And Then There's Today

Four days ago, I was overjoyed at the idea of writing for an online publication. Three days ago, I was elated upon seeing my first article posted. Two days ago, I was super stoked as I read all of the words of encouragement and took notice of the votes, realizing this is not a dream. And, then there's today...
Today, I won't kid you. Because of this nightmare we call Freedom, I am struggling. I sit here with a heavy heart, recalling the e-mail exchange between myself and our Wattmag Editor. When asked about my article, I informed her that I was considering something like Law & Order. No biggie, right? I simply thought it was a good spinoff that would have a great twist. I really didn't have any other reason; I just needed something to fall under the theme of the August publication for villains. I even considered What's So Bad About Being Good? or What's So Good About Being Bad?, but she caused me to dig a little deeper when she asked, "So, what are you thinking about for Law & Order?" completely ignoring the other ideas.
In all honesty, I hadn't thought beyond the typical cases of good versus evil. I managed to send a quick reply stating I was simply thinking something like us against them. I just had to define the us-es and the thems, I told her. I went on to reference something like humanity versus some league of order...citizens versus the government. Something imaginary, I typed, yet believable... thought provoking, but funny. And, then there's today...
Today, I don't feel like laughing. I don't feel like smiling either. I don't feel like writing about superheroes leaping from tall buildings, or victims falling to barely escape death in the knick of time at the hands of a super-being. I don't feel like celebrating heroes or hailing villains. I just feel like crying. And suddenly, it all makes sense.
We live in a world where love causes pain, pain creates fear, and fear evokes anger. I love, love, love the Avengers, Justice League, Spiderman and Super Friends, Teen Titans and X-men...all of them. I love the Joker and I love Batman, Captain America and Red Skull, Professor X and Magneto, both Thor and Loki. I just can't today. Because, for the first time, I don't see good versus evil. I don't see bad versus good. I only see us versus them. And, because it's today, I know who are the us-es and who are the thems.
As my heart beats faster, and my fingers speed across the keyboard of my "still looks new but acts like it knows it's not" 11-year-old laptop, I become tense. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. With a long, heavy sigh I lower my head. Eyes still closed, my mind wanders, as I listen to the lyrics circling my mind while my ears are covered by my Wireless Solo Beats by Dre. While this may be a minor detail, it is a major decision-maker. Volume up. Head raised. Exhale. Type.
"Truth is, I'm tired. Options are few. I'm trying to pray, but where are you?" is what Tamela Mann, the songstress, asks quite matter-of-factly if I may add. And, quite frankly, that's where I am And, to be even more honest, so are many of you. Because, at the end of the day, it's not about us and them. It's about we. We are the ones who matter. We are the ones who cause the pain, create the fear, and are evoked to anger. We are the ones who have hiked the highest mountains, or caught the smallest fish. We play the games or keep the score. We are the dealers and the deal-makers; yet, no matter what side of the court you're on, when we count the costs we all lose. Plain and simple, we all lose.
If one of us is to serve and none of us choose to protect, who are we really? As a world, as a nation, or even a community, what good are we to play the part of the extra cast member on set when the cameras are rolling and, "Action!" is yelled? Who are you? Who am I? What are we? The us-es? The thems? They are us. Which side are you on?
If we all start to serve, there would be fewer to protect. And, if those who vowed to serve and protect would honor that, respected or not, their days and nights might just be a little bit easier to manage. Gone would be the days of feeling owed or being entitled, and a new dawn may actually have a chance to arise out of the ashes. It's not what we feel we're owed; it's what we commit ourselves to earn. Superman wasn't great because Earth deserved it; Earth feared him. Lex Luther wasn't manipulative and deceptive because he was owed it; he stole it. Yet, each of them simply was. One chose to serve and protect, the other chose to abuse and destroy. Each were allowed, and Earth learned who to trust and who to love.
"My soul refuses to die. One touch will change my life," Tamela continues. And, right now, I'll admit so does mine. I may have started out feeling defeated, but in this moment I am empowered to stand, to speak, and to stay the course. I will fight today, if on no other day nor for any other cause, because there are not enough us-es in the world, there are too many thems in the world, and I for one am a we. I am part of something much bigger, much better, and much greater. The world must choose to trust again, and it must learn how to love.
