Confessions of a Closet Racist

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“The only reason racism still exists is because no one will shut up about it.” This is something I’ve said – and believed. See no evil, speak no evil.

But that doesn’t do anything about the evil. If anything, it perpetuates the evil.

“Just as many white people are getting killed and bullied by the police as black people. The media just do not show it.”  Yes, I’ve ridden this train of thought in the safety of my second-floor white community loft.

And then Ahmaud Arbery was shot because he was black.

And then Breonna Taylor was shot in her bed just a few miles away from where my family and I slept undisturbed and without fear.

The slow and agonizing and pointless murder of George Floyd went too far. That video ought be enough to knock the wind out of all of us.

My wife Sarabeth and I had an in-depth discussion about it all, where I (a by-product of a safe and white upbringing) felt like a student seeking the point of view of wise sage who’d spent a lot of time in South Florida. And at times during this discussion, I was put in my place.

She told me that the African American community has a point and a reason for all this outrage. (We did the same thing two-hundred and forty-three years ago, she said. Do the words Boston Tea Party ring a bell? The Boston Massacre?) She asked me how many black people I knew who get pulled over just for being black (all of them, it turns out). She noted that black people who have found success primarily have done so because they acted a little whiter, and usually dressed so that they would blend in with our white society.

The more we talked, the more I realized that I was a closet racist. I didn’t even know it myself. But sill I pressed on with my white agenda.

“But what about the rioting and looting? They’re not making it any better,” I tried.

Maybe not, Sarabeth said. But how else are they going to get our attention? And then she pulled A Time to Kill on me. She said, “What would you do if cops were killing 5 and 6 year old white kids? Kids that Katherine and Felix played with?”

I instantly felt my blood-pressure rise. If I had a brick, I’d smash it into the window of the district court myself. I’d march and scream and probably set fires to policeman’s homes, not until justice was served, but until the brutality absolutely stopped.

And then it hit me. Never mind the looters dashing out of Target with their new flat screen TVs, but what about those people shouting and holding up signs and spray painting the names of victims on buildings? I realized that they weren’t only angry, but many protestors are scared. Scared for themselves, their children, their parents, their friends.

And what is a country of freedom if you’re spending your life in fear?

How dare I point a judgmental finger at the rioters when they’re forced to pretend they live in a free country? Wouldn’t we rather there be 10,000 protestors break 100 windows than see one more unarmed person be killed by an angry cop?

We all do this thing that my daughter does now when watching a movie. She defines characters as being either “good” or “bad.” People are not simply this or that. Not all black people are protesting. Not all protestors are rioting.

Not all cops are racist, but not all racist people know they’re racist.

Racism comes in many forms, does it not? A month ago, I would have laughed at the notion that black people are not safe in America.

But one was taking a jog. BAM! A couple of idiot red-necks.

One was sleeping off long hours from the E.R. in her own bed. BAM! BAM! A misinformed and cowardly cop.

And one begged for his life without lifting a finger in defense, as his face pressed hard against the sharp pebbly street as many gathered and watched and took pictures and videos.

“I can’t breathe…”

Ahmaud, Breonna, George – I’m so sorry it took your lives for me to start seeing clearly. I’m sorry I judged anyone for throwing a brick in the name of a needlessly lost life. I’m so sorry for thinking that it was good enough not to hate black people or not say the “N” word.

And I’m sorry for thinking that our melting pot was ever mixed enough.

What can I do to help?

 

10 Things That Still Hold Up in 2020

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We all know that many things don’t age well, particularly when it comes to media and pop-culture. We’ve all been locked up with all of our old movies and books that many of us have revisited, so I thought this would be an interesting thing to post. Being twenty years into the 21st century, I think it’s a good time to look back at some of the things that actually do still hold up well today, and are most definitely worth returning to.

Home Improvement – It’s been an absolute pleasure introducing my kids to this show. Watching Tim Allen’s brilliant family-friendly sitcom is like stepping into an actual time capsule that’s chock-full of pieces of my own childhood memories. Rewatching it now almost thirty years after the pilot originally aired on ABC, I can say two things for certain. 1) It’s extremely interesting watching it from Tim’s perspective as an adult now, and 2) I think I laugh even harder now than I did as a kid, and I’m talking some pretty big laughs that often a 90-minute comedy can’t get out of me.

