Something to take away from “Blue Lives Matter”

I wrote this post the day this hashtag surfaced a few days ago and have been slow to edit it. So here it is, better late than blablabla.

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“Blue Lives Matter” is a phrase. Black Lives Matter is a movement.

“Blue Lives Matter” is a response to the BLM movement resulting from anger and fear on behalf of police officers and those who support them. I interpret the message behind this phrase as, “People are not valuing the lives of officers like they should.”

There’s something immediately off-putting about the phrase “Blue Lives Matter.” No one needs to be told that it’s an obvious rip off of BLM, and that struck me as ignorant and distasteful. Last night, a former classmate of mine shared something insightful on Facebook that helped me articulate why:

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Working as a police officer is a choice, and an officer knowingly assumes risks by choosing that career. Yet every black person in the U.S. is in more danger than a given white person simply for having been born black. You see how the element of choice is lost here?

I don’t want to rip on police officers– not here, not now. They do good. Not always, but at least sometimes. In my pessimistic worldview, they’re only  about as flawed as the rest of the human race: Some of them are good people, some of them are bad, and I’d assume most of them are somewhere in between. Don’t get hung up on the question of whether or not they’re “good,” whatever that means to you — that’s not the point here.

So what is my point?

I think “Blue Lives Matter” presents a tremendous learning opportunity for white people. Think of a police officer in your life that you care about, if you know one. Imagine this man or woman has a family that now, especially after the police murders in Dallas, hugs them extra long and tight, worries about them a lot more, and feels helpless to protect them from a world that wants to hurt them. They worry that their lives are in danger because of the uniform that they wear, presumably with the honorable purpose to protect people.

That’s incredibly sad, and of course everyone should feel empathy for these people and their families. After all, everyone wants to honor and protect the ones they love.

But the reality is that theirs is a similar fear that so many black families have to deal with, simply because this country has demonstrated to them over and over, day after day, that they are in danger because of the color of their skin. That black lives are less valued by our media and our justice system.

I’m white; I don’t personally know this about black families. It’s not a part of my experience. I also don’t personally know any police officers. But I’m reflecting on what I’ve heard and read from a variety of sources and all sorts of people, both from testimonies and actual statistics. And I have to say, the anger and fear that this “Blue Lives Matter” hashtag seems to express bears similarities to that which can be found burning hotly in the BLM movement.

There are stark differences between blue and black. But I think these feelings present a very important opportunity for empathy on both sides. And it’s worth noting that for the white police officers who are statistically proven to be more likely to use excessive force on black people, resulting in their deaths, these officers have more power in society and therefore bear more responsibility to explore that empathy, to understand the people they are trying to crush (whether they mean to do it or not), and to learn how to better the situation.

That’s the lesson I see in “Blue Lives Matter.”

Love,

capricecake

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I know it’s a holiday but I want to be alone >:)

I took a vacation last weekend that lasted through Wednesday. I saw a city I really enjoy with someone I love by my side, and it was wonderful and exciting and stimulating.

And now, all I want is to be by myself. My boyfriend is away and I have no obligations to anyone or anything. And so far, this weekend has been restful and breathable. I needed it more than I thought I did. So why am I getting flack for it?

Don’t I want to go home? Shouldn’t I be at the block party at Independence Mall? What the hell was I doing at the gym the last two mornings? How am I going to make friends like that?

Unfortunately, I can’t be with my family, with my friends, with new friends, and recharging my batteries all at the same time. So I made a choice.

Faced with everyone who has questioned my choice this weekend, what I want to say is that being alone is as much of a holiday as those on the calendar, and about as rare. I’m not avoiding anything or being lazy; in fact, this weekend has been purposeful, even productive, and much healthier than the last few weeks. I’m happy and satisfied. And yes, I did see a fireworks show and hear Dostoevsky’s 1812 Overture — twice.

