Buckle Up

Below is something that I put on my personal Facebook page, but I thought it was fitting to also share it here with my followers.

My prediction based on where we currently stand and is presented without bias. It looks as though despite a stronger than expected showing from POTUS that Joe Biden will most likely be our 46th president. The blue tidal wave never materialized and the GOP will maintain the Senate as well as pick up a couple of seats in the House. This election is going to be decided by the courts. In my opinion that is the worst case scenario for our country because it will only serve to embolden whichever side loses to feel as though they had an election stolen from them. This is NOT what this country needs after such a turbulent election season. What we need is to either celebrate or lick our wounds (whichever your side needs to do) and work together as citizens to come together.The next few days are going to be tumultuous and it’s going to get ugly among the participants and the pundits. Don’t fall into that trap. If our leaders won’t demonstrate what it looks like to work together, then let us as citizens lead the way in that department.Remember, Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But He didn’t stop there, He went on to say that the second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. There’s no qualification with regard to who our neighbor is. That means your democrat neighbor, your republican neighbor, your libertarian neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor and you can put any kind of qualifier in front of neighbor that you want, we are still supposed to love them.

Who Am I?

It’s been a while since I’ve written this type of blog, but as I have gained several followers both on social media and here on the blog, I thought this would be a good time to re-introduce myself.

First and foremost, I am a believer in Jesus Christ. My identity is found completely in Him. Apart from His grace and mercy, I am merely dirt and clay.

This beginning may very well be an immediate turn-off to some that read this. I hope that you will stick around, though. I know that my faith means that I hold to some beliefs that aren’t shall we say, in vogue, in today’s society. I’m ok with that. I also understand that not everyone holds those same beliefs. I have friends across the political spectrum as well as friends that hold a vast array of religious beliefs. While I will not compromise my beliefs, I will also not stoop to denigrating those that don’t share my beliefs.

Honestly, I am grateful for my variety of friends. It keeps me honest with my beliefs and helps me to make sure that I know not only what I believe but why I believe it. I am always open to honest and challenging conversations where differing viewpoints can be shared. I strive to always respect everyone I come into contact with regardless of how much or how little we have in common. I think one of the greatest problems in our society is that we’ve reached a point where people aren’t willing to have open, honest, and respectful conversations. We are too quick to simply silence a voice in our circle when we find a point of disagreement. I think we could make much more headway if we would learn to listen to each other and understand that I can disagree with you and still respect and love you. Maybe I’m naive to think that’s possible, but if it isn’t we will only continue to sink further into the divisive society we live in now.

I am a husband and father. Marrying Beth was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done (aside from accepting Christ). I can’t picture my life without her by my side. We have two amazing daughters that bring so much joy to our lives. My family means the world to me.

I am a pastor. I have served in the role of worship pastor of 3 different churches over the course of my career. We have been here in Virginia Beach for four and a half years and we hope to be here for many more. My position gives me a unique opportunity to share the gospel through music on a regular basis and I am so thankful for that. It also brings with it the challenge that when you are a pastor, people watch everything you do. If I’m being honest, that can be very stressful, but the reality is that it forces me to be intentional in everything I do. I don’t always get it right, but I try to learn from the times where I don’t and become a better Christian because of it.

I’m a middle-aged kid. That sounds weird, but it’s true. I love spending time riding roller coasters with my oldest daughter who has also caught the bug for this strange hobby. It’s awesome to have something like that to bond over.

I’m a marathoner. I’ve completed two marathons and while I don’t know if I will do another one, I am smart enough to not say never. I typically run 25-35 miles each week and in the most shocking of events have fallen in love with an activity that 6 years ago I hated.

Well, that’s a quick snapshot of who I am. I truly hope that you decided to hang around and continue to follow this blog and my social media pages.

Be blessed!

When Roller Coaster Rankings Change

Roller coaster rankings are an interesting thing. They are completely subjective because they completely depend on what the individual likes in a ride. There is no formula to scientifically say what the best roller coasters are. That’s one of the things I love about this hobby. There is no right or wrong answer as to what the best rides are. Well, if you rank a suspended, looping coaster by Vekoma (SLC) as the best, you’re either wrong or you just really enjoy getting beat up by a ride. The reality is that it’s ‘to each their own.’

