The Uniforms We Wear

On February 25th of this year, in Stanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, a young, unarmed black man, was shot and killed by a member of a neighborhood watch.

This post is not about the fact that the young man was black. It is not about the fact that he was not armed, or that the neighborhood watch member was. It is, rather, about the uniform he was wearing, and how it is possible that his uniform had just as much to do with his death as did a bullet.

Please understand, I am not, in any way, shape, or form, making an excuse for the man who did the shooting. Armed citizens must learn to operate well above the fray that surrounds them. They must learn to think first, before resorting to the weapon. Above all else, they need to obey the lawful orders of the police when they are issued. From all the publish accounts, the man from the neighborhood watch was wrong in what he did and he should be punished for it.

Okay. Now, before you, Gentle Reader, decide to go off on me for being "judgmental", remember that we all wear uniforms. It is a matter of choice. That choice is what I’m writing about. The biblical and even the societal prohibitions against judgment are really more concerned with the characteristics of a person that they have no control over. It is said that you can’t chose your parents, your color, or your national origin. That’s pretty obvious. Often, people will find themselves in different situations which they have no control over either. Financial difficulties can result from factors one has little or no control over, such as the homeless, displaced families of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Even our recent economic problems have left many out on the street, due to no fault of their own. Not judging a book by it’s cover refers to such situations. Our uniforms, the uniforms we freely, of our own volition, chose to hang on our bodies however, are a completely different story.

Let’s define just what a uniform is. Uniforms are the clothing, jewelery, and cosmetic attire which we, to one extent or another, all wear. We chose the components based upon need and desire. For example, if you work in an office environment, chances are that you wear some sort of a business suit. That’s your uniform. You wear it because, it’s the acceptable form of dress for the group you are trying to appeal to, fit in with, or emulate. Perhaps, you have to dress a certain way in order to keep your job. If you work in the trades, you will wear a uniform that provides the necessary protection for your skin, eyes, ears, and head. Clothing that fits in such a manner that it keeps you from being eaten alive by a piece of machinery. If you work outside, your uniform will change to suit the changing weather conditions. If you are a soldier, your uniform helps you avoid falling victim to friendly fire. If you work on a ranch, you know why pointed-toe boots, calfskin gloves, and cowboy hats are worn. Whatever the conditions or circumstances, everyone wears a uniform. You may not necessarily like it, but, you like that weekly paycheck enough from the fast-food joint to tolerate the rule that says you have to wear that silly chicken-hat while working.

Uniforms are also how we communicate who we are, and what we are, and what our intentions might be, to people we meet in the course of our day. For instance, you know there’s no need to fear the axe-wielding man who has just kicked in your front door because, he’s wearing the uniform of a Fireman. That shadowy silhouette approaching you out of the fog, on the dark, lonely street where your car has broken down, does not inspire fear in your heart because a nearby streetlight reveals that he’s wearing the uniform of a Policeman.

Those are just two examples of the messages communicated by the uniforms we wear. They are powerful messages and we need to understand that, before we either select for ourselves ourselves, or allow our children to select, a particular uniform to wear.

Children, being ignorant of the ways of the world, are very susceptible to mass-media manipulation, ad-campaigns, and peer-pressure.

An example from my own life may be instructive. When I was in High School, one of my favorite television programs was called "Then Came Bronson", starring Michael Parks. His character, a lone, troubled, individual who, after the death of his brother, traveled around the country on the brother’s motorcycle, which he had inherited. His costume consisted of a Navy watch cap, black tee-shirt, blue denim jeans, boots, a pack of Camel cigarettes rolled-up in his sleeve, and a Harley-Davidson Sportster (although, I chose the big-twin model myself). That appealed to me and so, those things, along with the persona of the character, became my uniform. Even before, I had been somewhat of a loner and that uniform served to isolate me even more from my peers, for whom I had little, if any, use. My uniform kept those noisy, troublesome, superficial, people away from me. Conversely, most people use their uniforms to identify with and to fit in with a particular crowd. That is where the greatest danger lies for young people.

Young boys are too easily misled into believing, for instance, that gang-banger attire is "cool". The rhythm of Rap makes them feel good and the Hip-Hop look gives them a tough, arrogant appearance. Young girls likewise, are conditioned by movies & television, magazines, and older girls, into believe that outrageous or skin-tight clothing, face make-up, outlandish hair styles, body piercings, tattoos and jewelry, attire that is more befitting a prostitute than a "tween" girl, make them look pretty. Tattoos and body piercings are also becoming epidemic among high school aged kids. So many of these kids do not realize where these clothing designs came from, let alone what the piercings and tattoos really represent, not only to the subculture from which they have been appropriated, but to the rest of the world as well. Some do, but that’s a different story altogether.

Today, it has become politically incorrect to guide our children in this area. Most parents, even professing Christian parents, have been duped by Progressive propaganda that dictates they must leave their children to dress any way they desire. It’s not supposed to matter. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

It has been reported that, on the night he was killed, the young man I mentioned above, was wearing, as part of his uniform, a hooded sweatshirt, commonly called a "hoodie". Now, when you combine that item with other articles of clothing that most teenage boys wear, regardless of their family origin, you have a uniform that cries out to a vast majority of people: "gang banger", "hoodlum", "burglar", "vandal", "brawler", or "drug dealer".

We need to educate our children about this. They must be made to understand that such attire identifies them with, and will attract to them, the most base and undesirable elements of society. It will cause them to be perceived as the sort of person they are dressed like and their new-found associates will corrupt their ethics, virtue and morals.