I didn’t say that to anyone because I didn’t take the time to articulate it until just now… :) Luckily, there’s still one day left in this long weekend — the number-four day we’ve all been waiting for — so if someone new makes the mistake of passing judgment on my introverted self, I’ll be sure to dump my loner wisdom all over them.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your holiday is at least half as insane and explosive as our election season has been. <3

Я скучаю, I miss

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and haven’t really gone back to sleep since. I don’t have sleep problems, so who knows what caused the strange wide-awakeness I felt at 2AM. I’m not worried about it, though. In fact, I enjoyed the nighttime peace: I permitted myself to forget the everyday and reflect on whatever came to mind.

Sadly I can’t say that any creative or spiritual lightbulbs exploded in my head. Of all the themes in the world I could have explored while whiling away the witching hours, I got stuck on something admittedly mundane and self-centered: my relationships. More specifically, my Russian friendships.

There are two Volgograd men I miss more than the others. One is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed punk who introduced me to the music of a similarly colored and insanely talented Russian rapper, my new favorite object of language study. (I’m talking about the rapper Oxxxymiron, if that’s relevant to you!) The other guy is a “black Russian” who persuaded me to accept black humor and to generally take things less seriously. From the time we spent together and all the catching up we do on VK, I think he’s one of the most intelligent and thoughtful people I’ve ever met.

I remember the new feeling these guys instilled in me when it was time to go back to the States. It was the first time in my life when I faced a situation where I parted from someone I knew I’d probably never see again. I’ve known people who have moved to other states, but even the distance from coast-to-coast in the US doesn’t compare to the difficulties of reaching Russia or, even more challenging, for Russians to secure a visa to the States. I was sad to leave them but, of course, I was hopeful too – sadness and hope often feed into each other, right? Still, I had only a vague plan to win a Fulbright grant, and without that I didn’t know how else I’d get back to Russia.

But now I’m going back! Even though my destination is far from Volgograd, I know I’ll visit there no matter what. In spite of Volgograd’s greyness and all the struggles I had there, it will always be my first Russian home. Nothing can replace the streets I walked, nor the cafes, the friends’ apartments, and all the routes I took to reach them. I have vivid memories of transformative experiences in that city and I love it, forever, always, period.

I do have reservations for returning to Volgograd, though. Will I have to have uncomfortable conversations with my two dear friends about where I’m going to stay or how we’ll act around each other? I was single in Volgograd, yet I also had my own dorm room to sleep in. If I visit my friends, can I stay at their homes? Is it culturally acceptable? And what if they aren’t honest with me?

I’ve had a number of close friendships with young men in the past that ended like this: We made our intentions clear and I trusted them, but when I put myself in a vulnerable situation with them, they turned on me. Over and over, they said that my willingness to share a hotel room with them, to talk intimately with them, or even to hug them, was a signal that I wanted romance, regardless of what I’d already told them in plain language. That was with guys of my own culture – and we speak the same language! Or so it seems.

So what’s going to happen when I see these guys in Russia? And ultimately, why am I so concerned about it?

I’m a tiny, insignificant dot in the universe and so are they, but it feels different: I know these dots, I care about them, and apparently when my mind is clear of everyday tasks, one of my main priorities is maintaining the lines that connect us together. Here’s to hoping that their priorities are the same, and that they’re better men than others I’ve known, so I can keep our friendships alive.

First week reflection

I’ve finished my first full week in Philly. It’s evening now and I’m alone in my room, fueled by an off-brand PopTart, listening to music. It’s a good atmosphere to reflect. So, what have I done this week? And how do I feel about it? Time for a list!

> I’ve turned this bare & spare room into a home (with Bob’s help.)

Curtains were bought. Floors were washed. Routines, established—and I am cozy. Every night when I go to bed, I smile because I’m young, free, strong, and feel good about what I’m doing with my life. And that makes me feel pretty lucky.

> I’m quickly adjusting to driving and riding.

