“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
On March 24, 2018 I celebrated my birthday. As I have gotten older, my appreciation for having low key birthdays has grown. However, my most recent birthday was anything but uneventful. I awakened to a loving spouse who ensured I did not have to lift a finger to do anything. He is normally very caring and thoughtful; on my birthday it was Spouse of the Year quality. My birthday this year was shared with one of the most galvanizing expression of Free Speech the United States of America has seen since the 2017 Women’s March and the 1963 March on Washington.
March for Our Lives is a rallying cry to end gun violence in schools around the country. Simultaneously transpiring in different major cities around the country, the Washington D.C. based assembly comprised an array of Americans from different backgrounds and experiences expressing their being fed-up with current elected officials’ refusal to enact legislation that would curb the all too routine bouts of mass shootings. The organizers of March for Our Lives hoped to mobilize our compatriots to vote out our current Congress members, state-level representatives, senators, governors, local council members and the ilk who have grown complicit with people being slaughtered by American men – of European descent in most cases – with weapons that serve no other purpose than to neutralize other human beings as quickly and numerously as possible. Larry and I wanted to physically participate in March for Our Lives.
Church-i-anity – The Soul Crusher
I am no stranger to being immersed in social issues ailing the United States. Vocally or otherwise overtly supporting a cause has been a stepwise process for me. Yes, I am coming closer to wholeheartedly believing almost all our adult neuroses originate in our childhood. Fewer are picked up after becoming adults. As a gay man reared in a predominately African American, rural environment in the Deep South, homophobia and Church-i-anity (a word I learned from Iyanla Vanzant) were the cultures of the day. So, what is Church-i-anity?
- Pretend-Christianity, where holier than thou moralists use the Bible as a weapon to demoralize and psychologically break other human beings who do not fit within an arbitrarily defined and selectively espoused mode. This is grounded mostly in cherry-picking and often inaccurately contextualizing certain scriptures while ignoring contradictory ones. They may also originate from self-hatred, especially if the perps are not openly gay.
- Fixation on operationalizing the things considered Godly – worshipping in distinct buildings with specific words on select days during certain dayparts, wearing certain clothes, girls not painting their fingernails, guys not getting ear piercings, not using profane language, and the ilk or else. My issue here is the absolutism surrounding upholding these aspects through showiness, not focusing on elevating the lessons one should glean from the teachings of spirituality itself.
- Manifestation of the preacher, pastor, minister, insert synonym, governing his/her teachings along the lines of do as I say, not as I do. For example, Brother X and Sister Y should not sleep with other people’s spouses – yet when I am caught doing it, it’s different.
Having explained what may appear tangential to March for Our Lives, I was taught at an early age by Church-i-anity and other social phenomena to avoid drawing too much attention to myself – the attention participating in events such as the March 24th protest usually draw. Directing any focus on myself was only the case if it diverted opinion leaders’ scrutiny away from the less favorable details about myself, namely being gay. Years later, freeing myself from the self-imposed protective armor was a priority. Brene Brown discusses this in her book Daring Greatly. I graduated high school, fled Alabama, sought refuge in Atlanta, finished college, matured emotionally and psychologically – eventually becoming more economically self-reliant. I took several more steps to emerge from my psychological and emotional armor – as a bear and her cubs would emerge from their den once spring begins. I came out of the closet as a gay man to select friends, my parents, my employer, select relatives, and whomever else needed to know. That hurriedly graduated to not giving two shits about who knew I was gay.
Shedding the Armor
As my confidence and overall comfort in my own skin grew, my oral and written skills improved, so did my comfort with discussing hot topics on social media – the frenemy we all share. I did not descend into full-blown troll-ness; I use social media (primarily Twitter) to contextualize current events within the scope of being a native southerner, a United States citizen of mostly African descent (I can imagine other ethnicities lurk in my DNA), a public health professional, an MBA, a gay man, and a centrist-left of center voter. I would even introduce current affairs I knew would catalyze explosive conversations among my friends, relatives, and select coworkers. Yes, people talk politics at work. Irrespective of where they unfold, these conversations must be held. Exercising discretion, not to be confused with avoiding uncomfortable topics altogether, is always paramount. Effecting change rests on the results thereof, getting us to an agreeable level (not always equal) of benefit we all will eventually experience.
