Terminating Apartment Life

Tomorrow is the last day in my apartment lease. For the first time since I moved there in September of 2013, I am not renewing. It was a great place to live when I moved in, but a change of ownership a few years back changed things for the worse. This move is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and it's also a farewell to a residence I am relieved to leave behind. In honor of my final day at Treetop Apartments, here are three things I will not miss about living there, plus two things I will.

I won't miss constant rent increases. With the original owners, my rent didn't change the first time I renewed my lease. Then the new owners came n and rent has increased every renewal since then. The amount I paid with my last rent check is nearly $200 dollars more than what I paid four and a half years ago. When I first moved there, two car garages were included with the lease a their two-bedroom apartments, but under the new owners garages cost extra on top of the lease of a two bedroom unit. Water, sewer, and garbage was originally included in the rent, but those services became an additional charge added to the rent after the new owners took over. And about a year ago, all residents were given notice we were required to carry renter’s insurance effective immediately - increasing the cost to live there and changing the terms of the lease with short notice.

I won't miss parking spaces hard to find. When you pull into the parking lot, there are signs posted warning parking is for residents only. Those signs used to mean something. The original owners had a contract with a local ma & pa towing company. The husband and wife team drove through the lot at random intervals throughout the day and night. They inspected all cars parked in the apartment lots for a parking pass. If they found a car without a pass, they'd tow it. When I moved in, a coworker told me he once had his car towed from that lot after he'd been parked there for less than five minutes. Things changed with the new owners. They terminated the contract with the small towing operation and signed a new contract with a bigger company. The new towers only come to take a vehicle if the property owners request it. Surprise, they never make such requests. The result is a parking lot that is always full and mostly filled with cars lacking a parking pass.

I won't miss dog poop everywhere. There are signs posted advising residents to pick up after their pets. But my neighbors are lazy. Often, there are doggy landmines scattered in every greenspace at the complex and squat-dropped into the grass between the side walk and street. I've witnessed the phenomenon myself, stood on my balcony and watched a neighbor bring out his German Shepherd. It assumed position in the grass at the bottom of the steps to my apartment, dropped its effluence, and the pair walked back to their building. The human never returned to collect his dog's waste. The first summer we lived there, I discovered (in an ironic twist) a pile of poo directly in front of one of the "no pooping" signs. This might seem like an odd complaint considering my new residence. We have two dogs, two cats, five horses, four goats, a rabbit, and a large mixed flock of chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys at the farm. When we do barn chores, it's nearly impossible to not step in it. Everybody poops, including the animals. But there's a difference. If your dog poops in your yard, it's not a big deal. But if your neighbor's dog poops in your yard, you raise a ruckus. I also expect to step in scat when walking through the horse pasture and goat pen. I don't expect it when walking to the manager's office or the mailbox. Some people have no respect and I'm glad they're not my problem any more.

I will miss not having to do yard work. This is by far the greatest perk of apartment life. They employ a maintenance staff to mow the lawn and trim the trees. Or they hire a landscaping company to do it all. As a person who loathes yard work, I was grateful to never worry about the grass growing too tall or weeds that need pulled. It was always someone else's circus, someone else's monkeys. With this move, lawn care is my responsibility once again. The first time we mowed this spring, it took three days. My goal this summer is to teach the kids to do it. Then all I'll have to do is supervise.

Finally, I will miss the sounds of baseball. The sliding glass door to the balcony of my apartment faced Ramsey Park. Walk out the front door, down the stairs, across the driveway, then through a gate in the chain link fence and you'll find yourself on the Prairie Trail next to the Ramsey Ballfields. Staring every spring and lasting late into the fall, evenings became game time with field lights lit up well past sunset. Baseball and softball games frequently lasted until 10pm or later. Even though I am not a huge baseball fan, I still find the sounds of the sport comforting. It reminds me of my childhood listening to Dave Niehaus on KJR and attending Mariners games at the Kingdome. The crack of the bat, crowds cheering, occasional "steeerike!" shout from an umpire, snippets of stadium anthems over the loudspeakers. It's the perfect ambient noise, the soundtrack to a relaxing summer night. I long ago lost count of how many times those sounds lulled me to slumber over the last four and a half years. Sure, I can and will still attend Spokane Indians games, JJ still has a few years left in little league, and I hope to see the M's a few more times at Safeco Field. Yet nothing will replace hearing it played live, right outside the bedroom window, night after night.

