Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

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Follow the rules

September 5, 2017

As a 5th generation American, I accept and firmly believe that this country – this United States of America – was built on a foundation of immigration. Then, as now, if you want to live here, you must follow the rules, please.

My great-great grandparents immigrated, as did so many others back then. They followed the rules and took the necessary steps to do it legally. Similarly, when they homesteaded in harsh North Dakota weather extremes, they followed the rules to do what law required so they could be thriving citizens.

It seems to me, as long as any person has to hide because they haven’t followed the laws, they are not and cannot be thriving citizens. That resulting lack of freedom leaves them short of full participation. Mostly, it hurts them far more than it hurts the rest of the country.

Does it cost money to follow the rules? You bet it does. A couple of weeks ago, it cost me nearly $60 to renew my driver license. Something that I remember being free not too long ago. I had to manage my income and spending so I had the $60 for that renewal that allows me to keep lawfully driving. Driving allows me to get to my job to continue to legally earn money to support my needs and my family needs.

That’s how it works. I don’t have a $9,000 (exaggeration intentional) cell phone because I know I need my money for other expenses, too. Maybe if I immigrated here from another country, I would buy a cheap phone, eat ‘rice and beans’ as financial counselor Dave Ramsey likes to say, and whatever else it took to have the money necessary to attain legal US citizenship.

Easy? No. Who ever said it would be? If I moved to another country where I wanted to live, I would expect them to make it a bit hard – to earn it. That country would also expect me to follow their laws and rules.

Being a free country built by brave immigrants a couple hundred years ago does not negate the necessity of rules, laws and structure. All I ask is that you just follow the rules if you want to live here.

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June the 12th

June 12, 2017

Pulse Remembrance Day. One year ago today, the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people. Many of them gay, which seemed to be the only reason the shooter targeted that location.

In my local paper yesterday, the remembrance quoted someone (possibly the Orlando police chief) saying that he calls the day, “June the 12th.” I interpreted that as being comparable to “September the 11th.”

Two days in American history, in my lifetime, filled with such vile hatred and evil poison. I do not – cannot – understand how our world can have so many people who are so wicked. I have begun to think that, in addition to red and white blood cells, they have ‘hate’ blood cells coursing through their bodies. It is as if it is in their DNA, which is of course impossible and means they choose evil.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. I encourage everyone to visit if they get the chance. America’s civil rights movement of the 1960s is not something I remember, other than from history books. In recent years, we’ve seen a renewed attempt at a civil rights movement. (Sadly, in my opinion, the violence in many of the current attempts thwarts their messages.)

So, reading again about and seeing again all the absurd laws and rules whites put in place, makes me sad. I don’t understand how anyone thought the oppression and segregation were appropriate. And, as I left the Center (#GetCentered) that afternoon, I was sadder because it seems we still haven’t learned the lessons of that time.

Fear makes humans do stupid things. This hatred out of fear because of skin color or sexual preference seems ignorant to me. Some people ‘wrap’ it in religion, which I don’t accept. My God loves all people and only God will judge someday. I don’t have to understand others’ choices. If they do no harm to others, who am I to deny them the privileges I have?

While we humans often act out of ignorance, we are also resilient and hopeful. I am hopeful that we will continue to make progress and learn from the current day atrocities, like the Pulse shooting, the Sandy Hook heartbreaking shooting, the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting.

We seem to have already forgotten the lessons of September the 11th, and we seem to have long ago lost the lessons of the Holocaust. We must work to remember – to remember so that we can learn, grow and change. People are people, after all. In a country like America, we should be able to set the worldwide example. We can seek to understand and, live out that understanding. Every day, in every encounter.

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Unity in frogs

September 21, 2016

Are you tired? I’m tired. Seems like all around us is unhappiness, fear, poverty, anger, violence, terrorism, racism, unrest. It wears on me and I think it wears on you and others, too.

It wears on me in part because I don’t understand our responses to it all. I want to fix the problems somehow but no one – no single person – seems willing to step away from his or her firm opinions.

Isn’t it possible that in all these issues, we have nuggets of truth on all sides? In my life experience (which is starting to add up in the number of years), there are almost never absolutes in any situation. Especially when they involve people.

We have racism in this country. I see it across all people and in varying degrees. Law enforcement did not and does not cause racism. I and the people I know didn’t cause racism.

