We live in the same house, but look out different windows in to the same world. What I see from mine, is not what you see from yours.
I am tired. So. Very. Tired. I am tired of people getting killed needlessly. I am tired of racism. I am tired of uneducated, emotionally driven people acting like fools. I am tired of safe spaces, triggering, and weak minded people. I am tired of finger pointing and an utter lack of personal responsibility. I am tired of people putting their political affiliations, demographics, and unfounded opinions above what is right. I am tired of charlatans, demagogues, and grifters preying on these people to widen the divide. I am tired of self-centered drama queens taking the opportunity to get their 15 minutes of fame without worrying about the real world repercussions. I am tired of weak, so called leaders kowtowing to ridiculous demands solely out of fear of what would happen if they don’t. I am tired of bullies creating an environment of their way or the highway. I am tired of hearing that we need to have this honest conversation that no one actually intends on having. I am tired of people being called racists, xenophobes, sexists, etc., just because they have a differing opinion. I am tired of the insistence of “treating” (which more times than not is actually just toothless reactions) the symptoms and failing to figure out and treating the actual disease. I am tired of cities burning and lives being shattered. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Does anyone actually want to fix these issues? Should we just get down to business and start a race or class war? Should we all just start shedding blood in the streets? Or should we come together as people and figure out the real issues and the real solutions to those issues?
Maybe I am naïve. Maybe I am completely misguided to believe that we as a people have the strength to come together and fix what ails us. But, I refuse to accept the alternative.
So what do we do? How do we do it? I will not pretend to have the whole answer. I am not even going to lay out here what I think are some solutions. What I am going to do is layout what I think we all need to do to help us get to those solutions.
I am a 30 something, white, Republican male that was raised in a semi-diverse D.C. suburb. I know what it is like to fear losing the roof over our head, because we we’re months overdue on the mortgage. I know what it is like to have my father leave us. I know what it is like to see my mother struggle to raise three hell raising boys, mostly on her own. I know what it is like to be embarrassed about getting free lunch in school, to scour the church food pantry for our next meal, and to be one of those “Angel Tree” kids. I also know what it is like to have people along the way that supported me and made it possible for me to succeed in life. That is my experience (well, a much pared down version of it). I am not a black person and outside of my junior high years I have never pretended to be one. I have no idea what it is like to grow up as a black man. I don’t fully understand firsthand what the trials that black people encounter in this world are. I can’t. However, I do want to try and understand better. We all should.
As humans, we have a natural instinct to be very tribal. We have clubs, teams, and cliques. We gravitate towards people that are like us. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, when that natural occurrence manifests itself in a manner that produces negative outcomes, like a widening divide between races and classes…that is an issue. When that natural progression insulates us from the reality of others…that is an issue. We are facing that today (as we have throughout most of history). So to bridge that gap we have to break down those silos. We have to find common ground and gain a deeper understanding of each other in order to develop solutions to stamp out the cancers that cause so many issues in our society.
The other day before my beloved ECU Pirates performed abysmally on the football field, some of the marching band members decided to do their version of the Colin Kaepernick (no not sitting on the bench) instead of playing the national anthem. I have my thoughts on this, but what is important to this discussion is what happened next. Grown adults, on both sides of the argument acted like idiots. The band members and people that supported them were called pieces of bovine excrement. People that were angered by the band members’ actions, even the respectful ones and members of the band that, instead kneeling held up flags, were called racists and fascists. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. If we are going to fix the actual issues we need to be able to have conversations like actual grownups and not spoiled toddlers. That also means we need to stop giving the mic and spotlight to those that only want to spew hate and stupidity.
We also have to stop the finger pointing and pretending that our “team” is completely innocent of contributing to the issues that brought us here. This can’t be about blame. This can’t be about finding a scape goat. Not to spoil the movie for you, but the race and class issues that we are facing today were set in motion long ago. Along the way white people, black people, Republicans, Democrats, and a bunch of other groups all made the problems worse in some way. In all honesty, who did what doesn’t matter nearly as much as how we come together to fix it. So, white people stop pretending this is just a black people problem. This issues didn’t start and they won’t end in Chicago. Stop pretending that the idea that white people may be put on better ground, to any extent than black people in life has zero merit. At the same time black people need to stop casting all the blame on white people or Republicans, or cops. If we are to fix the cultural, economic, and education issues, both sides need to realize that the blame is shared, the solution must be shared as well.
This is an emotionally charged state of affairs. Therefore, many of the reactions are emotionally driven. That is understandable, but we need to stop letting emotions alone drive us. Anger and feckless, feel good “solutions,” don’t help. Fact based, logical, open discussions that lead to actionable and measurable solutions need to occur or we will never make progress. We need to stop allowing knee jerk reactions, often times based on little to no evidence drive our actions. We also need to stop allowing the media, pundits, politicians, and other bad actors drive the narrative and further divide between us. For people like Sean Hannity and Al Sharpton strife and unrest is good for business…and business is good. It is time to shut them down.
I am just a middle class white guy in North Carolina who wants to help foster change, because I want my children and your children to live in a better world. That change is going to require much more than just me. That change is going to take entire culture shifts and generations of work, and involve many hurt feelings and a lot of pain. We need to step outside of our respective echo chambers and take it upon ourselves to work together to make things better. We need to have open discussions, void of hyperbole and vitriol to get to the root cause. We need to elect politicians that care less about getting re-elected and manipulating voters than they do about pushing policy that will help make this country what it could and should be. We need to cross aisles, streets, and neighborhoods to meet as Americans to gain insights from different perspectives. We need communities, faith groups, and other organizations to work together to drive change. We need to call out those that wish to further divide us and remove their power. We need to view each other as Americans first and all of those other identifiers second.
So that is my view/lunch time vent. That is some of what has been weighing on my heart. That is my invitation to start a conversation…with me at least. Take it or leave it, but we have to do something. The alternative should not be an option.