As for the farm life, we’re all excited. Christian told me he had always dreamed of living in the country. Some dreams do come true. And the sunsets here are hard to beat.


Civility isn't Civil

In 1993, XL & Death Before Dishonor released a tragically underrated album - Sodom and America. Deep metal grooves with insightful and sometimes subversive hip-hop lyrics akin to Rage Against the Machine. One line from the song ‘Fatal Blow’ has stayed with me through the years: "I don't give none, but I demand respect." 1993 is also the year I endured the worst harassment at school. My experiences repeatedly proved XL's statement to be true. The biggest bullies on campus demanded everyone show them respect, often violently. Yet they refused to show others any level of respect.

Twenty-five years later, bullies haven’t changed, and ‘Fatal Blow’ sounds prophetic. Those who most often desire respect rarely treat others with courtesy. Those who virulently demand freedom of speech for their own beliefs or political stances tend to support suppression and censorship of other beliefs or political stances. Those who campaigned hardest for fiscal responsibility are also financially irresponsible. Those who most ardently expect transparency in others possess many secrets to hide. We have a President who values loyalty above all other qualities, yet he is loyal to no one except himself. And now those who act uncivilized are asking other people to act more civilly.

All because Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was politely asked to leave a restaurant. Suddenly, there's an outcry for civility. I don't want to discuss whether the Red Hen in Lexington made the correct decision. I don't care if doing so was or wasn't within their rights. My concern is with this concept of civility. Because I do not think it means what they think it means. Either that or civility isn't civil.

It's interesting how the people complaining loudest about a lack of civility were the same individuals who once wore t-shits with vulgar names to describe Hilary Clinton and joined the crowd shouting "LOCK HER UP." These are the people who cheered when Trump offered to pay the legal fees of any supporter who beat up a protester. When Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, these people dismissed it as "locker room talk."

Now, according to these moral police, the Red Hen in Lexington needs a lesson in civility. So far, this is how these lessons have been presented:
  • By waving a confederate flag in front of Red Hen.
  • Throwing piles of animal feces toward the Red Hen while shouting "Make America Great Again."
  • Writing zero-star reviews on Yelp to lower their average score.
  • Writing zero-star reviews on Yelp for other Red Hen restaurants, even though those other establishments are not affiliated with the location in Lexington.
  • Sending death threats to the Red Hen both in Lexington and other locations.
Let's be clear, if you must send death threats to those you perceive as offensive, you've already lost the argument.

photo courtesy of Washington Post

Maybe this is you. Perhaps you're concerned about a senior member of Trump's team being asked to forfeit her accommodations because of who she is and where she works. It's possible you might be thinking this flap at Red Hen highlights how much the civility of public discourse has eroded. If that is you, if you're now asking our society to become more polite and civilized, allow me to ask you a few questions.

Where were your calls for civility when Trump mocked a disabled reporter?
Where were your calls for civility when Trump called NFL players sons of bitches?
Where were your calls for civility when multiple women came forward with credible allegations they had been sexually harassed or assaulted by Trump?
Where were your calls for civility every time Trump insulted a political opponent?
Where were your calls for civility when Trump said the press was the "enemy of the American people" or when Secretary Sanders accused the press of intentionally deceiving American citizens?
Where were your calls for civility when neo-Nazis and white nationalists started marching in the streets with tiki torches? Or when one of those racists ran over and killed a protester? Or when Trump said some of those white supremacists were very fine people?
Where were your calls for civility when Trump used the term "shit holes" to describe a group of mostly African nations?
Where were your calls for civility when Trump backed a senate candidate who was facing several accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct with girls as young as 14?
Where were your calls for civility when you found out Trump's lawyer paid off a porn star to silence her claims of an affair?
Where were your calls for civility when Sarah Sanders claimed it was biblical to separate children from their parents? Or when she refused to answer legitimate questions? Or when she shut down a reporter because she thought he only wanted more TV time?
Where were your calls for civility when Trump and Sanders both blamed the Democrats for creating a law that doesn't exist?

