colorado Springs vs. Charleston: The Church Massacre That Ended Differently.

There is intense interest in church security right now, particularly in the presence of guns in churches. Time just featured Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit. This church in Colorado has 100 volunteers trained as security guards. In North Carolina, one pastor had good reason to assemble an armed volunteer security team known as the Watchmen (a nod to the story of Nehemiah). Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, Inc. is hosting a free webinar, Five Immediate Steps To Enhance Church Security, on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 12:00 CDT.

How each church protects itself is up to its leaders. Some leaders are not anti-gun but are concerned about what might happen if uniformed police officers run into a building and see “regular” people with guns drawn– they don’t know who the criminal is. No matter how you feel about guns, now is the time to learn, to prepare, to train. A storm is coming and there is no reason to be caught unprepared. Churches, unfortunately, are for the most part soft targets, or to put it another way, sitting ducks. They have all sorts of unsecured entrances and exits and windows and activities, and most people present will have their backs to the myriad ingress and egress points. Those who don’t, like priests, rabbis, and pastors, will be absorbed in their duties. People often have their eyes closed. Consider limiting ways into the building once services start.

From First Coast News, Pastors consider beefing up church security:

“There are lot of critics that feel that pastors or even parishioners don’t need to have certain protection in places,” said Jefferson. “That is totally wrong.”

The former Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer is a member of the security detail at Impact church. He said he has served in that capacity 13 years.

“You have to have eyes that are watching people as the come in,” he said. “Watching their body language, watching what they’re carrying.”

Jefferson alludes to a practice that has kept the Israelis safe for years, behavioral profiling. Ushers, greeters, and others can be trained to watch for and report suspicious behavior. The sergeant quoted here says that everybody’s responsible for church security– “We train our members that if something looks suspicious, it is.” At his church they have an aptly-named Ministry of Defense. 

As I told callers to the police department for many years, we’d rather have you report something and have it turn out to be nothing than not do anything and have it be something. Everyone at church should be comfortable reporting things and should know who to report those to. People also need to know it’s okay to call 911 in emergencies– you’d be amazed at how many people call places other than police and fire dispatch because they “didn’t think it was important enough.” Then they’ll call 911 to ask what time it is.

In today’s world, it’s madness not to prepare for acts of violence and other emergencies. They happen to someone, somewhere, every day, and the more we talk about what could possibly happen, the more likely it is that we will be able to respond to these events rather than react. So have an emergency plan like school districts do. Take advantage of Community Emergency Response Team training. FEMA recently had a webinar titled Preparing Houses of Worship for Emergencies. They have other relevant webinars archived, and other great material about preparedness. You can have code words to put the church on lockdown, install security cameras and alarm systems, change your cash-handling procedures– there are many actions you can take to improve security right now.

This video was recommended to me by a trusted friend in law enforcement, Run. Hide. Fight. You can easily find other online videos and resources, like church security expert Carl Chinn’s website. It’s packed with useful information. In western Washington, the ADTA, Armed Defense Training Association, is an excellent place to learn practical self-defense and firearms skills. Again, tap your local police and fire departments for pointers and plans.

As an aside, please do not limit your security committees and security team members to uniformed personnel. There are members with other valuable skills and insights, and women in particular can often contribute a different perspective than the sometimes black and white thinking of professionally trained men. Psychologists and teachers and nurses are just some of the people who can enhance your committees and teams.

Again, a storm is coming. Around the world, terrorists and zealots and criminals and bigots are storming the house of God. We can and should pray for peace and divine protection, but God also requires us to do the best we can with what we have to protect our brothers and sisters. Last March in Pakistan, suicide bombers attempted to murder Christians in church but were stopped by volunteer security guards who were killed in the explosions.There would have been many more deaths if it weren’t for their preparedness. As I regularly review reports of Christian persecution and church security issues from around the world, I become increasingly impressed that the churches usually doing the most to protect their people are the ones with the fewest resources.

As a survivor of domestic violence that involved specific firearms threats, for years I considered that I might be endangering others simply by going to church. In that time I learned to consider all the angles of how a possible attack would take place and have become passionate about teaching others to– and please listen to my words carefully here– be prepared, not paranoid. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We should not be “nice” about looming threats against the church and human life and be overly concerned about what the rest of the world thinks. We should take a bold stand knowing an infinite power is behind us, and by protecting each other we are fully in line with His principles and character.

There is something each of us can do to improve church security. The “I can’t believe this could happen to us” and “we hadn’t really thought about security” mentalities have to go. Watch. Pray. Volunteer. Give. We are a body. We should function as a body. It’s time for that body to put on the armor of God and take a stand against the forces that come to rob and destroy. We need some literal armor too, whatever form that takes. Don’t be caught naked and helpless when the wolves come to your church. They might already be inside.

