silent.

“our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” -martin luther king, jr.

we don’t need to shout. we don’t need to yell and scream at each other. but we shouldn’t stay silent either.

i’m tired of feeling boxed in, like my voice doesn’t matter, as if it doesn’t even count.

today is just another day for most of us in america. except that it shouldn’t be. another day, another shooting. we shake our heads and sit in stunned disbelief and say that something should be done. we all agree that this tragedy is horrific and we don’t listen to bill o’reilly say that 59 people being murdered because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time “the price of freedom”. we know that’s wrong and he is wrong for saying that. american citizens should not be paying with their lives for the right to go to a concert, to enjoy a vacation and certainly not for someone to gun them down just because they can.

this is not a political debate.

i don’t want your guns to be taken away.

and no, i don’t know what the answer is.

but being silent and doing nothing isn’t helping. 273 mass shootings (four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.) in 275 days means that we don’t have time to wait for another day to talk about this.

when do you think enough will be enough? it wasn’t enough after columbine. it wasn’t enough after sandy hook. it wasn’t enough after virginia tech. it wasn’t enough after aurora, colorado. it wasn’t enough after san bernardino. it wasn’t enough after kalamazoo. it wasn’t enough after….. you get my point. when will we be mad and hurt and upset enough to actually make changes so that american citizens don’t fear going to class, or the movies or a concert?

are we adult enough to have discussions? can we chat about this? can we actually demand change? do we want change or are we just waiting for the next news cycle to blow this into last week’s topic?

the quote from dr. king reminds me that we cannot stay silent about this. we cannot let people continue to be gunned down because we were afraid to have a conversation.

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fear.

i’m just guessing here, but we probably don’t agree on everything. should we fight? should we call each other names? should i do everything in my power to stop you from being successful?

if you are a different gender, should i be given higher privileges simply because of my anatomy? should i be able to speak to you in any way i please just because i can? should i get paid more to do the same job just because? if i was a single man (or married, really), should i be able to sleep with whoever i want and not worry about any labels detracting from my character?

if we disagree on politics, can i hold you to a higher standard than i do myself? do you mind if i call you stupid and an idiot because you don’t agree with me?

why invest in our schools? it’s not like education is a direct correlation to our future. let’s spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a mother***** wall. let’s let the school crumble. and why not put someone with no experience and no qualifications at the head of our schools. makes sense right? well i guess if we can do that for the head of the country, the commander -in – chief, it won’t hurt to do that for education right?

if we believe in different religions, should it be okay for me to shun you? clearly you are wrong and i am right anyway… right? i’ll just call your people radicals if you’re Muslim and hopeless if you’re  Atheist. that’s okay right?

maybe i should build a large fence around my house, to keep my neighbors away? you never know who and what is out there.

since global warming isn’t really a thing, maybe it’s okay to throw my trash out the window. who cares right?

we don’t need the arts… we need more military, right? the enemy is getting closer.

fear is the most dangerous drug. once we are hooked on it, we need it. we hunger and thirst for it and we don’t even realize it. fear influences our decisions. fear makes us question truth. fear turns facts into alternative facts and we are even okay with that. when we are addicted to fear, we allow our morality to turn into poison that we then inject others with.

we’ve allowed our fear to turn us into a nation of hate and divisiveness. instead of celebrating our differences, we despise them. we have forgotten that our hope is not in our solidarity, but in our ability to unite and build together solid foundations for our communities.

so, we can continue to tear each other down, or we can find a way to use each of our unique qualities and gifts to unite. we can continue to say “ME FIRST!”, or we can say “let’s do this together”.

is that too much?

Rise.

i couldn't think of the right words to express my thoughts for today. So i let Maya Angelou say it. she was always the best.
Thank you Ms. Angelou.


"You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise"

four.

on wednesday kelli and i celebrate four years of marriage. somehow we’ve managed to build an amazing life together. it hasn’t been without chaos and stress and moments where we think the other has lost their mind. i’m only pretty sure that she has had plenty of those thoughts.

but we have grown incredibly since the day we met, six years, three months and two days ago. i feel like to be where we are now is somewhat miraculous, and not because the odds were against us because that’s not the case. just in the concept of living and growing and making this family and a home together, there is a miracle to it. when human beings can forego their innermost senses of selfishness and individuality to build a family, it’s an incredible reality.

we have such different ways of going about life, such different ways of processing our thoughts and emotions and opinions. i’m an outward thinker, the way i process my thoughts is to spill them on the table and then sift through them to see if any of it makes sense. kelli is an internal processor, which means i never know what she is thinking. i envy that ability to keep thoughts and opinions inward, she wishes she could vocalize her feelings the way i can.

now, when i look at our daughter jade, i wonder what type of personality that she will grow into. will she be strong willed and opinionated like her father? will she be a helper and have a sweet soul like her mom? will she be like me and naturally oppose whatever is the latest trend? for example, people think it’s crazy that i’ve never seen an episode or any movie of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. why? because when i was kid, that’s all any of my friends would talk about, so naturally i just was turned off to them. weird right? i think i was about ten years old when they came out. it’s just the way i am.

