Tragic Nations

Soapbox LogoThe United States of America might be a classic tragedy if we saw it from a historical perspective. The American people would either be victims or villains, no middle ground this time around. Full disclosure, I have always been in the middle, always an Independent who thought both sides had valid points of view and legitimate ideas. In the forty-five years I have been registered to vote, I have missed two Presidential elections. I have voted for Democrats, Republicans and third-party candidates over the years at both a national and local level. I have voted in person and by absentee ballot. This year is the first year I believe every single vote matters. We are voting for the very soul of America; one outcome means the end of our nation as we understand it, the other the potential for something better.

There have been other great nations that have risen and fallen throughout human history; two come to mind as I watch the tragedy this past three-year debacle;

The once-great Roman Empire was brought low by the rise of Christianity, political corruption, monetary devaluation and economic problems, water and food shortages and Imperial incompetence.

The jewel of Asia from 1299 to 1922, The Ottoman Empire was a bastion of religious tolerance, economic stability, arts and architecture. The empire was dismantled by infighting, political intrigue,  conspiracy, and European trade competition, WWI’s final devastating blow.

The tragedy is that those who would lead us are wholly disinterested in history and make no connection to the similarities. I could weave a tapestry with the parallels, the threads of catastrophic human error, ineffectivenesssinglemask and ultimately ego in each. It can’t be just me that sees a trend. Unless we force a change, it will be too late. We will simply be a footnote in history.

We come now to why I have looked at other lost empires and why I think of tragedy when I think of our nation. Truthfully, I believe there is much to learn from history and there is only one word that fully encompasses the state of our nation today, tragic. We started with hopes, grand dreams and obviously many nightmarish problems that would eventually tear us apart. We started with men who wrote the future yet ignored they were building upon the backs of enslaved and disenfranchised people. Today many rise up, they march in the streets and demand justice for the terrible and the terror of not just current indignity, but all that has led to this moment in time. Are they correct in their fury? I have no answer; I am not them and do not have their lived experiences. What I know is we have collectively enabled the roots to rot, we have encouraged the worst of us to rise to the top and have failed to prune the branches to allow the freedom and opportunity to shine equally across all within our diverse nation.  We have continued to deny the truth of our beginnings and maybe hoped someone else would come along and fix our collective problem.

I often think I might be a masochist; I can frequently be found spending more time than I should talking to people across all political alignments. I say I might be a masochist because, at this moment in time, it is difficult to have civil conversations with those who feel so strongly about a subject they are willing to go to war. Yes, I said it and it wasn’t hyperbole or rhetoric; there are those on both sides of the aisle ready to go to war over ideology or, in some cases, insults to their candidate. Frankly, it is sometimes terrifying to engage in conversations, even if it is nothing more than a question of why; nevermind a discussion of differences.

As we draw closer to election day and with many states having kicked-off early voting, the stakes grow ever higher for both sides.  Thus far, record turnouts indicate a tidal wave is building, one that will potentially sweep from high to low through the Administration, Senate and even statehouses and other elected offices. The nation is tired and may perhaps be rising up in a tangible way to demand a real opportunity to right terrible wrongs and potentially avoid a tragic outcome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is still a long road ahead of us, much work to be done, and no guarantees of this election’s outcome. Once before we were fooled into complacency. That complacency was the end of a long game played by the GOP; Donald Trump is the personification of everything that brought down the Roman and Ottoman Empires in one ignorant, egotistical, narcissistic, bloviating package. Mitch McConnell, the real power behind the throne, has seen his dream of a packed federal court system come to fruition under this Administration.

The Trump machine of 2016 convinced enough angry White folk in key states he was one of them. Despite his golden penthouse, his utter disdain for their poverty and their lack of education, their Christianity or their middleclass morals; he hated the same people they hated and acted like they acted, bullied the weak and made fun of those who could not or would not fight back. Over time, he continued to do the same and 38% of those same voters stuck with him, going so far as declaring themselves ready to start a civil war if he failed to win re-election. It didn’t matter what he said or did; there was always an excuse. When I say I speak to those on the other side, some are friends of decades and some are family. Oddly, they will tell me excuse anything, any act, any statement; direct quotes are “Left-Wing Lies” because their news stations are not reporting them. One of my recent favorites was from a New York Times interview, asked what his policy would be should he win:

But so I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we’d have a very, very solid, we would continue what we’re doing. Donald J Trump

If this doesn’t scare you, nothing will. My friends on the Right think this is the best policy; just keep doing what you have been doing; good job.

We have all the makings of a failed nation. No country is ever perfect and we surely have a long ways to go to make right what is wrong today. There is much that must be addressed with clear eyes and a willingness to come to the table prepared to listen first and then begin the real work of fixing what is broken. We all have to acknowledge there is no possible way to fix the a-frame-of-trusthistorical evils this nation was built upon, no reparations that can repair all the harm done. The only real fix is one of progress and future remediation. As a nation, we can address the evil of ‘isims’ in only one way, by making them anathema to all but the very lowest in society, those who have no place and must be rejected.

When we begin to stand up and say no to traitors flags on public buildings and at political rallies as signs of heritage and not for what they are, signs of racist intimidation, then we move our country forward. When we stand up to bullies in our courthouses, our town squares, our media and our highest offices, then we can move our nation forward. Only when we stand up and demand those we elect to our highest office serve us rather than themselves will we move our country forward rather than backward.

Now is the time, do we progress or regress? Do they win, or do we prove we are the people who will save the promise of the United States of America.

Vote because your life depends upon it.

Reality Bites

LVal_01I wasn’t ready, not for any of the realities that are settling around me in these terrible days. I suppose I believed I was invincible and would be ‘exotic’ forever. Exotic was my beloved step-mother’s word for how I looked, not beautiful, not ordinary, not ugly but ‘exotic’. I also believed my body would never betray me and my brain would someday be as valuable as my body. Of course, these things were all fairytales; I always did have a vivid imagination.

