As we drive along the thoroughfare of history, heroes are clearly seen for their heroism as we leave them behind in the rear view mirror. In the context of the times in which they lived, however, they were seldom viewed with universal magnanimity.
Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of football games is not only criticized, it is compared to the efforts of others and seen as inferior in purpose and appropriateness. Among the individuals mentioned is the iconic Reverend Doctor, Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am just old enough to remember how Dr. King was viewed in the context of the times in which he lived. During his lifetime, a number of people and institutions who now sing his praises and cite him as the standard of reason and acceptability, considered him a rabble rousing troublemaker who needed to be silenced. Their wish was granted and his demise was even celebrated at institutions I have since had the experience of attending. Even securing a holiday in his memory was a great point of national contention, with every shortcoming displayed during his life presented as "proof" that he was not "deserving" of a holiday in spite of the enormity of his work for good. Thankfully, his work spoke for itself and a remembrance was established, yet that recognition was no easy undertaking.
I am also old enough to remember when Nelson Mandela was viewed with great suspicion by many mainstream Americans. Those same Americans predicted the proliferation of chaos and mayhem should Mandela be elevated to power. The facts of history expose the ignorance of that perspective.
I am not claiming that Mt. Kaepernick is a King or Mandela. I am, however, pointing out that in the context of their times, these now iconic heroes were not viewed as benign, Santa-like Teddy Bears. Their views were seen as dangerous and disruptive and cost them their freedom and one, his life.
No matter how reasoned or peaceful, dissenting voices will be seen as a nuisance. It is part of the journey for those who dare to speak out and it is a hefty portion of the price of freedom...and it is not popular.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
After an extended time of consideration, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick came to a point of personal dissatisfaction and decided to remain seated during the playing of the National Anthem for these stated reasons: “‘I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,’ Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. ‘To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’”
Initially, the “Army” in me stirred me to want to simply take Mr. Kaepernick to task for his actions, which from my background and culture as an Army Man, are generally considered disrespectful and outrageous. Then, I thought it might be worth taking a deeper look into the matter. In general, taking a stand in protest– or a seat - for one’s principles is an admirable undertaking. ESPN reported that while Kaepernick is ethnically bi-racial and adopted and raised by a white family, he has personally been stirred and touched by many contemporary racially charged events and has felt moved to do something. ESPN stated further that Kaepernick is seeking to learn more and to grow in his understanding of the issues of race and culture that have captured his attention.
Taking the time to listen to the ESPN piece was helpful to me in trying to sort through Kaepernick’s thinking. The life he has enjoyed and continues to enjoy because of the blessings of a compassionate family and strong personal aptitudes has placed him in a unique yet awkward position. On the one hand, he has enjoyed the very best that the nation has to offer – compassionate people, moved to meet a need have embraced him, sealed him with their own identity and afforded him benefits that have propelled him and his talent to extremely lofty heights. At the same time, I imagine there are days that he might wonder, “Why am I so fortunate? Why have I made it?” What if things hadn’t turned out right for me?”
I seem to remember a biblical account of a man who was raised as a child of privilege and in his adulthood, realized that while he flourished, others who shared his ethnic identity suffered. His first attempts to bring about justice for his oppressed people were not only ill-advised, they were disastrous – in fact, they were murderous. Yet, after 40 years of reflection in the wilderness, this man discovered His God and matured to the point that he was then able, in senior years, to not only act wisely, but actually lead his people to a better place and God’s full purpose for their lives – and his.
Perhaps sitting down during the national anthem isn’t the wisest way for a conscientious NFL quarterback to initiate a discussion of the racial issues of the day. Nevertheless, it is a way for those close to him to begin to seek opportunities to advise and educate him – and he has indicated he desires to be educated in such matters. Perhaps a great start would be helping him to look back at the contributions of Americans like the Tuskegee Airmen, or the trailblazers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Triple Nickel” or the women being highlighted in the contemporary movie “Hidden Figures” who provided critical brain power to launch NASA’s efforts to conquer space. Perhaps knowledge of these types of figures who found ways to excel when even basic rights like using a public bathroom were denied, might help him to reevaluate his approach and focus on pathways to produce, rather than platforms to protest.
Protests have their place and every American has a right to exercise their freedom to protest as they believe a situation warrants. Nevertheless, as Mr. Kaepernick takes his seat for justice, those with experience and know-how might encourage him to consider some other paths to create awareness, and challenge him to take a stand for the future that remains ahead of us, seeking to lift up others to stand with him in the process. If his heart is in the right place – and the information indicates that it probably is – this situation can lead to some powerful and productive actions towards solutions. I know that I am a lifelong learner and I remain thankful to those who have walked alongside me as I continue to sort out the critical issues of life. I hope the same for Mr. Kaepernick.
