24 March 2007

The first time...

I remember my FIRST TIME.
I'll never forget it.
I was 14.

It started around 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. I was bike riding with two of my buddies, Rick and Ralph, about a mile from our neighborhood. Ralph caught a flat and we didn't have any patches with us, so we had to walk our bikes back home.

About three blocks from home, a Baltimore City police cruiser came down the street towards us and slowed when he got to us. Rick whispered, "He's gonna' stop us." I said, "Naw, he's just checking the addresses, thats all." The police car drove away and I gave Rick an I-told-you-so look. That was just before the second squad car pulled up and slowed along side of us.

What were the odds of two police cars in two minutes having to stop and check addresses at exactly where the three of us were walking? I wondered. My smug look faded. But again, the car drove off. Ralph groaned as the third police car came over the hill in front of us. Three is always the magic number. He slowed, stopped, popped his blue-berries on [his roof lights] and got out.

"Put the bikes down boys and raise your hands."
Ralph and I put our bikes down and slowly raised our hands.
Rick didn't budge.
The cop flipped open his holster and placed his hand against his gun.
Rick dropped his and reached for the sky.

It's been over 20 years and I swear to God, I can still hear that soft, innocent, naive voice in my head saying, "Oh, he's making a big mistake because we didn't do anything wrong. He probably wants to stop some guys further down the street. I wonder if he knows he's in the wrong block? Probably, not." I was honestly expecting someone to come over his radio and say something like, "Car 104. Car 104. We've got the right guys down in the 6800 block. You're in the 6400 block, come on down here with us."

It never happened.

We were patted down, frisked - as some people call it. We were questioned as to where we were coming from, where we were headed, how old were we, what were our adresses, how to spell our names, did we steal our bikes, what schools did we go to... and about 20 other stupid little things. He looked like he really wanted to cuff us and haul us away. I had this sickening and scared feeling in my gut suddenly. What if I went to jail? I didn't do anything wrong. The officer sized us up for a long minute and when all was said and done he left us without a word. I don't believe the three of us spoke a single word for the rest of the walk home.

Not "the first time" you were thinking about, huh?

This same type of stop and check would happen almost 20 times in the next six years. We used to call it "The Pat Down." We'd see a police car coming and it might be two or three of us walking home from the movies or the bus stop or from playing sports in a nearby neighborhood and someone would say, "Here comes a Roller, lets get ready for the Pat Down."

I've always liked police. Still do. Even after a sizeable amount of my childhood innocence was taken at that very first Pat Down, I look at police this way - it's a hard and thankless job. I believe 100% that you have some shallow, arrogant, racist and violent people wearing badges across this country. But, you also have people like that in every career, in every position. I believe that the majority of police in this country are fairly decent and brave men and women that want to do the right thing for their communities, cities and states - but they are overshadowed by stupid and thoughtless morons that steal the headlines with foolishness.

Morons like the Baltimore City Police officers that recently ARRESTED seven year old Gerard Mungo Jr. I've been thinking about My First Time a lot this week after I heard about a little child in handcuffs.

It seems as though Gerard's dad thought it was nice to buy his 7 year old son a motorbike that was deemed illegal to ride in Baltimore city limits. The logic of this decision escapes me on so many levels, it's not even worth mentioning. But when Baltimore City police found the seven year old sitting on this motorbike [which was turned off], which they first claimed was stolen, they snatched him physically off the bike in front of his mother. What insued was a series of traumatic events that included the little boy managing to run up to his bedroom before being HANDCUFFED and taken to the police station and handcuffed to a table. This was done even AFTER the police supervisor had arrived. This is nothing short of complete insanity, with a sprinkling of cold-heartedness and splash of absolute racism and a healthy dose of honest-to-God stupidity!

This kind of unwarranted assualt is one of the reasons I find myself spending less and less time in my hometown.

It saddens me that this little boy will now probably become yet one more little boy that hates the police. He will become one more young boy that has issues with the color of his skin and the color of skin that is not like his. This little boy has lost such a big piece of his innocence. Some foolish men with guns and badges that were sworn to protect and serve, have done the opposite of what they were called to do - instead of protecting and serving, they stole and violated.

I'm sorry that Gerard Mungo Jr. has now had his First Time.


19 March 2007

Thinking Blogger Award...


A Thinking Blogger's Award!

I don't know what to say? Uh, well let me begin by thanking God for making me love writing and reading so much. I'd like to thank my family for without them my life woul'd only be 1/83rd as much fun as it is right at this moment. I'd like to thank Dell for making one kick-ass and affordable laptop! And I'd like to thank EVERYONE around the world that takes the time to read my humble little opinions on my blog!