Confidence is a grand thing when you are young and can afford it. When you have bouncy houses to fall back into and plenty of friends and relatives to catch you when you stumble. Truthfully, an overabundance of confidence in the young and not quite ready for prime time is a necessary ingredient to success. When we are young, we wander through life fluffing our hair, flexing our muscles and demanding attention for achievements we have not yet truly completed. When we are young, we are thrilled with the monumental triumph of being voted ‘most likely to succeed’ and decimated by our first broken heart.

It is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? As we age, we gain insight into what is what matters. When we were young, especially if we are women, that first grey hair devastates us; it signals the loss of something we have been Going Greytold is vital to our success; our youth. We stare at that grey traitor for long minutes before we grab our tweezer and pull it out by the root. From that moment on, every morning, we inspect for more. If you have dark hair like me, they are obvious those bright white streaming ribbons throughout your head. Today I keep my hair its original dark chocolate, but this is one of those luxuries up for reevaluation as reality digs its claws into me, striping me of vanity and confidence at once.

I wasn’t ready for what aging meant. There was what my mind and heart thought and there was the truth. These were so distinctly different; I was never able to reconcile them. There was what those who loved me said; brilliant, exotic, funny. There was what society said; pushy, fat, odd, too smart, different. There was what I thought; smart, not ugly, fat, damaged. None of these assessments ever fully aligned; mostly, we agreed I was smart, but in some cases, too smart was a condemnation. I realize now, decades later, it was rarely, maybe never, a compliment. How can anyone be too smart?

Too smart means you intimidate others, not through intent but simply through your existence in the same space as them. Too smart, if you are a woman, means you make others feel small or dumb. Too smart is never a compliment when it is offered by any person in a position of authority. For twenty-five (25) years, I have heard the backhanded compliment of ‘too smart’ and had one woman manager suggest I dumb myself down when interacting with certain peer groups. Looking back, perhaps I would have been better served following her advice.

I wasn’t ready, not for the pandemic, not for another round of long-term unemployment, not for being alone at 63 and not for growing old like this. Honestly, I thought it would all be much different. I had this fantasy in my head, fueled by my overabundance of confidence and the fairytale. I thought at this stage of life, I would be in my last career stop earning a good living, retirement settled and money in the bank. I thought I would be FairytaleCottagehappily ensconced in a relationship with someone who loved me, respected me and thought exotic equaled beautiful and brains were sexy. I thought, because of that damnable fairytale, career and personal would somehow finally have merged into something resembling a life of shared travel, backyard barbecues, friends and family mixed in with laughter, sex and shared secrets.

I simply was not ready for the reality that is pounding me with the potential of losing everything I worked for my entire life. A lifetime of hard work being of zero value on a market that wants bright, shiny and new. Being too smart, too experienced and too damn old is a bitter pill to swallow.  Reality has finally shattered the fairytale I held for decades. Mine were so closely held and so finely built, I weep as they tumble around me, knowing I cannot save even small pieces of them any longer. Now it is merely a question of how to let go knowing I have weeks, not months left before there is nothing more to keep me safe.

Reality settles around me like a miasma of bitterness, and each day I try to push it aside in the hope there will be something that rescues me. I realize this abyss is mine. I allowed this to happen to me. Perhaps I could have prevented it, but I chose differently. I chose others over myself too often. I have nothing left of a safety net. I will soon lose everything which allowed me to keep body and soul protected and some semblance of normalcy around me. There was a time I thought never giving up was important, a sign of strength. I no longer have anything left, certainly not that strength that says I can go another day being beaten down. one_eyeland_desert_woman_by_christopher_wilson_30325

I was not ready for this and do not have it in me to do this; my strength and my will to rise have been battered out of me. I wonder how many others are saying to themselves I have nothing left and nowhere to turn, I am done. I wonder how many others, like me, are saying what now and how will I survive after everything is gone. I wonder how many others ask these questions and find no answers in a world that seems to have become more heartless.

Too smart? I clearly wasn’t ready for this and my brains will not help because they reside in a body to old and I am unable to change any of my history or dumb it down from here. Now, choices are what I cut from a budget already sliced and diced to almost nothing; of course, I know what is next and am terrified.

Yet, I know I have more than others, so I am grateful for my small blessing even in the wake of my terror. I have had decades more than I was supposed to, so I have been blessed. I have known great love and seen all of my family’s next generation grow into extraordinary human-beings, so I have been blessed many times over. I cannot even in my terror and fury say that I haven’t had immeasurable blessings in friends and family over these many years. Even in counting my blessings, as I contemplate where I will be soon, I find I have a difficult time being grateful. I wonder how many of us will survive this intact.

Notorious

The Kaddish Prayer

May His great name be exalted and sanctified. In the world which He created according to His will! May He establish His kingdom during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon! And say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever, and to all eternity!

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, above and beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world! And say, Amen.

May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in Heaven; And say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life upon us and upon all Israel; And say, Amen.
May He who makes peace in His high places grant peace upon us and upon all Israel; And say, Amen.

Justice Bader Ginsberg: March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020

Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_2016_portrait (1)

Ruth Bader Ginsberg spent her life giving, as a fighter for our rights, as a mother and wife, as a Judge and finally as a Justice on the Supreme Court. She was our shining light, our hero and an asset to our nation. With her passing, we are left with nothing but gratitude. May her memory be a blessing.

We lost a titan, an American Treasure. When the news of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing rolled across my screen on that Friday night, my first thought was, please let this be not true. Then, as it became clear she had finally found her rest, I contemplated the tragedy for her family, the courts and us, the nation she so loved. I considered what it would mean in the coming days and wondered how long after she was laid to rest it would take before the battle for her coveted seat would commence.