Last weekend, I tested the waters of SEPTA and brushed up on parallel parking, a skill I haven’t had to use much in the five years since I first learned it. On my hectic, 20-mile commute I feel unusually confident, but nonetheless, I’ve developed a plan to keep me occupied near my office until traffic calms down and I can go home with less stop-and-go.

> I’m gonna get fit!

I signed up for a Planet Fitness membership and met with a trainer to get a schedule. I have a three-day cycle of exercises and I’m hoping to go at least three times a week. I feel good about it! My boyfriend even went with me today. We were a gym couple and I’m sure everyone loved us (read: sarcasm).

> Work doesn’t suck.

Training has actually been going well. I think I’ll be ready to do the work when training ends next week, and by the end of the summer it’ll all be second nature. The work involves attention to detail, the ability to ask the right questions to get information, and communication skills in general. It’s not the most exciting job, but the experience is good and it’ll help me make some money!

The company seems good, too. I have to be hesitant—it’s an insurance company, after all!—but they’re teaching us to maximize payouts for claims and seem to value people as people, not just as moneyholders. Seems great! Aside from all that, my fellow summer workers seem cool, and I may have even made a friend. We’ll see!

> I’m getting engaged!

Oh, not like in the sense of marriage. I mean I’m getting engaged with the city and finally finding ways to meet people, ways that actually suit my interests and abilities. Chatting up strangers over beers is not among my abilities, so I’ve been looking into other possibilities; I’m not too proud to admit that the Internet is my main tool here. I’ve wanted to live in Philadelphia since I was in high school, and I’ll be damned if I let this summer slip by without collecting a library of experiences!

 

That’s what this is about. I could have stayed home and worked in the factory to make money for the next step. I would have had such few expenses and my old friends would have been near. But I chose this, and it was the right choice. Come September, I’ll have so much experience under my belt: lovelife lessons, work experience, city skills, and who knows what else. (New recipes, probably, if my crazy kitchen-crowding housemates have their way with me.) Ha—I might even be cool.

I am not moving too fast

The decision to get an apartment with Bob in Philly feels so natural. I gave it adequate consideration, asking myself whether I trust Bob and how I expect to share everything with him. And I asked the big question: Are we moving too fast?

Well, I do trust Bob and we do feel compatible. “Too fast” is relative, anyway; I think our pace is fast, but comfortable. Still, after explaining my plans to friends and family, I’ve realized that from the outside of the situation, it’s easy to question and criticize what I’m doing, often with good intentions. They don’t want to see me get hurt. After all, Philly is dangerous and Bob and I have been together for only four months.

In April I found out I’ll be leaving the country for a year on a Fulbright grant in September. This awesome news kick-started my summer planning into a frenzy of summer job applications and summer housing hunts. Bob and I had already talked a little about living together after I finished school, and the Fulbright notification meant that we would only have the summer together before I left for a year. I wanted to seize whatever time I had with him! I must have looked at about forty apartment leads and applied to a dozen summer positions, and somehow it worked out that my only stable job offer coincided with the only successful apartment find.

So here we are now. I wrote this from my Philly apartment. I spent the day driving, moving, cleaning, and rearranging, but eventually I was shower-fresh and waiting for my main man to arrive and see my progress. (He had to work all day and moved in late.) We’re both excited. This little white room in North Philly is a challenge and a chance in our relationship. We’re going to learn a lot about each other, about this city, and about ourselves. Not only will our relationship grow this summer, but so will we as individuals. And I’m not scared of the consequences of any of that growth.

This living situation is risky. I might get hurt or robbed, or maybe my car will get beat up or broken into. It’s risky for my relationship with Bob, too: sharing a small space with anyone will create tension. But tension is healthy. Without it, there would be no balance. Without tension, there’d be no music coming from my guitar! :) So I’ll close this on a musical note with a metaphor. I’m going to play this situation and make sweet music out of it. And I’m going to do it with the man of my dreams… I’m lucky.