Despite being 41, I would only consider myself to have become a roller coaster enthusiast in the last 2-3 years so I really haven’t been ranking roller coasters that long. However I can tell you that even before my enthusiast mode kicked in, if you had asked me what my favorite inverted coasters were, I would have listed Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa as my top 2. Prior to November of 2018, I would have considered Alpengeist as my favorite invert. This was probably due to several factors. First would be a home park bias towards Williamsburg. Second would be that I’ve ridden Alpengeist countless times and up until 2018 only had 1 lap on Montu and that was way back in the summer of 2001.

Upon riding Montu again in 2018, it was clear to me that despite being the same age as Alpengeist, it had aged a little bit better. I made Montu my favorite invert. Alpie was more intense, bigger, and faster, but it had just gotten really rough over the years.

Fast forward to September of this year. Busch Williamsburg had been closed all season due to the pandemic, but in August they began running month long special events with a 1,000 person capacity limit. With the small capacity, they haven’t been opening the entire park for each event and in August Alpie never opened. September’s event brought the return of Alpengeist.

I was excited to get back on this ride as it is my favorite ride in the park. (That’s a controversial opinion to those who love Apollo’s Chariot.) The first ride I had on it in September was absolutely amazing. It was running much more smoothly than I remember and it seemed to be a little bit faster. We got four rides in that night and they were all fantastic. We rode front and back (back row on Alpie is something that you just have to experience as it is insane). I held off on changing my invert rankings and consequently my overall coaster rankings until we got another visit or two in during the month.

During a visit later in the month with Patrick, Greg, and Sam from the flight crew of We Were Inverted (https://www.wewereinverted.com). We had a great night that included several more amazing rides on Alpie. In fact, you can find a blog about that night over on their page as well. Greg and Sam had never experienced Alpengeist prior to that night. Some point during that night I decided to rearrange my coaster rankings and move Alpengeist ahead of Montu. It’s simply running unbelievably well right now.

What’s the big deal about rankings shuffling around on my list? Not much, except that it’s pretty rare for me to move around rides that I have already ridden. I had that happen one other time with a certain wooden coaster that seems to keep getting better each year that it’s open and it has moved up a few notches as well. Either way, it just doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen it’s usually because a ride begins to deteriorate with age so you would see a ride drop for that reason. While this change did drop Montu a slot, it had nothing to do with Montu getting worse. It’s a world class ride that should definitely be experienced. Something was just different with Alpengeist this year and it is running better. The only work that I can confirm was done on the ride was an upgrade to the braking systems. This definitely helps out on the mid-course brake run, but shouldn’t play into the rest of the ride.

So with all this talk about ranking coasters, I guess I should reveal my updated top 10 steel list and top 10 overall list since this change shuffles both of them around. There is one addition to the top 10 steel list since I did that entire series at the beginning of this year. That ride is Twisted Cyclone at Six Flags over Georgia. While it made my top 10 steel list, it just missed the top 10 overall list as I have now ridden 128 unique roller coasters.

Top Ten Steel Coasters

  1. Fury 325 (Carowinds)
  2. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion)
  3. Skyrush (Hersheypark)
  4. Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
  5. Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion)
  6. Alpengeist (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
  7. Montu (Busch Gardens Tampa)
  8. Twisted Cyclone (Six Flags over Georgia)
  9. Drachen Fire – defunct (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
  10. Cheetah Hunt (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Top Ten Overall

  1. Fury 325 (Carowinds)
  2. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion)
  3. Phoenix (Knoebels)
  4. Skyrush (Hersheypark)
  5. Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
  6. Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion)
  7. Lightning Racers (Hersheypark)
  8. Son of Beast – defunct (Kings Island)
  9. Alpengeist (Busch Gartens Williamsburg)
  10. Montu (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Theme Parks During a Pandemic: Should I Go?

Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve written anything at all. Having said that, as the summer has progressed many amusement and theme parks across the U.S. have reopened with health and safety protocols in place. Since parks in my area have been slower to re-open, I haven’t been to many.  I have however made it to three parks (Six Flags America, Six Flags over Georgia, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg) in the last month or so and thought it might be helpful to share my experiences and thoughts.

Before I dive in, I will go ahead and out myself with regard to my bias on the current state of things.  This should eliminate the need for anyone to virtue shame me or accuse me of pushing an agenda.  I’m really not. I have my thoughts. I know they aren’t shared by everyone and that’s cool.  I respect your thoughts and I ask the same for mine.

