As I ran against the crowd the intensity of the gun fire increased. I had to ask myself why I was not going in the opposite direction with the rest of the crowds. It was not a question worth asking at this point since I had to get back to the apartment and get the rest of the family. The city was under fire from the rebels and I was determined to get the entire family out before the rebels took control. I was a known government employee and my family had always been loyal to the government. We would not be safe under the new regime. I had promised to get every family member out of the city. I had made the mistake of getting my parents out before meeting my nephews who lived closer to the front.
My brothers were on duty at the front and I was responsible for the safety of the rest of family. At first it seemed like I was doing the logical thing. I got the sick and the older relatives out and left the fit and young for last. I was hoping that they could run faster than the crowds. We were a fit family, we were a military family. All the young men were expected to join the service so we were always ready for war.
I pushed through the crowds and made it to the apartment complex. The sound of artillery was deafening, but there was no sight of combatants. The gates were open and the courtyard was empty. I stopped to catch my breath hands on knees. As I recovered from the run it hit me that the fighting must have entered the city proper. I never though things would get this far, but we were prepared. The sun was moving toward the horizon and night fall would arrive within the next 2 hours. I had to pick up the pace before nightfall. The red indicator lights were blinking. It was soon going to be really dark in the neighborhood, the mains power was out. I swiped my card and gained entrance to the complex. I would have to take the stairs since the elevators were powered off during emergencies. As I started the climb to the 5th floor a projectile crash through the door. I crouched along the stairway as what looked like a small recon drone scanned the room. As an intelligence officer it took me seconds to recognise the drone. It was a rebel recon drone. It scanned the room and moved toward the courtyard. I used the opportunity to continue climbing, there would be a few more drones moving soon.
I moved as quickly and quietly as I could. I finally got to the apartment breathless and sweaty. I knocked and the door opened quickly. The boys were ready. Backpacks were filled with food, water and weapons. They were well prepared for a fight. They handed me a survival kit. I was proud of their preparation but Max and Taylor were a little too eager for the fight. I repressed the thought and slipped my backpack on and told them about the drone. They had more information than I realized. They had seen the drone and had been watching as the fighting got closer to the neighborhood. It was not the ideal time to introduce them to the brutality of war, but it had to happen at some point. It took less than 5 minutes for us to debrief , plan and move out. I felt like I was a young lieutenants leading a small recon team. I was long pass those days but I too was itching for the fight. The family was safely away from the front and it was time for us to find the rest of our team.
Living on the 22nd floor was great, but I felt a need to get out of the house. I had not left the house in about three days. It had been warm in the apartment and the closest I had gotten to the blizzard was watching from my window. For the first time in a long while I did not have to shovel a sidewalk or spread salt. It was a wonderful feeling. I was even happier with my decision to sell my car last summer. The last few days were even better that classes had been cancelled and my pantry was stocked and prepared for a long stint inside. It was going to take a special event to get me out of the house.
The view from the 22nd floor was glorious. I sat in the front of the apartment and sipped my cocoa tea and enjoyed what I saw. The apartment was in the front of the building overlooking the street and across from my favorite park. It was a great place to live in the summer and I was about to find out how much fun winter could be. Well not really, I was here for the summer not the winter. I had thought my research would have been complete before the first snow but it was not even thanksgiving and a giant snow storm had already stalled the city. My hope for a short winter without much snow was already headed in the wrong direction. I was still hoping but not hopeful. The old timers were certain that it was going to be a cold snowy season. I should have followed my instincts and taken the assignment in South Florida. But the draw of the city was too much. I convinced myself that another year in the cold would be ok. Only 2 months in and all my assumptions had already been proven incorrect. I was hoping I was going to get at least one prediction correct. It was not looking good.
Well, I did get one thing correct. The stray cat I had adopted was still around. Kitty was with me at the window enjoying the view. She was curled up by the heater with her face against the glass. The glass was cold and the floor warm, so I was lost as to why she was in that position. She was a cat after all, there is no making sense with them. Maybe she just needed to make sure there was an actual barrier there. The window was a giant pane of glass, it was in fact the entire front wall of the apartment. We had a postcard view. We sat in silence for what seemed like forever until she suddenly jumped up unto my lap and demanded my attention. I was not fast enough for her it seems so she started to lick my face. I started to pet her but she was not satisfied. She jumped off my lap and was back at the window and looking down intently. I followed her gaze. She was looking into the park. I gazed into the park just as intently as she did, but all I saw was a blanket of snow covering my running track.
