Rise from the Fire

Not a Time to Rest

A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying. ~ B.F. Skinner

Now is not the time to rest. Many of us feel as if we have been dragged through the fire…and now we must heal, brush the ashes off and press on with unfinished business. It’s a time to focus ourselves and our leaders, all of our efforts and our precious resources on key priorities, to be better. Fire is not only destructive, but also a very powerful force. Fire is used to forge and shape stronger metal. It can enrich the earth beneath it with the ashes it leaves behind, and fire has the power to clear and light a path for a new way, leading to a new day. We have just witnessed the awful force of a fire that has been smoldering for years and then, in a minute, it roared bright and cast an ominous, yet cleansing light, illuminating destructive forces all around us. Within that inferno: hundreds of years of discontent, fear and a rage unseen in such a large collective force for a long time. All a familiar energy that has existed for generations. Those fires, have bitten many, making them cautious, fearful and skeptical, as they watch the future rush past them too quickly, threatening their trusted ‘old ways’. That destructive fire has also yielded to a shining light, its negativity temporarily interrupted throughout history by grand visions and remarkable accomplishments; relief and even joy, fueled by science, progress, and hope. Past progress has also fooled many who believe we have already arrived, and to strive for more is not desirable, unsafe – familiar cries: ‘our work here is done, or stick with what works, let the chips fall where they may. Providence and destiny will favor the chosen while the rest can maybe hope that there is some benevolence that will be shared their way’ – we know now, especially today, there is a lot more work to be done. Now is not the time to rest. 

Now is a time to wrest the wisdom and the knowledge gained from the sweat of many brows, those painful lessons from not only the last four years, but from centuries of progress, growth, human experience, and even suffering. While the path has not been perfect and the lessons not always fair and balanced, there are many and they are far from over. Our greatest sin would be squander, hide or worse, lie about those precious lessons. While my personal belief is that Man is basically good, mankind has been and continues to be the subject and object of unnecessary sacrifice, oppression, greed, dishonesty and raw malevolence. Now is not the time to rest, but to speak the truth to power and forge ahead empowered by what we know, and a sincere, honest effort to do better. It is our duty not to rest and hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for the focus on the following challenges; the root causes of strife today. 

On Racial Inequality

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

~ Sa’adi Shiraz

A person who is black, brown or just not white, is never less than; they must be considered equal in all ways; opportunity, treatment, dignity, honor, and all of the basic rights and freedoms must never be based on the color of one’s skin. All should be administered based on one’s merits, their actions and words in accordance with all the laws, and norms of society. Where those laws and norms are insufficient, they must be addressed and changed as sincerely, as thoughtfully and expeditiously as possible. The original sin of the forefathers was to justify mistreatment and the horrors of slavery with the lie that only certain men are created equal. It is our inability to move away from this lie, regardless of laws already passed, rewritten and added, that has kept this belief in too many people. As the hate and fear of some has been rekindled and emboldened, it is time to continue the momentum of Fredrick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Malcom X and so many unnamed others who suffered through this lie with an unknowable pain, and ensure this mendacity is finally reconciled.

The first necessary step is to recognize the lie, address and ensure the atrocities and injustices are understood as just that, atrocities and injustices and then renounce the thin protection of ‘what-aboutism’ and justifications of the past that were not acceptable even then, but repeated enough that the lie perpetuated across too many generations. The tactical solution and how that manifests itself, I am not sure I can properly opine; therefore, I will not prescribe. However, I believe if it is done sincerely, with the engagement of respected minority leaders and with the goal to truly heal, the result will serve a proper and just purpose. Left unattended, we will be constantly threatened by the continuing presence of, injustice, discrimination, and now more than ever, domestic terrorism fueled by the willful ignorance of not wanting to face truth. Agree or not, racism is the very powerful undercurrent of that terrorism, a cancer that threatens us from the inside and whose fire is roaring to destroy, not strengthen all. 

