The Way Forward for Democrats: Your Message Works, Fight HARDER for It


I’ve spent 15 years as a progressive activist working within the Democratic Party. In the aftermath of November 8th, I’ve shared some of my thoughts on the way forward in two tweetstorms, compiled below.

First, I want to dispense with all the hand-wringing and overwrought analysis of Hillary’s Electoral College loss. The reality is painfully simple: Her public image was viciously and relentlessly attacked by right, left and media and the damage ultimately proved too much to surmount. Despite one of the greatest character assassinations in political history, she’s still on track to win the popular vote by a convincing margin.

The fact that more Americans voted for Hillary’s values than Trump’s should be the north star for Democrats in the difficult years to come.

These two graphics tell the entire story of the 2016 campaign:

hrc-gallup

gallup-what-they-heard

 

PART ONE: DON’T CHANGE YOUR MESSAGE, JUST FIGHT HARDER FOR IT

 

PART TWO: NAVIGATING THE BLUE-RED DIVIDE

BBC News


“One of the great misfortunes and injustices of this election is a complete marginalization of Hillary Clinton supporters,” Daou told BBC Trending. “You see all these profiles of Trump supporters and their anger and rage, yet somehow she’s winning. [LINK]

New York Times


Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, viewed Shareblue more as a necessary voice in a world teeming with conservative radio, television and internet outlets that fire up the Republican base. Of Mr. Daou, he added, “He has a great sense of what’s moving around and where in the depths of the Twittersphere.” [LINK]

Yahoo News


Daou says #HillaryMen is about having a comfortable forum for men to openly express their support of a female candidate. Daou was an early political blogger and a veteran of both John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and Clinton’s 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination, where he served as senior digital adviser. [LINK]

Smokers Pay Tobacco Companies to Murder Them


Tobacco companies sell death and disease to the public. Smokers pay tobacco companies to murder them. Cigarettes are sticks of poison that wreak havoc on humans and the earth.

If current trends continue, tobacco will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century. Trillions of filters, filled with toxic chemicals, are discarded every year. What’s more, child labor is used in U.S. tobacco farming.

The laws governing tobacco use are baffling. If an individual wandered around spraying toxic chemicals on random strangers, they would immediately be arrested and charged with a felony. Yet it is perfectly acceptable to blow deadly secondhand smoke into a child’s face. It is unfathomably reckless to permit that.

Consider these grim stats:

Smoking remains America’s leading cause of disease and preventable death, resulting in nearly half a million fatalities annually. More than 8 million Americans live with a smoking-related illness or conditions.

There is enough nicotine in five cigarettes to kill an average adult if ingested whole. Most smokers take in only one or two milligrams of nicotine per cigarette however, with the remainder being burned off.

The clay found in cat litter is used in cigarettes as filler. This allows tobacco companies to “weigh down” their cigarettes so that they will fall into the “large cigar” category, thus helping the companies avoid taxes.

Ambergris, otherwise known as whale vomit, is one of the hundreds of possible additives used in manufactured cigarettes.

Benzene is a known cause of acute myeloid leukemia, and cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure. Among U.S. smokers, 90 percent of benzene exposure come from cigarettes.

Radioactive lead and polonium are both present in low levels in cigarette smoke.

Hydrogen cyanide, one of the toxic byproducts present in cigarette smoke, was used as a genocidal chemical agent during World War II.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemical compounds, 11 of which are known to be Group 1 carcinogens.

The smoke from a smoldering cigarette often contains higher concentrations of the toxins found in cigarette smoke than exhaled smoke does.

While they may look like white cotton, cigarette filters are made of very thin fibers of a plastic called cellulose acetate. A cigarette filter can take between 18 months and 10 years to decompose.

Worldwide, approximately 10 million cigarettes are purchased a minute, 15 billion are sold each day, and upwards of 5 trillion are produced and used on an annual basis.

Kids are still picking up smoking at the alarming rate of 3,000 a day in the U.S., and 80,000 to 100,000 a day worldwide.

Approximately one quarter of the youth alive in the Western Pacific Region (East Asia and the Pacific) today will die from tobacco use.

Half of all long-term smokers will die a tobacco-related death.

Every eight seconds, a human life is lost to tobacco use somewhere in the world.

