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Divided We Fall: A Call to Unite the [un]United States

Author’s note: This call to unite is not:

  • An attempt to bash the United States of America. Contrarily, I proudly serve as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. My service has afforded me many opportunities that have allowed me to open my aperture and further develop my perspective.
  • An expression of some form of political affiliation. I will remain apolitical throughout the entire post.

Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

Matthew 12:25 NLT

Where we are now

I do not enjoy watching or reading the news. Instead of reporting to inform, many stories are developed to simply highlight our differences in a way that polarizes our opinions, beliefs, characteristics, and values. Recent history informs us that our country has fought to eradicate racial segregation. Even so, a more dangerous and complex form of segregation has emerged. We find ourselves segregated by race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, and more. The danger in this form of segregation lies in its covertness. It is shielded by our conscious and unconscious biases and driven by our inability or unwillingness to unite. It is time that we expose all forms of submersible segregation and work together towards achieving common goals. I envision that the road to unity requires a three-phased approach that each of us can implement into our daily affairs.

Phase 1: Community.

I believe to develop “community,” we must assemble people with diverse thoughts, behaviors, and experiences into the same physical (or virtual) area. This requires each member of the newly-assembled team to be open-minded and willing to actively listen to understand–forgoing any preconceived notions. Everyone must be willing to apply the timeless advice that transcends generations: you have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as you talk.

Phase 2: Togetherness.

Togetherness begins with establishing commonalities. This requires all parties to listen to understand vice listen to respond. Additionally, everyone should respect others’ opinions and feelings while maintaining an unwavering determination to collaboratively work towards shared goals. This does not mean we should agree on everything. Contrarily, I believe respectful disagreements based upon our varying perspectives creates a more well-rounded and thoroughly discussed solution. The differences each person brings to the team strengthens the collaborative effort unless those differences are highlighted for personal gain. Ultimately, togetherness is all about respect and ensuring that regardless of everyone’s background or beliefs, we are all working towards a common goal.

Phase 3: Unity.

Unity is the intangible bond that is developed over time from consistent collaborative efforts. It is an agreement that no matter the circumstance, our community will consistently work together towards a solution. Though some sources may attempt to persuade you otherwise and though some exist simply to cause division, unity is achievable. It requires and indestructible will and relentless focus on progression and collaboration. It requires each member of the community to think less of themselves and more about the betterment of the team as a whole.

If unity is the ultimate goal then we must uproot all forms of segregation and bias. We must not shy away from discussing the topics that divide us; for if we do, hatred, division, and segregation will continue to spread like weeds and strangle all hopes of collaboration and unity.

This weekend, we celebrate independence as a country; however, the people must become unified to maintain that independence. So as we celebrate our fight for independence, I urge you to join a new fight–the fight to unite. Remember this: it’s hard to win a battle when you view the battlefield from only your perspective, and it’s impossible to win a battle when you misidentify the enemy. The enemy is segregation, and we are better together. Let’s fight!

Take Action: Spark a conversation with someone who shares a different opinion or perspective. Learn about them and seek to understand what forms their opinion. Listen intently and ask open-ended questions only to get a better understanding. The fight to unite begins with you!

Feel free to like, share, comment, debate with me, etc. Most importantly, let’s continue the conversation!

Zeek Burse – One People
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What I learned from my recent appendectomy

Happy Saturday my friends! I hope you had an amazing week thus far and your weekend is even greater! My weekend? Let’s just say it has had a unique start. I underwent an appendectomy!

I was chuckling during this pre-operation selfie. I told the surgical team, “thanks for protecting my beautiful head full of hair.” (I’m nearly bald for those who didn’t know.)

No matter how big or small, I always try to find a lesson in each of life’s circumstances. So what could I have possibly learned from an appendectomy? Well, the first thing I learned is that seeing a medical professional early on can make a huge difference. This was the first time in my life that I did not attempt to “tough it out.” The medical professionals were able to fix the issue in the early stages (before the infection in my appendix worsened and rupturing became a threat). But there was a larger life lesson.

The life lesson: We must quickly address life’s hurts and pains.

Let’s backtrack for a second: I woke up this past Thursday feeling normal. I went through my morning routine and showed up at the gym at 6 am for my one hour Yoga session. Such a relaxing start to the day ☺️. As the morning progressed, I began to feel a small pain/discomfort in my stomach. I initially thought it was nothing more than gas (sorry if that is TMI 😬), but I wasn’t so sure anymore by the time I arrived at work. It was getting worse throughout the day, but I was reluctant to express this feeling to my peers. After all, they probably already assumed it was COVID, so I did not want to cause alarm. There was no hiding it, because I am always jovial; striving to be the one to bring brightness to the room. Contrarily, I was quiet, withdrawn, and exhausted. One of my colleagues even said, “Are you ok?…You look like you are really hurting.”