Add Gender Inequality and Recognition

The same holds true for issues for gender inequality and basic recognition. No person is incapable or not worthy because of gender. We must work to ensure misogyny, discrimination and hate practiced or directly levied against anyone because of their gender is eliminated from society. The dignity and honor bestowed on someone should not be limited, withheld or relinquished on the grounds of how they identify sexually, whether physically apparent or not. While we know the phrase as ‘all men are created equal’, we have passed that point of understanding a long time ago and we should be striving for a deeper cognitive place. While many need to catch up, we need to create an environment that supports all. 

On the Vote and Information

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King

As more and more begin to pay attention to, and understand the value of their voice, we were blessed to witness the power of the largest pool of engaged electors during this past cycle. Unfortunately, seeds of mistrust, sown not only throughout history but vehemently nourished before, during and after this last election by the dysfunctional leader of the free world, and many of his elected followers, have caused fear and suspicion to grow unwieldly and sinewy, threatening to choke out truth. However, in the interest of ensuring transparency and truth, these voices were not ignored. The process assumed the appropriate checks and balances to address that angst, regardless of its basis. Unfortunately, this still did not appease a significant portion of the electorate. Legal action was initiated and the highest courts of law were engaged; their judicial opinions sought to ensure the the will of the people, expressed through the mechanisms of the vote was not being suppressed: it wasn’t. Still, unrest, and mistrust continues to be expressed, and as a result we witnessed the evocation of an insurrection from this dubiety expressed by those so-called leaders. While the leaders may have been taking advantage of their position, the voices of those still not convinced must not be ignored. While their methods abhorrent, their intention misguided and their theory and strategy based on a steady stream of untruth and manipulation, we cannot ignore the existence of an unfortunate level of mistrust. It is up to all of us, especially elected representatives to seek the root cause for this mistrust. Where that mistrust is based on indisputable fact, actions must be taken, and controls implemented to assuage future doubt. Where it is based in racial discrimination, this must be addressed with the same vigor used to address the ‘lie’ discussed above. Where it is based on misinformation and the spreading of falsehoods, the sources of these lies must be identified, and we must demand those sources atone for their actions. 

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”  Mahatma Gandhi

We must also take on the daunting but necessary task of addressing the systemic capabilities of our information systems that allow lies to spread unchecked.  This is not about limiting free speech; this is about ensuring truth is distinguishable from opinion, the need for facts to become relevant again and insisting that integrity become a required and easily recognized quality instead of a potential bar to achieve when convenient. This should not be limited to social media, but needs to include news feeds across all channels and mediums. The ability to access vast amounts of information is beyond anyone’s imagination at this point in history. The truth of that information and the integrity of its purveyors is more important than ever. We have become accustomed to trusting and depending on maps because we expect them to be fact based, unbiased; thus, allowing us to follow a prescribed route or choose another path, based on the information they provide. There is a necessary place for opinion. We dispense our own at some point and we leverage the opinions of others to sometimes guide us. However, we must be able to distinguish facts from opinion, and truth from lies. Too many have ended up lost and vulnerable, unable to navigate the fork in the road. Those lies and opinions led far too many to climb the stairs, walls and crawl through the windows of the Capitol Building…chasing a lie and betrayed by the liars who leveraged the vulnerability of their supporters, inciting anarchy through stoking the emotions of fear and doubt, all to capture ratings. They must be held accountable and a different level of transparency, checks and controls must be established. 

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.~ Albert Einstein

However, even with controls in place, this responsibility is on all of us to question the information we receive, think critically, be able to have discourse without assumptions and immediate derision. We must be able to discuss policy, politics, history, science and law without eroding relationships to the point of collapse. We must also understand that our opinion may not always be the right one or may need refining. It would help us to be aware and take action when we don’t know what we’re talking about by seeking new information or keep our opinions to ourselves. We must leverage omni present education, history and basic civics to arm ourselves with the information necessary to formulate cogent thoughts, ideas and opinions. This is a global issue. The potential deleterious effects of unchecked mass distribution of misinformation presents a clear and present danger. It’s a two-part problem to be sure, but a priority must be placed on both parts of this issue. Without truth, nothing really matters.  

