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I write this because my kids have asked me, “Dad, why didn’t you go to Viet Nam!” I told them, “I’m not good at playing Follow the Leader! Once upon a time the leader used to be at the forefront of the action, the first one into battle – thus the name leader. After awhile the leader stayed at the rear so he could observe the battle unfold and dispatch support where needed. Eventually, the leader was nowhere near the fighting and received reports from others about what was happening on the battlefront. Today, in a crisis, too many leaders and especially Donald Trump, our so-called leader of the free world are the furthest away from any danger! They may be buried miles beneath the earth or flying miles above – safe and sound with their circle of family, friends and advisors. It’s surprising how many so-called leaders, who are eager to send us to war, have never served in the military. While it’s okay for my family to serve our country their children are ensconced at some nice college or employed in a plush job, far from harm’s way.” My kids also asked if I learned how to be tough and fight from growing up in the hood in Philadelphia.” I told them “The main thing I learned was to run first, run fast and to run often!” I’m a big fan of Forrest Gump!

Today we live in a violent society, and as a nation it seems we are always at war. (That’s why my kids’ fear, fascination, and interest in the ongoing violence in our communities and the world doesn’t surprise me.) Not just the announced wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, but the war on poverty, the war on drugs and the day-to-day wars that happen all the time over dumb stuff. “Where’s my money, who stole my weed, you ate my chicken sandwich, you disrespected me!” The lesson we teach, the answer we give from the news, movies, TV shows and our history books is violence! If you mess with me I’ll mess you up! I must admit that I was raised with the message, “ if someone hits you, hit them back!” Even the Bible says an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. We have to admit, but not accept, that as a nation, a society, a culture, we are warlike.

It’s discouraging and outrageous our current leader and administration are doing so much more to promote violence and oppression than peace and harmony.

Fortunately we still have some leaders in the Bay Area that lead from the front and are willing to champion causes that support the poor and disenfranchised, and maintain a consistent presence in the community truly advocating for us, not just for photo opportunities. If you don’t know who they are you need to get out and get involved! Be careful playing follow the leader–for many it’s not a game. Follow the leader? You often can’t find them in times of trouble!