Back to the Future – Speaking of a time capsule, I’ve also been showing this time-traveling trilogy to my kids. Being five and six, the whole time-traveling concept is still a little confusing to them, but the fights are fun, the chases are rollicking, and the jokes are still really funny. If you don’t own the box set on DVD or blu ray,  you’re in luck because all three movies are on Netflix.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – I know this goes way back, but if you’re looking for the best road trip music ever, you need look no further than this San Fransisco Bay-born band. When I’ve got my mix list playing, I’m always delighted when CCR comes up with their swamp, rock, and Southern blues tunes, a part of me just comes to life a little.

Lord of the Rings – Sarabeth and I have been making our way the extended editions (yes, with the behind-the-scenes documentaries), and after almost twenty years, almost every scene still looks as realistic as it did back then on the big screen. Peter Jackson proved to be more of a visionary  than the older George Lucas, as his Tolkien-inspired trilogy looks a billion times better than the Star Wars prequels ever did. And that’s just praise for the visuals. The script and music and acting and editing is still unmatched in Hollywood today, even by Marvel standards.

Jigsaw Puzzles – We discovered something new as a family during our time in quarantine. Not that Jigsaw puzzles are a new thing, per say. But as a family we discovered that they’re really addicting! Especially the smaller the pieces, the more there are, and the harder the picture is. I think it’s safe to say that Jigsaw puzzles made a hell of a comeback more than 250 years later.

The Office – I’m cheating on this one a little bit because this ran well into the ’00’s and ’10’s, but the early seasons are still pretty dated with flip phones and polaroid cameras. The point is, the show is still just as funny as it was back in 2005. It’s just as easy to get invested and the whole Pam and Jim backstory is still just as emotionally gripping.

NASA – Sure, they scrubbed the latest mission for now. But Dragon will still take off the day after tomorrow, and I think it’s safe to say that after almost ten years, people are excited to see how much further NASA can keep pushing us into the future.

Armageddon – Speaking of space adventures, this movies still F-ing rocks. All you Michael Bay haters, you can just shove it. Because Bruce Willis as an astronaut is kick-ass.

Legos – These little bricks have been around for nearly 90 years, and still our kids connect ’em, build ’em, and fight over ’em. And they still hurt like hell when stepped on barefoot.

The Grateful Dead – I’m a Deadhead. You’re a Deadhead. We’re all Deadheads. Go back and revisit this gem of a band. It’s hard to find a song that just doesn’t make your foot tap the floor, or your head bob, or your joint lit up.

Homeschooling – Our daughter just graduated from kindergarten today, and just as much praise goes to Sarabeth for teacher her these past eight months. Sarabeth puts a lot of work into it, but she also gets a lot of joy out of homeschooling our kids. It’s her full-time gig, and it’s really fun to see her seeds bare fruit. This is yet another thing that’s come back with a vengeance thanks to the pandemic.

Thanks for reading! Do you agree with our list? What are some things we missed? List your opinions below!

 

 

Does The Hunger Games Go Too Far?

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So Suzanne Collins’ newest book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakeswas released ealier last week. Sarabeth’s only got a few pages left as of this writing, and I’ll be reading it soon, so look forward to a full review from us soon. I did some digging around on some of my older posts and found a little piece I wrote about the Hunger Games. I’m reposting it here, with some updates added, to get the thoughts of my newer readers:

It’s hard to ignore all the buzz surrounding the movies that were made, based off of the mega top-selling books by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games trilogy tells the story of Katniss  Everdeen, who dares to stand against a dystopian government who thrives on televising children killing each other as a form of entertainment, and a way to keep the classes separated. 

The newest book apparently delves into President Snow’s upbringing, and the rise of this form of torture porn. 