I admit, it needs to be understood that, I promise to serve and protect does not mean show me some respect. This isn't entertainment. This isn't comedy. This is life. No officer has the right to say, "Put some respeck on my badge!" It's not that kind of party, and if it is please mention it in the interview. Try saying, "Hello. My name is Andy and I'm only here for respect. Skip that part about serve and protect." If they sign you up, welcome to my world. The one where fathers and mothers cry for murdered sons and daughters, and children grow up in fear of the law. A world where honor knows no shame and allegiance is used to enforce pain. This is the world we live in. This is the world we have created, because love causes pain, pain creates fear, and fear evokes anger. Children used to want to grow up and be police officers, because they wanted to help... And, then there's today. 
UPDATE: Just as I was saving my first draft, my 16 year old rushed in to tell me they were shooting in Dallas at the protest she had asked me to go to about two hours earlier. Driving home from work, I explained that one, we had just left Dallas and I was not turning the car around; but, two, she had to ask who was having the protest? Why were they having it? Where was it? And, why was that location chosen? I told her there could be people planning something and this could be a ploy to get others to come out. We just didn't know. For me, there just wasn't enough information for me to take a 16yr old to a rally and it was too quickly put together for my 43yr old mind to be okay with it.
In that moment, with tears in her eyes, she understood. She had friends there. They were texting her from onsite. They were safe, but they were still there. As a parent, I couldn't find the words to comfort her. As a writer, I read my article to her. She got it. This wasn't her stance to take. She is a dancer; she has been since she was six years old. And, she realized dancing is how she is going to have to fight. Everyone can't march; everyone won't protest. But, we all do our part...individually, yet collectively. 
Our hearts grieved for the lives lost: for the fallen Dallas policemen and their families, for our Dallas neighborhoods and communities, for Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Alva Braziel, and the Piedmont Park alleged suicide victim. Our hearts still grieve for Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. My heart grieves for the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, for Emmit Till and the four little Black girls killed in the Birmingham Church bombing, for the nine killed in the Charleston Church shooting and even President John F. Kennedy, to tell the truth. Because, the truth is, it hurts. Seven days, seven weeks, seven months, seven years, or seven generations ago it still hurts.
Oftentimes, we praise superheroes and judge villains. Sometimes, we even praise villains and judge superheroes. We celebrate law enforcement and judge minorities. We deny racism and promote racists agendas. We elect racist officials and give them media air time. We try to pretend that's not really who they are, that doesn't really exits, that we really don't have or aren't a problem at all, and if we look away, we really didn't see anything. That maybe, just maybe, all of it is a figment of everyone else's ever-increasing, ever-enslaved, over-active imagination... and, then there's today, July 7, 2016.
Ironically, it was Sunday, July 17th (only ten days later) that I was visiting my hometown in Louisiana only an hour and a half from the Baton Rouge shootings. Listening to the announcement come from the podium, my heart broke. One was practically up the street, the other seemingly up the road. Why this? Why me? What were the possibilities that I could be twice connected to two such tragedies? Well, I'm not for certain of the answers, but I want us all to consider this one thing: G.I. Joe is a hero, too.
I don't know why I was twice affected, but I do dare ask: is it real enough, yet? Dallas... Baton Rouge...Washington... America? Are we finished, or are we done? Because, remember, we are the ones who cause the pain, create the fear, and are evoked to anger. We just can't keep trying to look away, or lower the standard, when the pain of others becomes the anger and ammunition by which they do their jobs, creating fear and evoking that anger. Neither can we raise the expectation, or single out and bring attention to an entire race of people, when retaliation occurs under the illusion of Freedom, disguised as fear, once pain has reached its breaking point and anger has been evoked. 
Let us not forget a gun is a gun and a shooter is a shooter, but it doesn't work both ways. It can't. And, it shouldn't. All lives matter. But black lives are being taken by Blue ones at a phenomenal rate. Heroes or villains is not for me to decide. Besides, Law & Order is just another show, right? Well, here's to today. When soldiers fight law enforcement on behalf of civilians, and law enforcement questions who gave them their orders. We did. America... isn't she beautiful?
This article is dedicated to all who have fallen victim to police brutality and retaliation.  

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