Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. 

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Therrfk-speech-jpg__735x525_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscalee’s an endless cycle of death and destruction that seems to permeate itself around the world, and instead of seeking out the truth and wisdom we need to continue to live in a just, peaceful world, we cling to our fears to keep us rooted in a world of stereotypes, prejudices, and a retrograde of progress.

We build the world we see based on our experiences and the reactions to those experiences. We can take an experience we’ve had in our life and make it the very essence for our fight for a certain cause, or we can use that experience to fortify ourselves around a barricaded wall of misinformation and hate. Like it or not, we live in a post 9/11 world where stereotypes we haven’t seen the likes of since the 1920s and 1930s are now prevalent in our society. We have two paths which we can go down now: one where we learn from these hideous tragedies and come together as one human race or we can continue down the path we’re already on: one of racism, sexism, and division.

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Progress Is A Nice Word. But Change Is Its Motivator. And Change Has Its Enemies

c1b423c22e8c8a9a59a5145cae5aa4f9We now live in a society where rules have been thrown out the window. Where the idea of
a sane leader has been replaced by a hyperbole on top of a massive form of personification. We believe what we hear yet refuse to discover whether it is true or not. Why is that? Why are we afraid to uncover if something we’ve learned is incorrect or not? It’s simple: we’re afraid of change.

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Too Often We Excuse Those Who Are Willing to Build Their Own Lives on the shattered dreams of Others

No one deserves to suffer. From birth to death, every moment you live should be free of that awful burden of suffering. Whether it be that child in poverty going to sleep hungry because their family can’t afford dinner, the family ripped apart because of living in a war-torn country, or someone with a disease or disability they never asked for.

Those who suffer are the ones who grow up to feel more.kennedy_discusses_school_with_young_ricky_taggart They maintain that sentiment of what it means and feels like to suffer; and it’s those who you usually see working their hardest at nonprofits, NGO’s, within city, state, or the federal government who have suffered the most throughout their lives. They believe in the simple principle that no one in need should go without it and that at any moment they could find themselves in that same place of need.

Unfortunately, we live in highly complicated times where suffering does occur. Utopias only exist in fairy tales. Instead, we’re left with those who care less for others than they do themselves. They look to either line their pockets with more money than they know what to do with, or they’re seeking more power for themselves.

To those I say: look around at those you ignore. Look at the backs you are breaking to give yourself a lift up above them. Those you stand upon to gain whatever it is you want will always be stronger than you will ever be. They, the ones who go to bed at night unsure of what the next day will bring them, in every literal sense of the word, are the bravest souls you will find.

They will not be forgotten or disappear. Instead, they are the face for what you fear the most: progress, because when those suffering see others suffering they will band together and stand on your back to make themselves known. You cannot erase their suffering or the troubles they faced throughout their lives, but you will awake a sleeping giant unlike any you’ve ever known.

Robert Kenkennedynedy knew this before any of us, especially when he spoke in South Africa in the midst of apartheid. He knew what those who suffered could accomplish if they banded together, regardless of your skin color, ethnicity, age, gender, or whatever it was that caused the suffering. They would carry each other, even when broken and battered, to that mountaintop Martin Luther King, Jr. said he’d seen right before his assassination.

Instead of a mountaintop, though, Bobby saw those little ripples of hope we each could be in enacting change anywhere in the world. In each of us, in all of us who suffer, there is a little ripple of hope we can become even in the darkest of times, and when we merge together we can become the largest of waves powerful enough to wash away any injustice or hatred.

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

All it requires us to do is work together instead of live divided, as we do today. Families in this country are torn apart simply because of their political views when we should be cherishing the fact that we can each have our own views because in many countries around the world that right can get you arrested, exiled, or killed.

Bobby understood that we are all one human race, regardless of what you look like or what your social status is.

And as one human race, we suffer together.

So as one human race we should work together to ease the suffering in our world instead of picking fights with each other based on superfluous things.

We must love one another or we will perish.

