An Afternoon With Allen West

An Afternoon With Allen West

"If you are not willing to do what needs to be done, you must be committed to not being the first generation to pass along something greater."
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“Stand strong, with resolve and courage.”

With a perseverant gaze, a depth in his eyes, and a voice as soft as it was strong, Allen West spoke these words with silent confidence and manifest authenticity that is so very rare in the political realm today.

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of not only hearing Colonel West give what is perhaps one of the greatest speeches I have heard, but I also had the honor of getting to interview and then spend part of the afternoon with him at the Kansas GOP Convention. Though I had known of him for a long time, I was not too familiar with him until just before the conference.

Early Saturday afternoon, I had been standing in one of the empty conference rooms as everyone was attending various county and sub-party meetings. I looked out of the doors, and I saw Colonel West standing nearby. Being that I was not overly familiar with his personality, it took more courage than I was expecting to walk over and strike up a conversation. After less than two minutes of talking, however, it became very obvious that I was talking to perhaps one of the only politically involved individuals today who was genuinely humble, generous, and caring. I will never forget the authentic gratitude in his eyes when I mentioned my various family members who have served their nation as soldiers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Though I did not have a chance to conduct a formal interview at that time, I was grateful for the opportunity to make a connection with such a highly-esteemed man. Like an old friend, as I saw him throughout the day, our discussion carried on as he remembered who I was and continued to make an effort to allow a conversation to continue. My chance to interview him finally arrived as he was being escorted to the VIP room, just before his speech. As we walked and talked, I asked him questions about young conservatives facing backlash on college campuses and recommended courses of action, of general activism, and of advice he had for those who desired to chase their obligations of public service to their nation. When the topic of violent and hosilte counter-discussions and attacks – such as the riots that occurred at UC Berkely – he simply stated, “Well you have to stay strong and continue to show resolve and courage…I was recently able to come here and speak for the young Republicans here at Kansas State, and it’s just great seeing the young people and knowing you’re on the right side of the issues. You can’t be intimidated and you can’t be coarse, you just have to continue to fight on…what [the violence] is reflective of is that they realize that they cannot win on the merits of their argument or debate and they – as they did in Berkley – they resort to violence and they resort to being the true fascists and trying to shut down free speech.”

After our short but enlightening interview, Colonel West made his way to the stage and I to the tables, where I then witnessed a phenomenal speech. Keep in mind, I am the weird kid who listens to famous and great speeches while I'm cooking, traveling, or getting ready. I have sat through countless speeches from students, parents, various leaders, and elected officials of all levels. The power of words fascinates me, just as how several sentences woven together with the strands of passion can redirect the course of humanity. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that this speech was one I had not seen the like of to this point.

Colonel West attended K-State, and he had an instant connection with the audience due to the simple fact that he could call the same open ranges, sunflower fields, and starry skies home. He consistently emphasized the importance of unity in the GOP and the United States in general, rather than an “us versus them” mentality. At one point in his speech, he stated, “This has to be the party that doesn’t just stand for the rich or the poor, this is the party that is for everybody. We have to make them know they have a voice with us.” He also spoke at length about the vitalness of the GOP recognizing the injustice of lumping Americans into stereotypes and numbers instead of seeing them as individuals with souls, stories, and successes. “We are the party of the individual, not the collective.” As he continued, he spoke of the future of the GOP and the potential it retains. “GOP should be known for standing for the Growth, Opportunity, and Potential of all Americans, and this is what the American Dream should be…generations pass son something better than what was before them. We must pass on something that was better than what was passed on to us.” He then addressed the importance of supporting and funding those who protect and defend the Constitution and the United States on the front lines of combat and behind the scenes in the military, so that “liberty may shine forevermore on the shores of these United States of America.” He then declared, “If we can’t understand that this is part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we will no longer be making America the victors.”

“When tyranny stares down liberty, what do we say? ‘Molon labe’.” Colonel Allen West let no room for doubt as to where he stood in the quest for continued freedom and legacy while he spoke that day in front of his fellow Kansans. What struck me most while I listened to him speak was his humility and raw, real, honest passion for his country which he had served so fiercely. Far from the typical politicians’ speech, he rarely mentioned himself or his accomplishments, of which he has no shortage of. Rather, he repeatedly declared the importance of unity, the greatness of our nation, and the potential of the future.

