The Value of Everyone: Notes to everybody who feels some kind of way

To whoever has chosen to read this: PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING. Do not read part of it and get angry thinking that I am taking one side or another. I ask that you please remember the title of my blog, Common Subjects, Uncommon View. This story isn’t new, but my view might be.

 

Last night was full of tears. This morning was filled with even more. To be honest I did not go to bed until nearly 4 o’clock because I just couldn’t sleep. I was trying to comprehend the situation and look at it through the eyes of Jesus. When I did that I began to realize something. We have a situation in which two sides seem to be pitted against one another. On one hand there are those who feel oppressed and unheard, dying to be recognized by those who do not face the same circumstances. But those who do not face the same circumstances are not necessarily their oppressors. They are simply not oppressed and trying to maintain what they see as the status quo. But that status quo is changing, but not many people can see that. See the voices of the oppressed seek to be heard so that there may be peace and love. The voices of those not oppressed also seek to be heard as they seek peace. What has happened, instead of listening to each other and trying to find peace together, is our society has created an “us against them” mentality that continues to breed violence, hatred, and mistrust. The sooner we get to the same side the better. The goal should not be to end the killing of suspects or to keep every cop alive, those goals are one sided. The goal should to be to have a system that delivers justice while protecting both civilians and officers. This is the kind of goal that can unite everyone. It is a goal that says I don’t want peace just for those with whom I can identify; I want peace and safety for everyone, even those with whom I cannot identify or understand.

 

This morning on the news there was a video released showing a cop as he was gunned down on the sidewalk last night. That video shocked me and brought me to tears. I saw officers running towards the sound of gunfire protecting innocents and rushing to save colleagues. I an officer go from standing to down on his knees crying at the news of another officer dying. The tears flowed. But you know what else made tears flow? The videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. If I’m honest I can’t watch any of those videos more than once. That’s death y’all. That’s the real deal. No movie make up or special effects. Families are being broken. And who are we to judge whether they deserved to be shot? Are we God? Heck we aren’t even on a jury. People are losing blood and their lives, and that should mean something. Yet we have found ways to make them mean nothing.

 

To the families of those who have lost loved ones to police actions, I grieve for you and am sorry for your loss. Circumstances of a death rarely make it less tragic but can often magnify the pain. Hopefully I will never have to send my son or daughter out into the world and wonder if they will be shot over a misperception.  My prayers are with you, and I want to help. Know that their life means something. Change will not happen fast. For that I am also sorry. But I pray that it happens soon. Tomorrow will be another day filled with the same dangers, but I pray that it might be a little safer and you are a little stronger.

 

To the families of the police officers across the nation, thank you for your sacrifice. I cannot imagine the anxiety of watching a spouse or parent walk out of the house on a daily basis knowing that they might not come home. And to those who have lost a family member or friend in the line of duty, I cannot imagine the strength you must need to answer that phone or watch the officers walk to your door to deliver the news. My prayers are with you and I want to help. Know that their life means something. In the coming days those of you who still have loved ones serving will have even more pain and anxiety. They are targeted, wanted individuals, simply for wearing the badge, yet they do not back down. They are heroes.

 

To the law enforcement community, thank you for what you do. I know that the vast majority of you would lay down your life for me or the other 321 million people in the US. Most of you are not out to play God or execute a personal agenda. So thank you. Special thanks to the Dallas and Federal officers that rushed to the scene where their comrades had been shot and risked their lives to protect total strangers. There may be bad cops out there but I didn’t see any tonight (last night). Each and everyone one of you deserves a massive hug from everyone, not only to commend your bravery, but to console you on the loss of your friends. It is (was) a night full of tragedy but your actions to protect and serve were massive lights in the darkness. That being said every profession has some bad apples, and I ask you good apples to help root out the others. With as seriously as most of you take your jobs I’m sure this won’t be hard.

 

To the men who died last night, though you will never read this, thank you for your service and sacrifice.

 

To those who survived their wounds, get well soon.