I want to start this off with a brief section that is completely subjective and this is where my bias will show up.  You need to know that I believe the virus is very real and presents a dangerous threat to many people’s health.  I have also chosen to not live in fear of the virus. I follow safety protocols. I mask up, do my best to maintain social distance, and I live my life. That’s where I’m coming from as I make these observations.

It should also be noted that my evaluations are based solely on what I experienced during one day in each of these parks.  I’m sure there are bound to be inconsistencies from day to day.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

This is the subjective section of the blog. I believe that people who view theme parks as just something to do and aren’t necessarily enthusiasts will not enjoy the parks as much right now.  I know that some will, but from the comments I’ve heard from non-enthusiasts, this is what I think.  There are limited dining options at the parks.  Not every restaurant will be open and the snack/drink carts that many parks place throughout the midways aren’t there right now. Also, it is most likely that not every ride will be open.  I have yet to see an indoor dark ride running.  (To be fair, Six Flags over Georgia has been running Monster Mansion. It just happened to be down the day I was there.)  If you love riding roller coasters and have a favorite seat, you may or may not be able to sit where you want.  I have seen the staff assigning your seat on some coasters both at Six Flags over Georgia and at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Finally, and this is the big elephant in the room, many will not enjoy the experience because in most parks that are open you must wear your mask at all times unless you are in a designated mask free zone or if you are eating.  It’s August.  It’s hot.  Wearing a mask all day in the heat sucks.  If you don’t want to or aren’t able to do that, then you should stay home.

What To Expect

I will break this down by each park that I have visited this summer so you will see the subtle differences.

Six Flags America

This was the first park I visited during the pandemic.  It’s a low tier park in the Six Flags chain so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Reservation was required. You couldn’t get through the parking plaza without showing your reservation. Once you showed it there, you did not have to produce it again.

Before entering the park, Six Flags uses infrared cameras to scan your body temperature as you walk through a tent.  Anything over 100.4 and your entire group will not be allowed entry. The good news is, if you register a fever, you are allowed to hang out in a ‘cool down’ area and get rescanned a few minutes later.  If you fail then, you’re out of luck.

Hand sanitizer stations were everywhere. They were at ride entrances and exits, store entrances, restaurant entrances, and at the bathroom entrances and exits.  In addition there were also some hand washing stations set up in the midways.

Mask enforcement was pretty strict the day I was there.  I saw multiple employees asking guests to get their masks on correctly throughout the day.  We even saw a ride operator refuse to dispatch the train on a coaster until someone put their mask in place.

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Social distancing markers were on the ground in the line queues.  I didn’t see staff enforcing these, but I would say 95% of the guests in the park were keeping their distance in the queues.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness and operations of this park. They were doing it right. I give them an A.

Six Flags over Georgia

I could copy and paste paragraphs 2-4 so I won’t rehash that.  There was however one significant difference in the entry procedures and that was the fact that the guests were simply ignoring social distancing waiting for the park to open.  There were markers down but they were useless. There was also no staff monitoring that entrance line to enforce it.

Mask enforcement here was spotty at best.  I will be the first to admit that if I found myself in an area where no one was around except my daughter and I, my mask came down too. It went right back up if anyone was within even 20 feet of me. I did see one or two employees ask people to put their masks on, but most employees were ignoring it.

Ride queues here were also a mess.  Just like the entrance, markers were down but no one was paying any attention to them.  As you can see in the photos, inside the stations was better.  I did my best to keep 6 feet between Carrie and myself and any other group, but it was a little bit frustrating to say the least.

I never felt unsafe here, but that’s me.  I am certain that others would have probably chosen to leave the park.  When it comes to enforcing their stated health and safety protocols, Six Flags over Georgia gets a C-.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

My home park! I’ll try to not let my bias creep in here.

This park is not fully open, but rather running a very low capacity special event in which only half of the park is open so it’s a different experience altogether.

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Reservations are required and must be shown not only at the parking booth, but at the park entry when your ticket is scanned.  I was relieved to still have the email on my phone as I left the printed copy of the reservation in the car. Your temperature is checked with the touch-less forehead scan by a member of security and the same protocols for fever that the other parks had, holds true here as well.

