Friday, July 8, 2016

Hopeful Fear In America

I can typically walk down the street with my kids without being scared.
I don't need to warn my kids about how to act around anyone besides strangers.
I am privileged and I'm still scared.
Larry Whitmore said, while talking about the absolutely unnecessary death of #AltonSterling, "Thank God for cellphones." Some are still scared and making excuses, but the world can finally see systematic oppression, even if they choose to deny it.
I have a lot of great friends who are great people trying to understand this situation and offering support, condolences, thoughts, prayers or even evidence to make sure more people open their eyes. None of us want to, but we should all be scared.
This fear is how almost half of Americans feel every day. 
This fear has a moronic bigot on the ballot to become President of the United States of America.
This fear has parents warning their children about how to act around police officers. 
This fear has police officers, good and bad, jumpy, protective and insecure. And let's not pretend there aren't bad police officers. When a doctor messes up a surgery and kills someone due to negligence, they are removed from the field and held accountable for their actions. They aren't necessarily bad people, but they made a grave mistake and need to be held accountable for it. Something we rarely question. But when a police officer murders a person on camera, most of our media and half of Facebook blame the person for a criminal background or for not complying. The Bundy militia had loaded guns pointed at officers during their standoff and they had weeks of patience and discussion. But when a black teenager is playing in a park and a bad cop suspects he might have a gun, he's acquitted after shooting him dead.  
#PhilandoCastile was murdered by a bad cop. Maybe he was a good person who made a mistake, but that makes him unfit to wear a badge that is sworn to serve and protect. 
Good cops know this. Good people know this.
If there wasn't such an outcry to protect these bad cops and make fucking ridiculous excuses for them maybe there wouldn't be such a growing divide. Their body cameras didn't both accidentally fall off right before they shot who was pinned on the ground four times, that's an obvious lie, stop lying.
Stop lying.
Own your privilege if you're lucky enough to have it and support those around you. I can't explain it as well as this guy (please read this if you haven't already) but I'll paraphrase his sentiment uncouthly:
No shit all lives matter.
If you feel disregarded by the phrase Black Lives Matter, then you have probably never had to live in fear of your society. I bet that Stanford swimmer rapist asshole thinks All Lives Matter. Black Lives also matter. We should be angry and scared for the black community. We should try to understand how they are oppressed and vilified and how they are American citizens who just want to live in peace and raise their families.
We aren't all the same. Some of us want to be, but we're not. Personally, I don't want to be all the same. I wish we our system treated people the same and offered the same protection and opportunities, but that doesn't mean the same things as "we're all humans, we're all the same." We are all humans, but we all have a history, different families, different levels of education, different skin colors, different friend groups. It would be great if we could celebrate these differences, but we don't really. We typically hide behind them.
Things that are different are scary. Fear isolates.
I'm a middle class educated white guy and I'm scared for the world my kids are going to grow up in. I'm scared because I want them to have the opportunity to play with and learn from people who don't look like us and who weren't raised by us. I want them to give back to their community and spread love through their smiles and interactions.
 Before I get what I want I have to explain why we're different and why we're lucky and why that's so fucked up.
Between the time I started writing this and finished five cops were murdered at a peaceful rally in Dallas. Random cops. Probably good cops. I am already sick at the thought of the blame game and lack of accountability. Their lives were senselessly taken, just like the lives of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and so many others. The former were killed because they were police officers. The latter were killed because they were black men in America. 
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. - A really smart guy you've probably heard of and quote once a year on Facebook.
I always try to leave something hopeful in my writing because I'm a generally hopeful person who wants to live a positive life and leave a legacy of love. The only thing I am hopeful for is that more and more people will start to get it. Nobody questions that Blue Lives Matter or that All Lives Matter, so why do we question that Black Lives Matter? That's not a segregationist statement, it is unifying. 
A lot of people are scared of a revolution of some sort, or they don't think it's possible. I think it's necessary. I'm not talking about battles in the streets, but you know damn well those are coming just like in Ferguson, Missouri. I'm talking about neighborhoods, communities, towns, standing together to make changes that make lives better for everyone. Supporting each other by electing officials who care about people more than money. Looking at the broken systems like prisons, elections, drugs, justice and calling for change because it's the right thing to do. 
Morally. Economically. Socially. Patriotically, the right thing to do.
You can be angry and scared and you should be. But look outwardly. Be angry for the victims. Be scared for black men and women and police officers.
But be hopeful. Be supportive. Become educated and demand change.
Open your eyes.
Stop lying.
Light and Love.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Good Grief

Yesterday I had a rough morning. A rough morning for me after a rough week for more people than I can list. I don't know why I woke up sad and angry, but I did and my pissyness effected Jenna and needless to say Mabel didn't have the best morning either.

