Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Path of The Shepherd

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper……. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.

 I never gave much thought to what that meant…... See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin'….. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.”
                                                    Jules – Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)

So let me see if I’ve got this straight….

Over half of our nation’s governors have stated that they will refuse to let Syrian refuges into their own states because they are worried that some may be members of ISIS or at the very least, supporters of religious jihad against Americans. Even though those same governors cannot do a damn thing about stopping refugees other than voicing their displeasure - we're dealing with a federal program carried out under the authority of federal law - refugees arriving in the United States are protected by the Constitution as well as federal law. But ask any number of people and they’ll tell you they are in favor of closing our borders because it’s a good idea to keep out Syrian refugees.
There’s a statue in New York Harbor with an associated poem that says in part:  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”
One of the tenets and principles of this nation (a republic in case anyone missed that in high school civics class) is freedom for all. We are a land of opportunity and a land that opens its doors to all who need freedom from persecution – there are no qualifiers about that. No gray areas. As a nation, that’s not what we’re about.  I understand our collective mentality to worry about another 9-11, and that by opening our borders to Syrian refugees we might give potential ISIS terrorists safe haven without prudent screening procedures. But just so we’re clear: the 9-11 terrorists came here on personal visas, business visas, and a student visa  – that says volumes about our ability to police anybody crossing our borders legally. There is a very lengthy protocol already in place that screens refugees and is designed to vet anyone who is a threat to our national security. I worry about another terrorist attack too. I worry about anything that poses a threat to my family and the people who matter to me – people I love fiercely. Mostly, I worry about things that might actually happen – like some idiot going out for drinks after work, having one too many glasses of wine or tequila or vodka, and driving head-on into my family on the highway. Or somebody getting sick. Or being sexually assaulted or becoming a victim of domestic violence.  Those things are real possibilities – more realistic than hunting for the ISIS boogeyman in the closet.
This month we’re closing the borders to Syrian refugees. Last month it was Mexicans and people from Central America. Before that Cubans. And Haitians. And in the 1970’s, the Vietnamese. During World War II between 110,000 and 200,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in internment camps (60% of whom were American citizens). In the late 1930’s it was European Jews. We are supposed to give a shit about people – all people – especially people in crisis - but we don’t. We have a history of trying to shut our doors and lock out anyone who scares us, especially people of a faith we don’t understand and one that is different from our Judeo-Christian ethical values, even though our fears are always misguided.  Nobody was afraid of those good young Christian boys at Columbine. Or Timothy McVeigh. Or James Holmes. Or Seung-Hui Cho who was raised with strong “Christian values” and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. If you ask me, the religious brush we’re using to paint the Syrian refugees has been dipped in the wrong can of paint.
We worry about ISIS and Muslim extremists – we should be worrying about Boko Haram, who within the past year have murdered over 6,600 people through terrorist atrocities that get little play here in the US (seriously – only Stephanie Wright at, regularly calls attention to the girls Boko Haram kidnapped 581+ days ago).  I’m more worried about the fat Christian guy exercising his 2nd Amendment rights by carrying a loaded handgun in a public place, who gets pissed off because the minimum wage kid at Starbucks got his iced soy latte pumpkin expresso order wrong and feels it’s his God-given right to blast a couple of rounds in anger. I worry, because when James Holmes shot up that theater in Aurora, Colorado one of my daughters lived there and had talked about going to see the new Batman movie that night – you don’t know real fear until you sit 2,500 miles away, watching news coverage of the carnage while waiting and praying for the phone to ring so you can breathe again. I worry because three years ago over twenty children were killed in a school in Connecticut and we as a nation did nothing.  NOTHING.  NOT A DAMN THING.  
I worry about the very real danger of my kids and loved ones being in a public place where someone can pull out a gun and start shooting. Worrying about Syrian refugees looking for freedom and a better life – not so much. 
I’ve come to a fork in my own personal journey where I realize and understand that I am not a good guy – not at all as nice or as kind as I could have and should have been, no matter how much I’ve tried to pretend that I am.  I have hurt people and done things I am not proud of – not only throughout my life but recently as well.  Things that have enormous consequences to others – not just me.  Sadly, for too many years I have been Jules from PULP FICTION.  You don’t get to come back from causing damage unless you start caring about people other than yourself, and start making a difference in the world, and I'm trying real hard to make a difference.  We’re a nation filled with people of all backgrounds who are supposed to care about all people– not just those who share the same POV or religion or skin color or heritage.  Closing our borders to people in need? To people who have nowhere else to go? Not helping when we have a chance to make a difference? That green fucking statue in New York Harbor is supposed to symbolize something. We’re better than closing our borders. Better than hiding under our beds in fear or chasing boogeymen every time the lights go out.
This is America – we’re better than that.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Same Mistake

“If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you’ve got to go all the way.”
                                                                                                               Lance Armstrong

“A man deserves a second chance, but keep an eye on him.”
                                                                                                               John Wayne

