Why I’m Pro-Life, but Not Conservative: An Issue that Transcends Political Ideology


IMG_0397As we enter a new year, it’s not fun to look back on 2014, a tumultuous year that saw quite a bit of hardships. If we learned anything from 2014, it’s namely that human life is decreasing in value. We saw that a man throwing his hands up and attempting to reason with another human being has no right to life so long as the person being unreasonable has a badge. We learned that being white and carrying a gun in an open carry state will gather police attention, but not kill you, while being black in that same state and carrying a BB gun will result in your death, regardless of age. We learned that Planned Parenthood can celebrate the termination of 327,653 human lives by their own hands. We witnessed that people who are appalled by the previous statistic are likewise willing to defend the use of torture – even against innocent people – by the CIA, are willing to support drone strikes, are willing to support endless warfare, and still support the death penalty even though at least 4% of those on death row are innocent. All the while, people complained about “Obamacare,” helping the homeless, or enacting policies to help eradicate poverty.

Sadly, as I’ve pointed out before, “pro-life” is a bit of a misnomer as a movement. After all, how can one be “pro-life” on matters of abortion, but still advocate the destruction of life outside the womb? The cornerstone of any argument against abortion begins with the idea that humans have intrinsic value by mere fact that they exist; what good does it do us if we support positions that contradict such a viewpoint? More to the issue of being against abortion (with exception to the rarest of cases, such as the life of the mother), what good does it do to cry out about the value of the life in the womb, but then do all we can to disavow that life once born?

In the case of a mother being too poor to take care of the child, or to receive proper pre and post-natal treatment, or to obtain daycare so she can keep working or get a better education, or any of the other lists of things that cause women to consider abortion, what has the conservative side done? What have conservatives done to eliminate the conditions that would make abortion an option? See, the greatest irony is that most modern conservatives aren’t actually conservative. Some might say they’re “classically liberal” because they’re against war (such as Rand Paul), but even then that’s not an appropriate description. Modern conservatives are, in many ways, no different than modern liberals; both ascribe to a form of individualism when it’s convenient for their cases. For liberals, individualism comes into play mostly with the abortion argument, whereas for conservatives it comes into play for just about everything except social issues (but heavily on economic issues).

One can look to classical conservatives coming out of England in the 18th and 19th centuries and see a much different “conservative” than what we see today: They were anti-slavery, anti-segregation, pro-government spending on the poor, pro-social justice, anti-war, pro-civil rights, and so on. They were against government waste, against a large government in cases where a large government isn’t necessary (such as education), and supported local community involvement in instances where the government wasn’t needed. More importantly, they didn’t buy into individualism. They had the audacity to believe that we had ethical obligations to each other and that sometimes those obligations even surpassed our obligations to ourselves. Under such a system the individual doesn’t reign supreme.  Continue reading

Jesus Juking McDonalds: Love is Endless, but Your Business Model Isn’t


Josh, enjoying some American fries, the type he can no longer get in England.

Josh, enjoying some American fries, the type he can no longer get in England.

McDonald’s has taken quite a few hits lately in the news, whether it be from allegedly discriminating against employees to falling profits, right now is not a good time to be an executive at McDonald’s. While it’s been known the past decade or two that McDonald’s is hardly nutritious, the last few years their product has more than likely contributed to a decline in their profits.

Never fear, however, because in the Corporate World™ a problem with the product is easily fixed through…marketing. While common sense dictates that a problem in the product or in how a company is managed requires the product and management style to change, in the Corporate World™ all that’s required is better publicity. Such strategies have proven to work, that is, until the advent of social media. Regardless, McDonald’s isn’t aware of such things and instead has produced a “commercial aimed at millennials.” Rather than fixing the product, like Chipotle did, McDonald’s is trying to just change the public perception by focusing their commercials around the idea of “love.”

Thus, we end up with this:

Now what, exactly, does “love is endless” have to do with eating horrible tasting hamburgers and fries? How does anything in that commercial or message make me think, “Well, maybe I should eat at McDonald’s”? The idea that “love is endless” is certainly true, but to cheapen it as a ploy to get people to buy hamburgers kind of negates the sentiment.

And now for the Jesus Juke…

See, love is endless because God is love, and he is infinite. To state that “love is endless” is certainly true, but one has to ask if McDonald’s is really qualified to use this statement. After all, a Christian approach to business, one centered on endless love, wouldn’t really allow for McDonald’s business practices, especially with its employees.