The park didn’t have the full out hand washing stations (at least I didn’t see any), but there was hand sanitizer everywhere you turned. I don’t think you ever had to walk more than 50 feet to find some. Good by me.

Social distancing markers were in place all over the park and guests were adhering to them. I never saw a park employee enforce it, but again, I never saw what appeared to be a violation of social distancing.

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Mask enforcement was on point.  A friend of ours witnessed Finnegan’s Flyer getting stopped only a few seconds into the ride because a guest had pulled their mask down when the ride started. If employees saw people with their masks down, they were reminding them to put them on correctly. No issues here at all.

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Ride queues were also handled well. Markers were on the ground and guests were following them. Also, a huge shoutout to the park for marking off 2 consecutive rows right in front of the back row of the coasters so that you could ride in the back row. That was great thinking on their part.

Busch Gardens took a terrible situation with local government and made the most out of it. When it comes to adhering to their stated protocols, they get an A.

To Go or Not To Go?

This is a question that only you can answer for yourself. I can tell you that if you are the social distancing and mask police, you will find something to get upset about. The enforcement will never be 100% across the board and people are always going to test the limits. So if that’s you, you probably don’t want to go because you’ll be unhappy the whole time and that’s not the reason for going to the parks.

If you are responsible and enjoy the rides and being in the parks, then by all means, get out there and have a good time.  The parks need patronage right now as many of them have essentially lost 1/2 of a season or more.

If you’re not ready to go into the parks yet, that’s cool. Don’t shame those of us who are.  If you are back in the parks and enjoying them responsibly, that’s great too. Don’t shame or belittle those that aren’t. The parks should be enjoyed.

Have you been back to the parks yet? What were your experiences? Feel free to share them in the comments down below.

 

I’m Done

No, I’m not done with my blog. I’m not going to stop writing. I’m not going to stop speaking against injustice. I’m not going to stop sharing my faith. I’m not going to stop running.

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So why the title of this blog. It’s simple. I’m done arguing online with people specifically when it comes to Covid-19. I have my thoughts on the virus and you have your thoughts. That’s cool. My words aren’t going to change your thoughts just like your words aren’t going to change mine. I will continue to follow what’s going on. I will post articles that I feel should be shared for informational purposes only.

Here’s what else. I will live my life post pandemic in a way that makes sense for me and my family and in a way that we are comfortable living. I will also respect those who choose to live differently than we do. I hope that I will get the same respect from others.

On a different note, last Sunday, Steven Furtick of Elevation Church preached a sermon that is so fitting for where we find ourselves today. It’s about an hour long but well worth your time.

Training Tuesday – June 9, 2020

Last Week’s Weight – 244.7

This Week’s Weight – 240.5 (down 4.2 pounds)

Weekly Miles – 32.9

May Miles  – 101.1

June Miles – 28.2

2020 Miles – 532.4

Definitely feeling back on track this week. My weight is moving down again and my mileage is up. Of course, if you’ve been following for the past few months, you know that this is something that I’ve seen before. Now, I just need to find a way to keep this going in the right direction.

Sunday, May 31, 2020 – So much of me didn’t want to run today. However, not running yesterday due to travel created a need to run, not to mention I was less than 1/2 mile away from hitting 500 on the year and only 3.6 miles away from my second consecutive 100 mile month. Also, with my run across Virginia virtual race, every day off adds to the overall average daily mileage I need. Ideally, I want to have one rest day per week without hurting what that daily average needs to be. I went out for an easy 45/30 run and managed to get 4.7 miles in on the day.

Monday, June 1, 2020 – First day of the work week and it was back to a (slightly) more aggressive run/walk interval of 70/30. I was certainly still feeling fatigue from the weekend and my legs really never loosened up on this run. Having said that, it was still a respectable 4.6 miles at a pace of 10:04. Not a bad start to the week. I am slightly concerned about overtraining, though so on Tuesdays and Thursdays I am going to back off of the interval just a bit. If I get into a state of being overtrained, this virtual run across Virginia won’t happen throughout the summer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – Started my day off with 5 miles using a comfortable 50/30 run/walk interval. Despite the relaxed interval I was able to run those 5 miles at a 10:24 pace even with the first mile being at 10:59. The legs were definitely a lot more loose than they were at any point yesterday so I’m pleased with that. All in all a good morning workout and I’m feeling really good right now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 – Have you ever run mad? That was me today. I’m also getting back into my morning run groove as temperatures are starting to really climb later in the day. I ran 4.5 miles at a 9:43 pace. I went back to my current ‘aggressive’ ratio of 70/30 and while I was feeling some fatigue at the end, I was by and large feeling pretty good. I hesitate to speak to soon during the week, but so far I seem to have my food intake at a good spot. I still need to improve on the hydration a little bit, but I’m seeing some progress.

