When I was seventeen I took a pretty good beating from a gang of skinheads at a high school party.
It was one of those parties where someone’s parents were away and people from a few different groups of friends showed up. Word got out on a Friday night and the next thing we knew there was a pile of underage kids there drinking sixers they stole from their dad’s fridge.
In the middle of it, I remember looking outside to see a half dozen guys standing over another kid I went to school with. They were taking turns kicking him. They kicked him in the head and in the face and in the gut. It looked like they were going to kill him. So, I ran out to stop it. I figured others would follow.
Soon, the head face and gut kicks were all over me. After a bit, I managed to break out of the slug fest and dive into the back of one of my friend’s car just in time for him to drive away. But not until they kicked in the window.
When I snuck in my house that night, quietly so my mom wouldn’t see me, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. My eyes were swollen shut. My nose was plastered across my face. And I still had glass lodged in my head. I looked like a crime scene.
A few days later, I showed up to crew practice on a grey South Jersey winter morning with sunglasses on. My coach told me to take them off. He saw the beating I took. He pulled me aside and started a lecture about making bad decisions and letting the team down. He asked me what happened. I told him.
I idolized my coach. In my life, he played the important role of the man I wanted to make proud. Someone every kid needs. And when I told him what happened, I saw it. A flicker of a smile. And a nod.
He slapped me on the shoulder. “That’s what we’re about. Standing up for others.”
25 years later I can still hear the words. A life of war, sickness, death, autism, success, failure and family all built on the foundation of those words.
Standing up for others.
I started this blog in 2015 because I needed something to do with that sense of service after I left the military. Without the anchor of purpose, I struggled to keep my active mind in a productive, healthy state. So this is how I serve. There’s no ads. There’s no agenda. I’m not running for office. I’ve left public life and I’m never going back. I lead a great team at a software company now. I don’t need anything out of this except the opportunity to serve.
Millions of people have visited this site or read its content when republished on other outlets. None more than when I criticize the president.
Yesterday, his words on what happened in Charlottesville were tough to swallow.
I don’t have a ton more to add to that discussion though. The tough reality is that there’s just not that much that can be said or done about who is in the White House until we get the chance to vote again. Until that happens, the rest, is up to us. And I’ve got one ask.
Do your part to stand up for others.
We’ve created so many false equivalencies in the name of politics that it’s hard to keep count. It stops here though. There is no counter argument that excuses white supremacy, or the Nazi swastika flying in America.
Those men weren’t conservative Americans. They were white supremacists. And I insist that the line between the two remain clear and bright. There is no “but the emails.” And there is no “many sides” to that story.
There’s only one side; centuries of oppression that we’ve fought like hell to get out of. And we’re never going back. People will fight like hell to keep from going back.
That’s the only side of this story that matters. And I’m on it. As a forty-year-old white man, I’m on it. My ask is that you be too, even if it means you’ll take a beating. Especially when it means you’ll take a beating.
We’re one adult generation removed from legal apartheid in America. When people show up in force to try to bring it back, the response isn’t the fault of the responders. And the uniform condemnation of the acceptance of anything else, is how we do our duty.
That’s what we’re about. This is America. And we stand up for others.