one question i will never have to ask: [am i next?]

take your time, dear friends, and let these last words sink in. just listen. and feel.

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John Crawford was holding a toy gun as he stood in the toy section of a Walmart. Before the police shot him to death in that same aisle, John managed to say, “It’s not real.” But it was too late for John.

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Sean Bell was going to get married. One night, he was driving away from his bachelor party with his friends, Joseph and Trent. Suddenly, he hit a minivanFour undercover police officers from the minivan began to shoot at them without warning, firing a total of 50 bullets at the three unarmed men. A wounded Joseph turned to Sean and said, “S, I love you, son.” Sean’s reply: “I love you, too.” Joseph and Trent survived, but their best friend, Sean, didn’t make it.

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One of the witnesses in the Trayvon Martin trial, Rachel Jeantel, was on the phone with Trayvon moments before the scuffle with George Zimmerman that ended his life. One of the last things she heard the unarmed Trayvon say to the man who was following him with a gun that fateful night: “Why are you following me for?”

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Michael Brown died August 2014. Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot him at least six times, twice in the head. Michael was not armed. His friend and eyewitness reported that Michael said: “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” Minutes later, he was on the ground, bleeding. Dr. Michael M. Baden, the man who did Michael’s autopsy, told the New York Times, “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times.'”

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Amadou Diallo died right outside his own apartment in the Bronx. He was unarmed. Four police officers shot 41 bullets, hitting Amadou 19 times. Later, they claimed that they had mistaken Amadou for a serial rapist. That same day, some of the last words he said to his mother as he spoke over the phone were, “Mom, I’m going to college.”

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Eric Garner died July 2014. He was unarmed. Police officers were trying to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Eric suffered from asthma, and as a police officer put his arm around Eric’s neck during the arrest, he managed to gasp, “I can’t breathe!” The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled Eric’s death a homicide, pointing out that the officer’s chokehold might have been a big factor.

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Jonathan Ferrell had been in a traffic accident and was knocking on a homeowner’s door for help. He was unarmed. An attorney later described a video of the incident, which reportedly showed that when police officers approached Jonathan, he was holding his hands out in a non-threatening manner. The police officers never identified themselves. One of them fired 12 times, and 10 of those bullets hit him. Even as Jonathan lay on the ground, bleeding and dying from 10 gunshot wounds, the officers handcuffed him. Jonathan’s dead body remained handcuffed all the way to the medical examiner’s office.

Correction: In the case of Jonathan Ferrell, there has not yet been a trial. The case is still pending. And in the video, which has not yet been shown to the public, only one police officer fired on Ferrell, not all three.

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Oscar Grant was on a subway train in Oakland when a police officer forced him out of the car and onto the subway platform. Oscar was lying down when a second police officer shot a bullet into his back. “You shot me! You shot me!” Oscar yelled before he died. That officer later testified that he meant to use his Taser on Oscar instead of his handgun. A court later ruled that the two had no legal reason to get Oscar — who was unarmed — off the train.

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Kimani Gray was standing on a street in Brooklyn when police officers approached him. The officers claimed that when they approached Kimani, he pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at them. But one eyewitness, Tishana King, said Kimani never pointed a gun. She also said the police officers didn’t identify themselves when they approached. Police officers shot Kimani at least seven times, even though Kimani hadn’t shot a single bullet. One witness said some of Kimani’s last words were, “Please don’t let me die.”

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Kendrec McDade died after a man called Oscar Carillo made a phony 911 call, telling police officers that he had just been the victim of an armed robbery. He later admitted that he had lied about the guns. The two officers eventually found Kendrec in an alleyway. They began shooting after Kendrec apparently moved his hands to his waistband. But Kendrec didn’t have a gun on him. All he had was a cellphone in his pocket. Court documents show that Kendrec’s last words were, “Why did you shoot me?”


as if all of the images + words above have not truly angered me enough, now i want to share a video. a powerful video. please… take the time to watch it. here is a little insight into why people are protesting around the country, especially in ferguson, missouri after last night’s verdict that there will be no charges for the killing of young michael brown. it’s people trying to make their voices heard. it’s people, young + old, who have to live every day of their lives wondering if the same thing will happen to them.

friends, it is time for a conversation. a real conversation. things cannot continue like this. i am angry. and sad. and embarrassed that such blatant injustice still exists. however, i do not condone violence in any way or in any form. so, the violence occuring surrounding the protests, is not the way to achieve the goal. if only we had martin luther king, jr. to lead us right now. please know, you may disagree with me and you may not think that the people who are protesting should be protesting… that’s fine. all i am saying is this: we need to begin talking about this. and not only talking, but listening. without judging. it’s time to dig deep and honor our humanity. can’t we do that? please?

all of the photos and stories are from an upworthy article that you can find {here}.