I think that, in the dark and under the stress of the moment, the young fellow in question looked a bit like someone who might be one of the people responsible for some recent neighborhood troubles. The neighborhood watch volunteer followed the young man through the neighborhood, something he did against police directions, at some point, the two entered into an altercation and sadly, the young man was killed.

When something like this happens, you’re not suppose to be critical of the victims. It’s not supposed to be their fault. True as that may be, many times, the victim’s choice in attire should be considered as contributory negligence when it meets certain criteria. I am quite sure, from the reports I’ve read that the young man wasn’t a gang-banger or a drug dealer. I can’t believe that he would have gone out that night trying to look like any sort of criminal, either.

[Update. Apparently, someone witnessed the altercation between the two men and the young man was, according to the witness, on top of the armed man, beating him. So, one never really knows what a particular situation consists of until a complete investigation has been done.]

So why then was he wearing a uniform that indicated he was?

When young girls are kidnapped off the street and raped or murdered, why is it forbidden to assign contributory negligence to them, if it can be demonstrated that their attire was inappropriate? Why were they allowed to wear that uniform? Why did no one ever educate them concerning how men and boys are wired? Men and boys are sinners, just like the rest of us. They are wired to respond to what they SEE with their eyes. When girls push, tease, and tempt them beyond their limited ability to resist, many will lose control (because, in most cases today, self-control is neither taught nor is it practiced anymore), and the consequences are more often than not, disastrous. That doesn’t excuse the boys but, neither does it excuse the girls.

In this present situation, I find it unconscionable for a famous sport team to don the "hoodie" uniform and assume a sinister posture for a photo op, ostensibly in support of the young man’s family which inspired hundreds of others to do the same. They are going about it all the wrong way. What should be done is encourage young people to stop looking and behaving like criminals. The last thing we need is even more legitimization heaped upon a manner of dress and a style of behavior that is not necessary for any legitimate function in life. It’s a manner of dress that, I believe, contributed to this young man’s death.

Instead of trying to force society to accept any and all manner of behavior, dress or undress, regardless of how inappropriate it may be, or what sort of evil it brings to the mind of most people, why not instead, encourage our young people to attire themselves and behave in a way that is non-threatening? A way that does not cause the majority of the people to look upon them with suspicion.

For example, using the "logic" of the politically-correct crowd, I should be able to dress in a 1939-era Nazi uniform, and no one should open their mouth against it, no matter where I might go, even, if I went to a synagogue. Now, we all know that such behavior on my part, even on Halloween, just might result in me getting my backside beat to a pulp. Some things are just wrong, and everyone with a conscience knows it.

Modern, professing Christianity, has developed the most convoluted justification for adopting the attire of the world that I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, I’ve seen professing "Christian" kids who look and behave in manners that are far scarier than their lost, worldly counterparts. I’ve seen professing "Christian" adults, proudly behaving in ways that bring shame and disgrace upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the approval and encouragement of their church leaders.

Why do they do this?

Oh, it’s so they can better reach the lost world for Christ. At least, that’s their rationalization. What ever happened to being "in" the world, but not being "of" that world? What about Paul’s instruction about not bearing even the appearance of evil? From what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s just a way for some people to pretend they were something they never could have been, before they claimed the name of the Lord Jesus. It’s deception in the name of the Lord and I find it disgusting.

The lost recognize the hypocrisy of these people. In the case of, for instance, outlaw bikers, not only do they recognize the hypocrisy, they are repulsed by people who have not, in their eyes, earned the right to wear the uniform.

So, I say to the professing Christians, those upon whom this shoe fits, you need to repent. Witness to the lost? Absolutely! Just not hypocritically. If you want to witness to outlaw bikers; honestly, they will respond better to your message delivered in high water pants, button-down collars, wing-tips, and all, if that’s the real you, than to anything you say while wearing your uniform of deception. They may be a lot of things but they are not superficial people.

To those who do not believe, aside from encouraging you to consider at least hearing and considering what God has said, I would like to encourage you to take charge of your children, for their sake. Do not permit your sons to put on the uniform of the base, criminal elements of society, for it will only lead them into associating with the very people they are making an to appeal to by their attire. Do not allow your daughters to attire themselves like prostitutes. Teach them the difference between sensuality and beauty; how the former is external, while the latter comes from the inside and which one really matters and should be cultivated. Explain to them that inappropriate dress might endanger themselves and drive some man or boy to do something they would both regret. Come together with other parents and demand that the schools they attend adopt standard uniforms that are modest and appeal to mainstream society. Even if it cost a little more. Stand firmly against the permissive attitudes so prevalent today. Are your children not worth it?

The row I’ve been speaking of is very difficult to hoe. It is one I am all too familiar with. While, in my case, it could have ended-up much worse than it did, I do not consider myself to have been very successful. I felt all alone; me against the world (which it really was – the world, the flesh, and the devil,) that was conspiring against me; to destroy my family. And the world, while it didn’t win a total victory, it took way too much. I am convinced that it was God who erected a battlement which the world could not breach, my lack of faith and prayer not withstanding.

We are all concerned for the welfare of our children and whenever lives are lost to senseless violence, it affects us all. Still, when we can see the factors that contribute to these occurrences, and do nothing to change those factors, we’re failing our children. They look to us for guidance and instruction and, in spite of the Progressive propaganda of the government school to the contrary, we as parents, grandparents, family and friends, must act within the realm we have authority over. Assume our responsibility under God and take our children back from the darkness because, there is an even greater darkness, from which there is no return, into which they are in grave danger of falling.

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