          I’m a big believer in second chances.
          We all make mistakes – ever since Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, people have been screwing up and making mistakes with regularity.  Within the past year I did something wrong - a mistake of epic proportions (as well as a series of connected mistakes) that hurt people close to me, including someone I swore I would never hurt.  But I did. And I had to own up to what I did and face the consequences of my actions.  There are no guarantees I will ever get back all that I lost.  No guarantees that the hurt I caused will ever disappear. No guarantees except that I will come out of this a different person because of the things I am doing to change who I am – things I am doing to become a better person.  But that may never be enough and that’s on me.  My fault.
            That brings us to the ever-evolving saga of Greg Hardy.
            Because second chances start with an apology.
            And Hardy isn’t sorry.
         As the NFL season moves past the halfway point, Hardy continues to make headlines with his unapologetic attitude and lack of remorse for abusing and beating then girlfriend Nicole Holder.  Pictures taken of Holder – pictures that show the bruises Hardy caused when he beat her up – were released last week and amplify the magnitude of what Hardy did.  When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed Hardy in the off-season, he said all the right words about leadership and second chances, but Hardy has a long way to go before anybody can look at him as a leader.
           Hardy was convicted in a bench trial in North Carolina but the charges were dropped after he appealed for a jury trial and Holder didn’t testify.  The charges were later expunged from his criminal record.  Victims often refuse to testify in domestic violence cases – 70% of the time charges are dropped when victims fail to appear. The legal system in our country is not supportive to victims of domestic violence – forcing a person to testify often puts the victim in greater danger and further victimizes him/her. Victims of domestic violence have to make decisions that are in their own best interests, and many times that means not taking the stand against their attackers.  The burden of getting victims to testify and building cases that can bring about convictions without their testimony falls on the justice system.  Holder’s failure to testify doesn’t get Hardy off the hook.
          Hardy made a statement Wednesday that he was innocent until proven guilty and is a victim of discrimination on Twitter. Really.
       “Innocent until proven guilty-lack of knowledge & information is just ignorance- the unjust/prejudicial treatment of diff categories of people is discrimination”

            Hardy needs to follow the example of Ray Rice.  Rice owned up to his actions and has taken a stand against domestic violence.  Rice has taken significant steps to right his wrongs, going through counseling, and speaking out publicly about the seriousness of domestic violence.  Rice has held himself accountable.

            "To the survivors of domestic violence, I understand how real it is, and I don't want to ever take that for granted because this is a real issue in our society," Rice said earlier this year. "My video put the light out there -- if you have never seen what domestic violence looks like and you look at my video, I could understand why some people would never forgive me.  I want to work my whole life so my daughter, when she's old enough to Google my name and Google what happened, I'll be able to change the tune on that because I want to be able to help others never make the decision I made."

            There are no guarantees for Hardy if he comes clean and admits what he did - no guarantees for me or anyone else who make mistakes either.  “I’m sorry” is only the first step in many that have to be taken.  Holding yourself accountable and working hard to change who you are, the way you live, and repair the damage you caused is only a step towards finding forgiveness.  You have to earn that second chance.
            Greg Hardy hasn’t earned his second chance.

·         *          *          *

      For anyone interested, there’s a fast-growing sports petition at to get Hardy out of the NFL.  If you have a hard time supporting the NFL while the league allows domestic abusers to play, please take a moment to sign.  You can find the petition HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

No Excuses

Once again the NFL has shown by its actions that the league’s priority is (and has always been) its own bottom line. 

In the same week where Pittsburgh Steeler William Gay’s hard-hitting PSA about domestic violence (you can watch it HERE), received considerable air time, the NFL fined Gay for wearing purple cleats during a game.  During Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  To raise awareness about domestic violence. It is obviously more important to the NFL that its players wear the right colors at the right times instead of supporting players doing the right thing.  Because like everything that the NFL is involved in, it comes down to dollars.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s Pink October is a league-endorsed promotional opportunity – throughout October NFL players, coaches, and announcers wear pink to “help fight breast cancer”.  It’s a great feel good story that gets tremendous coverage because the NFL donates proceeds from its awareness campaign, auctions, and the NFL shop, except that not a single penny from any of those proceeds goes to breast cancer research. Zero. That’s a topic for another day, but for a thoughtful discussion on October for cancer and domestic violence awareness, please check out Stephanie Wright’s 52 Mondays.

It was also the same week where there was talk out of Dallas that the Cowboys are working on a contract extension for Greg Hardy despite his lack of remorse for a DV incident with an ex-girlfriend in his recent past.  The same week where the news out of Cleveland is that quarterback Johnny Manziel (aka: Johnny Football) is under investigation for a domestic violence incident (an incident that led to numerous 911 calls from witnesses, questioning by the police even though the investigation was suspended, and an “investigation” by the NFL.  Manziel meanwhile was on the football field last Sunday.  A year after the NFL went through the domestic violence situations involving Ray Rice, Hardy, and Adrian Peterson, it should be surprising that Manziel is even on the active roster but it’s not.

Thankfully there are players like Gay and Jets receiver Brandon Marshall who understand that the actions of players off the field are more important than their play on that same football field.

"He (Hardy) doesn't understand the magnitude of what happened last year, what he did and the atmosphere surrounding the NFL.I don't think that he gets it,” Marshall said. “I don't think that he learned his lesson. And he really needs to look himself in the mirror and ask himself, 'What type of person do I want to be?'"

Or Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, who with his wife Danielle, works tirelessly to combat domestic violence and sexual abuse (you can read about him standing up for women HERE). The same Mark Herzlich who is working to change the culture of NFL locker rooms.

"The majority of men don’t commit violence against women, but men over all need to stand up to other men. Don’t just hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable to treat women how they deserve to be treated"

The NFL is out of excuses.

It’s time for the league to decide if its actions are just another public relations push, or a desire to make real changes.