September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001.

I was in Almaty, Kazakhstan when the news first broke. I was with some college-aged Kazakh and Russian students, and one of the other Americans in the room got a phone call from his wife that a plane had struck the twin towers. A while later, we got a phone call that a second plane had struck.

It was a moment that changed everything.

The following days were so odd, being an American after the 9/11 attacks, living overseas. People showed me care and empathy. They were as concerned as I was. It meant something to people that America had been struck. America stood for something, and the fact that America was suffering impacted people all over the world.

America stood for something.

For years, this idea has stuck with me. Why would people in Kazakhstan care about a terrorist attack a world away? Terrorism happens everywhere. What made this thing different?

Because America stood for something. America stood for freedom and opportunity and the little guy. America stood for all of us.

That’s what makes the last few years so difficult for a person living overseas.

America first.

Make America Great Again.

Slogans that sound great when you don’t consider the rest of the world. When you don’t consider that the rest of the world has been looking at us – whether we deserve it or not – as an ideal to be achieved.

But here’s the thing. “America first” and MAGA, are not American. Not by a long shot. These are not the ideals that inspired people around the world to feel our pain when we were going through 9/11.

We didn’t inspire the world by being selfish.

With all our faults, we inspired the world by embodying a different American ideal.

But did we? Did we really?

Because while we were trumpeting amazing values to the world, part of our society was being pushed back. While we were expressing freedom and democracy and all lives matter across the globe, Americans were being swept aside back home for nothing more than the color of their skin.

And everyone reading this knows what I’m talking about. We’ve all experienced it on one side or the other. Either you are white and you’ve judged others on some level by the fact they are not white, or you are not white and you’ve been judged because of it.

We have been one or we have been the other.

This is the big sin of America. We claim equality and justice for all, but many of us don’t live it. Not in our hearts.

We really don’t.

But we should.

And maybe we will.

Maybe that will be what comes from all of this. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in our hearts in the way we see each other. Maybe the absolute disaster of what is happening in our country right now will be the wakeup call that we need to truly live what we say we believe as Americans.

Maybe these times won’t tear us apart, but will draw us together.

Maybe they will make us look at ourselves in the mirror and be honest about what we see, regardless of how ugly the reflection might be.

Maybe being honest with ourselves might be the first step in making things better.

Maybe all of this will help us to recover the American ideal.

As an expat I can tell you that the world is watching, and hoping that we figure this out.

They’re hoping. I’m hoping.

Let’s figure it out.

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Be Part of the Change

It wasn’t long ago, was it? We were worried about a virus. The virus consumed us. It was everything. There was nothing more important.

Simpler times.

Now, nothing matters more than the protests.

First, the virus. Now the protests.

And in both cases, nothing mattered more.

There are a couple of options here. There are at least a couple of things going on.

First, this is just a really bad year. I mean, the worst year in the history of years. In modern history, at least, there’s not been anything like this, and we just need to press on and get out of it.

Second, the powers that be are struggling more than any of us would want to imagine. There’s more going on here than any of could every dream or imagine, and we just need to press on and get out of it.

And either way, most of us are caught in the middle.

So what do we do? Those of us caught in the middle, what is the solution? How do we get life back to a semblance of normalcy?

That’s the question, isn’t it? How can life ever get back to a semblance of normalcy?

Here’s the answer.

We will not.

It will not.

Life will not get back to what it was.

And it shouldn’t.

There was so much wrong with life before. And I write this, knowing that I benefited so much from the life before.

But things can’t return to that. They just can’t.

Life, pre-COVID, we can’t go back to that.

Life, pre-protests, we can’t go back to that.

There is so much that needs to change. So much that needs to be done better. I can’t even begin to articulate it all. I just know it needs to happen.

We are at a pivotal moment in history, y’all. Everything is changing, and everything must change, and we have to be a part of the change or everything is just for shit.

And that’s just damned depressing. And it’s also damned exciting and liberating.

So I will be part of the change.

I’m not sure how, but I will be. I hope you will be, too.

We Won’t Be Manipulated

Things are coming to a head, aren’t they?

For Americans, at least. Things are being pushed and shoved and we are being pushed and shoved.

We thought 2016 was bad. 2016 was a kindergarten class compared to 2020.

2016 had a few social media posts that made us question this and that. 2020 has video and on the ground and first person narrative and chaos reigning supreme.

2016 had us coming out of a rough campaign season. 2020 has us coming out of a global pandemic.

It almost seems too easy, doesn’t it? All of it, how quickly everything has fallen apart? It’s all too easy.

And it seems clear… we’re being pushed. We’re being forced. It all seems inevitable, because we’re fulfilling someone’s agenda.

But here’s the the thing that those doing the pushing and the shoving and influencing can’t overcome…

We can’t be manipulated.

We won’t be manipulated.

We will overcome.

We will overcome the attempts to bend our will to those who are bending. We will look to the people who live around us, regardless of their differences. We will remember that what makes us strong is our community.

What makes us strong is our community.

Social media, and its inflammatory ways be damned.

Stay strong, America. Overcome. Stay strong and overcome this – the biggest threat we’ve faced in generations. Overcome.

Overcome.

Please, for God’s sake, overcome.

Stay Frosty

Stay frosty, my friends.

Things are getting more and more interesting, and not in a good way.

This is not the time for complacency, nor is the time for rash action. But it is the time to stay frosty.