The same Bible that tells us that Jesus is God and that God is love tells us that God expects fair, livable wages to be paid to employees. Consider James 5:2-5 (ESV):

Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

James is quite emphatic about the type of wealth these people have acquired; not just wealth in general, but wealth gained off of wage fraud. The phrase “kept back by fraud” is actually just one Greek word: ἀποστερέω (apostereo), which means to hold back from someone or to deny them their due. Even Jesus in Luke 10:7 says that the laborer deserves his wages.

The idea of justice in Scripture is based on love – a love of God will always lead to justice with God and a love of one’s fellow man will always lead to justice with one’s fellow man. Justice, in a Scriptural sense, refers to putting others on equal footing with yourself (that is, after all, the second Greatest Commandment, to “love thy neighbor as thyself”). Biblical justice involves wholeness, repairing and making whole that which was broken by sin. In terms of poverty, Christian justice is the act of giving to the laborer a wage worth a living, and then giving to the needy what is needed for them to survive. Proverbs 29:7 says as much;

“A righteous man understands how to judge on behalf of the poor, But the ungodly man will not consider such knowledge; For he has no understanding heart for a poor man.” (Orthodox Study Bible)

If McDonald’s wants to try and use “love” as some gimmick, then they must understand they bring upon themselves quite the burden; love is endless, but it’s one thing to say love is endless and entirely another to live it. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that McDonald’s actually loves its employees, but merely want to point out the importance of taking important phrases and subjecting them to triteness.

From the Christian perspective, love is endless whereas money has a definite ending. Love then is the focal point of the Christian life and supplants all other pursuits, including that of money. Not that money isn’t important or that it’s inherently wrong to be rich as a Christian, but instead that for wealthy Christians, especially business owners, that wealth ought not be obtained by denying fair wages to others. And by “fair” I do not mean the “market standard,” but instead the type of wages on which a person can live. How can Christians claim love is endless if they’re unwilling to display that love in a monetary way by paying their employees a fair wage? We can’t expect consistency from McDonald’s – even if their business model is quite absurd (they want consumers to pay for their food, but want to keep their employees poor, thus removing their employees from the consumer section and eliminating their own profit; the company’s policy of keeping wages low forces the company to eat itself) – but we should expect consistency from Christians in regards to paying a livable wage to their employees.

The Sniper and the Cross: When Nationalism Clouds Your Christianity


Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

American Sniper officially made it big at the box office this past weekend, and of course has generated quite a bit of controversy. There’s the fact that the late Chris Kyle was emphatic that he enjoyed killing his enemy and was quite black and white in his whole approach to killing: the Iraqis were evil and deserved to die because they were Muslims and the Americans were good because they were Christians. Such a view doesn’t allow for nuance or complications; part of that might be a defense mechanism for those in combat. After all, no one would want to think themselves responsible for unjustly killing another human being. Regardless, Chris Kyle did perform heroically in many situations (even in unjust wars, even on the wrong side of a war, men can still perform heroic acts) and he has passed on, thus his judgements are his own, drawn on his experiences.

What is inexcusable, however, are the reactions of those seeing the film and coming to the conclusion that “killing for your country automatically makes you a hero.” No war, not even WWII (possibly the most clear-cut case of a “good” vs. “evil” war in history), is ever about the good guys against the bad guys. The idea of a completely good army against a completely evil army only plays out in fiction; in real life, men on both sides of the gun more than likely have families waiting for them back home, have lives that would have been better if left uninterrupted by war, who have dreams and aspirations beyond warfare. Yes, many groups commit evil acts, but no individual is truly and fully evil. All individuals, even those who commit despicable acts, are still made in God’s image. In fact, we recognize their acts as evil because it not only harms another, but those acts are so contrary to who they are.

Thus, it must pain us when such a life is taken. I am not a full-blown pacifist, I do believe there is a time to kill, I think there are times to go to war, but such times should be solemn and we ought not celebrate the deaths of our enemies. Even David mourned the loss of Saul. Yet, in the name of patriotism we have a movie that essentially celebrates and glorifies (at least that’s how it’s been interpreted) the deaths of Arabs and we praise it and the man who killed them. That is not the sign of a healthy country.

