20 Years Later

To honor those who died or were directly impacted by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I’ve started reading The Only Plane in the Sky, an oral history of the day compiled by Garrett Graff.

The events of that day changed our country (and the world, but I’m less familiar with that) forever, but what I like to focus on when reflecting on 9/11 isn’t the global political ramifications or how that day changed the Bush administration or raised up Rudy Giuliani’s name awareness, but the actions of regular people.

First responders noted that civilians were directing traffic in lower Manhattan to help clear the roads for them to get to the Towers.

Another was the story of the evacuation of John Abruzzo. John is a quadriplegic who uses an electric wheelchair. A number of men—I think I read eight or so—took shifts in four-man teams to help carry John down in his evacuation chair from the 69th floor. It took 90 minutes. Those men could have ran away, leaving John to fend for himself or only with one or two people to help (the chair was designed to only need one person to assist). They didn’t. They stayed and worked to ensure he could reach safety despite putting themselves at risk longer.

The passengers on Flight 93 are well-known. When they realized that they were the fourth plane hijacked, the other three had hit the WTC and Pentagon, and they were heading back toward Washington DC, they fought back forcing the terrorists to crash into an empty field, aborting their attack on the Capitol.

There are countless other stories like this. Regular folks in various ways stepped up to help. Not because they were trained to do it nor paid to do it. But because we’re people and people help each other. We take care of each other.

2020 and 2021 have been hard years, not in a small part because it feels like we’ve lost some (a lot?) of that willingness to subject ourselves to each other, to be in service.

Statement on SB 8

The 87th Legislature passed Senate Bill 8, the so-called “Texas Heartbeat Act”. I find myself in a torn state regarding this bill.

First, I sincerely believe in the sacredness of the whole human life—the “whole life movement” is a fair bucket that I fit into. On that front, reducing abortion is a good thing.

Second, that being said and in accordance with looking holistically at the whole life, Texas still supports capital punishment, will not expand Medicaid access, does not support working parents through family-leave, maternity/paternity policies, and is actively pushing COVID policies that are opposed to the common good. (Though, to be fair, they did expand Medicaid to new months from 60-days postpartum to a full six months in this session). SB 8 places restrictions on abortions without address any of the societal structures that promote abortion. The CDC has incomplete-yet-best-we-have data on abortions that detail the self-reported reasons women have sought an abortion. By restricting access to abortion without addressing the structure that puts women into difficult situations, we are increasing back-alley abortions.

Without breaching confidentiality, from my campus ministry days, I realize the fear, pressure, and panic that can occur with an unexpected pregnancy.

While I believe the world would be better without abortions, I want a world where children are celebrated, women are supported, men are responsible, those that need financial or material help get it—that’s a world where abortion makes a lot less sense. I reject the hypocrisy of those who fly a pro-life banner, yet reject attempts to create stronger societal structures to support humanity.

Lastly, I object to the enforcement mechanism in the bill. It is a novel idea—trying to provide enough cover to avoid the Supreme Court—where the State has no enforcement power. There’s no crime or criminal process. Only a civil process and the State or officers of the State are prohibited from executing it. This allows anyone to sue anyone as the way to enforce this. I think this is a dangerous can of worms.

If anything I’ve seen in the last couple of years is I do not trust nor want the general population of people to attempt to enforce things themselves. Between neighbors fighting neighbors over HOA rules to a few men chasing down a Black man and killing him because they thought he was up to no good, I do not foresee anything healthy, productive, or good to society coming about through this mechanism.

I hope efforts like “Pro-Life Whistleblowers” stop. I figure they have a lot of poor data after efforts like the TikTok creator who created an iOS shortcut to fill in random information.

I realize this position makes me too conservative for most of my non-church friends and makes me too liberal for a lot of my church friends. I share this primarily to present a different perspective than the general conservative or general liberal views that I’ve been seeing thus far.

Happy Birthday, O!

My eldest turns 12 years old today. I don’t feel like I’m old enough to be married almost 13 years with a 12-year-old, but here we are.

As she continues her path toward more independence, I find new joys in parenthood. As much fun as having my two-year-old wanting to play “tackle Daddy” for an hour straight where, as you can guess, I sit on the ground, then she runs and tackles me. Over and over and over. Having a 12-year-old where we sneak a stop at Starbucks for a coffee and a hot chocolate is a special experience too. Though, I sneak stops into Starbucks with my two-year-old, though she calls it Starbooks and I just get her an empty venti hot cup since her water cup fits perfectly inside of it.