Let me backtrack for a moment. Early this month I was named for a pretty interesting blog award called THE THINKING BLOGGER AWARD. This is a concept originated by blogger ILKER YOLDAS, and I was choosen for this by a fellow blogger named GUNFIGHTER who writes one of my favorite blogs THE VIEW FROM HERE.

The rules for winning a THINKING BLOGGER AWARD are as follows:

1. If, and ONLY IF, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Honestly, I think this is a pretty cool thing to do. I think the idea of blogging as a hobby, and sharing ideas with people is simply incredible. I think BLOGS make the world a much smaller place and the idea that people from all over the world can and sometimes do access my thoughts and opinions is so amazing and humbling. It is also humbling that a blogger I enjoy and respect so much thinks a lot of my blog, too - so thanks a million GUNFIGHTER!!!

In keeping with the rules of the award - here are five fellow bloggers that make me think and make me look a little harder at the world I live in. Sadly, I could ONLY name five. There are so many more that I enjoy and those are listed on the right side of my blog!


05 March 2007

Today's car bombing...

Without fail, my mornings seem to all start with three little words... "today's car bombing..."

Between the time I get out of the shower and the time I'm halfway dressed, I hear on the radio from either an NPR reporter or a BBC reporter or a WTOP reporter - those three words. They're usually followed by the words "in Baghdad" or "in" some city or terrority that until 3 years ago I had never even heard of, like - Baaj, or Ramadi, or Sadr city. Then I hear the numbers - 10 dead; 18 dead; 27 dead; 40 dead and 39 injured; 68 injured; 104 injured.

Then I find myself hit with a wave of guilt, confusion and anger.

Guilt - because while I was in the shower, chances are I was bothered by the pain-in-the-ass E-mails and voicemails that I know are waiting for me in the office. Chances are, that deep down in the back of my mind I was hoping that I might come across gasoline at less than $2.22 a gallon so that I could fill up my American made SUV. Chances are, that I wouldn't eat a healthy chicken salad for lunch if the guys wanted to go out and get greasy steak and cheese subs.

These are the worries of my day. Shame on me.

Somewhere, halfway across the world while I was sleeping in my warm and toasty bed, some Iraqi men and women were in a market buying fruit, or bread, or batteries and some savage, mindless, bloodthirtsy monster pulled alongside them and detonated 50 pounds of high explosives wrapped in 70 pounds of metal nuts and bolts.

Somewhere, halfway across the world while I was sleeping in my warm and toasty bed, 78 men in the twenties and thirties lined up outside of an Iraqi police station. They had decided to risk their lives and take a stake in what could be The New Iraq. They were ready to join the police force. This is, until a dark blue Toyota Camry loaded with fertilizer, gunpowder and hand grenades plowed into their line mere seconds before blowing up in a bright yellow flaming mushroom cloud.

Somewhere, halfway across the world while I was sleeping in my warm and toasty bed, several dozen Iraqi boys and girls were playing outside of their elementary school when some innocent looking teenager with a backpack slung over his shoulder walked among the children. He probably gave them a slight smile of innocence envy as he pushed the trigger in his pants pocket closing a small circuit and exploding the nine pounds of semtex and five pounds of ball bearings in his backpack.

Somewhere, halfway across the world while I was sleeping in my warm and toasty bed, six US Marines and seven US soldiers were conducting a vehicle checkpoint east of the green zone when two men in a beat-up Honda Accord pulled up to them. One of the Marines told him to turn his vehicle off and pop his trunk. The man complied and leaned forward whispering a silent thank you to Allah. Sensing his fate, the Marine called to his fellow troops, yelling for them to "get down!" But his words were lost in the roar of 100 pounds of high explosives doing the one thing they were made to do.

And I'm worried about some damn E-Mails and steak subs. GUILT.

I found something interesting as I typed this post. If you go to Google and select NEWS links and type these three words "suicide, bomber, Iraq" you get OVER 8800 hits. If you type in "car bomb Iraq" you get over 12,000 hits. I find this absolutely amazing. Amazing and horrifying.

This is where my confusion and anger comes into play. This situation [like DARFUR] is a complete human tragedy. The numbers of dead, dying and injured is so high and it is growing so fast, that I find myself numb with anger. This conflict is so mindless and was so avoidable. The shame it has brought to our once great country. The disregard of the lives of our brave men and women who voluteered to serve our nation, by George Bush and the countless Washington bureaucrats. The victimizing and murdering of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. The violent bloodlust of sectarian madmen who kill in the name of their God and who kill in defense of how THEY think their God should be worshipped. It is frustrating, it is disgusting, it is inhuman, it is devastating, it is all here again... in... today's car bombing.