There’s a fine line between patriotism and nationalism, but you can never tell that to the nationalist, for he always fancies himself a patriot. For a Christian, it’s okay to be a patriot, it’s okay to love one’s nation. After all, for better or worse, your nation is your broader community and has helped shape you into who you are. The problem, however, is when patriotism becomes nationalism. The biggest difference between a patriot and a nationalist is that to the patriot, his nation is always seeking after an ideal; to a nationalist, his nation is the ideal, and while the government may not represent his nation, his nation exists in perfection and can rise from the ashes of a fallen society.

A patriot in America looks to his nation’s past and sees a complex story. He sees the good things the US has done, but also sees where we moved away from our ideal. To the patriot, there’s still an “American Dream,” it’s just in an ideal that thus far is left unattained. The ideal for the patriot is one that will make his country better – not like it used to be – but better than it has ever been. He will condemn his government and his nation when it goes against the ideal, when it goes against human dignity and freedom, but not out of hatred, yet out of love. To condemn one’s country for it’s wrongs is no different than to condemn one’s parents for their wrongs; it is not indicative of hate, but of true love.

Nationalism, however, does away with the ideal and believes his nation is the ideal. Nationalism is always a dangerous utopia of exclusion. Sadly, every nationalist thinks he’s a patriot, that he’s supporting his nation and all those who do not goose-step along him are not only not patriots, but against his nation. Disagreement is not allowed and all who do disagree or question aren’t loyal to the nation. His country, right or wrong, is his country and he will follow it. For a nationalist, there was once a utopia in which his people lived free, but it was corrupted by the “Other,” by some people group who now stand between his people and attaining their former greatness.

Such nationalism easily co-ops Christianity, as it has in many other nations. One can think of the current conflict between the Ukraine and Russia, where “Orthodox” adherents on both sides claim God is on their side. Or we can look to German Lutherans in WWII and how quick they were to declare that Hitler’s Germany was God’s Will. Or even to our own history and how “manifest destiny” justified the genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement and brutalization of Africans. All of these horrible actions were done with the sanction of ministers and “good, God-fearing” people. The reason isn’t because Christianity actually allows for these things – it stands quite opposed to tarnishing God’s image – but because people wrapped the cross in their nation’s flag, because they filtered their faith through their ideology.

Which brings us back to the movie and the actions of Chris Kyle; killing is a necessity in war, but should we celebrate it? Shouldn’t we be somber that another human being was killed, justified or no? From a Christian perspective we are to seek peace in all situations. We are to constantly struggle towards peace and when that peace cannot be achieved, only then do we engage in war, but always with a heavy-heart. Or, if we follow the early Church’s example, Christians ought not engage in war at all. How do we go from forbidding Christians to engage in war to declaring a sniper a holy instrument of God? If we celebrate the idea that all Muslims are evil and that it’s okay that Chris Kyle enjoyed killing them, is not the next logical step to just kill them outright? What is it that prevents us from interning and systematically killing Muslims if we believe them to be so evil? What prevents it, or so I hope, is that even in our nationalistic passion the image of God still ignites within us to tell us that such desires are wrong and evil.

For the Christian, all human beings are made in the image of God and while some war is necessary, all killing is an atrocity and indicative of a fallen world, certainly not something worthy of celebration. We cannot let our love of country surpass or interfere with our love of God and our love of our fellow image-bearers. Perhaps Christians would be better served celebrating films that promote peace, such as Selma (outperformed by American Sniper, which is troublesome), than supporting nationalistic films that promote and celebrate the deaths of the “other.”

“God Bless You if You Can” – A Short Story


be kind to the poorA somewhat longer short story, but I hope you find it worth the effort and read. It does have “rough language,” but such language I find necessary to depict the reality of the people involved. Either way, I hope you enjoy it and gain something from it. Merry Christmas everyone. 

 

He awoke to the sound of someone shuffling in the alley.

“Lisa? Lisa, is that you?”

He heard the pattering of four paws scurry away at his voice. He looked up to see the dog turn around and look back at him. He smiled and held out a morsel of his dinner. The dog slowly approached, apprehensive and untrusting of this old man.

“Come here boy, it’s alright.” he said softly. “Come on, that’s it.”

He slowly ran his fingers through the dogs fur as it ate out of his hand. He felt a sore on its back leg, possibly from a fight or a sadistic neighborhood kid. After scrummaging through his belongings, he pulled out the almost empty bottle of hydrogen peroxide, poured some onto a cotton swab, and then slowly and gently put it on the sore. The dog backed up a bit, startled by the coldness of the liquid, but ultimately trusted the man who had given him food. The dog licked the man’s hand as the man worked with his other hand to clean the wound. Satisfied that he had done what he could, the man lay down and the dog scurried away.

