Archived Opinion

A bit of hypocrisy in Back the Blue

A bit of hypocrisy in Back the Blue

By Heather Hyatt Packer • Guest Columnist | With a recent motel sign in Maggie Valley has come a collective hissy fit from the community with many businesses rushing to retort. In today’s climate, speaking out with any unpopular opinion is dangerous business so I tip my hat to the motel. Good for you. 

However, seeing the social media blitz to follow has been mind-blowing. Commenters replying, “Run them out of town!” and “That’s not a mountain value!” is laughable. I do not know how many times I have been told if I do not like it around here, I can move. 

Now my family has been in these parts since the 1700s. My great-grandfather on down the line founded Turpin’s Chapel (Haywood’s first church) and was the first white settler to homestead beyond the French Broad River. To tell me, with entire communities named after my family, to move, is ridiculous. I’m going to stay right here just to keep the pot stirred. You’re welcome. 

After a debate on Smoky Mountain News’ Instagram, a guy told me at least we locals had wheels on our houses so we could get out of town. Thanks for your classist, ignorant feedback. Intolerance is not welcome yet many of you good Christians are quick to tell people to get on down the road if you don’t like their opinions. Many a second homeowner or second-generation resident (non-native) telling the rest of us to move? Learn to love thy neighbor, folks. You need to move if you can’t handle different points of view. But I’d wager you’ll have a hard time fitting in anywhere with that attitude. 

Not only are folks missing the point of the motel sign, but they have got their history all wrong. As a proud Appalachian American, I’m fairly versed in our region’s history. At no point in two centuries have mountaineers ever backed the blue. For centuries, mountain folks didn’t fancy outsiders at all. We enjoyed our isolated area. The long reach of Johnny Law was regarded outrageous. Mountain folk ran off revenuers and often got into shootouts with the law. 

I can recall historically at least four mountain sheriffs who were gunned down: Sheriff Noland in Haywood and Sheriff Green in Jackson County to name a few. Sheriff Noland was killed chasing down Confederate deserters (and enforcing conscription laws) and Green was killed while eating a box meal at the Balsam Mountain Inn. Mountain people were bootleggers who had to use profits to pay high taxes to keep the family farm, especially after the Civil War when poverty was beyond rampant. Carpetbaggers moved in and bought up farms, driving up the taxes — similar to today’s gentrification. People had to find a means to feed their families and pay the rising taxes annually. 

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Historically, mountain people wanted to be left alone — and this included involvement with law enforcement. Around 1 percent of all calls for service to law enforcement are considered violent crimes. In a city like Baltimore, about .9 percent of calls are for a violent crime. Do law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way sometimes? Sure. But it is a job. It is a uniform they can take off. Unlike Black Lives Matter, the Blue Lives Matter movement fails to recognize this distinction. Black people cannot stop being black. Cops can quit the job. 

In 2019, stats reported by the FBI show that 89 officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Forty-eight officers died because of felonious acts while the other 41 died in accidents. In the same year, 999 citizens were killed in fatal police shootings. In 2020, that number jumped to 1,021. Everyone wants to “back the blue” these days when all I see is our local police handing out traffic tickets. 

In my experience, when I have called for police help, I am lucky if the officer even understands the law as it is written. Then they stand around treating the caller with annoyance, write up a report (maybe) and offer advisement like “Go see the magistrate” or “there’s nothing I can do.” Of the residents I have polled to ask if they have felt truly protected or served in our community, I rarely get a positive encounter. If you feel this is important work being done then OK, I guess? Enjoy your $300 traffic ticket. 

Conservatives who back the blue did not seem so keen on law enforcement’s actions in January when a seditious group of traitors stormed our nation’s capital. The same people who showed up at the Maggie Valley BLM march waiving Blue Lives Matter flags were on social media praising the “patriots” who were displaying lawlessness. The same conservative ideology that preaches small government seems to be fine with the militarization of these small agencies. 

For years we heard how President Obama and now President Biden are gearing up to enact martial law. So when that happens, who will enforce those curfews? Your local police officers. Who will roll through the streets with SWAT teams and tanks? Your local police officers. Some of you grown folks cannot even wear a mask in public, storm a county meeting about your rights and scream at the police (all caught on video). It is funny how you like the police when it benefits you. I do not imagine you would be backing the blue if martial law did come into effect. 

When we talk about bad police officers killing unarmed American citizens people try every way within reason to justify it. Imagine your relative or your friend is fishing. A game warden approaches and asks to see his/her fishing license. As your relative or friend opens their tackle box fumbling around to find the credentials, the game warden shoots and kills them. This community would be up in arms. People would be absolutely outraged that a good ole boy like so-and-so was killed when he was trying to comply with the officer’s request. So how is that any different than the killings of Breonna Taylor (who was sleeping in her bed) or Philando Castille? It is no different. And if it is different to you then we both know why. 

There is a toxic police culture. The mentality among law enforcement is an “us versus them” as if they are at war with American citizens. Cops are trained to be in constant fear as if each interaction is fraught with extreme danger. They are trained to use violence as a first resort. The United States military trains service members to use force as a last option, teaching de-escalation tactics and made to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, standards for humanitarian treatment. Shooting unarmed citizens during war time will land you in the brig with a court martial. Yet we are training our law enforcement like they are joining the military — military in North Korea. Shoot first, ask questions later. 

Being in law enforcement is a hard job. They work grueling shifts for low pay. Yet we as citizens complain about tax increases which would offer pay increases, recruit better candidates, and boost training. I am not saying all police officers are bad. But I would like to know where are the good cops when these “few bad apples” are running the streets like thugs? Why did three officers stand by while Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes without intervention? 

The hypocrisy and wrath are hard to keep up with these days. All these conflicting ideas wrapped up in a buzzword or catch phrase. People scream about cancel culture but are quick to attack the motel in Maggie because they do not agree with their message. Also, when is the last time any of you spent your money at that motel? This same bunch also elected a guy who thought using a campaign slogan “The Wight guy for the job” was a smart move. Same businesses and people slamming the motel praise outlaw Popcorn Sutton using his image to market the community. How can you love folk hero outlaws and then tell people to back the blue? Again, y’all are confusing. 

 I grew up in Maggie. My mama’s family has a mountain/road named after them. I know what my great-granddad thought about law enforcement as he hid his still in the woods. If you do not like real mountain culture, it is time you consider moving back to wherever you came from as this is our neck of the woods. 

(Heather Hyatt Packer, 8th generation Haywood county native. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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