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.............

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