Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's Never Going to Get Better. I Don't Even Think There's An, "Unless," Here.

Race.  Better yet, race relations.  They are not going to get better, folks.  Immediately, you're thinking (I know I am), "Gee, what a pessimistic attitude."  Maybe...but let me tell you what sparked this post on a day when I swore I had many other things to do.  A picture was posted on social media showing a white female police officer in Ocala, FL sitting on a curb sharing a meal with a black homeless man.  The picture was taken, not as a publicity stunt but, rather, by a lady at a stop light who happened to notice the random act of kindness.  She posted it on the internet and it went viral somewhat quickly.  Obviously, the Ocala Police Department was notified, they identified the officer, and commended her for this act - To Serve & Protect.  Simple, right?  Something that, I think we can all agree (apparently not), was a simple kindness shown to someone down on their luck (for whatever reason).

In the interest of this story, did you notice that I didn't even hint at the fact that this man might have been a junkie, alcoholic, or criminal?  Let's set the record straight for anyone that doesn't know me, too, that might be reading this - I'm white.  All I said, and all that was mentioned in the title of the original post, was, "Police Officer Shares Meal With Homeless Man."  If you want to read the actual article, it can be found here -  You'd think this would generate positive reactions, right?  One would think that, in light of all the recent events and stories in regard to policemen (and women), a story like this would make people feel better.  I did, anyway, and I appear to be extremely naive.  For it was after I read the article, then the comments, that I realized that race relations in this country are an absolute joke.  Now, before anyone chastises me for generalizing, I will admit that I am.  Too often, in light of these stories and prior to my reactions, I find myself prefacing my responses with, "I have black friends," or, "One of my partners with a previous company was black."  Why?  Why should any of us have to justify that we have friends of a different race to make our comments legitimate?  Honestly, if we are truly for civil rights for all, we should never have to make those statements or justifications.

So the article was posted on Facebook by Kandi Burruss (singer-songwriter and of, "Real Housewives of Atlanta," fame, among other  things).  I didn't see it originally but it was brought to my attention by the sweetheart in my life that happened to 'join the mess' and make a comment in response to the article.  Her comment, listed below, gives a glimpse into her beliefs and speaks volumes.

"The officer didn't do this knowing she was being photographed which shows it was a true RANDOM act of kindness. It hurts my heart to see so many people throwing around race comments rather than appreciating it for what human being showing compassion for another. Until we ALL realize we are part of one race...the HUMAN race...and stop labeling each other as white, black, Latino, oriental, Asian, etc we will never move forward. I don't care what color your skin is, your sexual orientation, democrat or republican, if you treat me with respect I will treat you with respect and kindness."

And there it is.  The HUMAN race.  We all bleed the same color.  We are all sitting on the same little orb in a big galaxy.....and none of us is getting out of here alive.  The comments made after reading the post above, though, are the reason I say we just don't get it.....and probably never will.  Yeah, yeah...I'm generalizing again.  Let me share some of what I read, though - "Cops did it as a publicity stunt because they are trying to take the attention off their recent actions in Ferguson, Baltimore and (fill in the blank with whatever story you want."  Then there was the classic, "She a bitch - shoulda brought him a whole meal," (one of my favorites, I think, because no one EVER does enough), or better still, "Now is not the time for empathy for  cops. I want to see posts and articles about cops being held accountable for their heinous actions against black citizens."

Honestly, I don't know why I am still amazed at some of the reactions.  Probably because I was raised in a time when our parents taught us to see past the color of someone's skin.  What amazes me the most, I think, is that I don't see the different skin colors until they are pointed out.  Do you want to know who continues to make the point of differentiating?  Do NOT say it's the whites.  Hell, at this point, most of us are too scared to point it out.  If anyone dares say the dreaded, "N-Word," we could lose our jobs and things we have worked many years to achieve.  Blacks, on the other hand, not only use it freely, but it permeates much of the music from black artists.  Watch a white artist put that word  in their song lyrics and you'll se a music contract.....and career....gone.  Oh, but it's okay because there are certain circumstances when blacks justify it and it is totally acceptable.  To that double standard, I call bullshit.  Until it stops coming from EVERYONE, things will not get better.

