Stop, It is Us

It would be stunningly simple-minded of us to think with the installation of a new President, on January 20, 2021, there will be a shift back to something resembling normal.  The problem with this thinking is twofold;

  1. A significant number of our fellow Americans voted to keep President Trump in office and believe his fairy tales regarding the election and its legitimacy.
  2. As a nation, we face both a recession and a pandemic, neither of which will be cured overnight.

Finally, beyond the obvious, Trump, unlike past Presidents, has no plans to transition power quietly. He will continue to grab as much of the spotlight as possible. He will continue to be part of the focus, as the Senate’s Impeachment Trial is undertaken. He and his supporters in Congress will continue to spread vitriol and lies on every media platform available to them. He will continue to be a disruptive force of malevolence. For the foreseeable future, there will continue to be those who encourage and embrace him.

For approximately seventy-eight (78) more hours, we have to worry about just how much more damage Donald J. Trump, his cadre of sycophants, enablers, and true believers can do to the nation. It is obvious there are few in what was once the Republican Party who are willing to stand up and be counted as outside of DJT’s toxic national destruction league. After the violent insurrection of January 6, most of the world is left wondering who we are and what we will become. The Insurrection Coalition of Congress uniformly voted not to Impeach Donald J. Trump, with only ten (10) holdouts who all are now worried their lives may be in danger.

Me? For the first time in my life, I watched and thought to myself, I despise a whole group of public officials. I despise them for their craven and self-serving acts, for their lies, and their support of the insurrection. I listened to them, for the better part of four (4) years, as they casually tore down all that was worthwhile, that made America work no matter how imperfectly. I watched them on January 6 as they attempted to disenfranchise millions of votes, not just any votes but the votes of mostly Black and Brown people from cities across the nation; they did this without blinking an eye. I listened as elected officials and supposed Christian leaders told their constituents and congregants that Donald J. Trump walked on water and served their best interest, even as he pillaged the Treasury, tore down the pillars of our government, and weakened the nation before the world.

I watched it all, and I hung my head in shame, this is us, this is America.

This is America; we cannot deny our complicity in this opening of the overcoat. The America that allows White Nationalism to thrive within our borders. That enables a casual disregard of science within the highest seats of our government. An America that allows hundreds of thousands to die in a pandemic for the sake of ‘freedom’ to not take precautions because body autonomy and the right to choose far outweigh the greater public good. An America that sent hundreds of thousands into poverty for the ego of one man in the Senate who refused to bring a Bill to the Senate floor for debate. This is America, where one side watched as children were mowed down in their schools and worshippers in their churches by lunatics with too much access to guns but did nothing. This is America where Black bodies can be casually murdered in the streets and in their beds by the police, and there are zero accountability and zero acknowledgment by anyone in power.

I watched, I listened. I heard over and over, the gnashing of teeth and the wailing, this is not us. When the insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, I watched in horror. When the gallows were raised outside the Capitol, I listened as the insurrectionists called for Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi to be killed. When they beat the police inside and outside the Capitol, I wept. When the Capitol police opened the doors, took selfies with the terrorists, and then politely escorted them out after they had pissed and smeared feces throughout the building. I thought to myself, it is all coming out now, and we see you. When the American flag was lowered and tossed to the ground, and the Trump 2020 flag was raised in its place, I wondered, will this finally be enough? Hours later, I had my answer; it was not. The truth is, this is us

All of my life, I have been a centrist. Pragmatic about politics and politicians. There are some issues where I am left of center and others where I am admittedly right though not by much. These past four (4) years have taught me a crucial lesson. It is impossible to remain in the center, impossible to stay pragmatic. It is impossible to say I am not something; today, you must take a stand and be against it. This goes beyond politics; it goes to the heart of who we are, as a nation, and as a people. It is indeed time to pick a side time to be for or against the things that matter.

This is not us, yes I am sorry to say it is until we demand a change, until we demand it is us no longer.

Level the Field

Amoral: a) having or showing no concern about whether behavior is morally right or wrong: b) being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals

Immoral: conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles

soapboxpileAre the members of the GOP both of the above? It is a fair question in light of their actions and active participation in the attempted coup by Donald J. Trump, outgoing President of the United States and his team of legal geniuses. What is there to say about those who took the following Oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

It is such a simple thing; just pick the very first line thing in the Oath; support and defend the Constitution. Not a person, not a party but the Constitution of the United States. The interesting thing about this is that the incoming President and Vice President swear similar oaths of office to protect and defend the United States’ Constitution.