On Children and the Future

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.~ Nelson Mandela

A child represents all of the tremendous possibilities for a better future. A child begins as the most perfect manifestation of our hopes and dreams. A child seeks to be filled with wonder and joy, knowledge and strength through engagement and imagination. A young adult seeks opportunity and experience to inform their thoughts and shape their lives. We must ensure that hope is not extinguished early because of lack of attention, unsafe or unhealthy environments, unavailable basic education, unavailable medical attention or the exploitative will of the adults they look to for these needs. These are the very basic needs and rights of our young. Our capabilities in all these realms are limited or sometimes non-existent for far too many children. We must focus on ensuring that there is enough investment in their present and their future and thus preserve our world: making it better. These are priorities that cannot be ignored or glossed over as nice to have…they are musts. Our future depends on our children. 

On the Environment

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

We can’t breathe toxic air. We can’t drink poisoned water. We can’t eat our money. We can’t save the environment alone…well, maybe that’s not completely true. Our global footprint starts with each one of us, and therefore, whatever we can do in the space of reduce, reuse and recycle, is a worthy endeavor, doing what we can to reduce the damage we do to the world. Planting a tree, a flower bed, a vegetable garden, disposing of plastic in a recycling bin, driving an alternative fuel car, walking or riding a bike instead of getting in a car, eating less processed foods, buying less, reusing more, using high efficiency light builds, turning off your lights, cleaning up your neighborhood…all start with us. If a portion of the world’s 7.7 Billion people can do their part, it could make a big difference. But it shouldn’t stop there. We must demand that not only the companies we support, but those we work for and our governments (from local to federal) focus their efforts on doing their part to focus their efforts on preventing environmental deterioration. Supporting the development and deployment of alternative fuels, alternative building materials, alternative vehicles, and incentivizing infrastructure to support those needs. Today our government gives billions of dollars to companies for bailouts. They can distribute those dollars in the form of incentives to promote climate saving growth. Leveraging our tax dollars to drive environmental change, foster innovation while not only replacing, but create new jobs in the renewal space is a perfect example of renewable energy. The amount of change to significantly reduce our carbon footprint will not only take a lot of science, but it will also require a lot of manpower, thus creating new blue and white collar jobs. The solutions will be many and will constantly change as we learn more. We must prepare to be agile and flexible to meet those challenges and opportunities. While global alliances are cause for skepticism, we must reengage and take our seat at that global table we have abdicated, to ensure our leadership has not only a view, but a voice. Our leaders, private and public, need to be part of those discussions. They must also know when to defer to the better qualified, the better science, and the greater good. To state the obvious, we share the air with the world, our efforts here are meaningless alone. 

On Government

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

In my opinion, a Government’s main role is to ensure public safety through risk mitigation and nurturing an environment capable of creating opportunity for all of its constituents within the boundaries of the existing laws of the land. Constituents of those communities then leverage those benefits to grow and develop and nurture healthy communities. When those laws prove to be inadequate, irrelevant, insufficient or they do not exist, those leaders, entrusted with our endorsement, must come together with the common goals bestowed upon them, regardless of their political affiliation. Those leaders must call on their wisdom, their experience, their base of expertise and knowledge in whatever is their field of expertise, and their visions to creates that opportunity and enable progress and prosperity. If they cannot demonstrate the necessary qualities to do their job for all of their constituents and the Republic, they must yield to those who can. I am stating an idyllic view of government because I feel we have moved away from that view. Too many government leaders prioritize their own reelection, by any and all means, instead of focusing on their constituents. When they do focus on those constituents, their sights are on the highest bidders. Pay for play and dark money have no role in good government. Taxes pay for the work of government; donors line the pockets of politicians. Government leaders must be hired based on their understanding and experience in their communities, their skill and expertise that enables them to identify and understand their community’s needs and address them to the satisfaction of their constituents. They should not be hired based on their aesthetic appeal or ability to raise money. Government is not there to hand out. Its role is to lend a hand up to those in need, and properly support those who can help themselves with reasonable laws and nurturing environments, ensuring the future is not sacrificed with the folly of the day. 