In addition to the horrible, deadly terrorist acts, we have deadly violence in this country among our own citizens. We have neighborhood drive-by shootings where the flying bullets strike and kill young children doing homework on their beds. We have an ex-boyfriend who fatally stabbed his girlfriend in Walgreens while she worked; her mother says her only crime was loving the guy. We have justifiable officer-involved shootings and we have questionable officer-involved shootings. We have people killing people on the street every day in this country over Lord knows what.

It’s tragic. Doesn’t it break your heart and make you tired?

How does more violence help solve any of that? I just do not understand how anyone can believe that violence and destruction are the right answers to deadly violence. More violence does not seem to me to be any kind of solution, particularly if our true goal is unity and peace.

Please don’t give me “racism” or “white privilege.” You don’t know me and I don’t know you. My white privilege includes a ‘father’ who abandoned his wife and three kids, living on food stamps while my mom tried to recover financially, working since age 12 to buy my own clothes, contacts, etc., and working full-time while going to college and raising my daughter so I could better my life, and still working hard today to have a modest home and an unlikely retirement. That feels like hard work, not privilege.

Somehow we have to find ways to come together in conversation. Leave the violence and firmly held ideas in the other room. We are, after all, just people. And we’re not really so different.

Sunday I stepped outside to clean my car and I heard, “Excuse me.”

I turned to see a neighbor who I don’t know and whose skin happens to be a different color than mine.

“Are you afraid of frogs?” she asked. One had jumped into her car.

“Well, yea, I sort of am but I’ll try to help you out,” I told her.

So there we were, two neighbors-but-strangers in Florida, one with a broom and one with a spray bottle, acting like ‘girls’ because we’re afraid of frogs. We’re not really so different and weren’t afraid to ask for or to respond with help. In those few minutes, I didn’t feel so tired.

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Day After people

July 10, 2016

This will initially sound absurd and I definitely am not calling for more violence or attacks. What I do want is, the Day After the attacks. I want September 12, 2001.

Remember that Day After. We mostly believed that no more attacks were coming. Our minds, individually and collectively, still could not wrap around the horrors we saw on TV, or from our own homes or workplaces the day before. The 9/11 attacks on America were a first for most of us, as is today’s civil unrest.

In that fear and horror, we united. To a person, we let go of petty and significant differences, those that matter for decades to come and those we wouldn’t remember an hour later. We held hands and shared hugs and wiped each other’s tears in comfort. We united.

On July 9, 2016, after the assault that killed five officers, we saw some of that in Dallas. We saw the citizens there make time to go to hug and thank the police officers. We saw similar acts across our country, because, I believe, we all understand that our law enforcement officers protect and serve us all – doing a job that most of us are not brave enough to do.

True, police officers and citizens alike are human beings who make mistakes. Some more grievous than others. Yet, do any of us truly believe that any police officer goes on duty each shift with the thought, “I will seek out and kill a ______ today.”?

But today, instead of true unity, I still hear labels and divisive talk. “They” not “us.” “Black” or “Blue” not “people.” One syndicated columnist in today’s local paper demanded that the Dallas shooter be called a terrorist. Why? How does that matter? He was a killer, plain and simple. Any other labels seem to me to add unnecessary layers and distractions, none of which have done a bit of good to try to resolve the root cause of violence in America.

I think economic equality rather than race may be the root cause. We have poor in all races. The common truth for nearly all of us is that to succeed, we must put in the hard work and discipline.

My father abandoned my mother, and younger brother and sister and I when I was 13. From that point on, nearly everything I had I earned. First through lots of babysitting, my first job, and sewing my own clothes. I shopped with the food stamps my mom had to get to be able to feed us. It’s been that way ever since – I worked for what I needed or wanted. Anything I have today, including a college degree, I worked long and hard to attain.

I mean that to be a ‘we all have a story’ story, not a ‘poor me’ story. If we can all acknowledge that most of us have the same opportunities and most of us want the same things, I believe we can unite to overcome today’s societal mess. We can be “The Day After” people who come together and stay together to make our country whole again.

Try to remember how you felt on September 12, 2001, or ask a relative how s/he felt that day. It’s in that anguish that I believe we can set aside labels and those meaningless physical differences – none of which mattered to us back then. Let’s leave them at the curb and walk forward together in kindness and compassion.

