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.

Advertisements

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.

turn off the music and drive.

writing really hasn’t been my friend this year.

it’s not that there hasn’t been a lot to write about, there has. i’ve experienced more in the past year than in any year before. it’s just that this year has been overwhelming in so many different ways.

it’s been the best year of my life.

it’s been the hardest.

it’s been the saddest and the happiest.

it’s been the most stressful.

i’ve struggled with looking for the big picture and finding the little things.

i’ve seen the best and the worst in people.

i’ve seen tragedy strike more than once. the types of things that happen to people in the distance. not to people you love.

i’ve wanted to write books about this life and i’ve vowed to myself to never write again.

the thing is. this is life now. i realize with a nice swift punch to the gut that adulthood is not always easy. in fact it’s usually not easy. that’s what makes the good times so good.

yesterday i took the morning and afternoon to drive. i turned off the music. i didn’t even listen to sports talk radio. i just drove. i needed the silence. i recommend that you do this at least once a year. just shut up and drive. and not on the highway. i drove down to southern michigan and drove up the coast of lake michigan. two weeks ago my wife and i were driving along the coast of the pacific ocean. i almost like lake michigan more. anyway, i drove and drove. in silence. sometimes you have to shut off the noise. sometimes you just have to shut yourself up.

it’s not that life can be chaotic. life is chaotic. that’s how we do it. that’s how we like it. that’s how we drown out whatever is going on around us. when i was driving yesterday, i was reminded about the little things. i was reminded of how lucky (blessed) i am to live in this beautiful state of michigan. it truly is full of hidden gems. (detroit’s demise does not tell the real story of this state) how the breeze from the lake feels so refreshing. how driving through little coast towns that no one has heard of can remind you that there are people everywhere and you cannot possibly be the only one going through whatever it is you are going through.

that’s the key. perspective. the worst is feeling alone. like no one else has gone through what you are going through. the best is not that others are also struggling or have struggled or have seen the worst or ugliest in others just like you have. it’s knowing that you aren’t the only one with this story. it’s knowing that with all these little hidden gems around you, it’s quite impossible to truly be alone. sometimes we just have to turn off the music and drive.

call me what you want.

it was one of those beautiful, nothing can mess this up type of nights. friday night, dinner with friends, spring time in michigan kind of nights.

my wife and i had just enjoyed one of those nights with friends that you wish could happen every night, the kind you leave thinking that if life was like this all the time, you would have the perfect life.

and then it happened. 

“NIGGER”

yeah.

last time i checked it was 2013.

last time i looked i had brown skin and it still didn’t affect anyone else.

we were half a block from our home in beautiful heritage hill in downtown grand rapids, michigan. 

obviously i was stunned. “did you hear what that guy said?” i asked my wife, who luckily had not heard that dirty phrase. he was on his bicycle, and yes he was white. if there is anything i hate, or more like hate with a passion, it’s when people talk about people of other cultures and ethnicities with a derisive attitude. i hate it more than i can express. who am i and who are you to talk down someone different than us? if you think you can answer that with a good answer, i’d love to hear what you have to say. chances are, you are full of… well you know. 

anyway. at that moment i had a choice. i could get mad. i could get angry and chase after the bicycled man and beat him up to teach him a lesson. or i could walk away and pretend everything was okay. you know what i did? i just shook my head. i was sad. it is 2013. i had hoped that that word had been retired in people’s minds. 

you see, it isn’t the word that bothers me. a word is just a word until someone gives it meaning. so that word doesn’t mean anything to me. neither does that guy on his bike. i think what hurt is that he was so callous in how he used it. it was used with intention. it was used to hurt. it was how easily it slipped out of his mouth. it was how he dug deep into his throat and uttered such a disgusting phrase so quickly upon seeing me. 

look. you can call me what you want. you can call me James. that is my name. Gilmore. that is my name. you can call me an african-american. i am one. you can call me black. you can call me brown. you can call me athletic. you can call me educated. you can call me married. you can call me a writer. you can call me a son. a brother. an uncle. a cousin. i am all of these. call me what you want. but really? are we really still calling people names? as a black/brown/african-american/athletic/educated/married/writer/son/brother/uncle/cousin i am just disappointed that we are still in this battle with each other. it’s tiring and sad.

