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Love speaks up
Love remains silent
Love holds on
Love lets go
Love takes time
Love gives time
Love seeks no return
Love keeps no score
Love is free
Love is priceless
Love is a lucid dream
Love is a blurred reality
Love is a bottomless well
Love is an eternal spring
Love is foolish
Love is all we have.
Love is hard.
Love is enduring. In this case, Love is enduring disappointment. Although, I am disappointed in the Ferguson police department and district attorney for many reasons, such as, but not limited to the District Attorney not indicting even though every legal analysis I saw speak on the matter said otherwise, “leaking” misinformation to poison the grand jury pool, and the incorrectly instructing the jury (for which I suspect Justice Department may bring charges), I am not surprised. Based on the initial response of the local authorities, I didn’t expect otherwise. No, I’m disappointed by the fact that once again at how the media once again seeks to inflame than report, and I’m disappointed at how once again, we eat it all up. Like Washington, media particularly visual media, is broken, in respect to the truth anyway. In a microwave society, attracting eyeballs is more important than the truth which is often buried in the details, and who has time for that? The death of journalism may be more of a threat to our republic than lobbyist, “terrorist” (domestic or international) or global warming, for is we do not know the truth, how can we effectively deal with any of these issues?
Love is Sacrifice. As always, little will change without action, without sacrifice. It starts with me challenging myself to take some specific action to address the devaluation of black lives and in doing so help to make this world a safer place for everyone, including young black men. I would hope that you would do the same. Even if your gifts aren’t in the area of social justice, every positive action moves us closer towards our goal of equal treatment, not just within the law (although, that would be welcome start). It can be something unique, but basics such as becoming involved in mentoring (black boys and girls often don’t have the privilege of second chances) or after-school programs are always good. Know your gifts and bring them to the table.
Love is restraint. Regarding the vandals who chose to vandalize stores and cars within the Ferguson community; a number of those stores were black owned (not that it matters in this case), but at the very least all were places of employment for a community in need of jobs. I confess that while I understand the frustration, the hurt and the pain, I don’t get destroying one’s own community. Now, if the vandals had burned down the courthouse, that I would have understood. I’m not recommending that either, but at least that I would understand. Unlike some people in this community, whom I respect very much, I will not give those few protesters who willingly destroyed property in their own community a pass just because they were, and rightly so, upset. I no more give them a pass than I give Officer Darren Wilson a pass, because he was “afraid” of an unarmed black boy. We are on a slippery slope in this country in this regard, allowing citizens to harm other citizens, just because they were upset or scared (i.e. stand your ground laws, sentencing laws for non-violent crimes). There is little room for emotion in the world of equal justice to which we all strive. “In your anger, do not sin”, the Bible and other good books say. So, yes, be angry, but in your anger do not become the very thing you despise.
Love is understanding. During conflicts like this one, there is a misconception of hatred. Both sides believe the other side is filled with hate, when in truth, ironically, both sides think that they are acting in love. Appropriately then, we must demonstrate what love is, so that we all may reach a common understanding. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King knew that they had to display a greater love, one which would raise all men above what they formerly understood love to be.
Love is Risky…
Even though I know how this story ends, it’s hard right now. The waiting. I’ve grown weary of waiting on Love. Oh how I’ve chased this Love. I’ve longed for…
It’s been a difficult year, in which some of our societal warts have been exposed. What was hidden, has now been revealed. It is not indicative of the whole, but it is painful nonetheless.
Our reality: Optics and the narratives around them, win the day. To this day our history books are filled with the lies of omission. To this day we continue to stumble, because we fail to recall, or just as often were never taught, the lessons of the past. We debate the truth of a snapshot in time as though we have all the facts, when in reality our destinies have less to do with the objects in the picture, and more to do with who frames the picture, for they supply the all important perspective for us. In the human experience the path forward was, is and always shall be a product of our collective perception. With that in mind, brothers and sisters, let me add #mystory to our collective consciousness.
