Dawn Olson on the left pictured at Austin Women’s March

By: Dawn Olson 

Last month, I marched in Austin with thousands.  In the sea of humanity that poured into the streets of our state’s capital was such a diversity of people.  Alive with cheers, the power of presence, and an incredible display of freedom of speech, it was the best of democracy.  These moments of history can instill and cement lessons sometimes overlooked.  Just outside the door Mother Nature parallels that march in Austin.  The lesson she teaches us is, only diverse environments are sustainable.  I would offer that lesson holds true for our democracy, too.

This blog explains how nature sustains itself through biodiversity in direct contrast with the unsustainable western mechanized agricultural practices.  Maybe we can garner some wisdom for our nation in this practice.  Before we review standard farming practices it is important to understand that technological advancements, reliable seed quality, specialize chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and massive machines enables a single farmer today to feed 155 people versus 26 some short 40 years ago.  In addition, our infrastructure (FM-farm to market roads), storage capacity, transportation, and distribution systems give us incredible access to food.  To say food production is a global business is an understatement, but at what cost?

Now for a brief and very simplistic explanation of farming.  To achieve high production rates of crops (mostly corn and soy), the land is sterilized by herbicide, planted with GMO seeds, fertilized in ever increasing amounts for rapid plant growth, and because this is a mono-crop production, insecticides must be used for bugs as well as fungicide for fungus prevention.  The crop and the soil rely completely upon the inputs of the farmer.  If the farmer neglects this process, the harvest may suffer.  The point is, when trying to grow only one type of crop, little else flourishes on its own accord, but nature will always adapt and attempt to introduce diversity.  That is why chemicals must change as bugs mutate, weeds adapt, and crops become vulnerable.  The conclusion of this short lesson on farming is, in order to maintain no diversity in the field, farmers must sterilize, poison and burn.  Only then, can the harvest of a single crop be achieved.  Enlightening huh?

Now check out a prairie, forest, meadow, desert, or reef (yes, plants grow underwater) untouched by human inputs.  These bio diverse environments have sustained themselves for thousands of years and adapted to both gentle and radical changes of the earth.  Radical changes come in the forms of floods, infestations, and fires.  Gentle changes come from weather, land movement, and migration.  Either way, nature is in it for the long haul.

Is there a way to integrate nature’s sustainable methods?   Sure there is, or I would not be writing this blog.  Permaculture, as in permanent agriculture, is a farming methodology of setting up a bio diverse system within an agricultural field.  This is the technique at our ranch.  In our bio diverse orchard, we have 30 different fruit trees; they include peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, Jujube, and apricots.  Read my earlier blog on that planting adventure.  Instead of a sterile orchard floor, we put gardens in between these young trees and wild flowers and cover crops in the lanes beside the trees.  We are trying to mirror a forest that can be harvested.  Check out a forest the next time you are in one and you will discover an interesting pattern.  Look up and you will see the forest for the trees (bad joke).  It is actually the forest floor where biodiversity reins.  Small bushes protect the trunks of trees, mushrooms feast on decaying leaves, vines wrap themselves around the bark, root plants bring nutrients to the root zone, flowers attract pollinators and herbs protect the forest from insects and disease.

Our orchard trees have herbs growing next to them as insect repellant, birds feed on pests, and cool and warm weather crops rotate with the season bringing bio diverse organic matter.  As the trees grow, the gardens get smaller.  Similar to a meadow, the wild flowers that start in March and end in November attract the pollinators we need for fruit production.  Native grasses provide habitat for small animals which are hunted by hawks that keep the crows (who damage fruit) in check.  Once this bio diverse system begins, it adjusts and corrects itself with occasional inputs from humans.  We let the biodiversity of nature help us farm instead of battling it.  Although we can’t feed 155 people, we can create a sustainable food system that will feed people for a lot longer.


So, what of human diversity?  It is this grower’s opinion societies are better when we have diversity.  Is it challenging to be diverse, yes, but just like Mother Nature’s ability to sustain itself through the changes, so too can our own democracy.  And in the end it’s all that really matters.



