Posted on October 18, 2016
Remove This Cup
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” – Luke 22:42
These were the words of our Savior Jesus Christ that he prayed to Heavenly Father as he knelt on his knees and bled for the sins of all mankind. His mission on earth put him in the public spotlight whether he liked it or not, earning him both praise and scorn by the public and government officials. I don’t deign to pretend that I am ANYTHING close to Christ or that my experiences are even comparable, but there hasn’t been a day in the past few years where I haven’t said that same prayer over and over and over again. I never wanted to be in the public spotlight. I never asked to be a public figure.
When I started this blog, I didn’t necessarily do so for people to even read. In fact, I said early on that my intent in blogging was to simply deal with my personal demons of combat. It was a way of talking to “someone” without really talking to anyone. By putting my words out there, I could get it off my chest by pretending that someone was listening. That honesty ended up bringing me attention, but it was an uncomfortable attention.
Then, in 2009, I got my first taste of the public spotlight and media attention outside the prism of military issues when I stood up to my kids’ middle school in Huntsville, Alabama. The principal had decided that she was going to institute a school uniform policy without the approval or even input from parents who had the biggest interest in our kids’ education. I ended up organizing a large group of parents in opposition to the policy. The school wasn’t too happy with me, though others were thankful. The issue became a huge local story that resulted in the military getting involved when school officials complained. Instead of simply telling them that this was between me and them, the military tried to silence me. Because of the high profile nature of that issue, the Army and I agreed it was time to move on to get a fresh start. That’s when I moved to Ft. Hood to finish out my Army career so I could retire near home.
I came to Ft. Hood in the hopes to again fade into obscurity with a fresh start. Little did I know that the my old unit didn’t give me a fresh start and instead contacted my new unit to inform them of what happened in Alabama. Through my blogging, my only public visibility was my words. That changed in 2013 when Officer Steve Ermis decided that his power trumped my rights. Had I wanted attention, I would have recorded the entire encounter on the side of that country road as soon as I saw him. Had I wanted attention, I would have taken my lawfully carried rifle and hiked through downtown. However, having been bullied for the first eight years of my school life before deciding that I would never be bullied again and learned to fight, I wasn’t about to let a government official bully me either. Like those bullies in K-8th grades, I defended myself and ended up being the center of national attention this time. And like in Alabama, I didn’t set out to become a public figure.
So, what do those three things – blogging, school dispute, and false arrest – have in common? None of them were done for attention, but all of them thrust me into the public spotlight to some degree. They also highlight a personal value in standing up for something I believe in. I have always had strong beliefs of liberty. I spent all my summers living with my dad in San Antonio who taught me about freedom, liberty, and constitutional principles of small government. I learned that to secure our rights, we had to fight for them. I vividly remember accompanying him to protest the Tipper Gore push to force the music industry to put labels on “offensive” or “vulgar” music.
So, when people tell me that I’m a “media whore,” “craving attention,” or “just a trouble maker,” I can’t help but think of how absurd that is. It wasn’t even really my decision to run for office last year, which can arguably be considered a plea for attention to get votes. I was under a lot of pressure by a lot of people and at the time, I was the first person to have thrown their hat in the ring. Once the field had matured, I saw that there was no need to run any longer and dropped out to endorse a like-minded candidate that shared my principles, values and beliefs. I have no desire to ever run for public office ever again.
Believe me, I would be absolutely content disappearing into obscurity, finishing my schooling, getting a good job, buying a home in the middle of country where my nearest neighbor is miles away, and just living my live in solitude. I would welcome ANYONE taking this “cup” from me and easing the pain, stress, controversy, hate AND praise I get on a daily basis. I fight because people count on me to fight and I count on myself to do something instead of just whining and complaining. I speak my mind because I count on myself to be true to my principles.