The Tuskegee Airmen
The Triple Nickel
NASA's Human Computer Project - The Women of "Hidden Figures"
Sam and Sam Jackson
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Los conflictos raciales y culturales han sido parte de la experiencia americana hasta ya que gente primero habitaron el continente americano. Esas tensiones crecieron más intensa y costosa como la diversidad de intereses en los continentes creció y diferentes personas llegaron con sus propias perspectivas de lo que la vida idílica en las Américas debe ser. Millones de personas han muerto en la historia secular de esta vasta y gran tierra. Sigue muriendo gente en el día de hoy. La violencia continua que experimentamos es el feo residuo de las luchas pasadas y presentes deficiencias. Estas manchas empañar el sueño americano y dejar que aquellos de nosotros que permanecen vivas con una carga para entender y explicar cómo estas tragedias y convulsiones ocurren, incluso como el progreso y las mejoras son experimentados y logrado.
John Perkins, un ministro cristiano dedicado al trabajo hacia esfuerzos restaurativa entre personas en conflicto racial, considera que un obstáculo importante a la curación y el progreso es el cambio perpetuo de la culpa y la culpabilidad. Estoy de acuerdo. Si uno mira las noticias en la televisión o sigue los medios sociales puestos, no hay falta de presentaciones estadísticas "demostrar" de quién es la culpa de los problemas raciales. Cuando se utilizan a los efectos de la asignación de la culpa o de culpar, las estadísticas no son útiles ni las referencias anecdóticas de agravios cometidos de un pueblo a otro. Estoy seguro de que como estoy escribiendo estos pensamientos, alguien de una determinada raza ha ofendido alguien de otra raza. También estoy seguro de que, al mismo tiempo, otros de diversas razas están haciendo trabajo fenomenal para ayudar a muchos tipos diferentes de personas. Mientras tanto, muchos de nosotros estamos procesando duele reales percibidos por un surtido de personas - algunos como nosotros, otros no - como nos reflexionamos también acerca de haber sido ayudado y bendecido en nuestras historias personales, por una variedad de personas que pueden o no compartir nuestra misma identidad y antecedentes.
Mi punto es sencillo. Hay mucha culpa para compartir y mucha culpa propia. Sin embargo, si nos permitimos ser paralizada por interminables discusiones de la culpabilidad y la culpa, nunca podremos hacer progresos en experimentar el arrepentimiento, el perdón, la restauración, la curación y el progreso. Para lograr estos resultados, que pasemos el sentimiento de culpa y debemos actuar. Las acciones necesarias para hacer una diferencia son fáciles de entender, pero costoso y arriesgado. Estas medidas requieren un compromiso a largo plazo con los procesos y la plena participación en la vida de las personas que no tienen garantizado ganancias o resultados. Estas acciones están construidas sobre una base de amor y llame para aquellos que realmente deseen ver y lograr el cambio para el mejor perder su vida al servicio de los demás. Es una llamada para el cambio de estilo de vida, el desafío continuo y perpetuo. Implica acciones como el voluntariado, padres adoptivos, mentores, ayudando, sosteniendo, moldeo, viajar y permanecer despierto por la noche, el asesoramiento que se molesta cuando no le gusta ser molestado-ing, y un sinnúmero de otras acciones de la vida real que están a nuestro alcance para participar.
Estas acciones podrán invitar a las posibilidades de sufrimiento, decepción, duele, frustraciones y retrocesos. Ellos también se abrirá la puerta a las posibilidades de transformación, el alivio, la alegría, la satisfacción, la comodidad y las victorias. En la realidad de esta mezcla de victorias y derrotas, quienes son verdaderamente valiente debe sacudir la niebla del letargo virtual. Permítanos elegir sino estimularnos unos a otros a participar en la vida real las oportunidades y aplicar nuestras energías a hacer diferencias reales en las vidas de la gente real. Ese chico sin papá que asiste a la iglesia cada semana - ayude a él. Usted es un padre con hijos adultos – considere a ser padres adoptivos o la adopción. Usted está consternado por la miseria que ve en el vecindario que pasan cada día en el camino al trabajo - póngase en contacto con su oficina local de la ciudad y pregunte cómo puede ser parte de algo positivo para comenzar a hacer una diferencia de al menos una parte de esa comunidad. Comenza a buscar lo que se puede hacer en lugar de quejarse de lo que no está pasando. No podemos cambiar todo, pero podemos hacer una diferencia! Simplemente no podemos hacerlo sin ningún esfuerzo o de forma gratuita.