As the city came alive, the old man arose from his morning prayers and then walked through the snow to his usual corner. There he sat, cup in hand, holding his sign.

GOD BLESS YOU IF YOU CAN

It was a curious sign, one that caused people to give a double take. Most assumed that he was drunk when he wrote the sign and went on their way. Others, obliged by some sense of decency would drop a dollar or two into his cup. His usual reply of “God bless you” was greeted with a nod, or the occasional offer to pray for the poor old man. He never turned down prayer. Every so often someone would yell at him to get a job or refuse to acknowledge his existence, but through the experience of begging he’d discovered that people were, for the most part, decent.

Around noon, he pulled his lunch from a paper bag he had handy. He walked around the corner to the convenience shop to pick up a soda. He picked out his favorite one, brought it to the counter, and put the money out to pay. The owner grabbed the money and gently pushed it back towards the old man.

“You no pay. Never.” he said in his broken English.

“Mr. Kim, I can’t take it for free.”

“No!” he said emphatically. He shook his head as tears welled up. “You save daughter. You holy man. You no pay.”

The old man lowered his eyes, feeling a sting of hypocrisy in the praise he received. He sheepishly took his soda and walked out, thanking the owner. He walked back to his corner, cleared some of the snow that had accumulated, and sat back down on his mat. He gave a blessing over his food, ate his lunch, drank his soda, and then continued to beg for money. Continue reading

The Ubiquity of Evil and the Hope of Christmas


IMG_0031Whenever describing the evil actions of a person, most Americans will typically turn to the WWII Nazis as an example of evil personified. For the Russian writer Dostoevsky, he turned to the actions of Turkish soldiers to describe the detestable nature of human deeds. We can point to almost any nation at any given time and find people performing some of the most inhumane and violent acts. One can point to a San Francisco sheriff’s deputy who stands accused of attempting to choke a hospital patient to death and then charged the patient with assault. He did this for no apparent reason, which just stands as evil. Or we can turn to New York where two police officers – one a husband and father, the other a newlywed – were murdered for “revenge” right before Christmas.

It is near impossible to look into this world and not see it consumed by evil. Certainly, it seems that we have fallen into a void, one in which all can agree that we have gone astray. Many people hold to some form of naiveté believing that they could never be the perpetrators of evil, forgetting that Nazi guards were also fathers at home, that psychotic cop killers were once someone’s child. Evil is so prevalent in our world that we are, at any given point, just moments away from performing any given evil. The men who put people in gas chambers were not monsters, but men like you and I. The soldiers who perform war crimes are not subhuman, but quite human with hopes, dreams, and even good qualities outside of their acts of evil.

In a way, the humanity of those who perform monstrous acts makes them all the worse. Were they monsters then we could expect their evil as a part of their nature. It is why there is no conflict in fables when the hero goes off to fight a monster; monsters are, by their nature, evil beings. But what if the hero goes off to kill the dark knight, only to discover that while the knight did burn a village, he’s also a father to two children and a husband to a loving wife? He is a man, who by his nature is good, neglected his nature and turned to evil. Evil seems all the worse when we realize that partaking in it is the abandonment of our nature as humans.

Contrary to popular belief, humans are not evil by nature. Were we evil by nature then God would be a liar, calling his creation “very good.” Christ would have had to been evil by nature, that or have not taken on a human nature. Rather, Christ took on a human nature, showing that it was not the human nature which was evil and fallen, but the human will that fell. Thus, our engagement and enjoyment in evil does not stem from some natural inclination towards evil, but against our very nature; we must choose to engage in evil, we must choose to enjoy it. The Nazi guard did not do what came natural to him, but rather had to rationalize his actions and justify his actions, because deep down he knew them to be wrong. Such is the cry of all tyrants throughout history; “I was only following orders,” “It was my duty,” “I did it to protect my nation,” and so on. But acts of kindness, acts of love, never need such justifications. No man says, “I gave to the poor because I was told to,” or “I helped the orphans to help my nation.” No man who performs an act of love, an act of goodness, must ever justify his actions, for his actions speak for themselves. Only acts of evil need justification, and while the perpetrator might rationalize his actions, he will never justify them.

