Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017

Today is a bitter-sweet day for me. It’s a sweet day because MLK Jr. is one of my heroes…someone I look up to. He challenged the status quo, and made a change that influenced a generation.

As for the bitter, I could go on about the continued slavery through mass incarceration, but I will be writing a more personal story.

Warning: this story is sad and traumatic. Please read with a compassionate and open mind.

It was early morning in the mid-90s. My whole family had the day off work/school, so we were going to do something fun. Dad was gone in the early morning, so we just hung out around the house.

Around 9am or so, Dad came home. He came in,

“Everyone in the living room. Now, please.”

We all met in the living room.

“Look, there is no easy way to break this. Leslie is dead.”

We all just sat there, not sure how to react. Leslie was a close family friend and a babysitter/caretaker. I was the oldest, somewhere around the age of 10.

“She was shot. From what we are told, she passed away quickly.”

We still didn’t know how to process this information. To an extent, the motions of life continued on as normal until the funeral. That’s when the finality of it all started to hit me, though I wonder if my brother and sister could understand.

Not that it’s important, but she was shot by a jealous ex-boyfriend, and he was African American. There have been times where I have wondered if he knew it was MLK Jr. day, or if that fact simply escaped him. It would give me a “reason” to be racist, but my close friends can attest that I am not.

Racism is evil.

That’s what MLK believed, and that’s what I believe. So, today, don’t morn the man and forget why he died. Don’t be a coward like so many. Be brave like MLK and Rosa Parks. Stand up for what’s right, even if it lands you on the wrong side of the law. That’s when it counts the most. It’s easy to do the right thing when it costs nothing. Do the right thing when it costs you everything.

Life is too short to let it pass us by.

MLK eventually took a bullet to the brain for what he believed in.

“Nobody wants to be a hero, it just sometimes turns out that way.” — Black Hawk Down

Remember that on days like today. He had a dream. It cost him everything.

Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wagen, over and out.

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Independent Gangsta

You may or may not have heard about “Original Gangstas,” or “OGs.” These guys are the real deal. The leader. The shot caller. They are usually the oldest, bravest, and craziest.

Now, an Independent Gangsta (IG) is a peaceful gangsta. A solo rider half the time, and with backup the other half. Joining a gang never interested me. The initiation alone was enough for me to say, “No, thanks.” Generally, I didn’t stay close friends with someone that beat me up or made me hurt an innocent person.

I will admit, that there is probably something about gang life that I do not understand. I see the allure, especially if I had grown up in the impoverished inner city with little parental oversight. For many young men and women, joining a gang is a choice of survival. Survival from bullies, other gangs, and even the police.

As a middle-class white boy who was very capable with a knife at an early age, I didn’t have much to worry about. I often went with other independent gangstas — of all shapes, sizes, genders, colors, and creeds. We were definitely a crew, but we didn’t feel the need to initiate. I guess you could say that we were abunch of Liberty-Lovers from Liberty County, Texas. I believed in sovereignty of the individual at an early age, I just didn’t know how to adequately express it.

Instead of solving conflicts with violence, we would having smoking competitions. We would go hit for hit, like going shot for shot, off a water bong, and then sometimes we would top that off with a game of basketball. By the time we did the hits, we forgot what we were fighting about, and just got excited about a basketball game.

This was how we lived. Sure, there were fights. When you put abunch of teenagers together, it’s bound to happen, but we kept it to a minimum. And some situations that were tense, were solved with cannabis.

Yes.

Violence was halted with cannabis.

Wagen (IG), over and out.

 

 

War. What Is It Good For?

The time for graduating had come and gone. I was shipped out a short 3 weeks later.

The moment of swear-in was of great significance and impact. I don’t remember much, but I do remember these lines:

“I, Kevin Charles Wagenseller, do solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all threats, foreign and domestic.”

This is an oath I was serious about, and I haven’t stopped simply because I have been discharged. The Constitution and upholding and defending it from all threats…foreign AND domestic…this is something that remains close to my heart, and consumes my soul.

You see, the War on Terror was of great concern to me. If there was anything I could do to stop the terrorists from destroying more lives, then I was going to do it. I was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school when 9/11 happened, and it wasn’t until I was 22 and out of the Navy that I found out that the real terrorists were sitting in the “Executive Mansion,” as it was once called.

So, I find out the first war I train and fight in is a sham and use of power demonstrated by the ruling elite to gain banking, gold, and oil interests in the Middle East. It was never about people’s safety.

Now, I find myself entangled in a second war. The War on Drugs. The truth, I have been in this war for many years, but I did not see it as a war until the last two or three years, the seriousness of it escalating with each passing year.

There is a huge burden on my shoulders.

It’s like I can feel the pain of all the dying soldiers suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, or other serious disorders.

I feel for all the cops that are “just doing their jobs,” some in ignorance, and some in the “know.” Either way, they are in a tough spot, and they shouldn’t have to be.

Pain consumes me watching my minority friends get hauled off to jail over and over again for petty, victim-less crimes. Sure, I am thankful that I am ________ enough not to have much difficulty with law enforcement, but I couldn’t imagine feeling so oppressed that I would be driven to join a gang just for protection from racist and abusive law enforcement. This is a problem, and it needs to be addressed.

On top of it all, I am losing my wife, dogs, and home to this war, and I feel powerless to stop it. After 30 years, a car accident, two wars, and a troubled marriage later, I find myself having to accept that sometimes we are dealt bad hands, and we just have to play them.

I take hope that eventually this turn will pass, the deck will be shuffled, and I get another chance.

Life can be like that, if we let it.

Wagen, over and out.