Home is supposed to be a safe haven

Two months ago, Breonna Taylor, an EMT in Louisville, thought her home was a safe haven. The thought that the people who would break that covenant are police probably was not top of mind. Oh, by the way, this hard working EMT is dead. She was also African-American.

The following paragraphs from an updated article tell the tragic story.

Breonna Taylor: Family files lawsuit after Louisville police shoot EMT 8 times in ‘botched’ drug raid

By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group (updated May 13, 2020)

“Breonna Taylor was pulling long hours at two of Louisville’s hospitals as an emergency room technician and certified EMT working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as the disease began spreading throughout the U.S.

Taylor was home asleep with her boyfriend in the early morning hours of March 13 when police officers executing a drug warrant busted down their door and opened fire, killing her. The 26-year-old was shot at least eight times.

No drugs were found in the couple’s home. Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had a history of drug arrests, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.”

This wrongful invasion and killing happened two months ago. It is only now making national news. Why? She waa shot eight times in her own bed. Why?

We just learned about Ahmaud Arbery’s vigilante murder a few weeks ago. Why is it that murders of African-Americans are happening and failing to garner attention?

We cannot tolerate vigilantism in our country. And, we must ask our police to get it right before they charge into someone’s house in the middle of the night.

There seem to be open questions about what happened. The warrant said the police could enter without knocking. The police said they knocked first before entering. Yet, there were no body cameras in use to tell us what happened. Taylor’s boyfriend has been arrested for attempted homicide as he allegedly fired at an officer, but has pleaded innocent due to self-defense.

I know police have a dangerous job. Yet, they must do everything in their power to get it right. One of my recurring concerns is why so many shots? Too many times I read eight, eleven, fifteen and even 41 shots, like the infamous Springsteen song, when a person of color is involved. And, why must the warrant be served in a manner which is conducive to confrontation? Awakened people are likely scared out of their wits. I know I would be.

We owe it to Taylor’s parents to understand why their daughter is dead? Why did a devoted EMT, bone tired from helping people, have to die? Why did she have to be shot eight times? Why did police feel a forced entry in the middle of the night was the best route? And, one final question, would the raid have been in the middle of the night if the suspects were white or, maybe more affluent and white?

I do know this. If this were your or my child, we would feel every bit as upset at what happened as Taylor’s parents. We would want some damn answers.

Yet another “disgruntled” former employee

Why is it that people who are critical of the president’s are “losers,” “disasters,” “haters,” “liars” or in some cases “ugly?” The last one he has used a couple of times, implying they are too ugly for Trump to have considered sexually (assaulting is the context). If they are current employees, they are members of the “deep state” out to get him. But, if they are a former employee, “they are disgruntled.” These are all code words for his base to ignore the criticism as it is undue.

Well, one thing is for certain, there are a lot of all of the above folks out there saying critical things. Why is that? Is it easier to believe that everyone else is lying or that a person known for being untruthful is? On Sunday night, “60 Minutes,” will air an interview with another whistleblower, Dr. Rick Bright, who was let go because he did not like the path the president was going down on the COVID-19 response and tried to intervene.

Our country is all about civil discourse. We have the right to question our leaders. Yet, if one of my criticisms got enough airplay to garner his attention, I would be labeled a “loser.” I am far from perfect, but this imperfect person has every right to question the president of the United States. For example:

– Nixon committed a crime and tried to cover it up.
– Carter could have handled the Iran hostage situation better.
– Reagan illegally sold weapons to that same Iran to fund Contra rebels in Central America.
– Bush, the elder, raised taxes after saying he would not.
– Clinton had an affair in the White House and lied about it.
– Bush, the younger, invaded Iraq under false pretenses – there were no WMDs and he knew it.
– Obama drew a red-line which Syria crossed and did not act.

Trump has extorted a foreign country for personal gain, condoned multiple communications with Russia siding with them over US intelligence and lied, bullied and demonized anyone who dare criticizes him. Yet, none of his predecessors have name-called critics like the current incumbent. My grandmother would say, if you name call, it means you have a poor argument.