last night i heard a quote that i think works great for marriage and life in general…”there is no ‘supposed to'”. i think we are usually under the impression that we are supposed to be certain people, supposed to have certain beliefs and supposed to like certain things. i’m learning as a husband and father that it’s okay to not be what others think i am “supposed to be, that i don’t have to be a certain person in order to feel fulfilled. it’s actually incredible how hard it is to put this thought in practice. the beautiful thing about life is being natural, being real and not pretending to be people we aren’t. that’s the lesson i hope jade learns from us as parents. i pray that she is open minded and free spirited enough to not feel burdened by expectations. i hope kelli and i are mindful enough not to burden her with those expectations.

being committed in life to another person while raising a tiny human can sometimes be overwhelming. our moments aren’t always graceful and picturesque. sometimes you just have to figure things out as you go along. there are plenty of self help books but there really isn’t a manual. there is plenty of chaos around us that we cannot control, but we can dictate our own responses. i’m pretty lucky to have my partner in life by my side as we try to figure out how to survive this world.

never.

i didn’t start this blog as a way for me to tell you what to think. it’s not my style. i may have strong opinions, but they are mine and not yours and i know the difference. usually, my goal is to guide my readers to think in new ways, to gain perspective in areas they’ve never thought of before.

but.

this time is different.

this time it has to be said.

never trump.

not now. not ever.

not if we believe in humanity, in the idea that we all have been created equally in the eyes of God. not if we believe that we, the people of the united states of america, have unalienable rights. not if we remember the long roads we have traveled to get to this point.

not if we believe in properly honoring the men and women who have served in our military. not if we truly respect those who have given their lives to protect this nation. what type of commander in chief actually says “it’s easier this way” when given a purple heart from a veteran? “i always wanted one of these”… really??

we cannot elect a man who has denigrated women for decades. we cannot elect a man who feasts on the decaying ideas that one race is better than another. we cannot elect a man who seeks to divide a nation with fear tactics instead of rallying a democracy built upon the concept that we are all in this together, despite our differences, not separated because of them. we cannot elect a man who has suggested that russia hack our computer systems in search of potential state secrets in emails. nevermind what we believe regarding hillary, this public invitation proves yet again that trump lacks the mental capacity to be a leader of our nation.

the values that we believe in here in america, at least the values that i believe america to be about do not include encouraging countries led by dictators to hack us. they do not include electing a man for  president who, when he does not get what he wants, decides he won’t pay or threatens to sue. not a man who, when questioned by the media, revokes media credentials rather than answer the tough questions. we cannot elect a man who says that because of his business record, he is qualified. not when his business record is littered with bankruptcies and lawsuits. not when his record is filled with destruction and workers without payment for their services. that is not how america operates. that is not how a leader leads.

i know that there are some who think that hillary would be devastating for this country, specifically for our armed forces. every one has a right to an opinion. but consider how damaging a president trump would be for our troops. he has suggested not supporting our nato allies. the very notion of not supporting allies is incredibly dangerous and immediately  puts our troops in unnecessary danger. he has mocked a known war hero in john mccain for being a prisoner of war, essentially calling him a loser for being captured. this is who we want as commander in chief? at different points in time trump has praised the leadership styles of vladimir putin, saddam hussein and kim jong un. is this the model for our troops to follow? let us not forget that bluster is no substitute for coherency. being the loudest and most boisterous voice in the room does not qualify a person as a leader.

we have our faults as americans and even a checkered past. we have had troubling times. we have fought through slavery and we were late to allow women the right to vote. it took later than it should have to establish even the basic of civil rights. we have seen depressions and sometimes we have responded too late to global threats and persecutions. but we do have a brighter future, because we have overcome these things. now is not the time to turn back, to become dark and sinister versions of ourselves. now is not the time to build walls and close our doors.

when i look at my infant daughter, i have a vision of an america where she can flourish. i want her to be able to have same opportunities that men have and to be compensated equally for her work. i want her to see a kaleidoscope of people, from skin color to religious and ethnic backgrounds to the diversity of opportunity that we all strive for. i hope that she questions why we would have even doubted that a woman could be president. i hope she asks me why it took so long for a black man to be elected president. i don’t want her to read in her history books about president trump and the legacy behind deserting allies and troops and the lunacy behind ignoring facts in favor of bluster.

as we consider our options this fall, before we make our decisions, take the time to really think about who we are as americans. when we go to vote, i hope that we remember that our humanity is worth more than being true to a political party affiliation. this time is different.

lives.

do all lives matter?

obviously.

i’m not sure that’s ever been the argument.

yet somehow that’s the debate we are having now.

we have such a dualistic mindset in our culture. it’s either A or B… nevermind that C might be our best option. And if we say C is the best option, it must be because we hate A and B.

so silly.

but let’s talk about lives. black lives. tell me, why is it so difficult for some to admit that they matter? why must the counteraction be… “yea well all lives matter!”?

we know that.

 we know that blue lives matter. it’s not against some rule to believe in the necessity of police officers. it’s not against some law of humanity to believe that those who have sworn to protect the peace, are actually capable of protecting that peace. i believe it, i know it happens and can continue to happen. saying that black lives matter does not and never has negated any of this.

the insistence upon stating that all lives matter is fine. if in fact there was an argument against the sanctity of all lives. the concept that black lives matter is meant to be inclusive of black lives into all lives, not in spite of all lives.

