“Striving for a better world by adopting secular values that promote a strong sense of moral ownership with a focus on human dignity and respect and having the courage to embrace reason, critical thinking, and science as the keys to knowledge and empowerment. These are the core principles that we wish to pass on to our children for a promising future, and to serve as a defense against religious dogma and intolerance.”

Allison & Rich- A Couple of Atheists

Posts written by Allison are more personal in nature, as she loves to get out there and interact with the public. Rich’s thoughts are much more intense and sure to make you think… no matter which you prefer, there is something for everyone.

Excuse me for (pre) existing…

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On November 2, 1983 I was born…with my first pre-existing condition. You see just like many babies I was born with a heart murmur. My particular condition is an atrial septal defect (ASD) aka a hole in my heart. I have been fortunate that my ASD has never caused major complications, I have also been fortunate to have continuous health care throughout my life to make sure that it wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately this is not my only medical problem. It was April 9, 1993 that I had my first grand-mal seizure and received the diagnosis of Epilepsy. This diagnosis had a much greater impact on my life than the ASD. I have always said that I am only alive today because my father, a (retired) steel worker and union man, was able to provide amazing health insurance that gave me access to the best doctors and any treatment they saw fit. Over the course of the past 23 years I have been on 7 different medications, had extensive testing including a week long stay in the hospital where I was monitored by video and EEG to see what my surgical options would be. I also ended up having surgery in 2007 where the doctors gave me a VNS (vagus nerve stimulator) implant. Without health insurance that VNS  implant would cost roughly 20,000. This means that it would not have been an option for me and realistically would not be an option for most people. My prescription costs alone would be unafforable if not for my health insurance. The medications typically used for seizure control are not the type that show up on a free or low cost list. The two medications I take daily for my seizures would come to roughly 500 per month, which in our family is a significant amount. I have one daughter and 2 stepsons, all 3 have healthcare which we are happy to provide. A parents worst fear is that we could, like many people, fall on hard times and lose those benefits. God forbid life would hit you hard and you’d need a hand. The current president thinks you don’t deserve one, but I believe that health care is a right not a privilege… we all deserve to live.

I know what Trumpcare supporters will say. Since I already have insurance none of this applies to me. Well yeah maybe not right now, but what about in the future? More importantly what about all of the people who have situations similar to mine or much much worse that are struggling to stay alive. You see unlike my conservative counterparts I care about other people. I do not see my fellow Americans as disposable. I believe that whether they were born with their condition or developed it later they deserve full coverage. No one should have to worry about dying because they cannot afford to live. Some people in this country are so wealthy that they couldn’t even imagine what it feels like to choose between medication and the electric bill. They will never know the feeling of having to reject the recommended treatment because the cost is just to high. President Obama developed the ACA because he wanted America to thrive, President Trump is pushing for a plan that he probably hasnt even read, just because he wants his name out there…damn the consequence.

I don’t know when our country reached this point but we are not the strong nation we once were. America is only as strong as the citizens who inhabit the country and if our elected officials don’t care if the citizens live or die, why should others see us as anything but weak.  I hope that once again Trumpcare is rejected and that we don’t let this sneak past. This issue is far too important to be rushed, the Republican party knows this because they said it when the ACA was being developed. I will not sit by quietly while our government uses our lives as their tool for negotiating tax cuts. There is a compromise somewhere, a way to provide healthcare at a reasonable cost while still protecting the people who need it the most… but it is going to take hard work, dedication and compassion… let us “pray” that they won’t actually just let us die.

“that Atheist nut-job” aka my friend Marie

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So this past week FFRF, the constitution and my friend Marie all had a great victory. A huge monument of the ten commandments will be removed from the grounds of a public school right here in Pittsburgh. It seems like this should be an open and shut case. The monument violates the separation of church and state and therefore it has to go. It can literally be anywhere that isn’t owned by the government, the possibilities are endless! Still though, the locals are treating it more like the death of a dear friend and with that much anger has been released. Though I found it disturbing I cannot say that I was surprised to read all of the nasty comments people were making on social media. When given the chance to hide behind a screen people tend to let their inner demons out. On the other hand I was surprised when I was sitting at my desk at work and a co-worker said “Hey did you hear about that Atheist nut-job that got the monument destroyed? What is wrong with people!”. Without even thinking I responded “Yes I did, that’s my friend Marie”. When I said I was friends with the her you could hear a pin drop… so I quickly went into damage control. I immediately corrected her to say that she did not have it destroyed, but rather moved to an acceptable location. After that was cleared up I started talking who Marie is as a person and that she is more than just the Atheist who moved the monument. I went into the fact that she was not the one in the wrong here. The people who erected the monument in the first place were the ones that caused the problem. Someone should have been aware back then that this was a clear violation, they were wrong and now they have been corrected, end of story.