 

To those who feel oppressed by the system, fear police, and/or have lost a loved one to police action, I am sorry that I cannot fully comprehend your position and neither can millions of others. We do not know what it is like to live your life. Though we may try we simply don’t know. That being said I want you to know that your voice matters, and there are people out here who want to listen to you. They want to help. But by that same token, many have been driven away by your rhetoric and actions. Protesting is fine. But shutting down highways, having chants based on lies (hands up, don’t shoot), and demanding dead cops is not. There are police and politicians who see the same injustice that you do and they want to help. But when you verbally or physically attack those who you are asking to change, things won’t go well. Think about this. Jesus was the most perfect unarmed man to be killed by law enforcement. Yet he did not resist nor did He slander the men killing Him. He knew that change would come and that His kingdom of love would reign. In the meantime, he simply showed love and grace as He asked God the Father to forgive his killers (Luke 23:34). He fought violence with nonviolence.

 

To those who do not know what it is like to be oppressed or fear police, please try to understand the fears of others. If you are like me, you have had very few run ins with police, the ones that you have had have been pleasant and respect was a two way street. With interactions like that it is easy to back the blue, and your voice in saying that matters. At the same time, try to understand someone who does not see police the way you do. Even if you can’t, at least acknowledge that their fear is legitimate and that they don’t need facts to rationalize their fear. Fear is not always rational but it almost always based on some truth. Whether it comes from a bad experience or a simple fear of the unknown, fear cannot always be explain with facts and numbers. Do we ask children to explain why they are afraid of the dark? When their answer is not acceptable because monsters don’t live in closets, do we turn the light off and close the door saying there’s nothing to be afraid of? Absolutely not. We walk around the room, open the closet, check under the bed, and then leave a night light to comfort the child. We show them that we care and are willing to do extra so that they feel safe. So it is then our job to listen to the oppressed and do the same for them. We must do our best to try and comprehend what we are being told. But from there it is not enough to simply agree. Martin Luther King Jr. made a statement that parallels Jesus’ comments in Revelation 3:15-16, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” If we find that monster there needs to be action.

 

That being said, if you feel oppressed and someone has done this for you by checking the facts, enacting changes, and studies show things are getting better, don’t hold on to the past. You can look how far we’ve come and continue to push for even better practices. What you cannot do is continue to harp on the past that many people played no part in. Yes the system was there, but if the system is changing why are you stuck in the past?

 

To everyone, it is time that we end this war. We need to stop labeling the people that we disagree with as “misguided and racist,” because when we do, we only “[widen] the racial divide and [block] the path to understanding” (Obama speech Mar. 2008). All of us have our own valid opinions that carry the same weight as everyone else’s. So instead of quarreling, let us remove the wool from our eyes and realize that we cannot deem societal changes to be mutually exclusive. Just because someone supports an activist group concerned with the killing of unarmed black men, does not mean that they cannot also support police officers. In fact, as Christians we are called to love and support both. Personally, I do not want to see a young black man die any more than I want to see a white cop die. Yet society has begun to tell me that I need to choose, and that I must value one life more than the other because they both cannot hold value simultaneously. That’s a load of bull.

 

I don’t care who you are, your life always means something. It should mean something to me and to everyone else on the earth, because, more importantly, it means something to God above. We are all created in his image (Genesis 1:27). So when we fail to see the tragedy of the death of someone who doesn’t look like us then we are spitting in the face of God. We are effectively telling Him that we do not think He did a good enough job when he created that person. We are saying that their life was a waste and should simply be forgotten about. Is that what we want to say? Do we want to elevate ourselves to such a high pedestal that we are telling God that He can do better? The most unfortunate thing is that this happens from both sides. It is time to stop. It is time to value life as a gift from above and work towards a solution that keeps everyone safe.

 

It is not enough to only want safety and protection for those who we think deserve it. That is attitude of someone with too much pride and not enough love and grace. How do we determine who is worthy of what? Are we claiming to be better than others and thus worthy to judge their worth based on actions or deeds? Heavens no. “For all have sinned and fallen sort of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That means we are all equal sinners in need of a savior. We need the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus and we need to share it with others. So let us “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). When we lay down our pride and submit to God and to one another we allow God to work through us and enact that change that sees everyone safe and protected.