Tobacco use is responsible for five million or 12% of all deaths of adults above the age of 30 each year.

Children Subjected to Horrific Punishments in American Schools and Detention Centers


The New York Times writes:

Solitary confinement can be psychologically damaging for any inmate, but it is especially perverse when it is used to discipline children and teenagers. At juvenile detention centers and adult prisons and jails across the country, minors are locked in isolated cells for 22 hours or more a day. A recent Justice Department review of suicides in juvenile facilities found that more than half of the minors who had killed themselves had done so in isolation.

The problem isn’t isolated to detention centers. This story is bone-chilling, describing what is essentially the torture of a child:

Rose had speech and language delays. At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.

Rose got dressed and we removed her from the school. We later learned that Rose had been locked in the closet five times that morning. She said that during the last confinement, she needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to wet her outfit. So she disrobed. Rather than help her, the school called us and then covered the narrow door’s small window with a file folder, on which someone had written “Don’t touch!”

We were told that Rose had been in the closet almost daily for three months, for up to an hour at a time. At first, it was for behavior issues, but later for not following directions. Once in the closet, Rose would pound on the door, or scream for help, staff members said, and once her hand was slammed in the doorjamb while being locked inside.

Continue Reading..

Why I Plan to Pursue Defamation Action Against Those Who Distort My Childhood War Experience


Over the course of the past year, I have been subjected to some of the most aggressive trolling and personal attacks of my 15 year political career. Virtually all of it stems from my advocacy for Hillary Clinton.

In recent months, those vicious attacks on my character have taken a very dark turn.

And I intend to deal with it through legal means.

First, some background: My mother is American, my father was Lebanese. I grew up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war and as the son of a Christian father, I was required to undergo military training by the Lebanese Forces. The mandatory training began when I was in high school and lasted for three years. It took place after school hours and during the summer. My schoolmates were also conscripted.

Even though I am a U.S. citizen by birth, I was forbidden from leaving Lebanon without written permission from the military. My father ultimately secured a waiver and I moved to my mother’s home city of New York. I’ve only been back to Beirut a handful of times since. The last visit was in the early nineties. I still find the memories traumatic.

As a child, I survived some of the most brutal urban warfare of the 20th century. I witnessed terrible things: bodies torn to shreds, car-bombed buildings, jets falling out of the sky. I lost friends and relatives. I spent countless nights in dank, candle-lit bunkers as missiles rained down.

I was a few hundred yards away from the American embassy when a car bomb demolished it and I saw blood dripping down its shattered facade. I had many close brushes with death, as did my family.

In all my time in Lebanon, I never harmed a soul. But I learned the horrors of war up close and personal and it shaped the person I am today. I have survived intact by owning it all, by accepting everything I went through as a trial by fire, in the most literal sense of that phrase. It was an awakening to the cruelest aspects of human nature.

Coping with war is not easy and I’m eternally thankful that I’ve been able to build a successful life and career despite growing up in a living hell.

But never in my wildest imagination did I think there were individuals who, decades later, would mangle and contort my childhood pain to accuse me of killing women and children. Even writing that phrase turns my stomach. But it is time for me to confront the individuals who would publicly accuse me of the most despicable acts imaginable without an iota of basis in fact or reality.

If you wonder what would possess someone to make such outrageous and libelous claims against me, it’s simple: They don’t like my politics. Imagine that: hundreds of people have taken it upon themselves to post hideous accusations about me because I support Hillary Clinton. Or because they don’t agree with my political ideology. It is mind-boggling.

It is also the classic definition of defamation and I have methodically taken screenshots of every instance and reported the harassment to the appropriate social platforms. Furthermore, I am consulting with attorneys to pursue claims of defamation against these individuals. I have also contacted the writer of this Alternet story to object to them misrepresenting my words, referencing me in an article about war crimes, and doing so without even trying to reach me for comment. [Update: The reference to me has been deleted by Alternet.]

The genesis of these execrable assaults on my integrity goes back to 2015, when a handful of people on Twitter identified six tweets where I mentioned my military service out of over 20,000 tweets I’ve posted since I joined the platform. Each of those six tweets was made in the same context: arguing with rightwingers about terrorism, the military and their misguided definitions of “manhood.”