Now, I’m not a perfect person. I’ve made some MAJOR mistakes in my life. I’ve made bad choices that affected (and continue to affect) my family. I’ve done some things that I still can’t forgive myself for because they violated my personal standards, morals and integrity. I’m not proud of those things, but I’ve owned them. People still throw them in my face from time to time, but it doesn’t hurt me because I haven’t tried to deny it. Even in the Army, when I screwed up I blamed no one but myself. I never tried to blame my troops who screwed up, but were following my directions. We all make mistakes and I’ve caused more than my fair share of the Savior’s suffering in that sacred garden.
I take a lot of heat because of my criticism of law enforcement. Interestingly, when I praise law enforcement, no one really cares. There is hardly any conversation about it all. When I am critical of police abuses and use of force, the onslaught of hate, consternation, and finger wagging is astounding. It’s never escaped notice that when people are confronted with bad cop scenarios, their immediate response is, “they’re not all bad” instead of addressing the issue at hand. Bad behavior is virtually dismissed for fear of admitting that we have a systemic problem in American policing where the Peelian Principles seem to no longer be taught or applied.
The problem we have in this country is that too many people want to overlook what they perceive to be “a few bad apples.” They’re afraid of attacking police conduct for fear of being labeled “anti-police” as I’ve often been labeled. I’m accused of being a “cop blocker” by ignorant people who would roll over the moment their rights were violated.
If I were a cop blocker, I would be interfering with the legitimate business of cops. I would be going around following cops, yelling epithets at them, and filming incidents that have nothing to do with me. I wouldn’t be meeting often with chief law enforcement officers around the state, sponsoring law enforcement associations like the Texas Sheriffs Association, or working as closely as possible with cops on the street. But, I’m also not a serf to be lorded over by people just because they wear an ornate piece of metal on their clothing that identifies them as a cop. A shiny badge doesn’t grant anyone extra rights and I, for one, won’t simply roll over and do the bidding of an increasingly lawless government while my rights are being violated. I don’t subscribe to the absurd notion that “the time to fight for your rights isn’t on the streets; it’s in the courts.” Wrong. The time to fight for your rights is the moment they are being violated. Then, if that fight winds you up in the courts, you fight again.
Here’s the deal: if people aren’t happy with me sharing stories of police abuse, there’s a simple solution to that problem. It isn’t that I shut up. It isn’t that I support the police unconditionally because “they have tough jobs.” It isn’t that I excuse bad behavior because of the perception that they are in the minority. The solution is that cops stop violating rights, using excessive force, and treating the citizenry with disrespect, derision, and contempt. The solution is those “good cops” stop backing the blue and start backing the people they serve when circumstances require it. That’s it! It’s really that simply.
I don’t do all those things for attention, from the media or otherwise. Being in the public spotlight is stressful. I can truly understand why Kurt Cobain shot himself trying to cope with celebrity. The pressure is extremely high and everything I do is magnified. I get both unjustified praise and condemnation. I try to pass off as many interviews as I can because I don’t want to constantly be out there. I do realize that I’m the leader of a movement and a spokesman for my organization, so I do have some responsibility.
I’m nothing special. I’m just a guy that was thrust into all of this crap because I dared to take a stand. I say all the time that I’m just a small rudder on a big ship. My accomplishments aren’t my. They belong to thousands of others. I’ve never understood why people want to take pictures with me or ask for my signature. I feel like I’m no different than one’s neighbor. I just have a loud mouth.
I won’t let the pros of cons of the public spotlight stop me from being who I am inside. Thanks to the public spotlight, I don’t even like that I can’t be as honest about things as I used to be for fear of it being used to hurt me or my family. I don’t want sympathy or support for my lot in life. I want to maintain as much privacy as I possibly can while doing what people rely on me to do. I can’t even post much personal stuff on my social media anymore because of concerns for my family. So I post about cats. It’s the only thing left I can share that humanizes me and shows that I’m just a normal person and not some mythical figure.
If you don’t like me, so be it. My life isn’t predicated on public approval. It’s how I can be honest about my beliefs. My inner circle is extremely small and I’m happy that way. I appreciate that people care about me, but I’m not asking for it. I don’t want special treatment and I don’t want credit for work so many people have contributed accomplished. I long for the day when someone else can pick up the torch and sprint away with it.