Supporting the Cause
I am a believer in climate change. Even if horrendous weather events were cyclical, and we find ourselves in part of the cycle where severe storms are more prevalent, the ferocity of them has intensified. The economic costs of these “cyclical events” have increased. The fact our major cities rest on the eastern and western edges of our country’s land mass does not help either. I firmly believe Black Lives [do] Matter, even though murderous cops, SOME of our elected officials, and SOME compatriots’ indifference to racial injustice, impish wordsmithery, and ill-advised actions we see with our own two eyes illustrate otherwise. I did not say all cops were murderous – all of them do not have to be – only enough of them do.
Quick Analogy to Police Brutality
Not all cops are bad, that goes without saying. Enough of them are. Pick another retort. Blue Lives [may] Matter; we have been shown time and again Black Lives [do not] Matter. Think of having a tire blowout on the freeway. Well, thinking/saying all the tires are not flat does nothing to address the problem of one flat tire rending the vehicle undrivable. One of four tires being flat remains problematic – you must get out of the car, replace the flat tire with a spare or wait a million years for AAA to come remedy the situation. Even if you have run-flat tires, it eventually must be addressed – because cars were not designed to drive efficiently and safely with three of the four tires being properly inflated tires. The point of this analogy – double negative notwithstanding – crying all tires are not flat does nothing to address the issue of the one that is flat.
Oh, violence in the streets of Chicago, black-on-black crime, domestic violence perpetrated by belligerent men of any skin color and white-on-white crime being a problem too; do not exonerate murderous, unscrupulous cops. Their being in fear for their lives does not an excuse make. In any other profession clouded with so much fear, legitimate or otherwise, we would break our necks crying: “you may not be suited for this line of work, consider other career options.” We must stop tolerating those so-called justifications/explanations for unchecked abusers of their law enforcement privilege.
Women’s Reproductive Rights
I think government at any level representing any branch should not interfere with women making reproductive choices most beneficial to her. I have not always vocally made this clear; the post-armor me has no qualms about doing so. As a person with a Y chromosome and no uterus, it is important for me to support the constitutional and human rights angle of women being able to make their own choices without coercion from her government. I do not have to be a woman to support her rights. I do not have to give trite shoutouts to my mother, sister, daughters, etc., in order to stand up for what is right.
If we really are living in the land of the free and home of the brave – removing governmental input from women making their own reproductive choices is a no-brainer. Women having autonomy in their reproductive health also fits the oft weaponized “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” narrative. Making “better choices” does not stop at selecting abstinence, wearing condoms, using birth control, practicing the rhythm method, etc. If avoiding “poor choices” entails the things I mentioned, it is not our government’s job to make it so. Why does the war on Roe v. Wade continue? If we are a nation of laws, as many so-called “real” American men repeatedly chant and mean tweet at us, why are we refusing to follow the laws resulting from Roe v. Wade?
With the freedom to choose, we do not have to agree with each of our compatriots’ decisions. We should not impose our views on women as it relates to abortion rights. Oh yes, the Bible says a lot of things. Cherry-picking scriptures and shouting them out of context till the cows come home do not invalidate Roe v. Wade, especially if the separation of church and state is taken seriously. Clearly “separation of church and state” in the United States Constitution is missing a footnote outlining how best to hypocritically split hairs over when it should be espoused.
What the hell does all this have to do with March for Our Lives?
The process of my wanting to attend the event in person was a direct result of the thoughts and experiences listed in this blog. Donating money to any specific cause or ranting about it initially with 120 and now 240 characters no longer suffice in doing our part. We will continue to donate to National Public Radio (NPR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Red Cross among others. However, when it comes to addressing issues – especially preventable ones – in the United States my spouse and I can physically show-up too.
In physically showing-up as we did for the March for Our Lives in Downtown Washington D.C., we exercise our rights in ways some citizens of the United States could not do for decades on end – in ways many cannot to this day. People withstood the ferocious bites of German Shepherds so I could peacefully assemble in support of life saving legislation. Ensure such laws prevail manifests as voting out elected official who will not push for their enactment in Congress. Some forces count on people like my spouse Larry and me; our well-connected, financially stable network of friends and relatives; as well as other non-readily threatened citizens to remain uninvolved and/or indifferent; so their misguided attempts to marginalize our less economically secure and socially connected compatriots succeed. Our physically showing-up on March 24th was for our own great experience and well-being as well as for the benefit of our fellow human beings who for now feel safer existing silently in the shadows – undocumented or otherwise.