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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein

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This is a hot topic right now so I want to add some more thoughts:

-Some churches say “we have a security guard outside.” Okay, so who do you have inside? Having a visible off-duty officer is great, but it’s time to think about recruiting and training some not so obvious church members who will be in the services. There might be no communication between the person outside and the people inside. Something bad could happen inside before the person outside would ever know or be able to respond. Security should not only be roaming the perimeter, but mingling.

-An interesting suggestion from a few articles I’ve perused: Once the service begins, limit the number of doors that can be opened from the outside so you can keep a definite eye on the one or few doors still open. The point is limiting access to the building once people are inside, absorbed in the service, with their backs to the door.

FEMA Webinar Library – someone needs to update the page’s content in places, but you will some both older and newer material on here

-Some pastors are being very open that their churches won’t be messed with and trying to harm others there would be a very dumb thing to do. Don’t be a soft target. While you don’t want to show all your cards, it’s not a bad idea to brief the congregation on what to do in an emergency (like don’t all run out the same door) and make it known your church takes security seriously.

-In Fiji, they include churches in their National Security Strategy.

-As an aside, it’s offensive to me that being from the South or being at all associated with the Confederacy means you’re racist. There is an overreaction going on when those energies would be better focused on healing rifts rather than hammering on generalizations that will only widen them. Millions still believe that the Civil War was fought over slavery and therefore everyone who fought for the South was a racist in favor of slavery or a slave owner.

There were a number of issues driving the Civil War, namely the role of the federal government, states’ rights, preserving the Union, and economic issues. Ultimately the South believed it should have the right to break away. Slavery was certainly tied to all of these issues, but many people didn’t take up arms to end or defend slavery. I also resent the suggestion that my Confederate ancestor was racist when he wasn’t all white.

-Don’t forget about all the other events that go on during the week besides your main services– Bible studies, classes, kids’ events, piano lessons, weddings, the average workdays for the pastoral staff. Be prepared all the time, not just for your big services or events. Some criminals or terrorists strike when they’re least expected or will meet the least resistance. They might want to target a specific individual and attempt to harm them when there’s few to no one else around.

-There are security systems that can be viewed from smartphones at all times and other useful technology. It’s not a substitute for a security team, but it can be a major asset.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Pet Tracker

Unfortunately, when a pet goes missing, the perception that it’s a bona fide family member doesn’t hold up. When a child disappears, the community throws all its resources into bringing him or her safely home. When a beloved dog or cat disappears, it’s just that: LOST DOG, two words on a poster that most people won’t even notice.

Somebody ought to train a search dog to find lost pets, I thought.

Guess which somebody it turned out to be . . .

-Kat Albrecht, Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

Do you love animals? Are you a dog parent/owner? Do you work in the criminal justice or psychology fields? Have you ever wondered what your dog or cat is truly capable of? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are among the many who will be blessed by this fascinating foray into the life of a woman whose dogged determination– pun intended– led her to a career as a pet detective.

Kat Albrecht is one woman you should never say “that can’t be done” to. Years ago I became aware of Kat’s work finding missing pets and have referred concerned pet owners to her Missing Pet Partnership website and Pet Detective Blog. Kat offers Lost Pet Recovery training on her website at Katalbrecht.com and has an informative Facebook page.

Additionally, Kat’s Mercy Paws ministry trains teens in her field of expertise and helps them discover their life’s purpose through service and love for God’s creatures. Her journey from disillusioned dispatcher to passionate police officer to preeminent pet detective can and should inspire others to fight for their dreams. A major theme in Pet Tracker is finding your true calling and leaving behind the soul-sucking jobs that cage your talents and authentic self.

So how does a woman named Kat become an expert on search dogs? Kat began her career as a law enforcement employee in the not too distant past. Simply by virtue of her gender she ran smack into the brick wall of sexism so prominent in policing at the time (and still present in all too many agencies today). As a young, female go-getter, the male-dominated culture in her agency found her work ethic, innovative methods, and intelligence threatening. She was told to do menial “female” tasks and harassed, like when trying to build rapport with victims and suspects. Kat was forced to confront pervasive stereotypes and bias in the policing profession as she worked hard to show that she was not only a capable cop, but one with particular gifts.