The destruction of the COVID-19 pandemic is one that has gone beyond fiction; it seems to have escaped the imagination of government. I believe it is the job of government to have imagined it and be prepared. In contrast, we have assembled a military apparatus that is the most capable of striking down any threat around the world. It is thoroughly equipped with the latest technology, the most destructive tools and a vast global network of personnel and physical installations to prevent our demise. We yield resources to this level of preparedness in the name of our security. Therefore, we must demand that this level of capability and preparedness be available because of our vulnerability to similar threats from disease in the future. This risk is never going away, even once the current pandemic is brought under control. In one year, millions have died, millions more have suffered with the virus and there is no obvious understanding of long-term effects, and yet an effective response is still not fully operational at the time I am writing this. Although, there are many in local, state and federal branches struggling to make it so. It was as if we started at zero, even though the past decade has given us enough opportunity to learn from H1N1, Ebola and other smaller instances around the world. Our current situation must be more tactically addressed to achieve some semblance of control and normalcy. The next step is to ensure we are aware and prepared for future threats: from the monitoring of global data, to the preparedness of our front-line workers’ abilities to serve without the unbelievable pressure of being unprepared in almost every way. The current President ran on a platform of solving this pandemic, and the mandate was clearly confirmed by the electorate. I believe that Science and Government is good for society. The benefits have mostly been balance-positive, but they must be constantly checked to ensure the science is sound and the government is capable, focused appropriately and honest. We must also strive to ensure they are fully representative and duly accountable. 

Dare to be Great

When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” ~ Amanda Gorman

The future is never promised to anyone and the foundation of our lives are dependent on the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth on which we reside, and the health of our neighbors and communities. We have a right to opportunity and should be encouraged to thrive or, we become so fraught with risk and we die. There are too many within our communities who are vulnerable and sick, at serious risk. Underlying health issues, a fractured medical system and even the air that we breathe are all becoming objects of mass destruction…they are killing us. There are too many who are angry and feel hopeless. They feel ignored and the facts show that they have been fed lies and broken promises that keep their destructive fires burning. They have also been disenfranchised and manipulated by the laws and leaders of this country. They have been manipulated for the benefit of a few who have no forethought of the damage they do to the minds and souls of the people. Those leaders will reap their rewards, regardless of how rotten they leave the very people who supported them. Those of us who have hope, must lead our leaders to address those needs, assuage their fears, deliver them from ignorance with truth and a better example. Their lives must be valued, and their efforts should never go in vain. Progress does not have to be a zero-sum game when it comes to matters of humanity. History has bestowed upon us lessons to be learned. Science and exploration have proved through past trial and error that solutions can be achieved through laws, traditions and principles, that lead us through adversity. We are all equal, in the eyes of our creators. However, our contributions are not always balanced, and our choices can force us more apart than together. This is who we are: undeniable but it’s known. If we truly wrest from our experiences the knowledge and wisdom to move forward, only looking back to ensure we have captured all that is necessary to keep from repeating past errors, then we owe it to each other, all of us brothers and sisters in humanity, to do the work we can, to hold out our hands and lift those that have fallen, protect the earth on which we live, holding each other accountable with an eye towards our progress and prosperity and an eye on the moment we are currently experiencing. It is then that we can continue to have hope for a brighter tomorrow, if we dare to be great. 

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”  ~ Marcus Aurelius

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