spread love + light xx

the sochi effect

9e95b9c5460c816b632aab3d6c605c73 it’s time for the olympics. the winter ones, of course. and i’m semi-excited. ok. i’m not really excited at all. but, i know me. and as soon as news networks and twitter and Facebook friends begin posting stuff about the olympics, i will climb on board the olympic excitement train and get all caught up in curling (who knew that existed before the previous olympics?), figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating, and other events. and, as i do every olympics, the opening ceremonies will cause a tear to fall down my cheek. that is always a great moment of global unity, in my opinion.

but, this year, there is much, much more on my mind as well. and, maybe i will not climb on the olympic spirit train…

i suppose you could say that it’s hesitation. and concern. now, i’ve never been to russia so i know nothing about it first-hand. and i try not to judge a country i have not visited because they can be so completely different than expected – in good and bad ways. at least that’s what i’ve experienced. but, i must admit it, i am worried. scared, even. and, of course, i am angry.

right now all of the news seems to be about whether sochi is ready to host the olympics or not. can they handle the crowds? will there be violence or terrorism? on the news today there were reports that the accommodations for athletes are not up to par. the photos they showed were of fairly bare rooms, with toilets that you cannot put toilet paper in. instead, you use the trash can for the paper.

my first reaction to the “sub-par” conditions at hotels and such is this: suck it up. you are in another country and things will not be like they are at home. that’s what happens in different countries. and it is one of the beauties of travel – experiencing different cultures and ways of life, seeing how other people live, discovering and exploring. but, you must do this with an open mind. and with the expectation that things will not be the same. this is an adventure, and you will have stories galore to tell. not to mention, you will learn so much about yourself.

now, there is another issue that hits much more closely to home for me and you all have heard about it, i’m sure: LGBT rights. in russia, it is now illegal to be gay. and, from what i have read and seen, it is completely acceptable to bully, attack, and beat up any gay person or ally. it’s just horrible. ridiculous. and sickening.

and so, i am having a hard time reconciling the olympics (a global, unifying event) being in  this country where not all people are accepted. i could go on and on, but instead, i am going to leave you with a video. a very, very, very disturbing video. it is very graphic, so if you are sensitive, do not watch it. instead, read this article from gq:

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but, if you think you can handle it, here is the video. it is so important for us to be aware. warning! graphic & disturbing!
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peace, love, and equality. xx

i will always believe that peace is the answer.

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i am a news junkie. or nerd. or whatever you want to call me. and on sunday mornings in the states, if i’m home, i like to watch all the sunday morning talk shows. as depressing and skewed and manipulative it may be, i want to be informed. of course, i don’t just rely on the mainstream media to get my news. i also listen to/read independent newspapers/sources. i read commentary and try to listen to global perspectives as well. but, on sunday mornings, i catch up with good ole american sunday morning talk shows = news talk shows.

this past sunday, i did just that. i made a pot of coffee and sat down to hear the latest on syria. something that is on my mind pretty much constantly these days. how in the world have we found ourselves (the usa) in the place AGAIN, where we think we have to flex our muscles, be the police of the world, and intervene (perhaps on our own) militarily in another country’s conflict? not that we shouldn’t intervene. we most definitely should. what is happening in syria is tragic and inhumane. but, perhaps, if we can find the money to station destroyers in the mediterranean and send missiles to syria, then we could find the money (= use the same money) for the millions of syrian refugees living in horrible conditions instead. perhaps we could save lives instead of killing them.

oh, i know that this is a complicated (understatement!) situation, but something about it is simple. at least in my idealistic, theological mind. it’s about humanity. and then ends justifying the means. which in this case, they don’t. that’s my ethical take on it. here’s the simple statement… and i draw on martin luther king, jr. again after celebrating his legacy last week:

violence only creates more violence. period. it never, ever solves the problem. as king says it:

“darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that. hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that.”

missiles, war, violence, and the need to show our strength & credibility to the world do not solve any problems, they are simply egotistical. in my opinion, those who are the greatest, are the peacemakers, the ones who are humble and merciful and even meek. the ones who live and work for others, not for themselves. the world does not see them as “great”, but screw the world. since when did the world have everything right? is money, power, greed, and a tough appearance the only way to get respect? i think not. the truly great ones, stand their ground and do not give up, but they do it non-violently:

like ghandi, nelson mandela, mlk, jr., mother theresa, julian of norwich, perpetua, and countless more “regular” women & men & children who are left out of the history books… even you & i. if we choose it.

we can be great. we can make a difference. and we can work for true justice. but, it cannot be through violent means. peace will never be achieved by flexing our muscles and threatening and hitting and punishing. peace will be achieved through peace.

and so, today, during my forty days of fika time, i am going to meet with others in downtown asheville to meditate for peace… specifically for the events in syria, for world leaders, and for our own courage to live non-violent lives.

wherever you are, will you join me at some moment today to stop & think about those suffering in syria, and how the world should respond to the horrible human suffering going on in that country and in many others around the world? will you consider that the greatest way that you can be a peacemaker is, perhaps, in your own life, the the people that you meet everyday? if we all did that, then what would the world be like?

peace and harmony… to you all.

there has to be something we can do.