Dear America

By Anais Messaadi

Immigrants are everywhere: It is the lady who serves you at the restaurant; the one who comes to clean your house; the one who takes care of your car, of your garden.  The nanny who takes care of your children, your own blood. They are helping you have an easier life and you want to make their life difficult?

Being an immigrant, leaving everything behind them, it is not something immigrants do with pleasure. Some of them have no choice. They have to leave or they will lose their life. When they see their own family having no food for dinner, being persecuted, of course they are trying to find a better life. Some of them come here to pursue a dream. And some of them just fall in love with this country and try to make it better. 

Being human is being free. Unless you commit a crime, you should be free to live wherever you want. America has been built on immigrant blood. They are a part of this country. Deporting them, it is denying your history. If someone foreign brings money into this country, we welcome him/her with open arms. So why can’t we do the same with the ones who do not have the chance to be born with a silver spoon ? 

Until you become an immigrant yourself, you won’t understand what it is about, and this is the real problem here. And you know what? You are an immigrant as well. America is a great country, because of its diversity. Trying to take this diversity away, it is taking the heart of America away. 

Immigrants are everywhere, and you don’t even know who they are. If you deport them, who is going to do the tasks you do not to partake in ? Deporting them back to their country will create jobs, but no one will want do those jobs except them, and that is why they are here. Sending them home it is putting down the American economy. 

There are lot of jobs in this country. If you go outside and walk in the street, a lot of shops are hiring. How come no one picks up those jobs?? That is the real question. Everybody complains about how immigrants are stealing their job, but this is not true. To have a Real job, you need a work visa, and this is something hard to get. 

A lot of immigrants have graduated back home and traveled here to find better opportunity than they had in their country. Instead of blaming them, ask yourself: what would you do if you were in their shoes ? Starving in your own country or trying to get a better life?

Of course some of them are bad people, and try to take advantage of it.  It is not just because they are immigrants, it is because they are just human. And some humans try to find shortcuts in life. So instead of deporting the immigrants and denying them visas, maybe the new administration should focus on the law and how to delete shortcuts. 

Anaïs Messaadi has wanted work and live in America since she was young. After graduating from journalism school in may 2015, she worked 3 months to pay her aupair application.  She arrived in America in August 24 2015. As an aupair she doesn’t have money to pay for university here.  Beinf an aupair is the cheapest way to learn English. Since arriving in America a lot has changed in France.  There have been terrorist attacks (she was living in Nice before coming here ), and doesn’t want go back there because she doesn’t think it is safe. 

So with her English, French and bachelor of journalism, she’s trying to find a job in America and hoping that it will work.

A Step Back

By Atiba Madyun

What we ALL can do is take a step back. The language of unity is not one of confrontation. Whether we agree or disagree with the election of President-Elect Donald J. Trump, the fact remains, he is going to be our 45th President.  

We don’t get anywhere together, pointing the finger of blame. We don’t get anywhere being antagonistic. There are winners and losers in every election.  

If Hillary had won, many on her side would have said the same indifferent things to the other side.  

Many of you like myself are God loving people. Last night, I reflected on that. There is a message here for us to learn whether you believe in a higher power or not. 

I believe that message is, that we HAVE to stop yelling at each other. We have to talk with one another. The HATE will only create more HATE. Love trumps Hate? We can’t just say it, we have to prove it!  

This election was a referendum on our past. We have not reconciled the history of our past, because we refuse to talk about it. 

Race, slavery, women, misogyny, immigration, guns, climate, economy, poverty, education are just some of the issues we need to tackle TOGETHER.  

It’s ok to be upset. It’s ok to be sad. But don’t let it keep you down or run away from the issues we know need to be addressed. 

Whether you agreed or not, President Obama did a lot in his 8 years. The truth is, he could have done more, if the people who elected him, had done more. That’s what we have to look at as a nation. Trump brought people out of the shadows, just as Obama did in 2008. And now we are communicating more than we were before either of their elections. 

Obama has been a transformative President. Trump will be too. There’s a silver lining. And that is, we the people must find common ground. We the people must find ways and tables to sit down and talk to each other and not at each other.  

