Saturday, February 11, 2017

We the People

I’m a protector. Not by trade. I don’t get paid or anything. It’s more like my DNA has a code embedded within every cell that automatically tells my brain to jump in when someone needs help. It’s true. That’s the way I was built. Some people are driven to be culinary masters, others have a calling to be prolific composers, or
master artisans. They couldn’t do anything else, because those aspects of themselves were planted into their beings long before they were born. That great chef was always going to be a chef. It’s a part of him. And when needed, I am driven to lend a hand.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not Wonder Woman or Super Girl. I don’t jump into a phone booth to change into super-hero attire. My days of wearing skin-tight cat suits are long over. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t want my fifty year old bulges to pop out in every direction. I’m just your average run of the mill 5’6, long-blonde haired woman, who happens to don stylish urbanite clothing—and who from time to time helps those who can’t help themselves.

I’m the one who made sure the drunk woman outside the bar who was being harassed by her boyfriend was okay. I am the one who convinced another woman to put her gun away when she became angry at a stranger. I’m the one who stands up for the sales clerk when a customer is being rude to them. They may not be able to tell-off a customer, but I sure can. On the first day of eighth grade when a Vietnamese girl who didn’t know any English sat down at the cool kid’s table at lunch, which led them to shoot up in unison from their seats, leaving her stranded and all alone, I, along with my friends, took action. Without a word between us, we in unison, stood up and joined her at her table, making her feel welcome. Then there are the plethora of children over the years whose parents decided it was a good idea to leave their kids in their car—alone—for a “minute.” Well, a minute is a long time. Even at 16, I have been known to admonish a few bewildered parents for their lack of judgement.

Then there is today.

Five minutes ago, I was on Cloud 9. My enthusiasm was practically boiling over. I had been saving for a year in order to take my first trip to—well, to anywhere really. I had never been outside of California, and now I was headed for Paris. That’s Paris. In France! The famous City of Light. The place I have wanted to go for decades—since childhood really and I was about to make my dream come true by hopping on a plane. I have been reading books about the Louvre, the Eifel Tower and all the French cafés for years and in another half a day, I would actually be there!

Or maybe not. Now, I am not so sure. A lot can happen in five minutes and in these last five minutes, everything changed. It only takes a second for the world around me to shift and that second had just occurred. Ebullience was quickly replaced by determination. I was determined to help the helpless.

It all started when I caught a glimpse of a so-called random luggage inspection taking place. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary in the stacks of white t-shirts and polyester slacks. An elderly gentleman with a slight stoop, thinning grey hair and a light grey Member’s Only jacket that matched, held the hand of his wife. She had pulled back her salt and pepper hair into a bun at the nape of her neck. She wore gold-rimmed spectacles and donned a brown floral printed dress that reached well below her knees. It was a grandma dress and I immediately liked her. I liked him too. However, I didn’t like what was happening to them.

This unassuming couple, who indeed probably were grandparents, looked like the quintessence of law abiding citizens. I could feel at the core of my being how frightened they were. Their expressions were understandable. These lovely people were being detained.

…All because of the color of their skin.

I couldn’t allow this to happen. I couldn’t just sit on the side lines. I had to do something.

“Please sir,” I whispered to the man in a black leather jacket sitting next to me, “Please. Will you videotape me and then post it on YouTube?”

“Sure,” he said. “No problem.”

With his cell phone already in hand, he clicked on the video app and pointed it my way. That was my queue. I stepped onto the seat I was just sitting in. I felt the energy building inside me. I was scared, maybe more scared than I have ever been before. I was about to take on the government. The government! If this were a movie, the orchestration would have surely emphasized each of my steps. So, here I was standing on the chair. Every eye in the room turned to look my way. Admittedly, it was a little disconcerting to have all eyes on me, but I stayed focused on the task at hand.

My body was now raised above the sea of travelers, flight attendants, and two TSA agents who were making their arrest. They were my point of interest. They were the ones I was about to state my case to. I have no plans to yell. Instead, I make certain to look directly into their eyes. I want to reach into their souls so that they connect with me before I even utter a word. When I am confident that they are lured into my gaze, I calmly speak—all while I continue looking directly into their eyes.