#blacklivesmatter is a movement calling for dignity and respect for black people. the refusal to acknowledge this is why such a movement is necessary. i was on the fence regarding this movement for awhile. not because i thought it was racist, as some have claimed. i was just not educated enough to make a decision one way or another.

but i started to wonder. why is it so hard just to acknowledge that black people deserve dignity and respect and most importantly, the right to fair justice? yes, there is much that should be done to curtail black on black violence. of course. there is much to be done about white on white violence. there is much to be done about violence. it is okay to acknowledge that black lives matter in a manner that is inclusive of all races, not exclusive of others. it is okay to state that those killed by police deserve justice, including black lives, not just black lives.

i’ve grown tired of all the back and forth, of the finger pointing and name calling. it’s a tired tradition to suggest “my way is better than your way”. as if there are only two ways to begin with. it’s foolish to make decisions without knowledge and scary to lay a belief system upon a set of untrue narratives.

do all lives matter? of course they do. all walks of life matter. the poor and uneducated lives matter. the sick and weak lives matter. the uninsured lives matter. the homeless lives matter. the single mother’s lives matter. the prostitute’s lives matter. the transgendered lives matter. #alllivesmatter shouldn’t be a convenient hashtag because you don’t like the narrative you see on social media. if all lives truly matter, why is there such vitriol against so many lives? why so much hatred and name calling against people who don’t look and sound like us? why is there so much angst against those who don’t make as much money as we do? don’t tell me all lives matter, and then fight to keep even a portion of lives out of our country. don’t tell me that all lives matter if you don’t think all lives deserve health care. don’t say that all lives matter if you think everyone in this country should speak the same language as you.

if all lives matter… act like it.

if all lives matter, don’t live an exclusive lifestyle.

if all lives matter, why are we so willing to fight wars and send teenagers to solitary confinement?

of course, all lives matter. so do black lives. that’s the point. black lives don’t matter more than other lives. as a black man, i just want to be acknowledged that my life matters. i sincerely do not believe that my request is too large.

no more silence.

being silent really hasn’t worked.

i took another break from writing the past few months because, silly as it sounds, i felt a little too worked up to write coherently.

funny thing is, now i’m mad as hell and i can’t help but write. if you aren’t mad as hell, then maybe you should just exit this post now.

for perspective as a black man, i’ve lived in predominately white culture my entire life. honestly, i’m pretty comfortable in this culture, because it’s all i know. i’ve gotten used to the way white people live. i’ve gotten used to how white, middle class people live.

i’ve gotten used to the comments and innuendos and the “i’m not racist… but…” type jokes. i’ve gotten used to people telling me that i’m too smart to be black, that i talk really well for a black man. i’ve been called nigger while walking down the street with my white wife. i’ve gotten used to people pointing out the color of my skin like i had a band-aid on my forehead. i’ve always thought… whatever, people are just dumb and moved on with my life because i know that i’m better than that or them. i have never had time to engage in ignorance.

i can sense the tide shifting.

it’s not just that i now have an infant daughter. it’s not just that i’m devastated to have to come to terms with reality that the world she will grow up in will not be much better than the world i grew up in. although that plays a huge part in my furious anger.

it’s more than that.

it’s that being silent doesn’t work anymore.

how can i be silent when police can execute civilians out of fear and without basis? how can i be silent when a simple traffic stop turns into murder in front of a four year old girl? how can i be silent when a man’s life is taken from him while screaming that he cannot breathe?

how can i be silent when the very same fears i have had, my daughter will most likely live with too?

 here’s the problem. i see a lot of white people saying, “let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.” that’s easy and convenient to say, but that simply doesn’t work today. i’ve lived in fear of “being black in the wrong place” my entire life. because of the events we continue to witness, my daughter may feel the same fears, and that just isn’t okay.

this is not an attack on white people. what it is an attack on is the culture that allows pervasive racism to continue. it’s an attack on the culture that is outraged by the death of a gorilla and cecil the lion (which i’m upset by too as an animal lover) but turns victims of violent police murders into the criminals by broadcasting prior records as if that has much to do with the actual incident. it’s an attack on the attitudes that have developed into saying “well, they must have done something wrong” to deserve being executed in the streets.

it’s an attack on a “justice’ system that time and time again fails to recognize that these acts are crimes. these are murders. yes, we know that these are murders by “bad apples”. we know that there are good cops. i know good cops. it doesn’t, however, excuse behavior. it doesn’t change the fact that men and women die at the hands of these “bad apples” without repercussions.

it no longer is an option to remain calm and keep quiet. it no longer is an option to look the other way and hope it all settles down one day.

being silent doesn’t work anymore.