We the people is not just my community pointing at your community. It is an idea that together we are stronger. It is evident that we are not together and that makes us weak. It is time that we put country over party. Those aren’t just words. It is the truth. 

I respect President-Elect Trump for winning last night. It is time now, for all of us to find ways to stay engaged in this political process. It isn’t time to run away from it.

#Election2016 #PartyPolitics

Trump Not Racist, Just Insecure!

insecurity-iiiBy Atiba Madyun
This morning, I saw posts calling #Trump a racist. I cannot tell you what to do, but allow me to share why I suggest we STOP calling him and others racist!!
First it’s a bad word corrupted from overuse! A veiled way of calling a white person, nigger.
The truth is Trump insecure! And he is ‘trumpery’. He is the Hitler of our day, riling up his factions, dangling a promise of a world void of anyone but the so-called master race. Ironic, this Hitler is no different than the sorcerers in the story of Pharoah and Moses.  The audience in awe of his tricks are filled with so much hate for others, but love his message and don’t know it is all a mirage.
Talk about his little hands, deny him an award and he whines like a little boy.  And his followers take up for him.  Trump seeking the roar of the crowd, wows them with his magic that comes in the form of words.  Like the Hunger Games he yells anything to see what catches their attention.  With roar of the crowd feeding his ego, he yells we are going to build a wall and they crowd goes wild.  So tall and so wide, his words barely can be heard now because roar is so loud.  When they settle down, he gets them going again, we are going to keep the Muslims out.  The crowd in a frenzy now feed what he needs the most, adulation and followers.  I’ve got 12 million Twitter follows he thinks, they love me.  His insecurity abated, the crowd feeding on his every word has hope.   Their leader is a master builder with great hotels all around the world that they could never afford to stay in.  But he’s going to build us a wall so grand that we won’t need a hotel as long as we can talk about the bad people, and they can’t get to us!
Who are the bad people?  I found them.  Guess what, the bad people, are all insecure. In this world, nothing is what it seems.  And that’s why they need that wall.  Before Trump, they were in their homes talking about the Mexicans, the Blacks and don’t forget the Muslims!  The women were talking against their interests believing now that a woman should never be President.  That is the job of a man.
This false sense of hope, and need for a wall is what those who we call racist, misogynist and xenophobic want so they can take the mask off that covers their insecurity.
Call them these words and it doesn’t hurt.  Not the way you want it to.  Their skin is toughened and those words are a badge of honor.  Don’t believe me?
Men think about anytime someone called you insecure.  It could have been when you were very young, but I guarantee you didn’t like it.  And women, think about how many times a man has called you insecure.  Then think about the time you called a man in your head or out loud insecure.  How did he react?
No man, especially Trump wants to be called insecure.  But, a man who has a show, where he gets immense pleasure firing people and hurting them is nothing less than insecure. He is secure knowing its his show and who is going to fire him?
I never got the fascination with this show.  Maybe because I know what if feels like to fire people.  While every firing was justified, I never found pleasure doing it.  The person you fire you hates you, you hate them for making you have to fire them and no one walks away with any love for the other.
On the other hand, when you make a good hire, one that you are pleased with, at least on paper, everyone is happy.  The employer is happy to find someone to help carry the workload and the employee is happy to have a job. Everyone comes together with some love.
That’s just and example, but one that shows how LOVE is good stuff.  Unfortunately, sometime unknowingly, people choose its polar opposite and it leads to division.

In relationships, men are trained to look at a woman as weak.  Often because she is seen as the loving, expressive one.  I have something to share gentlemen.  To LOVE that openly is the scariest and most powerful thing anyone can do.  More powerful than killing, or firing a bomb.  Love keeps you from firing that bomb or weapon unless absolutely necessary to prevent casualties, not for personal gain.