Take it to the bank, the president and his henchmen will go out of their way to discredit Dr. Bright. Yet, given the many missed opportunities to get ahead of the pandemic risk, we shoud pay attention to someone who knows what it means to criticize the vindictive president. These folks show far more courage than this president reveals.

What we have here, is a FAILURE to communicate

These are the immortal words of Strother Martin who played the tyrannical southern warden in “Cool Hand Luke.” The word “Failure” is capitalized as it must be drawn out.

Failure to communicate is its own virus that compromises many a person. It is especially true for those trying to forewarn the self-professed smartest guy in the room.

The previous president, the transition manager and multiple people on the staff of the newly elected president told him “DO NOT HIRE MICHAEL FLYNN.” Yet, among his many shortcomings, the president does not listen very well. He also does not have the patience to vet candidates.

But, the president hired Flynn anyway, Flynn committed a crime working with the Russians before he had authority to do so and then he lied to the FBI, which is also a crime, to which he later confessed.

Early on, people who would vote for him said Trump would hire the best of people to make up for his inexperience. Well, he did hire a couple of well regarded people, but they are long gone, tiring of their boss’ shenanigans and inability to communicate concerns to belay inappropriate actions.

But for the most part, Trump’s inability to listen and lack of patience created many obstacles and more than a few questionable hires and candidates. Trying to appoint his personal doctor as head of the Veterans Administration, nominating more than a few candidates who later pulled because the Senate would vote them down, picking a governor with no science degree to manage the Department of Energy, and so on are just a few examples.

If he listened or would take the time to ask beforehand, he could have saved himself a lot of embarassment. It is hard to communicate with someone who won’t listen or take the time to hear you. Yet, one thing is for certain, Trump does not accept responsibility for his inability to listen and bad hiring decisions. But, that is precisely who has the responsibility for hiring Michael Flynn when told not to – his name is Donald J. Trump.

Letter to a Republican Senator

Senator, I hope you are staying safe in these challenging times. As a former Republican and Independent voter, I want to share with you I fully support the efforts of The Lincoln Project and Republicans for the Rule of Law. They see what I see in the incumbent president, a level of corruption and deceit that is harmful to our country, planet and even the Republican party.

If the president would listen to me, I would give him the following comment to digest. Mr. president, if you do not have anything of value to add, please refrain from talking. To me, he missed a golden chance to actually be presidential when he was briefed on the pandemic risk back in January. Instead of being the leader we needed, he whiffed at the ball on the tee and resorted to modus operandi of misinformation.

These Republicans have political courage. I applaud and support their efforts. Please know, when asked in a recent RNC survey, I sent in a similar response. Former VP Joe Biden is not perfect, but he is a decent man and will attempt to return us to a bipartisan way of governance which is sorely needed. I encourage you to support Biden to preserve our democracy.

Thank you for your service.

A revisit to words of Martin Luther King on violence

This is a reprise of an earlier post. It still resonates, especially after the recent shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. Too many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend and missionary George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. We must teach our children those Jesus words. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

* http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/
** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

White Americans must speak out against white racism

The following was written by Pastor John Pavlovitz at john.pavlovitz.com in Wake Forest. I have shared his writings before and his words resonate with more than just me.

