Just be still: Vegas.

Pulse. Sandy Hook. Charleston. Aurora. San Bernardino. Virginia Tech. Columbine. Fort Hood.

Las Vegas.

Now the deadliest mass shooting in our history. As I watch coverage and discussions, I see people wanting to bet that due to his age and race that he is associated with the radical alt-right. I hear gun control. I hear gunshots. I hear so much noise.

Here, you won’t find a 28,383,991st call to action for gun control. Here, you won’t find some big debate. More laws probably wouldn’t have stopped this. The weapon(s) the shooter used was/were automatic, which have been banned from general sale since 1986. A semi-automatic weapon is easily converted into an automatic weapon with a kit. But none of this matters. Not today.

In the coming days, politicians and decision makers will make promises and none of them will be kept. Some will say this is not a time to talk politics. Some will say it’s time to tighten up gun control. Everybody, just stop.

For a moment. No noise. No signs. No attempts to become the next viral politically charged Facebook post. Go outside, look around. Go for a walk. Go hug a stranger. Go give blood. Buy the homeless man a burger. Pay for someone’s groceries. Call your parents and tell them you love them.

Look at some of the chilling photos, and for once in our politically charged universe, say nothing. Just look. Then look at yourself, look within yourself and what really matters. It’d be easy to say this is an ignorant approach, but for me it’s simply an affiliation to the truth that by doing and being better ourselves, the world– if only just a little– gets better.

Take some time and think about your neighbor. Cry for the children who lost their parents, aunts, uncles, sisters. Be thankful for the ones who made it out. Don’t share the gun control stats. Don’t scrutinize comments of political figures. Just be quiet. Take a deep breath. Think about what you can do yourself to make your community a better place. There’s time for the rest later.

But today. Just. Be. Still.

I love music. I have plans to be at three shows this week alone. Every time I walk into any large crowd, I’m unfortunately aware that such places are where these events take place. Music should be an escape from the rest of the ugly world we live in. Those who know me know it’s mine.

For the 50+ killed and the 400+ injured, it wasn’t.

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260 Days

260 days. I made it two hundred and sixty days without going on record with my feelings on Donald Trump. 8 months and 18 days. 37 weeks and one day.

I began optimistic. I still, and will, try to hold onto that optimism as the next years progress. I believe the President’s primary role is to be a figurehead for the United States and represent our country with grace and class. The President has too many people to answer to thanks to checks and balances to ever get what he/she wants when he/she wants it. When Trump was elected, I was not scared. I wore no safety pin. I sought no safe spaces. The United States was, is, and will be just fine when the dust settles.

On Election Day I had this to say, and it is still true: “Tomorrow I’ll be on the same mission I’ve been on today and yesterday: the mission to love more than is required, smile more than is necessary, and to show more kindness than is normal. To serve others knows no political affiliation, but rather an affiliation to the to the truth that by being kind, the world gets better.”

I, along with many friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors and strangers don’t believe in discussing politics. Most often, the person you’re talking to is uneducated about the issues being discussed anyway, leading them to reach for feelings over facts and somehow it always ends in some open ended comment about how Hillary killed people.

But this isn’t about politics. This is about human decency. Today President Trump referred to transgender people as a burden to the military. As if new legislative policies can be tweeted now, he made an announcement saying they’d no longer be accepted to serve in the military because our branches need to be focused on victory.

When he accepted the nomination at the convention, he reassured the LGBT community that he would “fight for them” and work to protect them from groups who looked to hurt them. The rights of the LGBT community should be an issue both parties can agree upon, and with the elected President on board, you almost thought he’d stay true to this one. Even if it meant giving him a free pass on saying he would “never” golf (180 days in office, 40 spent golfing with a 2 week trip planned in August).

So my neighbor who drinks too much beer and has a few too many opinions says there’s no room for LGBTs in the military. Fine. But for the most powerful man in the world to say what he said today is just indefensible. If only, because he said he would do the very opposite before he took office.

I am a conservative who did not vote for Donald Trump. I am also a conservative who has, until now, thought it best to remain silent, because really, what good ever comes of talking politics? But the time to remain silent is over. Donald Trump is a phony.