I don’t think Obama would be successful as President if he had not learned that.  It is why Mother Teresa and Princess Diana gave so much to the world.  It is why Dr. King and Mandela are revered by so many and were able to lead hopeless people on both sides out of an oppressive state of mind.  The power of LOVE is unlike anything else in the world.  It heals and it mends, but it doesn’t tear apart.
A couple of years ago, when I embarked on the LOVE journey, I insecurity-viiwas unaware what it would mean or take me.  I knew the walls around my heart had to come down for good.  Years before, I was devastated by a relationship and unaware, my decision not to HATE that woman, no matter how hurt I was, actually began my healing process.  It opened my eyes to the division I was creating in other areas of my life, particularly discussion about current events and politics.
The wall of division was around my heart and it was keeping me from having anything close to a healthy, loving relationship with a woman.  And I knew after that relationship, I wanted that.  I wanted to LOVE openly and expressively.
What I didn’t know was that when you bring those walls down it opens you to people who will see this new strength as a sign of weakness.  And try to take advantage of it.  It takes time to adjust to that, and find balance.  When I got my feet under me, I found a new type of strength.
That strength allows you to use untapped human potential.  It opens your eyes and ears to see and hear things more clearly.  See, when your heart is hardened, you cannot see or hear past the noise.  Hearing past the noise in this respect is like going to the doctor and learning that you need glasses and a hearing aid.  Equipped with these items, you finally see that the people shouting are frustrated and insecure, because no one can hear them!  Why?  Because those, they are trying to get to hear them, have a heart that is hardened too!  That’s why we see insecure people shooting up a sign memorial
izing a young man who was killed more than fifty years ago because of HATE.  It is why a campaign headquarters is firebombed to incite more HATE.
When you can see that, you look at those yelling like a malnourished child so hungry, they will eat the dirt of negative energy and harbor pain and hurt.  No one hearing their need to be fed, causes them nothing more but insecurity.
That’s why we celebrate those iconic historical figures Mother Teresa, Lady Diana, King and Mandela. They left LOVE and wonderful examples, yet often those on the right side of history ignore them!
I have good friends on both sides of the political aisle.  I love them likeinsecurity family.  I listen to their sound arguments about the political landscape.  And sadly, I also hear their contempt for the other side too.  And that’s what pains me.  Let me be clear, they
are all good people, that is why they are my friends and they are on both the liberal and conservative sides.
That brings me back to Trump.  Isn’t that what he does?  If you listen to him, there are some good points he brings up.  But it is so hard to find, becaus
e there is this wall of contempt and hate that is right there in front of us.
And that is why I’m suggesting that we stop calling him these names.  Pity him if anything, but love him despite his insecurities.
Love him? Yes!  Love him for paving the way for our first woman President.
Love him, for helping us communicate with those who were in the shadows harboring their insecurities. They are in the light now and after this election, one of the two sides are going to need love too.
Now that we see each other we are going to have to get to know each other.  Believe it or not, we have more in common with than not.  For one, if we are attacked again, it is an attack on our country, and that is all of us.
The reality is we are not going to like everyone, but like isn’t lohateve.
I promise that loving, will help you see clearly.  It will give you a high better than a drug. It will make you so positive and optimistic.  It will provide clar
ity instead of making you like a deer, stuck in place, blinded by the lights of an oncoming car.  Hate feeds negativity and pessimism and helps you focus on a way to get out of the way of the oncoming car.
Don’t be blinded by hate. My friends abroad say we as a nation don’t look so good.  They see our HATE on full display.  If we hate each other, how will we treat them, is what they wonder.
I tell them as I am telling you, yes, I am high.  My LOVE drug tells me, our best days are still in front of us.  It is good to see those better days ahead.  I promise everything because of this is going to change for the better.  We can and will get there faster, if you take this drug and see Trump and his supporters for who they are, insecure.
If you are still reading humor me and answer this, What do we stand to gain, by calling the man a racist if he is really insecure?  And do you agree, if we all LOVE, we could move forward faster, together?
headshotAtiba Madyun is President of Party Politics US.  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Open Letter to Donald Trump from a College Educated White woman re: your relationship with African-Americans.

Mr. Trump,

I could address various subjects, however I would like to focus on your relationship with African-Americans.

Caucasian to Caucasian.