The list of offensive things Trump has said, done, or tweeted is longer than the Appalachian Trail. His propensity to lie is staggering. The second-place competitor for the most frequent liar is Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. Whatever they're doing is the opposite of civility.

We have a misunderstanding of what civility means. Judged on recent cries for decency, it seems the current request is for people to be nice. If being civil means being nice, we need some history lessons. The Civil War wasn't civil. The Civil Rights movement wasn't civil. Civil disobedience is never civil. While the text book definition of civility hints at formalities of politeness and courtesy, the word's origin stems from being a good citizen. When a government grows corrupt or tyrannical, when institutional treatment of at-risk populations becomes inhumane or unbearable, when those in power abandon the norms of decency and civility, the most civilized thing for a citizen is to raise a little hell.

Former President, Franklin D Roosevelt, once quoted a Bulgarian proverb, "It is permitted in time of grave danger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge." While there are many who would disagree with me, I believe we are living in an era of grave danger and we have some bridges to cross. The recent calls for civility from Trump supporters is like terrorists asking us to build bridges while they set explosive changes on the support beams. Some men just want to watch the world burn, so if we are to get to the other side of this bridge, we may need to walk with the devil. Or, as Jack Nicholson said while playing the Joker, "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" Well, I feel like dancing.

I will practice civility, but I won't be civil. If XL & DBD's song ‘Fatal Blow’ was prophetic, so was another tune from a completely different genre. A dozen years ago, Dixie Chicks released ‘Not Ready to Make Nice.’ What seemed so rebellious in 2006 is now an anthem in my summer playlist for 2018. Because, like the ladies from Dallas sang, I'm not ready to make nice or back down either. I'm mad as hell and don't have time to go round and round and round. I'll be civil, but I'm done playing nice.

You're concerned, I'm sure. You see my combative and defiant language here and suggestions about walking or dancing with the devil; you fear the worst. I can hear your voice asking, "But nic, what would Jesus do?" The Jesus I know told his disciples to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. It's time to be a little shrewder. And if all else fails, flipping tables is still an option. So, you can take your hypocritical request for civility and shove it up somewhere uncivilized.


Who loves the little children?

There was a simple song I learned in church when I was a kid. If you were a preschooler from a Christian family in the 80s, you probably learned it too. We sang it often in my childhood church: Jesus Loves the Little Children. You know the words, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

It was a comforting concept for us kids under the age of six. If Jesus loves children, and I am a child, logical deduction means Jesus loves me. They gave us coloring sheets of Jesus, drawn to look like a surfer dude in a bathrobe, surrounded by kids our age. Jesus and the kids were always smiling in these pictures, images of love and hope even if it was a smidge myopic. We were told Bible stories of how the disciples tried to keep kids away from Jesus, but he scolded them and insisted on playing with the youngsters. These stories told us of a Jesus who said the kingdom of God belongs to children, and how grownups need the faith of a child if they want salvation.

image courtesy Catholic Sistas

Innocence of childhood was foundational. Jesus loved us, and adults should seek to discover our pure faith. As I grew up, the churches I attended continued to elevate school aged children as our most prized populations. They were the next generation. They were our future. And Jesus loved them.

My personal faith has matured over the years. I struggle to see the world with child-like wonder, yet I still believe kids are precious and should always be protected. I believe in a Jesus who said it would be better for a person to be drowned in the sea with a millstone hung around their neck than to bring harm to a child.

While watching and reading news stories over the last week, I kept singing this song in my head. Jesus loves the little children. Jesus loves these immigrant children. Jesus loves kids brought into America by parents illegally crossing the border. Jesus loves kids torn away from parents seeking asylum. Jesus loves these kids who were endangered in their homelands. Jesus loves all the children now sleeping on concrete floors, caged in by chain link fencing. Jesus loves the children held in overcrowded tent cities somewhere in the Texan desert. Jesus loves the little children of the world, including those from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Jesus loves them, even if we don't.