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Hope of Advent

December 17, 2012

I hope they can. I pray then can. I am not sure I could have.

Gone on.

I remember when my now approaching-30-year-old daughter was growing up, trying to imagine how I might feel if something happened to her. She was sick a lot so that fueled my worry. Child abductions seemed to be the biggest external worry, and while we, too, lived in a safe community that could never imagine something evil happening there, other moms and I did not take that for granted.

School was a safe place for her and especially in elementary school, it was mostly a fun place. She was in high school when the shootings at Columbine in Colorado happened. Even then, it was so beyond belief I never believed it would become repetitive.

Now, in the 2012 holiday season, evil polluted an innocent town and took the lives of 26 innocent people, including young children. It is unfathomable and I can only pretend to imagine how their parents and families feel right now.

It is time for us all to stand together to identify the root cause of these shootings. To date, committed by young men. It is not in my opinion, with all due respect to actor Morgan Freeman, because of the media coverage. That seems the easy answer to me.

I think it is much deeper than that and it is time to leave no stone unturned and face the harsh reality that what we allow as a society is just not working. Those details are for another day. Today I want to somehow convey that I also feel anguish and heartbreak for every family in Newtown, Connecticut, who now faces this holiday season without a cherished loved one.

Faith is often difficult and for me, often riddled with questions. Why this happens is one of those? Yet, as I thought about Advent this weekend and the promise of Christ’s birth with the everlasting life he brings, I prayed that those families can find a whisper of comfort knowing that Jesus holds their babies and loved ones in his arms. They wait for the day they will see you again. For now, they are eternally safe in the embrace of our mighty God. He knows them by name, and we pray for them by name as well (see link).

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/15/officials-release-names-victims-in-connecticut-elementary-school-shooting/

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Ciao 2011

January 2, 2012

Her champagne-colored attire softens the moon’s glow in the New Year’s Eve, her color warm with a little ‘buzz’ from the bubbly. She rests on her back, exhausted with 2011, like so many of us. Showing us only the bottom half of her sphere.

Her glow reminds me of a harvest moon … a partial harvest, even stark perhaps, in the leanness of 2011’s economic environment. Still, a sign of promise for the New Year. We will have a harvest again in 2012 and for many of us harvest is to have just enough of what we need. In fact, shouldn’t that be all we want?

Champagne-lit moon in her bed of deep, clear midnight blue. Her gentle light blurs the sparkle of any stars, but I don’t really mind. She leads each night into a new day, and into a new year. A constant amid a life of constant change.

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Officer Down

July 9, 2011

They walk into the unknown, where the rest of us don’t want to go. We call them for help in the situations we cannot handle on our own. For police officers, much like firefighters and military personnel, the risks every day are great.

Patrol officers, the front line out on the street, are often at the greatest risk. They are the first responders for a diverse range of calls from a cow or gator (or insert any animal indigenous to your area) in the street to domestic disturbance to a fatality. And one such call took the life of a Bismarck, North Dakota, police officer Friday night.

Bismarck is hometown to both my husband and me, and our daughter. My husband was a Bismarck police officer for more than 10 years until he moved to law enforcement in Florida. Bismarck is generally a typical, mid-American place where the quality and pace of life feels to many like a step back in time. There is crime but for the most part you feel safe there.

Bismarck police officer and K9, photo from BismarckTribune.com

Yet it’s important that each of us remember the danger police officers insert themselves into every day, every shift. They come to work prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.

In Bismarck, like many towns across America, homicides are rare and officers killed in the line of duty rarer. It is heartbreaking that the job we needed this officer to do cost the officer’s life, and it is wrong. None of us have any right to take out our problems and frustrations on innocent bystanders. We call officers to help because they are trained to do so. They serve and protect—us.

Because they do their jobs so well, most of us stay blissfully unaware of that ‘dark’ side of our respective cities. When you live in a place like Bismarck you are hardly aware of any bad element in the city because the Bismarck Police Department contains it and keeps us safe.

Please keep this officer’s family in your prayers. When you see a police officer, thank him or her for doing their jobs. I suspect the officer will be humble and a bit embarrassed by it, and deeply appreciative.