We Americans fetishize gun ownership – not all of us yet too many of us. This is a problem. Men have made our level of masculinity synonymous to the number and size of guns we own – not all men yet enough of us. This is problematic as well. Too much of a good thing – for the sake of this blog involves excessively exercising our Second Amendment right, which is a constitutionally granted privilege not a God-given one – is never good for us. Water is a vital resource needed to sustain life on Earth. We humans need it to remain hydrated and functional, yet too much of it causes hyponatremia – extreme cases of which can result in coma and death. Ludicrous comparison? Hardly.
We are the only first world, rich nation awash in firearms; we are also the only first world, rich nation whose citizens die at eye-popping rates because of said firearms. Sure, people can kill their fellow citizens with kitchen knives, baseball bats, or machetes among other items. The amount of people who could die in large numbers at one time because of blunt-force trauma such items may cause is far more miniscule. It is difficult to accept the notion terrorists who murdered Americans at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a Las Vegas’s musical festival proximal to the Mandalay Bay, Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, and Portland’s Roseland Theater among others could have caused as many casualties with any other weapon outside military grade firearms. Yes, military grade – the inventor’s family admits the weapon(s) of choice to carry out out these acts of terrorism were intended for neither civilian ownership nor use.
Oh, these American men did not lose their way. They did not fall victim to some exogenous factor absolving them of personal responsibility. After their murderous rampage; being a quiet, amicable neighbor is no redeeming quality. In the land of bootstrapping and individual choice, these Americans decided to legally stockpile (military grade) weapons and use them to assassinate their compatriots. There is no painting lipstick on this pig. The mainstream media whitewashing must end immediately, as does my fellow citizens’ gullibility in believing it. There are/were terrorists, just like the ones who hijacked our commercial airliners; crashed them into our buildings; and killed our relatives, friends, and coworkers. Their end goals were the same, kill other human beings.
Another thing, the more recent unfortunate deaths of our compatriots (1999 – onward) are not the biggest mass killings in American history. The scores of Native Americans and African Americans slaughtered on our soil sit atop the list of “biggest mass shootings/killings” – heinous acts resulting from land grabs, national expansion, racism, and slavery among other reasons, including the absence of suffering consequences the United States’ Legislative and Judicial Branches could have best imposed.
Circling back to the over the top absolutism surrounding the Second Amendment, having been raised in the rural Deep South I understand gun ownership is as second nature as subconsciously breathing. Law-abiding citizens hunt with their guns, store them in their cars and homes for security purposes, and collect them as other hobbyists collect coins, stamps, or clocks. That is that Constitutionally-backed prerogative. I want a gun; Larry and I do not live in remote rural areas with intrusive bears lurking nearby. We do not live in the hood and feel we need to protect ourselves. We live in Northern Virginia inside the Beltway at that. I want a gun because I can get one; they look cool even. That does not mean I’ll buy bullets. However, my spouse Larry resoundingly said hell no. With the fat lady having sung, we do not have a gun in our household…and the world continues to rotate on its axis.
Synonymous to our having to check the First Amendment with enacting hate-crime laws with strong sentences, domestic terrorists who abuse the Second Amendment by developing horrifying stockpile of military grade weapons should be checked with strict laws limiting certain people from accessing them. Certain people? Sure. Certain people have their right to vote confiscated once imprisoned – a so-called check some would argue to the 15th Amendment for undeserving “criminals.” Certain people are banned from saying and doing certain things when such actions are financed by select streams of funding – think campaign finance laws. Certain people are banned from boarding commercial airliners if they fit a certain profile – you know, the “real” terrorists on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) No-Fly List.
Such guardrails can fortify the Second Amendment not dilute or otherwise slowly dismantle it. The goal does not involve allowing Big Government unchecked power to ransack your home and confiscate your legally acquired weapons, unless you given Uncle Sam a reason to do so. Thinking you are stockpiling weapons to keep Sammy Boy from “getting you” is a misguided notion, remember our military has a budget that approaches $1 trillion. A so-called rogue Department of Defense can send a drone to your residence and rub you out from an office desk in Northern Virginia or Cheyenne Mountain. Dark? Hyperbolic? So is stockpiling weapons in your home.
I say all of what is in this blog to say, attending March for Our Lives on my birthday was a privilege Larry and I will never take for granted. Showing-up was a physical manifestation of the belief we and our compatriots of The Land of Opportunity can correct our problem with guns. The ongoing work of doing so made an incredible leap toward realizing this life saving goal on March 24, 2018.