In one tweet about my service, I was arguing in favor of a mosque at Ground Zero. In another, I was speaking out in defense of Palestinian children. In yet another, I was directly asked if I had served in the military.  I stated in my replies that as someone who was drafted into a sectarian militia, I had firsthand experience of war and terrorism. It was my rebuttal to those who talk big about dealing with war but have never lived it in person.

Somehow, that triggered a coordinated effort to connect me to the heinous Sabra and Shatila massacre, which I had condemned in a 2011 Mother Jones article by saying “the massacres and targeting of civilians by all sides was beyond despicable.”

During Lebanon’s sectarian war, all sides committed horrific atrocities, from Sabra and Shatila to Damour to thousands of kidnappings and murders based on religion alone. Civilian neighborhoods were shelled indiscriminately. Snipers shot people trying to buy a loaf of bread. It was evil made manifest and I still can’t believe my family and I survived it in one piece. It causes me profound sadness that so many of my fellow Lebanese, Christian and Muslim, were not so fortunate.

Claiming I was involved in atrocities when I was a child conscript who never harmed a soul is truly one of the ugliest things I’ve ever experienced in my life — and I’ve seen a lot of ugly things.

Imagine randomly targeting an American service member online and photoshopping pictures of their face next to slaughtered children. Imagine calling them a member of a “death squad” because someone, somewhere, committed an atrocity.

That’s what I’ve been dealing with on a daily basis. I have a family who can read those things about me. I have friends and colleagues who may not know the reality of my childhood. Ignoring the trolls hasn’t worked. It’s time for me to confront this monstrous (and illegal) effort to damage my reputation.

________

UPDATE (3/22/16): I’m deeply gratified by the outpouring of support. I can’t thank you all enough.

UPDATE (3/24/16): In the 48 hours since I posted this piece, I’ve received hundreds of supportive comments and emails from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and social media peers. I am humbled and deeply appreciative.

However, as a counterpoint to their gracious support, a number of anonymous online accounts have continued to defame me, believing they are protected by the cloak of anonymity and by the mob effect. Legally, they are not.

I also want to add further context after seeing the responses to my piece. The issue is not whether I was trained by the Lebanese Forces or whether I said so online. I did and I’ll continue to do so. It’s that people who don’t know me (and who I don’t know) have falsely and maliciously extrapolated from my mandatory conscription to accuse me of unthinkable atrocities without an iota of evidence or basis in fact.

It is just about the worst thing one human could say of — or to — another. As I’ve argued, it would be the equivalent of accusing every American service member of war crimes.

The willingness, even the eagerness, of strangers to falsely accuse someone they don’t know of such terrible acts is staggering. Is that what a computer and a fake name does to people? Are they so needy of approval? Of attention? Are they that callous?

And is Twitter willing to let those vile accusations stand despite having them flagged repeatedly?

I’ve been open about my experiences in Lebanon. It’s one of the ways I cope with the bloodshed I witnessed. My website bio describes my background in detail. I’ve referenced my military training in debates about the Mideast, terrorism and war. That’s my right. It’s my life. I’m proud of having survived the horrors of war.

When someone I’m engaging online says I know nothing about terrorism and I respond by saying I faced it in person, that’s the truth. My family and friends were exposed to car bombs, snipers, kidnappers, residential shelling and more. We fought with every fiber of our being to survive, to escape alive. I’ll continue to tell my story and use my experiences to inform my point of view.

To take those tweets out of context and make an outlandish, untruthful and libelous inference that I was part of a “death squad” or that I harmed women and children, is beyond the pale. It is deeply immoral and offensive. It is intolerable. And it is illegal.

UPDATE (5/14/16): It has come to my attention that Vice published an article in February implying I’ve “killed” people. Again, this is a classic instance of defamation and I will pursue all legal means to protect myself against such malicious lies.

Gutter Politics: Republican Rhetoric Toward Hillary Clinton Turns Violent and Ugly


hrc thinkingI spent the summer of 2015 chronicling the avalanche of attacks against Hillary Clinton at #HillaryMen. My co-founder Tom Watson and I dedicated ourselves to the task of wading through the myriad insults, smears, character attacks, negative frames, sexism and misogyny that have marked the 2016 presidential race.