“You know, Nazi Germany occurred because people made bad choices by following orders. The thing is, that that particular regime, as all bad regimes do, fell. Moreover, the aftermath of World War II led to the rounding up of people who followed these bad orders. They were punished for their crimes against humanity. Even today, little old men who once donned the infamous uniform of the Third Reich are found, tried, and imprisoned—all because they chose to follow Hitler. It feels as though history may be repeating itself and you have the opportunity to help prevent that from happening. 

“In point of fact, I question whether or not you have probable cause to arrest these people. Is there some discernible reason you have placed handcuffs on this couple or are you judging them based on the color of their skin?”

No answer.

“Your lack of an answer speaks volumes. People are people. There are good people and there are bad people—in every race. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, did you begin targeting white males? Of course you didn't, because his act of violence does not make all white people bad.

"So, what is different here? There is only one word for it. Racism. It's an ugly word. Bigotry in any form doesn't serve to elevate us. It only deflates us. It is the voice of fear and low self-esteem and does not have a place in the hearts of those who are confident with their own sense of self-worth. 

“Did you know that the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims all believe in the same God? The same God. Perhaps their ceremony is different. Perhaps theirs stories are told in a slightly different way. Nevertheless, it’s still the same God.

“Moreover, members of the Mafia, a criminal organization, tend to be Christian. Does that make all Christians bad people? Sure, there have been bad Muslims, but a few sour grapes do not mean the whole bunch are rotten. The man whose arm you are clasping has a copy of the Koran in his hand. He is a spiritual person, who is guided by Divine wisdom. He’s not carrying a copy of the Unibomber’s Manifestoanother white guy, I am inclined to add.

 “I find it interesting how whatever group of new immigrants there are, they are targeted. When my ancestors of Irish stock showed up, they were vilified. Now, it’s the people of the Middle East. Well, for all those who target anyone other than “us”, I say this…The United States was born from immigrants. All of us. Unless, you are Native American, every—single—one of us comes from immigrant stock.

“The Statue of Liberty itself states: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

“This government, that much to my chagrin, has been put into place, for all its blunders, for all its embarrassing idiocies, for all its really bad calls, it is doing one thing that is good. It is bringing people together around the world like nothing in the history of man—and womankind has done before. People are reading the Constitution. People are learning about the 25th Amendment. Women are showing their strength. And I am showing mine. I stand with these people. They are my brother and sister. They have done nothing wrong—and you know it.

“Do you know how Gandhi won the freedom from the shackles of the British Empire? Or how Martin Luther King spearheaded the Civil Rights movement in this country? They did so by peacefully resisting. They peacefully resisted on film so all the world could see. They left those pieces of film for posterity to continually learn from. And these days, just about everyone owns a video camera on their phones. Look around, and see how many people are filming us in this moment. (While I never took my eyes of the TSA agents, I could see with my peripheral vision, all the cameras being used.)

"People record dishonorable acts for all the world to see every day. All day long. Peaceful resistance is the key—and I peacefully resist this government. I peacefully resist the followers of this government. I peacefully resist you. We have an opportunity to stand together. If you arrest these people, you must arrest me.”

That’s when the force of my eye contact was finally broken. I now stood eye to eye with the stranger I had asked to videotape this scene. He had joined me on his chair. He turned the camera to himself and said into it, “I peacefully resist you. If you arrest her, then you must arrest me.”

Then a woman in black leggings and a baggy sweater climbed up onto her seat. “I peacefully resist you. If you arrest them, you must arrest me.”

A teenage boy with baggy jeans riding below his waistline to show off his boxer shorts, climbed his seat. “I peacefully resist you. If you arrest them, you must arrest me.”