it would be easy for me to say, you don’t know me so why would you say that? why would you use that word so easily? and it’s true. he didn’t know me. i think i would be pretty justified in my anger and any decision of defense that i decided would be appropriate. it’s true. he doesn’t know me. i don’t know him. i don’t know what spurred that guy to think it was okay to say something so ugly. but what would anger do? what does me thinking he is disgusting do? should i hate white people? does that work?

i’ve heard most of my life the unintended racism that people don’t know they live with. “James, you aren’t really black” “James, you are really smart for a black kid.” “James, you must be super athletic, you know, since you are black.” “James how come you can’t jump higher, don’t all black people jump high?” “James, you have an advantage, you are black, you are built to be more athletic than me” “James, don’t take this the wrong way because i am not racist at all but…” which is typically the thing said right before an inappropriate comment is made. most times i ignore it. most times i just shrug it off. but now, especially as a writer, i don’t think that is most appropriate. i won’t get angry about it. i won’t cry about it. but i will talk about it. conversation is the key to healing.

this isn’t the time for us to look the other way. it especially isn’t the time for me to pretend these things don’t happen. i’ve had almost every racial slur that you can think of thrown at me. if you can think it, i’ve been called it. part of me doesn’t care. people are dumb. that’s usually my thought. but now, being married and knowing my wife is affected by it, i have to address it more. and especially knowing we want to have children some day, it is simply not something i can ignore. 

i’m not writing this as a sob story. like i said, you can call me what you want. but what i want, when you see someone different than you, is to think before you speak. take a deep breath. think about that person. think about their story. do they have a wife? do they have a husband? do they have family members who will be hurt by what you say? do they have the same advantages or disadvantages you do? what is their story? how are your words going to make them feel better? why do you want them to be hurt by your words? what is your point?

this world is a painful one these days. it is tough to get through the day without feeling hurt  and sad about something. so why would we want to try to tear someone else down by our own words?

a word is just a word until someone gives it meaning. and believe me, if you use words to another person, they will give it a meaning. so do you want it to be positive or negative?

the freedom of our equality.

June 12, 2013 will mark the 46th anniversary of the supreme court ruling that struck down a ban on interracial marriage.

that means 46 years ago, in some states, i could have been charged with a crime for marrying my wife. actually i wouldn’t have been able to call her my wife because a marriage would have been illegal. i would not have been able to marry her. to love her completely. to live with her. to start a family with her. to share dreams with her. it would have been forbidden.

it was actually a law in many states that a black man could not marry a white woman.

people actually believed it was wrong.

why is that? because the shade of our skin doesn’t match? was it a moral issue? fear? religion? what basis was there?

why would anyone try to stand in the way of my personal business when it comes to who i love, who i want to be with? why would there have been a law permitting only people of the same skin color to marry, to live with each other? why would my marriage affect anyone else?

i cannot fathom living in a time where i could not marry the woman i loved because the law said so. i cannot imagine being told that living with her was unconstitutional.

it’s an outrage isn’t it? hopefully it’s an outrage.

today, i have gay and lesbian friends who are amazing people. they actually eat just like other human beings. they put their pants on the same way i do. one leg at a time. they have friends and relatives and moms and dads. the point is, they are just like the rest of humanity.

i understand that we all have different opinions and views. i actually believe that’s what makes america beautiful. i am proud to live in a nation where we can be free to worship as we please, or to not worship if we don’t want to, to believe as we wish and to be whoever it is that we want to be. we have the opportunity to dream, even if we never reach our goals, we have the ability to imagine them. not everyone in this world has these freedoms, and i refuse to take them lightly.

but here we are with gay marriage on the agenda. and it’s back to determining the laws governing people’s rights. i see gun control owners stampeding to buy more guns to protect themselves. i hear their boisterous cry to never let anyone take away the second amendment, as if that is even on the table. we all want our freedoms as protected by the constitution. i am not a gun owner, and probably never will be. i have vastly different opinions on the use of guns and for their necessity in our society. however, i would never try to change someones mind about gun ownership. some people believe that they are absolutely needed and if that is what you believe, so be it. that’s the beauty of america.

