Today you mark a day which many will never forget. September 11 is a day scarred by the most cowardly act of external violation on your precious soil. Lives were murdered. Fear ran rampant. You were forever changed, but still out of that utter darkness came rays of hope. September 11 is a day, now of service and commemoration, as your people do what they’ve been known to do, and that’s do their best as flawed humans to snatch the good out of the worst situations.
Really, in retrospect, America, that’s been the overriding story of your existence. The worst comes, even if you create it yourself, and inadvertently brings along the best with it. Whether it be from your founding fathers who made the trek across the sea to settle as they fled their version of oppression, to those same founding fathers implementing a terrible, new-fangled form of oppression called slavery, which, in all of its horrificness birthed a people so strong, so proud and so resilient, some good always comes. Whether it be from the earlier wars on your own land and those battles you fought abroad which robbed some of their very lives and others of their civil rights, then simultaneously brought forth life-changing creations, needed innovation, profitable partnerships, strong minority and women leaders, social and civil rights movements and irrevocable change, some good always comes. Even today you struggle with the struggle to be good in the midst of so much badness. Brutality and corruption, mass murders in malls, theaters and on school campuses, heated racial and immigration issues, hunger, faltering education systems, political tomfoolery, homelessness, poverty, a burgeoning identity crisis, and those ever-present “haters” plague you, hurt your people and taint your image, and still good always comes. Your people are benevolent, America. They give. They help. They rally. They challenge. They sacrifice and support. They break down demographically placed barriers to gather together in the midst of dark times. They have the right to freely speak and they do. They worship (if they so choose) at will. They are slowly beginning to develop community across color lines. They spread your love abroad to those in need. (May I also say that your food is delish. Your arts, athletics and entertainment is world-renown, and widely respected and your landscape is a Masterpiece). They are by no stretch of the imagination a perfect people, as you are certainly not a perfect place. I suppose they get it honestly, but they are all you have and for every “wrong one” I see glimpses of more and more “right ones”. The world seems to always take notice of you and yours, in awe, and sometimes in envy, because from Americans, some good always comes.
Many have spoken ill of you, America. I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but it’s not just outsiders. It’s often your own family too. As for me, listen, I get the fact that you’re just a big ol’ mass of land with people dealing (or not dealing) with their own mess. I don’t expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to always work to be better. I get that in life, as also on this land, it is what it is until we ALL become better. And I’m daring enough to believe that just as you’ve come through so much more you’ll make it through this too, with good coming along for the ride, of course.
Outside of Heaven there’s no place I’d rather be. It would be easy for me to become disgruntled, to take you for granted or to compare you with places I’ve never even been, but I realize I was hand-picked to be here through my long lineage of mostly African, with a hint of European and Jewish ancestors. I am you and you are me, and we’re going to stick this thing out and work these things out until the end. So on today, September 11, 2015, I want to remind you, in case you needed a virtual hug, that I’m with you, America. When I say “God bless America” I mean it. I pray for you and believe the best in you and for you. I “got” your back, and will do my part to keep it straight.
Proud to be an American
Having the privilege to closely watch my two youngest nieces grow up is a joy and an honor. They bring so much laughter and wonder to the world, and have truly transformed the landscape of my life. I don’t take their presence in my life for granted, knowing that they were both Heaven sent for such a time as this for our family and the world.
With that said, because of the closeness we share I’m able to often be around to witness their epic crying spells. You name it, at ages two and four they can be set off like a firecracker display on the 4th of July from one of my favorite movies, Shag. Not being able to watch “Peppa Pig”, not having their favorite popsicle color, not wanting to share, not getting their way, not feeling well, not being able to find their sunglasses or headband, not being able to wear flip flops in winter, not feeling clean (you catch my drift), not having their parents around, not understanding “no”, and so many other things can trigger some eye showers that rival that of a New York City park fountain.
When I say these girls can cry, ohhhhhhwwwwweeee, they can cry. But, just like that, a change in condition, a distraction, a met need, or simply a silly gesture from the other can dry up those tears faster than ink dries on the loose leaf paper of a fourth grade student. It’s amazing. It really is. They can turn on the tears, let them flow with or without what we might deem valid reasons, then stop…just like that. Once it’s over, rarely is there a return. There’s no holding on to whatever made them cry. There’s no revisiting it. In fact, sometimes they literally don’t even remember it. There’s no holding grudges at whomever was the target of those tears. There’s no talking about it over and over. There’s no allowing the haziness of their eyes and saturated cheeks to stop them from resuming their very busy world of playing, swaying and eating. There’s no good night’s sleep compliments of a hearty cry then waking up the next morning to start the tear-fest over again. They have this uncanny ability to get it out and keep it moving. I love it and admire that quality in them. Yes, they are some cry babies at times. But if all I have to do is realize I have the power to get it out and keep it moving then I wanna be a cry baby too.
