OUTRAGE…

Outrage is universal! – it should be… it probably isn’t…

Tuesday was “blackout” and the black squares and circles on social media were, well encouraging… Protests – too small a word for what is happening – enter their second week and have trickled down to smaller towns and communities even as our larger urban centers struggle to maintain momentum. You can already feel apathy nibbling at the edges of our collective outrage.

It’s been ten days since George Floyd lost his life at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer; all while fellow officers and others stood by and watched. Charges have been filed, upgraded, expanded – autopsies completed and argued over – justice will no doubt be served at some point in the future – maybe. If justice is even possible in a scenario like this… how do you adjudicate with any real satisfaction the underlying cancer that transcends the act itself?

Arguments will erupt about Floyd’s character, whether the charges were applied quickly enough or if they were harsh enough, the conversation is bound to devolve as it usually does when we attempt to rationalize events like this. The danger of course is that we have a conversation about the symptoms and not the underlying causes and once again refuse to debate what level of latent prejudice we are comfortable with.

So, how long before things return to normal, before the routine is resumed and we, unaware, once again await an egregious act to spur our collective conscience… how long? My guess is we are already on the path back to status quo – oh the rallies will continue for a bit – youthful exuberance – legislation may be introduced, certainly we will see this dialogue front and center in coming elections… No one really believes we will wholesale “defund” the police and certainly sometime over the next number of months we will hear about convictions in Minneapolis, Floyd’s mural will start to weather and the stacked flowers will have faded; because real substantive evolution (not revolution) is difficult – it takes time, commitment, and resolve; real change has to by its very nature reflect the will of the nation.

Prejudice, and in its worst iteration, racism can’t be eliminated through legislation, protests, outrage… there is no inoculation for this disease. I have heard racism described as a “burning in the bones, something that is inescapable and never goes away…” it doesn’t really matter if you believe or understand it; each individual’s perception of things is their reality – we are not entitled or empowered to cast doubt on their personal experience.

So, what does it all mean? I can only speak for myself, but I believe that until we deal with the latent prejudice in all of us – individually in our own personal work on ourselves – can we begin to achieve any real lasting and substantive change. We all know the clichés – they exist because we have adopted them into the fabric of our culture: how certain people drive, are criminals, good at math, privileged, cheap, and all the other petty judgements we use to justify how we treat each other. These provide the thin layer of justification for deeper seated racism and hate – we need to strip the icing off and examine what lies below with an unvarnished honesty – hard of course – necessary unquestionably…

It’s time to start our individual journey of self-realization to determine what type of person we are and want to be… so that collectively we can create a society and culture where repetitive acts of hate are no longer the norm.

Stars and Stripes…

I’ve heard all the arguments, the passionate defenses, and angry protestations… and I agree with all of them, every one… but I agree because I believe this country, we as a people have it within us to collectively define, embrace, and demonstrate the best humanity has to offer not in spite of our differences but because of them.

You can say the flag is a symbol of oppression, freedom, colonialism, democracy… and you would be right because we have the choice to define it in the way that represents our present circumstance and understanding – not everyone’s just our own.

For me though this isn’t a symbol from the past, it isn’t owned by a particular ideology, it doesn’t represent a singular belief system – no it is the very tapestry of this land – those stars represent all of us… every beautiful square foot of this country from the concrete jungles to the snow covered peaks – and those stripes… they were where we started not where we are ending.

That flag is big enough to be knelt in front of, to be saluted, to be burnt, and to be draped across the box of someone you know, someone that lived in your town, on your street, or in the bedroom down the hall.

So no matter your ethnicity, color, creed – if you just got here or if you were here before the rest of us, we all have a choice, we can accept the same old tired arguments that aim to separate and strive to keep us from our full potential or we can choose to make an individual choice about the type of person we want to be and by extension the type of nation we will become.