As I continue to write this, I'm going from feeling hopeless for race relations in our country, to seething.  I continue to hear that more needs to be done and the white man is holding the black man down, or simply killing them and getting away with it.  There is a pervasive sense of entitlement and, honestly, I'd like to ask from where that emanates.  Seriously, why do the blacks in the inner city and the ones making the most noise (think the Baltimore situation shown on CNN) think they are owed something?  Slavery?  Is that really the core issue?  I'm dead serious when I ask the question.  I ask it, too, because I look at situations like the minimum wage issue in Seattle, WA recently.  I'm sure it wasn't just blacks, however the people there screamed that they felt they were owed a minimum wage of $15.00/hour.  Well, they got their wish....and we are already seeing the fallout.  Apparently, someone should've stayed in school to take math classes because they now realize, with the increased wages, that they will no longer qualify for welfare.  My response is, "That's awesome - it worked!  We offered a hand-UP rather than a hand-OUT and they can do better now.  Work more hours and finally get themselves off welfare."  I'm an idiot.  Not only did they not see it that way, the workers are now asking for decreased hours so they can still continue to receive welfare.  I think that, in and of itself, speaks volumes.  How dare I speak to this?  Well, folks, because I am one of the people (as are all my friends and coworkers) that gets out of bed on a daily basis and goes to work so they can receive welfare.  I'm qualified to make the statements because I make sure that my taxes are paid so the HAND-UP is given, not the HAND-OUT.

Our country is more divided than ever, I think, in my lifetime.  That lifetime, ironically, includes the 60's and, while many will think that's not possible, I disagree.  Whites are not being asked to help, it's being demanded and we are being held hostage.  We have 'Race-baiters' like the criminal, Al Sharpton, or the Dr King-wannabe, Jesse Jackson.  They are prime examples of why they do NOT want civil rights for all - if it happens, they're out of a job and their voices are useless.  I firmly believe Dr King would've happily ridden off into the sunset had 'civil rights for all' been a reality.  It was, after all, his dream and with its' fulfillment, he would've believed his mission in life was a success.  Much like President Kennedy, I think Dr King, too, believed in the hand-up rather than hand-out.  It was a time when people were told to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, rather, ask what you can do for your country." (Close to the right quote - don't sue me)  Somehow, we've gotten to a place where we, "Don't bother doing anything for your country, just ask what someone else will do for you."  It is, by all accounts, sad and pathetic.

Here's the thing, people - going full circle to where this post began, we need more random acts of kindness.  We need to look at each other while being colorblind.  That's ALL of us.  If you want a better world, work for it.  Do not tell me black lives matter - ALL lives matter.  If you want the cops to stop shooting you, stop breaking the law (blacks, whites, hispanics, orientals).  Don't charge a cop and go after his gun, then expect he will not use deadly force.  You KNOW you'd do the same so stop making this an issue of race.  Are there bad cops?  Yes.  Are there bad 'anything'?  Yes.  Conversely, there are good cops, whites, blacks, hispanics, orientals - the 'Yin' always has a 'Yang'.  To think otherwise is ridiculous.  Night and day, summer and winter, good and bad.  If you want change, work for it.  Do it legally and responsibly.....and I will stand by your side working for that same change.  Until then, though, if you ain't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.  I hate to think of the world we are leaving for our kids.  Seriously, it's time for us to get our acts together.  Stop the hate.  It's not a difficult message and random acts of kindness are a lot easier to deal with than random killings.

Peace out......or, until next time..........

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are We Prepared To Let This Continue? Time To Hit the 'Reset' Button

I am not even going to go into the recap of the news - we've all heard it and listened in shock and horror. Five of America's finest - 4 Marines and one sailor - killed senselessly in Chattanooga by a Muslim that couldn't deal with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as depression.  Five service men lay dead and, as importantly, our President did and said little.  This was 'in cold blood', too - these men were not armed.  Why we cannot arm our servicemen, even in recruiting centers, is beyond me.  We trust them with weapons to protect us and keep us safe, yet they couldn't protect themselves here at home.  I have yet to hear a solid reason for why these men were unarmed.

