I've never affiliated myself with either of the major political parties. I don't view myself as a Republican, though there are viewpoints in the party's platform that I identify with. I also don't see myself as a Democrat, though I often agree with the major tenets of that party, too.

Truth be told, I think most people — even those who closely associate with one party or another — are just like me. When you strip away the party lines elected officials are forced to spew or that loyal followers feel beholden to, I believe you'll find a lot of internal conflict on most issues.

This feeling guides my relationships with everyone in my life. I don't like to lump people into groups, tempting as that can be.

The problem with doing that is associating someone with a group can lead to making assumptions about that person based on the box that we put them in or they put themselves in.

For instance, police on a national level are taking a beating right now. It's been a bad stretch for the men and women in blue as incidents in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and North Charleston, South Carolina, have violated the public's trust.

But assuming — based on these horrific instances — that all police officers are bad people is, of course, the height of absurdity. Without question, there are bad people who wear the uniform. There are bad people in every profession. Even locally, an officer with the Michigan City Police Department last year was suspended and subsequently resigned; that person had a history of negative encounters with members of the general public and MCPD is better off without him, frankly.

In fact, it's imperative for organizations like MCPD or any other police force to root out people who are doing harm to their public image. Especially with a police force, image and trust are everything. Without it, it's impossible to adequately do the job.

Similarly, Republicans in Indiana are taking a beating nationally over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. My thoughts on the subject were documented a couple weeks ago, so there's no reason to get back into that.

While the bill wouldn't have passed without Republican support — this is an undeniable fact — it's also reckless to assign bigotry to the party based on your feelings about the bill.

There are Republicans — some who are good friends of mine — who were mortified by the bill. Others might have honestly felt they were defending religious freedom by supporting the bill and still others could, in fact, be acting with bigoted thoughts in mind. All things are possible.

But to meet a Republican and assume bigotry is just as wrong as meeting a cop and assuming he wants to put eight shots in your back if you run away.

These are emotional topics and emotion-guided speech can lead us to express some misguided thoughts.

I try to live my life without allowing people to place me into any box. Just as importantly, I work hard to not place others into those same boxes.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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