Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Grandmother-An End of an Era

As I rode the plane back to Omaha a few weeks ago, I  reminisced about the 10 days in Jacksonville. I experienced every emotion during my time there. I cried a little but laughed a lot. It is never a bad thing to be surrounded by family even if under sad circumstances. As my grandmother wanted it, though, it was a celebration of her life. I saw many relatives and friends, some of which I had not seen in over 30 years. It was like we had just seen each other last week. 

I looked through pictures that reminded me of many happy times. It was very surreal staying at my grandmother's house with her no longer there and had to take a deep breath when I left her house for the last time. I'm glad that I got to spend time with family, especially my father.  It was hard leaving him even though I talk to him on a regular basis from home, it's not the same as being there. 

It goes without saying that loss is a bitter reminder of how important it is to cherish the times we have with each other. As Tim McGraw said it best in his song, "Live Life as if You're Dying," we should all take advantage of the moments. 

As much as I do and always will love Jacksonville, I was ready to get home. Life goes on. Grandma would not stand for any of us dwelling on and being sad that she's gone. She is finally where she wanted to be. I'll miss our Friday talks but I know she is finally home. Now we must continue to live up to up to the legacy she left behind. I love you "Grand-ma-ma."  I won't let you down. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Broad Brush

Why does society require us to choose?  Are we not allowed to support elements of presumably opposing views instead of being compelled to take the "all or nothing" route?  In the aftermath of the past weeks events, I am reminded how easily events can become politicized.  It is very easy for us to allow emotion to dictate our words and actions.  It is difficult for us to back down from a stance, even when we later learn that our stance was ill-advised or based on erroneous information or personal agenda.

Taking a "broad brush" approach to life can easily back one into a corner.  One difficult responsibility that each of us has is to have the willingness to admit fault in both thought and action. Another responsibility is the ability to forgive....truly forgive.  

While I am a history teacher, I continue to be a student of history, constantly searching for the truth in how we got to be where we are.  I used to say that I hated history when I was growing up.  I now know that it wasn't that I hated history.  I didn't have as much of an appreciation for it as I should have.  A lot of that had to do with what was presented to me.  Once I learned that I had to work to find the truth instead of settling on what was given to me, the appreciation for history began to flow.  Now where am I going with this?  My view of the history behind #Black Lives Matter and #Blue Lives Matter.  I have the distinction of being affected by both sides (By the way, there should NOT be two sides but I will get to that later).

I was fortunate to be born during the time that the modern civil rights movement was gaining ground.  I say modern day because civil rights has been a continuous battle for centuries.  I'm old enough to remember the conversations my parents and grandparents had about where we could go and where we couldn't go.  I remember being treated differently in school and not understanding why (I went to predominantly white schools from kindergarten through 12th grade).  I remember my parents constantly pushing us to be aware and proud of our ethnic background, but to never allow it to disable us.  We were not allowed to use mistreatment as an excuse to give up.  

Our country has a long history of establishing laws to control, degrade, segregate, and punish minorities.  Some of which I was unaware of until I got to college.  This information was not available in many textbooks.  Why is this relevant?  Because there is a long historical relationship between law enforcement and minority groups that many were unaware of or reluctant to acknowledge because they were unaffected.  We have, fortunately, evolved to a point where mistreatment is the exception and not the rule.  The rule, however, is pushed to its limits and the response is a push back from the mistreated.  

This is where I try to explain my understanding of the broad brush.  Groups always join ranks to support each other.  Within reason, there is nothing wrong with that.  It is and should be expected. It is called support.   Any one who tells you that a thin blue line does not exist, is misinformed.  Anyone who tells you that similar lines do not exist in other groups, whether it be ethnic, social, or political,  are just as misinformed.  

During my career in law enforcement, both military and civilian, there was never a time that I didn't support my profession, even though there were individuals in my profession that I could not support based on their individual actions.  I am Roman Catholic.  I fully support my church and have faith in my Christianity even though there are secular aspects of the church that I do not agree with.  I am a proud black man and love the richness of my heritage and I embrace the history to include the struggle that has allowed me to live the way I do, but I do not support everything that a black person does just because they are black (example? OJ, Bill Cosby).  Above all, I am a proud American.  Do I agree with everything that my country has done in its history?  No.  Do I hold it against people who are not directly responsible?  No.  Do I support the right to protest?  Yes.  Do I support ANYONE that burns my flag as a sign of protest?  HELL NO!! And I would have the distinct desire to stomp a mudhole in anyone who did.  I try on a daily basis to no live my life in a broad brush.  