but what is ugly about america is when we try to stampede others. when we attempt to push others down with our beliefs. when we take our individual moral beliefs and use the legal system to back us up. when we say we want less government but cry that we will take our beliefs to the courts. how can this be?  the legal system is in place to protect our freedoms, that was the vision of our forefathers. it is not meant to be set up to take away the rights of our fellow citizens who have not committed a crime.  loving someone of the same-sex is not a crime. we might have differing beliefs as to the morality of it, but that is our individual right. in america we have the freedom to believe whatever it is that we want to believe, but it is not okay to use the government to force others into oppression because of our individual morality. precisely what the separation of church and state was meant to protect was the morality of the people. the right to have our morals and beliefs and ideas and opinions without suffering governmental persecution. the same applies today.

we might agree or disagree with the morality of same-sex marriage, but for us to use our beliefs to alter the rights of others is far from morality. the church may have it’s own opinion and view of what is moral in regards to gay marriage. churches in america have the freedom in this country to decide for themselves what will be permissible for them.  that is the beauty of america.

i am not using this blog to state my personal beliefs one way or another about gay marriage, though i have the right to do so. my goal in this post is to state that our protections that we enjoy, are in place because freedom is what we seek,what we have always sought in america. freedom for women voters, freedom for interracial marriage, freedom from tyranny from oppressive rulers in england that forced their religion upon the people. this is america and the freedom for individuals, where all men are created equal, still stands today.

pay attention.

so i’ve been away from writing for a bit. not because i was underwhelmed with thoughts. that rarely happens.

i’ve been thinking a lot. probably too much.

there has just been so much going on, i haven’t figured out a way to get my brain to slow down enough to let me write some thoughts down. i’ll just call it a writing sabbatical.

since the last time i really wrote anything:

the president has been re-inaugurated and the ugly politics in washington has continued in its usual ugly fashion. the politicians who we elect through our beliefs and morals and consciences and then pay through our own paychecks have continued to thoroughly ignore the same people they took an oath to protect and serve. however, i’m at a point with this where i don’t know who to blame more, the politicians or the people who vote but turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to politics in america. we are the ones who let this sort of chaos rise up when we, in typical american style, pass off the sincere responsibility due to all voting citizens to pay attention, to care, to simply not be apathetic. it is not difficult for us to form an opinion on who the bachelor should give his roses too or what “kimye” should name their baby. yet when our nation faces a crisis, all we can muster seemingly is this dispassionate eye roll and say ‘dumb idiot politicians’ and flip the channel to duck dynasty.

now i can easily get sucked into a sunday evening marathon of ‘keeping up with the kardashians’ as quickly as anyone. that isn’t hard to admit, yet i know that our country functions at its peak when people from both sides of the aisle speak intelligently about their passionate belief systems. i’m not really talking about the gun control debate or whether we should nuke north korea. i will say that while i was raised to not really like guns, i have to hand it to the NRA. somehow they found a way to scare a whole bunch of people into buying a whole lot of guns and memberships to their club in a very short amount of time. it’s actually pretty impressive. but anyway, the point i’m trying to make here is this: pay attention.

for too long i’ve heard this “i don’t care” ideology from too many americans. “as long as it doesn’t affect me!” that’s another gem i hear from among others, good solid christian people. you mean to tell me that it doesn’t matter what happens to the little guy as long as you get yours? interesting theory.

in this country we have let the rich (corporate america) get richer, while the poor (middle-class and lower-class america) get poorer. we have done this by not caring enough about the politicians we elect. we haven’t done our homework. we do this by fighting any reform that allows for the crumbs of our tables to fall to the dogs of the streets. ( as long as i get mine!) sometimes we barely even notice the dogs. i’m not talking about the people who stand outside in the rain shivering while holding a “help me i’m a poor college student” sign while their buddy takes his break in the SUV around the corner drinking starbucks. i’m talking about the single mother who is working double shifts just to buy formula for her baby. the famous line i always hear from compassionate christians is “well she shouldn’t have gotten herself knocked up!”makes me think of the verse where Jesus draws the line in the sand. i’m talking about teachers who are saddled with crowded classrooms and lowered funding because well, “we don’t have the money for it”. i’m talking about the laid-off worker who just had his unemployment cut because, “he needs to stop being so darn lazy!” meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has never been larger. CEOs on wall street are bringing home more money than ever before. for some reason however, instead of finding solutions, all we want to do is blame the other guy.