I scrolled social media and news for reactions, allowing this loss to sink in. I was heartened and dismayed in equal measure. I was stunned, though I should not have been, when without twenty-four passing, without letting her body cool or her family and friends to process her loss, Mitch McConnell announced to the nation he would fill her seat on the highest court before the next election cycle. To say I and many others were dumbfounded would be an understatement, to find more proof of how far we have fallen saddened and angered me. I was engulfed by fury, just as so many others were at this proof we were not only living with bipartisanship but something on the verge of far worse.

So now we come to the battle for her seat, the battle for the heart and soul of our nation’s future. The President decided to throw all decorum aside and have a party in the Rose Garden. He invited close ‘friends’ and associates and family to attend his introduction of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to replace Justice Ginsberg. As is the norm at gatherings hosted rose-garden1-gty-ml-201002_1601659831186_hpMain_2_16x9_992by this President, masks were optional and social distancing was not observed. While it may not be factual, the Rose Garden event is suspected of being the epicenter of an ever-broadening circle of COVID-19 infections beginning with the President, though currently, the blame is being placed elsewhere. The one clear thing, ignoring even basic safety protocols, has caused a tsunami of infection throughout the upper echelon of the GOP and those closest to the President.

What else do we know?

We know there are several attendees to the Rose Garden party who have tested positive. We know several people within the Presidents inner circle who were not in attendance have also tested positive. We also know, this man has a complete lack of empathy and an utter lack of concern for any other person but himself and thus continues to put other people at risk. Finally, we know the President continued to move around the country, without precautions and without telling others who may come into contact with him for anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after his first positive test result. Donald J. Trump is a regular Typhoid Mary of the twenty-first century; what should we call him? COVID Potus has a nice ring, but maybe too pompous. Well, something to think about when we have more time to consider the total body count to lay at his feet.

trump drive

In the meantime, we have just under thirty (30) days before the election. The current President is pumped up on steroids and telling us to not fear the reaper. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are driving hard to approve Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate Judicial Committee and onto a full Senate floor vote before November 3. The problem with this? Two members of the Judicial Committee are down with Coronavirus thanks to COVID POTUS and his Garden Party, Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina). Added to this, Mitch McConnell has delayed the full Senate’s return until October 19, although vowing to move ahead with Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings despite having three senators out with Coronavirus.

For Mitch, there is nothing more vital than stacking the court, nothing.  On this subject, Mitch McConnell and the President are 100% aligned. Stacking the court may mean their future if the vote isn’t a landslide to remove them on November 3, they will use SCOTUS to declare themselves winners. Neither of them can afford anything less than a stacked court.  This nation’s future depends on a landslide to remove them both from power and save us from future disaster.

In the coming days, so close to the election of a lifetime, there will be many battles to fight. We will see masks come off and we will see the true nature of those who would be kings and kingmakers. Our friends may become angrier, and our neighborhoods more dangerous as we navigate this terrible time in our history. Now is the time where every vote counts. We have to remember no matter the obstacles placed before us, we must not rely on any other person but ourselves to cast the vote that matters. We might lose battles between now and November 3, including the battle for the open SCOTUS seat. We should not be silent; we should not be discouraged.

election2020_2

Go Vote. Vote early, if possible. Vote in person, if possible. Do whatever you have to do, but Vote as if your life and the lives of your family and friends depend on it.

Dear God, IV

LindaDear God, I haven’t checked in for a while and have to point out things are getting worse down here since our last chat. I don’t think there is anyone down here that will measure up to Job, Noah, Lot, or others from ancient days, just in case you might be looking. Times were simpler, the choices perhaps more black and white. We do not seem to have heroes in our midst these days and the ones we do have are not universally lifted up as they once were. God, I don’t think this is an issue of nuance but rather just a sign of how far we have fallen.

Dear God, you and I talk every single day. These letters are to help me address the things I think shatter us as a people. They are to make a more public stand and be more vocal in my entries to you. Yes, I know much of what I say to you in my letters are broadly spoken. I try not to be too pointed in my placing blame at the feet of the humans I believe are at fault for much that is wrong today. But God, you and I both know the terrible we see is growing exponentially every single day. The violence is expanding, fires are burning hotter both in the cities and in the souls of our people. Those who claim to speak in your name are turning their backs on your word and those in the greatest need in favor of what can only be described as evil.

Dear God, it seems we have not found the bottom of the abyss yet. We keep falling, tumbling further down into the darkness. Shouldn’t there be a bottom? Are we all misidentifying what is happening right now as evil? Is this just the standard everyday ‘bad’ and evil is what is awaiting us? God, I have to tell you I don’t think we are ready for anything worse. Corruption, plagues, catastrophic storms and just plain old human meanness, this is all just taking the heart out of most of us. When you combine this with the terrible isolation, ongoing lack of work and families facing eviction, hunger, and the unrelenting deprivation of so many in our midst. I think we are on the brink of devastation and when I look around God, I see some people cheering it on as they did in Rome during the Gladiator Games. It seems we are both a failed nation and a failed people.

Dear God, what is going to happen to us? I am grateful, my family continues to be safe and secure. Most of those I love continue to be safe and secure, though some have lost jobs and are struggling to keep body and soul together. I am afraid though, afraid for all of us. I think we are all at a loss for what to do next. People we know are sick, even dying and we cannot lay them to rest or grieve them. Our friends and family are losing jobs, losing homes and we cannot help them; we are also without a sanctuary to offer in these terrible times. God, I am frightened. Not just my typical afraid, but genuinely terrified of what will happen to us as a people. I have been watching as our humanity seems to be slipping further away, our empathy and compassion disappearing from our emotional make-up. Is it just me?

Dear God, I believe there is a lesson to be learned in all this; I simply don’t know what it is. When this plague started, I laughed and said it was made for people like me. I thought to myself in the beginning, this is an Introverts paradise. When this began, I laughed each time someone asked me if I was okay in my home alone all day; of course, I was better than okay.   Then I was furloughed, and the days grew much longer with no focus and no outside human interaction. I realized many things about myself in those first long months. God, you gave me the personality I have and the strengths I have. I will be forever grateful for these gifts; without them, I would not have made it this far in life. Those strengths created a terrible wall though, I trained everyone around me that I didn’t need them, that I was good without regular interaction or communications. I have learned a powerful lesson in these six months of being truly alone, I am an Introvert, not a Hermit. Even true Introverts can suffer loneliness, and it can be spiritually crushing.