So what we have is a conundrum.

Is the GOP’s entire elected membership, with very few exceptions nationwide, seditious, oath-breaking, villains?  Or are they simply brainwashed cult members ready to die on Trump’s bonfire of vanity?

That is the question we have to ask ourselves as we watch the nation tear itself apart on falsehood and conspiracy theories so farfetched even those telling the stories cannot maintain their equilibrium. There is a pervasive sickness infecting not just those at the bottom but also those at the top. Elected officials willing to turn a blind eye to the erosion of traditional norms, ready to break the rules bound by centuries of standards simply to appease a single man, his temper and his apparent hold on the perceived base of voters easily swayed. I have watched Congress members say without blinking an eye what has been done in the past is not relevant today; time and again, norms are no longer valid.

“The courts will decide disputes; that’s the way we do it in this country. mcconnell_2Having close disputed elections is not unusual.” Mitch McConnell

Senator McConnell is not wrong; close votes are not unusual where he goes off the rails is the pandering nonsense that these require courts to decide. What is staggering is we suddenly must wait for states to certify elections before the GOP leadership will acknowledge Joe Biden as the President-Elect.  It should be noted, Donald J. Trump had already declared himself the winner on November 3. Laying the groundwork for what was to come, weeks of nonsensical legal filings in various states that went nowhere fast. Weeks of news conferences from washed-up has-been sycophants spewing unsupported claims of voter fraud, with guarantees their master would be king come January.

What have we learned from all of this? What can we take forward into the future?

One thing we should learn is what comes around goes around, always. If you don’t like the polarization of Washington, D.C and the partisanship of politics today, blame Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats of 2013. The Nuclear Option eliminated the Senate filibuster for all nominations to Article III Federal Judiciary except for the Supreme Court and the President’s picks for his Cabinet. This led the way for Mitch McConnel to pack the federal judiciary with 300 unqualified lifetime appointments and three Supreme Court Justices. Additionally, it allowed the Trump administration to select uniquely unqualified members for his Cabinet, including his own children, without a single protest in the Senate. Finally, as we look at Joe Biden taking office next year and the Cabinet he is putting together, the GOP Senate members are already raising their hands and saying that they will not be approved despite their qualifications.

What else should we learn? What we have relied upon as traditional norms must become hard and fast rules with consequences. That we must demand more of those who sit in the oval office or walk the halls of Congress as elected leaders. We must look closely at our minimum standards; we must raise the bar and codify some of what we have considered ‘norms’ into Trump-visits-St-Johns-Churchbasic job requirements. Our future must never see another person so utterly unprepared and ill-equipped as Donald J. Trump sworn into the Presidency. We can never again allow the last four years to be repeated; honestly, we can never again allow the previous twelve years to be repeated.  Make no mistake, the polarization and partisanship began when Mitch McConnell uttered this famous phrase, signally the top GOP priority under the Obama administration:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” October 23, 2010

How do we address these issues? What can we do to turn the tide for a future that looks more like the one intended by the original Constitution and in the Federalist Papers?  Despite the entire Biden presidency is a lame-duck administration, there is much that can be done. Even with a pandemic looming and an economy failing, both at home and globally, some steps can be taken that I believe could gain bipartisan support. Despite all the evidence, I remain hopeful that Republicans remain in Congress who want a better tomorrow and save America. I think what comes next is in the hands of the people, not the government. What we demand will become the priorities in Congress.

  1. Term Limits on Congress, maximum of 3 terms for both House and Senate.
  2. Change in Lifetime appointments to a maximum of 25-year for all Federal Bench. All appointments must pass a minimum of Qualified by the ABA to be considered.
  3. Change in use of Executive Orders. All Executive Orders should be subject to review by Congress.
  4. New laws enshrining ‘norms’ (e.g., the release of 10 years of taxes, health records including a phycological test, requirement to quit all business interest before taking office, strengthening emoluments clause, strengthening nepotism clauses). These new rules must include the President, Vice President and all members of Congress. These must not be a wish list but instead requirements for the office.
  5. Reversal of Citizen United. Congress to pass legislation to include all campaigns limited in fund raising activities. A gentle reminder, money is the root of most evil and there should be limits.
  6. Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine with teeth. Let’s start holding the media, including social media, accountable.

biden_HarrisThat is it for me as a starting position. I know there is plenty to keep them busy in the first 100 days. There is more to keep them busy bickering and backbiting going forward after that. Yet, we the people have the power and we the people must demand a better nation. If we want the big stuff to get done, we must demand that they start changing the rules in our favor.