Moving Beyond Blame and Guilt – Action Rather Than Arguments
Racial and cultural conflicts have been a part of the American experience since people first inhabited the American continents. Those tensions grew more intense and costly as the diversity of interests in the continents grew and different people arrived with their own perspectives of what an idyllic life in the Americas should be. Millions have died in the centuries long history of this vast and great land. People continue to die today. The continued deaths and violence we experience are the ugly residue of past struggles and present short-comings. These blemishes tarnish the American dream and leave those of us who remain alive with a burden to understand and explain just how these tragedies and upheavals occur, even as progress and improvements are experienced and achieved.
John Perkins, a Christian minister devoted to working towards restorative efforts between people in racial conflict, believes that a major obstacle to healing and progress is the perpetual exchange of blame and guilt. I concur. Whether one watches television news or follows social media posts, there is no lack of statistical presentations “proving” who’s to blame for racial problems or other perceived issues in the nation, and who should feel guilty about them. When used for the purposes of assigning guilt or placing blame, the statistics are not helpful nor are the anecdotal references to wrongs committed of one people towards another. I am confident that as I am writing these thoughts, someone of a particular race has wronged someone else of another race. I am also certain that at the same time, others of various races are doing phenomenal work to help many different types of people. All the while, many of us are processing real hurts levied by an assortment of people – some like us, some not - as we also reflect upon having been helped and blessed in our personal histories by a variety of people who may or may not share our same background and identity.
My point is straightforward. There is plenty of blame to share and lots of guilt to own. However, if we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by endless discussions of guilt and blame, we will never make progress in experiencing repentance, forgiveness, restoration, healing and then progress. To achieve these outcomes, we move past guilt and blame and we must act. The actions necessary to make a difference are easy to understand, but costly and risky. These actions require long-term commitments to processes and full-fledged involvement in the lives of people that have no guaranteed pay-offs or results. These actions are built upon a foundation of love and call for those who really desire to see and bring about change for the better to lose their lives in the service of others. It is a call to lifestyle change, continual challenge, and perpetual inconvenience. It involves actions like volunteering, foster parenting, adopting, mentoring, Big Brother and Big Sister-ing, helping, holding, molding, traveling, staying awake for late night counseling, being bothered when you don’t feel like being bothered-ing, and countless other real-life actions that are within our grasp to engage.
That kid with no dad that you see each week in church – mentor him. You’re an empty-nester with time and money on your hands and miss the living sounds of children on your floors – consider foster parenting or adoption. You are appalled by the trouble you see in the neighborhood you pass by each day on the way to work and wish those people would “get it together” – contact your local city office and ask how you might be part of something positive to begin to make a difference for at least a part of that community. You wonder why those churches “aren’t doing anything” about the problems in the community – become part of one of those crazy new churches who are trying to make inroads in the hard places, but need people with wisdom, resources and expertise to help them. Begin to seek out what can be done rather than complain about what isn’t getting done.
These actions will invite possibilities for suffering, disappointment, hurts, frustrations and setbacks. They will also open the door for possibilities of transformation, relief, joy, satisfaction, comfort and victories. In the reality of this mixture of victories and losses, those who are truly courageous must shake off the fog of virtual lethargy. Let us rather choose to encourage each other to engage in real life opportunities and to apply our energies to making real differences in the lives of real people. We cannot change everything, but we can make a difference! We just can’t do it with no effort or for free.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
La Biblia instruye a los seguidores de Jesús a ser "listos para escuchar, y ser lentos para hablar y para enojarse; pues la ira humana no produce la vida justa que Dios quiere.” Este es nuestro deber en tiempos de estrés y lucha para orar, reflexionar, comprender y responder inteligentemente para que podemos ser verdaderamente agentes de Dios. Tal ejercicio de paciencia y disciplina espiritual conducirá a reflexionar la situación, para orar y para reflejar el carácter de Dios en lugar de la propia ira e indignación. Esto va a permitir que Dios trabaje en nuestro corazón y que permitirá que podemos dispensar la gracia de Dios para los demás sobre una base consistente. "¿Vives débil y cargado - De cuidados y temor? A Jesús, refugio eterno, dile todo en oración. ¿Te desprecian tus amigos? Cuéntaselo en oración. En sus brazos de amor tierno, Paz tendrá tu corazón." Cuando está agraviado, tome el tiempo para ir a Jesús y permita que él venga a usted. Usted estará facultado para reflejar la belleza y la gloria de Dios en cada situación!
