Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fear of Ambiguity

I've spent a lot of time looking at my little girl and wondering what the world is going to be like when she grows up.  Maybe it's the election season or maybe it's just where our mind goes as parents, but it is persistent and often troubling.  I read about climate change, sexual assault on college campuses, violence, and people just hating one another for no good reason.  And I see her play with her blocks, kiss the pages of a Paw Patrol book, or run with complete joy in her heart, and think "she's OK for now."

I have one thing in my pocket.  I can always tell my little girl that if she is in trouble, she should trust the police.  I can always tell her that she is safe in proximity to law enforcement.  And I will tell her that with complete faith that I am correct.  She will be safe even when I'm not around.

One of the reasons I've stepped away from blogging is because I became a bit turned off by the certainty it requires.  The compulsion to take a position, hold that position, and, potentially, convince others of sharing it with you.  When you step away from all that, and listen, I've found myself understanding things much better and being more compassionate to those who don't agree with me.  I say this to explain that I have no intention of lecturing or getting self-righteous about what I'm about to say.  I just feel morally compelled to say it.

Yesterday, I saw a video of a man being shot by a police officer while he was held to the ground.  That happened within these United States of America.  It happened a day after our most patriotic holiday.  It was not in a foreign place that allows distance in relation to a foreign culture or different language.  It was here.

Alton Sterling was 37 years old, just a little bit older than me.  He was a father.

When I look at my little girl, I can hardly imagine being a parent of an African American child and thinking of the dangers they will face.  The ambiguity of safe places and safe people.  The ambiguity of what you can or can't do to be safe.  The idea, haunting in its persistence, that any time they are out of my sight they are not safe no matter where they are or what they are doing.  And the worst part - that many of the dangers they will face will be endorsed, funded, and propagated by the country I live in.  These United States of America.

Not so long ago I had a good friend ask me "What's it like to be a white male in the 21st Century?"  I had never been asked that question and let an awkward laugh fill the response space.  I'm still doing that in many ways.  When it comes to issues like this, the question becomes one of balance. Collaborating without patronizing.  Passion without righteousness.  Determination without goal.

I believe the United States of America is the best country in the world because we have a method of government that allows empathy for a stranger to create policy and law.  I believe the greatest mistakes we've made as a nation have been in direct proportion to those times we were less empathetic, more selfish, and more short-sighted.

I don't have any answers or suggestions.  I just wanted to take the time to tell those parents who are looking at their little boy or little girl with the fear of ambiguity that I care about your child.  I want them to be safe.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love.