Through our rationalization of evil – of recent, rationalizing torture, isolation, subjugation, killing of the innocent in the name of authority, killing of the innocent in the name of revenge – we must admit that our world is a very dark place. Indeed, evil seems commonplace in the world and impossible to overcome. Somewhere in the world a child is starving because a warlord decided to horde the food for himself and his minions. Somewhere a woman cries out to apathetic ears while being violated by tormenters. Elsewhere a child sells himself to rich men for their acts of debauchery so that his family might eat. A man is killed for some arbitrary reason and to satisfy the evil urgings of another. A wife discovers her husband has cheated on her and seeks to cheat as well in order to exact revenge. Children sit in the same home as their parents, but are technological orphans, finding more connection with their cell phones than with the flesh and blood that brought them into this world. A man yells at the person with a foreign accent, hating someone for the mere fact of being different. Another hates people for a different shade of skin. The list of evils continue, all occurring within seconds of each other, overlapping each other, covering the globe, displaying the ubiquitous nature of evil.  Continue reading

Torturing the Image of God: Reflections on Christmas, Our Current Problems, and G.K. Chesterton


IMG_0039Amidst all the glitz and glimmer of Christmas we sometimes ignore that this is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar. Christmas marks the celebration of the birth of God into this world, the moment when in order to redeem a fallen creation, God the Son took on our flesh in order to redeem it. While made in the image of God, we ran away from this image and denied our purpose, thus losing all purpose in living. The Incarnation serves to remedy our flaw and to bring us back to Christ. Christ came into the world to redeem it from the ills visited upon it by us, he came to save us from ourselves.

It is not without the greatest irony that as we are here during Advent, the time before Christmas, that our televisions are full of stories that run contrary to “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” We’re told stories of how our leaders authorized torture of suspected terrorists, some of whom turned out to be innocent. We see multiple protests against the police brutality in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and other places. We saw Congress pass a spending bill that all but showed that they no longer regulate Wall Street, but instead are regulated by Wall Street, creating a scenario that will eventually lead our economy into another collapse. This Advent, we’ve seen stories, with increasing frequency, that show we’re becoming more depraved, more individualistic, and more of what we don’t want to be. Is this not what Christ came to stop?

We live in a fallen world, one in which difficult decisions must be made and sometimes difficult actions must be taken. But does this mean we must sacrifice our souls in order to save our lives? Must we torture someone for information, especially when this information doesn’t really do anything? Must we, like former vice president Dick Cheney, be so callously evil in our apathy towards the torturing of innocent people? While torture goes against human nature and one need not be a Christian to oppose torture, why does it seem that so many Christians embraced the CIA torture with glee? Why is it that, like Cheney, we can say that “real torture was 9/11,” as though only Americans can suffer torture? How can Christians, who ought to be humanists because God both created humans and became a human, celebrate the destruction of their fellow image bearers?

Or what do we do with the constant berating of the late Michael Brown. We’re told that it couldn’t be a case of him making a bad decision in robbing a store, or allegedly a bad decision in going after Darren Wilson. No. He must be a “thug,” he must be evil incarnate, and no matter what, we must be better off that he is dead. We must mock his death, celebrate his eradication, and not care that the image was destroyed. The same story runs for Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, or the many others innocent victims (especially black males) of police brutality. Or what of those who end up on my end of the spectrum, who look upon the police with suspicion in these instances? Where is our compassion for the multitude of good police, the ones who do their jobs and sometimes lose their lives in service to their community? Where is the concern for the image of God in such discussions?

Christianity is a rough religion, it is not easy, and it’s quite impossible to actually follow it with any hope of consistency. To quote from G.K. Chesterton:

“My point is that the world did not tire of the church’s ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen…But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived, but by not being lived enough…The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (from What’s Wrong With the World)

In the entire chapter Chesterton raises the point of how ideals are important, not because we hope to achieve them, but because we can hope to strive for them. We can hope to make the world better. A conservative looks to the past and says, “We must get back to that golden age.” A liberal looks to a utopia and says, “We must make this occur.” But a realistic idealist looks to the ideal and says, “We must strive towards this, away from the past which did not achieve the ideal, but away from a future in which we think we have obtained the ideal.” Christianity presents an ideal that, at least this side of eternity, will never be obtained.  Continue reading

“Why Don’t They Protest Black-on-Black Crime”: Why Eric Garner Must be the Last Straw


DSC02085As I was writing this post today, the media announced that the New York grand jury failed to indict an officer who killed Eric Garner. Never mind the video evidence coupled with a medical report that stated quite emphatically the death was a homicide, caused by a chokehold, the grand jury didn’t find sufficient evidence to prosecute the officer. Once again, a giant spotlight is placed on the racial divide within our country, a divide always seen by the minorities who suffer from such a divide, but one ignored by those who benefit.

