Friday, July 19, 2013

In the Dark about Hoodies and Race Relations

I am going to start this rant by stating that I believe that George Zimmerman should have been convicted of manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin.   However, I also believe that the prosecution did not prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Our justice system depends upon that reasonable doubt to try to keep innocent people out of prison – or from receiving death sentences.  It does not always work, but I would rather a guilty man go free with reasonable doubt in play than an innocent man be executed because we no longer consider reasonable doubt.   

This being said, I would like to vent my 2 cents worth on the Hoodie Marches for Trayvon Martin  that are going on across the country this weekend.  Somehow it seems that many people have gotten the idea that it was Trayvon’s hoodie that made Zimmerman nervous.  It was the hoodie that made Martin seem “suspicious” or “sinister.”  Many people are going to don their hoodie’s this weekend and march in protest of the sterotyping that they believe drove Zimmerman to confront Trayvon and ultimately led to his death. 

I am not going to get into the interactions between Zimmerman and Martin on the day in question because I was not there.  Zimmerman has told his story, but Martin is not available to tell his.  At this point, the actions and reactions that led up to the ultimate conclusion are no longer relevant. 

But in response to these marches I have to say that if people think that hoodies are the catalyst for suspicious minds, perhaps they should complain to those who hide behind their hoodies in an attempt to get away with their crimes.  No, that is not a stereotypical statement. 

Just two weeks ago, in Columbia, SC, two teenagers entered a bakery, hoodies pulled over their faces to hide them from the surveillance cameras, guns drawn as they came in the door, and shot the baker five times, killing her, because there was no money on the premises.  Their look-out – a younger teen – stood just outside the back door, the only thing picked up on the camera being his hat.  These young men knew there was a surveillance camera and they deliberately concealed their identities because they knew they were committing a crime.  Thirty-three year old Kelly Hunnewell was the single mother of four children, ages 6 through 13.  She worked hard to provide for her children and spent all of her spare time with them, loving them and caring for them.  The bakery was an off-site location where she prepared the baked goods for a local restaurant.  There was never any money on the premises. 

I have a hard time trying to reconcile these two incidents when I look at that one object – the hoodie.  Many see it as an object that created a stereotypical image in the mind of George Zimmerman while others will certainly view it as a method of concealment for these young men who so callously took the life of a young mother.  How can both be correct?   

For those of you who believe that every situation is stoically black-and-white (no pun intended), I request that you open your minds and realize that life is full of a broad spectrum of shades of gray.  As I say this I realize that I have to make the next leap that has already been made in many minds.  Is this a race issue?  They are both race issues . . . if the individual interpreting the facts views it through values that hinge upon race.  Otherwise, neither are race issues.   

Zimmerman was a man in perceived authority who was determined that the young man, Trayvon Martin, was going to do as he requested.  Zimmerman was determined that Martin was going to respect that authority.  The situation escalated into a physical altercation where, I believe, they both felt threatened.  At that point, fight-or-flight kicked in for both and their fight ended in death. 

Hunnewell was thinking about nothing but her baking and her children in the early morning hours of July 1.  These young men who attempted to rob her were thinking about nothing but the money they hoped to find in the store.  So why did they enter with guns drawn?  Why did they immediately point their weapons at Hunnewell?  And why did they shoot her five times when she told them there was no money in the store?  It was not about race, but rather about anger in not getting what they wanted and the desire to keep Hunnewell from identifying them at a later date. 

When will we – as a society – stop reducing our problems down to race or hoodies or other such identifiers instead of looking closer to find the true cause of the problems?  It is hard to answer that question, but as long as we allow this simplistic approach to prevail, we cannot hope for any better than the dog-eat-dog society in which we live.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is the Cure worth the Treatment?

Every Friday for eight weeks I will receive a massive dose of chemicals that will make me feel worse than the disease I am fighting. I will hurt - literally to my bones - for the next four days. I will feel a little better the next and almost normal the next. Then it will be time to start the process all over again. For what?
Once the treatments are complete, the doctors still have not found the cause of the problem, so we will be back to more tests until we find the source. I have no idea what it will take to treat the source of the problem since I do not know what it is.
Eight weeks; two months. Pain that keeps me awake. Pain through which I smile and pretend nothing is wrong so that no one knows there is a problem.
At this point, only after week one, I am not sure that the treatment is worth the "cure"...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family Minefields

Have you ever felt as if your family lives in a minefield? Perhaps it looks peaceful and cohesive from the outside, but if others knew the dynamics of its inner workings, they would be shocked. It would almost be better if there were rows of barbed wire in clear sight and if the minefields had signs at every border warning, "Danger! Explosives Ahead!" But we are seldom that lucky.
Despite our best efforts to do exactly as we are asked and assist in exactly the way requested, we often find ourselves the scapegoat in difficult situations. We agree; we voice our agreement; and then we find the knife - or the spear, as the case may be - plunged deep into our chest. Often we are brutally impaled and left to writhe upon that sharply pointed stick for all to watch as we die a slow and painful death.
No matter how many times it happens, we are actually surprised each time that it does! How can we allow ourselves to fall for the same ruse over and over again? Do we never learn? Are we gluttons for punishment or do we simply crave that familial acceptance so badly that we trick ourselves into believing again and again? We blame other family members for their bad behavior and their conniving ways, but we are the ones who are truly to blame, for we refuse to learn our lessons.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dark Memories

Memories surface, unbidden, at the most inopportune times. Most often we are not even attempting to remember, but a smell, an image, a voice, will bring on a memory as if a flood gate has been opened. We cannot stop it. It rolls over us, sweeping us up into the emotion of an event that may have happened years ago. Yet here we are – older and wiser – succumbing to its influence.

