We all have people in our lives— friends, people we work with, and family members, who don’t agree with us politically, so, we try harder, don’t we? Somehow we give them more grace than we would with a stranger, let alone someone online until the line is crossed.
I have puzzled and prayed about the recent death of a man I grew up with. This relationship was forged in my youth. It began with similar hopes and dreams. We ran in the same circles and crossed the same paths with purpose. As it evolved, I grew.
Our lives help sculpt who we were by our choices, not just our circumstances. When our responses to life became very different, our friendship began to shift. When the changes became unsustainable, our friendship devolved. However, I still grew through this. There is sadness, but God is good, and yes, I am still learning.
My friend was a complex and intriguing person-- troubled, childlike in the joy of his “ability,” brave, insightful, and occasionally protective. He had a brilliant mind and a good eye for conveying meaning through pictures. I am sharing this with you because I am compelled to tell his story. It was not all peaches, and I think there is value in understanding the bitter as well as the sweet.
A gathering is forming for the celebration of his life. This may be a force like a tidal wave. Just as a wave from the periodic flow that causes the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun, so will the unbridled emotion of many be pulled to other’s ungoverned feelings. Imagine this chemical like reaction. This guy was loved and disliked by many in DIRECT proportion.
Our Facebook community is like reality T.V.-- an episode of the “Hatfields and McCoys.” There is definitely a strong connection to the beliefs between the far Left and Conservatives.
His family is held in a place of respect by our community. Some people will go, putting aside their feelings in order to do right. The man is dead. There is a standard of grace that most have been raised with.
I remember my father’s funeral. A man arrived and stood for more than a moment at my father’s casket. I knew my father had a tenuous relationship with him. They would butt heads with some regularity on a professional level. My father was not a man to hide out in that little gray area where ethics would routinely get lost. This man came to pay his respects. I understood. That is how was I was raised to think. What about you?
I want to believe that people will rise to the occasion in a dignified way (most will), but that would disappoint my late friend. He was a self-proclaimed anarchist. His obituary even states he was an activist. “In Lieu of Flowers, ” he wanted money to go to “Stray Rescue.” He also had “Planned Parenthood” listed. Even in death, he found the last word.
This guy was a trouble maker. He was also a loudmouth who usually won most arguments just because he wore folks out with personalized insults to their character. Many would say this was a well-honed skill set; others just called him a bully. If he knew what your weak link was and he could gnaw on it for days.
We had the interesting and sharp-edged closeness of adversaries. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, teaches to “know thyself, know thy enemy…” We did, and we understood our positions on things until we didn’t.
However, I also knew another side of him. He could be an encourager. If he felt you were down and out, he would tell you things to show you who he thought you were, to prove you could overcome. He could drag you kicking and screaming into a place where you knew you would get past whatever it was that was getting you down.
He was able to walk into my anger and was present with me after Hurricane Katrina. He reminded me of who I was before Katrina and how to roll with the new changes that now existed. After Hurricane Katrina when, all I possessed was my jeep, a few small things, my beloved animals, and a new six-pack of underwear from Walmart, he asked me what else was needed-- my animals were alive, and I had clean underwear. He made me laugh and realize my very good fortune in the middle of the darkest of times.
Through the years, we had always implemented Sun Tzu’s belief that “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” He and I would talk deeply, using our logic and humor. It was like an ongoing chess match. I don’t know how many of these conversations I had with him…far more than one could count. In fact, he gave me my first Banned Book and dared me to read it and tell him what I thought-- even if I hated it.
He also was the first boy to ever ask me out on a date. This happened the summer just after I turned fourteen. Big Daddy said, “NO!” in no uncertain terms was I ever going out with this boy. My father knew things, and he knew this boy, and I trusted my father. Father, was like the National Director of Intelligence. His network of advisors would provide an unending trove of “intel” on anyone I even thought about knowing.
Up until the last couple of years, my friend and I had this ability to hold space for one another; it had worked for us both in the past. There was a noted change in his temper and this kindness to others if they held beliefs different from his. We had accepted one another for who we were, and respected our, differences, but now, those days were gone.
My friend and I had still agreed on several things. One was the mistreatment of American Veterans and protecting animals, children, and the elderly. Another thing we agreed on was about how Hurricane Katrina was mishandled.
I watched his evolution from adorable “bad boy" next door to the conflicted punk rock youth, and self-proclaimed anarchist. As an adult, when I saw him embrace ANTIFA, I knew that there was finally a fatality in our relationship.
Those around him had indulged him. We thought we knew his heart. This observation continued as he became older and even angrier. His reputation as this “bad boy” was well established. I believe his words were always hard for him because his emotions got in the way.
One of the last, but very interesting moments between us was when there was a riot forming in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown. He was covering this “civil dissent” for a news agency as a photo-journalist. I was in town for a short time, working on a job that brought me into the middle of the conflict, as well.
His photos proved the violence and willful ignorance of the time. He, however, saw something different than I did. I was working for a group to help people in trauma and PTSD.
The Ferguson situation opened another avenue of work for me. This took me to very interesting places in the strangest of times. I was told by my friend that he did not believe I should participate in this. He said I was “out of my depth,” and that it was “too dangerous.” He tried to talk me out of taking the job and was upset that I would not quit.
I have held this moment in my mind for a long time. I felt his conflict and care. I was not there to support the rioting but to help people lost and victimized by it. He knew this.
It seemed that around this time his level of wanting to argue and fight escalated. My lost friend had that brand of vitriol that sadly, many of us have come to know. Many people just began blocking him. He had taken up various abuse patterns to shame and to castigate his opponents, and sadly, most became his opponents. Witnessing this change was gut wrenching for so many who knew him.
I became targeted by him, as well our mutual friends. He had become what he hated. Our large group of friends, since childhood, were at a loss in his regard. Many blocked him from Facebook and their lives, and we talked among ourselves about it. We concluded that he stopped believing in any freedom of speech for anyone who did not agree with him.
I can’t help but wonder if years of substance abuse, grief, stress, and anger may have contributed to his mindset and death. My friend was eaten up with so much anger. How can our bodies NOT be affected? How do we not become what we hate? How did he come to support a group that fights against our freedom of speech? How did he grow into someone that justified the violence from ANTIFA ?
I don’t have the answers for this…but I think it is important to ask, “How do we not become that which we hate?” Where does this hate come from?
We must look deeper. I believe that it’s time to just stop responding to the emotional click bait of people who merely want to fight. Just stop. It serves no purpose, other than causing more anger and resentment.
Circle your wagons. It is time. I will ask you again, how do, we not become that which we hate? We have become a culture of anger. It’s is an interesting phenomenon, I pray that not just my friend, but that we all can now find some rest in peace. We don’t need the anger to propel our truth; we can simply remain factual. Facts must be our friends instead of being emotional reactions.
I believe somewhere in his great book, Sun Tzu teaches that we need to use our opponents weakness against him. I can see many are exhausted from battling with others. Maybe it is time to allow their fire to be exhausted by their own hate….not ours.
Breathing Deep With You and Still Learning - J.D. Jackson.
**Sun Tzu and his famous book the “Art of War” are studied and used in teaching basic strategy around the world. There is some question if he existed or where he was from exactly. Some say he was a professional warrior. These strategies were used by Union Officers, US Army cadets, and many others. Whoever he was, his words have reached and assisted millions- let’s include ourselves.