He does not wake up daily and understand the gravity and the realities of his new job, but the rest of us do. Trump supporters should be afraid that all they hoped for from him was and is a lie. Instead, they’re as arrogant as the media members they spend their time criticizing.

If all you’re about is the entertainment value of Trump and the “anti-politician” turning heads in Washington, just say so now so you can save us all time not having to pretend you care about policy, human rights, race relations, healthcare, or human decency.

Until now I have dismissed, in some cases unwisely, the rest of the nonsense with Trump/the rest of them as forgettable, forgivable, or unimportant to the bigger picture. All the ISIS comments, alternative facts, staff resignations, Russia stuff, blah blah blah (though, worth noting perhaps that I don’t, and never have had a reason to, know the name of Obama’s lawyer). But that time is over. One day I’ll have to answer to those future children I’ve imagined, and I can’t let my answer be “nothing” when they ask me what I said about Donald Trump AS it was occurring, and not after the fact.

Trans people are not a burden, Mr. President. At the moment, and as long as you’re in office, you are.

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Typical Atlanta

Before I start, let me begin by shielding myself from all possible Jesus Jukes or criticisms that I/others put too much emotion into sports. Football (and baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, water polo…) is a gift. It is one of many things God has given to planet earth to pass the time while we wait for Him to return. Football (and baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, water polo…) is a game. It is a gift to enjoy and I enjoy it, but I do not let the performance of my team(s) on Sunday (or Saturday) affect my ability to function in the office on Monday.

Before you continue, there will be no complaining about officiating. There will be no discussion of the NFL overtime rules. There will be no hat tipping to Tom Brady. There will be no ripping into the defense for staying in the locker room for the second half. You can find that anywhere else. All you’ll find here is my love for the city that I’m from.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

I woke up on Super Bowl Sunday having been in Houston for a few days– some of the best I’ve ever had. Before leaving to get downtown for the game, I put a Cuban cigar and a lighter in my pocket. A cigar I’ve had a long while.

I never got to light it. Oh, sure. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about pulling it out at halftime…but there’s plenty of Georgia sports scar tissue that made me leave it where it was. Many words come to mind and could be used to describe what I just watched. But two that I’ve seen repeated many times in the aftermath never entered my head: Typical Atlanta.

Yes, yes. I know. Atlanta is home to one championship. Teams in the state of Georgia too often fall off of the biggest stages. And. It. Sucks. But before you attach the city that I’m from to a losing effort, not good enough, not strong enough, or not loyal enough, listen up.

I’m more than qualified to speak on how such a phrase should have a different meaning. I watched the ball slide under the glove of Brooks Conrad. I witnessed the infamous infield fly. I saw the Falcons get rolled by Green Bay as the #1 seed in 2011. I saw a different Falcons bunch blow a similar lead to San Francisco. I saw Georgia’s trip to the National Championship fall five yards short. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Typical Atlanta? Sure, if you want to make it seem like you have no idea what my city is about. If you know, you just know. Typical Atlanta is the hustle. Typical Atlanta is the grind. Typical Atlanta is me willing to give the shirt off my back to someone who needs it. Typical Atlanta is being offered sweet tea as soon as they open the door. Typical Atlanta is the most southern hospitality you’ll find anywhere, the best fried chicken after church, and home to people who bleed for their city (the author of this happily included).

None of us look the same. None of us make the same amount of money. Not all of us grew up with a mom. Some of us cuss a lot. Some of us can barely keep the lights on. We come from many different places, cultures, and states of mind. But none of that matters when it’s time to play a game. We come together. And when we do, it’s a politics and problem free zone– of which there aren’t many left.

I love Atlanta with all the madness in my soul. The sports teams I have grown up believing in are less about the team, the results, or the players, and more about a city rising together. The city I’m from.