First a suggestion… While it has been noted you recently switched from calling people “the Blacks” to “the African-Americans”, I feel you should drop the word “the.” It really sounds like you are speaking of objects, or even aliens…certainly not people like you or me.

Secondly, I recognize that you are playing to your nearly all White supporters. I get that it makes them feel good to see you appearing to care about African-Americans so you can’t be called a racist and therefore they don’t have to be charged with supporting a racist. From a strategy point, I understand why you recently started “caring” about the Black Community in spite of knowing you will not receive 1% of their votes …based on your history of housing discrimination, the language you use to describe some minorities, and your reluctance to distance yourself from White Nationalists. (Among other things)

I get that even “caring” about African-Americans in the way you do – continually professing your sadness over their hellish conditions – is meant to make your supporters feel good about themselves and confirm their belief they are at least one notch up from Blacks in their condition and status.

While I understand your strategy, I wholly condemn it. I cringe along with every Black person I know each time you outline the hellish conditions you and your supporters want to believe they all live in. So, for you and your supporters I would like to tell you about my experience with African-Americans – many of whom are like family.

The African-Americans I am friends with do not live in hell and certainly disagree with you that this is the worst time to be Black in America. For instance, they would say it was likely worse when our constitution considered people like them to be only 3/5ths of a human being. By stating this is the worst time in history for African-Americans is insulting to all intelligent Americans who know, acknowledge and respect the weight of our history. It is downright stupid and unbelievably insensitive to the Black community as it is a sign you have no regard for what they and their ancestors have experienced in this country.

As for African-Americans having nothing to lose by voting for you…

The friends and acquaintances of mine who are African-American would disagree that their lives are so miserable, they might as well give you a shot! They are all college educated – many having more education than your average supporter. They are all good family men and family women raising amazing children. They represent a multitude of religions and beliefs. They travel the world and continually learn and grow. They are successfully employed with titles like: Doctor, Sales Manager, Lawyer, Small Business Owner, Teacher, Controller, Auto Dealer, Public Relations Professional, College Football Coach, TV Personality, Political Consultant, Entrepreneur, Pastor, Soldier, Police Officer… I could go on! They are some of the spokes of the wheels that move America forward – just as I am.

My male friends who are African-American – some of whom were once athletes and actually spent time in locker rooms – would never talk of sexually harassing women, much less do it! They also aren’t on 3 marriages with children from all these different women.

My African-American friends are not living in the mystical inner city hell holes you like to depict. Some of them are certainly living in city centers in amazing lofts. Some are in suburbs all over the country. Some are living in the south in safe all Black neighborhoods full of manicured lawns and beautiful homes, the likes of which many of your supporters couldn’t imagine based on the way you describe neighborhoods “the Blacks” live in.

So, please spare us with your fake concern for African-Americans and your insulting commentary. If you want to address concerns the Black Community has, start with criminal justice reform and racial profiling – things that affect African-Americans of all ages and walks of life. Stop talking nonsense about imposing something unconstitutional like “Stop and Frisk.” Stop using the Black community to spread stereotypes and falsehoods. Recognize that while there are some poor Black people in America, they are simply human beings and no different than poor White people in the Appalachian Mountains or elsewhere, with the exception of the color of their skin and the biases they face because of that difference. Yes, there are Black Americans living in terrible situations in literal war zones created by failed government policies having nothing to do with safety net programs. But, don’t you dare continue to imply that this is the standard and millions of African-Americans aren’t better off.

As a White woman who actually has deep, meaningful relationships with people of other races I am speaking up because it is beyond embarrassing to watch you – a White man – parade around with such nonsense. It is infuriating to watch your majority White supporters eat it up. It is terrifying to see you empower White Nationalists who hate my African-American friends, my Jewish Friends, my Asian and Middle Eastern friends….and me for embracing them all.

You will not make America Great Again for people like you, because too many of us are too educated and motivated to ever allow this country to go back to the days where your antics were the norm.

I know you will fight until the bitter end and then some. Just know I am not alone in my thinking. There is an army of College Educated White women fighting with me and we will do what we can to stand up against you and for the rights and respect of all Americans.