I got back into my comfy seat and tried to get back to my mug. That did not last. Kitty was back in my face showering me with saliva. I followed her to the window, she was trying to show me something I assumed. I still only saw snow. I backed up to my seat and as I was in the motion of setting I noticed some motion in the tree line beyond the 400 meter track. There was just enough movement, but I could not tell what was moving. It was not windy so something other than the wind was causing the movement. I would have ignored it, but the streets were empty and the track was covered in snow, no one should have been out there. So I decided to go investigate.
I have had the privilege of using many airports. I have used some of the largest and busiest and some of the smallest. My most recent experience at Orlando International Airport (MCO), Orlando Florida as confirmed my suspicions. Maybe my outlook is colored by my experience with my favorite airline, JetBlue.
I consider an airline and airport as utilities that are to be experienced and not noticed. They should not be the destination, but the means. As such, I like all of us want the system to just work. It should be like plugging in an appliance, the electricity should not be a concern. This is the type of experience I have more often than not when using MCO. The traffic around the terminals is well-managed, parking either short-term or long-term are easy to get to and clearly labeled. The shuttle to and from long-term parking is utilitarian, just gets the job done. The curbside experience, at lease with JetBlue, is organized. Best of all, even with long lines the TSA security screen is organized, efficient and staffed with polite officers. As a black man these are the only people in uniforms that do not routinely make me uncomfortable. They are calm, give clear instructions and are generally very helpful. It almost feels like I am at a Disney Park. The shuttle from security to the gates is so pleasant as to be almost invisible. Once at the gates there is an up-scale mall feeling. The comfortable seating, the clearly labelled charge up points and the free wi-fi just works. I love it all.
I love MCO because it is clean and just works. Do you love your airport?
As a parent I want the best for my children. I want them to achieve more than I have. I want them to be fully equipped to take on the challenges ahead. The only lasting thing I can give them is an opportunity to get an education. The education they get will determine their ability to make a living and be productive citizens. Their education will help them avoid the pervasive scams in our society. The education I fight for them to attain will improve their ability to survive. I will continue to fight for their right to be given a competitive education. As such, I am proud to support the goals of common core. It seems I am among the minority of persons who believe that common core is a good thing for the American K-12 system.
The continued attempts to disparage the goals set reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what education means. It is a reflection of how urgent the need for better education is. The problem is that most Americans know enough to complaint but not enough to assist in the fix. We are a very poorly educated society in spite of the graduated masses. We are a society that prefers quick answers rather than long processes. The truth is that getting the correct answer is less important that understanding how you arrive at it. Every time I see a story decrying the ills of common core I see another example of a parent or teacher who lacks the fundamental understanding of what education means. Our education is lacking and we cannot compete, but we want to go back to the old ways. The old ways have not worked. The old ways have created people who oppose change not because the change is bad, but because they are so poorly educated they do not understand the change.
Someone suggested to me a novel solution. The parents who do not want their children learning in the common core “way” should be allowed to go to their own schools and the rest of us learn a common core based education. That sounds great to me, but the truth is that the educated will continue to suffer at the hands of the stupid. Do not be stupid and destroy your kids ability to compete. If you want to disadvantage your child let me thank you now. Thanks for removing my childs competition.
Can we please wake the fuck up America.
I could feel the heat of the morning sun sneaking through the crack in the heavy curtains keeping my room dark and cool. As I tried to hide from the heat the cacophony of bird chirps irritated my ears. I was usually an early riser but I had a little too much fun before going to bed. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled the curtains open and my eyes were assaulted by the brightness of the early morning sun. Ben was still asleep, neither the light nor the audio assault of the many birds stirred him. I could not sleep anymore. It was time to start my day. There was only one problem. My head was paying the price for the excessive of the night before. It came on slowly but I was definitely nauseous and the room was spinning faster and faster the longer I stood. My stomach felt like it was lodged in the back of my throat. My salivary glands oozed increasing quantities of fluid. I had not felt this poorly in many years.
I slowly backed up and rolled back into bed. I closed my eyes tightly, but there was no relief. Suddenly my stomach blew up like a tense balloon followed closely by the release of its contents up my esophagus and through my oropharynx and out my mouth onto the floor. The taste was not as bad as I thought it would have been. The back of my throat relived the bitter taste of the IPA I had had too much of the night before followed by the saltiness of the fries. I was happy not to locate the taste of the fish, it was not that good. It was a very fast review of my last meal followed by another quick reminder. After the third time I had had enough reminders. The bed had collected the last two explosions and the smell had gone from beer to unbearable.
The room was spinning and the light of the sunrise was burning my cornea. I closed my eyes tightly and remained still. I was not rewarded. The room continued to spin and the volcanic activity in my stomach continued. I lost count of the explosions, but the worsening taste did not escape me. I was certain that my stomach was empty but the expulsions continued. It seemed as if my duodenum was collapsing under the force of the attempts to pull the fluids from my small intestine. Closing my eyes did not stop my world from spiraling down the drain. Ben did not move a muscle. I felt as if I were dying a long slow death. I was too weak to get up and was now laying in foul-smelling cold vomit. All I could remember was my grandma, Mama, quoting the bible “Wine is a mocker, he so deceived is a fool”.