Then came a question that I have heard many times in cases like this “but why did she care, how was it hurting her?”. I explained that though it may seem like an innocent monument allowing violations such as this to slip through the cracks opens the door for bigger issues down the line. If suddenly Marie’s daughter was asked to say a prayer alongside the pledge of allegiance we’d be livid and rightly so… then the school district would try to say “but look the ten commandments are right there, clearly you knew God was part of our agenda”. One small oversight can make way for calamity and that is why it is our duty as citizens to make sure our rights are protected. People seem to have a disconnect between what the monument stands for and the monument itself. Clearly the issue isn’t that it is a large gaudy piece of marble, the issue is that it is promoting Christianity and we cannot allow children to be marginalized in this way.

Another person asked me “What kind of example are we teaching our children? It’s okay to take someone’s stuff away just because you don’t like it!”. No, absolutely not. As stated above this piece of radical rock has the right to be displayed anywhere that isn’t government property and no one can say a damn thing. The example we are setting for the kids is that when someone is doing something that is wrong, even if it makes them happy, it is best to enforce the law.  In a Fox news report Todd Starnes said “the school district had an opportunity to teach kids how to defend their constitutional rights to stand up and do the right thing… instead they threw in the towel”. This my friends is exactly why this case had to happen. If this is what he believes than I  am not sure why Starnes isn’t praising Marie because she sent the exact message he felt was so important. I agree that it  is an amazing lesson to teach the children, thankfully Marie was there to do it as the school district certainly wasn’t up for the challenge. Our children need to know that they are safe going to school. That they will be taught facts that will aid them in their lives and that they are not at risk of indoctrination just by stepping onto the property. Whether they realize it or not all of the Christians that are angry about moving the monument should be praising Marie… separation of church and state may not mean much when you are part of the (perceived) majority… but if you would just take a moment and  put yourself in her shoes you would see how important it really is.

 

Christmas after death…

Typically at Christmas I write a post about the “war on Christmas” or why I choose to celebrate despite being an Atheist… I will write about traditions and how important they are to me. This year I can’t seem to do it. This year was different. This year I lost my baby.

I have had no motivation to celebrate since the loss of my pregnancy. Four holidays that I enjoyed each year for 32 years didn’t make it to 33… not Halloween, not my birthday, not Thanksgiving and now not even Christmas.

I watch friends that have suffered loss finding comfort in their religion and just for a moment I wish I could also believe that everything was okay. They are confident their child is in a better place. They know the plan God had was for their child to sit beside him, to watch over them, to help others get through life. Their child was actually divine and therefore they are blessed to have received this gift.

As a nonbeliever I don’t have that. I know that what happened was inevitable, not because God needed my child but because genetics failed me. A chromosome abnormality made it so my child was never going to survive, even if I had carried to term. I know my child is gone and I will never see them again.  So what now?

I have actually had someone question if this is really that upsetting. It is. I have had people say it gets easier. I am sure it does… but not this Christmas. Something about the holiday season seems to make people more sentimental. Personally I find myself reminiscing of a simpler time. A time of innocence. When the older generations shouldered the stress and the burden and everything looked just fine to me. Maybe ignorance really is bliss… that would certainly explain the comfort my friends are able to feel. Due to their religion they are trapped in the mindset of a child. Instead of growing to shoulder the burden that was once held by older generations they can circumvent it by passing the buck to God. Sometimes I have to wonder which of us is the lucky one. A line from the dreadful remake of “Miracle on 34th street” springs to mind… “What’s better? A lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear?”. In my heart I know that for better or worse it is always best face reality and find a rational way to deal with the situation… but that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

The first Christmas without my pappy broke my heart, the first without my grandma felt that much worse but somehow this one tops them all. I don’t care if anyone understands my pain, I felt my baby inside me, I saw the life we created and that life was lost. I wish there was an easy explanation of how to handle Christmas after a death but there isn’t. For now I will continue to lean on those that love me and look towards the future. I will focus on the positive aspects of my life, for in the grand scheme of things I am incredibly fortunate. This particular year was quite trying, but  it has to get better at some point… right?