To find an individual who serves their country with honest ambition and the driving force of love is rare enough. To talk with one who loves his fellow countrymen and women with fierce loyalty, patriotism, and humility is even rarer. To have a conversation with someone of Colonel West’s social standing and fame who makes the time to have intentional conversation with a college student at an event and then challenge an entire state party to strive for a new level of greatness, sacrifice, and patriotism is nearly impossible.

As we go, may we reflect humility and kindness, may we speak truth and hold our brothers and sisters in our nation accountable, and may we continue to stand strong, with resolve and courage. May we stare down tyranny, and may we forever fight to allow the light of liberty to continue to shine. Starting in the heartland of the United States of America – Kansas – may we reach to all corners of our great nation to promote authenticity and a love of country, and may we do so with honest intentions and fierce passion. Thank you, Colonel West, for speaking with me, and thank you for doing what you do to continue to preserve what Ronald Reagan once called the “last best hope on earth”, the United States of America.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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We Need To Call the Waffle House Shooting What It Is: White Terrorism

Ignoring the racial and political aspects of recent shootings only treats the symptoms, not the root cause.
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In my Environmental Ethics class, we talked about the idea of a "non-place" - industrialization leading to places that are the same no matter where you go, where you know what to expect each time. You walk in and each is a carbon copy of the last.

The core idea behind making each identical is that no matter where you are, you know what you can expect. Its familiarity is its comfort – you are home, even if it's somewhere you've never been.

But the effect only stands part of the time: as we've seen recently, many public places have been the setting for mass murder.

One of the most recent shootings covered to varying degrees in the news took place at a Waffle House in Nashville. While the shooting has been covered in basic terms, objective reporting removes an integral degree of what this violence means for its victims.

Everyone involved in the Waffle House shooting was in their 20s. Everyone shot was a person of color.

The shooter had a history of supporting Trump and his ideologies, in addition to a record of both racist views and run-ins with the government.

The AR-15 that was used in the shooting was previously taken from him in one of the run-ins, though the government returned the rifle to his father with the promise that he would keep the gun from his son. He gave the gun back to his son sometime between the run-in and the shooting.

The Waffle House shooting exemplifies white privilege and white terrorism in how the shooter has been treated and how people of color, especially black people, are targeted both by civilians and by enforcement.

The shooter's bond, which was later revoked, was widely publicized in contrast with the release of rapper Meek Mill two days later, who was not given bond when he was originally arrested last year for a much lesser charge than murder.

Multiple acts of white terrorism, including the Charleston church shooting, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the Waffle House shooting, were curtailed with the perpetrator arrested and unharmed.

Cops can nonviolently restrain, but only do so when the arrestee is white.

If the person is black, they will be targeted for living. They will be targeted for golfing too slowly. They will be targeted for giving change to the poor. They will be targeted for standing in their own backyard.

Racism and police brutality go long before the past few years, but the increase is unignorably tied to the current administration.

One of the Waffle House shooter's previous government run-ins was because he wanted to meet Trump.

Multiple other recent terrorists, including the Stoneman Douglas shooter, expressed wide support for Trump and his beliefs. The president himself said he could shoot someone and get away with it.

Taurean Sanderlin, Joe Perez, DeEbony Groves and Akilah DaSilva have their names remembered with love because they victims of this tragedy.

The two injured - Shanita Waggonerand Sharita Henderson - are remembered because they survived.

James Shaw Jr., who wrestled the gun away from the shooter, is remembered as a hero, even as he was humble in the aftermath: saying in an interview, “He was going to have to work to kill me.

He is remembered as a hero because he kept more from dying, but in another situation, another non-place, he could've been the men who were arrested in Starbucks.

It doesn't even have to be a non-place.

He could be any number of names from any number of places that have been carved into remembrance for fear of forgetting what #BlackLivesMatter stands for.

Multiple articles following the Waffle House shooting have said that the main detail unknown about the event is the shooter's motives. I don't think that's something we'll ever explicitly find out, but it doesn't take a detective to see the trail.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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