In November, we put HillaryMen on hiatus as I embarked on a major project with David Brock to build a new media platform for Blue America.

Meanwhile, the attacks against Hillary have taken a disgusting turn. In the past week, GOP candidates have dropped all pretense and embraced gutter politics.

Chris Christie: “I’m going to drive straight ahead, run her over, and get right to the WH.”

Donald Trump: “She was going to beat Obama. She was favored to win and she got schlonged. She lost. She lost.”

This comes against the backdrop of a media frenzy over Hillary’s bathroom break during the most recent Democratic debate.

Think about it – in a single week, one of the most powerful, accomplished and admired women on the planet is exposed to threats of violence, derided in sexually explicit terms, and subjected to in-depth analysis of her toilet habits by the media. Does anyone really believe sexism isn’t alive and thriving?

For the larger context, read this stunningly insightful piece by Sady Doyle on why Hillary has “no room to breathe” as a woman seeking the presidency:

I’ve come to believe that, in some ways, saying nice things about Hillary Clinton is a subversive act. I spent much of this year working on a long project on how women are demonized in the media. Hillary Clinton was a fairly large part of that story – she had to be; if you want to talk “women that people hate,” she’s kind of unavoidable – and I spent a while sorting through Clintoniana, dating back to the early ‘90s, to find nasty things people had said about her, or common narratives about her personality. It wasn’t pretty – the worst stuff for Hillary was way worse than I’d expected, and there was way more of it than I expected to find – but it was also illuminating, in some key ways. I got a better sense of the pressures that she has to live with, and how they’ve informed her decisions.

Hillary Clinton is the impossible woman. The pressures she lives under, every moment of her life, are so numerous and so all-encompassing that she barely has room to breathe. She doesn’t have an inch of leeway, a single safe option; there is no version of Hillary Clinton that won’t receive visceral hatred, and loud, personal criticism.

So true. So sadly true.

 

 

 

What It’s Like to Be a Refugee: My Terror as a Displaced Child and Why I Love America


lebanon hellI love America. I love America because it afforded me the opportunity to start a new life when my old life fell apart in a torrent of bombs and bullets.

I’m the son of a Lebanese father and an American mother. I’ve had the great privilege of being born a U.S. citizen while also having roots in the cradle of civilization.

I spent much of my youth in Byblos, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on earth, where ancient ruins intermingle with modern structures and where you can stand atop a Crusader castle and stare out across the blue Mediterranean. Byblos is the origin of the word “Bible.”

My father, who passed before the turn of the millennium, belonged to the Maronite sect of Christians, who trace their roots to the Phoenicians. He took me to old stone churches in his (and my) ancestral village of Lehfed and gave me a sense of history that has rooted me through decades of turmoil.

I was a child when war broke loose and the world around me crumbled. Looking back now, I can still see the fear and anguish in my parents’ faces as they tried to protect their children from missiles and bullets and bombs, from kidnappers and snipers. I remember nights in dark, dank bomb shelters with no heat and no electricity, huddled against my siblings. I remember the whistling sound of incoming rocket fire and that deathly moment of anticipation – hearing the explosion meant you were still alive. It also meant someone else, perhaps your friend or neighbor, wasn’t as fortunate.

As an American, I had somewhere to escape from the war, somewhere to build a better life. That’s not the case for most refugees, who rely on the compassion of strangers to escape the living hell that is war. As America debates the plight of Syrian refugees in the aftermath of a spate of violence from Beirut to Paris, voices of intolerance get louder. We must counter those voices by speaking the truth.

Refugees are not the problem, they are the victims.

I’ve been in their shoes, I know what it feels like when your home is no longer a safe haven, when your parents lose the ability to fulfill their most basic role as protectors. Imagine resting your head on a pillow at night and wondering if you and that pillow will be obliterated before morning.

My family escaped by paying hundreds of dollars to a taxi driver willing to risk a gauntlet of snipers to reach Beirut’s airport. As we grabbed our belongings and squeezed into a beat up Mercedes ready to face the harrowing airport drive, little did we know that in the chaos, my father had packed his expired passport and that he’d be forced to leave us at the airport to make the dangerous round trip to retrieve the valid one. It was the longest wait of my life, but thankfully, he made it.

