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Honor, Courage, and Commitment (and btw racism sucks)

June 4, 2020

The last few days have been trying for us all, and it’s been difficult for those of us who will never know what it’s like to be black in the United States. We can learn, listen, communicate but still never know what it’s like.

I’m not a social media influencer, no checkmarks next to my name on Twitter or Instagram. I don’t have thousands of followers, just the means to engage.

I struggled with sharing a popular post on social media which (at least the gist of it) described being a Sailor, Marine, Airman, or Soldier as being above the racial fray. We’re all Navy Blue (Shipmates, I’m not arguing this as I get the point), Olive Drab (aren’t all the uniform colors the same now? It’s been awhile). My point was that if the only thing that kept me from seeing my Shipmates’ race was the fact we are all Sailors then we probably missed a few other things. It could, however, reinforce the idea that being racist is something learned and not something we’re born with. I do like that idea!

So, I won’t copy/paste that post.

Instead I’d rather just say that racism is evil. It’s wrong. We can all gaslight racism with comments such as:

  • “But what about…”
  • “If they would only follow the rules…”
  • “They’ve always been fighting each other…”
  • “It’s just who I am” (this one makes me cringe and want to throat-punch some people).
  • “Don’t ALL lives matter”? (I have to admit, yes they do. But it makes a better bumper sticker than action statement for many who say it with empty words).

#BlackLivesMatter because they are included in #AllLivesMatter, we need to focus on why we tend to think they are separate. Right now, they ARE and have to be. You can’t say all lives matter and ignore the suffering, the pain, and the fear of racial profiling, police brutality and judicial injustice just for the color of skin. It’s real and truth. It’s obvious.

I’m sure there are PLENTY of others out there. I’m not going to add to the list. If the first inclination is to start off an answer with one of the above, you’re not looking for dialog, you’re just looking to be “right” (at least in your mind).

I battle PTSD, it wasn’t a lifelong battle before, but thanks to some friends, also Shipmates, who reached back out after my diagnosis a few years ago I learned something:

  • People can suffer from a lifetime of PTSD as a result of being gaslighted through a lifetime of racist behavior towards them (thanks to my wife for helping me see this point).
  • I may not understand what it’s like to be black in this country, but I do know what it’s like to have PTSD. One of the coping mechanisms we learned in therapy was communication. Something that hasn’t happened very effectively when it comes to racial divide in the United States.

Our motto in the Navy is Honor, Courage and Commitment. Racism doesn’t fit anywhere in these truths.

Prayerfully hoping that as the nation heals, we talk TO each other, WITH each other and not AT each other. Something’s got to give, America isn’t a failed experiment (not by a long shot) but is definitely dealing with a leadership deficit.

Oh, and Shipmates. I really do love you all, even some of the ones we really didn’t like. I’ll still cover your six when standing armed roving watches, drag your asses out of burning or flooding spaces, or push you out of the way of something you didn’t see when you were clearly lollygagging. I didn’t care who you were, what race or sex you were (though as a heavier than most Sailor I can empathize with stretcher barriers when there’s a large person on the litter).

To my other Veteran brothers and sisters. Ditto, though we didn’t all share the same experiences, I get the gist of the social media post making the rounds. I’m still not going to share it because it’s not exactly how I feel. Respectfully, your mileage may vary.

To the 97% of the rest of you who didn’t understand the social media post in question, it’s ok. It might have been written to either make ourselves (Veterans) feel better about ourselves which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or to make us somehow feel smug and superior (hoping that’s not the case). In either case, I’d just rather say this Sailor still has your back, will work hard and play hard with you, and stand with you at the end of the day shoulder to shoulder and just be. Some of you helped me polish my elementary Spanish to almost conversational. Some of you introduced me to things I never would have thought about before. At the end of the day, it all boiled back to honor, courage, and commitment. At the beginning of each day, we recited it together for a reason. To reinforce a learned behavior, to trust each other, and to forge lifelong friendships along the way.

#BlackLivesMatter #WeThePeople #SemperFortis

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