I'm beginning to wonder if the elders and Sunday School teachers who taught me this song really believe what it says. Maybe they don't. Maybe it's a sham. Looking at the evangelical community now, a more accurate title would be "Jesus loves the little children, but not these children." I remember the lyrics and the colors listed: red, yellow, black, white. I recognize brown was not included and think perhaps that was intentional. I am stupefied how the people who once told me stories of Jesus saying, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these," now have no issues seeing Latino kids detained and in tears because it's a necessary deterrent.

This is cognitive dissonance. One cannot profess faith in a God who cherishes and defends children while approving of an inhumane policy that needlessly separates children from their families, cruelly housing them in emotionally (and possibly physically) abusive environments. You cannot simultaneously teach of a God who loves all the children of the world and harbor disgust for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Belief in a God who calls you to love and care for orphans is incompatible with supporting a government who creates instant orphans and uses them as a bargaining chip.

I shouldn't be surprised though. The church leaders who once warned me that gambling was a sin voted for a man who owned multiple casinos. They told me to stay away from strip clubs, but you can find strip clubs inside buildings emblazoned with the name of their anointed one. They urged me to never look at or watch pornography, yet they've embraced a man who has appeared on the cover of Playboy and married a woman who worked as a nude model. They taught me about the depravities of porn and prostitution, but the rumors of their president having affairs with porn stars and Russian prostitutes don’t matter to them. They preached about the sanctity of marriage yet approve of this man who went through multiple divorces, has had several documented affairs, and often boasted about having sex with women married to other men. Their lessons on pride are overshadowed by their infatuation with the most arrogant president of modern times. They once valued truth, now they celebrate a man who has (on average) lied 6.5 times every day since taking office.

If this is you I'm talking about, I won't denigrate you. But I can't take you seriously either. You follow tenets of faith that value fidelity, humility, honesty, and compassion. You also wholly approve of a president who does not display any of those traits. You're free to support Trump, yet I fear by doing so you walked through the wide gate and are now walking the wide road to destruction. I hope you enjoy the world you exchanged for your soul. While border patrol is herding kids into tents and cages, I eagerly await the end of this chapter of American history. In the meantime, I still believe Jesus loves these little children, even if you don't.


It's Gonna Be Biblical

This is a strange time in America. Politicians are referencing scripture in press conferences. The Bible became a trending topic on Twitter. A comedian read it on TV to the response of cheers and applause. I'm a little conflicted. I should be excited - a theology nerd and religious geek. I believe a better understanding of Biblical texts is a good thing even if the reader isn't a Christian. Yet I also lament to see divinely inspired words twisted to support immoral and inhumane acts of a corrupt government. The best way to overcome the misuse of scripture is to geek out with scripture. Strap yourselves in because I'm gonna pull the whole thing down.

image courtesy of Overture Films

For years, migrants caught illegally crossing the border have been detained. With families, if parents are criminally charged there's a chance kids will be taken into foster or family care. Previously, border crossers would go into detention with their kids to await a hearing from a federal judge. If the judge sends them to prison, then the kids would be separated from their parents. However, many first timers were sentenced with time-served then deported with their children, family never separated. Recently, the Trump administration adopted a zero-tolerance policy to deter all immigration. Now separated at the border; parents are immediately referred for federal prosecution and kids are designated "unaccompanied alien children." Families are immediately split, parents often unsure about why their kids are being taken, where they're going, and how long they'll be separated. Due to the influx of immigrants seeking asylum, the number of kids in ORR custody is overwhelming and housed in overloaded ORR facilities where there have been hundreds of claims of physical and sexual abuse.

This is only a small sliver of actual events and the story is (or should be) concerning for every American. A human rights atrocity being committed by our government. This debacle has justifiably angered many citizens from both ends of the political spectrum. Want to know who isn't concerned? The people who enacted the new policy. President Trump is blaming it on the minority party (who does not control any branch of government) for not repealing a non-existent law. AG Jeff Sessions said, "Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government." Without giving any biblical evidence to support her claim, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "It is very Biblical to enforce the law."

Jesus wept.

