Let’s follow the example John Lewis lived

The following is necessarily short, as my local newspaper was kind enough to print it in its “Letters to the Editor” section this morning.

Watching the memorial service for Congressman John Lewis, I noticed the words kind, caring and courageous were used often. A staff member noted he was a great boss with several people working with him for over 10 years (a few over 20).

Lewis embodied the words spoken about him. Civil and nonviolent protest will be his lasting legacy. His example is followed by a significant majority who participate in the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests.

Those few who choose violence may make the news, but they dilute the message. Steadfast resolve is a much greater weapon. It galvanizes people.

Let’s honor Lewis for the person he was and how he conducted himself. Black lives do matter.

A few thoughts from the 1st Homeland Security Director

Former Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Ridge was asked by President George W. Bush to be the first Director of Homeland Security. Witnessing the president’s sending in unrequested and unmarked federal agents to Portland and Chicago, Ridge had some comments worth noting.

Here a few exceprts from an editorial analysis called “Trump’s Portland crackdown is controversial. The man spearheading it might be doing so illegally” by Aaron Blake of The Washington Post. The editorial can be accessed below.

“In Portland, Washington and other U.S. cities shaken by protests in recent months, the Trump administration has leaned on the considerable authority and assets of the Department of Homeland Security — an agency formed to prevent another Sept. 11, 2001, attack — to spearhead the federal response.

Images of militarized Border Patrol agents clubbing protesters and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles have alarmed civil liberties advocates and administration critics, and the displays of government power echo tactics long associated with authoritarian rule.
Legal analysts say that while the department has broad authority to enforce federal laws, officers’ actions — especially in Portland, Ore. — seemed to be pushing the boundaries and pulling DHS into a domestic policing role.

Tom Ridge, who served as the first Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush, said Tuesday that DHS ‘was not established to be the president’s personal militia,’ and added, ‘It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities.’ Former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig called the operation, which has come to be known as Operation Legend, ‘lawful but awful.’

On PBS Newshour the other night, Ridge was interviewed. He noted several key points – he worked in “partnership” with the cities and states to solve problems after they were “invited in to help.” He also noted what happened in Portland was a “reality show” exercise to garner votes. That action will not solve anything, as it was not designed to.

On Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano noted in Portland, actions of federal agents are unlawful, unconstitutional and harmful. To unpack this, he noted the federal agents are permitted to protect federal assets and travel to and from the asset. They are not permitted to do what local police does and arrest people without probable cause or warrant. And, they cannot wear clothing that does not identify who are they are and what they represent. A person being accosted has to know who is so doing.

Getting back to the issue at hand, civil protest is more than fine in our country. Yet, people who have taken a violent approach to protest are diluting their message and, are feeding into a narrative that allows a corrupt president to break the law and squelch them. Let me say this clearly – both the violent protestors and the president are in the wrong. Civil protest does not make the news like the violent ones, so the violent ones are overreported and the civil ones are underreported.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/22/trumps-actions-portland-are-controversial-man-spearheading-them-might-be-doing-so-illegally/

She looked the hater in the eyes

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing in people’s faces and grabbing at signs, as the group chanted, ‘Peaceful! Peaceful!’ Within minutes a policeman had escorted the man from the scene.

But amid the commotion, one image burns bright: We see the intruder from behind, towering over a young black woman, as he gets in her face. Her sign, ‘Say Their Names,’ has dropped to her side, but her feet are planted firmly. She has just put up her sunglasses, meeting his assault with a steady, silent gaze. Though the encounter lasts only a moment, the impression is enduring. Her name is Samantha Francine, and she embodies the change we need. As we adjust to life under the pandemic, it is time to accept that yet another plague is upon us, and that is the disease of dehumanization. We condemn first and ask questions later — or never. We judge on sight, we dismiss and damn; we polarize and partisanize until the rift has grown so wide there is no reaching across.

Samantha just held her ground, looked the man in the eye, and listened.

She explained why: ‘I grew up with a single white father who taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. He would constantly remind us that ‘no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.’ In this moment, those are the words that went through my head. When I lifted up my glasses, he saw me. I saw him.’”

Peaceful protests are key. Violence is not the answer as it distracts from the message. But, acts of civil disobedience are immeasurable. She looked the hater in the eyes and let him rant. She listened to what he had to say, but she looked him in the eye to let him know she was there and she saw him.