 

Last night and today, all I wanted to do was to write, to draft, to find a way to tell the people of this nation that they are loved, and also that they are important. But that time is over and I believe that now there is much more to do. There is more to this than to tell someone that you love them. Love is an action and not a feeling. It is not enough to offer condolences over the airwaves or pray in the comfort of our own homes. There are people in this nation who do not feel safe, and there are others whose professions are under attack. Both groups need our help and helping one does not mean you are alienating the other or telling them that they are valued less. Instead of choosing sides, let us follow what Paul told the church in Galatia and, “Bear on another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Go march with someone who is grieving and cook dinner for someone who lost a spouse in the line of duty. Don’t do just one. Do both. No matter what your opinion is the facts remain the same. People are dying. People are grieving. People need the love of Christ and it is our job to bring it to them.

 

This is no longer a time for words. It is a time for action. The Sunday school answer about loving our neighbor is no longer acceptable. This world needs Christians and it needs us now. In this specific instance both sides of the issue need us to be involved in getting everyone on the same side so there no longer is a divide. It is not enough to have two sides come to an agreement but still stand on opposite sides. There need to be cops marching in protests and activists serving donuts. Some lady that marched last night was on the news today and talked about how she will be going to the funeral of the officers killed. She wants to show her kids that there are not two sides of society. We all must live, work, and exist together. We do not have to be the same or agree on everything, but we must love one another. Just because someone wants accountability for police actions does not mean that they hate cops. Just because someone backs the blue does not mean that they think black lives don’t matter. There needs to be an end to violence. There needs to be an end to “us against them.” There needs to be a world filled with Christians not just praying, but acting and showing God’s love to everyone in this world because everyone matters and no one’s death should mean nothing.

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Mid-Week Political Thoughts: Historical happenings with future implications

In the midst of the sadness and hostility brought about by the shooting in the Orlando Nightclub this past weekend I have seen things on social media and in the news that concern me. Now I’m not talking safety or our ability to love those who harm us, though those are important issues. For me, it is shocking how many people from my generation specifically who form opinions about terrorists, presidents (or presumptive nominees), terrorist groups, and our actions as a nation across the world without researching facts and knowing history. Too often we rely on what our parents say, our limited knowledge of history, or simply what the media says about the past instead of searching for the facts. Here is the sad reality. What seemed like a good idea a generation or two ago can really come back to bite us. The only problem is that many people can fail to look that far in the past because many voters today weren’t alive then, and because they see an easy scapegoat in the present or recent past. Millennials are currently the largest voting age demographic in the states, and this next election is huge. But are we informed enough about what happened in the Persian Gulf region before we were born to not repeat history, and to stop trying to find a single person to blame for everything?

 

Now I do not want to spend time talking about the Orlando shooter, but he is really the spark that got this whole thing going. He got Donald Trump to call out President Obama and vice-versa. The funny thing is they used the social media equivalent of a subtweet to do so. Of course this little spat has caused many of the people that I am friends with on Facebook and follow on Twitter to share videos and links that bash one side and praise the other. Now I am not saying that they are not entitled to their own opinion, that their views are wrong, or that they themselves are uninformed, that would be very arrogant of me. However, with the types of videos that are shared, I do wonder how much my generation, the millennials, knows about how long the US has been countering terrorism, how it started, and who we can really blame for everything.

 

NOTE: I don’t love blaming people but my generation seems to. I just want to learn the facts for myself and then get them out so people can make informed decisions. I studied politics and political history in college, and I know that I don’t know a lot so I imagine that others are struggling as well.

 

To get to where we are today, it is best to start at the end of World War II. Starting with the Truman Doctrine, every president until Reagan had some sort of doctrine in relation to foreign policy, and they all had one thing in common. They aimed to stop the spread of communism across the world. This caused what came to be known as the cold war. From The Soviet Union to Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Turkey, Greece, and even down in Central America with Nicaragua, American presidents vowed to contain and then rollback communism. Though all these countries had their own parts to play in history, to me none of those have had an impact on recent times than one other area: the Persian Gulf region and Afghanistan.

