Friday, August 23, 2019

Words matter!

I have memories from childhood where my mom would go over the old adage, ‘sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you.’ She would remind me that words do matter and ultimately can do real harm, like a broken bone or even worse. I know that today there are too many that live in isolation without any friends where a mean word will push them to hurt themselves or even take their own life. Yet, the world around me, regardless of political or religious ideology, continues to allow hatred rhetoric to become the norm. Those that attempt to speak understanding and kindness are pushed aside as being naive and foolish about life.  

I would hope that I could have an intelligent, civil and beneficial conversation with anyone without having me getting upset or someone go off on me! I have been trained between college, grad school and more so life lessons that I should  choose my words wisely. Otherwise, I can either be perceived as being demeaning or patronizing a hopeful friend. Why is it the case today that too many, myself included, are more interested in our response to someone instead of actually being open to learn something new, different or even challenge my personal world view or maybe bursting my secure ‘bubble’? 

I should never be surprised to see a variety of responses to what I perceive as a good  post that should be beneficial to all, from my perspective, but not everyone else. I know that we live in a minefield of both political, social, educational and religious constructs. Too often I catch myself often trying to tread carefully the land-minds of race, religion and politics. I have been warned often by my wife to not go there with a relative, friend or new acquaintance. Why does it matter if  I push someone’s button about the world, our societal crisis, potential impending financial collapse or whether preseason games with the Cardinals matter? So what that the Raiders pummeled our hometown team. (Unless you’re the new head coach and number #1 Draft pick!) The proverb about iron sharpening iron has much merit! Yet, the truth is that seldom those of different world views are able to hear the other person, sadly. 

 I know that the words I choose deliberately might impact the people around me. Clearly being respectful, showing kindness and giving attention to those in authority matter. As I carouse through pictures from the Woodstock Day it reminds me of how in the past, I would be so quick to never trust anyone older than me, that didn’t have hip clothes or long hair. I can remember as a young Boy Scout, soon to be Eagle Scout, being railed on by my Scout Master for my late night rant of profanity. Yet, my wife and I at times chuckle at the shallowness of those we know that can’t express themselves without the ‘F bomb’ or GD term. Obvious question is why choose this path for self-expression? 

So, as I think of my grandsons being raised in this crazy world around them, I see two clear paths that their parents and other parents can pursue. Either they will be totally sheltered and live in a very protective bubble or be life-long learners who are equipped to assess, evaluate and learn from the circumstances around them and hopefully become influencers and game changers. Is it possible to allow your kids to grow up in a vacuum where you assume, they don’t need your advice or direction in life? Relativism at times, does seem to be the path of most until something evil happens to them and then are quick to cry out a moral foul. 

Words do matter and will make the difference between having a mediocre life, where you have the ‘whatever’ attitude or become a person who truly desires to grow and make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you. It saddens me, angers me, to see the platforms of social media be used to spread hatred and a divisive- destructive spirit. One of the great lessons my mom taught was to always strive to see the good in everyone and not always assume the worse. 

This doesn’t mean that you ignore blatant evil but learn to always attempt to seek the path of justice, mercy and understanding as best as possible. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

The new normal? NO!!

As I listened to a local talk show, Bruce & Pamela @ktar, I was taken back at this mom sharing her anxiety attack as she went shopping at a Walmart in Gilbert, Arizona. How is it possible that an educated individual, local well know personality and incredible mom could have real fears about shopping at a local big box store? I know that the week before this wouldn’t have happened. Yet, to be honest, whenever there is a shooting in my neighborhood or drive-by it does catch my attention and leaves me totally unnerved. This mom actually was shaking as she shared her story on the air because of the aftermath of the tragedy in El Paso, Texas. 

What is it that causes someone to do the unthinkable? What causes someone to go from a quiet reserved individual who attends church, a synagogue or mosque to become a murderer in some circumstances? Why is it the case that our incredible county has the highest mass shootings? I’ve read so many articles from all sides of the political and religious sectors to realize that the hate is real, better background checks, gun-laws, social media constraints, mental health assistance, addressing the issue of fatherlessness, and even spiritual transformation won’t bring back the parents of the little girl in El Paso. 

I know that most want to come up with a single cause and solution to the ongoing violence we experience in America. Yes, I agree that we need to look outside the present news cycle to remember that there are weekends where many inner cities in our country tragically face death counts and too many injured from ongoing street wars. I know that if all of the guns are taken away the criminals would still have access to assault rifles. I know that on the same radio station I heard a local legislator talk about the profile of the young males who have been the primary cause of the most recent shootings. He almost made them out to be the victims because of the prosperity of women in the employment sector and their own experience of not having a dad at home. 

I have to be honest, that after someone got into my van, parked in my driveway, I realized that there wasn’t anything valuable in the glove compartment. Yet, as I looked for my garage door opened, I realized that this thief had stolen it. This precipitated my search on Amazon for the latest and greatest cameras to make my house and vehicles safer. I discovered a new world where fellow ‘ring’ people share their neighborhood mishaps with one another. I was shocked to see over 1,000 views on this one post. I can see in the front or back of my house instantly. I get notices when there is movement. There was actually a neighborhood alert about someone attempting to smash the camera. (Little did the guy get that his picture was already there and on the cloud.) 

I’m still getting harassed by my wife and brother about putting an actual lock on our side-yard gate and even on my electrical box. I’ve had someone, actual a friend, break into our house in the past, knowing we had cameras inside and was smart enough to turn off our electricity. (This meant that our cameras didn’t work, and the internet was down.) I can remember living in the 60’s when leaving your keys in the car was normal practice and who worried about double checking to see whether you locked your back and front door before leaving! 
What struck me on this talk show was that Pamela actually made the comment that her new found fear and anxiety about going to Walmart or any big box store is her new normal. She could no longer travel without having an escape plan with her little girl, if something were to happen. 

Another friend was quick to point out that the shooter in Dayton was part of a leftist group. He was upset that the media hadn’t given this more attention. My hope would be that all Americans would recognize our need to stop name calling, race baiting or using ethnic slurs but to instead to see all of us as human beings. Regardless of our sex, skin color, first language, accent or social economic setting, everyone bleeds the same color and has an inner desire to both be loved and to love another. 

I recently watched the movie, ‘Emmanuel’ about the murdering of the nine during a prayer meeting at an AME Church in Charleston. The shooter, a young ‘White’ man, was welcomed into the midst of an older African American Prayer Group. The young man, after being welcomed into the group, started shooting unmercifully. The end result was a church that found strength and forgiveness in the midst of tragedy. I was overwhelmed to hear the family of the little girl who lost her parents, talk about forgivin the shooter. I too am a recipient of grace, so I know that God calls me to share this amazing gift. Yet, it’s also time for justice to happen, where this ongoing cycle of hate rhetoric, local violence and national headlines of mass shootings must stop. 

This is a very complex situation that requires everyone to become involved in the pathway to healing and seeing communities unite. It’s too easy to make generalizations that accuse one group to be totally responsible for the outrageous acts of violence. It’s time that everyone, myself included, start doing some self-reflection and evaluation to discover our own resentments, biases and fears. I can’t expect anyone else to change and work together, unless I’m willing to look at myself in the mirror. 

Yes, Americans seem able to rise above the present tragedy to work together for the betterment of their communities. Shouldn’t it be possible for everyone to partner together and intentionally work together for the pathway of peace to be pursued before the next tragedy occurs? 

Let’s go back to the old normal where we respected each other, intentionally choose to help someone instead of assuming the worst scenario. Otherwise, the new normal will define our society with anxiety, fear front and center that sees more tragedy tear us apart.