They Are Us

I have a habit of waking in the middle of the night and tuning into BBC. It’s a way to keep a pulse on what is happening around the world. It was how I learned of the slaughter of Muslim people in prayer by a white supremacist in Christchurch.  It was when I first heard the phrase, “They are us.”

I have followed the reactions and actions of the Prime Minister of New Zealand and of her countrymen. And I have found a glimmer of hope.

“They are us.” That was one of the first pronouncements regarding the massacre. And then came acknowledgements and commitments, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.”

And, “We cannot allow this to happen again.”

The compassion of the leadership is a triumph of the human spirit. It is in stark contrast to the language of division common in United States politics. The efforts of New Zealand’s Prime Minister are like balm on torn flesh.

Human beings are not designed for hatred. It is so abhorrent to the majority of us that when confronted by it, we often become numb and impotent. For some of us fear guides our silence. Fortunately Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not be silenced.

In her words: “Safety means being free from the fear of violence. But it also means being free from the fear of those sentiments of racism and hate that create a place where violence can flourish. “

“And every single one of us has the power to change that.” 

For the sake of “They Are Us” and “We Are One”, let us stand up to hate and say “no more”. Let us find the courage, the clarity and the power to close the door on racism and fear. Let this be our time.

 

As they carry on…One week later the prayers continue.

Disabling Gun Violence

It appears we may be at a tipping point with gun violence in this country. The seventeen lives lost last week in Parkland, Florida may well represent the final blow to a country enamored with violence and guns.

We are not willing to take it anymore.

From organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety to individuals like Emma Gonzales, a Parkland teen, who passionately called out the simplistic excuses of the administration and the NRA as BS – the voices for common sense gun control seem to have finally reached a fevered pitch.

For far too long the voice of the NRA has reigned supreme with millions of dollars being poured into the pockets of politicians. Bought and paid for our leaders have been rendered impotent when it has come to saving the lives of innocents and children. There is blood on the streets and in the hands of everyone who has enabled the violence that we have witnessed.

While the numbers are hot in debate we know that since the beginning of 2018 there have been 7 school shootings during school hours, 5 of which have resulted in deaths. Total numbers of shootings around schools with no injuries or fatalities in the past 7 weeks is 17.

Now people can debate and dissect these numbers in many ways, but I agree with Emma Gonzales as she called out the excuses used to justify lives lost: BS.

The time has come for all of us who understand there can be no more tolerance for lax gun laws. There can be no tolerance for the greed, which has eroded the innocence of our children and has increased the paranoia of communities that should be thriving in trust.

On Friday, April 20th, there will be a student organized #National Walkout. Students will attend school and the walk out will begin at 10am. It will be a peaceful protest. Another Walkout is scheduled for March 14.

nationalwalkout

I think we owe it to our youth to stand by them, to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity as they exercise their civic and moral obligation to one another and to those whose lives have been lost.

Most importantly we must follow their lead and walk with their courage as they announce: “We are students, we are victims, we are change.”

 

You can listen to this piece which aired on WDRT, Thursday, Feb 22.

Challenging Center-Mass Shooting

Jason Pero died on Nov 8, 2017 when an Ashland County deputy’s bullets hit his heart and right shoulder. He was 14 years old.

Jason lived in the tight knit community of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He was learning the traditional ways of his people. He was a drummer. He was in eighth grade. Home sick from school, police reports say he was walking with a knife near his home and that he was the one who had made the 911 call describing himself. The deputy tells us that Jason lunged at him with the knife and that the boy refused to drop the weapon on command.

There were eight minutes from the time of the 911 call until the fatal shooting. Eight minutes. Eight minutes of thoughts running wild. Eight minutes and the training to shoot a suspect at center-mass was executed.

Eight minutes and now an eternity to understand why… The why that we may never know…

But there are some things we can know. No child should be cut down in the street.

We can send people to the moon, we can transplant human organs, but we cannot find a way to stop an assailant with a knife, or perhaps someone who is frightened or mentally distraught, by any other means than a lethal shot to center-mass?

I believe the time has come to end this dogmatic practice by our police forces or to at least begin a healthy dialogue on the possibility of ending it. The life of a 14 year-old boy is over and the life of the 24 year-old deputy will be forever changed. A community is reliving the trauma of centuries of occupation and people are once again blindly defending the actions of authority.

The time to remember our humanity is now. There are solutions that can be enacted but we must have the will to allow them to emerge. We are better than this. Our children deserve more than this.

The storyline will always be second to this fact: Jason Pero is dead. It’s time we care. Let us begin a conversation about the misuse of power, acknowledging that it is detrimental to the abuser as well as to the victim, and above all, let us find a way to quell the fears that too many of us harbor towards one another. Let us rekindle kindness. It’s time.

 

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This”, Thursday, December 14.

The photo is of forget-me-nots.