The bigger issue, in my opinion, is the lack of leadership by OUR leadership.  The Commander-In-Chief.  He is, after all, the Commander of the Armed Forces.  Here's my struggle - a few weeks ago, Dylann Roof, a white man, walked into a church in South Carolina that had a black congregation.  He shot and killed nine black people and, as the investigation ensued, he was seen in pictures holding a Confederate flag.  That flag became the talking point, ad nauseum, and major focus of the story.  It represented racism and was a symbol of hate.  Let's remove it from the State House and government buildings.  Okay, I'm with you so far.  We are, after all, the United States of America and the only flag flying on government facilities and buildings should be that flag.  Got it.  We didn't let it go, though.  To end racism and show our total disdain for the hatred associated with this flag, we not only removed it from said buildings, but we also had retailers refusing to sell it and a television network refuse to air reruns of a program where it was prominently displayed.  I refer to this as the 'knee-jerk' reactionary phase.  I'm still with you, though, on the flag part.  Ridiculous, yes, but we allowed it to happen.  We watched as the funeral services were held and President Obama did what he does best - he spoke, in person, before leading the congregation in, "Amazing Grace," along with the choir.  The President told us, too, how, as a black man, blacks being killed in an overt show of racism 'hit close to home'.  He immediately called for tougher gun laws (yeah, none of us saw THAT coming, huh?), yet said nothing about mental illness.  Again, more knee-jerk reaction as we found out that we really don't need tougher gun laws - we need a system that works.  Had the appropriate information been entered into the computer, the shooter would have been unable to purchase the gun in the first place and this conversation, along with nine funerals, would not have taken place.  This was not on the guns, Mr President - this one fell squarely on the system designed to protect those nine people that died (along with the rest of us).

Fast forward to last Thursday.  Youssuf Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born man, kills four Marines and one sailor and the response from the President was, "My main message right now is obviously the deepest sympathies of the American people to the four Marines that have been killed.  It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals to be killed in this fashion."  Wait, what?  That's it?  Mr President, no disrespect, but I heard you say more, with more passion and anger, about the situation in Charleston than about the senseless, avoidable tragedy and deaths of some of America's finest.  Will you be flying to Chattanooga and speaking at the funerals while denouncing Muslim terrorists?  Let me guess - there's nothing to point to the fact that this was, in fact, terrorism, right?  Let me be the first (though I'm sure I'm not really) to point out that armed civilians are now valiantly guarding recruiting centers to protect our unarmed servicemen.  That's terrorism.  When we have to be concerned that ISIS and other Islamic jihadists may, in fact, kill us here in America, that qualifies as domestic terrorism.  Still, Mr President, since we're already on the subject of flags, let me ask - why were flags across our country not ordered to be flown at half-staff?  Not the Confederate flags, but the American flag that these young men swore to protect & defend.  I realize they swore an oath to protect & defend the Constitution of the United States, but what symbol more openly symbolizes our Constitution and country?  I just don't understand and, dare I say it, neither do the rest of the people I've spoken to.

While the family of this freak has already said he had a mental illness, do you think this time we could maybe, just maybe, start the conversation about mental health rather than guns?  From everything I've seen, and I'm just spit-ballin' here, guns really don't kill people, but people with mental health issues are pretty damn good lately at showing what they can do when armed with a gun.  Are we going to continue to blame the guns because it's such a 'hot-button' issue, or can we now focus on the real issue - mental health?