The broad brush has been enhanced by today's media because everything we receive is so immediate.  Many people do not allow themselves to pause and think and process.  They have their beliefs.  They look for any information that will substantiate their beliefs, even if the information is wrong.  Why, because it is important to get the response out.  Sometimes, when we rush to put out the response, the shot, the dig, we label ourselves, one way or another.

Those of us in public service should always keep this in mind.  In this day and age when freedom of speech is being pushed to the limits, some have found, oh too well, that we do not have the luxury of always speaking our minds, especially in a public forum like Facebook or Twitter, especially when we choose to paint the broad brush.  It is amazing to me that as I troll, creep, or whatever verb one chooses to use, through social media, Freedom is not free.  Every individual has the right to say what they choose.  That does not mean it does not come without detrimental consequences.  It is important to know your audience.  Social media has taught me that everyone has a different version of what they believe is important, right, and just.  As public servants, we must realize that our personal opinions should sometimes be just those.....personal.  When we share them with the public, our employers may have a problem with them.  If those opinions, just like our actions, show detriment or discredit to our profession, get ready for your employer to close ranks with you on the outside.  That is when one finds out that people may support you but they won't go down with you.  Ask yourself this question, is your job worth the reckless or at the very least, careless use of your freedom of speech?

We all have a responsibility to try to understand the opposing side of our opinion.  It may not change our opinion, but at least we are informed.  Most of our population does not understand the law enforcement experience...what goes on day to day.  Much of our population does not understand the black experience...what goes on day to day.  Neither experience is standard.  There are many moving parts and within both experiences, there are significant differences in each.  

I have never been harassed or mistreated (knock wood) by law enforcement, but I have personally experienced racial profiling.  In 1981, I was in the driver's seat of my parents new Audi 5000.  I was 16 years old and very excited about my parents even allowing me to drive.  My mother was in the passenger seat.  We were in a grocery store parking lot while my father went to buy something in the store.  While he was gone, a police officer approached the car and asked for my driver's license.  I was confused but I complied.  My mother was less than happy and her "mama bear" took over and asked what the problem was.  The officer, who happened to be white, stated I resembled the description of a robbery suspect that they were looking for in the area. Fortunately for me, my father, who is a retired cop, came out of the store as this was unfolding.  He recognized my father and all was forgotten.  I later found out that the robbery suspect was 35 years old.  Now, I was left with questioning the true reason of the officer's contact.  Did I really resemble a 35 year old at age 16?  Did the vehicle match a suspect vehicle description?  Was the officer curious as to why someone my age (and or race) was in an expensive car?  Did he not notice the FOP marker on the license plate or did my appearance cause tunnel vision on his part?  Would the experience have been different if my father had not been there?  One will never know.  Fortunately for me, that was the extent of it.  That being said, I did not paint the entire police department with a broad brush of inferred racism in the department even though there were publicly known allegations within the department.  I never dismissed the incident but I didn't allow it to define me.  Some have had more harrowing experiences.  In the days prior to videotape and camera phones, it was very difficult to prove allegations.  Does that mean they did not exist?  

Early on in life, I lived in a neighborhood where friends that I spent a lot of time playing outside with would go on to engage in criminal activity.  Does that mean that I was destined to be involved because of who I hung out with?  Needless to say, that didn't happen.  Could I have been painted with that broad brush because of where I lived?  Of course.  The black experience is not limited to contact with law enforcement or dealing with crime.  Not all blacks believe that every white person is racist even though at some point and time, we have all had an encounter with one who is.  I also believe that racism is not exclusive to whites.  There are those who say there is no such thing as a black racist.  I disagree.  If one views and has an opinion of another and that view/opinion is based solely on their ethnic background, that is racism, no matter how you slice it.  I know many blacks who view others in this manner. 

The black experience is much more than that just like the law enforcement experience is much more than making arrests.  Some may agree, and others may not, but it emphasizes my belief that we must not allow ourselves to be backed into the broad brush corner.  That being said, I end this very long blog entry with a quote from Jon Stewart:

"You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach.  They two ideas are not mutually exclusive.  You can have great law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards."

It is possible for one to support Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.  Support one should not mean you are against the other.  You can disagree with aspects of either side as well but still support the movement.  The ones who discourage or discredit this through thought, action, and deed by insisting you have to choose a side are the ones who inhibit the change the continues to be necessary for our country to move forward.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wake Up People!!