I digress.

Happy birthday, O. 12 years ago today, you transformed a newlywed couple into a family. Thanks for keeping life interesting and for forgiving us for figuring everything out on you.

Juneteenth

As a white person, I’m so glad that Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. I want to address one of the only 14 members of the House (all GOP) who opposed it.

This is not at all replacing the Fourth of July. Not in the slightest. Juneteenth is one of the brighter moments in our history because it is when we celebrate that, as a country, we are able to correct a wrong. Slavery was deep-seeded. It was (wrongly) celebrated. It was the commercial backbone of half the country. Juneteenth is us celebrating that our country is an experiment, which means we must change direction when things aren’t right.

Yes, to celebrate this moment of correction demands us to remember and recall that for hundreds of years as colonies and as a country, we captured and enslaved hundreds of the thousands of people and shipped them to our shores. This same effort captured and enslaved around 12 million people. 12 MILLION! Not all went to the United States, but their labor absolutely contributed to our economic systems. We enslaved their children resulting in millions and millions of people enslaved in the “land of the free”.

As Marco puts it, slavery isn’t a dark moment in America, slavery was a dark era in America.

How can I celebrate the Fourth of July without acknowledging that our country isn’t perfect? It’s a sham if we pretend America’s democracy somehow insulates us from being wrong. By acknowledging the evil past and transformation away from it through the celebration of Juneteenth, it enhances the celebration of the Fourth of July that our country, founded on ideals not realized then and still not fully realized today, is able to become something better than we were founded, something better than enslaving people, something better than Jim Crow laws, something better than systematic racism.

The Fourth of July and Juneteenth are not in competition with each other. Juneteenth celebrates when, for the first time, the Fourth of July applied to enslaved people. The Fourth of July celebrates that we can have our Juneteenth moments when we’re open and honest about what’s wrong in our country because We The People are this country.

The 1776 Project or the 1836 Project—these attempts to pretend that America (or Texas) are great and glorious places beyond reproach is absolutely not American. By ignoring or whitewashing our history, we are preventing ourselves from critical examination of both what works in our country and what does not work in our country. Without that critical examination, we’ll never have future Juneteenth moments of correcting wrongs because we’ll be too ignorant to accept reality.

Austin Downtown Shooting

Last night/early this morning, there was a shooting in Downtown Austin along 6th Street.

The latest I’ve heard indicates the shooter(s) are still at large and there’s not a lot or publicly known information.

At this time, I keep those injured in my prayers for a quick and full recovery. I also remember the first responders, particularly the police officers who provided first aid and transported many of the injured in their patrol cars due to the crowd slowing EMS response.

As this is about all we know, I don’t want to get into any discussion or debate about politics around this. Is this event a sign of needed gun regulation? Is this a sign that the City Council’s police reform/defunding efforts are harming safety?

In terms of this event, we don’t know any of that yet. Let’s learn what actually happened, then talk about what’s needed.

WordPress Adds Emoji 13.1 Support

In WordPress 5.8, currently in beta and launching for everyone in July, adds support for Emoji 13.1!

As a quick refresher, WordPress has a built-in emoji support detection system in place that checks to see if your site visitor’s browser can support the latest emoji. If they are not able to see the latest emoji, we will automatically replace emoji characters with emoji images.

This allows authors to use any emoji character they wish and ensure that everyone can see them. Without this, site visitors would see those little boxes with an X or instead of seeing a transformed emoji (like an female astronaut, they would see an astronaut with the female symbol next to it… which isn’t great).

What’s in Emoji 13.1? Check out Emojipedia’s rundown of 13.1’s changes for Twemoji—the Twitter emoji design that we use within WordPress.

Some of the hightlights include being able to express bending a broken heart ❤️‍🩹 or show off your heart is aflame ❤️‍🔥 (also perfect for talking about the Sacred Heart, heh). Want to stay a little hidden in the clouds? Me too. 😶‍🌫️

The bearded person emoji now supports a whole range of gender, skin tone, and hair color. Lastly, the couple and kiss combination emoji have a wide range of options now with various skin tones, genders. Before, there were pretty limited options so you couldn’t really express a couple or kiss that matched you unless you happened to fit one of existing combinations. Now, I can send my wife an emoji that better displays us 👩🏽‍❤️‍👨🏻

WordPress’ goal is to enable you to express yourself however you wish, including through emoji without making you feel lightheaded 😵‍💫!