Sadly, of late, yet another instance of domestic violence has captured the headlines. Former Baltimore Ravens football professional Ray Rice was recently released from his team and suspended from the NFL after a video surfaced of him beating his now wife in an elevator at a casino back in February 2014. The video was disgusting and disturbing and that is all I shall say about that.
What I shall speak on is the debate which seems to have again reared its ugly head about domestic violence, particularly the lesser informed sides with questions and comments of “why would a woman stay”, “who hit whom first”, “what did she do to provoke that”, or my all-time least favorite “I bet she stayed for the money”. Listen people, and hear me well, all of that makes not a bit of difference when it comes to life and death. Domestic violence is about life and death. It’s not a “cultural” thing. It’s not a “racial” thing. It’s not a “regional” thing. It’s not a “demographically based” thing. It’s not a “certain socioeconomic status” thing. It’s not an “athletes, stars, and politicians only” thing. It’s not a “my daddy did it to my mama so I’ll do it too” thing. It’s not a “she’s feisty so she deserves it” thing. It’s not a “she should have known he was like that” thing. It’s not a “let’s sweep this under the rug or turn on the blind eye” thing. It’s about life and death, be it physical death, emotional death or spiritual death. The ONLY debate about domestic violence should be who offers the services quicker, closer, more completely and in more confidence to help a woman or any human who has experienced this horrible, horrible dehumanizing act. That is it! Nothing else matters. Point. Blank. Period.
The fact that social media has created an outlet for opinions which can sometimes be based on lack of knowledge, also known as ignorance, frightens me. Having never experienced domestic violence personally I am grateful that that path was not a part of my story, but it is for women I know, love or with whom I have come in contact. Working at Birmingham, Alabama’s YWCA Central Alabama everyday encountering women or hearing stories of women who have narrowly escaped their lives, and some who did not moves me to act. Won’t you join me?
Instead of posting the video of another human at her lowest point of humiliation post some resources, encouraging words and personal testimonies. Instead of debating about what caused it talk about what can fix it. Instead of pointing the finger at the woman know the warning signs and the cycle of violence, get to know her, build a relationship and help her get the heck out of harm’s way. Instead of sitting idly by until the next time something like this captures our attention for a fleeting moment, and it will, partner with agencies like the YWCA Central Alabama or whatever domestic violence services agency exists in your state or country and give money for more resources, advocate for more laws and services, spend time volunteering, donate needed items to shelters and share your own story if there is one to share. If you are a man (or woman) with issues within yourself that you cowardly take out on others, stop it, get help, heal and move on. Call Iyanla if you have to but STOP! If you are a woman (or man) who is the victim of another person’s self-hatred and find yourself in a domestic violence situation know that you are loved, important, necessary, strong, supported and worth help. Leave with your life in tact and trust us all who care to handle the rest on your behalf.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There is so much to be done that month and in all the months to come to save lives. The good news is, we don’t have to wait until October. Let’s start today by all stopping just talking about it, debating about it, and wondering about it. Let’s stop domestic violence now. Our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will hopefully live to thank us.
I’m sorry. I apologize from the depths of my ever-evolving soul for my often utter abandonment of you. I apologize for all the times I entertained wistful thoughts of desired delight wishing you were tomorrow, or neglected you for pity-filled thoughts of yesterday. I’m sorry for sucking my corrected teeth and pouting my already ample lips at the sun bursting forth releasing the sight of you on a Monday, a dreaded day or any day where I haven’t been grateful for you. I want to say “my bad” for talking badly about you to loved ones, as if you weren’t right there with me, all along, being there for me as you’ve always been. I offer my heartfelt apologies for being with you then cheating on you by simultaneously being entangled with fear, anxiety, or anticipation.
Dear, sweet today, I want you to know that it’s not you. It’s never been you. You are enough. You are the beautiful blessing you’ve always been. It’s been me. I know that, accept that and am working to correct that. Be patient with me, and hang in there with me, please. I know now that you are all I have. You are here for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For that I am grateful and more determined than ever to let you simply be…for me.