In response to the pair of blasphemous theological amateurs, let's look at the passage AG Sessions used to support treating children like chattel. Romans 13 instructs ordinary citizens to follow the law, urging readers to submit to authorities for fear of punishment and a clear conscience.

The letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome speaks often about the law. In chapter 7, Paul explained the law only has authority over those who are still living and we (as Christians) have died to the law. He said the law aroused sinful passions, so we've been released from the law to serve God instead of "the old way of the written code." Paul continues to explain the difference between the law of spirit (God's law) and the law of sin (human law). In chapter 8, human law is described as powerless because it was weakened by the flesh, hostile to God, and does not submit to God's law. Finally, in chapter 13, the same chapter Sessions referenced, Paul wrote "Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law ... Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law."

The government in power during Paul’s life should also be noted. It was vile and violent, controlled by an emperor who routinely jailed, tortured, and executed Christians. Like Paul, most of the Bible was written by oppressed people under foreign occupation. The authors were governed by tyrants from Egypt, Babylon, or Rome. Instruction in the Bible includes commands for people living under corrupt leaders. It was written for people abused by those in power – not for the abusive people in power. Romans 13 tells people to follow the law, but it does not instruct governments to enforce the law. If there is any biblical advice offered to leaders, it is this: "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people." Even Levitical law commanded the Jews to treat foreigners residing among them as native-born citizens.

While following the law is biblical, so is civil disobedience. The Bible recounts story after story of heroes who defied their governments. The mother of Moses and her midwives disobeyed an official decree to kill all newborn Hebrew boys. Moses murdered an Egyptian officer, repeatedly threatened the Pharaoh, and led a slave revolt. Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho sheltered Hebrew spies, hid them from government soldiers, and helped them escape arrest. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to eat the foods they were ordered to eat. When the law mandated them to bow down before a golden idol, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not comply. Daniel continued to pray after the law prohibited prayer. Esther kept her heritage secret from the king, violated his policy to advocate for her people, and plotted against the grand vizier. In the early days of the church, the apostles were arrested, and the courts mandated they stop talking about Jesus. Peter told the court "We must obey God rather than men." The apostles were severely beaten and ordered again to cease their ministry, but they never stopped preaching.

Even Jesus's ministry defied the law. He dined with hookers and con-artists. He touched lepers and other unclean people. He embraced Samaritans and other outsiders. He healed people on the Sabbath when it was against the law to work on that day. He refused to execute an adulteress in accordance with the law. He invited an insurrectionist to be a disciple. His followers violated tradition when they didn't wash their hands before eating. Jesus and the disciples were accused of stealing grain and being drunkards. The Romans found him to be contemptuous for calling himself the son of God because that was Caesar’s title. Jewish legal experts considered this claim to be blasphemous.

Sessions and Sanders can try all they want to use the Bible to justify evil. I'm not buying it. Hopefully, I'm not alone. Saint Augustine once wrote, "An unjust law is no law at all." If our government believes it is Biblical to enforce unjust laws, then I will stand in defiance of that government. I will follow the Committee on Religious Liberty who declared in 2015 "When a government enacts an unjust law, unjust because it violates the human dignity of the citizens or exceeds its authority, the citizens have a duty to disobey that law." I will abide by the multitude of biblical commands to love and care for orphans, widows, and foreigners. I will provide food and water to the hungry and thirsty, entertain strangers, clothe those who need it, relieve the sick, visit the prisoner, speak on behalf of those who have no voice, and advocate for the weak and powerless. I will love my enemy. I will love the unlovable. I will love the broken, the outcast, and the refugee. Because love is the fulfillment of the law.

Whatever it is that AG Sessions and Secretary Sanders is talking about, it isn't love. And it isn't biblical.

image courtesy of The Root


School’s Out For Summer

Every day, for the last year, we've walked the path between my building and the apartment units to our north to get to our car and drive the kids to school. In the rush to get everyone out the door on time, I'd say "Open the door!" To which my youngest would reply, "Get on the floor, everyone walk the dinosaur." Then down the steps, around the corner, and along this sidewalk to the street where my car was parked.

