Mike Ursery

A couple of weeks ago, I did it again. I got into another Facebook fight.

Facebook fights are mostly a waste of time. Chances are great that the other person’s mind will not change. They likely will hold on to their beliefs, no matter how much evidence is presented to dispute their worldview.

Race, and racism, is once again a smoking-hot topic in our nation. An unarmed African-American male named George Floyd died while in police custody on June 6 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Three officers sat on his body while he lay still on the ground, not resisting arrest. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck and applied pressure for nearly nine minutes. Floyd went unconscious, but the knee remained on his neck. He died soon after.

Floyd’s crime – paying for items in a store with a $20 bill that allegedly was counterfeit. Yes, Floyd was killed over a nonviolent crime. Those four Minneapolis police officers were terminated, and later were charged. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder. It took six days to formally announce those charges. In that time, citizens took to the streets in protest. Rioting also happened, with a Target store looted and a police precinct abandoned by police officers and vandalized by citizens. Protests have taken place in all 50 states, showing solidarity with African-Americans and demanding police reforms.

After this incident, America did what America does. Americans are once again at odds with each other. People throw out statistics, like officer-involved shootings and FBI crime statistics, to attempt to make a point. (For the record, when people say more white people are killed by police than African-Americans, that’s still a problem. Saying this only proves that police brutality is something that needs to be addressed.)

Anyway, back to my Facebook spat. I won’t share the person’s name because the name isn’t important. I don’t know them personally. The reason for the spat was over Juneteenth, which was June 19. Juneteenth is a holiday that is either celebrated or observed in all but three states. On June 19, 1865, U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger issued an order from Abraham Lincoln that all slaves in the state of Texas were free. Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday in 1980.

While it’s either celebrated or observed in 47 states, a lot of people might not know about it. I didn’t know about Juneteenth until I was an adult (thanks, Arkansas public schools), and many adults today don’t know about the holiday or its origin.

So, I saw a comment on a post from someone saying that Juneteenth is not “a big deal” and the only reason why people are celebrating it is to support a narrative. What that narrative is, I have no idea. I saw an opportunity to educate someone about Juneteenth, and I took that opportunity. What ensued left me baffled and slightly annoyed.

This person disregarded Juneteenth having significance by saying it is only gaining traction due to businesses and “white apologists” making it into a big deal. They then went on to say that days like Veterans Day, Flag Day, Victory in Europe Day, Victory in Japan Day, and even the Holocaust pass by each year without so much as a blink. This claim is entirely untrue.

I tried making light of that claim by saying that restaurants hook me and millions of other veterans with free food every year on Nov. 11. The response was that the person found it “sad” I had such a “pathetic outlook” despite being a veteran. How dare I have an outlook that goes against someone else’s worldview! I went and did it again. I committed “wrongthink.”

Please pay attention to this next part carefully. Those who have served swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. This means every person who has ever served in the US military swore an oath to protect all freedoms we enjoy in this country. People don’t have the option to only defend the freedoms they like.

Too many times, people claim that burning an American flag or protesting during the national anthem is disrespectful to our military. It isn’t. As a veteran myself, I will tell you that this is not disrespect. Some sacrificed everything so that people in this nation can enjoy all freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.. Also, if you are not a veteran, you have no business speaking for us.

* * *

My daughter came to visit me last week. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her mother. I’m not her biological father, but she is mine as far as she and I are concerned.

She arrived last Wednesday and stayed until this past Tuesday. As always, the time goes by way too fast. But I was glad to show her around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. One thing I wanted to do is take her through Baltimore City and show how the effects of segregation from a century ago are still present in the city. Baltimore is obviously no longer segregated, but the effects of do remain.

We went to Washington, D.C. on Juneteenth. This wasn’t planned. Instead, I decided I’d ask if she wants to see the nation’s capital. She had never been before last Friday. I took her to see the US Capitol building and the White House, and we went to see some, but not all, of the monuments. We did a lot of walking that day and we were beat.

Black Lives Matter protests took place in front of the White House and at places on the National Mall. We were in a crowd so I told her to put on her mask, and I put on mine. This is allergy season. While watching the protest in front of the White House, I began to cough. I was getting looks from people who were also moving away from me, so we left the protest.

Taking her to Washington, D.C. is something I have wanted to do for a long time. She turned 14 this month, and she’s getting old enough where she can understand our nation’s history. Her mother and I both are making an effort to educate her.

* * *

I am saddened by the state of affairs in America today, particularly in politics. Rational discourse is dead. Candidates are promoted and defended by supporters criticizing and attacking their opponents. We look up to politicians as if they were our favorite celebrities. We follow political parties as if they were sports teams.

I long for a day when our military is not spread thin around the world, when we are not dropping munitions over multiple countries in the name of counterterrorism, resulting in loss of innocent life.

I desire a government that does not pick other nations’ leaders, doesn’t invade the privacy of its own citizens, and doesn’t burden future generations with endless mountains of debt. The government is too big, too powerful, and too corrupt. Presidents expand their power while Congress lines its pockets.

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