This week I met a 65-year-old woman from College Park who drives a bus for Atlanta Public Schools. By her own admission she doesn’t even have two pennies to rub together, but she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Her story is one of many that I intersected with this week. The conversations all began differently but always ended with the same shouting for the Bird Gang. I can’t speak for the bandwagon nor those who did not come to Houston, but none of us here regret being part of this playoff run.

And if you think I should regret going to Houston just because we lost, well, in typical Atlanta fashion I’ll just say bless your heart and walk away.

Goodnight, and Go Falcons. (And Braves, and Hawks, and Thrashers [Jets], and…)

 

United: For The Kids

When I was a kid I remember always getting nervous when I saw my dad show signs of fear. unease, or frustration. I relied so much on his ability to keep calm in hard times. I remember when he told me that he was getting a divorce when I was in 9th grade. I was nervous for my future, but I saw him handle it with hustle, grit, and peace.

So as the results began to come in and I was witness to the greatest upset in the history of politics, I knew we were headed into an important period. Not because of who wins or doesn’t win, but because of how we reacted. Because the kids are watching us watch the election.

I mentioned to a friend of mine last night well before the first polls closed that whoever wins walks into a losing situation. Never before has the public been so divided. But it’s time to come together, as Democrats urged Republicans to do in 2008 and 2012. The shoe is on the other foot now, and we’ve got to come together for the kids.

A reality check: Our nation is more than our government. The president does not step in and control the entire operation. He or she takes their seat at the table as the leader of the executive branch. A President’s legacy hinges on how much or little they get people to work together.

A reminder: Neither candidate was or is going to fix or ruin your life. Hillary nor Donald was, is, or will ever be walking through your front door ready to help you fill out paperwork, help you live on a budget, or help your kids with their homework.

Trump supporters who believe he will get them out of debt or get them a new job are headed for disappointment. Hillary supporters who believe she would have gotten them out of debt or gotten them a new job were sorely mistaken.

Hillary nor Donald is the reason you have a $500 car payment and make $2000 a month. Hillary nor Donald is the reason you have zero retirement savings. Your life is still your responsibility. That is as simple as black and white (or, red and blue).

So, now is your chance no matter which side you’re on. You’ve got young people looking right at you. Your own kids, your nieces and nephews. The group you lead at church. Your Twitter following. They’re watching you, and they’re waiting on your next move. You can show them that you put your hopes in a political candidate. You can continue to be mad, or you can let go of your anger and be part of the solution. Or, you can show them where peace actually comes from.

We’ve got to show them where real peace comes from. You can show them that your peace comes from the joy of serving others, seeing the positives in any situation or you can celebrate your candidate’s victory or mourn their loss as though your life depends on it.

Now is the time. You can take a firm stand and show them where your peace comes from and show them how it’s the same today as it was yesterday. Don’t let them think they should put their faith, hope, and money into a broken political system. They’re watching, and they’re scared.

Do your thing. Just know it’s not going unnoticed.

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Easily Offended

People are so sensitive. Here’s a list of the most easily offended people currently roaming planet earth– in no specific order. Finish reading it or I’ll be offended and need to take a trip to my safe space. WARNING: I became offended by writing this post about people who get offended. I apologize in advance if I forgot your group. Hope it doesn’t offend you.

Fans. Know what the male equivalent of a super feminist is? Any male fan of a sports team. Ask me about Georgia’s history of not giving the ball to All American running backs in important short yardage situations. Ask Tennessee fans about the Third Saturday in October. If we were as fired up about anything as we are about sports, we could probably do anything. There I go again, solving the world’s problems.

Vegetarians/Vegans. Rule #1 of being a vegetarian: let everyone know you’re a vegetarian. I don’t go to the gym much, but I never hesitate to start a food fight with a vegan. The bone from my medium rare ribeye steak will knock them right over and they’ll explode into a cloud of kale and crushed almonds.

People with rebel flags. I never saw as many of these until the governor of South Carolina called for its removal. “Better start caring about it when someone tells me to!” says the redneck population who mount the flags on their lifted trucks. Rocking the confederate flag is like me wearing a Braves shirt at the World Series in Chicago. Repping the losers in winner territory.