We spent time in Paris, where there is a large Lebanese expat community, then in New York, where my mother’s family lives and where I eventually settled. We returned to Lebanon in the vain hope of a lasting ceasefire, a hope that was shattered over and over again. Round after round of terrible violence followed. One of my family’s attempts to escape the bloodshed involved a midnight ferry to Cyprus. The Syrian army, under Bashar Assad’s dad, got wind of the journey and began shelling the port. Miraculously, everyone survived by hiding in a reinforced structure, piled on top of one another as fire rained down.

Brutality was everywhere. I was a few hundred yards away when the U.S. embassy was brought down by a massive bomb and I watched bleeding victims scramble away from the devastated structure. Months later, I remember driving to a market and hearing a huge explosion behind me. A suicide bomber had accidentally detonated his explosive before reaching the market and he lay in the street, car mangled, his body in two pieces. The force of the blast had blown his hair out grotesquely and I stood there contemplating what might have happened had our paths intersected just a few minutes sooner – or later.

When I was 15, the Lebanese Forces, a leading Christian militia during the civil war, began mandatory combat training of high school boys. I was one of them. That lasted for three years and I was not allowed to leave the country without written permission, which proved nearly impossible to procure. When I finally received it, I moved to New York and enrolled at NYU. I’ve only been back to Lebanon a handful of times since then – the memories are still very painful.

All these experiences inform my view of the current political debate on terrorism and refugees. I’ve come to understand that there is a relatively small but highly destructive segment of human males with a thirst for violence. Whether they massacre school children in the U.S. or concertgoers in Paris, whether they pour acid on girls or become serial killers, their goal is the same, to take life, to taste blood. They wrap themselves in different flags and different religions and rationalize their barbaric acts with everything from extremism to racism to misogyny, but those excuses shouldn’t distract us from their common nature and common purpose.

Violence is the story of human history. We can’t embrace intolerance in the false hope of protecting ourselves from every possible threat. What we must do is maintain our principles and our dignity and show these murderers that we will always stand strong. Our legacy is one of compassion and integrity, theirs is one of hate and failure. The former will prevail.

My Rude Awakening on White Males, Brown Females and #BlackLivesMatter


LPA personal epiphany about race and gender, to my fellow white males:

No matter how sincerely we think we get it, we don’t really get it.

I’ll explain.

It started in 2012 when I met Leela at the iconic Greenwich Village jazz club Smalls. Leela (pictured right) is of Indian heritage but is ethnically ambiguous and is regularly mistaken for someone she is not.

Two things there is no confusion about: to the outside world, she is a woman and she is non-white.

Leela and I moved in together within months and are happily married after four years. My rude awakening began almost immediately. First, the skewed glances when we held hands on the street. Not only are we a mixed couple but there is an age difference between us, so I chalked it off to curiosity. I assumed New York City was as tolerant a place as you’ll get in America and that we would barely merit a passing glance.

How wrong I was.

Shortly after we met, Leela moved into my apartment in Battery Park City, an oasis in the bustling heart of the world’s money machine, a stone’s throw from the towering headquarters of Goldman Sachs. It’s a neighborhood where privilege abounds, where dogs have walkers, kids have nannies, homes have housekeepers, and buildings have attendants. It’s where supermarkets deliver at all hours, where main courses start at $30, where weekends involve loading the family SUV and driving being driven to the Hamptons.

I chose that neighborhood years before it became what it is today. A long-time Upper West Sider, I moved to lower Manhattan shortly after the September 11th attacks for a number of reasons, not least of which was a sense of solidarity with the victims, several of whom were friends. I stayed because I thought living near a river was the only way my young daughter could get a taste of nature while still growing up in a polluted, over-crowded metropolis. (I’ve since moved near the park, for the same reason.)

Back to the present and my induction into a world seen through a darker prism. A day after Leela moved in, she came home visibly upset. I asked what happened. Apparently, the doorman had blocked her from entering the building, refusing to believe that the keys she was carrying were legitimately hers. She had to convince him to check the approved tenants list before he allowed her to go to her own home.

