Whose Life Matters?

Imagine for a moment that someone is bulldozing the graves of YOUR family.  In addition, they are doing it to build a giant oil pipeline under your property, and your only source of drinking water.  Then do a little research on ongoing oil leaks and spills and the effect on drinking water and human health.  How would you feel about that?  Would you put your body on the line to make it stop?

Imagine your brother/father/son is driving and his car breaks down on the highway.  He is trying to get help and at last the police arrive.  Instead of helping they shoot him dead.  He is unarmed and not committing a crime, just trying to get somewhere.  How would you feel about that?

What if it kept happening, not only to your loved one, but to other people’s loved ones who look like you.  If the perpetrators were rarely held accountable, how would you feel?  How would you feel about sending your black child to school, to the grocery store, to the movies?  Would you worry?  Be honest.  How would you feel about this country?

Imagine you lived somewhere that was unsafe and you had to leave the only home you had ever known, so you and your children could be safe?  You go to a foreign country, and you’re scared.  You don’t speak the language, but at least you are alive.  You take any job you can get because you are trying to survive and support your family.  You don’t have any recourse if your employer mistreats you or you are injured on the job.  You are treated like scum and accused of “taking” other people’s jobs.  You live in constant fear of being caught, even though you aren’t a criminal, just a human seeking refuge.  One day you come home and your spouse is gone.  S/he has been picked up by immigration and is facing deportation.  One of your children, your youngest, was born on US soil and is a citizen.  You live in fear that he will come home to find the rest of the family detained.  Yes, that happens.

Imagine you move to a country that is predominantly Muslim.  People hate you for your religion.  You are blamed for all sorts of violence that you did not commit.  People have preconceived notions and stereotypes about you, and hate you on sight because of your clothing.  They don’t care that you work every day, go home and cook dinner for your kids, do community work, like to paint, love your grandparents, or help strangers because you are nice person.  They decide, based on your religion, that you are a bad person.  How would you feel?  Would you feel safe?  Would you feel free?

As a middle-class white grandma, I have lived none of this experience.  But I don’t have to belong to one of these groups to realize that THIS IS NOT A FREE COUNTRY or these things would not be taking place.

You see, I have privilege.  Nobody is building an oil pipeline through my white neighborhood, including through the cemetery down the road where my parents are buried.  I can’t imagine.  

If my car breaks down, and I see the police coming, I am relieved.  I’m willing to bet that poor people and people of color experience that differently.  Google “Broken Windows Policing” to get a better idea of how the pettiest laws imaginable are created as an excuse to harass innocent people for the “crime” of being poor or the wrong color, or living in the “wrong” neighborhood.

I don’t experience the daily micro-aggressions that so many others do.  I have privilege. I didn’t earn it, and I’m not special.  I just got lucky.  Therefore, I have a responsibility.  That responsibility is to point out that THIS IS NOT A FREE COUNTRY.  Nobody is obligated to salute the flag, stand for or recite the pledge of allegiance, or stand for our racist national anthem.

If you are one of the people who are “outraged” by people who don’t salute the flag, I have a question for you: do you think that people fought and died to support uprooting graves and poisoning the drinking water of children?  Was it so someone with a badge can kill innocent people with impunity?  Because if you think this is a free country, YOU are part of the problem. 

Maybe you got lucky too.  So you just assume it’s just as easy for everyone else.  It’s not.
The current attempted land-grab at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the modern-day lynchings of black citizens by police, and the oppression, stereotyping and hate taking place is not freedom.  It’s an international embarrassment, and believe me, the world is watching.  Ask a Syrian what they think of the American definition of “freedom,” which seems to involve their houses being bombed and their families being killed.  Don’t even get me started on our “efforts” in other countries.

Listen and LISTEN GOOD.  The people who refuse to stand for the national anthem are HEROES.  They are speaking out against a broken system.  The anthem doesn’t care.  It’s a song, just so you know.  They aren’t disrespecting the flag, or a song, or you.  They are speaking out, for all of the above, and more. 

They have more patriotism in their little finger than you will ever have, because they have courage.   You are not listening to what is being said, and you are appointing yourself judge, jury, and executioner without even trying to understand someone else’s experience.  They want this country to be great, and they have the intellect to understand that standing up for a song doesn’t make our country great.  That’s what we call putting on a show.  What makes our country great is for every single person to be heard, for innocent people not to die, for kids to have clean water and safe food, to be able to worship as they choose, for families to be safe and together, and for the police to be helpful to all.  That’s freedom.

Spare me your hypocritical rantings.  Do you know how stupid you sound?  Heads up, you are on the wrong side of history.  Forty years from now, the people who acted like you, who opposed marriage equality and humane immigration policy and non-racist laws, will be about as respected as the ones who tormented Ruby Bridges.

Yep, good, upstanding Americans right there.  I bet every “patriot” in these pictures stood for the national anthem and was very self-righteous about it.  Wrong side of history, people.

Well, the world will change without you.  More and more people will refuse to pledge allegiance to a broken system, and human rights will continue to be on the forefront of our conscience.  People are waking up to the injustice, and thankfully, standing alongside those who are brave enough to speak out.

Yes, all lives matter, but you never have to convince anyone that white lives matter, do you?  That’s already understood.  Yes, all lives matter, including immigrant lives, Native lives, gay lives, veteran lives, Muslim lives, Latino lives, poor lives, and Black lives.  The fact that we have to point it out is sad, but apparently we do, and point it out we will.  The institutions of power in this country have killed, poisoned, harassed, and enslaved enough people, and we will continue to speak out.

Welcome to the new civil rights movement.  You don’t have to like it.  The rest of us don’t care if you do or don’t.  It’s long overdue.  Every single person deserves a voice, and the rest of us will stand strong (or sit as appropriate) to ensure they have it.

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