“Ahmaud Arbery is dead because he was a black man.
He was hunted down by two white strangers in broad daylight because he was two things: he was black and running, which was enough reason for them to grab weapons and get in their truck and chase him down and assassinate him in the road.
Being black and running was Ahmaud’s crime.
To some white people, you can’t be black and running,
you can’t be black and standing outside a convenience store.
you can’t be black and sitting in your car eating lunch,
you can’t be black and playing in a park,
you can’t be black and watching TV in your apartment.
To some white people, you can’t be black.
For far too many white people, such things are probable cause for calls to the police and screamed threats and physical intimidation—and immediate executions.
This is the unthinkable reality of the America we still live in, and in this America there are only two kinds of white Americans: there are white racists and there are white anti-racists.
Not professed anti-racists, who click the roof of their mouths, feel an initial wave of sadness at news of murders of jogging black men—and then move on with their day.
Not anti-racists who endure grotesque racist dinner table diatribes from their uncles and mothers and husbands, and choose not to speak because they don’t want to deal with the blowback at home.
Not anti-racists who sit through incendiary Sunday sermons from supremacist pastors, and somehow find themselves in the same pew the next Sunday and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that.
Not anti-racists who absorb vile break room jokes and outwardly laugh along while internally feeling sick to their stomachs.
Not anti-racists who scroll past the most dehumanizing memes and videos from people they’ve grown up with and gone to high school with, not wanting to engage the collateral damage of publicly confronting them.
In the presence of this kind of cancerous hatred, the kind that killed Ahmaud Arbery, the kind that is having a renaissance here in America—there aren’t moderate grey spaces to sit comfortably and observe from a distance.
No, this is a place of stark black and white extremist clarity:
You oppose the inhumanity or you abide it.
You condemn the violence or you are complicit in it.
You declare yourself a fierce and vocal adversary of bigotry—or you become its silent ally.
White friends, we are being asked to be speak clearly because when we do, we place ourselves alongside those people who deserve to get up today and run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and relax in their homes—and we place ourselves across from the bigots who feel they will never be held accountable for not wanting them to do these things.
To be clear—this outward stance doesn’t erase our privilege or exempt us from our prejudices or remove the blind spots within us that perpetuate inequity. Those are realities we’ll have to continually confront in the small and close and quiet moments of the remainder of our lives. It doesn’t dismantle systemic racism or the institutional inequalities woven into our nation, which we benefit from.
But what our outward declaration will do, is to let other white people know where we stand: our neighbors and and pastors and co-workers and family members and social media friends.
It will place us decidedly on the side of black men jogging in their neighborhoods.
It will place us in unequivocal opposition to white men choosing to become judge, jury and executioner to a stranger, who have grown up never acknowledging the value of a black like—because so few white neighbors, pastors, co-workers, family members, or social media friends told them otherwise.
As of this writing, Ahmaud Arbery’s white murderers are still free, and whether they remain free or not, the malignant racism that engineered his death will be showing itself again today.
It will shout its inhumanity across tables and in pulpits and in break rooms and on our news feeds and in presidential tweets—and we who live with the unearned privilege of having children and fathers and sisters who can run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and watch TV in their homes—without fearing the taunts and punches and bullets of irrational strangers, we have an obligation to speak explicitly and loudly now.
White Americans need to condemn white racism in America, or be guilty of it.
I want to be someone who condemns it.”

As you read this, please know that law enforcement say domestic terrorist groups dwarf Muslim terrorist groups in the US. Yet, much of their funding is for the latter, not the former. The significant majority of these groups are white nationalist in nature.

But, the above speaks to those who are not in a terrorist group. They are people who let racial profiling dictate vigilante action. I have written several times before, as a white man in America, I can pretty much go anywhere I want. Yet, a black man, even when he is dressed in his Sunday best, is at risk.

Vigilante justice is illegal for a reason. It was illegal (but condoned) during the days of Jim Crow and remains illegal today. I am not saying all racists are white, as racism knows no color. Bigotry can rear its ugly head in any society. But, white nationalism is on the rise in America and followers feel more emboldened. That makes me sad.

We must speak out against hate. We must say this is not right. No matter who does it. I am reminded of black man named Daryl Davis who has talked over 200 KKK members out of their robes as he convinced them to leave the KKK. How did he do it? He asked them questions and listened. Then he posed a few more. We need not all be like Daryl Davis, but we can say we do not appreciate that kind of language, humor or treatment of others when we see it. Or just vote with our feet and walk away.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2020/05/07/white-americans-need-to-condemn-white-racism-in-america/

A simple message for GOP Senators

I received yet another survey from the Republican National Committee. This is probably the tenth time the RNC has sent me one. These are really fundraising requests disguised as surveys.

As an independent and former Republican, I completed this one and gave them four simple points to consider under a banner, “Please Read.”

– I fully support the efforts of The Lincoln Project and Republicans for the Rule of Law.
– The president is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon.
– The president is a clear and present danger to our country, our planet and the Republican Party
– What will you have to defend next week, next month and the month after that?

These are simple, but candid messages. You might find the middle two a little strong, but I believe them to be true. Yet, I believe sending out the first and last one to GOP legislators would send a direct message. They need to hear from people that supporting this person is not in our or their best interests.