Lastly, Mr President, I need an explanation and some understanding.  When, in my lifetime, I watched planes that were hijacked by Islamic radicals fly into our World Trade Center, then see the growth of ISIS, followed by this singular attack on American soil, can you please explain to me why I need to be concerned with offending Muslims?  We can claim that whites that have the Confederate flag are racist because one idiot held a flag and believed our country would be better off without blacks, yet Muslims can kill thousands and we are not supposed to generalize and we hold their opinions in higher regard than the country's citizens?  I have a problem with that.  Big problem.  Huge, even.  Quite honestly, Mr President, I can tell you things are about to get worse if the country continues to be divided.  Here's a thought....and one that many people (ones that I know, anyway) will agree with - if the people of the Islamic faith do not like the way they are being treated here in the US, we are fine with them going home to their country.  The same country that beheads Americans and a place that is not safe for us at all - we're fine with their return.  Sadly, I do not want to generalize like this but it's difficult to feel otherwise.  Again, let me get this straight because I'm a bit shocked and appalled - we allow foreigners to move to our country, then we have to grant them more consideration than our own citizens?  That's what you're saying?  As a fed-up American, I can only offer this:  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

In closing, I'd like to offer a challenge.  A challenge that goes, not to the President, but to those that will read this that I know are staunch supporters of the President.  There are those that have adamantly supported him in the past few years that, oddly, have been quite silent recently.  I challenge anyone in that category to debate me (or anyone else that can keep it civil) about the President's actions over this past week.  You've gotten loud, at times, in your defense of him because you think he is doing an amazing job as our Commander-In-Chief so now I offer you the floor - let's debate.  Tell me how you justify his actions toward our military men....especially when some of you were in the military.  Tell me how you think you'd feel if it were your son or daughter that had been killed, yet our President was more outspoken on the Confederate flag and the notion of its racist past.  Tell me how you support his actions, yet he can barely utter more than a few sentences about our Marines, all while offering warm wishes to Muslims celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr.  Anyone?  Show of hands - anyone?  I didn't think so, but I will still be waiting.  A peaceful, open-minded, spirited debate.  That's all I want.  

Until next time.................

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Day We Lost Our Collective Minds

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Once again, it's been quite some time since I've posted anything.  Honestly, the priorities have been directed elsewhere and, as you'll read, I think I was overtaken by some of the same apathy that has gripped our country lately.  I'll explain shortly, but first let's get to the particular day that I mentioned in the title of this post.  The day we lost our minds was preceded by a very sad, horrible day.  By now, you know I mean the church shootings in Charleston, SC.  While I think it will always deserve mention, I'm not going to dwell on it.  Let's face it, we've all heard the horrid details over and over.  To me, the other important part of the story, and the basis for the title above, concerns the days after.  Many may disagree with what I am about to say or my reasoning, however I am leaning toward the fact that more will agree than disagree.

So this began in a church with a lost soul harboring hate in his racist heart.  As the investigation began, pictures emerged of this psychotic individual holding, as we now know, a Confederate flag.  For all the issues that created, it might as well have been a green flag because, at that point, we were 'off to the races'.  This was our nation's starting point for, what I see anyway, as the beginning of the end.  Oh, we can argue that there have been different things that could be construed as that same starting point, but the way we have lost our minds after this episode marks it as a more defining moment.  Obviously, too, the initial 'knee-jerk' reaction by our leaders, namely our President, was to call for stricter gun laws.  He came on television and remarked in a stern voice that he has seen too many of these situations while in office and, as a black man, these are particularly offensive.  As we now know, and something that NEEDS to be pointed out, it wasn't that the laws weren't strict enough but, rather, the system failed.  Let that sink in for a minute as I did when I first heard it.  As the SC Governor did when she first heard it and remarked that, upon getting the news, she wanted to be sick. Yes, here we are in the midst of having to bury nine more Americans (not black, white, pink, purple, African, Italian or otherwise, but Americans) and, as our leaders further their own personal agendas, we find out that the system that is in place is, in fact, strict enough IF there are no 'glitches'.  I'm a big fan of analogies, so let's see if I can throw this out where it makes sense to these 'leaders' - a coach can draw up the most effective game plan ever and, if the team doesn't implement the plan, it fails.  No, Mr President, we DO NOT need tougher gun laws - they already exist.  What we need is a system that does not fail the people of this country that these laws were designed to protect.  You can have the best fire prevention system in the world but if the smoke detectors don't work or the batteries are dead, the house is going to be ash.  Period.  In other words....IF THE SYSTEM HAD WORKED AS IT WAS SUPPOSED TO, WE WOULD NOT BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.  Period.  Your system, Mr President.  Maybe that's unfair, but you're in the office and MUST own it.