I will only sign this as anonymous because in the unlikely event this reaches you or your supporters, I do not wish to be subjected to the barrage of hate mail and misogyny I have seen against others who have spoken up against you.

Good day, Mr. Trump
This article was prepared and submitted by an author who wishes to remain anonymous in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Cognitive Relevance.

Altering Perspectives: Life, Death, Military, Mental Illness and Kaepernick 

By Pete Rearden

I’ve had some…interesting experiences in the past 43 years. I’ve had some real high points, made some friends who are probably better than I deserve, and managed to live through it all so far. I’ve also had some incredibly low points, be it from costly misadventures, poor personal decisions, or poorly advised career moves. When I was just beginning my path through adulthood I started on a real low point. Within eleven months, eleven months to the day if we are going to be precise, I had buried both my younger brothers. The white sheep of the flock, Marc, was the passenger in a car destroyed by a freight train. My partner in crime, my fellow black sheep, my best friend, Paul, stepped between me and a crackhead mugger’s knife. He bled out in my arms on his second grade teacher’s doorstep.

My brother Marc and I loved each other, but we weren’t friends. Youth doesn’t always lend itself well to understanding. His death hurt deeply, but in comparison to later events, it wasn’t a deeply scarring trauma.

Paul’s murder made Marc’s death a veritable emotional cake walk. Seeing the blood pouring from his neck, seeing him fighting for air that wouldn’t come, watching his eyes glaze as the ambulance arrived…that broke, no, that trapped a part of me on a suburban street corner where it will always be October 13, 1995.

In 1996, the burst of blinding rage, the hyper-vigilance, the nightmares, and the long sleepless vigils were given a name: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

It has shaped who I am, both in terms of what President Abraham Lincoln called the “lighter angels” of my being, as well as the darkest demons. Over the years I’ve learned to ride the horse rather than simply clutching the reins. Sometimes you lose your grip on those reins though.

As the years went by, I lost more friends to the grave too early. I saw death up close. Sometimes it was at a car wreck, sometimes in a medivac chopper flying in and out of firefights, sometimes in hospitals, sometimes on street corners after the world had turn to all heat and noise and smoke and screams.

Each death made me a better rider of the pale horse I’d saddled that night in October all those years ago, but it also made that pale horse a little stronger as well.

I can’t see a needless death of a mother’s son on a quiet street, a child struggling to breathe through an oxygen mask as their body shakes from the chlorine they’ve breathed, or any other number of tragedies so frequently on display in the news without the parts of me that were trapped forever in the darkest moments of my past screaming out.

It makes me mean, it makes me cruel, it makes me vicious; not physically, but a sharp tongue can cut deeper than the sharpest blade.

I’m lucky. I don’t drink myself to sleep. I’m not strung out on pills. I don’t have traumatic brain injury as well as PTSD. I’ve learned to know my demons and how to keep the harnessed for the most part.

There are men and women who’ve served us who aren’t so fortunate.

Rather than talking about Colin Kaepernick, why not start a conversation about our veterans, as they are the ones the flag worshippers are claiming to be defending the honor and dignity of.


Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during National Anthem. Photo  by Chris Carlson/AP

This is what angers me. When it is convenient for them, many of those on the right – and make no mistake, this is a behavior peculiar to the more conservative voices in our nation – will fetishize our veterans. Sadly it is never convenient to fetishize and adulate when a veteran can’t find a job, when the part of a veteran trapped on a battlefield half a world and half a decade away drinks him to death, when a veteran sleeps on the streets cold and alone, or when a veteran sees his own death at his own hand as a blessing.

This disingenuous and hollow hero worship is sickening. Claiming that a man refusing to worship what at times has been little more than an American swastika as you turn a blind eye to the veteran slowly dying on the street is beyond hypocritical. It is the act of a callous and callow opportunist. To those who know intimately what these men and women deal with in the privacy of their own minds, it is a disrespect to our veterans far greater than refusing to worship a symbol.

