bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Monday, November 28, 2016


I would like to confess a burning prejudice of mine. It is the type of thing that I developed on my own. It is not a hand-me-down opinion. It is not a well-researched belief. It is not something I’ve spent a great deal of time understanding as I’ve formulated this uncompromising conviction. I make no apologies for this prejudice and I do not intend to discuss the matter further in an attempt to breach the divide between those that would have me understand their contrasting stance on the matter. My heels are dug in, and I accept the fact that even if I’m wrong about this opinion in the “big picture” sense, I stand firmly on my conviction of the matter.

“Hi, my name is Bonar Crump and I despise the Rebel flag.”

Other than the swastika no icon gives me more pause or prompts a greater revulsion than the Rebel flag. I haven’t always felt this way about the flag. I was a huge Dukes of Hazzard fan in the early eighties. I’m pretty sure I had the lunch box and everything. Back then if I saw a rebel flag I would only think “Daisy Duke.” It didn’t even make me think of the car. It took me to a whole different place of visualizing Catherine Bach in a pair of abbreviated jean shorts and a tied off shirt revealing her sexy midriff. What can I say? I was a 14 year old boy in 1982. But I digress…

I grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks." In the different towns that we lived growing up, I was usually the only white kid within a 3 block radius. Honestly, at certain points of my life I was ashamed of being white. Not in a sense that I was ashamed of the atrocities propagated on slaves by my forbearers. I simply mean that I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like my best friends who were all Hispanic. They had both their parents. I did not. They ate dinner around the table every evening. I did not. They spoke a cool second language. I did not. To be blunt about the matter, I was raised so “white trash” by a habitually drug addicted mother that most of those Hispanic families in our neighborhoods felt sorry for me. They fed me when no food was available at home. My friends’ moms gave me hand-me-down clothes to wear. They cut my hair for me if I was hanging around their houses on a Saturday when all the kids were getting their monthly barbering done. I was the de facto charity case no matter where I lived.

So much of my youth was spent learning what daily family life looked like from brown skinned surrogate families that when we moved into a fully white neighborhood in SW Oklahoma for the first time I spent every day riding my bike 2.5 miles round trip to the other side of town to hang out with kids I was more comfortable with. And when I say “other side of town” I literally mean that all white folk lived on the East side of the tracks and all people of color lived on the West side of the tracks. I am not making this up. This was a small rural town in Oklahoma that boasted “the first legal hanging after statehood” and proudly displays the "hangin'est rope in Oklahoma" in their tiny local museum. That rope was reported to have been used in 30 legal hangings until the electric chair came into use in 1915. The inference is that there were other hangings not quite so “legal” that took place there. Whether with that particular rope or not is a matter of debate.

I got a good lesson in being shunned by families of my brown-skinned school friends because in a small rural farming town like this one everyone wanted to know what the skinny white boy was doing on “their” side of town. Some folks wouldn’t allow me into their yard for fear that if I got hurt on their property they’d get in a heap of trouble. When you’re in 7th grade none of this makes any sense. When you’re 12 and a grownup picks you out of a group of 10 and hollers at you to get out of their yard, you run like hell. And when you’ve run like hell a few dozen times you start to get the picture that you, the white boy, are not welcome on “their” side of the tracks. It’s an unsophisticated resolution to a sophisticated social problem. Mixing of races in many Southern towns in the late 70s/early 80s was intolerable because social norms and cultural biases take generations to dissolve. But, again, I was twelve and I just thought that I never seemed to belong.

Then came a time when I began to notice that my Hispanic friends and their families REALLY did not like my black friends and their families. My experience growing up was that browns and blacks were far more openly prejudice towards one another than any of the whites that I knew. I think I was always aware of the social tension, but it never made any sense to me. I was always considered a smart kid, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I developed the kind of social savvy necessary to articulate the racial incongruities and injustices I’d experienced during my youth in towns all over Texas and Oklahoma. I had grown up socially, racially, and socioeconomically ambivalent. I just wanted other kids to play with. I didn’t give two shits about what color they were. I just wanted to be part of a group.

I said all that to say this: I’m about as racially divergent in my values and beliefs as a man can get growing up in the state of Texas. That being said, I will not tolerate any racially prejudicial sayings, jokes, innuendoes, or provocations. I may not verbally confront the individual spewing such intolerable poison from their pie-hole, but I certainly will not smile politely or offer any physical sign of something less than disgust. I loathe racial epithets regardless of context or subjective intention. To put it plainly, I’d rather lose a friendship or shun a family member than tolerate that person’s devaluing of another.