It seems that with each passing moment, we lose more of ourselves as a human race. It is sad when people lose the battle in fighting for their lives, i.e. cancer, but it is always senseless and horrific when people have their lives taken from them. In light of recent events, I have been asked many times, given my perspective being black and being a former cop, what side of the issue I am on. Simple answer to a misguided question. I am on the SIDE OF GOOD, wherever it is. 

I will always have the backs of my former  law enforcement colleagues, as long as they do the right thing. I go to sleep every night very thankful for them working those very familiar hours that I remember so well. 

There are a lot of misguided people in our society. Unfortunately every institution, law enforcement included, is a cross section of our society. So yes, there are misguided people in all walks of life. 

That being said, those of you that believe that the senseless murder of these officers is a justifiable payback for previous injustices, SHAME ON YOU. The killing of an unarmed individual, REGARDLESS OF RACE, is not necessarily justified just because the grand jury didn't bring an indictment. That doesn't mean people are justified in retaliating, looting, etc. 

Just because an officer of one race arrests, subdues, or shoots a subject of another race, doesn't necessarily make it a racial issue. The racism stems from the reactions of both sides of the issue after the fact. I don't agree with "I Can't Breathe" or "Breathe Easy, Don't Break the Law" but I do understand. 

I will never second guess what another officer's mindset was at the time he or she had to pull the trigger or take some type of action. That is a millisecond decision that many people never put in that position will try to Monday Morning Quarterback. 

There will always be people who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. That is why law enforcement will always have more than their share to handle.  That's why we trained the way we did and standardized as much as we could.
The events of the past few months have brought out the worst in some people. Social media has caused people to lose all sense of restraint and sometimes, and although we have the desire to know, we don't need to know everyone's innermost feelings, thoughts and opinions. Some things are better left unsaid. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Come On People

Saluting with a coffee cup. Saluting with a dog. 
Needing saluting lessons. 
Not saluting at all. 
4 different Presidents, 4 different miscues. Trivia: can you name all 4 POTUS?

As a veteran, sure I noticed, the salute issues of three of the above and as a history buff, I knew about the 4th. Was I disappointed in recent events? Yes. Was I insulted?
It would take more than that. 

If we are are fortunate to live long enough, we will see future POTUS create bigger fodder for the media. 
That being said, I am extremely ASHAMED in those that continue to carelessly use their 1st amendment right to spew unnecessary insult that has a non-political undertone which is becoming more and more obvious each day. I am so tired of people who claim to be religious but publicly state and infer things that are contrary. 

Feel what you feel. Hate whom you wish to hate. State it freely if you wish, but we all have to live in harmony. If some you wish your children to spew the same things that you do, I feel sorry for you. 

Nevertheless, God bless us all and God bless the United States of America. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just Sayin'

Generally, Sundays are meant for celebration, reflection, football, and catching up on Facebook posts (LOL).  It has been a long time since I posted in my blog but I figured it was time for a post.
Every once in a while I read something that catches my eye.  While I am still bound and determined not to discuss my personal political views, I do my best to respect those views of others even when the views turn to insults.  I guess that is why I am an independent.  Some would say that is because I can’t make up my mind.  I believe that it is because I’ve never believed that I should vote for someone just because of the party they are in (My mother may be shooting daggers at me from the heavens right now). 
Let’s face it folks, both the red and blue sides both have their share of idiots and people still vote for them simply because of the party they are in.  I must say, that in all the years of my voting life, I have never seen such a seething hate in people as I have regarding this upcoming election.  Many people have ideas about what to do and where this country should go.  If there is anything good that can come from what I have witnessed from the local to the national levels, is that an election year gets people talking.  The campaigning, however, brings out the worst in people, similar to reality TV shows.  I realize that there will always be the argument about people voicing their opinions.  It has been interesting to quietly view the opinions of my fellow Facebook friends who have voiced their opinions, comments, compliments, and insults. 
After this election, regardless of how it turns out, half of the country will be disappointed, and in some cases, bitter.  That being said, it is important for all of us to remember what is important, who is responsible for the condition of our country, when did the problems start, and what has TRULY been done by all of those in power to do something about it.  Are the people in power willing to help the person in charge or are they just working to do what they can to get (or keep) their choice in the White House.
I’m not about party.  I’m about what is right and best for this nation overall.  That is not always an easy thought to process.  .  This author of the post below is a supporter of our President.  The post in no way signifies which side of the aisle I lean towards.  I just thought it was one of the most interesting posts that I have read.