The incidents piled up. Things that may seem small to someone who doesn’t endure these experiences, but that in aggregate soured her daily life. The cabs that wouldn’t stop when she tried to hail them but hit the brakes and backed up when they saw she was with me. The clerks asking her to verify her ID every time she presented a credit card. The smiles at me from neighbors and barely concealed scowls at her when I turned away. The usual catcalls and crude comments when she walked alone. It quickly became clear that although we shared the same day to day life, her existence was profoundly different from mine.

The event that brought it to a head was when she pressed ‘PH’ in the elevator and the other occupant, a white male, asked which penthouse apartment she was going to clean. The idea that she lived there didn’t occur to him. When I heard about it, my indignation was palpable. It was the indignation and disrespect she lived with every day and that was alien to me.

Over the years we’ve been together, like all couples, Leela and I have shared our deep secrets, formative events that have left lifelong scars. We each have our stories. But nothing we spoke about prepared me for the steady accumulation of little emotional cuts, the insults of everyday life that keep her guard up at all times. This was something entirely new to me.

A progressive activist since college, I’d convinced myself that I was sensitive to the plight of others, enlightened about the hardships that humans face, self-aware enough to know that my experience was not necessarily that of the people around me. As a Lebanese-American who grew up a child of war and witnessed and survived death and destruction, I told myself that I got it. I knew to respect the perspective of other individuals, no matter how different that perspective was from mine.

What I didn’t realize was that we are stuck in our own heads far more than we can appreciate and that empathy has limitations. As a white male, I can convince myself that I understand racism and sexism, but it’s far more intellectual than visceral. My point of view is distorted by the culture I exist in.

These numbers from the Washington Post provide context:

In a 100-friend scenario, the average white person has 91 white friends; one each of black, Latino, Asian, mixed race, and other races; and three friends of unknown race. The average black person, on the other hand, has 83 black friends, eight white friends, two Latino friends, zero Asian friends, three mixed race friends, one other race friend and four friends of unknown race. The average black person’s friend network is eight percent white, but the average white person’s network is only one percent black. To put it another way: Blacks have ten times as many black friends as white friends. But white Americans have an astonishing 91 times as many white friends as black friends.

Until I married Leela and saw the world through her eyes, I was partially blind, believing I saw the harsh truths but only seeing them through a white-tinted lens. Living life as a woman of color is an automatic double strike against you. Leela and I move through the same physical space but our mental space is altered by the people around us, by the insidious prejudice (pre-judgment) surrounding us and shaping our reality.

I say all this as #BlackLivesMatter draws stark lines of demarcation between those who get it and those who don’t. I know I’ll never fully feel what Leela feels, but I can still rage against racism, fight inequality and injustice. I can still take a stand and make a difference, but I must do it with humility and acknowledgment of my own biases.

I’ll conclude by re-posting something I wrote after the Charleston massacre:

I look at my daughter and wonder about the world I brought her into. Yes, there is beauty and love, but there is also agony, brutality, sexual violence, abuse, extreme inequality, rampant injustice, preventable starvation and disease, blind greed, intractable bigotry.

Of the evils we create (and confront) as human beings, racism is one of the ugliest. It shows its hideous face in myriad ways.

The past few years have been particularly heinous in America. Today, it’s a white man marching into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and gunning down nine worshipers. Before that it was 12 year-old Tamir Rice shot down by cops for holding a toy gun. Before that it was Eric Garner choked to death on a busy New York street for selling cigarettes. And on and on…

Black Americans have been slaughtered on the streets for riding BART trains, holding toys, seeking help after a car accident, selling cigarettes, riding bikes, wearing hoodies, buying skittles, running away from danger, and playing music. They have been killed sitting in their homes.

No activity is safe, no location secure. Death can come from anywhere, for any reason. Shot in the back. Publicly strangled to death. And justice is never guaranteed.

We all share responsibility for the moral failings of our nation and we all must play a part in rectifying those failings. The question is how we do it. We cannot root out all prejudice – it is ingrained in human nature. Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is famous for this quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But in his letter, he also writes: “I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.”

To get to the underlying causes, we must start by speaking the truth and calling things by their proper name.

Yes, #BlackLivesMatter. So much is contained in those three words, so much more than many of us understand, however well-meaning we are. As I said: No matter how sincerely we think we get it, we don’t really get it.

UPDATE (7/7/16): This was published a year ago and since then, many more lives have been snuffed out under similar circumstances. Most recently: Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. This brutality must end.