What It Really Means To Be Woke.
On October 30th, 1981, I was born in Alachua County General Hospital. A hospital that now only exist by a historical marker in Gainesville, Florida. For those who ascribe meaning to astrological signs, the day I came into the world, makes me a Scorpio. Another fun-filled potpourri fact is that the only well-known person I share the exact day of birth with is Ivanka Trump. Interestingly, Ivanka and I are both Covert-Jews, and most people wouldn’t suspect us to be sharing Kiddush on Shabbat. I used to think, that having a birthday the day before Halloween, was the coolest of all birthdays around. That was until my son Gideon ended up being born on Halloween day. Because what’s cooler than the day before Halloween, but Halloween itself.
Now, besides our birthday and religious faith, Ivanka and I share virtually nothing else. The two of us were born on the same day, yet worlds apart. I wasn’t born wealthy. I was born into an unremarkably typical middle-class home, to two loving parents. In fact, I’m not inherently special by comparison to any other person in this world. I don’t say that to suggest, I don’t consider the life I’ve enjoyed thus far has not been abundantly blessed. In addition, I am proud of who I am and the life I’ve lived, including the ups and downs. Rather, I take great consolation in being a part of the collective of humanity and not considered an exception to it by any means.
In my opinion, the greatest view of life is from the inside and not from the outside looking in. It is from the inside that one is provided the most vibrant view and it is from the inside that one can appreciate a sense of belonging to humanity as a whole.
Now, it’s taken me a long to time to realize it or to recognize it, but I have realized after thirty-five years of being a part of the collective… I’m tired. No… I’m exhausted.
I remember being only nine-years-old, on January 16, 1991, when I watched on the news the U.S. led coalition to began dropping bombs on Iraq to start the Gulf War. This was the first time I remember seeing war, as I was too young to have understood the invasions of Grenada and Panama. Over the next 42 days, the coalition would drop 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraqi soil and I remember, sitting in my room playing with a toy F-16 Fighting Falcon, dreaming that someday I wanted to be a fighter pilot and drop bombs too. At the time, I had no idea what exactly dropping aerial explosives actually meant.
I wasn’t yet tired then.
Two years later, I remember sitting in my sixth grade homeroom classroom on the morning of October 5th, 1993. Every morning, homeroom classes throughout the whole school would watch Channel One News. Channel One News is a daily news provider specifically formatted for students and educators. The goal is to provide children with a means to be informed of major national and worldly events. On the morning of October 5th, 1993, I remember watching that morning’s Channel One News broadcast, when they showed the charred and mutilated bodies of MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randall Shughart being drug through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. The two men were U.S. Delta Force Operators, who had lost their lives trying to defend one of the two crashed Blackhawk helicopters that were shot down during the Battle of Mogadishu. A battle that has since been recorded in history by the book and subsequent movie Black Hawk Down.
This was the first time I recall feeling fatigue, however, I didn’t realize that I was growing tired.
I remember skipping school on April 20th, 1999. I was a Junior in High School, that day was 4/20, you do the math.
I remember, being transfixed that day as I watched the live news broadcast as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 fellow students at Columbine High School, before ultimately turning the guns on themselves. Harris and Klebold were both 18-years-old, the same age as me.
I remember when my girlfriend of the time woke me up on the morning of September 11th, 2001 and told me that a plane had slammed into the World Trade Center. I told her, “Ok… that’s horrible” and I went back to sleep. Later, that early afternoon when I woke up and realized that it was no accident, and four planes had been hijacked and weaponized against innocent people, I said to my girlfriend, “Why didn’t you wake me up!”
In truth, I hadn’t woke up that morning because I was tired.
I remember, watching the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaigns in March of 2003. An aerial display of dominance that included 1,196 bombing runs and 504 cruise missile strikes, on the very lands I once watched bombed 12 years prior. By this point, I was a sworn law enforcement officer in the state of Georgia. The dreams of being a fighter pilot long since gone. In the following 14 years, I’ve seen more exploding bombs than I care to count. I’ve seen innocent children’s lives taken away by bullets that tore through their innocent bodies. I’ve seen people murdered simply because they love people the same sex as them. I’ve seen people blow themselves up sending tattered pieces of the bodies coupled with shrapnel and ball bearings into the bodies of innocent men, women, and children. I’ve seen people murdered while worshiping in houses of God, simply because of the color of their skin. I’ve listened to the cries of an ocean of innocent blood as it screams up from the ground towards the heavens.
In only thirty-five years, I’ve seen a world that is horrific, cruel and wicked. A world that seems to have a never-satisfied thirst for carnage and chaos. A world that has a compulsive obsession with death. A world filled with inhabitants that are terrified by the inherent unknowns of their own death, yet so wantonly willing to take the lives of others.
And now… I am, beyond tired. I am exhausted. I am exhausted with this life. I am exhausted with this world. I am worn out by humanity and I am done. I am done with this reality.
Now, in a state of complete exhaustion, I no longer wish to be tired any longer. Instead, after thirty-five years, I have decided to be awake.
For thirty-five years, unbeknownst to me, I had been bogged down and suffocated into fatigue by a world filled with nothing but negativity. When people are drowning in an immoral world, they spend their lives running scared in their minds. They live in a state of constant fog that blinds them from anything but the fear of themselves suffering from the world they see around them. They become selfish, greedy, and develop a kill or be killed mindset in everything they do.
At the end of the day, this causes us to go through our entire life having never actually lived it. The reality is we never actually realize just how absolutely insane and nonsensical this actually is. A desire to exist in a “kill or be killed” world, this requires us to accept that eventually we will be killed. To aspire to be greedy and try to gain more than your neighbor means eventually you will be poor. Lastly, to willingly be selfish, means that one day no one will care about you either.
We must accept that we cannot ever eradicate bad in this world. Ultimately, good and bad are mutually inclusive and not exclusive. However, we as individuals can choose to see, appreciate and value the good that always exists in tandem with the bad. In every single one of those horrible events that occurred throughout my life up to this point, the only thing me… we, as people, ever saw was the bad. We saw the loss of life, the horror.
However, for each one of those events, what we never saw was the beauty that also ultimately existed as well. In each of those events, we could have seen people, strangers, communities, or entire nations surrounding those who had suffered loss and supporting them in their times of challenge. We could have seen entire churches, synagogues, mosque, or groups praying and singing out to God asking for mercy and love for their fellow human beings. In those wars, there were brave men and women, who ran selflessly towards danger to save others. Without guns or bombs, they ran into war zones to feed, nurture and heal those in pain.
In tragedy, we can choose to only talk about the fact there is pain and sorrow. Or we can also acknowledge there are equally messages of hope, optimism, and resilience. There is always messages that tell us to live our lives, appreciate the beauty and to be amazing.
Ultimately, I pose these questions to the rest of you, how many of you are exhausted as well? How many of you are tired enough that you are willing not let others control your happiness and your appreciation for life? How many of you are exhausted enough, to be willing to choose to be awake?
Lastly, I ask you all, what would the world look like if enough people were awake? Don’t worry about your neighbor, worry about yourself. Because, when the world is covered in darkness, it triggers the body’s response to being drowsy. However, when there is enough light, it serves as a message to the world it is time to wake-up.