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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Some Advice for Edward, Aaron, George, and Dzhokhar

I have been browsing the news websites, and the following four people keep coming up.  I am thinking about each, what it would be like to be in his situation.  My thoughts with me happy to be sitting at my kitchen table.

What would I impart if I could sit with each?  I am transported to the transit lounge in the Moscow Airport, and I sit with Edward Snowden.  Edward, I hope you are holding up well?  Have you grown weary of weak borscht?  The good stuff is at a restaurant at the Gum Mall downtown, but I don't suppose you've been sightseeing?  No?  I didn't think so.  Edward, I am going to assume you've acted on pure motives.  You revealed what you did to expose America's practices in the so called 'war on terror.'  I am going to accept that you were driven by your own disdain for our nation's unethical behavior and not by any hope for profit.  Now, you are officially an enemy of the most powerful nation on earth and if our government gets a hold of you, you'll spend a long, long time in solitary confinement. But, suppose that doesn't happen?  What's next for you?  Venezuela?  Bolivia?  I spent a month there.  It is a lovely country.  Ecuador?  Obviously any country that admits you will be one with some kind of ax to grind with the U.S.A.  Most of the world's strongest democracies are our allies.  Wherever you end up, you won't have the freedoms you have enjoyed prior to your extended stay here in Moscow.  I advise you to immerse yourself in the culture in which you land.  Get to know as much as you can about Venezuela (or Bolivia).  Become fluent in Spanish.  Know your new nation's history and culture.  Also, keep a low profile.  If you must write, do it pseudonymously. Every few years, move to a city in another part of the nation.  Set down roots in the country, but not in anyone town.  People will be looking for you.  Don't be easy to find.  Develop your own philosophy of politics and be thorough about it.  If your writings, thoughts, and actions are controversial, then have good reasons for the things you say and do.  Dedicate your life to intellectual achievement and cultural immersion.  And for heaven's sake, don't do any unnecessary traveling outside your new home. 

As I finish the conversation, I am again transported, this time to the exercise area of the jail.  Aaron and Hernandez and I sit down on a bench as guys play basketball and lift weights.  Man, Aaron, do you realize you are one of the 4 or 5 best tight ends in the world?  Yeah, I suppose you do.  Hey don't look at me that way.  Your tendency toward violence got you into this mess and it seems to get worse for you every day.  And any way, this is my fantasy.  I don't get beat up by NFL linemen in my own fantasy.  Or, by accused murderers.  Ooh, that's weird.  In my fantasy, I am visiting four men in serious, serious trouble and giving them advise?  Maybe I need to see someone, get some help.  Sorry, Aaron, this is about you, not me.  At the risk of sounding corny, Aaron, you need to get religion.  I don't know what your life has been about and I am not going to do serious Aaron Hernandez research this evening.  Maybe you believe in God.  Maybe your belief is tattooed all over your massive triceps.  But your belief needs to be a faith that is tattooed on your heart and that defines your life.  If you are guilty, Aaron, you should spend the rest of your life in prison.  That is what I think should happen to murderers.  However, it does not mean your life is over.  Many a convict have found Jesus inside the prison walls and that is what you need more than anything.  It is something everyone has common.  Aaron, you and I do not have much we share, but we have this.  We both desperately need Jesus.  You can turn to him, right now.  Do it.  Don't expend all your energy on your defense.  Give your life, your heart, your loyalty, your energy to Jesus.  Do that and your life will be better in prison than it was catching TD's from Tom Brady.

