But this year, things are different.
This year, things have reached a boiling point.
In light of recent events including the horror in Orlando and the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, some countries are even advising their citizens to NOT travel to the U.S. The Bahamas warned about “shootings of young black males by police officers,” while Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) warned their people about crowded places and to be aware of immediate surroundings.
In America. Home of the supposed free, the supposed brave.
Hullo, my fellow Americans. I’m just saying #blacklivesmatter.
You can add that all lives matter, but I’d prefer to stay focused on the horrible issue at hand….
…. which is racism… how profoundly it has raised its ugly head, swollen by aspiring presidential rhetoric, stoked by a country fully unable to admit we have a goddamn problem with gun violence, fostered by a whole world that in my humble opinion is also somewhat f**ked.
Lest you think none of this applies to you and you’d rather be playing Pokémon Go anyways, let me remind you of the famous quote by German anti-Nazi activist and pastor Martin Niemöller, who spent several years in concentration camps during WWII and nearly perished — ultimately surviving to campaign against the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Does history REALLY need to repeat itself again?
Let’s assume we can all agree to the answer to that is no… then it begs the question, SO WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GONNA DO?
1) Remember love is the antidote to hate… and it’s a verb so DO SOMETHING to show you care: The more compartmentalized our country gets, the easier it is to stick in your own little box. Go out in your community and do something positive to help other people in difference circumstances than you. Or do something with people that you don’t know and, well, get to know them. Fear is always False Evidence Appearing Real, so don’t believe the hype.
2) Speak up and fight for equality: I’m modeling this right here, right now. There are some that will be furious that I’m saying America is fucked, but I don’t really care. What I do care about is calling attention to the horrendous consequences of staying silent in the face of social injustice (and that’s putting it mildly). Write letters to the editor, join protests, sign petitions, bug your congressperson, use your vote wisely and look for ways to make your voice heard.
3) Educate yourself on the issues: It’s interesting to me how quick people are to demonize the media. And while it’s true you can get your news shaped by either side of the aisle (Fox, MSNBC), you know you can do better than that (try John Oliver or Sam Bee, for example). What, still slanted? Fine — then try platforms like Medium for opinion pieces to get some serious personal perspectives. Because listening to others is key to true understanding and actual change.
4) Push for concrete plans to deal with gun violence — at the hands of both civilians and police — in the U.S: This one is so damn tricky, and yet we HAVE to do better. I don’t have the answer to this, but there are plenty of thought leaders, like The Prevention Institute, that have the research and make solid recommendations. All I know is we HAVE to stop saying there’s nothing we can do about gun violence in the U.S. and frickin’ do something. And all my friends who are gun owners agree on this point, so let’s Kumbaya it out before it’s too late.
5) Play Pokémon Go: Back to the thing that has gotten everyone off their couches and roaming the streets. The game trades in stardust and candies, for goodness sakes! It makes you want to stop and talk to random strangers about strategy. Sure there are battles and hunting involved, but it’s all a big, silly pretend game that brings people together, not drive them apart. It takes you to new neighborhoods where you’ve never been before… and maybe it validates what President Obama said last Tuesday in Dallas: “I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.” I think Pokémon Go is a very visual illustration of the idea that the best way to succeed is to champion variety and diversity — it’s the key to becoming a master at Pokémon Go, and also crucial to healing the ills that are dragging our amazing country down.
So you might say I’m a dreamer, but I sincerely hope/pray/believe that I’m not the only one. Make today the day you join us, and our country — and indeed, the world — will live as one.
Photo credit: Sadie Hernandez