 

I think that it is ironic that so many people today are against the wars in the Persian Gulf region and are all set to blame George W. Bush for what started as a so called war on oil. They are so mad at him for that and other things that his Presidential Approval Rating according to the Gallop poll has steadily dropped to lower than 30% when he left office. While he never admitted it was a war on oil, people drew that conclusion and have blasted him for it. Yet in 1980 when Jimmy Carter announced in his doctrine in his state of the union address that he was essentially making it an act of war to get between the US and its oil interest in the Persian Gulf, his approval rating topped out near 60%, which is pretty high for a president in office. He explicitly told the American people that he was using their taxes and military personal to protect oil, and they seemed okay with that. So what’s changed? Why did Bush get slammed and Carter praised? I’m not here to give the answer I’m here to get you thinking. Oh and one more ironic thing, Carter is a democrat and Bush a republican yet they both still wanted that oil.

 

Let us continue on to terrorism and a president who most conservatives love and many have high praises for: Ronald Reagan. Now don’t get me wrong he was a solid president. In fact he has perhaps the highest approval rating upon exiting the oval office, just over 60%, though approval ratings don’t necessarily mean they were a great president. It just means people think that they were. Anyhow, that number is from 1989, and things have changed since then. See Reagan took Carter’s Doctrine, and continued it. In fact they expanded it to be a global doctrine intent on stopping both communism and terrorism. While this had worldwide implications both in Africa and Central America, I want to look today at Afghanistan. See the Soviets were pressing hard there to expand communism’s grip on the world but the US fought back. We defended that nation and the communists and terrorists that attacked it. Eventually the Soviets left and people were happy. But what kind of precedent did that set for the future? Did Afghans really want us in their country doing their work for them just so we could stabilize the region by stopping communism and thus keep our oil supply?

 

See the doctrines of Reagan, Truman, Carter, and others after WWII set a tone for the US as a world power. It showed that we would step in to defend what we thought was right and fight back when we were attacked both domestically and abroad, no matter where in the world an issue arose. But what started as a goal to stop communism and have America be a peace keeper (see the Nixon Doctrine and the nuclear umbrella), has been perverted into the idea that is personified in the saying “’MERICA **** YEAH!” We want to bring back the old America that kicked tail and just went and did whatever we wanted. Well the truth is that we haven’t just gone where we wanted; we’ve gone where we felt we were needed, and some say it backfired.

 

How did it backfire? Well you remember Osama Bin Ladin, the man who is often paraded around as the US’s trophy from the “war on terror”. Turns out he could have possibly been a part of some Muslim coalitions that supported and drew support from the Afghanistan Mujahideens that the Reagan administration funded either directly or indirectly. Whoops. Don’t worry Reagan lovers, he’s not the only president to have funded militias or other local armies to later have them turn around and have a problem with the US. That is what is currently happening in Syria. As forces sprung up to counter governments, other forces arose and the US aided some forces while countering others even though US allies wouldn’t help, and then some forces turned on the US. Basically it’s a big mess a long time in the making.

 

In fact, ever since WWII ended, it has become harder and harder to tell the bad guys from the good guys. After all, everyone thinks that they are the good guys right? It all depends who you ask and when you ask them. Even still, the people we see as the good guys today might turn around and launch attacks on us a decade from now. That might seem like a long time but in reality that is only a couple presidents away.

 

That makes this election huge! Fellow millennials, we will play a huge role in this upcoming election, and I hope that you will all get out and vote to make a difference. But I want you to be careful. We live in an age where an infinite amount of information is readily available at our fingertips. You could research everything you want about any president ever and form an opinion about them. So go do it! Don’t fall into the trap of listening to the media, your friends, or even your parents when it comes to voting. I know that last one sounds funny but your parents have their strong convictions too. Just like you don’t have to like the same music they do, you don’t have to like the same policies and politicians that they do. Things change. Your parents could be wrong, and like you they can have their own opinions. You are an adult now. Go get yourself informed about the past so you can influence the future.

 

NOTE: I touched on a lot of topics in this blog very briefly. That means that I left out details and didn’t expound on the ones I dd mention. Why? Because you could write a dissertation about any of the topics I covered. I encourage every reader to just Google anything I talked about. Search news websites, scholar databases, or heck go get a book, just go find reliable sources and learn as much as you can. These issues are infinitely complex and I don’t have the time to write in detail here, and I doubt anyone wants to read a 10,000 word blog post.