 

Abortion may not be what you think it is…

 

It is election day in the United States. For the record, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about the plethora of reasons why… but I am not going to. One issue and one issue alone is enough to keep my vote strong and that issue is abortion.

Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign using scare tactics such as graphic descriptions of 3rd trimester abortions, making up scenarios that do not exist in the ob/gyn field, threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and of course spewing inflated statistics to make it seem that getting an abortion is just a walk in the park.

While I have always been pro-choice, I never realized what it would feel like to have to say goodbye to the baby inside you and sign the papers authorizing an abortion. Now to be clear, as was described in a previous post, I did not voluntarily get an abortion, I miscarried at 12 weeks. However, due to a technicality in our ever so flawed health care system, in order for my insurance to pay for the procedure I had to sign papers authorizing an abortion. I was already weeping from learning there was no heartbeat so to go from that to scheduling my surgery and signing the papers in just a matter of moments was overwhelming to say the least. When they asked me to sign and I saw the word “abortion” on the consent I stared up at the nurse and exclaimed “I don’t want an abortion, I want my baby!!” and she went into damage control saying “no no it’s just what the papers say, you aren’t having an “abortion”, your baby is already gone but this is how we word it.” talk about adding insult to injury.

So now I am part of the overly inflated statistics for first trimester abortions. My tragedy can now be used against me. People won’t know why I had an “abortion” and guess what? They won’t care. Just like me, they are focused on the fact that a baby has died, the difference is that I now know first hand that it isn’t something anyone would want to do… it would only be done if it was in the best interest of mother and baby… and whether it happens naturally (miscarriage) or with help from a compassionate doctor, it is still painful and not something that needs to be thrown in the faces of all of the women who go through it. My doctor told me that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so if you take the number of those that need a D&C (the procedure which I had to sign off as an “abortion” and is used for abortions) with the number of women who have to make the impossible choice to abort and you are going to have what looks like an epidemic… but you are wrong… you are so wrong and you don’t even know it.

People have this image of a promiscuous girl who uses abortion as her primary form of birth control… and if they are as stupid as Donald Trump they envision a girl who waits until her third trimester and then decides “eh, I don’t think I want this baby afterall, I am going to go get an abortion”… it just does not work that way. I am not saying that every woman who has a miscarriage or an abortion feels the same way, there is certainly a broad spectrum of reactions… and that is okay. I am also not saying that the person who is lax about it doesn’t exist, but they aren’t the majority like pro-lifers would make you think. The “magic pill” that pro-lifers always describe still makes a woman deal with the choice of passing naturally or possibly ending up with a D&C… and either way it goes… natural or surgery, miscarriage or abortion… there will be pain emotional and physical and I would not wish it on anyone.

Sure, you could say that if I was pro-life or if signing the papers for my “abortion” really bothered me that much I could have let my baby pass through my body naturally… I could have sat there at home wondering when the baby would come out of my body… but I wasn’t able to handle that. The change in hormones had already caused one grand-mal seizure and my doctor feared more. Also, the choice to even see the baby after it is passed is incredibly personal and passing the baby at home takes away the option. I know people delivered in the hospital, who spent time with the fetus, took photos and had a funeral… I know people who wanted to see the fetus after their D&C but only after waking from anesthesia did they learn that they could not see the baby because it did not make it out in one piece… I know women who passed at home and then had to take the fetus to the hospital for genetic testing, an event that turned out much more traumatic than they ever imagined. From the moment I found out on Friday, October 28th to the moment I went in for my D&C on November 1  I was an emotional mess. It felt like my heart stopped every time I stepped in the bathroom, changed my clothes, took a shower… I was already bleeding so much, passing clots and much more… I was so frightened that my fetus would pass and I would be alone… so I am thankful that there were options like the one I chose… it could have been weeks and weeks of waiting and I have no idea what that would have done to me… and I would never judge any other woman who had to go through what I did for choosing the way that worked best for them… you have to do whatever you can to get through it.