Luckily, I was responsible for picking my son up from school that day, so I had an excuse to leave early. When I made it home, I laid on the couch and slept. I tossed. I turned. I tried lying upside down. I took Tums… Anything to relieve what I thought was simply “trapped gas.” That evening, I told my wife the words that let her know I was actually in pain, “I am going to the doctor in the morning to see what is wrong.” She knows I HATE hospitals, so she knew it must have been serious.

I arrived at the hospital Friday morning, still playing the tough guy role. I imagined they would hand me something to quickly relieve the pressure in my stomach and allow me to go home. At this point, I just wanted to “rule out appendicitis.” I mean seriously, my phone was on 40%, and I left my charger in my vehicle; I just knew this visit would be short! I was wrong.

After reviewing the Computed tomography (CT) scan, the surgical team came into the room to confirm I had appendicitis (a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus, causing pain. Source: Mayo Clinic). Thankfully, I sought help early enough to avoid a rupture. The surgical team presented me with two options:

1. Take antibiotics to “hopefully” reduce the inflammation.

2. Remove the appendix to eliminate the chance of reinfection.

I chose the latter, and the rest is history.

Why did I share that entire story?

I was able to identify several parallels between my life and my recent experience.

1. Pain is an indication of something more serious. Sometimes we become so accustomed to emotional hurt and pain that we ignore it. We consider ourselves “lone wolves.” We “tough it out” because we do not want to look weak. We mask our pain. We pretend we are ok. We attempt to become numb to the pain. We ignore it in hopes that it will go away. The downside is it does not go away; it just intensifies. Then, we find ourselves attempting to treat the symptoms with things that may cause the pain to temporarily subside only to find that the pain only increases–requiring more temporary treatment measures. We focus more on covering/treating the pain than identifying the root cause.

2. Though they can see straight through our ruse, we attempt to hide our pain from others. I knew I needed to bounce back after the first time my colleague asked, “are you ok?” So I ran to the store and grabbed tums and ginger ale. After about 30 minutes I said, “I feel much better after my Tums, ginger ale, and [lightly salted] veggie chips!” I said it in such a way that I even started to believe it. I told an occasional joke or two to throw him off. Meanwhile, the pain was worsening, and he wasn’t fooled. How often do we do this? Instead of admitting we are in pain and seeking help (or allowing others to help), we attempt to hide it. “I’ll be ok.” “I was built for this!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body, right?” Those are just a few of my go-to quotes. What are yours? Regardless, no one is falling for it anyway, so why not just get the help we need?

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.

J.K. Rowling

3. I got the help I needed. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I challenged myself to do something different this time. I decided I would get help instead of self-medicating. I am so glad I did. The surgical team informed me that my case was worse than they originally assessed via CT scan. Meaning, had I not gotten it taken care of, I risked rupturing my appendix (potentially fatal). We should normalize seeking professional help. Attempting to self-medicate our problems tend to make things worse. I learned this from previous injuries, and I am encouraging you to do the same. Do not try to do this on your own. Stop trying to hide or mask the pain and get the help you need to remove the root cause. Which moves to my last point:

4. You must address the root cause. When the surgical team presented me with options, I felt the answer was obvious. To me, Option A was: The surgical team would immediately treat the symptoms in hopes that the problem would not resurface. Option B was: The surgical team would remove the root cause which will immediately hurt more but has a greater chance of preventing future pain (reinfection). I chose the latter because that option addressed the root cause–my infected appendix. Simply reducing inflammation would have led to temporary relief. Chances are I would have returned to the hospital with the same pain in the future. So yes, I exposed myself to risks and pain associated with surgical removal, but in the long term, I do not have to worry about my appendix becoming reinfected… Because it is gone. Addressing the root of the pain was the right answer for me, and I believe it is the right answer for all of us. Healing and recovery may hurt and take time, but I will confidently endure knowing I made the best long-term decision for my health.

I know facing hurt and pain is a challenge for all of us. It can be scary and make feel vulnerable and weak. However, we must address the root cause of our pains if we want to live a healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Today is your day. This is your sign. Allow me to be your friend today who is pointing you towards seeking help. We can do this together. I believe in you!

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling author

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