On this point, as a former civilian law enforcement employee, I identify with Kat’s struggles. I joined policing later that same decade and was appalled that female employees, particularly civilian ones, were more highly regarded when they acted perky, giggled a lot, and made coffee, in my words at the time. Being sexually available to certain figures was sure to score major prom queen points and a prominent place on the popularity ladder as well.

I also remember the department-wide shock wave caused when I used the words “crappy report writing” about an officer’s narrative and it was overheard; you’d think I’d threatened the life of the president. It became clear that as a female– and a civilian– I was stepping outside my tiny culturally-defined box. They could say it, but I didn’t have the same freedoms. I learned, as Kat did, that being an intelligent female who challenges the status quo by trying to improve processes and procedures was often met with hate and derision. This was especially true for Kat as a sworn police officer because she was working in a traditionally male role alongside men who didn’t want her there.

Furthermore, Kat stepped WAY out of her box when she suggested that her agency utilize trained search dogs for their work. Kat wanted to be a K9 officer but again– gasp– she was female, and police dogs weren’t trained to perform the tasks she had started teaching her own dogs to do. Her department told her not to use a trained bloodhound to search for a missing girl. Even in a volunteer capacity, police departments were not receptive to the idea of using trained dogs to save lives, enhance public safety, and recover victims. Full-fledged Officer Albrecht was actually told to go work elsewhere if she wanted to work with a bloodhound!

This barrier is also familiar to me– law enforcement agencies sometimes feel threatened by outside help. They might believe they’ll do better without a pet detective or forensic psychologist or behavioral expert even though cops don’t usually have such training. Some also tend to do things the way they’ve always been done rather than act in the best interest of the public they’re sworn to protect. While I know many open-minded, intelligent, and creative minds in the business, there are also those, particularly those in charge, who are set in their ways and feel that change undermines their authority. They may seem attempts at positive change as insubordination or subversion.

In retrospect, Kat realized that “my passion for working search dogs was viewed as arrogance.” She just wanted to help. So she began to plan how she could develop her passion for working with her dogs instead of how to adapt to a police department that was never going to let her– or her dogs– do what they were best at. The time and effort she put into discovering her dogs’ individual gifts– aided by a very gifted and patient cat– is nothing short of remarkable.

With her dogs at her side she took what she learned in law enforcement and translated that into pet detective work– while continuing her career as a law enforcement officer at another agency who welcomed their skills (having had people at the same agency, I appreciate its open-mindedness). This much-needed positive change came about as she renewed her relationship with God and started seeking His way instead of her own. Woven into Pet Tracker is the discipline of learning to hear from God and trusting Him. As Kat can attest to, even when your own plans seem perfect, He sometimes has a better way. And literally stop her in her tracks a couple of times He did.

It was when her own police bloodhound went missing that Kat realized just how much of a need there is for canines trained to find pets. A volunteer dog located her beloved partner but that dog was one of very few conditioned to do so. As she points out, police dogs are trained to ignore other animals, not find them, so the average K9 officer can’t do this. She noted striking similarities between lost people and lost pet cases and built upon that, founding the National Center for Missing Pets on the way. Then life threw her another curve ball with a life-changing freak injury suffered as a cop but even then she found ways to continue and expand her mission.

Besides being a refreshingly honest look at the barriers she had to break in policing in order to use dogs in this line of work, Pet Tracker offers a very realistic look at certain dog breeds and also delves into the priceless value of rescue pets. It gives proper credit to the uniqueness of each dog and the depths of their intelligence. I was fascinated to learn how Kat determines what makes a good search dog and allows the dog’s natural gifts determine what type of search dog they will be. Like people, they can be trained for different purposes. As she won over law enforcement officials with her methods and victories, one detective noted, “I’ve yet to see a police dog around here that could find a simple hole in the ground… but your dog has made a believer out of me.”

Pet Tracker also runs the gamut of emotions and it details Kat’s relationships with her original search dogs and feline assistants including their aging and loss. I felt the latter deeply because I read the book less than a week before unexpectedly losing my own copilot of 15 years, my faithful hound who went through hell and back with me and his kitties. Kat’s descriptions of hound dog behavior and the endearing quirks they can develop rang true. If you’ve ever had a hound, you know that they will follow their nose even if it leads to pronounced peril or it means dragging you along behind them. They follow their noses, point blank, period.

There are other laugh out loud funny moments in Pet Tracker like when you meet characters such as Barry the Boa Constrictor and Bret the Bearded Dragon, a real life rock star. There are also invaluable tips on how to properly search for missing pets. I am convinced that many feline lives could be saved if shelter workers understood how lost cats behave and shared that information with the public. It’s from Kat’s blog that I learned how cats, when sick or injured, usually hide nearby in familiar places, even inside the house they’re thought to have escaped from. She also offers wonderful pointers about the types of posters you should create when looking for a lost pet and how to conduct outreach. I feel even more strongly that cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside after reading this, for their own sake as well as that of other pets and wildlife.