I stole this from Kris Troyer.
If you see this, let me know if you're mad.
Grief is a funny thing. Last Saturday one of my buddies took his own life. We weren't close, but we were friends. I have hugged him and listened to his personal struggles, but I have also seen him hug and make dozens of lives better for having him in it. I was sad. I was sad to think of his loneliness and pain, I was sad for my friends who loved him and lost him. I was sad for his girlfriend and his family. I was mad too. They often come hand in hand, but in this case I thought of how much pain his pain had caused and will continue to cause those who loved and tried to help him.

Forever. They will be in pain forever. That is sad and that makes me mad, but that is part of life and that's when the best of people also emerges. My friends who knew and loved Adam even more than I did stepped up. They rallied around each other in person and through social media to let the world know how much they loved Adam, how much Adam loved them and how much they loved each other.

Balancing the pain, sadness, anger and love isn't easy, but once it starts sinking in and the warmth replaced the emptiness, acceptance starts and you start to appreciate the best of the individual you lost and those who are still with us... at least I did. I know, all too well, that there is not an assembly line version of grief.

Especially when it comes back into town so quickly.

Now, I have a large family. I've been going to funerals and wakes for a very long time. At points in my life it was hard for me to understand folks my age coping with death for the first time. I'd seen it and been a part of it since I was very young. Each death taught me something, but overall I grew to appreciate that death is part of life, even when it's not fair and it hurts. The hurt didn't always go way quickly, but I understood it more and I tried my best to help others through their grief while understanding my own.

I stole this one too, but it was from Jamie herself
and it had been her profile picture a couple of times
so I'm guessing she liked it.
On Tuesday morning  I learned about Jamie. Less than 4 days after Adam's pain won over the love in his world, Jamie lost to her demons as well. Adam was my buddy and I cared for him and had a lot of love for him, but Jamie was my friend. She has been in and out of our lives the last couple of years dealing with her issues, but she just had dinner at our house. Whereas Adam was moreso a part of the lives of people in my life, Jamie was a part of my life. My family's life. The lives of my  best friends who have made Rochester our home.

This was a new one for me. My brain didn't know how to respond and in a lot of ways it didn't. I had already entered the acceptance phase of my grief when I found out about Jamie and I couldn't help but feel numb. I wanted to cry like I cried for Adam. I wanted to run the gambit again, I know it's for the best, but it just wasn't there. The hurt was there, the thoughts and questions and frustrations, but the feeling wasn't and that made me even more sad.

I held my wife as she cried. I cried with her. I checked in on friends who were closer and offered my support. I read amazing articles on grief and death and depression and pain and I couldn't help but feel like I had skipped a few steps and I started questioning everything again. What was wrong with me? Am I doing enough? Am I supposed to say or do or feel something differently...? I saw people grieving openly for both of my friends and struggling to understand their own and the grief of others. I saw people upset at themselves, at strangers who wanted to share in their grief, at people they didn't feel earned the right to grieve as much as them. I thought I was beyond this and I thought I knew better.

That's when the friends stepped in. I saw these questions, this pain, this sadness, frustration and all the things met with love and hope.

Much like with Dumka, the pictures and the stories started rolling in. Jamie was weird and smart and funny and lively and lovely. The sadness was there, but the celebration won. Getting together, not just on social media, but in person let people smile through their tears. It let people tell stories others hadn't ever heard before. It brought us all closer to Jamie and closer to each other. The same happened for Dumka, but I got to be a part of it for Jamie. My cycle of grief caught up to itself and I started to feel lucky again.

I am lucky to have known and been even a small part of these two extraordinary lives. I am lucky to know people who can love so unconditionally and who want to help even a distant friend get through their tough times. I'm lucky to have people who call me a friend and reach out to me. I'm lucky to hug my kids and ignore the pain while I make goofy voices and faces with them.

I woke up sad and angry and I struggled through the day. It was there all day long, even when I laid in bed at the end of the night. I'm lucky for this pain. This is good. This is a testament to the lives of Jamie Shea and Adam Dumka. This is a testament to my Aunt Fern and Steve's Dad and my Grampa and Aunt Dawn and Uncle Bob and August Lindell and Stephen Schantz and Paul Brewer and everyone else who has ever left this world and forced us to grow and grieve and learn. I'm a better friend because of grief. I'm a better person because of loss. I'm going to be a better dad because of sadness.

It's different for all of us, this pain and this path, but I've decided that my lesson is in love. Lessons don't always come easy. Neither does love.

But looking for these things, a lesson or the love, in the worst situations makes everything better. Everything does not happen for a reason, but that doesn't mean you can't find a silver lining in a shitty situation. There's no road-map to grief and even these stages I've been talking about are subjective. Live through the worst times and be with those who are gracious enough to let you. Try to smile and remember the best, but cry and be sad when you need to. Most importantly keep loving and keep living. Never stop.

I'll miss you Jamie. I'll miss you Adam. We're all better for having you as long as we did.

These pictures are also stolen,
but I think they're both beautiful and I hope nobody is angry with me.