The year was 2004 and I was working and lodging in one of Chicago’s northern suburbs. That particular evening, I was returning from dinner to my hotel room. As I drove my car into the hotel parking lot I noticed a local police car turning into the parking lot behind me. But his lights weren’t on, so I proceeded to park my car and gathered my things (laptop book bag) to head in for the night. Well, before I reached the front door, the officer approached and asked if I would wait a minute. He quickly explained that there had been a robbery in the area and that I matched the description of the suspect. “Okay…?” I said, or something to that effect. He asked me to place my book bag on the ground, and explained that he would need to search it, as soon as a second officer arrived. “Okay…?” again from me. The second officer, a big burly guy, arrived and exited his vehicle quickly, and walked towards us briskly, as he unfastened his holster and placed his hand on his gun. This caused an involuntary rising of an eyebrow by me. Where the first officer had been polite, the second officer rolled in with a different vibe. So, then as the first officer is searching my bag, a third officer arrives, and he and his dog (the canine unit) exit their vehicle and approach the three of us. At that point, I literally laughed out loud. I’m not sure if that was the “appropriate” thing to do, but that’s what I did. When the first officer completed the search of me and my bag he handed my bag back to me and apologized for the inconvenience. As I turned and entered the hotel, the young guy working the front desk asked what that was all about. Once I told him, he just shook his head, and we both quietly recognized the deal. Each of those officers who stopped me came to that point and time carrying a different set of experiences and perception of those experiences. So, while the first officer was calm in his demeanor and approach, the second officer was clearly anxious. And even today, I wonder if the second officer had encountered me first how things would have played out.
The behavior of the police and my response (although, I initially laughed, I was fuming when I got back to my room) are both a product of our perception and past experiences. For instance, often the idea of prevalent criminal activity within one group or another is planted in our minds by the propaganda of our times, for the purposes of winning elections, passing legislation or selling product. But the way the human mind works, we are designed to take a little bit of information and extrapolate into a rule. In other words we look for patterns in our world. In the natural, unedited world this worked fine. However, in the world of today, where seemingly everything is edited with a purpose in mind (even if it’s as innocent as getting more eyeballs or clicks on a story or video). The fact is that violent crime in the USA has declined steadily since 1991, and yet many of us feel less unsafe than ever. Therefore it is vital that we go analog and back into the world to see for ourselves the reality of…
Disclaimer: This may upset you, but you can’t do what they do.
When I was a young boy, my mother was adamant about some things, like always requesting a bag from the store clerk for anything I may have purchased. Although she seldom, if ever, explained her directives, I understand now how these rules of hers were meant to keep me safe, safe from a system which would presume my guilt should the question arise. The implicit message in my house, was, “You can’t do what they do.” It wasn’t until I was nearly forty years old, before I began to rethink some of these lessons from my youth. And truth be told, I’ve seldom passed along such suggestions to those coming up behind me, because we’re past all of that, right?
I mean, we’re all so smart now, so post-racial, right? We can say and do as we please now with no consideration of the advancement of a people, right? It’s all about living our individual lives as we see fit, right? Every Sister and Brother for themselves, right?
Here is the reality. Although it can be argued that the majority of our society may see past color, a smaller, but very vocal segment cannot. They remain afraid of us, and look for any opportunity to justify their concerns (that is human nature). They are predisposed against us, they do not respect us and the truth of the matter is that some of us are not helping the situation. “But hold up, why is another man’s dysfunction my problem?” you may ask. Because when we hold each other in such low esteem, how can we ask more of anyone else? We sing and promote songs which glorify the defamation one another and yet want the utmost respect from others. Don’t get it twisted, fear is not respect. If you doubt this, just turn on the evening news. And don’t believe that how we devalue our women doesn’t play a role in all of this as well (how can we diminish our women, and not expect it to diminish our sons and daughters).