Dear God, I don’t often talk to you about me personally; I just assume you know. These days though, well, I have to ask you could you look down and just push things along. It is not my intention to add to the cacophony that must be constant for you and I know compared to the needs of others, mine are so minor.  God, I simply need work and security. I am sure I could have done better over the years; I will fall on my sword and acknowledge my failures to you; I spend so much time beating myself up I am sure you are as aware of them as I am. I hope though part of my failure was in my generosity to others, my willingness to help even when I had little myself. Now, at the end of my productive life, I simply need one final opportunity to rebuild. So, God, I know this is a selfish ask, but if you wouldn’t mind, please provide the extra push to finally be working again before I lose everything and have nowhere to go. It is truly my only ask, the rest of what I dream of for myself I will work on for myself and if you see fit to add those blessings to my end of days, I will, of course, be grateful.

Dear God, if you could, please look into our hearts and help us all see the brilliance that could be against the darkness that is. Help us to come together and begin to build together. Not rebuild but to indeed seek what is best in us and to build what is needed for us to progress as a people that understand the need to do better. God, these nearly four years has been a reckoning for many of us, one we sorely needed. For some, it has torn the scales from our eyes, and we have had to acknowledge our own weaknesses and faults. For others though, it has been a time where they have celebrated their release from social restraints and the very worst of their instincts have emerged. Today we are a nation divided by politics, culture and class. The difference between this and the last time is our leadership is driving the wedge further and encouraging the violence.

Dear God, I hope you have a plan. I and so many others are fearful of what November will bring, no matter the outcome. Every Allie is against us and every border closed to us. We are caught.

What do you have to Lose

Barack Obama said in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in April 2004:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

Barack Obama was a Senator from Illinois when he said these words, I think he might have still been idealistic and hopeful. It is a very different world today than it was in 2004. I hate to think just how different it really is.

Several years ago, on a stump speech in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald J. Trump stood in front of a crowd and appealed to Black voters specifically with these words, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Well, now we know, everything.

Justice, Peace, Equality start there though these are more ideals than truth, we have to start somewhere.

The Constitution, The Republic, Voting Rights, The Right to Gather Peacefully in Protest. These are real and necessary if we have even one single hope or prayer in the world of rebuilding a tattered nation.

Finally, let’s add the simple things that we have taken for granted, even if they were at times spotty for some of us; economic security, health security, freedom of movement.

Everything, and if all that isn’t enough, let’s add some things that many of us never thought about until we realized they mattered: human kindness, manners, compassion, morality, ethics, values.

What did we have to lose? Every single thing that made us a great nation and sometimes great people has been stripped from us and we have left a smoldering wasteland. We are exposed to our very core. We are stripped bare for who and what we are. Now we have a choice, at once terrible and perhaps telling. Is this who we truly are? Is this what we truly are? Or instead, do we desire something more, something better? Do we finally demand what was promised to us in the Declaration of Independence in 1776;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Scholars have long debated the source of Thomas Jefferson’s philosophical roots. Many believe them to be found within the writing of John Locke, specifically Two Treatises of Government and Essay Concerning Human Understanding. When reading the original text of the Declaration, it is easy to see Locke’s influence on Jefferson, both philosophically and later, in how he governed.

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.” 

This, though, gets us back to our dilemma of the here and now, the dilemma of 2020 and Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America; con man, shyster, dilettante, liar and thief. The Founders of this nation, imperfect though they were, attempted to place safeguards into the Constitution to prevent a Donald Trump from ever rising up to the position of President. They created the two houses of Congress and gave them specific powers, the check and balance against Administrative overreach. They created The Judiciary, with powers of their own and not beholden to any other branch of government with power extending over all controversies, whether between branches of government, states or persons.

Finally, in 1804 they created the Electoral College. Love it or hate it; this was an attempt to create a more balanced means of electing the President and Vice President separately, ensuring those in more rural parts of this new country had a voice. It wasn’t until the Civil War under Lincoln that it became common practice to run a single-party ticket, thus preventing the President and Vice President from being from different parties, creating divided administrative branches.

Yet, despite all the safeguards, here we are today with Donald J. Trump as the 45th POTUS and a Senate so firmly in his pocket it is hard to tell where he ends and they begin. With an Attorney General so deeply corrupted, those of us with any sense of history or love of country are so profoundly outraged we are finally and wholly at a loss for words. With a Federal Judiciary overrun with lifetime far-right appointments carefully chosen by the unholy partnership of Mitch McConnel and Don McGahn. With a Congress at a bi-partisan standstill, doing no business for the people and close to another government shutdown.

What do we have to lose he asked, do we know now? Everything, we have the soul of a nation to lose. This election isn’t just about whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins; it is about whether we remain a Free Democratic Republic or a Fascist state under a Dictator and his sycophantic minions. The issue we have today? It is the same one we had in 2016, understanding how the system works and how to win. For four long years, I have heard the same whine from those on the left, Hilary Clinton won the popular vote she should be our President. My answer is always the same; that isn’t how it works. She isn’t our President because she and the DNC failed and they did so miserably. Nothing is guaranteed, but one thing is damned near certain in Presidential elections and that is whoever wins the swing states wins the Presidency. Kellyanne Conway, in her role campaign manager, knew this and focused all her attention on those states; it is how she drove Trump into the White House. The fact of the matter is Clinton lost the election on her own, Clinton lost Michigan along with several other Battleground states and thus she lost the election.

