world

A Call to End an Era of Injustice.

 

Part 1

My father always taught us to treat every gun like it is loaded.

Assume every gun is loaded, even when you know without a shadow of doubt that it is not.
Treat your weapon with respect.

Growing up, my mother and father always taught us,
in carpentry, always assume your nail gun is pressurized,
always assume your electric tools are on.
In baking, Momma always said, assume your mixer is on, because the day you forget is the day your egg-beater breaks your fingers by accident.

Always unplug anything and everything you’re about to tinker with, because that’s how accidents happen.
Treat machines with respect.
When handling tools and weapons, be responsible and in control.

Treat every gun like it is loaded.

Even if it’s a pellet gun, or a cap gun.
Even if you’re playing with water guns,
always assume a gun is loaded.

A pellet gun can take your eye out, and with a loaded water gun you “might accidentally get Mom’s nice shoes wet, in which case you better run, kiddo.”

As I grew older, and learned more about people and the world, I realized you should also treat people with the respect of a loaded gun.

We know how to hurt others because we know what hurts us most.

We can hurt each other with our actions and our words.
We all carry anger, hurt, resentment, fear.

You never know what someone is carrying inside, so treat them with respect.
Because despite our best intentions, sometimes we too misfire.

***

All my life I’ve been in and out of martial arts.
I’ve always been taught that if anyone ever pulls a gun or a knife, you move.
You move for the weapon, you get it to the ground, and away from the fight.

I’ve always been taught, the moment that you see a knife, accept that you are going to get cut.
It might mean your opponent may land a strike, or it might mean you have to grab it by the blade with your bare palm in order to save your life.

If someone pulls a gun, assume you’re going to get shot.

Treat weapons with respect, and minimize the damage.

I’ve always applied these rules, to keep myself and my friends safe, at work, at home, and in life.

In training, and in the theater of my imagination, I always pictured a mugger in a big city, or a rapist lurking in the shadows of downtown stalking me home from work, a pick-pocket with a knife at the bus stop, or a murderer I encounter while traveling in foreign countries.

This morning I watched a video online, of a young man with black skin, on his own front lawn, face down in the dirt, with his grandmother standing over him,
begging for the man with a loaded handgun pointed at them to stand down.

And for the first time in my life I thought to myself,

What if the man holding the gun was the police?

The boy had been flagged for supposedly running a Stop sign, and was charged for “resisting arrest,” when he chose to lay face down with his hands covering his head, rather than obey the command to walk toward the officer while staring down the barrel of a gun.

Always assume all guns are loaded.

In a situation where I would be written a ticket, and deducted a demerit point off my license for the same traffic infraction, this young boy was followed home, and arrested at gunpoint.

My self-defense instructors always warned us, if there is a weapon involved, assume you are going to get hurt.

***

Have you ever heard the phrase “The innocent never run”?
A phrase usually uttered by the cool, calm, and collected hero of buddy cop shows or action movies.
If you are innocent, the best thing to do is to comply, to stand down, to lie down with your hands behind your head.

“The innocent never run.”
I promise you it’s not true.

Imagine the person who has hurt you most in this lifetime, or the person you’re most afraid of.

For me, it was a man who groomed me, baited me, gaslit me, and sexually assaulted me for years.
Do you see them? The person who has — or would — cause you the most harm given the chance?
Picture them in your mind, standing in front of you.
Remember all of their cruelty, their injustice.
Imagine they’re power-hungry.

Now imagine they held a loaded gun, and you know firsthand how much they would hurt you if they caught you.

And now imagine they wore a shiny bright badge,
sworn to uphold the law,
sworn to protect and serve,
and tell me you wouldn’t run.

***

Part 2

Privilege has become a buzzword, and the arguments surrounding are misleading, but not for the reason you might think.

The arguments for and against the existence of privilege flood the collective discussions online, in the news, and in daily life.
Both sides of the argument, however, each fail to address the real issue at hand,
that something is clearly very wrong.

The arguments over privilege,
its validity, the semantics,
obscures the violation of human rights, discredits individuals of inherent value, and derails the horror of real racism.

I grew up in a highly conservative, Christian family, on an island that was, and still is, predominantly English.
When I moved away from home, I spent some time working for an Indian family, and after a couple weeks, it got back to me that I was known as The White Girl.
I thought it was funny. It took 18 years, but for the very first time in my life, I was the odd one out.

My Indian employers and other staff would sometimes speak in their native tongue when not speaking directly to me, which didn’t bother me since I reasoned their first language was probably easier and quicker for them. One day it did make me feel lonely, so I asked if they could teach me some of their language, and it was years ago now, but I think they taught me Hello, Good morning, and a couple other useful words that I’ve since forgotten.

My whole life I’ve been naturally curious about culture and language, and my greatest dream is to visit every country in the world.