I don't know what more to say , and anyway, I am being transported again, this time to Florida, a courtroom.  George Zimmerman is about to go in and hear the verdict, and as he waits, he and I have a moment to chat.  Well, since I am writing this, I do most of, no, all of the chatting.  
George, first, let me get this off my chest.  I am ticked off at you.  You should have stayed in your car that night.  I don't know what you were thinking or what you wanted to prove, but I am really mad at you.  I am mad because you are resurrecting all the divisions in our nation that were heightened when O.J. was acquitted.  Why can't we (we Americans) move in a different direction.  George, I am a white guy.  I am part of a generation of American Christians who have seen the orphan crisis worldwide, and especially in Africa, and I have responded with my wife by adopting two boys and a girl.  Of our three adopted kids, two are black (from Ethiopia).  Man, now, every time I see a black boy in a hoody, I think, there goes my son in about 8 or 9 years.  What did it take for me to root out the latent racism that poisoned my insides?  I had to adopt a black child.  That is not why I adopted him, but I thank God for what God did in me when I adopted my Henry.  Now, I no longer see young black men and feel myself filled with fear.  I see young black men and I think, 'there goes my Henry.'  What will it take for you George?  I don't know if you are going to walk out of that courtroom a freeman or if you are going to be led out in cuffs.  But I know this.  You need to dedicate the rest of your life to improving race relations.  You are going to get any credit for it.  Trayvon Martin's parents won't stand to applaud you.  In the public eye, you're bad guy forever.  But, the public eye doesn't matter.  What matters is your heart.  The only way your heart will change is if your entire life is given to healing the wounds of racism that have broken America, time and time again.  George, that is all I have for you.  They're about to call court to session.  When the verdict is read, don't make a show of victorious emotion if it goes your way.  Be humbled.  Know that right now, you are part of the problem.  Know that even if no one notices, you can dedicate yourself to being part of the solution.  But to do so, you need to put your gun down and open up your heart. 

As irritated as I am, I have one more stop to make.  This time, I am in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's cell.  He is so surprised.  I wonder if he thinks I am an angel or something.  Dzhokhar, calm down.  Don't waste your mental energy guessing how I got in here.  Stop pacing.  Sit down.  Don't try to hit me.  You're still under pain meds.  You're still recovering and anyway, I am not here to fight you or argue with you or even hate or judge you.  A lot of people do.  I have many friends and relatives who live near Boston.  That have no sympathy for you.  And I don't know if what I feel is sympathy.  But I do believe you have been dangerously misguided.  That's why I am here.  You'll spend the rest of your life incarcerated.  That's a done deal.  It may be that your life ends by a lethal injection.  It may be that another inmate does you in.  Everyone dies, Dzhokhar, and your death is going to be unpleasant.  But your life between now and then does not need to be a total waste.  Here is how I think you can best pass your time.  Examine your belief system.  Remove yourself from the fired passion of extremism that led you to injure and kill highly fit joggers.  Root out of yourself all the evil and hatred that led you to harm people who had done nothing to you.  Emptied, look deep inside and also into the sacred books of scripture - Koran, Old Testament, New Testament, and any other you care to read.  Read thoroughly, carefully, and often. Read and reread.  And as you do, pray.  Dzhokhar, ask God to reveal God's self to you in a way that you cannot miss it.  I am sure you think you know the answers about God.  You were committed enough to your ideology (I won't honor it by calling it 'faith') that you spilled innocent blood.  But now, the blood is shed, your brother is dead, and you are in chains.  Now that you have a lot of quiet time, review what you believe to be ultimately true.  The next thing you face, after punishment, is eternity.  I trust God - God's reality and God's involvement with us humans.  Dzhokhar, if you seek God with an earnest heart, God will show you where you went wrong.  And,  God will forgive you.  But if you go to your death without doing the deepest of soul searches, then you are going to face God as an unrepentant murderer.  If you choose that route, your eternity is bleak, to put it mildly.  Seek God, Dzhokhar.  That is all you have left.

As I said, I am relieved to write all this in comfort of my gym shorts in my wonderful Chapel Hill home.  I am thankful to God for the life I have.  But in my prayer, I want to go before Him on behalf of others.  Jesus said to pray for your enemies.  I don't know that any of these four is directly my enemy.  But I am sure God wants me to pray for each, and that is what I am doing in writing this blog.


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