We do not have the luxury of arrogance in 2020. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring the battlegrounds, nor do we have the luxury of believing the polls. This is war and if we are not careful, it will be bloody and long, not just a war of words shouted in the streets but a genuine conflict with lines drawn and innocents lost to ideology, classism and American against American once again. This America we are living in today, this is Trump’s America.

So what do we have to lose? Everything.

What do we have to gain? Not everything, but a start toward something new. Just like when you or I find ourselves cleaning out our garage, electing the Democratic ticket and the Blue down-ballot, we are saying to our government, we want a new start. We need a new conversation and a change to the old ways. Is Biden the perfect candidate? No, absolutely not, but we all know he is a transition candidate. He will be President for four years and then retire. Will Harris be the next President, maybe if she proves herself in her role as Vice President. Then perhaps this nation is still not ready; we will have to see. What I do know, the Biden/Harris ticket gives us the best opportunity to start having much needed and long overdue conversations about the things that have simmered under the surface and corrupted our national progress for four hundred years. It is time to rip that scab off and let it all out, time to begin to truly address what is going to burn us to the ground if Trump wins four more years.

What are you going to do? Stay home because Biden isn’t your guy, wasn’t your pick? Maybe you will throw your vote away on the Green candidate in a protest vote. Here is my only word for you in 2020:

Not Voting or throwing your vote away this year is not an act of Protest; it is an act of Surrender.

Dear God, III

Dear God, it is getting pretty awful down here and I think you might be ignoring us. Have you finally had enough of our pettiness? I know so many of us are acting like children with our favorite toy taken away. Unfortunately, our favorite toys can kill and I think we need more than a nudge in a better direction if we are going to save ourselves and the world. God, I just don’t see it getting better soon; do you?

Dear God, it doesn’t seem like we know how to talk to each other. I don’t know that we ever really knew how to talk to each other without the veneer of ‘polite’ society, but that veneer has cropped-1960-lindabeen ripped away. Now what we have is fury, hurt feelings and offended people everywhere. You can’t turn on the television or read the news without hearing about it, you know what ‘it’ is, right?

Dear God, I have to tell you right now I am gutted my heart stuttering, barely finding a rhythm each morning to lift me out of my bed. Though I try to find those moments to gladden me, to raise me up and thus offer up to you my gratitude, it becomes ever more difficult the longer this goes on. I think I and so many others have terrible sensory deprivation and we shrink ever inward. God, I think we need you to give us a path out of this, show us the way or we will lose ourselves. Truthfully, what we hear from these TV fakes, they are terrible and those of us with discerning hearts we know they are not speaking in your name yet so many are listening to them it is terrifying.

Dear God, I am afraid. I know many of us are scared right now. Certainly, you hear from people you haven’t heard from in decades beseeching you for help, money, jobs, maybe even salvation, and a host of other things right now. Likely you feel like Santa Clause at the mall with children lined up to sit on your lap and give you their wish list. I am sure the “Oh God” prayers sent your way every single day sounds like a cacophony rather than the pleasing sound of true worship.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 ESV

Dear God, it is terrible and terrifying down here right now. I have watched friends turn into enemies at the drop of a misplaced word. I have watched fools say stupid things and bring low entire communities. I have watched children die for nothing and not a word be said, not a word. I have been crushed reading the words of those I thought I knew, sometimes even loved as they repeated the bigoted tropes from one side or the other, accused me of merely trying to ‘fit in’ angelweep2when I simply act on my conscience. God, I don’t think my moral philosophy has changed even in the midst of these trying times; how, though, do I remain detached and not take personally all these terrible over-simplifications and attacks coming from ‘friends?’

Dear God, it is growing more lonely by the day. People are becoming meaner without the ability to touch, I think we are learning physical touch is vital to our very humanity. People are losing their connection to one another, forgetting we are, in truth, part of one great, diverse and beautiful family. We may not always agree, hell we all too frequently do terrible things to each other for petty reasons. But, now God, we are so very disconnected from each other we are forgetting even those we claimed to love, nevermind the stranger on the street. I fear what and who we will be when this is over. So if you wouldn’t mind a nudge is all I am asking, just a reminder for those who can still hear your voice. I fear those who can’t hear you it will require something far more calamitous and I don’t think we could bear that right now.

What is to Come

In our rush to fix all that is broken, it is possible to go too far. There is always that single step that will be over the line, where even the staunchest of allies will begin to look askance and turn away. Once taken, it is difficult to walk it back. I see this coming, where all the justified fury of decades, centuries even, will be lost as the righteous cause is hijacked by those with a different agenda or purpose.

The murder of George Floyd was the spark; however, it is the desired outcome that must resonate with all members of society. Believe me, it must be the majority, or that change will never happen. During the first Civil Rights fight, there were multiple small fights, each time more people were moved. The final straw then was Bull Conner, Birmingham, Alabama, the spring of 1963 and his attack on peaceful protesters. The pictures of police and dogs attacking men, women and children were shown on televisions and in print media across the world; finally, nobody could ignore the brutality of racism. Today we are at another crossroads with the majority finally saying something must change. Still, without a coordinated message, this surge will trickle out to nothing more than a sidebar in history.

The problem we have today, from my perspective, is one of ‘my way or the highway’ thinking. There is zero room for divergent thought or for questioning. To challenge is to be ostracized, quickly and very publicly. This new orthodoxy is narrow and frankly without depth. Instead of presenting real and actionable ideas, shutting down the distractions, each “leader” has their own plan and wants to be heard. They are grabbing the nearest microphone and without centralized counsel, they are defining their agenda and strategy, whether it is defunding police, new segregation, burning down cities among them.

Let me tell you what I see happening and what will be lost in the rush towards the great void.

Each time someone says, “Ban a Book,” it hurts my feelings, it depicts a new ‘bigotry.’ There are many Americans from all sectors of society who will consider this and say, “No, this is wrong.” Yet, for fear of being hated, of losing their job or being shunned, they will remain silent. Eventually, we will hold bonfires to the vanities of the few, burning books in the parking lots of libraries. We will look like the ignorant backward nation to the rest of the world. Still, we will satisfy the minority who refuse to accept different eras had different norms and we must look through the lens of time to fully understand our history.