Thursday, June 4, 2020 – One more relaxed interval run before the weekend’s long run. Today I knocked out 5 miles using my 50/30 ratio. Everything felt pretty good and I’m looking forward to what the weekend has in store.

Friday, June 5, 2020 – This is a rest day for me. I did go out for a 2 mile walk just to keep the legs moving. I don’t count these miles towards my yearly running total, but they will count towards my virtual trek across Virginia.

Saturday, June 6, 2020 – Holy humidity, Batman! Despite being out the door by 7am, the humidity was through the roof. The only reprieve was that we had an overcast sky so I wasn’t being pummeled by the sun. 9.1 miles using a 45/30 run/walk ratio.

Global Running Day

It’s gonna be a different kind of ‘Wild Card Wednesday’ here at the blog. This is posting later than usual because in the midst of all of the chaos and turmoil right now, a light-hearted, satirical blog post just didn’t seem appropriate. I also didn’t want to go full on serious like Monday’s post. But yes, there will be a hair update at the end because….would it be Wild Card Wednesday without that?

That leads me to this. Today is Global Running Day. Since the spring of 2015, running has become a huge part of my life. I started doing it to lose weight and it turned from being a dreaded workout to becoming an enjoyable lifestyle. Since 2015, I have completed 9 half marathons (yes, still sitting on 9 and waiting for one to actually happen so I can get to 10), 2 marathons (is there a 3rd coming? I’m non-committal either way), and countless 10ks, 8ks, and 5ks.

That brings me to the question that I will try to answer today. Why do I run? This list of answers is certainly not exhaustive and honestly, each runner’s list will look different.  Here’s a few of the major reasons I run.

1. Fitness – It would have been easy to say to lose weight which is why I started running. I weighed in at 298 pounds and through diet and running I was able to drop down to 199 at my lowest. Life happened and I put a lot of it back on, but my weight loss is now so much more involved that pounding out the miles. I’m overweight at the moment, but my overall fitness level is pretty good. I can attribute my running to that.

2. Stress Relief – That’s right. Running is a great form of stress relief. I have discovered over the past 5 years, that my days tend to go better if I start them off with first and foremost, time with the Lord, but secondly with a good run even if it’s just a mile. Jeff Galloway likes to talk about the endorphins that are released by running and he’s not kidding. Even a sucky run, can make your day feel so much better.

3. Leisure – Yep. There are days where I will go out and not care how fast or slow I run and have no specific mileage goal in mind. These are some of my favorite running days. It’s nice to just be outside and see the beauty of creation as well as seeing others out there doing the same thing.

4. Fellowship – Runners have a bond that no one understands. My non-running friends think I’m crazy when I’m out the door before sunrise to get as much of a long run in as possible before the heat becomes problematic. My running friends will sometimes join me. Runners from all walks of life share so many common experiences that I can honestly say I’ve never run with someone and not thoroughly enjoyed it.

Well that’s my short list of reasons why I run. Now on to the hair update.

For starters, I will share 2 inspiration pics. The first is the inspiration for cut and the other is color. It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out which is which.

I went to see Erin at Salon Mosaic last Friday. Keep in mind that I had a lot of red in my hair when I went in so we have not gotten all the way there yet with the color. However, considering after lightening my hair it had turned orange (that was scary) I am incredibly happy with where the color is at right now. We still have a ways to go, but I have complete confidence in her to get me there. Here’s the result (it was raining the day she did it, so the pic I will share is from the day after with my own meager attempts at styling it – she styled it much better than I did.) Scratch that – so that you can see the color better I will include one pic from right after leaving the salon.