People with guns. “HILLARY WANTS TO TAKE THEM AWAY!!!!!” scream the people who really don’t know that Hillary doesn’t want to take them away. Unless you’re a terrorist, on the no fly list, or some rando at a gun show. In which case, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun.

Political college kids. “Hi, I’m Natalie. My parents pay my bills and got me a new BMW when I wrecked my 2007 model because I was texting and driving. I don’t have a job and have never paid taxes, but here’s my political opinion.”

_____ lives matter. Whether you fill in the blank with black, all, blue, or orange. I really shouldn’t even be writing this. I should be checking my privilege as a white male who appropriates black culture by wearing Jordan brand shoes but also appropriates Asian culture by eating Chinese food but also appropriates chicken culture by eating Chick-fil-a. I should be working to disrupt this corrupt system we live in. #LunchLivesMatter.

Super feminists. I humbly ask for forgiveness for that time I, without thinking, referred to a woman as pretty instead of strong, independent, and born without the need for my approval. I salute you. You should stop shaving to protest gender roles if you’re really serious about this super feminism thing.

Show watchers. I am so sorry that I spoiled the 2011 season finale of Grey’s Anatomy for you because you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet– a clear violation of show etiquette. Spoiler alert for all shows: that fictional character that you may or may not like but have still been on an emotional journey with on screen had a brush with death and may or may not have survived.

Whatever group I didn’t list that applies to you. Probably a Trump supporter.

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#BrockTurner

It’s taken me some extra time to get up to speed on the Brock Turner story. Brock is a rapist. Here’s the rest of your catch up.

  1. Brock Turner, a student at Stanford on the swimming team, was seen having sex with an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in January of 2015.
  2. He was under the influence of alcohol and denied a sexual assault took place.
  3. In March, he was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.
  4. His victim wrote this powerful essay and shared it with the court and the public.
  5. His father wrote this letter to the judge seeking leniency in sentencing.
  6. Last week he was sentenced to six months in county jail and three years probation.

A while ago, a friend asked me to write about her experience with sexual assault. It ended up being the most important thing I’ve ever written, not for my words but for her willingness to share hers.

Her legal battle fell apart. Why? Because no one saw it. Brock Turner was seen by two students in the act of sexual assault, which is likely the only reason he was found guilty. This happens on college campuses and in cities and in neighborhoods and in parks and in homes and in cheap hotels all across America and the men get away with it. So if I were to ever meet either of the two bike riders who saw Brock that night, I would thank them for caring about their physical fitness and willingness to come forward.

One of Turner’s childhood friends wrote a letter of support. Her thoughts: Brock was “always the sweetest to everyone in high school.” That “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that alcohol increases emotions and feelings.” And she thinks “this is all a huge misunderstanding.” She blames everything but Brock for his actions.

A misunderstanding? What was he trying to put it in? Her purse? Alcohol changes things, but we are responsible for what we do while under the influence of it. We pay for property damage. We spend the night in jail for DUI. And we go to court for sexual assault.

His father wrote that he “was not violent.” He described the rape only as “20 minutes of action in 20 years of life.”  He goes on to spend five full sentences on Brock’s loss of appetite, as if not enjoying steak and chips as though you have the flu is adequate punishment. He also, like any of Brock’s other defenders, never assigns any blame to Brock. It’s not “Brock’s sexual assault” or “Brock’s actions.” His words are “the events.”

Brock doesn’t get a special pass for not raping anyone during the first 19 years of his 20 year life. I’m not sorry.

His father continues, saying Brock is “committed to educating other college students about the dangers of alcohol and sexual promiscuity.” Again, blaming the alcohol and referring to rape as a deviant sexual behavior that should be bragged about.

Rape is not an example of sexual promiscuity. Having sex in a fitting room is an example of sexual promiscuity.

I’m as upset as anyone that he received six months in jail. People serve longer for possessing a bag of weed. But his life is over. Welcome to the 21st century where stories spread like wildfire. Remember when Justine Sacco tweeted “I hope I don’t get AIDS” before a flight to Africa? She lost everything she knew because of the #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag.

