Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What have we become?

Watching yesterday's events in Boston broadcast on television, my very first thought was "we’ve seen this before." The scene on Boylston Street was akin to newsreel footage from war zones—images from Israel, Iraq, from Africa, from Afghanistan—innocents mutilated by violent explosions, shattered friends and family members crying out in despair, and brave strangers running toward a horrific scene offering what little they have to the broken human spirits ripped from the lives they had known just moments before.

Twenty-four hours after the Boston blasts there are no answers to the questions we're all asking: Why did this happen to us, why now, and who on earth has the mad capacity to plan and carry out this depraved act of terror?

In the absence of answers, a new question has been stuck in my head since George Stephanopoulos' special report interrupted an ordinary, peaceful Monday afternoon: What have we become that this war zone has visited our backyard; that the images of blood splashed on the sidewalk and of the shocked, desperate victims belongs to us? And if it can happen in Boston, why not at Green Bay's Bellin Run or at Appleton's Flag Day Parade?

Have we become just like them?

By them, I mean the people living in the towns, cities and countries across the globe where this sort of thing happens with enough regularity that it seems almost "routine." Where military men and women patrol airports, convention centers, hotels, sidewalks and beaches bearing the types of guns that are branded legitimately as assault rifles. Where lunch with friends at a street side café might end with the blast of a suicide bomber that sends diners to the pavement and bloody chaos. Or where a pickup baseball game is called when the players lose—forget about the game—their limbs or their young lives to an improvised explosive devise on the playing field. Where a trip to the post office brings not electric bills, catalogs and junk mail, but shards of junk that isn’t mail at all, delivered with explosive, unimaginable force toward the unsuspecting recipient of an ordinary-looking package.

There have been too many terrible violent acts in the United States—mass shootings in schools and in movie theaters and shopping malls—brought by deranged, sick individuals. Until yesterday, those horrific "situations" were problems I thought to be our collective obligation to solve—something along the lines of a failed mental health system that we must fix, or a culture obsessed with guns and violence that we can change.

The atrocities in Oklahoma City and on 9-11 were so enormous and difficult to comprehend that I managed to isolate myself from their true impact, believing that my representatives in government had the responsibility to protect me, and all of you, from future terrorist acts against the United States. None of this would be easy, I figured, but it seemed reasonable to me that solutions were possible and that, in time, we would find our path back to sanity and civility.

I’m not sure anymore. We live in a violent world.

Maybe we’ve been like them all along and, until yesterday, I failed to see it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

There’s no place like home …

I saw this photo on my Facebook news feed a few days ago.
It’s a picture of Rob Carivou, a friend and former colleague of mine, looking a little like Dorothy just before she closed her eyes and clicked her heels with the words “there’s no place like home.”

Rob and members of the Leadership Green Bay class of 2013 were tasked with developing a community service project; a project they hope will directly improve the lives of Green Bay residents now and for years to come.

The project? Green Bay’s first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event set for April 20.

“Homelessness, poverty, abuse, neglect … there are so many issues plaguing our community,” he said.  “Our group was drawn to Golden House, which is a member of the Brown County Community Coordinated Response (CCR) Team.”

Golden House has a long history of providing a home, support and healing for victims of domestic violence and, as part of the CCR, the agency collaborates with others to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a licensed walk happening in communities across the country, does just that—raise awareness. And it gets the community talking about subjects that can be difficult to talk about: gender relations and sexual violence.

The walk will begin at the Green Bay CityDeck at 10 a.m., April 20, and asks men to walk one mile in women’s high-heels.

“The idea resonated very strongly for me personally because my wife and I have a 22-month old son and we're expecting a daughter any day now—I don’t want either of my children to ever become a victim of such senseless acts of violence,” Carivou said. (Since our conversation, Rob, his wife and son welcomed their healthy, happy daughter to the world.) 

A bright red “Natalie” pump with a “super high heel” will be Carivou’s shoe.  Men wanting to join the walk needn’t fret if they can't find heels that fit—150 pairs will be available for loan, all sized for a man’s foot.  (After the walk the shoes will be cleaned and stored for use in future years.)

Women and families are also able to join the walk (women are encouraged to wear their comfortable shoes) and trophies will be awarded for the largest team, most team spirit and the participant collecting the most pledges.  For more information about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes – Green Bay, visit the walk’s website or “like” this page on Facebook.  If you aren't able to participate, you can help spread the word about the walk by sharing this post with your Facebook friends and family.

For most of us, there’s no place like home.  We owe it to our community to make sure homes are safe and comfortable places for everyone.  Thanks to Rob and Leadership Green Bay for bringing Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to Green Bay.