Let us not forget the "REAL" Statistics.  Romney says that "Obama has a record."  He's right.  Let's take a look: 

1. The Recession:  Obama, utilizing the policies started by the Bush Administration to try and reverse the recession and prevent a depression, has been successful.  Or should we have followed Hoover's plan....again?

2. The Debt: In the 1980's Reagan ran up massive deficits -- equal in today's dollars to the Obama deficits. It pulled us out of what was then the worst recession (remember the 'stagflation' of the 1970's) since the Great Depression. Obama is following that game plan, which has been a proven winner at least three times since the Depression: The New Deal, WWII and the Carter/Regan Recession. A better measure is what percentage of GDP is our debt? Nowhere near the record (WWII).

3. Health Care: We call ourselves the Greatest Nation in the world. A superpower. A moral, Godly nation (I get that thrown at me all the time). Well, where is the moral high ground in allowing 47 million people to go without health insurance? Obama passed a REPUBLICAN idea, implemented by a REPUBLICAN administration in Mass -- that the REPUBLICANS now want to dismantle? Why? Because it wasn't their idea?

4. Social Issues (Gay Marriage, Abortion, et. al). Simply stated: No matter what a person's beliefs are, in a FREE nation (or does the Bill of Rights only matter when it's your idea) the GOV'T had better have a damn compelling reason to interject itself into any person's life. Or do the 4th and 14th amendments only apply when we are comfortable with the behavior? The church will always have the ability to deny gays marriage within the church. To preach against abortion. The Gov't however is SEPARATE from the church -- or do Godly people forget that this country was built on SEPARATION of church and state? WE CAN'T force our religious opinions on those who do not share them.

Would our economy be stronger, faster, under a Romney / Ryan presidency? Probably. Freed from the shackles of gov't regulation designed to provide a level playing field that allows protections for small business, middle class people, and the poor -- corporations will make trillions. If you want that ... but have no rights when fired, denied health care, or even the escape hatch of bankruptcy (no Bankruptcy provision in the US Constitution -- and we've gone years in the past with no bankruptcy provision -- we did have debtor's prison though), then go ahead and cast your vote for Romney.

Want to repeal the 13th Amendment? Vote Romney. Want your wife and daughter to lose the vote, control over their bodies, and become chattle (property) again? Vote Romney. They represent the interests of absolute capitalism, absolute greed, no restraints class warfare, and imposition of a moral code that is as strict as anything Islam has to offer.

If you can take a slower economic recovery, enough gov't regulation to provide a stable jobs market for myself and your peers, and retention of protections under the new health care law (sorely overdue, and an issue for nearly 100 years now), as well as retention of constitutional protections and judicial protections of many of the social issues we've already seen ... then you can, even as a Godly person, only vote for Obama in this election cycle.

I welcome responses, but I will state to anyone who chooses to respond.  I state this to my high school students:  Have an opinion.  That is your right.  But also have a point, be respectful, be truthful, and above all, do your homework.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later

As I think about that very sad Tuesday morning of 10 years ago, the wave of memories came flooding back to me this morning.  This is a very emotional day for me but I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by those who lost friends, family, loved ones, children, parents, husbands, wives, etc.  I remember how frightened I was when I realized this tragedy was a terrorist attack.  I was more frightened when I learned that there were planes that flew out of Boston.  My brother travels quite a bit.  I joke that he has accumulated so many frequent flyer miles that it will take several lifetimes to use them all.  He is from Boston and flies out of Logan International.  I had a hollow feeling, wondering if he was flying that day.  I finally got through to my sister-in-law who stated that he was not flying that day and I remember how grateful and relieved that I was that my brother was ok.

I was working as a police officer that day and after learning about the first plane, I returned to my police department to see the news broadcast of the tower being hit.  About 5-7 of my fellow officers were watching the broadcast when we saw the second plane hit.  I remember how hard it was to work while wrapping my brain around what had just happened.  As the day went on and we learned that the FAA was stopping all air traffic and landing every plane in the country, it was the first time I realized just how many planes fly at one time.  I also remember how eerily quiet the skies were.

All I wanted to do was to be close to my family.

As we take a moment to remember, think about what we lost as a country, but also remember what we have gained.  Despite our differences, whether, political or idealogical, we, as a country, are still standing, still strong, and still here.

Take a moment, today, to remember those lost, but to also hold those you love.  Life is fleeting.  Take time to smell the roses and enjoy the company of those you love.

September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2011