Don't Stop! The importance of Perseverance!
A dear West Point Brother, Peter Vu, led several of us in marveling at the amazing US swim team and the memories their accomplishments have stirred in us of our mandatory swim training at West Point - officially known as "drown proofing." My own memories are of waters comfortably adjusted to the likes and tastes of polar bears and being told that I swam with the speed and grace of a freighter!
When the time came for us to face the combat equipment swim test, I remember it as one of my proudest moments! The Cadet in front of me slowed waaaay down the last 10 yards away from the finish and I bumped into him...and then sunk like a stone! Undeterred, I low crawled underneath him - passing him - and crawled those last ten yards on the bottom of the pool bouncing up upon reaching the finish.
For the only time in my Cadet career, a Department of Physical Education instructor was speechless (the insults and put downs are generally endless.) Much to the dismay of the instructors, I technically completed the task AS INSTRUCTED! I didn't stop. I didn't surface. I didn't walk and I used a literal crawl stroke to complete the task. The instructor mumbled the evaluation in disbelief almost with a question more than an answer, "Passed?" he offered. The senior instructor shrugged and bellowed "Passed!" Yes, I passed! Oh the beauty of the memory of West Point Rock Swimming!! That's my personal swimming best and the emotional equivalent of 21 swimming gold medals!
It's also a reminder that when obstacles slow you down, don't stop trying to press on! Crawl if you have to, but by all means, PRESS ON!
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
There several issues at play in the current controversy over the Republican Presidential Nominee’s response to sharp words directed towards him from a Gold Star family. On a broad scale, there is the issue both parties should reconsider regarding parading the loved ones of fallen heroes and the victims of various kinds of suffering for the purpose of political exploitation. The vulnerability of such people should be protected, not paraded, and these people should not be used to make a point that may not be directly connected to the charges levied at an opposing party. This parading represents the cheapest of cheap shots and needs to stop on both sides.
The situation at hand related to a dispute between the Republican nominee Donald Trump and a Gold Star Family, the Kahns, is another issue and allows us to see temperament, maturity and leadership of a Presidential hopeful – or a lack thereof. Some defend the Republican Nominee by saying that the Kahn family should not have veered into the lane of personal criticism directed towards Mr. Trump, but should have remained in the lane of praising the service of a fallen son and his heroic patriotism. That may be true, but that utterance is not what has kept the story alive.
It is the response of the Nominee that has given the issue life and why the discussion of the utterance continues. 1 Corinthians 6:12 comes to my mind, which discusses the issue of personal freedom – the freedom to behave or misbehave as one sees fit. It says, “I have the right to do anything…but not everything is beneficial…I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.” Both the Kahns and Mr. Trump have the freedom in our nation to say anything they want to say. The words may not be totally beneficial, but the freedom is there.
The Kahns are a grieving family and regardless of what one feels about their words, one fact is clear – they are not running for the Presidency of the United States and the expectations of the finesse, poise and wisdom expected of one pursuing that office are not applicable to them. One can debate other issues about their words, but they are a grieving family caught up in a political storm through the convergence of several circumstances and they are not themselves running for the executive office.
Mr. Trump is running for the highest office of political service in the United States. Wisdom, decorum, poise and maturity are a reasonable expectation of one running for such an opportunity of leadership. Mr. Trump clearly has the freedom to say what he wants to say, but as the Bible passage cited earlier reminds us, that doesn’t mean that his exercising his freedom will produce beneficial results or display a mastery of himself. If Mr. Trump had simply responded with a word of gratitude and appreciation for Captain Kahn’s service and ignored the rest, the issue would be resolved and aside from a few sound bites of Kahn’s family’s words, everyone else would have moved on. Mr. Trump’s fixation on “counterpunching” has transformed a delicate situation into a controversy and made him seem petty, or perhaps an unwise dupe who can be easily enticed to self-justification to the point of distraction. If the Kahn’s bother him this much, how much more a head of state who, knowing his oversensitivity, baits him into a personal war of words to the detriment of exercising sound judgement in the conducting of international affairs?
Freedom must always be guided by honesty, selflessness and self-control. Those who lead The Free, must exhibit these character traits to the highest degree. Unfortunately, this situation provides yet another example that in this presidential race, The Home of the Brave has no such persons on the horizon for Executive Leadership.