 

Training Tuesday – June 2, 2020

Last Week’s Weight – 239.2

This Week’s Weight – 244.7 (up 4.5)

Weekly Miles – 33.3

May Miles  – 96.4

2020 Miles – 499.5

I’m really perplexed at the weight gain this week. I drank a good amount of water and was really careful with my food intake. I will admit that on Saturday, I didn’t eat the greatest, but I didn’t over eat and the scale had already started trending up before then. Like I said last week: 240 seems to be my new 250 barrier. Gotta crash through it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020 – 10.0 miles. This was day 2 of my 3 days, 31-mile personal challenge over the Memorial Day weekend. It was a task that seemed daunting if not impossible when I first had the mind to do it. Now that I’m 2 days in and 9.7 miles away from completing it, I feel confident that it will be accomplished. The only real question is will I finish it in 1 run or will I split it up into 2 runs. That’s all going to depend on the legs tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 25, 2020 – 9.7 miles split over two runs of 7.1 and 2.6 miles. This completes my goal of a 50k over the Memorial Day weekend. I would have been able to do the 9.7 in one run, but I stayed in bed too long and couldn’t finish before a scheduled Zoom call at 11. My legs are certainly tired, but all in all they held up really well through the 3 days. Looking forward to a good rest day tomorrow.

Tuesday – May 26, 2020 – Rest Day. 31 miles over the previous 3 days called for a rest day.

Wednesday – May 27, 2020 – 4 miles at a 10 minute average pace. After a day off, I was really happy to get back out there and really not feel a whole lot of fatigue on the legs. this was a solid run to get things rolling again.

Thursday – May 28, 2020 – 4.1 miles at a 9:49 average pace. The legs continue to feel like they’ve recovered from the grueling weekend. That’s always a good sign moving forward.

Friday – May 29, 2020 – Friday’s are normally rest days, but I will be unable to run due to a commitment that involves a lot of travel time tomorrow, so I needed to get out there today. Today also started my 90 day virtual challenge: The Great Run Across Virginia. This is a 395 mile undertaking that I have 90 days to complete. I got started with a solid 5.5 miles in the morning.

Saturday – May 30, 2020 – While it was a rest day from running, I wouldn’t call it a rest day. I was up at 2am and on the road at 3am to drive across the state to Pulaski, Virginia. While there I met up with several other worship leaders and musicians from the state and we recorded the worship music for the state’s virtual camp meeting. After recording 11 songs, I was back on the road shortly after 3pm and on my way back home. I arrived shortly after 9pm. No running today.

The Evolution of Chris

*Disclaimer. I am not writing this to get a pat on the back. Honestly, I don’t deserve one. The fact that this journey has taken me 41 years is honestly kind of embarrassing.  I’m simply sharing a bit of my journey over the last couple of years in hopes that it would encourage or perchance maybe even inspire someone. I also fully expect that some will not like what they are about to read. Honestly, that’s fine because I haven’t liked a lot of what I’ve seen both on TV and on social media lately either.

I’m Chris. I’m 41. I’m white. Consequently, I was born into privilege. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Let me explain what I mean. I have never had someone call me a disparaging name because of the color of my skin. I have never been denied an equal opportunity because of my skin color. I can go for a run 5-6 times per week and never worry that someone is going to chase me down and shoot me because I don’t look like I belong there. Because of my privilege, I will never know what my friends of color experience on a daily basis. It would be insulting for me to even try to pretend to know. That doesn’t mean I should remain silent in the face of injustice.

But let’s back up. A couple of years ago I began a journey. I’m not fully sure what triggered it except for the fact that I was tired of watching the nonsensical brutality perpetrated (often by those in power) against the black community going unchecked. Oh yeah, we had some peaceful protests, but nothing changed.  In fact, the most notable peaceful protest was started by Colin Kaepernick and it was received with ridicule, mocking, and hate. If I’m honest, when it started, I was enraged by it.  Think about that. I was enraged by a man kneeling during the national anthem, seemingly more than I was enraged by the acts of violence that were being committed at an alarming rate. But it didn’t click with me at that moment. I don’t have that pinpoint moment where I knew it clicked.

I am an avid reader. I enjoy reading immensely, but up until about two years ago, I would say that I read in a vacuum. I didn’t read anything that made me think outside of the box that I was comfortable thinking in. When you do that, it has a very similar effect as getting your news from only one source. You become unknowingly able to turn off your own critical thinking ability and just absorb whatever you put into your mind without any effort. I now believe that it is a dangerous place to be.