Dr. King and the Civil Rights leaders of the day understood that changing the narrative in this country would require more than peaceful civil disobedience. Certainly, that was the centerpiece of the movement, but it was also about the dignity of self. Yes, allow me to vote, allow me to shop in the very store where I work, but also respect my person-hood. “A man cannot ride your back, unless it’s bent.” Civil rights protesters as a part of their non-violence instruction were taught how to conduct themselves when engaging the white public. But in conveying all of this, a message of self-worth was also being communicated. That self-worth, was the engine behind the movement. Sure there were many others, but when I think of this dignity of self, I first think of Rosa Parks.
Now, as a man, honestly, this makes me feel some kind of way. To adjust my way of being, because of someone else’s ignorance, is unsettling to my manhood. Members of other races, don’t have to account for one another, so why should I? And yet, even today, the programming of my youth still resonates within me. I still feel the burden to be better than them, whoever “they” might be and that I represent my race well. This message was embedded in me as a child and I recognize that the stress of it has sent many a black man to early grave. This is simply one of the realities of being an easy target. But the essence of a man is defined by how he responds to his environment. Thus, regarding the realities of the day, we can cry about how far we’ve yet to go, or we can honor our ancestors and march on for the sake of unborn generations.
No, as a nation we cannot do what “they” do. And though we be an imperfect nation, might one day we be known less for the lands we conquered and more for the good news of the equality of all men and women. Let us not forget that this struggle is not with individuals, but rather the systems of control, controls which subvert the dignity of self, be they capitalism, socialism, nationalism, racism and even organized religion, when they tell us…
Fear is why military spending is the sacred lamb in our federal budget, even though we’re the most powerful country in the world, by a long shot, outspending the next thirteen countries combined in military spending.
Fear is why we have the highest incarceration rate (mostly, non-violent offenders) in the world by far, even though the rate of violent crime in this country is the lowest it’s been in thirty years.
Fear is why we respond to our neighbors with tanks, tear gas and snipers, when they cry out in pain and confusion.
Fear is only as powerful as we allow it to be. But if fear is a choice, why are we so afraid? I suggest that, in part, our fear is a product of the age in which we live. Even as the Information Age has blessed us with awareness, it has cursed us with an over stimulation of images and information. We’re a country of information addicts. There is a whole progression which has led us to this place (Local news, Cable News, the OJ trial, Internet access, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter), but regardless, here we are trapped in a cycle of irrational fear over the most remote of possibilities.
So, what can we do? Ironically, to survive the Information Age, I think we all need to “Reboot” regularly. In other words, we should all take periodic breaks from the constant flow of content and reattach to the real world. Start with one day a week of no social media. Once you’ve established that habit, try separating yourself from cable news (Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc…) on that same day of the week as well. Instead, read a newspaper or magazine (The Atlantic and The Economist come to mind). Sure, they report the news as well, but printed media is less stimulating and allows one to process information with more thought and less emotion. There are other things that come to mind (i.e. not posting ratchet material, for one), but this would be a great start.
Fear tells many lies. But in the end, when we are no more, there will be no mention of any nation, religion or pandemic in our obituary. History has shown us that no great empire succumbs to external threats, they collapse from within (Rome slowly eroded from lead in their water, and Egypt from relentless famines as the Sahara became more arid… hint, hint). For if we parish, it will not be at the sword of another, but rather from a lack of faith in one another. And while in this very moment fear whispers to us that we should pull back, faith calls us to reach out, step out, grab a hold and don’t let go.
First, the most dangerous thing in the world is a closed mind. Secondly, Certainty is an illusion, for there is no certainty in the flesh, never was, never will be. These two facts are the bookends of fear.
We close our minds because we crave certainty, but it is a fool’s quest. Better to learn how to press on despite our fears. For if we give into fear, and close our own minds, be become the very thing that we fear.
In my faith tradition, we call this walking by faith. And dare I say that if I am never uncomfortable, then surely there is a question of whether I am truly exercising my Faith.