Today was the last day of school. Summer break starts now. No more morning walks between the buildings. However, these early strolls have come to an end for another reason: we're moving. Their last walk to the car before school this week is the last we'll take those steps. As we say hello to summer we also say farewell to the apartment life. Seasons change and I am excited to the next one for all of us.


The New Disasters

Mount St. Helens erupted the day after my first birthday. Every year, throughout my childhood, the local news stations replayed the video of the volcanic blast every May 18th. I held a special connection to the mountain and KIRO's annual coverage of St. Helens' anniversary always felt like a belated birthday present from them to me.

courtesy of KPBS

Growing up during the 80s in the Seattle suburbs, we were bombarded with the possibilities of nature's wrath. St. Helens was one of many volcanoes in the region. Baker, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Glacier all posed real and possible dangers to the Pacific Northwest. We had an abundance of rain and seasonal threats of flooding. There were chances of fires and blackouts caused by electrical storms. We didn't get much snow, but when we did the ice would paralyze the region, making roads anything from hazardous to navigationally impassible. My high school was next door to a dairy farm, and on warm days, if the breeze drifted from the right (wrong?) direction, the odor could be unbearable. We were given the nickname "Cow Pie High." If possible, we risked death by dairy air.

There was also the wind. When I was in sixth grade, I watched live news coverage as a windstorm blew waves over the surface of the floating bridge to Mercer Island, eventually causing the roadway to collapse and sink into Lake Washington. In January of '93, another storm blew in on the day Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president. We were sheltered in place in my eight-grade art class with Mr. Wilson when the power went out. Mr. Wilson was also the yearbook instructor, so his room was windowless and we sat in darkness for the remainder of the day. No one was allowed to leave campus until a parent came to pick us up. Later that night, as the storm raged on, my dad and I went for a walk. We watched power-lines fall and transformers ignite from the force of wind. At one point, I leaned backwards like a trust-fall and the gusts were strong enough to hold me upright.

courtesy of the Oso Darrington Daily

Seismologists constantly warned we were overdue for the “big one,” predicting a massive earthquake would reduce our region to rubble. So, we practiced regular earthquake drills in school. Two of the three quakes I experienced happened during school events. The first in January of ‘95 while the wrestling team stopped for dinner after a tournament, I was on the bus and we were parked near the epicenter. The second happened a little more than a year later in May of '96, our drama club was in the middle of our final dress rehearsal for Neil Simon's Rumors and I was hanging out back stage with one of the girls in the tech crew. After evacuating the auditorium, our parking lot was filled with scared and panicked students filled with the relief of living to retell our stories of survival.

Every generation fears the end is inevitable. During the 1960s, my parents' generation participated in duck & cover practice, fearing a nuclear attack from the USSR. I remember regular fire and earthquake drills throughout my school years and we were sure if our end was coming, the disaster would be a natural one. My kids' generation is different. Sure, they still do fire drills, but they don't fear the planet the same way we did when I was younger. They are aware their lives could end in disaster. However, instead of fearing death from a foreign enemy or the vengeance of natural forces, they believe the most likely scenario to bring their world to a bloody halt is an angry classmate. They're subjected to active shooter drills and bombarded with headlines of school violence. After the mass shooting in Santa Fe, one of the students expressed this resignation in a TV interview when she said, "I've always felt it would eventually happen here too."

English has been my oldest son's favorite subjects this year. The class is led by his favorite teacher who has been a constant source of encouragement. Since September, Christian has enjoyed conversations with this teacher about literature and life. They frequently discussed Christian's favorite novel, The Giver, and with the teacher's support, Christian entered his first speech competition and turned into a talented and creative writer. As the school year closes, his English class was assigned one final project: they were instructed to compose a fictional story about surviving disaster. Christian was excited about this work and he composed a tale in first person perspective, a narrative where the protagonist began a normal day with annoying younger siblings, middle school crushes, educational propaganda, ambitious teachers, and conversations between best friends. He portrayed what it's like to be a junior high student whose life is interrupted in the middle of math class. The disaster he chose was an active shooter. He described the sound of fireworks nearby, witnessing an investigating teacher meeting their fate, students hiding behind desks, the fight or flight response to terror, and grief over the loss of a friend.

image courtesy of TIME

This is the modern reality students face every day. They leave their house each morning wondering if it was the last time they'll tell their parents goodbye. They spend their day pondering which of their peers will snap. They study their classrooms and hallways to determine the best places to hide if someone starts shooting. Every gym, every cafeteria, every portable. Any campus could be the next headline. Our students believe a sentiment like the girl in Santa Fe: It will eventually happen here too.