So, once again, to those suffering: the child going to sleep hungry in what is considered the “shining city on a hill,” the Syrian refugee fleeing the only place they’ve ever known for their lives because their entire village was destroyed by fire from the sky, the black man or woman who is afraid to speak up for their rights to police officers because they’re afraid of the response being the barrel of a gun, and every single person who suffers in ways I may never understand or know of: I love you and I will fight the rest of my life for a world where we can sing a requiem for the suffering you’ve faced head on and succeeded in conquering.

– RA

To Tame the Savageness of Man

There are many moments in my life where I feel waves of despair. Days where I don’t even feel like lifting my head up from my pillow. I feel like a boulder has been placed on my chest for no good reason, other than the fact that I’m alive and reality, for lack of a better work, can suck. It can rip away your happiness in just a few seconds like being punched in the gut and leave you gasping for air. And I admit, those days are difficult to get through, some days more than others.

But, when the waves of despair pass (and they usually do), I remember Bobby Kennedy. I 13239380_963425050440812_1276804681232585690_n
remember who he was, growing up the runt of his family, always doing everything he could to prove to his father, brother, and the rest of the country that he was worth it. That’s why he came off as the tough guy at first. Two things mattered most to him: family and country. When you came after either of those two he came after you, and he’d be ruthless.

After his brother’s death, though, he began to understand that life truly was fleeting and only a speck of dust in this thing called time. It’s not about living your life, it’s about what you do with it. Sure, he worked with Joe McCarthy (which some of us forget) when McCarthy went after so-called communists in our country, and he led racketeering committees which made him enemies that outlived him and was more than just an Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and more of a co-President, but all those paled in comparison to what he became after JFK’s death.

He became himself.

Bobby lived in the shadows of others, always doing things to boost others to higher places of power. Once his brother died, Bobby needed to discover who he was and what he stood for, personally and politically. Everything became brand new to him, but he took that vulnerability and turned it into something that has yet to be recreated in more than 60 years. He pushed forward an idea that we can work together to solve our programs and that government can do good for the people, that partisan bickering needed to end when it came to solutions which directly impacted the lives of those living in this country. Obviously, he wasn’t the first to proclaim this type of philosophy, but everyone who met him – whether they liked him or not – knew that his belief in the idea that “we can do better” was genuine. They saw it in his eyes, they heard it in his shaky voice when he gave speeches, and they felt it when he answered questions directly rather than dodging the question asked.

He also acted on those personal feelings he had towards the issues that mattered to him most. He visited areas of intense poverty and in response launched the Bedford-Stuyvesant Project, which many do see as a successful combination of the public and private sectors working together to strike at the heart of poverty in inner cities. He spoke out against discrimination, becoming not just a favorite son among the African American community, but also the Latino and Native American communities. He understood the savagery that man could inflict each other, being involved not just in international conflicts such as the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, but also the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. He spoke up for those without a voice or whose influence was drowned out by those with more money in their pockets or louder voices to speak on their behalf. People listened to him, yes, because he was a Kennedy, but also because when he spoke you knew he meant what he said. Honesty is rare in today’s politics.

And in the end, he tried to heal. That’s the most important part of Bobby Kennedy’s legacy that I wake up everyday thinking of – filled with or despair or not – and try to continue. There are those who suffer in this world and will continue to suffer in this world, and I will do all I can to end the suffering for as many as I can. As Bobby once said:

I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.

That’s why I created this blog. To ease the suffering of others, to bring issues of suffering to light so we can fight together to end them. We can never end all suffering, but we can act together to ease as much of that suffering as possible.

So today, to all those suffering and in despair, I say to you: you are not alone, you will not be ignored, and you are loved. I may not know you, I may never meet you, but I know you are hurting and I will dedicate the rest of my life to easing that suffering.