So my question to you is this: Should this type of movie (or book) be marketed to our teenagers? I have read the first three books several times and they are violent. But I’m a fan of violence, and Sarabeth and I do plan on having our kids read these books when they’re 11.

Because, in our opinion, the story is very much against violence.

How can you preach against sin if you don’t expose it in the sunlight, right?

If you don’t think this should be marketed to teenagers, would it be better for adults? At what point would you draw the line in dealing with violence in the entertainment medium geared toward teens? If you don’t think it’s a problem to market this kind of movie toward teenagers, what, then, would you consider inappropriate?

Share your thoughts! 

How My Son and I Tested Positive

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Like a lot of people in early 2020, I was furloughed from my job and was confined to my house in order to practice social distancing. I remember getting the phone call from my boss. I knew it was bad when he started off with: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news . . .” I took a deep breath and began working out the details of how I was going to get the bills paid, feed the kids, and keep my wife from having to go back to work.

I lay on the floor of my bedroom at one point that Sunday, with the typical fears of unemployment racing through my head, but what scared me the most was how I was going to get along with my five-year-old son.

My son and I have struggled to have a good relationship from the start. We didn’t get to bond when he was a baby because for the first year of his life, he spat up almost every time he was moved or jostled in any way. Needless to say, I practiced a lot of social distancing with my son. (The spitting up was due to an undiagnosed imbalance in his system where his body rejected nearly anything we fed him. So there was no tickling or rolling around like fathers and sons do.)

He never slept. Even though my wife was the one to always get up with him, this was another cause of constant stress in the household. His crying at night would also wake up our daughter, who’s a year older than him, and shares the same room. To make matters worse, I was dealing with depression over my dead end job and my failing marriage. I secretly blamed my son for a lot of the unrest and turmoil in our house, though now I know that blame was grossly misplaced.

I’m deeply ashamed to admit it, but it was hard for me to tell him that I loved him, which is what I think we both needed most.  But due to behavioral issues, he had spent so much time screaming, even when I tried being the “good-guy dad.” And the cycle repeated itself over and over.

It was dizzying.

And it didn’t help that I hated my job. I didn’t want to come home to a screaming child, but I also didn’t want to leave the house to go spend another ten hours at an unfulfilling job, either.

So on that Sunday two months ago, I laid on the floor and I just knew neither of us was going to survive being stuck together in the house. There were bound to be some casualties amongst the four of us.

But I’ve learned that the gift of free time offers perspective, patience, and a chance to heal.

Here’s the thing. My furlough-turned-termination may have forced me to be at home more, but it also gave me fifty-plus extra hours a week to be at home with my family. That’s ten hours a day we got to know each other, do things together (within quarantine guidelines, of course), and discover common interests. I can’t tell you when I decided to be more patient with my son, but having all this extra time certainly aided in that, because…

What the hell else did I have to do?

I’ve even started making a private game out of lecturing him. Just to keep myself amused and not see only red when he disobeys, I quote Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, and I tell him to, “Be cool.” I say, “Tell me you’re cool. Let’s just be a couple of Fonzi’s and be cool.”

Of course, he doesn’t know the reference, but it’s something fun my wife and I can laugh about after we correct his misbehavior. This helps us be more relaxed and less stern when disciplining him, thus allowing him to open up more when we ask him questions.

I don’t recommend everyone quote Sam Jackson when talking to their kids, but you’ve got to find a way to blend your unique sense of humor with talking to your kids, especially in those moments where all you want to do is scream at them and hope to God they run away and never come back. It’s the only way to stay cool, honey bunny.

Now that I’m home more, I have the opportunity to hug him more frequently. (That’s much easier now that he’s not spitting up anymore.) He loves our hugs. I make him hug me as hard as he can. It helps both of us.

I’ve been at home with my family for nine weeks, and I’m still not doing it perfectly. In fact, to be perfectly honest, the last two weeks have been really hard for us. But because of those great weeks we had earlier, I know we have a fighting chance, I know it’s possible for our relationship to test positive in the end.

I’m at least in a better position to sincerely apologize to him when I’m not being cool, and we can have a discussion. Because, in these quarantine times, what else is there to do but to improve on our in-house relationships? I’m locked in with them any way. Might as well make the best of it.