Why don’t we turn the conversation away from how Colin Kaepernick is a bad person for respectfully protesting injustice, and turn the conversation to how we are all, regardless of race or creed, the agents of a great injustice.

Why don’t we see and talk about the injustice Kaepernick, and an increasing number of athletes are protesting with far more dignity than a person waving a trite sign on a corner, with an eye on the marginalized people who these athletes are protesting for.

To use the service of others as a political tool is a dishonor to their service. Why don’t we leave our soldiers and veterans out of this fight. They’ve fought enough.

pete Pete Rearden is a photographer, photojournalist, and opinionated commenter on America. Photo by Steve Watkins.

Terror on the Streets 

I had a dream last night about the urgency  of now and importance of addressing police officers terrorizing young men. In my dream, there was an image of my nephews walking in a world where police officers and young men are at war. Then I woke up.  It wasn’t a dream, that nightmare is real.  It is happening every day. Young men are killing each other faster than the officers are.  Why aren’t we talking about it.

I saw my 15 year old nephew’s Instagram page with the photo of a young up and coming rapper DC named Swipey who was killed a couple of days ago.  I didn’t know who he was.  But I was intrigued that my 13 year old niece and another fifteen year old nephew commented on the post.  Their comments read RIP with sad emoticons.

I felt instant sadness.  I held them not too long ago in my arms as babies and now as teenager their innocence has already been stripped away.  This young 18 year old was killed by possibly four or five young men who ambushed him with guns. Why? A robbery? An argument? Whatever it was, amounts to nothing important.   What is important, Swipey is gone. Where is the outrage about his death?  Had he been killed by the police, there would be outrage, marches and such.

A sense of urgency to call out the injustice and insensitivity of law enforcement is necessary.  Did you watch the video above of a ten year old chased by police who thought he was a twenty year old?

On my company, Party Politics US chalkboards, people have written that criminal justice, black lives matter, protecting all lives, race relations and racial stereotypes are things they want the next President to work on. I agree with them, do you?

If so, this means all of us no matter who wins the election have to work with the next President to address policemen who are terrorizing our young men.  It means, taking responsibility and having intolerance for the people on the streets carrying guns.  Killing one another on the street and even in church over a seat.

And it means calling this what it is, an American issue.  Power, entitlement and selfishness all a part of America, have brought about this epidemic. America has cultivated this since our inception. It’s not a game, it’s real life. But for some who have no feelings of remorse, whose hearts are so hardened and desensitized, this is like a video game.

A week after the Newtown shooting I said that Wayne LaPierre of the NRA made valid points in his press statement.  Many criticized me.  Looking back, the timing of my thoughts may have been hasty.  The wounds were too fresh.   You were right then. But I still stand by what I said then. We have to listen, doesn’t mean agree, with what he said.

The gun culture alone is not the problem. We are! In his remarks he said “there exists in this country a callous, corrupt shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people.” Before you disagree consider this.

Have you ever innocently bought your child a toy gun, water pistol or super soaker that looks like a gun?  If you are like my parents, you never did.  But somehow, my siblings and I figured out how to shape our hands into a gun and pretend to shoot at each other.

How about this?  Ever purchased video games like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse, or any war games?  Even played them yourself?  You may not have, but a neighbor or family member may have.  Somehow, no matter how hard you tried, your child learned about guns and the power to kill. Unless, you completely shield them from television, movies and school American culture has a way of putting guns in the minds of our children.  It has for a long time.

Even our politicians engage but there role is far greater.  Yet, it still sends a signal that guns and power permeate our society.  Consider that most members of Congress have never fought or served in the military.  Yet they have been empowered to send our young men and women off to war in places we have no business being in.  Then we see the names of loved ones, or those we have never known listed on the news and in newspapers.  In some cases, on the walls of memorials.  We create a police culture abroad with our military and here with our police. This isn’t something just created, it’s been developing a loooong time.

Here’s something else to consider.  Name a country that has had not one, but four Presidents that were killed by shooters since 1865?

Malcolm X said after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination that his assassination was a byproduct of hate, and “the chickens are coming home to roost.”  We have a precipitous environment of hate in America.  The wars abroad have taken out attention off the war at home between the hate between our police forces and the young men killing each other on the street.