Next time, I will not deceived.
I could just hear it, that clatter. It was like my head was about to explode. I tried to get up but it felt as if I was being held down by a bear. The weight on my chest was immovable. As I struggled I felt a burning sensation in my left arm and leg. As I struggled to get free of the weight that held me in place, the clatter became a pounding. My head was pounding and my stomach suddenly wanted to explode. The weight on my stomach became unbearable and I could feel the on coming eruption. I stumbled trying to get to the bathroom. With the urge to empty of my stomach I overcame the weight and stumbled to the bathroom and emptied my stomach onto the floor. There was an awful smell and the eruption just continued. I tried to reach the commode but stepped into the erupta and fell. My stomach continued to erupt. I smashed my head against the commode and felt a jolt of pain piercing through my body.
My eyes opened, but I did not see the commode. I was not in my bathroom. All I could see was white. That awful smell was still there and the taste of vomit in the back of my throat was pungent. I was cold and the world seemed upside down. I was upside down. It was my seat belt that was holding me in place with the deployed airbag in my face. There was vomit every where.
As I came to my senses I realized that it was the middle of the night. I was upside down in a ditch. I had had too much to drink and tried to drive home in the snow. I should have known better. Suddenly the pain in my left arm and leg became almost unbearable. I could not move my arm and I could see what looked like bone sticking out of my leg. It was going to be a long cold night.
I am happy to be living in a country that affords me the opportunity to succeed. As a parent I am happy that my children will have more opportunities open to them than I did. My job is to guide them into success. As I look around America I am worried for my children in spite of all the opportunity that exists. The recent string of killings of men and women of color has helped to refocus my attention on the details. I, like many people of color in this great country have been lolled into a false sense of achievement. Worst is that we have allowed the wider society to accept the fallacy that racial justice as arrived. We have failed in teaching our children the important details.
As a parent of girls of color I have focused on making sure they are confident and well-educated, that is not enough. Over the last few months I have had to re-evaluate everything I have come to believe about equity in America. The history of people of color in this country is one of brutality and subjugation. There has not been enough change in our situation. In the last several month several studies have shown the depth and pervasiveness of our disenfranchisement. Our girls are 6 times more likely to be harshly punished in school compared to white girls. Americans of African heritage with master degrees are paid the same as whites with bachelors degrees and even doctors of African heritage are paid about 10 % less than similarly educated white doctors. Why is this so? I have come a conclusion, that question is not relevant. It is not relevant because those in power do not care to fix the problem. I have given up on the idea of equity in my country. The continued inequity makes me angry and concerns me for the future of my girls. I am angry but I will not be deceived into violence. Protesting does no good. Voting does almost as little.
So, in my quest to find a better answer I have looked around and think I have found the only viable route in the Jewish experience of World War 2. No one is allowed to forget the Jewish Holocaust and so too no one should be allowed to forget American Slavery and Jim Crow. The end of the Jewish Holocaust is celebrated but the brutality of it is what is referenced most often. This is what we all are reminded of daily. As people of color we need to teach our children about the brutality of the American enslavement of out ancestors and the continued brutality of Jim Crow America and the current discrimination. We need to have them understand that the current celebration of Martin Luther King Jr is fake and serves only to assuage the guilty. It is not a sign of contrition, it is hollow and designed to distract from the ever-present and pervasive discrimination against people of color. Our children need to know about the Martin Luther King Jr struggle before they can appreciated his success. They need to know and see the pictures of America brutality to their ancestors. They need to know the name Emmet Louis TIll along with Martin Luther King Jr. The goal is not anger, it is empowerment. Our children need to understand that things have changed and that we have many opportunities, but they also need to understand that they need to succeed in spite of the many race based road blocks. They need to succeed to honor their ancestors.
Violence is not the answer, it is only a way to continue to enslave us in the prison complex which is designed to strip us of the rights our ancestor died to attain. Our children need to understand the context of their lives in this land of opportunity. We need them to take the opportunities and make progress while making sure no one forgets the brutal treatment of our ancestors. We should honor our ancestors for their willingness to stand up for their rights and we should build on their success by taking the opportunities available and making the most of them. We know that we will not be treated fairly nor paid equitably because this is the current state of America. There is no real hope of progress beyond the eventual death of the merchants of death. As parents of children of color we need to prepare them to survive and thrive until that day of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream arrives. Don’t get violent, get angry and achieve.