We cool?

Top 10 Good Things that Have Come from the Shutdown

There’s two sides of every coin, lest we take the bad without the good. That’s why I’m listing the top ten things that we got from the shutdown from March to May.

10. Some time off

Admittedly not everyone got furloughed or let go due to the coronavirus, but many millions of people did. So let’s be honest, as scary as it is to be jobless, we’ve been saying that a little time off would help with our morale, right?

9. Lots of free money

Sometimes it pays to not make bank on our paychecks. And in early 2020, the government sliced out piece of the pie to give to each household whether we needed it or not (not that I’m complaining). My unprofessional advice? Hold off on that big screen TV until after you pay your taxes next year.

8. “SGN”

Formerly and always known as Jim Halpert, The Office cast favorite and A Quiet Place director decided to start a YouTube channel called SGN (Some Good News), where he acts as your friendly neighborhood news anchor delivering all things good, lots of laughs, and often many tears. Good tears, of course. (Damnit, Jim!)

7. A wake-up call to big businesses

Employees of big companies have been saying for several decades that people can and should work from home. It would cut back on pollution, bad morale, tardies, office drama, and (most importantly to the CEO’s) overhead. Duh. (Hello, McFly!!) Now companies like Twitter are allowing their workers to do their work from home where many can save money on daycare and keep the dogs well fed and taken care of. Accountants are going to love seeing what those overhead savings will add up to.

6. Clearer skies and clearer waters

Speaking of less traffic, that’s already lead to less pollution, less smog, and maybe less cancer. I’m no tree-hugger, but I love a blue sky and clear waters as much as the next guy.

5. An abundance of Tiger King memes

I wonder, if the coronavirus hadn’t hit when it did, if The Tiger King would even become as big a thing as it did. And for that, I’m truly grateful. We all are. The internet told us to watch it, and we did, and we loved every stupid, ridiculous, unbelievable second of it. And we certainly can’t get enough of the memes and the terribly inhumane knocks against Carol Baskins and Joe Exotic.

4. Local dining

The bad thing about this shutdown, and really the most tragic thing, is that many mom and pop shops and local favorites have closed their doors permanently. So as a couple who support hard-working small businesses and free enterprise, we have finally tried out several wonderful little restaurants in town that we’ve put off doing for years, and the experience has been great! We hope to keep going to these places when this is all over. (Thanks, Momma’s and Jake & Elwood’s!!)

3. Time with our kids

Unless you’ve got an office at home with a lock on the inside, you can’t get around spending too much time with the kiddos. For us, some days that’s good, and some days that’s not so good. But one thing’s for sure, our kids won’t look back on this year and say we didn’t spend enough time with them.

2. Discovering new hobbies

My wife and I started a YouTube channel for kicks, just to pass the time during this lockdown. We’ve also gotten really into puzzles and trivia games. What kinds of hobbies have you taken up since being on lockdown?

1. Opportunities to acknowledge our heroes

Healthcare workers and retail employees have always been our unsung heroes, but now is the opportune for us to really show them that we care and appreciate their hard work and service to our communities. Be sure to say thank you and be extra kind and generous to them as they continue to spin the globe for our use.

Is Our Freedom Ebbing Away?

This post is in response to the article: “Contact Tracing Program Introduced in Kentucky” on Lex18.com.

Our newly appointed Kentucky governor introduced a seven month contact tracing program yesterday during a press conference. It’s basically a strategy to follow around  victims of COVID-19 (unspecified as to how) and then health officials will contact the dozens or hundreds of people those victims came in contact with and they will follow up with these contacted people with those annoying questions everyday for, I’m assuming, two weeks: “Have you had symptoms of a fever?” “How do you feel currently?” etc.

Except they wouldn’t have to ask if they’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they’ve traveled internationally recently, because they will have those answers available, thanks to the tracing program.

On the one hand, it seems like a good use of technology and promoting safety amongst the citizens of the state.

But safety against what, exactly?

