The Land of the Free!

It has been a while since I wrote a blog. To be honest, the things going on around our world have me frustrated, disappointed, and even angry at our species. I have done a couple vlogs in the past few weeks because when I speak I'm more measured which seemed like the best option. I was worried that if I sat down at my dining room table and started letting my fingers tap the keys as my mind funnels words to them, the disgust or anger or rage or sadness or whatever would pour uncontrollably from them and I wouldn't be able to stop myself from blasting the world. So I avoided pulling up my website and clicking on "new blog" because it probably wouldn't have been helpful or thought-provoking which is the point of my blogs. I decided long ago if I can't be helpful or, at the least, bring points for others, no matter the side they are on, to stop and think about, then I don't need to do it. I'm still not sure what will come out of these fingers as my brain translates a billion thoughts into a few well-placed words that, if I'm good enough, will become a well-written blog. There is really only one way to find out and, well, now is that time.

As I watch the news, see the memes, hear/read the quotes from the President of the United States and see what the citizens of the world are doing, I'm forced to pause and reflect. I didn't realize exactly what I was reflecting on because most of the time I'm just reacting to what I see and getting into some really good conversations with a small select group of people who are about understanding, sharing intelligent points of views, listening to one another and building better understanding overall even if we all don't see eye to eye. Every time I talk to someone there has been a underlying message and tone in my responses. You ever have that thing that is unsaid by you that you acknowledge but can't really put your finger on exactly what it really means? If you understand that then you understand what I mean by underlying message. This is the type of thing that can nag at you and claw at you because it is demanding to be heard but, for lack of a better term, you can't find the frequency to tune the channel in to hear it clearly. I didn't understand why I couldn't put a finger on it. I mean, I literally write books, blogs and posts that use underlying messages all the time. Understanding my thoughts and the reasons behind them have never been a problem for me. It is frustrating not being able to pinpoint it, but that cleared up a few days ago.

It came in on the wings of flag-waving Americans who were ready to defend our liberties at all cost. It came with screams of patriotism and signs of defiance against the tyranny of a nation's leaders. It came in lifted pickup trucks with mud tires and every type of American flag adorned piece of clothing made (probably in China). It came with automatic weapons and all the accessories "how to be a military beast of a citizen" articles would suggest. It even came with other flags other than the stars and stripes, such as the Confederate flag, the Nazi flag and even bigger ones with the name of our fearless leader proudly printed on it. It came with spit-laced screams and a long laundry list of "reasons" to do what was being done.

(I have to break in mid-thought because this picture came across my FB timeline, and it is dripping with irony of the point I was making.) See here:

It's funny that this picture came across as I was getting to the point of what had been under all comments. It is funny that this woman who is exercising her rights as, as I assume she is, an American citizen in front of a few more Americans would bring my answer out. So what is it? (Spoiler Alert: It's in the title.) The Land of the Free!

I looked at the flag flying, I listened to the leadership of our nation talk, I watched our people from various standings react, and it all led me to the word "freedom". When I realized it was what I was thinking I got pissed off. I mean it literally made me want to erase "idiots" from our world. I mean, how could people be so stupid? How could we be so far gone that our humanity isn't even worth questioning anymore? Yes, I was angry. Every time I watched the President of the United States do a briefing like it was a rally. Every time I heard someone doing his/her job get disrespected by our leader. Every time I saw friends and strangers share some of the idiotic things that were being said as if they were "fact" I got angrier. LAND OF THE FREE! Each moment I sat in that anger I thought about defending against the wave of so-called "patriots" because they were trampling on my freedom, my family's freedom, and the freedom of those I cared about. Yes, I was angry and, as we used to say in LA, "ready to ride!" Then I realized I was feeling and reacting, not thinking. Land of the Free! As my anger subsided I started to evaluate why the word "freedom" was there in my discussions and why "Land of the Free" started to show up.

The thought took me back to 2003 when, as a member of the Air Force, I was deploying to Iraq with my unit and the Army's Second Infantry Brigade of Fort Lewis Army Installation. I remember traveling back from Iraq and how many people thanked us for our sacrifices. I remember when people saw us in uniform and they bought our lunches or just stopped and wished us well. I thought about how it made me feel as a kid from LA who now not only stood for the Black community but for all our communities. As Lee Greenwood sang, "And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free."

Let me take a slight detour, that song was etched into my brain while stationed in Korea from 1999-2000. Every military exercise we conducted that including being in chemical warfare equipment (you know, in case North Korea attacked South Korea), the exercise would end with that song. So that song plays in my head a lot when we stand up and show how great Americans can be. Now back to my point.

I thought back to that time because it was the point were I understood what freedom meant. I understood because I saw the flag-draped coffins and the broken families of military men and women dying in the battlefield, coming home broken and/or dying from their own hands because the demons of wars never stopped attacking. It brought me to the statement that is tattooed on my left forearm under the POW/MIA picture, "Freedom Isn't Free" and finally to the point. Freedom comes at a price. It comes with sacrifices by many who never see the glory of their deeds but made huge impacts along the way. Freedom has been handed down to those who never did anything for it except inherit it like the "old money" of so many historical families. Because it is inherited, it isn't respected. It isn't valued. It is only displayed when it benefits someone's cause. Freedom isn't picking out an amendment that works for you while suppressing or threatening others' freedoms. It is about us all and doing what is best for each life that the words of our Constitution covers. Freedom is leadership making decisions to preserve the life and livelihood of the people. Freedom is understanding that because I "can" does not mean I "will." Freedom is choice(s) but it is also responsibility.

Freedom isn't this shit. Freedom isn't being willing to, as the woman's sign says, "Sacrifice the weak..." It isn't jamming up streets to defy medical advice because someone needs a haircut. It isn't for only some of us to feed from while watching others beg for the basic things we are all promised in the Constitution. Freedom isn't putting everyone at risk so you can go hang on the beach with a bunch of strangers while hoping the wind doesn't carry the virus to you and yours. Freedom isn't this shit. Here's the thing: we need people who are suspicious of the government. We need people who are going to stand up and say "prove it" because they just don't believe. We need people to demand unbiased information and to report it. We need people to step out of the box and find solutions that others may not have seen. We need people to put down their own steadfast beliefs and be open to the opinions of others. Most importantly, we need people to understand that freedom isn't just bought on the blood of military members but also on the blood of Americans who, without fanfare or praise, did the right thing for the good of the people of the country. Money can be remade, houses can be bought, what is lost can be attained again (if you did the work in the first place), but a life, once lost, can never be replaced.

The strength of our nation isn't that we are willing to go to war and kill our enemies. It is that we are willing to go to war to defend those who cannot defend themselves. As a man who served in the Air Force, the Navy, and with the Army, I know that we say, "Anywhere, Anytime, Anyplace!" This enemy is everywhere, and to battle it, we need to be smarter, quicker and, like in military, compliant because we are protecting the weak.

To the people who are protesting, filling beaches and other places to capacity and those who live and die by every word from the President of the United States, I want you to know I'm not mad at you. I'm not going call you idiots. I'm not going to hate you. I'm going to simply say that I understand we don't have all the answers and we all are doing our best. Then I'll ask you to think of this... How will you feel about that stance if one of your loved ones, not the old ones, mind you, caught it and didn't come back?

My final thought is this:

The sun will set on this COVID virus and we will rise up from the ashes and count our wounded and our dead. We will remember them and we will remember the battles both physically and mentally we endured. Then, after some time, we will move on to the next big thing because that is how we attack our existence, one pathway at a time. When it is all said and done I wonder how many of us will be proud of how we exercised our freedoms. Just A Thought, Friends. #LETME

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