Next Up, Heal or Revenge

Soapbox LogoWe have a long history of partisanship within our state and federal legislatures’, power begets power. Those with power want to hold on and those without power snivel, whine and plan their next move. This is the way of the world since history began to be recorded; it is undoubtedly the way of the Divided States of America. The one thing missing from the above? We the people, we seem to be the silent and all too frequently forgotten victims of the one-upmanship and gameplaying that takes place in the halls of power.

Donald J. Trump is the consummation of fifty years of GOP scheming and planning. He is the payoff of Right-Wing backroom deal-making. He is everything they hoped for and more because he is ignorant of their manipulation and takes credit for each disaster as if it were a success. The Federalist Society has all they could wish for, a Judiciary that leans right from top to bottom. In the final two years of his Presidency, Mitch McConnel blocked Obama’s nominations, resulting in over 100 open seats to fill when Trump entered office. What did Trump have to say?  He found his predecessor must have been complacent (lazy) in nominating despite McConnel’s very public obstructionism. We focus on the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, but in truth, the Republican majority under McConnel had created a contentious do-nothing process long before this; in fact, it started from the moment they took control of the Senate.

With our national election today and the potential of Joe Biden winning, the question must be asked, what will we do if we win it all? What is in store for America and its citizens if we pull off a complete annihilation of the Republicans and what they have stood for? What will happen if there is a full power shift, the White House and both houses of Congress belong to the Democrats in January. If recent days events are any indication, violence will escalate, and this President has no intention of going quietly. We should not expect a peaceful transition of power. Truthfully, I do not expect this President to accept a loss. I expect there to be multiple challenges between now and December, if not beyond.

Nevertheless, this is about what we will do and what we expect those we elected to power to do? Will we become crazed in our victory? Will we revenge-destruction-health-life-symbolized-word-revenge-hammer-to-show-negative-aspect-revenge-d-revenge-173790748demand revenge? Will we escalate the cancel culture and just like the current administration demand, all our political enemies be ‘locked up’ for real and perceived crimes.

Will we punish our rivals and gloat in our victory? Will we become what we have despised? Demanding the Democrats in power ‘grow’ backbones?

I ask these questions in both curiosity and fear. As cities board up in preparation for election night violence, walls are built to surround Layfette Square and the White House; this isn’t the country I know, even during previous times of deep unrest.  As this President spends his time complaining about how unfair it all is, he would be winning if it weren’t for COVID, he says. As he abandons his supporters freezing in dark fields after his events, this isn’t the behavior of a true leader. This truly isn’t the nation I knew once upon a time.

Our history of protest is long and storied. From the Germantown Quakers of 1688 and their written protest against slavery to today and the Black Lives Matter protests in every major city of this nation. Some have ended in violence, some have continued for years before moving us toward a more perfect union. Each though had a purpose; each had supporters and naysayers as well. Never in our history has there been a President who has actively called for violence against protestors as this one has done. Don’t mistake me. Many protests have ended in violence. Much of that violence was sanctioned by the state and done by police and National Guard. This President, though, encourages violence by those who are simply citizens with guns and MAGA hats.

So I ask again, should we win it all, what will we do? Who will we be after that euphoria wears off and we are done dancing in the streets from joy; who will we be in our victory? We will have a choice. We will only have four years with Joe Biden at the helm of the Presidency and then we will go dancinginstreetthrough this again. Perhaps Kamala Harris will run, maybe not. If the Democrats get the next two years right, they will hold onto both houses of Congress and there will be no divided government during Biden’s tenure in the White House. If they get it really right, come 2025, we will have a shoo-in for the next 8 years.

What should we be? In my mind, we should play the long-game, and we should be focused on the American people and healing the nation. We should ignore the petty revenge scenarios. We should forget the nonsense of who did what to whom. We should be focused on fixing what is broken for all of America and what can be done now. Here would be my plan for America if I could sit with Joe and Kamala for just a few hours:

  1. Focus on the pandemic, get the resources to the states first and work with the Governors on practical test, track and trace plans. Pull all the Federal Emergency Response levers to make available to state and local governments all necessary resources. Finally, work with Congress to shape the right Bill and pass it through both Houses to get the necessary resources into the hands of individuals, state and local governments to keep everyone whole while we get the virus under control.
  2. Form a bipartisan committee to look at the entire Article III Judiciary branch, including currently seated judges, the nomination process, qualifications, confirmation process. I want everything looked at. I also want to assess current acts, behaviors and actions of current seated Judges and Justices where there is anything questionable. This committee has 120 days to return their initial review and recommendations; if there are specific issues that require additional assessment, they must include these in their initial report. This report will be entirely transparent and made public.
  3. No Senators from either party to be named to Cabinet seats; Joe Biden cannot afford to name any Democrat to a Cabinet seat even if he wins, and the Senate returns to Blue, it will be by a small margin. Rather than ‘play’ favorites, simply put a moratorium on the entire Senate and leave all elected members in place.
  4. Form a bipartisan committee of Black Lives Matter Community Restoration and place VP Kamala Harris in charge. Give them 120 days to produce an initial plan of actionable priorities that can be taken to Congress. This should be a citizen committee but should also have sponsorship from both House and Senate so Bills can be produced quickly from the actionable priorities.
  5. Form a bipartisan committee of Police and Justice Reform. This group will need to include citizens, police, educators in the field, and others with specific knowledge in the area. Were it me, I would put Jeh Johnson at the head of this one; he is clear-eyed and clear-headed. This one would have 150 days for the initial analysis and report. I give them a bit longer because they must look at two separate and very unequal parts of our system. Policing and Justice, while intertwined, remain separated by layers of implementation. Ultimately we have to consider all the individual layers of Federal, State, Local and overall Justice Reform if we are to truly ‘fix’ what is broken today.

Those would be my first day in office; those committees are formed and off to the races. Are there other pressing issues? Certainly, there are and they would have to be taken on post-haste. This nation needs so many things, Joe Biden Accepts Presidential Nomination At Democratic National Conventionso much healing. Each item seems to be a priority. But if we could at least seem to be moving toward action, that is something. Gloating and revenge doesn’t heal us; it might give us a momentary thrill, it might make us feel good for a minute or two, but it does not heal us as a nation and healing the nation is what we most need now.

So I ask one more time, who will we be, should we win it all? Will we emulate the Administration of the past four years? Will we be monsters? Or will we be something finer, something more generous, and begin the hard work of healing.

On the Bench

 “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of the transgressors shall destroy them.” Proverbs 11.3 KJV

Lepore-RBGpostscriptShe is the Federalist Society’s darling, and for excellent reason, she is by far one of the purest Constitutional Originalists I have read in over thirty years. She goes much further than her mentor Scalia ever did in his interpretations. She absolutely terrifies me, in part because she is bright, pragmatic but even more, she is an absolute ideologue. She hides it well; she dances brilliantly. Still, it is there, and she is the antithesis of everything Ruth Bader Ginsberg stood for. Yet after hearings that were polite and without real merit, Lindsey Graham, without qualms and without a full committee, pushed her nomination to the full Senate for a vote that will be taken on Monday 26 October 2020. For those of you that are counting, that is six days before the next president’s election. She will be the next Justice unless some GOP members of the Senate find their moral backbone and say NO to Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the spineless enablers and say YES to the American People.

Just to make clear, I am not an Attorney and have no formal legal training. What I have is decades of watching the court in action and reading legal briefs and scholarship. It is an interest of mine. Do I get it perfectly? Absolutely not. So for those of you who know more than me, feel free to correct my understanding. What follows is simply my understanding of what I have seen and been able to discover of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

I watched three days of hearings before the Republican-led Senate Judicial Committee. Farcical is the most polite term I can come up with. Three days of Republicans, grandstanding, campaigning and praising her laundry skills, mothering skills and, of course, the brilliance of her legal mind as an afterthought. The comparisons to Ruth Bader Ginsberg were, for most of us, insulting. She is not now and will never be, except perhaps in the mind of the Federalist Society and those who put her on the highest court in the land, comparable to the Notorious RBG. The truth of the matter, Amy Coney Barrett, is the dream jurist of the Right and a nightmare for the rest of us. Most notable for me and many others were three items she would not commit her ‘brilliant’ legal mind too:

  • A president could not unilaterally change or delay an election.
  • Voter intimidation is illegal under any circumstance.
  • A president cannot pardon himself.

Add to the above, when pushed by several Senators on recusal, she refused to commit. Despite the president’s public statements of his reason for fast-tracking her nomination, his desire to have her on the bench to tip the balance in his favor when he challenges the election outcome should he lose. 

It is difficult to truly explore Judge Barrett’s legal thinking. She has only Prof_Amy_Coney_Barrett_2_10been on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals since October 2017, three (3) years. Prior to her short time on the bench, she was a Professor of Law; much of her time in this role was spent at Notre Dame, where her published writings are protected. Her limited exposure to litigation was in private practice, with the only notable case being as research assistant on Bush v. Gore. She never argued a case, certainly not in front of the Supreme Court. I do not want to entirely dismiss her; she clerked on both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. She has earned a great deal of praise for her research, writing and teaching. She is beloved by her students. However, none of this makes her ready for prime time; none of this makes her a worthy inheritor of the seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Consider some of her available publications first; one that stood out for me was Catholic Judges in Capital Cases. While there were no surprises, there was a significant discussion surrounding the loyalty owed to the Church and its teachings. There wasn’t a suggestion that the judge should ever attempt to align the law to the Church, but that their moral behavior must align instead; ultimately, where the two did not or could not recusal was the answer. What does this mean in cases she might hear in the future? Either she will ignore her own advice, or she pushes the agenda, we all believe she has. Areas where the Church and the law are out of alignment? Abortion, IVF, several Civil Rights areas, including protections for LGBTQ people (e.g., housing, medical services, marriage, adoption). What is her answer? She has said she can judge without bias; however, I have to ask the question based on this single item. Is she?

The next read for me was actually three separate essays written over five (5) years on the subject of Stare Decisis[1]. The Stare Decisis doctrine directs the court to stand by the established precedent set by the court. The court rarely overturns its own precedent, though it has, in some cases, which signifies it has a new way of looking at a legal issue that has been presented. Based on her writing, though, it seems she is only supportive of courts and judges taking the initiative of ignoring precedent when that precedent is not aligned with the court or the judge’s thinking. It is frankly a very murky area. An example of a previous court ignoring precedent is Brown v. The Board of Education (1954), where the Separate but Equal doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was ultimately overturned. This is an example where a Super Precedent existed and was challenged. During her hearings before the Judicial Committee, she would not say whether she agreed with the Brown decision.

Judge Barrett says she does not believe Roe v. Wade is a super precedent simply because of the number of challenges. For an interesting read on precedents and super precedents, try this one, which provides an overview of how we should view them[2]. The reality is it would be inconvenient for Judge Barrett to view Roe as a super precedent, just as it would be inconvenient for her to recuse from the ACA battle that will be her first Court case on being seated. She has written more than once regarding the ACA and has even taken issue with a decision by Justice Roberts to uphold the ACA.

In my reading, I found a common theme in Judge Barrett’s view of the courts’ ability to create common law[3], even overruling legislative authority. I was fascinated by this view as it derives from her reading of the Constitution and her ‘Originalist’ stance. While I think we all agree, we have separate but equal branches of government, each with their own powers, now we have a nominee who will shortly be seated on the highest court view that court with the ability to legislate from the bench. In my opinion, she puts us all in great jeopardy.

I have had several discussions about Judge Barrett since her nomination. In my mind, her own words condemn her. Listen to what she said in 2016 at the death of Antonin Scalia. I believe those we put on the Supreme Court should not only be legally able, but they should also be morally and ethically sound. Someone said Presidents serve for 4 years, not 3, and certainly not 5. Her nomination extends the current term of Donald J. Trump to five years, even if he is by some terrible chance re-elected her nomination and confirmation should wait until after November 3.

If she had an ounce of moral fiber, she would withdraw herself until after the elections.

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1219801

https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/767/

https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/450/

[2] chrome-extension://nacjakoppgmdcpemlfnfegmlhipddanj/http://www.georgemasonlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/14-2_Sinclair.pdf

[3] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1014661.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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