Pay attention and activate your critical thinking skill superpowers. Maintain your situational awareness. Don’t let down your guard. Stay vigilant.

Things don’t happen by accident, not on this scale. And even if they did, other frostier people will use it to their advantage.

Do like Jesus said. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Pray for the persecutors. Pray. Love.

But, in your love, in your prayer, stay frosty.

Things are going to get more and more interesting.

Breathe, and act.

Everyone, just breathe.

Take a step back from it all and breathe.

Don’t react… don’t just share the story that is enraging you because it is enraging you… just don’t.

Instead, breathe.

Take a moment and consider what you are about to do.

And then, if that is what your conscience is telling you, add to it. Share it. Act.

Just don’t react.

Act.

Make sure what you are sharing is worth sharing.

We’re in perilous times, and each of us plays a part. Don’t play a reactive part. Play an active part.

Just breathe.

And act.

Situational Awareness.

Situational awareness.

The other day I was talking to Noah about this. I told him that we need to be aware of what is going on around us, because being aware can save us from unnecessary harm.

I told him that it means paying attention. In China, you can be walking along on the sidewalk, minding your own business, and a scooter comes flying up from behind. If you aren’t paying attention, that scooter can knock you to the ground.

It means paying attention. Looking for danger where no danger seems to be.

It means paying attention when crossing the street, even when we have a green light. Because drivers might not be paying attention and run through the light.

It means paying attention.

It means understanding that other people may not be looking out for your best interest. Drivers, scooters, they’ve got their own goals. They’re not necessarily concerned about the little boy and his dad crossing the street. It’s not even on their radar.

They just want to get where they’re going.

They’re not actively seeking our destruction, but they are looking out for themselves. And if we get in their way, well, that’s just too bad.

Situational awareness means paying attention.

It means paying attention.

Pay attention.

Choose joy.

How’s everyone doing?

We’re in a global pandemic.

Life, as we’re shown it, continues to be ugly. It seems like some want us to focus on the ugly. Focus on the ugly.

Focus on the ugly.

It’s easy to focus on what we’re being shown. But how is it for you?

I hope that you are doing well.

I hope that you can find joy right now, even in the middle of all the ugly. And I hope that joy is real.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Even when what we’re shown is ugly.

I hope you can find the joy.

Look for the joy.

Savor the joy.

Choose joy.

Choose joy.

Choose joy.

Choose the joy.

Discussing COVID

Had a distressing conversation with someone I don’t know on FB today.

I know. FB comment sections and people you don’t know. I get it. I’ll do better next time.

But this person cited a certain study as proof that COVID19 was not passed on by asymptomatic people. I’ve linked the study.

This would have huge implications if it were true. It would mean that our shocked reactions to the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend were an overreaction. It would mean that much of what we’re doing… the social distancing, the staying at home, the masks… is nonsense. It would mean that we only need to worry if someone is symptomatic. That would be huge.

But I took five minutes and read the study. It did not suggest that the virus was not passed by asymptomatic people. It suggested that asymptomatic people might not be as contagious as symptomatic people.

So I said as much.

And then it was suggested that we all have different interpretations. We all have different opinions.

And my response is… nope.

That’s not the way science works.

Science tells us that the virus is contagious when people are asymptomatic. That’s science. That’s fact. My opinion on this this is irrelevant.

You can be hanging out with your friends and family and be carrying the virus and have no idea. You can be going to church and be carrying the virus and have no idea. This is the way this particular virus works.

You can have it and have no idea.

That is fact.

That is why we have to be vigilant. That is why we have to adhere to strict measures by our churches and others who are trying to open for us. That is why we have to do our part to protect those who may not be as healthy as we are.

It’s not rocket science.

And if I can figure this out, anyone can.

The Study

Irony. Memorial Day 2020.

Here’s irony.

Memorial Day 2020.

Remembering the sacrifice of those who came before.

Meanwhile, here we are, facing our own sacrificial moment, and folks are complaining. Complaining about wearing masks. Complaining about not being able to go out. Complaining about being told what to do to keep others alive.

And the real irony is that the ones who will be kept alive if we sacrifice are the ones who sacrificed so much for us so many years ago.

That’s irony.

Memorial Day 2020.

Reopening Churches

Once again, I wrote a long impassioned post about churches reopening, and then I deleted it.

This is just so complicated, and this thing of churches opening up has me at my wit’s end.

On the one hand, certainly the president is pandering. Right? He knows he needs the evangelical Christian vote to get re-elected. Making the sort of announcement he made today will help make that happen. There can be no doubt this is a pandering move. No doubt.

But on the other had, people leading churches aren’t stupid. People leading churches know the importance of opening the right way. They aren’t going to just open up and say, “Come on all! It’ll be just like it was before the virus! Come in and sit together and hug and pretend like it never happened!”

But it just seems so reckless. Even with precautions taken.

You need to understand my perspective. Y’all are still in days 50 and 60 of this thing. We were in the 90’s before we even thought about re-opening schools with incredibly strict procedures in place, and it still seemed too soon.

I can’t imagine any church reopening this weekend would be nearly as strict as what we’ve done in our school.

And you’re still in the heat of it. You’re still getting new cases every day in the US. We hadn’t had any new domestic cases in weeks when we started reopening.

And still, the president is encouraging you to reopen churches.

It just seems so reckless. It seems like pandering.

And from a distance, I’m at my wit’s end.