Over the last twenty years, our societal fears have devolved. Acts of God now pale in comparison to acts of man, and I mourn for America. This is what we've become. How do we fix it? More guns? Less guns? I don't have an answer. All I know is our priorities are messed up. We celebrate violence and have deified the second amendment. We've placed more value in our weapons than we have in human lives. Until we change our culture, alter the way we think about firearms and the sanctity of life, I'm not sure any solution will be adequate.

Yesterday, Christian's English teacher praised his ability to craft a story after reading the rough draft. Today, Christian turned in his final project to be graded and we're both expecting a high score. Tomorrow is his last day of school. This weekend, I'm going to hug my kids, thank God they have survived another year, and pray their fears will never come to fruition.


Questioning a Questionable Policy

Last week, Roger Goodell released a statement detailing an NFL rule change prohibiting protests during the National Anthem. This specifically targets predominantly black players who have been kneeling during the Anthem during the 2016 and 2017 seasons - athletes who are trying to use their platform to bring attention to police violence against the African American community.

Even my team protested, image courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor.

Regardless of how you feel about these protests, even if you disagree with them, you must admit the players won. They wanted to bring attention to this issue and it's become a hot-button topic. With so many pundits and politicians and football fans all over the world talking about it, players like Colin Kaepernick brought their concerns to the forefront. Their mission is incomplete, but the conversations they sparked are victories.

Until now. Per the NFL’s new rules, these protests will be penalized. Goodell released a statement explaining these changes and reading it left me with several questions. And I'm confused. Can someone please explain?

1. The statement opened with a remark that the league is committed to work with the players to strengthen communities and advance social justice. How does threatening players translate into working with them? Furthermore, how does banning protests advance social justice issues? And why are civil rights protests more punitively disciplined than troubles like rape, domestic violence, and child abuse? Yes, I realize the league has rules determining punishment for players who beat their kids, wives, and girlfriends, but the adherence to these rules have been inconsistent if applied at all. Will the application of the protest rule be as lenient as the guidelines for players arrested for violent crimes? If the NFL really wanted to advance social justice, shouldn’t they work harder to protect women and children?

2. The rule requiring players and team personnel to be on the field has been removed allowing those who don't want to stand during the anthem to be somewhere else. They can "stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field" until the National Anthem is over. How vague. How do you define a similar location off the field? Will this turn into a boundary pushing game where protesting players work their way down the entrance tunnel to see how close they can get to the field without being on the field?

3. The official statement mentions fines for the club if any of its staff does not stand for the Anthem while on the field and "appropriate discipline" for league personnel who do the same. Again, this is incredibly vague. What are the fines? What does appropriate discipline include? Why fine the club instead of the player? Isn't that manipulative? Other reports suggested teams would be imposed a yard penalty for protesting players. When would that penalty be applied? During the first possession? At the discretion of the opposing team? What if both teams have players protesting? Do those penalties cancel each other out? Or do both teams take a hit? Does the number of yards a team loses depend on how many players protest? And is the fine a flat rate? Are clubs fined the same amount if a player protests as they would if a coach protests? Is there a bigger fine for repeat offenders? Will they publicize the appropriate discipline against league personnel who chose to protest?

4. I'm happy that Goodell addressed the false narrative that protesting players were unpatriotic. To support the claim that protesters are patriotic, he mandates a patriotic demonstration. How does that make sense? Is forced patriotism really patriotism?

5. The NFL has consistently been losing TV ratings. Fewer and fewer fans are watching games, and with this new rule in place they stand to lose even more viewers. Are they ready for the lost revenue? Are they ready for the backlash? Are they ready for the players who (reportedly) will be protesting by refusing to play? Did they really think this through? Are they prepared for the unintended consequences?