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i’m under my covers, sipping on coffee, safe in sweden, while chaos is unfolding across the atlantic in boston, massachusettes. i’ve got a local boston tv station streaming live and i’m checking twitter every few minutes and the news is unfolding in real time before my eyes & ears.

i tend to do this when big things happen. and it doesn’t have to only be in the states. i was glued to my computer when revolutions occurred in egypt and violence broke out in benghazi, syria, palestine, etc. the question is, do i get too stuck in these things?

24 hour news is an amazing and scary thing. twitter and reddit have changed how news is reported. but, i think i do know when i need to shut it all off and move on. still, i find that it is important, as a citizen of the world, to know what my brothers and sisters all over the world are facing and experiencing. i’m not into sensationalism and speculation, but rather, i feel that in order to be a better person where i am, in order to live a life of peace and spread that peace onward, it is good for me to be aware and updated on current events. and to not only know tidbits, but to try to get a better understanding of what is happening.

for now, my thoughts are with the people of boston. it must be scary and unsettling, knowing that there is so much violence popping up across the area. the current news is not only about what happened at the boston marathon on monday, but what is, at this moment, going on with chases, gunfires, and searches for suspects. people are being asked to stay inside their homes and lock their doors. really scary stuff.

but, i also can’t help but think about people who live in the midst of this kind of violence and fear every day of their lives. there are innocent people in many other countries all across the world who face random acts of violence daily.

all violence is horrible. enough is enough.

it seems too overwhelming, i know, to try to make a change or a difference. but, the only thing we can do, is choose how we will live our own lives, in our own towns, in our own countries. how do we rid this world of so much violence? i have no answers. i only know that we can choose what we prioritize in life…

are we going to be individualists, thinking of only what makes us the most powerful, successful, rich people we can personally be?

or are we going to live as a community, thinking about the greater good for everyone?

peace is not an easy path. in fact, it’s the harder road, which requires more self-discipline. but, i am determined to continue to believe that this world can be a place of peace. i will not give up hope.

john lennonhugs and comfort for all of you today. peace.

 

lay down your weapons.

non-violence is not for the weak. non-violence is for the strong. ~ gandhi

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“Peace cannot be built on exclusivism, absolutism, and intolerance. But neither can it be built on vague liberal slogans and pious programs gestated in the smoke of confabulation. There can be no peace on earth without the kind of inner change that brings man back to his “right mind.” p. 31” ― Thomas MertonOn Non-Violence

“I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.” ― Chief Joseph

“The non-violent resistor not only avoids external, physical violence, but he avoids internal violence of spirit. He not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he refuses to hate him. And he stand with understanding, goodwill at all times.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

“We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.” ― Mother TeresaThe Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

in memory of the children & adults who lost their lives today in a school shooting in newtown, connecticut.

peace.

how do you use your words?

they shot her to silence her for good, said one of her classmates.

at the age of 11, she began to speak out. she wrote a blog. she was featured in a documentary with her father, a school principal. she lived in the middle of a war zone, and yet she dreamed first of being a doctor, and then of being a politician when she grew up. she was banned, along with all other girls, from going to school, and yet she didn’t give up on education. she didn’t give up on her country, pakistan, but instead, asked for help from the world. she wrote & spoke & fought for girls to continue to be educated. she was a child, and yet a leader.

and yesterday, at the age of 14, she was gunned down & shot because of her outspoken fight. at the age of 14, she was on a hit list because of her social activism & work for peace. she was deemed a threat because she stood up for the rights of all girls, everywhere; and because of her courage & leadership, she was shot in the head & in the neck. as of today, she is still hanging on to life, but she lies in a hospital bed in critical condition.

i don’t understand this. i don’t understand how someone can justify violence against a child. i don’t understand a country where girls & women are not given equal rights. i don’t understand how a 14 year old girl can be so brave, can do so much, can make such a difference. i don’t understand the bravery and the passion she has had. i don’t understand a life lived in constant fear. i don’t understand having to fight and risk my life in order to get an education. i don’t understand any of it.

but, i am touched. i am inspired. i am in awe. i am angry. and i am holding this young woman, this girl named malala, in my thoughts and my prayers.

i think about all the blogs out there, including mine, and i wonder… what are we doing? what am i doing? and i pray, that on some level, somehow, the random thoughts i have, the words that i type out onto my computer screen, make a little bit of a difference in someone’s world. i may not be writing to save girls’ education in pakistan, but i have my own story to tell. and you have yours. may we all, in the spirit of malala, write & share what burns in our hearts. may we, with words and courage, shine a light on the world through our words, our existence, our actions. may we, wherever we are, fight for our dreams, and use those dreams not to just make us happy, but to make a difference.

our words are powerful. our stories are inspiring. what we say motivates others, for good or for evil. but, no matter what we face, let us find the strength to stay true to what’s good, what promotes equality, acceptance, diversity, education, love, and of course, peace.

malala, you have touched my soul. may you feel god’s presence & peace near you during these days. you are a beacon of hope. we need you. so, fight hard.

and for all of you out there, may the peace & love of the universe follow you all the days of your life.

(read more here).