The Force



I don’t know what it’s like to be a young, black male. I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop.


I only know what it’s like to be me.


I’ve been stunned and sickened by the news. I’ve had no words, just wide eyes and a broken heart.


As Silas the Love Dog was walking me just after sunrise this morning, we tripped over a driveway newspaper.  We ended up seeing several different papers along our route, all with headlines about Dallas. I tried to make Silas look away. I don’t think his heart can take it.


This, moments after I apologized to John for my part in a conflict we’d had since yesterday. (Apparently, someone let the sun set on their anger.) I apologized for not giving him the benefit of the doubt.


This is a big problem. It’s a force. In me and in the world. So I’m writing this to myself, too.


So let it begin with me:


I want to say, “Generalizations hurt,” but even that is a generalization.


But can we stop putting people in boxes?


I’ve only known good cops. I’ve had several in my family—my brother, Mike Cole, is a retired cop and one of the best men I’ve ever known. He has, what seems to me, a super-human blend of toughness and tenderness. I don’t think I’ve ever met a stronger, more sensitive man. I know not every cop is like my brother. My niece, Emily Huston, is a new cop. I could start naming names of other family members (Bella Boss) and friends (Jim McNeff—get his book) but the list is far too long to not miss someone, and that would bum me out. In my heart, I believe most cops are truly good, putting their lives on the line. Every. Single. Day. Protecting and serving. I believe they don’t get enough money or respect or thanks. I deeply appreciate their bravery, dedication, and vulnerability. I believe they have my back, and it’s horrible to imagine they now have a target on their backs.


There are anomalies to my family members and friends and cops on my street and it’s devastating. And we are an imperfect people no matter how good we are; we make mistakes. Deadly ones.


How do you fix imperfection? You don’t. You just try and be better. And accept grace.


Brene Brown talks about the controversial belief that people are doing the best they can. She admits she struggled with that notion, as I have. But she came to believe they are doing their best with what they know, what they have.


She also talks about “perspective-taking,” implementing Theresa Wiseman’s Attributes of Empathy:


“Perspective Taking:
-We all see the world in a very different way.
-Often modeled by parents.
-There are people who will teach you that in order to be empathic with someone, you need to take their perspective by setting down your lens and picking up their lens and seeing the world. Let me tell you, just straight up, that’s wrong. That lens, the lens through which we see the world, is soldered to our heads. I can’t take off that lens. Here’s what I can do however; I can absolutely acknowledge that the world that you see through your lens, which is way different than mine, is as real and true and as accurate as the world I see through my lens. That’s what I can do.
-Perspective taking is listening to the truth as other people experience it and acknowledging it as the truth.
-In order to take the perspective of another, you have to say “what you see is as true and real and honest as what I see. So let me be quiet for a minute and listen and learn about what you see. Let me get curious about what you see. Ask questions about what you see.
-Take the perspective of another person, then get curious, become a learner, and listen.”—Brene Brown


Here’s my truth: I have been the recipient of white privilege. I have no clue what it’s like to be a young black male running along the road practicing for track team tryouts and getting stopped because of the color of my skin. I cannot fathom what that would do to my psyche even one time.


I don’t know how we right this ship, but we must do something different than what we are doing.


What we’re doing is not working.


My head is spinning hearing every group’s differing statistics about “what is.”


Something has to change.


I have a hunch that maybe—maybe—one component might be the power of empathy and perspective taking.


We have to stop assuming the worst. We must start giving the benefit of the doubt.


Honestly, I don’t know how that application works in a quite literal, split-second decision when lives are on the line.  I have to assume, generally, that cops are doing the best they can in very scary situations.


I love the quote, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”


Speak your truth, but listen, too.


And don’t name-call.


Then take a beat.


Would it just be nuts to leave some willingness in our hearts that we might be wrong, so that we can shift if we need to? If we dig our heels in, we’re stuck.


And we’re sunk.


More Gandhi, more MLK, more Silas the Love Dog, more Prayer of St. Francis, more empathy, more Jesus.


We are in some very real, practical danger. We need cops. We need this protective force. We need each other. If we keep fueling hate, we will disintegrate. No one will be safe. We will have a speeding, raging, hate machine. Do we want to look like a scene out of “Mad Max: Fury Road”? Anarchy sound good to anyone besides anarchists? Seriously, to borrow a phrase, we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.







I’m having the sublime pleasure of puppy-sitting again this weekend. Silas knows me as Grammy Pammy. He’s the one I overshare on Facebook. If I can make an assumption, I think you would, too. So don’t judge.


I’ve said it before that Silas is the best person I’ve ever met. He is simply, just love.


He’s all about love.


That’s it.


He assumes the best in me; he gives me the benefit of the doubt.


The worst thing he does is lick the lotion off of my legs even after I ask him to stop.


He’s a ball of fur, a love force.


I don’t know what it’s like to be Silas, but I’d like to.