– RA

 

 

 

 

This Is Not Normal

Many frightening events are happening right in our country. They range from the consistent attempts and now possible appeal of the Affordable Care Act, the reconstruction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Pipeline, to the horrific Executive Orders signed by Trump over the past few days. The most horrendous of these orders is the barring of Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States regardless of whether they be refugees, green card holders, or visiting. These are all terrifying to what our country stands for, but I read something the other day which terrified me even more than what we’ve been through these past few weeks:

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Why We March

The Women’s March on Saturday was exhilarating, but many people seemed to have missed its point when it came to why the United States just held its largest protest in its 229 years of existence.

The march was for the 10-year little girl who may not have the ability to make choices for her own body because a president wants to, as he quotes, find a way to punish women for getting an abortion.

The march was against a Congress that wants to go back to a time when men and women could be charged different prices for insurance based solely on their gender. Who ever knew being a female was a preexisting condition?

The march is for those who stand against the continuation of a country where men make decisions on behalf of women, both when it comes to their bodies, how much they get paid, and where they belong in society.

Will this march solve the problems our country faces? No. Will it provide a wake-up call to those who think believers in the equal rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community will be silenced by a bully? Yes.

This march was only the beginning. It was a march to show those in power that we do not go along with the notion that rights be taken away, voting made more difficult, and that the most private of decisions with your body be in the hands of someone else. We are a nation of love, respect, and compassion. This new president does not represent who we are as a people and the ideals we hold closest to our heart, and that love we feel towards our fellow neighbors will overpower any form of hatred or discrimination this president or Congress decides to try and enact.

This march was to instill in those representatives and Congress members in states and districts up for reelection in 2018 and 2020 we will not go quietly without a fight and we make sure you never ever hold an elected office again for the rest of your lives.

And while millions may not be marching physically in the streets today, the pulse of those millions beats as one, and together we will break down your pitiful walls of sexism and racism. We will become more than just that ripple of hope Robert Kennedy asked all of us to become when it comes to fighting against intolerance, and we will wash away the injustices you’ve allowed to transpire and grow since the dawning of our nation. You may not hide behind your white hoods anymore. We see you for what you really are in your expensive suits and American flag lapel pins made in China: wolves in sheep’s clothing. And we’re not going to take it anymore.

I stand with all the sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters, grandmothers, trans women who know they deserve the same rights as everyone else.

I and millions of other Americans stand on the right side of history.

– RA

 

Today Will Be Difficult

Believe me, you will have feelings of anger, sadness, and despair. You may think the mountain we are about to climb towards racial, social, economic, and environmental justice is too high and may want to turn back. I know the anxiety facing my own heart when I think of the difficulties we face due to the next four years, but I’m asking you from the pit of my heart: do not give up.

This is a bump in the road. A rather large one, yes, but nothing more or less. I still go into fits of rage when I think of how our country could take one step forward and two large steps backwards with this election, but I know if we all hold true to our beliefs and what we know this country truly stands for one where we treat each other equally, with compassion and love, we will eventually gain those faltered steps back and march forward towards the progress we know our country is destined for.

There is no easy path to this success. It requires us, for lack of a better word, to get off our asses and get to work. Maintaining an eye on legislation being voted on in your local community, state legislature, and in Washington is essential. Stay educated, contact your elected officials, not by letter or email, but by phone, because believe it or not they fear those phone calls more than anything. I’ve learned this from person experience. We have more power in this government than we give ourselves. 

99 of you have decided to take a stand a ignore the inauguration with dozens of elected officials who feel that same fire within to keep fighting. That’s just the beginning.

Download the app Countable to learn about bills going through Congress. This app will keep you informed about what is the chaos of Congress, and don’t be afraid to call your congressperson or senator to let them know how you feel about it.

Stay organized. Join a group nearby you working within the Indivisible Organization, a grassroots organization with groups formed by people like you who want to enact change.

Absolutely want to resist Trump and don’t know where to start? Read this beautifully created manual by activists like Deray and myself to know what to do.

You are not alone in this dark time. And while they may be dark now, I know we can rid the skies of the clouds blocking out the garish sun and once again make this country one where we can all feel safe and understood. We are a compassionate and empathetic society underneath all the garbage currently floating around in this country. I think it’s about time we all picked up a broom and got to work to clean it up. What do you say?

– RA