To me, the Rebel Flag represents racial discrimination. It is an icon that I’ve come to recognize as a middle finger to the liberation of slaves and desegregation of public schools. It imbues to me a sense of hatred, malice, and racial superiority that I find entirely repulsive. However, I do, in fact, recognize that it’s not my place to project my disgust for this symbol onto others. I understand that there are many other people that I respect highly who will argue a meaning of this flag much more benign than what I’ve chosen to believe. Their belief that this flag has nothing at all to do with racial discrimination is insulting and disingenuous to me. However, I do recognize that I am not the final say on the matter. I don’t get to write the final definition of what it means to the world to wear a shirt, fly a banner, or proudly display a tattoo of this flag. It is repugnant to ME. All that means is that I won’t display the thing. It does NOT mean that I have to indict every person I come into contact with that is a Rebel flag apologist.

If you want to paint a Rebel flag on the door of your car, have at it. It would never occur to me that you SHOULDN’T have the right to paint whatever the fuck you want on YOUR car. And I’d be offended if I heard someone debasing your freedom to choose such a decoration. You have a right to that flag. None of us have a right to DEVALUE YOU.  As a matter of fact, I’ll guarantee to give you every benefit of the doubt and keep any opinions I have on the matter to myself. It’s a respect thing. I respect your beliefs whether I agree with them or not. In return, I ask that you respect my beliefs as well.

If you want to hang a Rebel flag in your restaurant I will respect you’re right to do so, but I probably won’t be spending my money in your establishment. It’s your right to fly those colors. Likewise, it’s my right to withhold my business because of what those colors represent to me. However, I’m not going to protest outside your establishment. I’m not going to petition for the removal of your flag. I’m just going to keep my opinions on the matter to myself and spend my money elsewhere.

I realize that empirically speaking a Rebel flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth with three colors on it in a specific set of patterns and shapes. That’s really all it is…nothing more and nothing less. Its representative meaning, however, is extremely subjective. It’s not like a red light at an intersection. We have to all agree that when the light turns red it means for us to STOP. Without that kind of universal understanding a lot of people get hurt. The flag thing is different because it’s entirely subjective by its very nature. We don’t all have to have one very specific universal understanding of what that rectangular piece of cloth represents. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


“Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts." 
~ E. B. White 


May28, 2015 (Writings from Inside Jack Harwell Detention Center, Cell # J-136):

It is compliance and conformity that they want. Diversity breeds annoyance and fear in the minds of
the assimilated. It’s much easier to judge the group as a whole based on the singular actions of
individual members than to allow for the anomalous deviant behavior of a few without impugning the entire set.

There was a time in our world’s history that Jews were gathered up into railcars for transport to
death camps. The Jewish beliefs and heritage were deemed to be abhorrent to those in power at the
time. At best, Jews were removed from their families and homes to live in prisons akin to a feedlot. At worst, their fate ended inside giant ovens designed for systematic genocide.

Dare we consider the comparison of Jewish murder during the Holocaust, Japanese internment 
camps in the U.S., and the mass slaughter of freemen at the Alamo by Mexican soldiers to the plight of the American biker? 

It has to be more about respecting one another’s contrasting beliefs and lifestyles than forcing
compliance and conformity. It has to be about extending grace and dignity if trust is to form the
cornerstones of better relationships led by diplomacy and integrity. We cannot dictate or demand a
complete solidarity of belief and action in a constitutional society which loves to speak loftily of the
freedom to choose and the right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. We must, instead, “secure the blessings of liberty” through the non-militaristic promotion of peaceful diversity. It is hard work.

Let the Muslim bow toward Mecca. Let the Jew worship at synagogue. Let the Christian celebrate
resurrection. And let the American biker pray to the wind and sun without fear of imprisonment or
seizure because of a lifestyle and worldview that colors outside the lines of normality.

Where there is criminal behavior we must insist on individual accountability. However, to indict an
entire lifestyle, belief system, or community based on the actions of a few is tantamount to a Stalinist

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Empathy and Anxiety

My anxiety levels are through the roof. I’m experiencing empathy overload. Life isn’t always as straight-forward as we’d like it to be for those of us carrying heavy burdens for people dealing with adversity, hardship, or injustice. Empathic tolerance is a thing. It’s a thing that allows open-hearted folks to endure the chaos they rub up against. Empathic tolerance requires healthy levels of empathic resistance in order to avoid overload and subsequent empathic collapse.

Tears help. There’s something about tears that are restorative. Crying is a “giving over” to the overload and allowing excess hurt, anger, grief, and despair to spill out.

I was recently interviewed about discipleship relevant to membership in a Motorcycle Club community. I told a story about a guy falling in a hole. The guy falls into a deep hole and can’t climb out. A doctor comes by and our guy asks for help. The doctor writes a prescription on a piece of paper and throws it into the hole as he moves on. A priest comes by later and writes a prayer on a piece of paper which he throws down into the hole and moves on. Still later, a friend wanders by. Our guy hollers up to him. “Joe, I’m down in this hole. Can you get me out?” Joe jumps down into the hole with him. Our guy states with amazement, “are you stupid? Now we’re both stuck down here!” Joe confidently answers, “I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” As soon as I uttered these last words, I developed a knot in my throat the size of a bowling ball, dropped my eyes to my boots, and began to fight back tears.