Our nation euthanizes millions of adoptable pets each year because no one claims or adopts them. This is abhorrent. I’m sickened by thinking of how terrified those innocent, loving dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets are when placed in a stark gas chamber to die. Others are given lethal injections like serial killers just because their owner didn’t properly contain them, come looking for them, abandoned them, or cared enough to spay and neuter, creating thousands more like them. Or because they sat in a cage for a few days with people passing by and not giving them a second thought. This is particularly true for older pets, who are, ironically, usually house trained and more calm and disciplined than puppies and kittens. Every year King County, where Seattle is, puts several thousand adoptable pets to death. And this in a county of more than two million people.

Kat emphasized the importance of finding missing pets and the horrific outcomes for many of them:

Animal shelters, for example, would hold a “stray” dog or cat for seventy-two hours, after which time they either adopted the animal out to a new family or destroyed it. So if a pet owner was not able to get to the shelter within seventy-two hours, their chances of a happy reunion were slim to none. The national “Return to Owner” (RTO) rate for lost dogs reclaimed by their families at animal shelters was sixteen percent. For cats, the rate is much worse—just two percent of stray cats held at shelters have someone show up to reclaim them.

Ultimately Pet Tracker was many things to me:

-An honest look at policing and the challenges women, canines, and innovators face in that profession

-A deeply emotional story about the bonds between pets and their people

-A journey through Kat’s relationships with her own four-legged family members

-The development of each pet’s individual gifts and traits

-A testimony to the power of perseverance and going forward no matter what the odds

-An eye-opening look into the importance of search dogs and their various functions

-The importance of volunteer search dog handlers (the next one could be you!)

-A call to treat our pets and other animals humanely and lovingly

-An insider’s view of missing people and pet cases

-A sobering look at the realities of shelter pets and the fate of many missing or abandoned animals

Pet Tracker is available on Amazon and as an ebook. More information about Pet Tracker and her training manual Dog Detectives are available on the Books page of her blog.

Thank you, Kat Albrecht, and your amazing animals, for never giving up and making the world a brighter and safer place for so many people and their furry loved ones. I highly encourage others to become familiar with Kat’s work and to share her knowledge and expertise liberally.

Who knows? You might be the next great pet detective, and it’s clear that those skills are sorely needed.

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Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. He can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes. -Gene Hill

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Purple Candle 2

This week the trial of Alan Smith began in Snohomish County Superior Court. Smith is accused of murdering his children’s mother and estranged spouse Susann Smith in February of 2013. News coverage has been sparse so far, but the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter  has followed the case all along and will continue to post updates. Matt Phelps and crew– thank you for keeping this in the public eye.

Murder trial begins for Bothell man accused of killing estranged wife

In May of 2013 I wrote the post below, Murdering Susann Smith, which has hundreds of comments attached. I didn’t know when I penned it that it would become a gathering spot for people wanting more information about the case and to share what they knew. The neighborhood where this happened was concerned about their safety and disgusted by what went on at the Smith house after her murder.

For a long time, the primary suspect in the case was free and making a very public affair of his relationship with his new girlfriend, who later committed suicide after giving birth to their child. I still have trouble typing that, especially in light of what he allegedly did to Susann. He treated both women as disposable, as if he was God and had every right to hurt them and then get rid of them. Eventually the police had enough evidence and arrested him.

The brutality of Susann’s death does not resemble a burglary gone wrong as the defense claims. It was targeted, personal, and intended to inflict maximum damage. It shows wicked rage and a deep, seething hatred that had built up like a volcano. I’m surprised that the defense is going with that, that a burglar did it and Alan was at home asleep with his kids when this happened. My knee jerk reaction was, “you’re kidding me.” That is not the angle I thought they’d take, especially in light of the advance planning the police said went on and the evidence.

Returning to what I said in the first paragraph, the media hasn’t taken much of an interest in Susann’s murder. Stories about Alan having sex in his front yard after her murder were read around the world, so the original horror got lost in mankind’s voyeuristic attraction to the sleaze of it all. Imagine if every person who read the public sex story or commented on it in a public forum gave just one dollar to an agency that helps domestic violence victims. Millions of dollars could have been raised.