america was built on a premise that, here we can enjoy freedoms unattainable anywhere else. sure, that does allow for anyone to have the freedom to not care about a single thing. how prosperous will that get us if that becomes the prevailing opinion? our great country, has awarded us the ability to think freely and share openly a discourse not enjoyed in many parts of the world. yet we are more focused on finger-pointing and issuing blame. it’s never our fault. it’s always the other side who doesn’t get it. we teach our children to take responsibility for our actions and then when talking about taxes we nearly break a finger pointing so hard at the other party.

it’s about time now for us to start caring more, but in a way that cultivates a better relationship with those who have differing views. it’s time to actually care. to care about what the other side has to say. it’s time we start working toward a solution one issue at a time. some say that the problems facing america are too big to really care enough because well “we’re screwed anyway”. it’s like that saying: how do you eat a whale? one bite at a time. we won’t solve everything just by simply having an opinion or being more passionate. but it ‘s a start. it’s a way to begin our journey from here to there.

what are we here for?

this past sunday night was an unseasonably warm evening in grand rapids and my wife and i decided to take advantage of it. i mean, it’s december and it’s michigan so if you aren’t taking advantage of near sixty degree weather on a weekend, well… that’s between you and God i guess.

anyway, after enjoying some great pizza (the two of us basically ate the whole thing in one sitting) from this little pizza shop around the corner, we started our short walk back to our home in heritage hill. as a backdrop, you have to understand this neighborhood in grand rapids. like most cities, if you go a mile or two in any direction, the demographics can change mightily. where we live, as the name heritage hill suggests, are a lot of historic homes from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. this region of the city is home to any of the following: homeless people, hippies, “scene kids” (or better… kids who don’t like to shower, “shotgun” cases of pbr at parties where everyone is wearing tight black skinny jeans or plaid shirts that literally haven’t been washed since 1984), businessmen and women and a whole lot of college students.

so now you have a little visual of the setting.

as we walked, a man shouted towards us… “hey guys wait, wait guys!” repeatedly. he was holding up something that turned out to be his wallet but in the darkness of the evening it was hard to tell. my wife and i were both a little unsure of the situation so we continued walking while turning back to see what the man wanted. He told us “i have my id i can show you! here is my id! here is my id!”  trying to prove that he was legitimate. obviously in my skeptical brain, i knew i didn’t want anything to do with the man and told him that i had nothing for him. after i had repeated that i did have any money to give him, which he said he needed for food, he slumped a bit and turned back around and wandered off.

we kept walking and discussed what happened and once we turned the corner, we had changed topics and went on with our evening… except that the encounter stayed with me the rest of the night.

i couldn’t help but wonder what i could have given him. we all have had this type of conversation with someone. probably many times.

what do you do in this situation? what is the proper protocol? are we supposed to do what i did, which was nothing? should i have given him our last slice of pizza and called it good so i could feel good that i was feeding the people on the streets?

i guess i was struck by the thought that even if i had given the man money or food or literally the shirt off my back, it wouldn’t have been good enough. i mean, what are we really looking for in life? sure, there are the physical things: food, water(beer) and staying warm. but is it that we really want? i couldn’t help but think, “i should have just talked to him like a human being, asked him his story.” i’m sure he has a story. we all do. i’m guessing that he would have thought that i was weird at first, but why? probably because most people don’t take the time to ask about him. you know how it is, when you ask someone “how are you?”, you don’t truly want to know how they are. in fact, i bet most people would roll their eyes and keep looking at the time on their phone or take a fake phone call to get out of the “conversation” if the person actually started telling them just how they were.

my overall thought came down to this, what do we really value in life? do we look out for others? do we put the onus on the homeless (“go out and get a job!”, “do something for yourself”, “have some self-respect!”)?  what are we really here for?

it can be easy to make a pledge to feed the hungry, give those who are thirsty something to drink and find them somewhere to stay when it is cold outside. but is that enough? i don’t ask this as a challenge. i’m asking this because i’m not good in this situation. i want to run the other direction most times. i just know that that is not the answer. i just am pretty certain that just going about doing good deeds so that i can pat myself on the back won’t make me care about anyone any more than me turning my back and walking the opposite direction. if all i am concerned about is making sure i feel like i have personally accomplished something for someone else, have i really done anything at all? is that all we are here for?