What happened next is, again, something of which we are all aware.  Once the pictures emerged of this racist piece of trash (I'm being oh, so kind) holding a Confederate flag, the screams were almost immediate.  "Take down that flag - it's a symbol of racsim!"  Okay, regardless of what you think that flag stands for, I have to agree that it should NOT be on government buildings.  I would disagree, though, with the idiocy that has followed.  Again, I am being kind when I say idiocy.  In Birmingham, AL, there was a call for the removal of a civil war monument in a park because, well, it was a monument to a Confederate general.  It's a symbol of racism and, apparently, is hurtful to blacks.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure who has the time to be hurt by it (perhaps I am being naive and a monument honoring a general from 150 years is hurtful) because I see most of us, blacks and whites, so caught up in trying to feed our families that civil war monuments are more an afterthought than anything else.  Regardless, the proposition passed and the monument will be relocated.  I assume that means it will no longer hurt anyone - are we putting it in a closet?  It's about two stories high so I'm not certain how that works exactly.  In Memphis, TN, there was a proposition and movement to have another general and his wife, as I understand it, to be removed from their graves and relocated somewhere else because they were, well, Confederates and represented racism.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Is the title beginning to make more sense now?  Many retailers removed anything with a Confederate flag from their shelves and a television network will no longer show reruns of, "The Dukes of Hazzard," because (yeah, this is particularly laughable) their car had a Confederate flag on the roof.  Seriously, I cannot be the only one to think we have gone off the really, really deep end, can I?

Regardless of what you think of that flag, there's one thing that we all NEED to see in the bigger picture - this is causing a greater division than unification of our country.  With this issue, it seems we have found the proverbial 'straw that broke the camel's back' as whites and, as a race, are feeling that we continue to be held hostage and responsible for the sins of our forefathers.  I can tell you that, going back at least five generations, I know for a fact my family never owned slaves.  I have yet to meet anyone, honestly, who can tell me they remember their families owning slaves or, conversely, anyone that was owned as a slave.  Some people will say, "Well, does that mean it didn't exist?"  No, we know it existed and you, understandably, want me to acknowledge it.  I get it.  We cannot, however, continue to have things both ways.  The Civil War, right or wrong, happened, folks.  There is a famous quote about ignoring history and being doomed to repeat it that is on your mind right now - let me help.  The actual quote is,

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Folks, we can pretend it didn't happen but that's all it will be - pretend.  It is a matter of fact and a very real part of our history.  It's a very ugly, horrid part of our history, but real nonetheless.  I grew up less than fifteen miles from Gettysburg, PA and I can honestly say that I want us to remember it because we should, in no way, be condemned to repeat that dark time in our country's history.  Sadly, that is where we are headed.  Some of you are thinking the same and agree with me.  How long can people be expected to simply accept riots in the streets and demands that whites pay, in any shape or form, for the acts of our forefathers.  Honestly, we are trying to rectify the situation as quickly as we can, however anything less than peaceful protests or changing things in the manner with which we are all expected to act will only result in that greater divide.  If you want change, work for it in the same manner we all must.  Do not demand simply because you feel you are owed something.  Let's be honest, we tell our children daily - "Life isn't fair and no one owes you anything."  The American way, or at least the way people of my generation knew it, was that you get up, you go to work, and you do everything you can to provide for your family and help make this country greater every day.  We've gotten to a point where that is no longer our goal.  We are, for all intents and purposes, a lost, rudderless ship at sea with no direction.