In all the arguing, I’ve watched many white people try to say that racism isn’t that bad, that the system works most of the time, that black people are just complaining. Of course, there are a multitude of innocent young black men who would beg to differ that the system works. Some white people choose to respond back, “Fine, we’ll grant that the system doesn’t work, but why don’t you protest black-on-black crime? Where’s your outrage over the 95% of black people killed by other black people?

The implied message is basically, “The problem is with the race, not the system.” It seems that no matter what we argue in terms of helping the black community, we’re met with, “Let the statistics speak for themselves. Now, from the view of statistics it’s quite hard to argue that black-on-black crime isn’t an issue. Statistically, even if we remove death by police, growing up a black man comes with an inherently higher risk than growing up a white man.

What are we to make of this? Shall we continue to lay hold of the popular question, “Why don’t black people protest black-on-black crime?” Of course, while it’s a popular question to ask, it  has no basis. There are numerous protests ever year over the violence within poor black communities. There have been multiple articles, multiple programs, and multiple attempts to lower the crime rate within poor black communities. Yet, the problem persists. It leaves us with one of two explanations: Either there’s a problem with the system or there’s a problem with the race. If the problem is with the race, then we have to embrace some pretty unsavory conclusions. The first being there’s no scientific explanation between white people and black people (other than the color of the skin), thus we’re coming to the conclusion without a shred of evidence. Likewise, we must accept that the KKK and white supremacists aren’t necessarily wrong, just that we disagree with their methods. Essentially, if we conclude the problem of black-on-black crime isn’t systemic and is rather a problem with the race, then we must embrace an ideology that puts one race ahead of another.

I would hope few people would be willing to embrace such a view, especially since it lacks evidence, logic, compassion, or a Christian view. If, then, the problem is not the race, then it must be the system. Which raises a very important question; Why don’t white people protest black-on-black crime? More to the point, why don’t we protest a system that breeds poverty and violence? Why do we look upon it as “their” problem, with apathy, when it’s a problem that impacts us all? If we truly believe that human life holds intrinsic value then the loss of any life should matter to us, but even more so when the system has failed and worked to create an environment in which poverty and violence breed. Where, then, are the white protests against a system that creates such an environment? Why aren’t white people protesting the crime that exists because the system is broken?

None of this absolves criminals of their own responsibility, mind you. If a young man is in a gang and is killed by a rival gang member, then both made their choice. Even in environments geared towards producing violence, people are still responsible for their choices, but sometimes the system can influence the decisions they make. Consider the following:

We take a person and place him in a room that has a huge assortment of foods. However, there’s a giant wall separating him from the food. Likewise, there’s apples on his side of the room, but we’ve told him not to eat the apples. Now, he can get over the wall, but he has to overcome barbed wire, electric wiring, and a very narrow gap at the very top.

It doesn’t take long to realize that at a certain point, given enough people, some people are going to make it across the wall. Some will overcome the odds and get through. More, however, will give up and eat the apples. Some simply will lack the proper means to get over the wall and be forced to eat the apples. While it’s still their choice to eat the apples, the system is geared in such a way to prevent them from having better choices.

Likewise, when you take a group of people – regardless of race – and put them in an environment where there are little to no jobs, little to no education, police brutality, and rampant violence, can we be shocked if they succumb to the environment and make poor choices? Yes, we can say, “Well they should clean it up,” but how can they when the system for a number of years has worked to prevent any clean up from occurring? Up until the 70s and even 80s bias ran rampant within city officials, creating policies that negatively impacted black communities. Sadly, while these mentalities aren’t as open today, they do exist.

What do we do with a system that allows police to kill black people without any recourse to justice? A medical examiner stated that the chokehold killed Mr. Garner, labeled it a homicide, and there’s a video of the entire indicent; but that still wasn’t enough to grant justice. That is a broken system. That a man can walk in Walmart holding a toy gun and get gunned down by police without a warning while the police walk away freely is proof we live in a broken system. That a DA can make a half-assed attempt at a Grand Jury in Missouri, that he can essentially toss the case and not make an effort is proof we live in a broken system. That black men and women must worry every single time a police car pulls up behind them, even though they’ve done nothing wrong, is proof we live in a broken system. Why aren’t white people more upset, more willing to protest, more willing to change the system for their brothers and sisters?  Continue reading