I decided to read something early in 2019 that I would have never thought about reading prior to that. I read a book called ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.’ This book started my journey of realizing that I had a very big blind spot when it came to racist tendencies in my own life. Then I read ‘The Cross and The Lynching Tree’ and while I didn’t find myself agreeing with the juxtaposition of a black man being brutalized with Christ on the cross, this book still opened my eyes to the horrible reality of what black Americans have faced in this country for well over a century and a half (at least). At the beginning of 2020, I read ‘White Fragility’ which forced me to confront my own white privilege. Finally, I am currently reading ‘Kennedy and King.’ This is an incredible account chronicling the tension between Martin Luther King and JFK as the civil rights movement reached an important crossroads. The accounts in this book of what happened to many of the Freedom Riders, as well as many other PEACEFUL PROTESTORS was enough to make me physically sick sometimes. If you’re a parent, think of what your response would be to your local mayor ordering the fire department to unleash the full force of a fire hose on not only the adults that were marching but on the children. Oh, and that’s just one of many horrific assaults on the peaceful protestors that were used by people in power to try to silence the cry for equal treatment.

Fast forward to this week. George Floyd (never forget his name) was apprehended with excessive force and ultimately murdered by 4 police officers. One who had a knee firmly lodged in his neck, another with a knee in the small of his back, and another who was on top of his legs. Did I mention, he was already cuffed and not combative yet they stayed in this position for 8 or 9 minutes.  Oh yeah, I said there were four police officers. You ask where was the fourth? He was watching it all happen from the side and not even trying to get them to stop. Yes, he’s responsible too.

Contrast this image to the one of Dylan Roof being arrested.  You remember Dylan, right? He was the guy that decided to walk into an African American church in Charleston and shoot up a Bible study group that was meeting. He killed 9 people simply because they were black. He was arrested peacefully and was even given a bulletproof vest in case some vigilante would try to take matters into their own hands and shoot him during transport. Oh, and just for reference…..George Floyd was being arrested for allegedly passing a bogus $20 bill.

As the week has unfolded, peaceful protests have sprung up across the country and have unfortunately turned violent. Our country seems to be ‘a powder keg about to explode’ to quote from Hamilton. Something has to give and I don’t know what that is.

I will never condone the violence that has popped up from these protests, but I’m also not completely convinced that the ones perpetrating the violence are actually protestors. I think they are hired, agitators. Why do I think this? For the first time in a long time, we saw a country that seemed to be strongly united in outrage over the actions of these four so-called police officers that we may have been on the verge of some kind of positive change actually happening. There are powerful people on the fringes of both political ideologies that absolutely need to keep us divided for them to be able to push forward their radical agenda. The peaceful protests must be discredited, so enter the agitators. You can call me a conspiracy theorist on this one all you want, but the more footage I see, the more I’m convinced that the violence has been triggered by people that don’t care at all about what happened to George Floyd or so many other black Americans who have experienced racism far too often. This violence has been triggered by those with an agenda to promote.

Now let’s suppose for a minute that it actually is the same people that were peacefully protesting who suddenly turned into violent mobs. Martin Luther King said that ‘the riot is the voice of the unheard.’ Long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, the black community had tried to peacefully demonstrate in order to draw attention to police brutality and other injustices that they have faced.  What has changed as a result of these peaceful protests? Nothing. So while I can never get myself to a place where I condone violence, I also understand that having your peaceful protests ignored for decades upon decades can become very frustrating and certainly can lead to an escalation of those protests. Let me put it another way if I watched the powers that be in my community constantly do things that disrespect, harass, and even injure or God forbid kill someone in my family, my reaction wouldn’t be peaceful.  I’d be doing much more than taking a knee and hoping for change.

In closing, I’ve reached a place that 2 years ago, I don’t think I would have ever envisioned myself. Don’t tell me ‘all lives matter’ right now. I don’t want to hear it. That phrase is just an excuse to pass the responsibility for the treatment of black Americans on to someone else. I do believe that God created and loves us all. That’s not what this is about. This is about us as humans having the decency to respect the lives of humans that don’t look like us. This is about demanding that those in positions of power show that same level of decency when they put that badge on or when they take that position of public office. For the first time in my life, I am going to type three words to close out this blog. For some strange reason, these three words seem to scare a lot of people. I will choose to use them as a minuscule way of letting my black neighbors know that I will no longer be silent and consequently complicit.

Black Lives Matter

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