I will add what she did was a daring and took nerve. It may not be the solution for many. But, listening to someone is an appropriate action. Then, you can ask questions about what they said. “Help me understand why you feel that way?” you could ask. If a black man named Daryl Davis can talk over 200 KKK members to cede their robes and quit, then anything is possible.

A message I want to leave with people is one I often repeat. One does not need to be a jerk to get a point across. In fact, the message will likely be heard if it is not shouted. It will also be likely heard if it is made after listening to the other’s point. As a parent, a truism is if you want your children to listen, lower your voice.

https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/jackson_hole_daily/state_and_regional/writerrs_on_range/looking-hate-in-the-eye-in-whitefish/article_8508e894-4871-5ad8-ad9a-6ee94820fbfb.html

A message for our black neighbors – by Charlotte clergy and community leaders

The following brief editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on June 2, 2020, signed by about 80 clergy and community leaders.

In the wake of yet one more unjust killing of an unarmed African American, we clergy and community leaders who are white say to our Black neighbors:

We feel outrage, grief, disgust and remorse.
We stand with you in horror, lament and weariness.
We’re fed up. It’s time.
We confess our complicity, inertia and timidity.
We own our responsibility right now.
With God’s help, we will change ourselves.
With you, we’ll change our institutions and our community.”

Having worked in the human services agencies as a volunteer Board Member, I support these words and have benefitted from working with a few of these voices to help people in need. We all must be the part of the solution. We cannot stand silent when injustice is being done to people who feel their voice is not being heard.

We must ask our police officers and leadership to police their own, identifying and improving on non-exemplary behavior or actions, painfully investigating all deaths to ferret out and punish unjust actions (the Pilot’s Union has a good model with their involvement in investigating plane crashes). Police officers have a tough and dangerous job, and even the best of intentions can go awry in a moment’s decision. But, every group has some bad apples, as well. The repeated and unchecked actions of those bad apples paint all officers with a broad brush.

So, police officers must be empowered and supported to call out their own, especially in the heat of moment of questionable actions. It is hard to call your own on the carpet, but that is what is needed and necessary. There is too long a list of names where such behavior led to a death (Floyd, Arbery Taylor, Cooper, Bland, Garner, Scott, Martin, Garner, Brown, Gray…). Eric Garner was also choked to death and the officer was not charged by a grand jury. But, if the others present had told the officer to “cool his jets” or “the man said he can’t breathe,” Garner or Floyd would still be alive.

I am encouraged by police officers participating in and being supportive of the civil protests. I have seen more than a few officers call out the bad actions that killed Floyd. I am encouraged by the diversity of the civil protestors. I am encouraged by people around the globe also protesting racial injustice.

Yet, I am also discouraged by protestors who have conducted violence and looting. That is harmful to their message and punishes the wrong people. We must speak out against such violence, while shining a spot light on the greater majority of peaceful protests. But, we must seek and get change.

You’re not Vice-President of the United States

Eric Reid, a San Francisco 49er football player appeared on “The View” earlier this week. He was one of the players who knelt during the anthem at the game where Vice-President Mike Pence left in a planned protest.

It should be noted that Reid was the first player to kneel with Colin Kaepernick last year. His purpose of appearing was to regain the narrative on why African-American players are protesting. Reid, whose mother and uncles served in the military, said it is all about civilly protesting the treatment of Blacks by law enforcement. It is not about showing disrespect to the anthem, flag or military, which is why they are kneeling to at least be solemn.

Senator John McCain’s daughter Meghan has joined “The View” as of this week. She noted if she had walked out like Mike Pence had would you have felt less of me. He responded that “You are not the Vice-President of the United States.” She said “Fair enough.”

Reid added this is all about leaders using their power to systemically oppress others. The Vice-President attended the 49er game with an intent to walk out. The President said as much. Reid said this oppression has been going in our country for a long time, so it was not just invented.

When asked about being called a SOB by the President, Reid said two interesting things. He said “The President should not call any of our citizens a SOB.” Plus, after Charlottesville where the Neo-Nazis killed one person and beat another, the President referred to some of them as “nice people.”

Hearing Reid articulate his rationale is compelling. When asked what he would do to fix things, he said he wanted people to know the reasons. When pressed about any laws he would like to see, he said we could start with police not using excessive force on an unarmed man.

Civil protest is done with the intent to make us feel uncomfortable. Reid said he is “somewhat grateful” the President has elevated the discussion, although that was clearly not his intent. I have written before, civil protest says a lot more about the greatness of our country than formal ceremonies ever could.