I Can’t Breathe (DOP #4 2014)

It isn’t supposed to be this way.

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t really have a plan going into this #25daysofpeace thing.  In fact, I didn’t even have the idea until November 30th.  Most of the time I think about projects for a very long time before they go anywhere, but on Sunday, I decided that I was going to spend the next 25 days writing about peace.  As an illustration for the sake of contrast, I have been thinking about another writing project for over two years.  I have yet to start that project.

I don’t even remember the specific moment when the thought first came to mind, but I had started working on #25daysofpeace by early afternoon.  By late Sunday afternoon I had come up with a list of 23 rough topics that I thought I could cover.  I knew that as time passed in December I could come up with 2 more topics to write about.

The one thing I do remember with any sort of clarity is that I wanted this project to be about peace, because I felt that the Christmas season embodies the concept of peace.  I thought that it would be a cute little tie-in to what everyone around me would be doing, and we would have some deep conversations, all culminating in a feeling of warm-fuzzies for everyone.

I even have a list of people I was going to write about, people who fought for peace, who exemplified the ideals of this magical season.  We are now four days into this project, and I have yet to use a single topic from my brainstorming session on Sunday.  I’m beginning to be afraid that we never will.

On Monday, I wrote a little bit about the situation in Ferguson.  I didn’t plan to do so, but when the time came to pound away at the little pieces of plastic under my fingers, it was all I could form coherent thoughts on.  On Tuesday I wrote about broken promises, again, not because I planned it, but because it was all I could think about.  I threw in just a little flavor of disappointment with our immigration system, with the situation in Crimea, the simmering conflict in Egypt, and the boiling conflict in the Levant.   Yesterday I very lightly touched on the plight of the homeless and impoverished in parts of Florida.

Today I was going to throw us a softball, a nice big gentle underhanded pitch.  A big fluffy pillow if you will, something to lighten the mood and restore just a bit of our confidence in the world.  Something to remind us that there ARE good things happening on this pale blue dot we call home.  As I lay in bed unable to sleep last night, I hadn’t exactly decided what todays post was going to be, but I knew I wanted something happy.

Unfortunately by the time I started my drive home from work today, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.  When I sat down in front of Facebook to distract myself for a while, I couldn’t ignore it.  I watched a youtube video, then I watched another, and another.  I was being chased by a thought that I didn’t want to acknowledge, being haunted by a past that I had never known, and a future that seemed hopelessly dim.

Last night, in spite of clear video evidence, our justice system failed.


This photo is from Time. (If anyone knows how I can find photos I can legally use…that would be great.)

When I listen to the radio I tend to be more interested in international news, or conceptual shows that provoke thought.  Last night, I spent a few hours reading the fanciful “what ifs” that can be found at XKCD.  I certainly didn’t spend time looking for a controversial topic to write about today.  I don’t follow stories like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, or Eric Garner.

So when I watched the video of the arrest of Eric Garner, and watched videos of the reaction of people to the grand jury decision to drop the case. I found myself very uncomfortable.  I am not just uncomfortable with the decision made by the grand jury, I am uncomfortable with what it could mean for our nation.  I even heard my exact thoughts spoken from another mouth in a radio interview.  The unknown voice from New York City said clearly and without hesitation that “We are divided”.   My heart wanted to shout back that the voice was right.

I could quote platitudes and proverbs about divided houses not standing, or make an impassioned plea to stir up a sense of patriotism and comraderie.  I could even put up a link to the chorus of Proud To Be An American and beg you to “stand up, next to me and defend her still today…”  I could tell you of time after time when the people of the United States stood for what was right in the world, and spur us on to great action and great sacrifice to ensure that this time is added to the long list of our finest hours as a nation.

Or I could tell you what will happen if we don’t unite.  In sobering terms, in a very down to earth way.

If we do not immediately begin work to heal our divisions, the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, will perish from this earth.  We are already in the beginning death throes.  Protests (which are not a cause of the divisions, but rather a symptom) will continue, will intensify.  A harsh response to the protests will be demanded, and there will be harsher retaliatory actions.  Many of us will choose to remain at home, unengaged, until the fight inevitably finds its way to our doorsteps.  Eventually a line will be crossed, troops will be called, and martial law will be enacted.  Neighbor will turn against neighbor, and families against themselves.


It almost seems fitting that the response to protest chants of “I Can’t Breathe” is deploying tear gas. (This is an image from Ferguson, in the interest of full disclosure.)

When the clouds of tear gas finally clear, we may not recognize our own city streets, we certainly won’t recognize ourselves.

Let me be clear that this isn’t about us against the police, it isn’t about us against the government.  It is about us with the police, it is about us with the government.  We can no longer fight against each other, but must fight for each other.

If our great union of individuals hopes to survive, the individuals have to find common ground.  We have to find a way to take care of each other, to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs.  We have to love our neighbors as ourselves, and do for them, what we would want done for us.  We can not focus on the colors of our skin, or the name of the building we worship in.  We must love each other.  We must seek justice.

I did not want to write this, not today.

Seek peace while it may be found.

Don't forget about our goal to raise $2500 for water resources in Ethiopia.

Don’t forget about our goal to raise $2500 for water resources in Ethiopia.


If you haven’t seen the Eric Gardner video, this is the closest to the original I could find.

If you can handle the language, this Jon Stewart segment sums up my feelings quite well.

You can read the introduction to #25daysofpeace here.

I welcome your comments below…although it does take time for me to approve them.

Want a little break from the heaviness?  Check out “What If” from XKCD