I’d like to provoke some coverage in the interest of raising awareness of domestic violence and related homicide. Susann Smith was one of 29 victims of domestic violence homicide in Washington State in 2013 and one of two in Snohomish County. This is not rare; it has happened many times before and will happen again. But there is a lot we can do to stop it, and I encourage you to visit some of the domestic violence-related links on the right sidebar to learn more about what you can do to help.

Susann was a beautiful woman who was devoted to her children and I suspect that I would have really liked Susann if I’d met her. But news outlets go for the money making stories, and this case didn’t involve a 21 year-old with perfectly curled hair extensions, false lashes, selfies of her drinking with her girlfriends on Facebook, and a bunch of sordid sexual drama in the marriage. Despite Susann originally being from Germany, I didn’t see this murder case get much international coverage until Alan Smith made sure everyone was seeing how cool he thinks he is by exploiting a woman with mental illness.

Perhaps Susann’s family hasn’t wanted the coverage and just wants to make life as normal for her children as they can. This has undoubtedly been traumatic for both sides of the children’s family and more media coverage might twist all sorts of facts and sensationalize particular elements of the case. But I want people to know that there are many more out there like the man who killed Susann, narcissists who think they’re too smart to get caught and who present a life-threatening danger to their victims. I’ve said it many times before, but men and women alike should be intimately familiar with Sandra L. Brown‘s books How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.

Within a few weeks, a female judge will be deciding Alan Smith’s fate, and I expect that any conviction will be followed by appeals. If you’re a praying person, now is the time to pray. Pray for the Susann’s family. Pray for her children. Pray for the suspect’s family and for Love Thai’s family and little boy, that he would grow up unaffected by all of this sorrow.

Prayer opens windows, inviting God in to comfort the grieving and achieve justice. A trial like this can be like putting the victim’s family through her murder all over again, and this time it might be even worse because some have traveled from another country to be in the courtroom. It might be the first time they’ve been that close to the evidence.

Many people are murdered every year. The utter brutality in this case, which is so blatantly personal, is what’s stood out to me all along. It doesn’t surprise me that the Reporter has noted that Alan Smith has looked blank much of the time. If I am correct about his psychological inclinations, he’s a human shark. He won’t feel remorse or regret over Susann’s death except to the extent that it affects him. He’s not beyond God’s reach or redemption, but that’s between him and God and not something anyone else can work out for him.

Whatever comes of this trial– and I pray that justice would come crashing down like fire from heaven so that no one else can be hurt by this guy– I am reminded that the Creator is keeping score. Yes, Alan is innocent until proven guilty. But his outrageous behavior after Susann’s death, including moving back into the house where her blood had soaked the floors and walls– and planning to move his children in there– has not shouted “shaken father trying to normalize his life.” It’s been more like a chest-beating victory cry to the world, and he only has himself to blame for that. No one did this to him. No one did this for him. No one made him do it. And if he’s guilty, he will have to live– or, if the judge sees fit– die knowing that.

This might come across as judgmental. Perhaps. But I’m a woman who’s spent a lifetime up close and personal with narcissists and sociopaths who are willing to badger, belittle, abuse, exploit, and even want to kill women who stand up for themselves. I have experienced various levels of this in my personal life and in the workplace and have two related degrees. There are elements of this case that resonate with me, and ultimately I don’t see “awesome” or “criminal mastermind.” I see cowardice. I see someone who couldn’t own their feelings or actions and robbed two beautiful children of their mother in some sort of demonic act of vengeance.

It’s in God’s hands. And if I were an abuser, or someone who exploits others, or a killer, I’d be at least a little concerned about what He’s going to say when He asks for an account of my life. Who will have the guts to say, “she deserved it” or “it was coming to her?” In light of my belief that what we do in this life determines our station in eternity, that this is the testing ground for what comes next, “oh God, what have I done?” is a much more realistic answer. And the sooner those words are spoken, the more likely it will be that the person saying them won’t choose a forever separate from God’s love.

I can’t provide up to the minute news coverage of this trial but will post things as they’re sent to me or as I come across them. I will approve comments as soon as I can. I don’t make a dime from blogging so you know this isn’t financially motivated. This is about keeping the spotlight on domestic violence, achieving justice for those involved, and remembering a woman who was put through the worst kind of hell for having the courage to move on.

The next Susann Smith could be in the same room with you– what are you doing to help them to safety?

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Please take the time to become familiar with the Document the Abuse website and the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit featured there. If you are affected by domestic violence, make it impossible for your abuser to get away with it no matter what happens.

Also, check out Susan Murphy Milano’s Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships. Susan was our fearless leader at the Time’s Up crime victims advocacy blog until she passed away a couple of years ago. We continue our crusade for justice in her memory.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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