For them, it was a relief that I was so easy to get along with, which also broke my heart. As a teen, I lived on the internet, and so I knew second-hand how cruel people could be when it comes to race. I would be lying, however, if I didn’t admit how it stroked my ego. I was one of the good ones after all, one of the heroes on the right side of history.

But here’s the thing, which didn’t hit me until maybe years later because I had the blessing, or the privilege, or the sheer luck, of not needing to think about it too hard:
I still wasn’t the odd one out.

Most of our customers were English.
When I left work and shopped for groceries, every product was listed in English.
The cashier was English.
The road signs are all in English.
The police are all English.
I was not the odd one out, I was home.

Within their company, I had the privilege of learning their language if I so chose.

When I began traveling full-time, whether for work or for pleasure, I learned Spanish out of curiosity and love. I’ve never had to learn a language, or move provinces or countries, out of necessity.
And that is the difference. Whether you call it privilege or a blessing, we can always choose to return home or never leave, while so many others could not.

I’m not here to argue semantics, because it doesn’t matter what you call it. The argument surrounding privilege is masking the reality that there is a difference. And what we’re facing at its core is even more terrifying than racism. The Americas were built on the backs of slaves and upon stolen land. A statement considered provocative, controversial and even divisive, but whether you choose to bear its implications or not, whether that leaves the children of their forefathers responsible or not, it is the truth.

And that is at the core of the issue we face today.

As a nation, and as individuals, we do not uphold the truth, and we no longer value honor. We are starving for justice, for integrity, and the courage to do what is right.

The West as a collective suffers from a pathological epidemic of unchecked power, both run by and serving the fraudulent and deceitful, fed by a constant diet focused entirely on entitlements and freedoms over the span of decades.

This has left both of our countries starving for morality, for responsibility.
And we can see it plain as daybreak in the righteous anger that is erupting in countries worldwide.

Which brings me to a word of caution, there is a fine line between being angry and being righteously so. I think the majority of us would prefer to see the establishments fixed rather than burned to the ground.

So let’s talk about privilege for just a moment, and what it ought to be instead of what it has become in this time of social injustice and unrest.

It is a privilege to meet someone you admire, who didn’t have to agree to meet with you.
Privileges come with positions of authority, ones that also ought to be earned.
A privilege is a benefit for hard work, or special insight.
Like the privilege of being chosen for a creative or scientific award.
Or being invited on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Where I am from, it is a privilege to own and wield a gun.

A privilege is not a right,
and any violation of a right is a crime.

Not being reduced to the color of our skin when we succeed is a right.
Not being reduced to the color of our skin when we fail is a right.
Seeing the police as a sign of help rather than fear is a right.
Making it home alive is a right.

Violating these rights is a crime, and herein lies the horror. The reality that these rights have somehow been transfigured and misshapen into privileges masks the fact that anyone restricted access to these rights is being treated worse than the base level of inherent human value.

Anyone below the line of rights is treated as sub-human.
And that is racism.

You can take away privilege, and still have your rights.
But take away your rights, and that is a legal and moral crime.

Rights, by definition, are supposed to represent and protect each and every individual, of any color, nationality, or creed.

In blurring the lines between our privileges and our rights, we skew our understanding of objective truth, and we become complacent when we ought to hold ourselves and others accountable.

Consciously following proper procedure to de-escalate and detain an armed White man in a high-intensity situation, and then choosing to pull a loaded firearm on an innocent, unarmed person of color, is a crime.

The arguments both for and against privilege now discredit the validity of racism because it obscures the reality of Black suffering:

Even if we choose to ignore race, we cannot ignore the fact that it is blindingly obvious that individuals in our country are being treated as sub-human, both socially and more importantly legally.

***

My father always taught me, treat every gun like it is loaded.
Treat weapons with respect. You are in control, you are responsible.
You are responsible for your own safety, and the safety of others.

I transformed this lesson to apply to people.
Treat individuals with respect, not only because you should, but because you never know what they are carrying inside them.

We now face an epidemic of law enforcement and officials carrying disillusionment and immorality inside them.
We have police carrying loaded weapons without respect, without control, and without responsibility.
Their actions go unreviewed, and they are not held accountable by the very law they swore to uphold.
They do not face due process when unarmed men, women, and children are shot and killed by their own hand.

This year, we have reached a boiling point.
And what we need now more than ever is clarity and responsibility.

It is time to add a new argument and a new discussion.
A conversation not about background or circumstance,
but a conversation about morality and justice,
and it involves every single one of us.

It is time to hold accountable those in power and those in authority.

We need to address the crimes of insufficient sentencing for the guilty.
We need to address the crimes of excessive force against the innocent.

It is time to address objective truth, accountability, and personal responsibility.

Because the difference is between guilty and innocent,
the difference between crime and punishment
Is Black and White.

***

Victoria Connell was born on the enchanting Island of Newfoundland, Canada. She is married to reading, writing, and a loving husband. A nature lover, tea aficionado, and bonafide bibliophile, Victoria is a writer, and student of psychology, science, and theology.

***

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