Each time a statue is pulled down in the heat of the moment, though many might agree with the reasons they are still whispering, “No, this is wrong. There is a process for this.”  Yet, they remain silent, for fear of being shunned or shamed. It isn’t I don’t think those statues should come down, I know the history of them. I believe now is the time to teach civics and history, to show the nation and the world what Civil Rights and Jim Crow was, confederate-monument-protest-durham-ap-jt-170815_16x9_992what disenfranchisement did. I simply believe we are better served if we follow the lead of Mississippi and use the system.

Each time there is a demand to erase another name from buildings or elsewhere without consideration of who that person was, what the full contribution of their life was, I grow increasingly concerned. Oh don’t get me wrong, I read history I understand they were persons of their times, that is the point though, they lived in their time, not ours. Some had terrible world views, especially when placed in the prism of modern times. They were not ‘woke’ and did not act in accordance with today’s standards. But, I wonder how many of us could pass a purity test if our entire lives were examined? Maybe we should judge them in accordance with the standards of their time and not our own. We should start with specific statements of truth we can all agree upon then dive into where those men and women diverged and debate the moral and ethical issues based on their time and not their own.

I keep hearing we don’t teach history in our schools. That is true, we don’t teach accurate history in our public school systems. I think we should. I think we should show all of history, all of the good, bad and ugly of history. I don’t believe we should hide behind our desire to uplift or demonize. Let’s call things what they are and put them in historical context so we understand how we got here, thus raising young people who are capable of independent critical thinking. Maybe if we start telling the truth, start pointing out both the brilliance and the clay feet of those who came before us, we will stop being so damned hateful.

The truth, though, this virtue-signaling taking over the public square has to end. Suddenly everything is offensive; everything should be damned and banned? Suddenly books and movies should be banned because of their content; they offend you and you demand I be offended too. From Tom Sawyer to To Kill a Mockingbird, literature with historic relevance insults your sensitivities. You want to reverse Loving v. Virginia because you want to purify the race? You want enclaves of your own and are not book burningembarrassed to say you hate “White” people, God help a White person if they were to return the favor, actually, we know how that turns out.

So what is it really? What is the change that will begin to make right a society that has hundreds of years of systemic racism to correct? Surely it isn’t just a change to policing; while this is significant, it will not move us forward in any real or meaningful ways. Indeed, the real change should be a seat at the table to address more than just police brutality. It should be a plan to progress this nation forward, correct generational wealth disparities and access to opportunities in education, housing, jobs and business development. It should be a plan on how we are going to bring this nation together, not rip it further apart. The truth is if we continue down the path we are on now it will not get better, it will erode any and all progress made in the past 100 years.

Policing 2020

We are in a tailspin, one crisis piling onto another has brought us to the brink with no leadership to set a path toward a future. The hubris of our current administration is staggering, to say the very least. Top to bottom, with little space between, there are messages of distortion, distraction and just plain downright lies.  Truly, we have fallen far in just a few short years; yet perhaps not so far at all. Perhaps what we are seeing is the what has been there all along, the ugliness that we drove underground in our demand for political correctness, our need for a polite society; perhaps the election of this horrifyingly unqualified President has ripped the bandage we have been using to cover up the illness we never addressed.

The murder of George Floyd forced us to finally acknowledge there is something wrong in the Shining City on the Hill. Something deeply flawed, rotting and ugly that was undermining the American Dream of freedom, justice and prosperity for all. Laws were written with good intentions; other times, laws were wrong when passed yet remain viable and unchallenged. Sometimes, as we have today, what one President does to begin to unravel the wrongs without Congress the next undoes with the stroke of a pen, simply out of petty pique. Which brings us to where we are today with policing in America, how did we get here?

The simplest answer is watching the murder of George Floyd, all horrifying 8:46 minutes of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his throat while he died, miserably on a public street, begging first for his life, for breath and finally calling for his dead mother.

The more complex answer is 158 (one hundred fifty-eight) years the Emancipation Proclamation the first step in freeing all American slaves was signed. It would require three Constitutional Amendments (13-15) to give the African American former slaves the first steps toward civil rights and recognition as true equals under the law. Just over a century later Civil Rights activists took to the streets, leading to the greatest decade of upheaval and change, beginning with the murder of Emmit Till and ending with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Here we are today, some things have certainly changed some for the better and many if we look closely for the worse. It has been 52 (fifty-two) years since Dr. King was assassinated, I wonder what he would think of us all today? In this, I can only confront one of the issues, overly aggressive policing and what it has done to our communities, more specifically our many Black and Brown communities nationwide.

So finally to the crux of the matter policing and what can be done to stop the overly aggressive stance they take today, especially with Black men but frankly with all Black and Brown people. There are some simple answers and then some more complex answers. The most complex, you cannot change the hearts and minds of men and women with deeply ingrained bias and prejudice; you can, however, force them to act in a way that you wish by making it too personally costly to do otherwise. Over time, you will weed out those who are simply incapable of change.

