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Letter: Re Thin Blue Line

An open letter to the citizens of Bluffton:

Bluffton is a good town, a good place to live, a good place to raise children, a good place to retire.  Most recently, the tragic death of Officer Dominic Francis has simultaneously increased unity and also disparity within our community.

The local and area response, the outpouring of sympathy, and the abundance of support for the Francis family have been tremendous and are to be commended.  Many have chosen to display blue ribbons, thin blue line signs and flags, and blue porch lights to represent their support of not only Dominic Francis, but also law enforcement in general. 

There’s another side, however.  Very briefly, the history of the thin blue line has evolved from a military connection in a poem by  Nels Dickmann Anderson in 1911, through the 1950s use of the phrase to honor  law enforcement, and to the current association with racial injustice, police brutality, and  white nationalism. As such, the thin blue line in any form is a symbol of discrimination and injustice to many people—including people of all races who are also citizens of our community. 

 As individual citizens, we are free to display our beliefs on our own property in most cases.  As a community, we entrust our elected officials to make sound decisions regarding our collective property.  Specifically, some residents are reacting to Officer Francis’s death by suggesting that a thin blue line be painted down the middle of Main Street and that the American flags be replaced by thin blue line flags.  I want to believe, perhaps naively, that the intentions of these residents are good.  I also want to believe, again perhaps naively, that they have forgotten the controversy, the hatred, the violence and death, that have accompanied and will continue to accompany the presence of the thin blue line in any form.  

Embarrassingly, I found myself guilty of being so wrapped in my own life in recent months that I at first thought this “blue line thing” was no big deal and that we need to honor those who have selflessly protected our community.  It didn’t take long to recognize my faulty thinking about the way to show respect.  Among the many articles I’ve read, I’ve found that communities have been removing thin blue line references from their streets.  Some communities have enacted ordinances against such displays.  Many communities have acted responsibly in order to do what is right for all of their citizens. 

If you want to hang a thin blue line flag in your own front yard, you’re free to do so.  If you want to paint a thin blue line on your own driveway, you can do that, too.  From what I know, those are perfectly legal displays.  But Main Street of Bluffton should not provide an open display of discrimination against people you dislike based on their color, their religion, their political beliefs, etc.   We know better…we are better than this.  

One final thought:  The swastika was a symbol of goodness and well-being prior to its adoption by Hitler.  Would we want swastikas prominently displayed on Main Street?


Connie Anderson

[Bluffton, Ohio]

NOTE:  After living here for the first 21 years of my life, then residing in Lima for 40+ years, I returned to my Bluffton roots 8 years ago. I hope to continue to be proud of my community.  If you, too, want to preserve the goodness of our community, please voice your concern to our council members.  


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