Do you want to address this issue? Or do you want your child, nephew, grandson, to be traumatized like this 10 year old who was chased by police who were looking for a twenty year old? I want to address it. To achieve anything, means having some hard long conversations.  That means talking not yelling.

Hot heads don’t solve problem. Now is the time to open our hearts so that we can hear one another. Now is the time to sit down and let cooler heads prevail. If we don’t sit down and talk, nothing get accomplished.

In the video, did you see the young man’s mother talking to her son.  I am certain her heart was racing.  Anger boiling.  And yet she asks him, what are you feeling.  That is a mother’s love and relief that her son lived to tell the tale of what happened. But what about the next time?

We all know, the officers were wrong!  But yelling at them accomplishes what? That is no different than what we accuse our politicians on both sides of the aisle for doing.  The urgency of the moment calls on us to sit down to talk before more young men like this ten year old are traumatized.

Some of you may want to make it about race. I see it.  I see modern day slave catchers kidnapping free black men and selling them into slavery. Instead, today they see no value for their life so they are killing them.  These young men are expendable to them.  They use the excuse, I thought he had a gun.  Knowing that if it goes to court, like the white man that killed Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers and many others will walk out of court a free man.

Here’s the reality.  One stark difference from then and now.  Today, we can vote for people who can change policy.  Unfortunately, we don’t vote or we vote straight party without looking at the positions of all the candidates!  We all can be smarter in our approach and find that while we have differences, there may be some significant things we can work on together.

We can work together in ways we couldn’t just sixty years ago. We can’t do that if we remain trapped in an abyss of hole of despair. As a legislator told me, if you want to get out of the hole, stop digging!

Young men killing each other is digging us all into a deeper hole.  They don’t appear to put much value on their own lives.  How do we expect the police to value them.

I don’t know why those young men killed young Swipey. But my heart aches for him, his friends, girlfriend and my niece and nephews.

I don’t for the life of me understand why those police officers chased this ten year old.  My heart aches for him and his mother.  My heart is open.  But I can’t blame him if his heart hardens after this experience.  This is part of the narrative we aren’t talking about. The cause and effect.  That’s why many of these young men are killing each other.  Who has valued these children’s lives.  If you don’t see it in the video, trust me, that hurt will manifest itself soon into another hardened heart.  His innocence was just ripped from him, no differently than the young slave boy or girl who was pulled away at a young age to work in the fields instead of playing like little kids should.

If you’re still reading this now and you’re white, or Republican and conservative, close your eyes and imagine, what if this ten year old was your child.

To my young friends, disenchanted with the voting process. Don’t give up. To those who say #BernieOrBust let your voice be heard at the ballot box. There’s another election in two years and another presidential one in four.

If you think not voting is an option, don’t complain about the injustices that are happening. But if it is important to see change occur, remember that we have a checks and balance system in our federal, states and cities. President is not the end all. We need you to vote not just for president.

We need you to vote for congressional, state and local elected candidates who believe like you and me that policy must change. This election is about more than Clinton and Trump. It is about the people. It is about ensuring that we don’t have another fiscal cliff crisis. Or another threat of a government shutdown. It is about creating policy that protects us all from another housing, auto or banking collapse.

My dream last night was about the urgency of now. And the need for all of us, no matter what race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, to recognize that this election is a referendum on human values. Guns add nothing to that value. This election is about human dignity. It is about how we live with each other. How we treat one another. How we love one another. How we value one another.

Surely we can do better than what these officers did to this young man?  If you agree, please share it with your friends and family and talk about it. Join me and others on our Facebook group Chalkboard Conversations where we are having daily discussion.  Together we can make a change.

What do you think?


To read Wayne LaPierre full text statement after Newtown

Video of Wayne LaPierre statement

Learn more about Party Politics US at and/or join our daily conversations on Facebook in the group Chalkboard Conversations.

headshot Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR), founder of Party Politics US and Associate Producer on The Framing of OJ Simpson.  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Atiba Madyun on Facebook.