My personal recommendations in no particular order:

  1. Reassemble the division of the Justice Department that reviews patterns of abuse. Bring back Consent Decrees, with federal jurisdiction and limitations on federal money to those cities where clear non-compliance is found. This applies to all, large and small, cities and state levels.
  2. Require “if you see it intervene and tell,” which effectively removes the Blue Wall. Those who do not tell are as guilty as those who abuse the power of the badge and in the future, should be treated equally harshly.
  3. Create an independent State Attorney’s Prosecution division under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney General for the investigation and charging all police misconduct.
  4. Fully remove qualified immunity from police, and all other public officials for that matter, and require all those who serve to carry individual liability insurance. Without coverage, they cannot serve on any police department in any capacity, and certainly, they cannot carry a deadly weapon.
  5. Create a national database, ensure no officer fired for dereliction, abuse, or any other misconduct can be hired by any other department. The combination of this with liability insurance would rapidly reduce the “bad apples,” and we would all begin looking at leadership closely again.
  6. Require a minimum of a two-year degree in Law Enforcement with additional Police Academy training and a 6-month apprenticeship.
  7. Fully de-militarize all police forces and stop immediately the sale of military weapons to any force.
  8. Stop immediately the use of Choke Holds and other physical restraint techniques that have proven to be deadly.
  9. Change the role and power of the Police Union, they should no longer be weighing in on controversial issues, matters of policy or protecting the “bad apples” at the cost of the public.
  10. Require Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras be on at all times during all stops; any deviation from this is cause for dismissal.
  11. Require partner rotations every 6 months. I know this seems strange, but long-term partnerships create loyalties that are frequently dangerous to the public.
  12. Require on-going professional training of all police. Not just that they are able to shoot their pistols, but in other skills needed for them to work with the public.
  13. Require regular psychological evaluations of all members of the police, especially those who regularly work with the public. We need to accept their jobs can be hard, they can see and face traumatic situations daily. They shouldn’t be the enemy, we need to make certain they don’t become the enemy by giving them tools and helping them cope.
  14. Require their social media is open to evaluation, yes everyone has free speech, but those who serve must be willing to be observed as well.
  15. Divide and conquer, create non-policing agencies to support community needs and no longer use the police for these issues. Retrain 9-1-1 to identify and direct calls to the correct agencies. This is a longer-term goal and will require police, public and citywide cooperation as each determines what their true needs are.
  16. Re-write the 1994 Crime Bill. This requires everyone to come together and acknowledge how misguided we were, now badly this Bill hurt so many and then to take it apart piece by piece. This will require we begin thinking of Crime in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of incarceration in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of many of our mistakes and how we might finally, if not correct them, address them and move forward together.

I am certain I have missed somethings in this and I apologize for the length, I have watched and listened for days trying to come to what I thought might be the best “right” answer. We cannot “Defund” the police; we can, though, make them more effective and more community-focused. We cannot change the past, we can change the future.

Things I recommend if you are interested:

American Son (Netflix)

13th (Netflix)

Just Mercy (Netflix)

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

Dear God, II

tears_of_sadnessDear God, I guess you missed the part, last time we talked, about the general fuckery down here and thought you would allow us to continue without intervention just to see how far we could go. I am not at all sure we can withstand much more without a gentle reminder from you of our humanity. A gentle nudge maybe to push us back over toward a kinder and gentler way to be. Truly, things are pretty grim right now and all of us seem to be falling apart. You can see the seams tearing; you can witness us losing our compassion for one another in our race to prove the righteousness of our various causes. I fear for all of us and what we will become if the scales do not fall from our hearts and souls soon and we do not embrace each other soon in our shared humanity.

Dear God, sometimes it is the small things that touch me. Do they affect you too? I think they must and that is why you allow us to continue in our ridiculousness. There are days I skim the news and think humanity is growing more horrible, more depressing and depraved every single day then something wonderful will grab my attention. Maybe it is the story of the child who, on his own, delivers lunches to shut-in elderly people in his neighborhood. Or the story of the bus stops in Utrecht that are now bee shelters. Sometimes it is something as simple as watching cats stalk squirrels in the front yard, just knowing they are never going to catch them, it makes me laugh. These small moments remind me the darkness I feel is not complete yet, you must see we are not entirely unredeemable too, or you would have turned your back by now.2-these-bus-stop-roofs-are-now-tiny-parks-for-bees-813x457

Dear God, so many of your past heroes were imperfect from Abraham to David to Paul; each had their devils. Yet even with their imperfections, their weaknesses, they found their way to redemption and forgiveness. How can we not do the same? What is it in our psyche that prevents us from seeking out the kindness, empathy and compassion we once defined ourselves by? How is it we have allowed a minority to say, we will not be that and we have sat by impassively and permitted terrible acts of inhumanity to be carried out in our and even your name? Oh, I know we have much to make-up for, much that does not speak well of us as a nation or a people. But God, I think many of us want to turn the tide, is it too late for us?

Dear God, I am not doing as well as I thought I would be with this entire isolation in place thing going on down here. In fact, it is challenging to be alone all the time for this long. I know when you sent my soul into my body from the Chamber of Guf, you placed the need for alone into my spirit so I could recharge, create and rebuild. I understand you created a warrior within me to better overcome the challenges you would place before me. I may at times rail against you, well to be clear over the years I have protested against you, blamed you and turned my back on you. But always I return, always bend my head and still, I seek your grace.

Dear God, someone asked me the other day if I thought the reason I did not hold onto love was I chose the wrong people to love. I have not ever chosen who to love; I have loved who was placed before me and have loved them as my heart directed. Never once in my long life have I withheld love, though I have always held my secrets. I think you place in my path those who need to be loved without conditions or judgment, knowing I will give this love easily. Then, when it is time to let go, so broken spirits are less 20ab55a5576cffe1dce94c2fc4b236b0fragmented, I do this also. Leaving only my own heart in tatters and one more secret to keep. God, I am weary. I have loved enough who are broken and cannot love me in return. I have mended enough spirits and taught enough lessons in unconditional love. Maybe in these last years, we could make an even trade, perhaps you could put someone in my path who isn’t broken and might value me equally if you wouldn’t mind.

Dear God, I have to be honest with you on one final point and it is a selfish one. All my life I have worked hard, never asking for anything and never relying on anyone. I have paid my way and the way of many others. Please God, I only want to work, not be diminished in these last years of my productive life. I want to be able to do what I love, be paid fairly for that work and make contributions as I am able. I hate to beg for something so selfish. I know there are millions just like me today and as a nation, we have seen a crashing down of so much. So I know I am being selfish and self-centered when I ask you to please have mercy, let me return to work and save myself.