Two nights ago, it was a dream that brought back unbidden memories that I wish had stayed buried. The dream was simple – I was being restrained by someone I could not see. My arms were being held down by my side and this person’s heavy, strong arms were around my waist, holding me fast, unable to move. I could not see the face; I could only see the arm that wrapped around the front of me and feel the pressure around my rib cage. The inability to move my arms, to free myself, caused a rise of uncontrollable panic.

I know – it was only a dream. But the images were so vivid that I was struggling in my sleep to release myself from this hold. I woke myself up, struggling to break free of the bonds of sleep, trying to call out to someone to help me. My garbled, muted voice woke me to a darkened room where I was free to move without restraint and peace washed over me with blessed relief.

Immediately my mind asked: where have you experienced this before? The answers rolled through my mind, images from the past, the ugliest rising to the surface like motor oil, slimy and blue/green, rising to the surface of the road as it begins to rain. Life is like that road, taking us to our destination - sometimes smoothly, sometimes not - and always there are those oily segments that aim to distract us, yank us, from our journey with their ugliness. We can continue forward, or we can stop – too long – to examine their depths and drown in them.

By putting these thoughts to paper, I hope to purge them from my soul and bury this dream where it belongs – in the past.

Monday, February 23, 2009


The “official” definition states:

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin, poenitentia
Date: 14th century

1: An act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin;
2: A sacramental rite that is practiced in Roman, Eastern, and some Anglican churches and that consists of private confession, absolution, and a penance directed by the confessor;
3: Something (as a hardship or penalty) resembling an act of penance (as in compensating for an offense).

Personally, I do not believe that penance can or should be inflicted by one person upon another. As stated above, penance is either SELF imposed or a plan of action entered into by the “sinner” and a member of the church (i.e., a priest) for the absolution of sins.

Penance is about confession and absolution. Relationships are about forgiveness. “Making amends” is a method of atonement available to individuals in relationships who hurt and forgive one another.

Penance is about sins that can be deemed to be “marks” against a person’s soul, standing in the church, or standing in society. Between individuals, unless the “crime” is one punishable by law, “making amends” is again, something that should be originated by the person who has hurt/harmed another, not imposed upon someone by another.

I know individuals in relationships who believe they have the right to demand penance from another. I have to wonder how they would react if someone attempted to demand penance from them. How can one demand repentance, penance or forgiveness? Each must be freely given in order to have any true meaning.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Choice of Dying

If I asked how many of you had ever considered initiaing your own death, most of you would deny it. However, the facts are that most of do contemplate the choice between living and dying at some point in our lives. We may not call it "thoughts of suicide", but we do at least consider what life would be like for our loved ones if we were no longer living and/or we consider the pain and problems with which we would no longer have to deal.

I would venture to say that contemplating the choice between life and death is actually a sign of sanity. Those who have not considered the possibilities are either not grounded in reality, thus never getting depressed or frustrated by the trials of life, or are gluttons for punishment. Life, for the most part, is good. Corny, I know - but true nonetheless. But it has its moments of despair that many think will not end or that they will not survive. The strong persist, but is it becuase they are strong or is it because they are afraid?

Depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts, is a treatable disease. Knwoing that should be the hope that pushes that person forward into life - but often that hope is not strong enough to perservere or the person refuses the treatment that could change their lives. Terminal diseases, on the other hand, offer little hope but for a downward spiral into pain and difficulty. Yet, as a society, we feel pity and sorrow for those who commit suicide and declare those who choose euthanasia (or assist it) as criminals. Twisted logic, in my way of thinking.

The issue of choice between life and death will continue to exist for as long as people are of different minds. Who truly has the right to say which is "right"?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Death Darkness?

The theme remains death. Recently an aunt passed away. She has been "ill" for as long as I can remember - poor circulation in the legs that led to pain and eventually to an almost crippling state of being. Strokes. Progressive physical deterioration. A little over 2 years ago, her doctors told her family that she has 12-14 months to live. She lived double that time. I smile because doctors often believe they know everything and this just proves that they know relatively little in the whole scheme of life and death.

The quality of life, however, in those last years was very poor. I say that because while the body was weak and failing, the mind appeared to be strong. During the last few months, she could little communicate due to the failing body. But the light remained strong in her eyes. What is this quality of life? I imagine a certain amount of fear connected to an alert mind trapped in a body that is betraying one's very existence. To be unable to communicate with those around - about little things, about important things, about nothing - is frightening.

In such a case, is death darkness - or is it amazingly beautiful light? Is living the darkness of the tunnel and death the light at the end? I cannot say. Quality of life is truly up to the individual; however, when the individual can no longer communicate, how can we know whether the quality is sufficient for them? How can we tell when the fear of dying succumbs to the fear of living?

It is a fine line that we walk. Each day we begin anew, never suspecting the moment that could be our last. Is it harder to live or it is harder to die?