A friend of mine in the UK says they’re all over this story. Word travels fast in today’s world. #BrockTurner can’t go out. He can’t meet women. I don’t know who would hire him. If a woman doesn’t know who he is and he approaches her, she soon will when she Googles him while she’s in the bathroom and sees he’s a registered sex offender. He can’t live in certain neighborhoods or visit certain places. In a way, he’ll be in prison for much longer than the 14 year maximum. He just won’t be wearing orange and a name tag.

Brock’s father wants us to think about this 19+ years before the rape. Brock’s father wants us to quit talking about the “20 minutes of action” and start talking about his backstroke and his lost scholarship.

Having to pay for college and not compete in the Olympics is not an adequate punishment for rape.

Brock hasn’t once admitted to sexual assault, even after being found guilty. It’s hard for his father or friend or other defenders to blame him when he won’t even blame himself. There’s plenty of blame to go around. But first and foremost it’s at the feet of Brock Turner. Not alcohol. Not college life. Not the legal system. Not the witnesses. And not the victim.

Brock Turner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Down The Bathroom Blunder

This bathroom thing won’t go away. Some people have asked me what I think, so here I go.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I never knew I had as many friends/acquaintances who like to hang out in public bathrooms. Whenever I have to use the bathroom, regardless of location, I like to get in and get out. I didn’t know I was in the minority here.

A few thoughts on the bathroom thing, Target, and the term ‘gender neutral’:

  1. You have gender neutral bathrooms in your house, if you’re married and/or have children.
  2. You’ve been sharing bathrooms with the LGBT community since the first time you used one and since before this became a matter of public conversation.
  3. Most people with “the male parts” (thanks to Bruce Jenner for the term)  don’t care to use the women’s bathroom. Have you seen the lines? I’ve been to more than a few Taylor Swift concerts. I’d only make the lines longer. And as men know, when she has to pee, you better get out of the way.
  4. Most companies or private businesses really don’t have the budget to employ full time bathroom security who will ask to see some ID before entering. (Maybe you should call and volunteer your time, since you see bathroom security as a community service.)
  5. Things like sexual assault and taking photos in the bathroom is still, and always will be, illegal. Condoning gender neutral bathrooms does not equal condoning sexual assault.
  6. Target took in 19 billion in 2015. You’ll be waiting a long time for them to contact you about ending your boycott so they can get their $50 back. Enjoy Walmart. (6b. Walmart doesn’t have a dollar section.)

Someone gave me a call recently and asked what I would think if a man who dresses like a woman used the same bathroom as my daughter.

Fair question, sure. But I was only asked this after this became a public “issue.” That’s some interesting timing. We see this idea at work in America on a daily basis. Interest groups identify a “new” problem, create “new” victims, and use “new” activists to push a bigger, dumber agenda. It’s funny, we never seem to be bothered by some things until someone in politics tells us we should be. Any man’s response to this question should be the same. We teach our children to be accepting of people who are different than they are, but as good parents we step in to protect our children when they can’t protect themselves.

Instead of focusing on that example, I asked them how they would feel if their son or daughter either was fired or not given equal consideration for a job because they were gay/transgender/etc.

(Insert silence…)

“Well that doesn’t have anything to do with…”

Except it does. The bathroom discussion is just a small part of the bigger discrimination conversation that has overtaken the political scene lately. Various religious freedom bills make it legal for businesses to ask whatever they want about anything but your ability to do the job well. This puts you (or your son/daughter) in a position to either tell the truth or to lie to be considered equally.

Here’s a link to a solid read about how being denied bathroom access is correlated with an increased risk of suicide attempts among trans people. This whole thing isn’t really about bathroom use. If you think it is, you’ve missed the point entirely.

Issues like that are swept under the rug, and we choose to talk about public bathroom use. We sure do have our priorities in order. (Side note: the person in politics who really rode this issue was Ted Cruz. And I’m not sure why anyone would want to be associated with Ted Cruz.)

I’m all for the freedom to practice your religion and belief freely, whatever that may be. But it’s also possible to practice your own religion and belief without forcing it onto other people.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to pee.

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