Do you believe that flag is big enough to cover all of us… because if you don’t then it isn’t the man kneeling on the sidelines, the millennial protesting in the streets, the water protectors at Standing Rock, the men and women that work shoulder to shoulder every day, the immigrant searching for a better life, or those that wear the badge on their chest or flag on their shoulder that are the problem…

Just one man’s opinion…

Thoughts on IRMA #2

Today is about final preparations and second thoughts. There is a palpable anxiety in the air now and folks are more openly questioning their decisions. Should we have purchased a generator, what about boarding up our windows, is it too late to head North. The unfortunate reality for most is that these decisions are no longer viable and items are simply not available and even if they were the time for this level of preparation is diminishing quickly. We are probably 24 hours out on serious weather, much too long to contemplate should have, would have, could have, but not nearly enough time to rationally shift your strategy. The challenge now is to stay occupied double and triple check everything without giving into the fear and anxiety that accomplishes nothing beyond paralysis. The calls from family come in earnest now, the posts and messages from friends rain down on FB: “keep us posted, come visit, you stayed?, we’re praying for you… have you heard of Zello?”

We have secured our house as best we can, unfortunately we are in that group that didn’t board up windows when we probably could have and should have. The storm track continues to show minor fluctuations but barring some large shift we are looking at 100+ MPH winds early Monday morning. Fortunately for us we do not live on the coast and will not have to face the storm surge that seems to continue growing. I spent some time on my back porch this afternoon, its stripped of everything that could possibly move, I watched the trees swaying from the early gusts – forewarning of what’s still to come – it’s a beautiful day. In the background, a cacophony of meteorologists drone on barely repressing the glee in their voices. It’s not so much that they are happy about things, but adrenaline is clearly driving them at this point.

It’s a surreal experience watching this beast on TV, the sun shining outside, kids playing in the neighborhood, the mundane debate on what to have for dinner – pork chops won. At some point you have to turn it off and take a break it’s too exhausting. FB is no better, the updates from local friends and co-workers read like a litany of final farewells while those you know in the rest of the states continue to post pictures of vacations, kids, college football and everyday life – the contrast is stark – further accentuated by the feeling of impending doom that is filling every corner. Look around, every room is filled with something precious a memory, family heirlooms, your favorite chair – what if it all goes away overnight? No don’t give in to that…

My granddaughter shoves another Oreo in her mouth smiling, “PaPa Joe walk me” she grabs my hand and leads me to the couch – “Bubble Guppies PaPa” it’s a welcome break from the reds and yellows of the radar graphs. We share some cookies and she dances to her favorite songs, it’s a sweet moment – a reminder that life isn’t about things – even precious things, but about those moments we share with the ones we love. She is two and has no inkling about what the next few days hold and that’s perfect; would we all were a bit more innocent and carefree in the face of those things we can’t change.  Chin kisses and PaPa hugs for those are the things I love; she heads home with my son and his wife, only blocks away, but still somehow too far.

It’s late now the wind has picked up a bit, but it’s still a beautiful evening as my wife and I take a “night drive” around town. Most everything is closed up tight, not the Waffle House of course, but most everything else. We cruise around the lake that our neighborhood surrounds, a brief stop in the middle of the street to exchange greetings with a lone police officer making his rounds, when did they start hiring so young I wonder to myself. He bids us a goodnight as we drive in opposite directions neither of us with a firm destination, waiting, waiting, waiting…

I keep coming back to this picture…

standing-rock-protest-ryan-vizzions-5_0

Photo used courtesy of Ryan Vizzions www.amodernghost.com

Author’s Note: I wrote this in August of 2017 almost three years ago, in light of today’s protest of “stay at home” orders it seems chilling prophetic… Mainstream America is having it’s “Standing Rock” moment – if you don’t see the irony you simply aren’t paying attention – Welcome to the future…

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I keep coming back to this picture… I am not the “activist” type, I’m an advocate of working within the system to achieve change where possible and I support the need for law enforcement in a civil society. If I am honest with myself my activism is somewhat pedestrian, I write books with a social commentary, I’m active on social media and I vote; but do I leave the comfort of my desk, my office, my car, will you see me on the nightly news holding a placard, being sprayed by a water cannon, rinsing tear gas from my eyes – the simple answer is no.

This admission doesn’t change that I am fervently supportive of equality, I stand against oppression and have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. But the more I think about what this picture represents the more I believe it really transcends or maybe encompasses all of these. You see there is something uniquely disturbing about the blatant militarization of a domestic police force. I have heard all the arguments about “arming” up to combat the gangs, drug cartels, terror cells etcetera, and I understand all of it – but the reality is this has become the status quo – the first response posture not the strategy of last resort. Read more ›