One after the other, after the other, until a sea of people standing in their chairs joined in this peaceful resistance. I felt as though I were on the movie set of Dead Poet’s Society. Robin William’s character had taught his students to climb their desks to see the world from a different perspective. In the end the students used this method to resist the antagonist, all while honoring the protagonist. I suppose that’s what we were doing too. When there weren’t any more chairs available, the people left standing at the floor level joined in with our combined chant, “I peacefully resist you. If you arrest them, you must arrest me.”

These federal agents didn’t stand a chance. It was now two against literally hundreds.

I gave one last plea to the agents. “You have the opportunity to do the right thing. Maybe it will get you into trouble in the short term, but in the long run, you will be able to live with yourself and in the end the meek will prevail. Decide what side you want to be on, for there will be consequences if you choose to be on the side of the aggressor.” 

The TSA agent with the balding head continued gazing into my eyes, but he knew he couldn’t win this battle. He decided to do what was right. He released his grip that was formerly around the man’s arm, while the younger agent unlocked the handcuffs from the wrists of the couple. For the first time in several minutes, I stepped down from my chair to meet them.

I placed my hand on the balding agent’s chest and orated without judgement, “You are a good man and I thank you.”

I then placed my hand on the younger agent’s chest and repeated my affirmation, “You are a good man and I thank you too.”

The bald man gently bowed his head my way and turned to leave. The younger agent followed his lead.

The storm of applause that followed was analogous to the applause that Mick Jagger must receive during a concert.

With tears in his eyes, the freed man wrapped both his hands around mine and thanked me profusely. “May Allah bring you many blessings,” he said.

At the same time, his wife wrapped her arms around my body and held me like a grandmother would. I couldn’t help but feel nurtured.

When they finally released me, I addressed the crowd.

“We are all in this together. Each and every one of us. I stand with you all. My brothers and my sisters. We are black, brown, white, red, and yellow. We are gay. We are straight. We are men. We are women. We are rich and we are poor. We. Are. One. There is a reason for those first three words of the Constitution, We the People…We the people hold the power. Not some guy who doesn’t really want to be president. The guy who really wants to be king—pre-Magna Carta—in other words, he wants ultimate power without checks and balances. He will not prevail. We will.

“We the people.”

And so it is.

After note: From time to time, I have a dream that plays in my mind more like a movie, with a story fully created and not disjointed. This story comes from one of those dreams. I decided to write it down as fiction and “We the People” is the result. Moreover, we the people must peacefully resist. I choose to peacefully resist. We shall prevail.


  1. I have read this story many times since it was initially written in February. I had to compose my thoughts to write my comment to adequately express my thoughts. "We the People" touches me every time I read it and makes me think of my parents both were Holocaust survivors. No they were not Jewish just Polish. Poland a peaceful farming country was in the cross hairs for Adolf Hitler, an easy mark to start his campaign. Here is an excerpt from the January 4, 1934 issue of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: In 1923 Hitler gathered a few men together to “march on Berlin.” The attempt was a failure. Hitler was sentenced to prison for five years, but he was allowed to go free long before his term was up. People laughed at him, and thought he was of little importance. [...] Adolf Hitler, out of prison, took advantage of the groans. He told people that he would make Germany “great” again. He blamed Jews, Socialists, Communists, and others for the troubles of the land. His blazing speeches gained followers for his “cause.”
    Does any of this sound familiar especially the fervor of the tone? I became an American Citizen at the age of 16. I value the freedoms that the United States of America affords ALL of its' citizens. I wish this short story could be turned into a YouTube. I have started communicating with my senators and congressman for the first time in my life. I am in the middle of my 5th decade on this planet and have voted in every election once I was of age but that was my extent of involvement. My question to anyone who reads this story and this comment is what will We the People do?

  2. Oh My God, Lisa! I was in tears. How beautifully this was written. I was there for every second! Imagining the strength it would take to stand up on that chair! I could see it, you doing this! Asking myself, Could I do that? Could I stand up for what I knew in my heart was wrong? Would I risk, not going to Paris (My Dream) to stand up! And possibly go to jail. Then the really tough question, Am I Now standing up for what I know to be wrong!?

    1. Thank you so much, Linda. You words are tapping in my heart space. 😊