I wasn’t embarrassed by this show of emotion. As a matter of fact, I was a little disappointed that the editors of the interview cut it out. Although, I fully understand why they did.

Getting choked up wasn’t all about sorrow. Some of it was about gratefulness. Some of it was about feeling helpless. Some of it was about sensing my own undeservingness. Much of it was about my lack of empathetic resistance.

Every time I engage another charitable effort I’m exposed to new levels of need. At what point does one succumb to the urge to “Van Gogh” by chopping off one’s own ear? If not the ear, then what? Maybe abusing alcohol is the severed ear. Maybe it’s marital strife. What if the ear loss manifests itself as combative behavior to those who dismiss our empathic priorities. I’m sure that we all “Van Gogh” to the beat of a million different drummers.

I have the sense that unchecked levels of empathic overload resulting in a backup of emotional stress often trigger the pressure release valves of destructive behavior. Most of us will seek emotional, physical, or intellectual sedation rather than engage an excessive emotional buildup of stress. We’ll do anything within our power to hold off the full experience of an undesirable emotional event.

I believe that the vast majority of “bad people” are those caught up in cycles of life resembling a deep hole with steep walls. They are deep in the hole and may have stopped asking folks up top for help. They’ve been in the hole so long that they’re either unaware of anything other than the hole or they’ve lost hope in every getting out.

We have to jump down into the hole. Oftentimes, we have to put ourselves in jeopardy in order to be benefactors. Our empathy should compel us to engage, embrace, and partner with folks living down deep. Compassion is our voice of empathy declaring that “bad” people are mostly misunderstood. The disadvantaged aren’t “bad.” The unhealthy aren’t “bad.” The misguided aren’t “bad.” The uneducated aren’t “bad.” There is no THEM. There is only US.

There is US in the hole. There is US not in the hole. That’s it.

My spontaneous loss of emotional control during the interview was both a remembrance and a foreshadowing. I was remembering all those that have jumped in the hole and led me out. I was thinking about all of those that I needed to help out of their holes. I was experiencing an overwhelming sense of humility. And within that same nanosecond, I recognized the faces of loved ones that I could only offer notes of encouragement thrown down into their hole.

And then it was gone. The moment that forced me to stare straight down lifted. It was like it had a four breath max and then passed through me. I looked up to see the cameraman fighting back tears. Likewise, the interviewer was struggling to maintain composure. It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t even about me or my empathy overload. Something had released in all of us.

After unhooking my mic and taking down the tripod, we all awkwardly laughed and shook it off. I didn’t know what holes they were dealing with. They didn’t know the depth of my past or present holes. What we knew collectively was that honest vulnerability (whether intentional or spontaneous) triggers something undeniably transformative.

I recognize that creating connections safe enough to share vulnerability gets us part of the way out of our holes. I’m thinking that there’s hope in the safety followed by a trust in the vulnerability which set the stage for transformative moments. This has to be the way out. This has to be how we cry out to someone up top for help.

OR—we can barricade ourselves behind a wall of indifference. We can convince ourselves that isolation and aversion will keep us safe. We can think of vulnerability as weakness and empathy as subjugation. We can drive a flag deep into the soil and claim whatever hole we’re in as sovereign domain. The problem with this approach is that it’s not transformative. It offers no movement past or through the struggles we experience.

If I declare my location as fixed then it’s imperative that I’m RIGHT. And if I’m RIGHT then alternative locations are WRONG. Now I’ve got an US, a THEM, an immutable creed, and I no longer have to wrestle with challenges to my beliefs. A fixed position requires defense. Defense begs for walls. Walls prevent access. Walls provide a false sense of security. Walls abhor cooperation.

No. I will endure the insufferable anxiety and discomfort of empathy. I’ll embrace the uncertainty of emotional movement and transformation. I’ll embrace motion and discussion and compassion and cooperation. For the sake of nothing more than understanding, I’ll risk being wrong more than I’ll strive to be right. Enlightenment demands a posture of acceptance instead of resistance.

My anxiety levels are through the roof. But this, too, shall pass. On the other side is learning, understanding, and a grateful path of escape for us all. Because whatever we Iearn during this season we’ll pass on to others we come across. As best as we’re able, we’ll help. We’ll offer to partner and grasp at transformative life void of walls or defensive postures. If it takes some tears, so be it. It will certainly involve struggle and breathing through the moments that overwhelm.

AND—it’ll be far better than the alternative.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Some of What We Do

October 2-10, 2016
Book Tour (2,500 miles)
Fundraising Ride
$78K+ Raised for Boot Campaign