I know you must be inundated with prayer right now, God, likely from many you haven’t heard from in decades. I hope they are real and genuine prayer. I hope they are from prayer rooms and not pulpits. I will keep sending you these in the hope they blend into the cacophony, and some move you.

The Chasm

As we watch, this nation sinks deeper and deeper into a pit of false narratives, confabulation and outright lies. We watch as men are murdered on the street by those sworn to ‘protect and serve.’

Ahmaud Arbery, 25 years old gunned down on the street in daylight 23 February 2020

Manuel Ellis, 33 years old restrained and beaten to death on the street by police 3 March 2020

Breonna Taylor, 26 years old shot 8 times in her bed by the police 13 March 2020

George Floyd, 46 years old choked on the street by a knee to the neck 25 May 2020

Those are the names we know in the space of 92 days; these are not the only names; these are the names we are hyper-aware of today.  George Floyd was our wick, lighting the flame of our shared outrage.

I have struggled for days on how to write this. I am not a Black American; I cannot write from that perspective as I do not have that lived experience. All I can do is write from my own deeply felt beliefs. Ultimately, what finally set the groundwork was two different perspectives, one from a younger sister and one from a long time and dear friend. Each of their comments caused me pause and thought, each of them has very different life experiences, to one I owe an apology and with the other, I continue to debate.

“I think black people suffer from Generational PTSD and I recently came to realize that I suffer from it as a Black Man living the black experience in America”

“What are you willing to give up to assure justice, equality and an end to racism?”

My immediate and visceral response to the second is ‘nothing’; it is a zero-sum game. This response infuriates my sister and all her social media activist followers. I understand their fury. Let me try to unwind this as far as I am able.

White Privilege is something new to our lexicon to describe the unearned opportunity those born to their ‘Whiteness’ enjoy. Though this has been a field of study for decades, it did not become a broadly discussed phenomenon until 2014 when Black Lives Matter begin to use it widely.

Is every interaction between a White person and a Black person going to end badly? Of course not. Does every aggressive interaction have its roots in racism? No, some are simply two people with an issue to resolve. The truth is sometimes, bad acts are only bad acts and ugly merely is ugly.

Why do we get so offended by the White Woman in the park calling the police on the Black Man watching birds or asking her to put her dog on the leash? Why do we get so offended by the White Man demanding proof of the Black Man’s residency in that building?  Why are we so offended by the White Woman demanding the Hispanic Woman speak English in the checkout line? We are offended because, after 400-years of pathological inequalities and racial bias, we only have one way to understand them. We only have one way to hear the 9-1-1 call with the description of the Black Man or the Black Woman, despite this is an accurate description, we hear Racial Bias and we also know there is decades police bias on the other end of that call.

Tamir Rice was a 12-year old boy when he was murdered in the park within two-seconds of the police arriving after a 9-1-1 call on 23-November-2014. All of the media surrounding his murder by police tried to paint Tamir as bigger than his age, thus a threat, the toy gun he was playing with somehow manipulated to appear ‘real.’ Later, the media painted his parents as violent criminals, leading to the conclusion that his murder was both their and his own fault. The truth is, the man who made the call identified him as an African American in the park, pointing a gun at random people, he also identified him as a ‘probably’ a juvenile and the weapon as ‘probably’ fake. Ultimately his murder was deemed justified by a Grand Jury, despite the cop who pulled the trigger had lied on his application having previously been found not emotionally fit for duty by another police force.

Why is Tamir’s story important?

He was a child murdered by police; we, White People, accepted his murder; we did not mourn him as we should have. We did not demand justice for this young boy, as we should have. We accepted as reasonable the murder by police of a young African American boy in the park while playing with a toy gun.  We failed, abysmally, to demand justice for so many other young Black men in the proceeding years leading up to the murder of Tamir. We, White People, did not look at these murders and ask ourselves, ‘if these were my child, would I be as passive as I am today because it is theirs?’

That acceptance, the lack of concern is the true measure of White Privilege.

We failed to listen to the weeping of the mothers and fathers of these dead children and we failed to mourn with them.

With the murder of George Floyd, we are offended, perhaps even outraged. I think we are still trying to smooth out the issue of Racism in Mr. Floyd’s murder. But finally, we are unable to ignore the truth that 400-years of systemic injustice done to our fellow man within the borders of our nation led to the murder of George Floyd.

So why do I say I am unwilling to give up anything?

I do not want to see all of us with ‘less than,’ instead, I want to see all of us with more. If there is a privilege I have that another does not have, tell me what it is I will work without rest to ensure it is no longer mine alone. If there is a wall we need to tear down, let’s do it together, systemic racism exists; the majority of us know it now; it is visible and cannot be ignored. We should not be poorer when the fight is done; we should all be richer. This is why I say I will not give up anything; I want my friends, my brothers and sisters to have what I have not less than but precisely what I have. I want there to be no light between us.

Will it be a fight?

Yes, of course. There will always be those who fear the change that will come. There will always be those who hate; it is not possible to change hearts with laws. But for me? I don’t want to give up a damn thing; I want there to be no question of equality. The truth, it is not possible to change 400-years of history; it is not possible to wipe out original sins with apologies, gifts, or money. Nothing will change history; we can though change our future.  We can demand new and better laws. We can demand investments where there has been none before. We can unwind anything that prevents a future free of systemic racism and begin the process of education inclusive of real history. We can make racism so painful to those who practice it they will slowly become a pariah in our communities, unhirable and ultimately without friends or support systems.

What can we do? We can demand justice. We can listen. We can be allies. If it is the last thing we do, let’s use our White Privilege to demand change in our systems and ensure our neighbors, friends and family enjoy the same privilege we unwittingly enjoy. What can we do today? We can speak up when we see something. We can demand our elected officials do the right thing rather than what is convenient. Ultimately, we can vote. Remove those in office at every level high and low; local, state and federal who stand in the way of change.

That is what we can do, individually and together, we are the change.

%d bloggers like this: