AFTER THE 4TH OF JULY
The events of this past week in our country have served as a reminder of the progress we still have to make in respecting our fellow mankind, as well as our ability to communicate effectively with one another. I watched the horrible videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being shot and killed. And then a couple of days later, I watched as the tragic events unfolded in Dallas that concluded with 5 police officers being killed, and several others wounded at the hands of a deranged sniper. The "funny" thing is that my family and I don't watch the news. We have willfully chosen not to watch it for the last several years. Have you noticed how all they show are the horrible things in life? It's not an issue of me sticking my head in the sand of denial, but I just get tired of hearing about all that's wrong in the world, when I know for a fact, that there are a lot of really amazing and wonderful things to focus on. That doesn't mean I drown out the cries of people who are hurting, sick, hungry, endangered, or struggling. I just choose not to subject my mind, eyes, and thoughts to the constant barrage of slanted news filled with violence and bad news. I can be totally informed about the issues in life without turning on the 10 o'clock, or 24-hour news.
And yet, there was no denying the events that happened, with much of it being streamed "live" as it was occurring. One of the interesting things about social media is that it gives anyone, and everyone an opportunity to say what they want to say. It gives a platform to anyone willing to share their thoughts, including me. And now, it gives us a real time look at events going on around the world. In the days since these events, the world is loud, it's cluttered, it's boiling, and yet...I believe it's going to be okay, it's going to get better.
I do have an idea of how to make things worse...and that's for each one of us to keep getting offended at one another. I've learned in my years that the more easily someone is offended, the more difficult it is for him to learn. When you're offended, you're focused on yourself and what someone has done to you. When you're offended, you have interpreted what has happened through the filter of how you think things should or shouldn't be, and how you think things should or shouldn't be aren't necessarily true for everyone. When you're offended, you're typically so focused on your hurt and feeling misunderstood, that you can't recognize the rest of the story, and you don't search for understanding. I've said for a long time that it's nice to be understood, but it's better to have understanding.
As I scrolled through my FB feed this week, I saw numerous posts that were in reference to #blacklivesmatter. On one particular post, I saw someone make mention that the blacklivesmatter movement was effectively the same as the KKK. More on that in just a minute, but in response to the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, saying, belief, and movement, many other hashtags have come out like: #alllivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, and others. I think a case could be made that many of the responses to the initial blacklivesmatter hash tag and now movement have been fueled by people being offended with a sense of "I can't believe you're not including me, because MY life matters...or 'their' life matters too." And here's where we fall apart. I must admit, I was angry when I saw the remark about the blacklivesmatter movement being equated to the KKK. For one, I don't personally believe that to be true, for so many reasons, not the least being that the KKK is a hate organization designed to destroy human life that is perceived as different than its members. Blacklivesmatter started as a hashtag/saying, designed to SAVE lives. Another reason for my chosen anger toward the comment was because it's that kind of rhetoric that perpetuates the communication issues we have.
I don't think there is any doubt that there are certain people who have hijacked the blacklivesmatter movement, and they have done it to the detriment of society as a whole, just like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Radical Islamic terrorists, or even like the prosperity gospel preachers have all done to each of their respective belief systems. Its easy to see the hijackers when they're supposedly representing YOUR beliefs, but its more difficult to see them when its a cause that you don't understand. But at the heart of the blacklivesmatter issue lies a truth, Black Lives DO Matter. Now the world is so quick to start shouting about all the other lives that matter, but please...for just a moment...just stop, and listen. Just because someone says, writes, yells, sings, or protests that #blacklivesmatter doesn't mean that other lives don't! But when a group of people have been perpetually alienated, marginalized, ostracized, and beaten down, it really is okay to address their needs specifically, until answers are found and progress is made, without thinking that just because someone is getting attention doesn't mean the others aren't.
When we drown out someone else's concerns by yelling about our own...today's world turns into a hash tag shouting match.
Let me give an example. I have a gaggle of kids, 5 to be exact. And yes, I know how that happens...and you'll be happy to know that we now have cable TV. But let's just say that I'm out to eat with my crew, and as has happened before, we all get our food except for one of the kids. For some reason, the server or kitchen made a mistake, and while I have my food, one of my kids does not. Now, I could just go on and eat my food, and not worry about her, but I'm a good parent. I sit there and wait, and to be honest, with every passing moment, I get frustrated because my child does not have what everyone else has, and what she needs to survive, food. As time passes, I get more upset at what I now believe is this ridiculous situation. I mean, how hard is it to get the food out here when you got everyone else's? The thoughts then grow toward what's wrong with management, or apparently we have a poor server. I sit there and let my food get cold, because I don't want her to have to eat by herself. To me, it's a matter of principle, that I will wait until all my kids have their food. Now follow me here. Let's say the child waiting on her food is my oldest, so she begins saying #oldestchildrenmatter. She even writes it on her napkin and holds it up in the air for the restaurant to see. Does this mean now that my other 4 children don't matter? Of course not! Now maybe, my children being children, they may say, "but daddy, don't I matter?" As a good father, I tell them, of course you matter, but right now, it is your oldest sister who is lacking what the rest of us have, and we need to make sure she receives it. At that point, I trust that my kids can then join the cause of making sure that the oldest child gets what she deserves, and what we all have. But what happens when the youngest gets mad and offended? She then starts yelling, "#youngestchildrenmatter", and then one of my middle children start shouting "yes, but #middlechildrenmatter"!, and the server comes in and starts shouting, "#serversmatter". You get the point. You see, none of these are wrong, but the responses are born out of offense, they are born out of a self-interest that is not in any way equivalent to the first movement that is based on giving something to someone who is missing something they need. But what if I, as a parent, decided that I was just going to eat my food, because...well, I've got mine. And what if in response to my oldest child, instead of recognizing her concern for the situation, I just told her that "Hey, all my children matter", and as if that should set her straight, and did nothing to address her situation? How might she feel, me having what she needs, but doing nothing to help her get what she needs? And to make matters worse, I tell her that her needs are no more important than the needs of her other brothers and sisters, even though they already have...what she needs. Now I get it, my simple example falls apart in some ways, and I would never equate me waiting for my child to get one meal to a people who have experienced unequal treatment for centuries. But perhaps you can see the point. When one of us hurts, it really affects all of us. But just because I temporarily pay more attention to the needs of one child doesn't mean that the needs of my other children aren't important or aren't met. In another way, it's like that friend that you have who always tries to "one-up" you. You tell a story about your day and some difficulty you ran into, and no sooner are the words out of your mouth and your friend just unloads on how her day was even worse. She keeps going and before you know it, you realize your friend has had a horrible day, week, month, year...in fact, she's had a horrible life. And how do you feel? Most of the time, you got lost at the beginning, because you were trying to share with her the challenges of your day, and she obliterated your thoughts and feelings because she was so focused on herself. She's so focused on herself, she doesn't even care about me, and she acts like she didn't even hear a single word I said! Isn't that the same function we have here? Sure, you may not like how someone says it, or you may not like who said it, or you may be tired of hearing it said...but does that make it any less true? When we drown out someone else's concerns by yelling for our own...today's world turns into a hash tag shouting match.
Back in college, I took on the assignment of writing a 100 page report of the effects on society of Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On. It is during these times of racial tension that I am concerned about the plight and future of our black brothers and sisters. Yes, there are those who choose to be victims and set out to punish others through cowardly acts of violence like the sniper did in Dallas. There are people of all colors who don't want to work for anything, they just want a hand-out, and their survival mechanisms in life are to take advantage of others. My friends (who are black) are honest, hard-working people, they have beautiful families and children, they are intelligent, they have goals and dreams, they have good paying jobs, they do not live with a victim mentality, they completely condemn violent actions for the cause of equality, and yet, many of them feel the strain, the fear, and the concern for their life or well-being in certain situations...and that fear happens to them much more than it does the average white person. It IS an issue. I have 2 friends who are ministers, powerful leaders that have influence well beyond their immediate communities, and I know that they have concerns for the future of their children within the current landscape of these issues, because some things are not right. Marvin said, "Brother brother brother, there's far too many of you dying." I agree. I happen to believe that right now, there are far too many of our blue brothers and sisters dying too, and while I fully support them, they are not my topic today. I've seen the numbers, and I know that you can get the statistics and numbers to say anything you want. There may not be as many of our black brothers and sisters dying as our white brothers and sisters (a line of logic I often hear), but just take a gander at the ratios. Take a look at the ratios of our black brothers and sisters in the prison system, and I dare you to ask the question, "is it possible that this could be systemic?" Is it possible that we have a system that gives some people groups an opportunity over another in terms of equality in justice? If that is a possibility, then could it also be a possibility that when that people group that is being marginalized cries out for equality, that they could also be right? And I hear the numbers about black people killing black people, and I hear the defense, "well, if black lives really matter, then why do they keep killing each other?" I can't tell you how disheartening it is to hear this absurd, straw-man defense. Does that negate the fact that even when a black man kills another black man that black lives matter? Of course it doesn't. But as long as WE keep looking at THEM as...THEM, and not realize that THEM is US, we will forever be standing on opposites sides of the aisle of humanity. I don't pretend to be color blind, because I'm not. I may look white, but I'm actually Hispanic, ok, I'm a mixed breed. Hispanic dad and white mom, a 3rd generation Hispanic. But I'm admittedly not color blind. I have friends of all colors, and instead of acting like I don't see their color, I see it, and I see beauty in it. It's the way I was raised I guess. I guess you could say that the way I perceive people, no matter their color, is a product of the system in which I was raised. Hmmm, interesting thought. God's creation is truly awe-inspiring, and the colors of our skin show the majesty of the Creator's hand. It's my belief that it doesn't matter what color you are, as long as your blood is red. We are all human, we are all ONE MANKIND...WE are US.
A PATHWAY TO FREEDOM
My heart breaks for the families of those valiant police officers who were killed in the line of duty, and as I've seen the latest video of a young boy crying over his daddy's coffin draped in the American flag, I just can't...I just can't process that. I don't know what happened with Alton or Philando, it's horrible, and I can't imagine what they're families must be going through either. I don't know the entire story, and I only saw little clips of what happened, so if I'm really being honest, I don't feel like I have all the information I need to be able to make a wise decision of what did or should happen. I also know that the media loves to spin stories, and our nation is purposefully divided during this election season, because that's how politicians get elected in our country. We are fed very specific things in order to push very specific agendas that sometimes we don't even know about. So the media and the current climate of leadership in our country gives us the information that will offend us, because when we're offended, we're angry, and when we're angry, we're more easily divided. And when we're divided, that means that we have chosen sides. And that's how predatory politicians charge their supporters and get them to vote, through division fueled by emotions based on anger and fear of loss. In order to win, unscrupulous politicians need us to be offended. But at the heart of the matter is a very simple truth about the sanctity of life for all people, and right now, it's about a people who have been historically trampled, even since the beginning of our existence as a country. And while I believe that there has been amazing and tremendous strides, right now, we have an opportunity to answer the call for justice and equality for all of our citizens, no matter the color. I dare you to not be offended when someone says "blacklivesmatter". It doesn't mean that white lives don't matter, it doesn't mean that blue lives don't matter, it doesn't mean that brown or yellow or red lives don't matter, and it doesn't mean that ALL lives don't matter. It means literally what it says...BLACKLIVESMATTER, and we as a society have to quit being offended so that we can achieve understanding and actually address the issues that plague our communities. This is in no way an endorsement for those who use the movement to take vengeance and pour out violence on people like police officers. Nor is it to support those who illegally disrupt our daily lives with things that are done for attention, or to hurt others. That type of movement is neither needed, nor effective, and those who use it for such violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But in all that remains, love and understanding is the pathway to freedom, and we cannot get there if we are continually offended by the truth that #blacklivesmatter.