Lest I sound like an 'old guy', I want to say that I remember a time, not so long ago, where we stood in solidarity as a people.  I'll go back to THAT day - the one moment in time that our generation remembers as our, "I remember exactly where I was," moment.  September 11, 2001.  Even mentioning that day evokes feelings of loss, sadness, grief, despair, hate.....and lastly, hope.  When the planes flew into those towers, the Pentagon, and the field in PA, we felt all those feelings.  The hope came soon after.  American flags flew from houses in numbers we rarely, if ever, see.  We spoke a little more kindly, treated each other with a bit more respect, helped each other, cared for each other and, most importantly, loved each other.  We weren't African Americans, White Americans, Spanish Americans or Italian Americans.  We were, together, AMERICANS.  That was the point in time that, rather than think of the initial emotions, I choose to recall as a time of hope.  I felt like, if we could just make it last, there was hope for us to regain our stature in the world and be, once again, a nation that was greater than the sum of its parts.  Sadly, here we are today - more divided than I can ever recall, even more so than in the late 60's when Martin Luther King led a march across the bridge in Selma.

My fellow Americans.....we need a leader.  Period.  I realize this is the point where some, those who support President Obama, may begin to bristle - let me finish before doing so please?  You see, these past few weeks and months, you'll almost certainly have to agree, has seen our leadership cause the greater divides of which I've already spoken.  True, these are only my thoughts and opinions, but have an open mind for a minute.  Our leader, the President, is supposed to unify and lead while being impartial.  His job is to lead ALL Americans, not select people.  He spoke out publicly to denounce the situations in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD, then sent a delegation to investigate the death of a black man.  He did NOT, however, even make mention of a young white woman gunned down by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.  One can only assume this was because the situation involved policies that he supports.  Again, take responsibility - if it failed, admit it and fix it so that it doesn't happen again.  Instead he said......nothing.  His silence was louder than anything he could've said.  It was, in my opinion, deafening.  While we're on the subject of division, let's also talk about one of the other 'big' news stories of the day - gay marriage - and the reaction of the White House and our President.  To be clear and so those reading this understand my opinion, I have friends and family that are/were gay.  For them, the ruling of the Supreme Court was a great victory and, as it went through the court systems and is now law, I (as an American) will respect that.  It's how it is supposed to work.  Still, in my opinion, the White House caused a divide in the people of our country by showing they clearly supported it.  The multi-colored lights bathed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue brightly in a show that was, clearly, divisive.  In short, it was wrong.  The President could've easily applauded the decision without blatantly throwing it in the face of the opposition.  He chose to divide rather than unify.

I want us, as a country, to be proud again.  I want us to be viewed all over the world as we once were - a leader and one that others look to for guidance and direction.  There was a man that once occupied the office that not only led, but inspired us to a greatness we haven't seen since.  Imagine.....there was once a man that said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what YOU can do for your country."  Rather than set an expectation of the government giving handouts, he found a way to put people to work.  He challenged us to give the best in science and math, to better ourselves, and we met that challenge.  Imagine.....someone that is going to give us little more than opportunity.  How would that be received today?  I think we can all agree that it would cause protests like we've never seen.  Yet, when this man was killed, the nation wept.  Our hope was gone and Camelot, along with JFK, died.  The last President that could even somewhat rally us as a country and provide opportunity was Ronald Reagan.  Okay, these are simply my opinions, however I venture to guess that many of you, if not all, lived a better life back then.  President Obama is not a great leader, he is a great orator.  I challenge anyone to show, with actual facts, how the past seven years have been beneficial to us as a whole.  That's usually the cue for the, "Well, that's because Bush..." retorts.  Ladies & gentlemen that, too, is a cop out and to that, I say, when a corporation has a CEO that fails, they replace him.  The replacement does not need to make an issue of the successes or failures of his predecessor.  He simply moves the corporation forward.  It's time for the Bush-blaming and race-baiting to stop from someone in the office of President.  We need real leadership and we need it now.  If not, I fear a Civil War is yet again on the horizon.  I think we all have heard, at least, how that worked the last time.

Until next time.............