I’m not an anti-corona guy, though I do think it’s been magnified (check out my thoughts on that here.) I won’t list all the hundreds of things that more people die of per day in a given year because we’ve all seen the videos and statistics (if not, here’s a source).

The point is, there are much better reasons to trace people. I believe people convicted of sexual crimes with minors are tagged with an ankle bracelet, so that’s good. What about recovering addicts who sign a consent waiver? Those are good reasons to trace people, in my opinion. If you think of a third reason, let me know.

But we’re in a world now where free and innocent people with a flu bug have to be tracked by the government? Yikes.

Now, I’ll be honest. When I saw that Will Smith movie, Enemy of the State, back in 1998, I couldn’t figure out what the big problem was. Why was there a growing paranoia of the government watching us? And even up until fairly recently I was very passive about the Patriot Act, because my thought process was: “I’ve got nothing to hide; so what?”

But the truth is, most people have nothing to hide. Therefore, as a society, we’ve earned the right to maintain that freedom of privacy. Now, if ten or twenty percent of America’s population were victim-minded criminals and terrorists, then I think it’d be fair to be having this conversation about tracing people’s footsteps.

Not to make too forward of a connection, consider Nazi Germany. The Nazis were told they were liberated and so on, but even they were tracked by the Gestapo.

The takeaway from this post isn’t that I’m comparing mid-2020 America to Nazi Germany, because I’m not.

But let’s focus in on the most alarming part of this article I listed above. Governor Andy Beshear, upon introducing the seven month contact tracing program, said that it will combine public participation and technology.

The article goes on to state that contact officials (700 hired) will contact individuals who have tested positive and then retrace their steps.

Notice what’s missing between the two paragraphs above?

I’m left wondering what this technology is that Beshear hints at. Is it the tracking application that was updated to most of our phones?  Is it going to be time for us to soon be microchipped?

And what about this public participation he’s urging from us? I feel like that’s also a little haunting, but I think I’ve spoken enough on this topic for now. I’d really like to know what your thoughts are on this topic.

One thing’s for sure. The discussion has finally been put on the table: It’s no longer, “What does freedom mean to me?” Now, it’s,”What is freedom? And how far is it still able to stretch?”

The Real Cause of the Global Shutdown?

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In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the world, and our country, has survived other cases like this: The Spanish flu (1918), diphtheria (1921-1925), polio (peaked in 1952), most recent measles outbreak (1981-1991), and let’s not forget about mad cow in the early to mid 2000’s.

What do all these outbreaks have in common? Deaths that rose into the thousands, sure. But look a little closer. More specifically, what did all of these not do?

None of these outbreaks caused a global shutdown or a collapse of our economical structure.

What else do these all have in common?

With the exception of mad cow disease, all of these outbreaks took place prior to the rise of social media. Myspace and Facebook were still battling for the world wide internet’s center stage. And honestly, even as a child of the 80’s and 90’s, it was the first time I’d ever heard of, or was made aware of, a current outbreak, and that I was as much at risk as anyone else.

I wonder. If it weren’t for the social media frenzy, and the political bigwigs monitoring and studying the public’s opinion, would we be where we are today, locked up in our homes, remaining distant from one another, cancelling holidays, and looking for work?

I’m not saying all of this precaution is for naught. I’m in no place to judge that, and maybe no one without a crystal ball is. I’m not a scientist or a health professional, or Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak. But I do frequent social media and I’ve seen several sides of the COVID-19 debate.

And that’s just the thing. The fact that the debate itself is so accessible and inclusive is enough to make me wonder if so many businesses shut down not because of the virus, but because of the paranoia that spreads faster than the flu through Twitter and Facebook and memes.

Like I said. I’m not expert. Who am I, really, but a guy who’s caught up in the middle of all this madness just like you, and I’m trying to wipe the fog off the window so I can see what’s really going on on the outside.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Would the coronavirus have caused planet earth to stop spinning if it weren’t for the internet and so many billions of people and ideologies and belief systems weighing in? Leave your opinion in the comments below, and keep washing your hands, virus or not.