“Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside and study war no more.” -Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
“Sell out Pig! No justice, no peace!”
Hondo had heard it before; the cold angry stare of a brother cut like a knife, reaching his heart and convicting his soul to fix things…to choose. How was he supposed to choose: how could he not? No one in their right mind expected him to have the answers but when was the last time that anyone had been in their right mind? Sanity had left the building ages ago.
Hondo had joined the LAPD to be the change; but nothing had changed, not really. Bodies were dropping like flies played out with such regularity that he was afraid that the occurrences would become too common place for anyone to care or question.
Hondo had felt the sting of racism, fear and violence and he knew the result of that hatred went far beyond the broken arm he’d received as a boy; just being black seemed enough to be deemed the victim and the villain all in the same last breath. America was a country that demonized the rest of the world for crimes that it too committed with reckless disregard and that same America was no longer the land of the free; not for all at least.
Hondo had chosen to wear the colors that represented danger and death for others who looked like him. He had not chosen the colors he’d been forced to wear since birth; the color of his skin could get him killed just because he had not been born protected and privileged. He’d been told since he was a boy to be the change; to infiltrate the institutions that had been discolored by hatred and so with his eyes and heart wide open that’s exactly what he had done. The streets and lives of his black and brown brothers were littered with shattered lives and the country was drowning in the blood of the slain. Hondo found it hard to breathe. His own father seemed to despise his choice, tearfully pleading for him to not be naïve. History had set the standard and the cadence for the same old same old dance, the same old tales with no happy endings.
Climbing out of his patrol car he stood in the midst of gunfire from both sides; smoke and shouts for justice, had Hondo wondering if he’d been wrong; nothing had changed and the angry eyes staring him down told him that he had been a fool. ‘Sell out! Sell out! Sell out!’ Why did his shoulders feel so weighed down; the world demanding that he have the answers; hadn’t he been the victim too? There were no answers if there were, he wouldn’t be here now watching the world go mad.
The answers weren’t fancy words used as sound bites for the nightly news; the game of denying fault while blaming the dead for their own spilled blood served as an accessory to the crime meted out against the slain, the defenseless and the powerless. What could Hondo do and how was he supposed to be the change? Change what? No one was listening as he shouted within himself while his heart broke. He felt like a traitor when all he wanted to be was a hero. He no longer belonged in the middle of the battlefield; but if not there, then where? The shouts accusing him of being a traitor stated the case that he’d chosen the wrong side. The blue uniform no longer felt comfortable yet he refused to take it off; he’d worked too hard and proven too much…it was his and no one was going to take it from him without a fight. No one was going to take his community without a fight either and no matter how many familiar faces turned their backs on him; he was here willing to stand in the midst of the dust-filled air and he was willing to inhale the dirt and grime that hate spewed in his face because in spite of everything, he was still breathing, his heart was still beating and he still cared about what happened in his neighborhood. He still believed that the blue he wore by choice each day still stood for something good and he wore it with pride and conviction. Just like he wouldn’t give up on the blue, he would never turn his back on the black; it was who he was, and he’d fight for it with his last breath.
Today looked like yesterday and no doubt tomorrow would be more of the same. Hondo was tired; physically, mentally and emotionally but he had to find the strength from somewhere to keep fighting for both sides until those sides found a way to meet in the middle both with a desire for peace. The words, sell out, and traitor, punched him in the gut and left scars on his skin but he had to find a way to shake them off and keep going and moving to be that change, the real change that would someday move the baton toward peace and understanding. Hondo just wanted to breathe without asking permission. He wanted to breathe and live and love and have an expectation of a future for himself and others just like him. Was that too much to ask, he wondered…only time would tell.
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4