You cannot imagine the pain of losing a child if you have never lost one. Some of the most courageous women I know have been through this in one form or another. I know women who aborted because it was the right choice for them, the brave choice to say they were not ready for a baby. I know women who lost their child through miscarriage in all different stages of pregnancy that had to be strong enough to make the best choice for their health now that baby was gone. I know women who had to abort based upon fetal/genetic abnormalities… these women knew their child would not survive outside of the womb and new that for themselves as well as their family it was better to end it before things got any worse. I even know a woman who was told by every doctor that the child was suffering genetic abnormalities that made life outside the womb impossible and yet she continued on with her pregnancy. She  wanted a miracle and she believed that it was possible and that everyone was wrong. When her baby was born it was extremely disfigured, internal parts on the outside and as predicted was born sleeping… the laboring and the reality had a detrimental effect upon her livelihood from that point forward. Of course with every tragedy there are times when it turns out alright, or that the choice to continue on even with the sad reality that baby wouldn’t survive was therapeutic and best for their particular situation. But no matter if you choose to terminate or decide to see it through it should be your decision because you are the one who must live with it… and it is not something that just goes away… just like a healthy pregnancy, one that ends tragically makes a lasting impact on your life. That baby was and is a part of you, no matter how short of a time you were together.

So when you cast your vote for a politician, if anti-abortion laws are high on your priority list I hope that you will take a moment to stop and think about what banning abortion could do. Any women who can get pregnant could end up with an “abortion” and not only is that a choice no one wants to make, it is sometimes the result of a choice we didn’t make.

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“I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat”

 

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Life Finds a Way”  it was about how we had just found out we were pregnant for the 2nd time. I included the ultrasound picture and took the same stance as with the “A Uterus from Nothing” series… that yes, this baby was a miracle, but not a miracle of God. Well I figured that I had plenty of time to post and I was super busy with work, family and other activities so still it sits in my draft folder… and now it will not be published.  This is because I lost my baby. I went in for a check up and learned that our baby had died.

I will never forget the look on the technician’s face when she said “I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat” I started to weep… I wept as they assured me it was nothing I did… I wept as they said it was nature’s way of handling something that wasn’t right… I wept as they handed me a pamphlet explaining what a D&C is and I wept as I signed the papers consenting to an “abortion”.

I haven’t had the procedure yet, that is scheduled for Tuesday. So here I sit with my baby inside of me and no way to help it. I think that is the part that is scaring me the most, that the baby is still here. My tummy was starting to pop and I still look/feel pregnant… but my baby is not alive. As a mother I feel like  I have one main job, to protect my children… and this time I couldn’t do it. My body was supposed to keep baby safe, nourish it, allow it to grow in a warm safe environment… but this time it didn’t work out.

We were not trying to get pregnant. If you read my previous blog series you know that I do not naturally ovulate and used fertility treatments to conceive Arabella. This pregnancy was a shock, but a good one, a welcome one… it was like my body finally got it right after all these years and I was truly amazed…. but somewhere between seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen September 29th and having the screen turned away from me on October 28th my baby died and I will never know why.

I have been running through all the different scenarios in my head. One major standout moment was on October 26th when I had my first grand-mal seizure in 7 years (I have Epilepsy but had only been having petit-mal seizures thanks to the aid of a VNS implant and medication). My OB assures me that the seizure did not cause the miscarriage but more likely the miscarriage caused the seizure. Apparently the fetus was measuring smaller than the yolk sack, and there was something about how my uterus had tipped backwards since the previous visit I really don’t know what it all means, just that the doctor was insistent that the seizure was not responsible… I almost wish it was because even though there still wouldn’t have been anything we could have done i’d at least have an answer… but I don’t and I never will.

One thing that I found very disturbing occurred right after they told us there was no heartbeat. Suddenly my baby stopped being referred to as a baby/fetus and became “the tissue”.  “I will go in and extract the tissue” were words that cut me like a knife. It was as if I was just supposed to forget that this was a part of me, with it’s own developing organs, it’s own skin, it’s own heartbeat. Now it was “the tissue” this just made me weep even harder. I understand that they want you to agree to the procedure and that if they actually said “we are going to scrape out your baby, throw it away and pretend none of this ever happened” no one could bear to go through with it… but that was how it felt when they said it to me and that is what is eating at me right this very moment. Perhaps I will feel differently on Tuesday after it is all said and done. This is just the raw emotions and honest words of a mother trying to comprehend a terrible loss.

So until then I will just continue to hold my daughter close, find strength in Rich,, and accept the support of all of my wonderful friends and family members. Whatever it is you may believe in there is no right answer for how to cope with this… so send me your positive thoughts, your well wishes and even your prayers… lord knows I need them all.  

 

A letter to the judge…

As a mother I cannot imagine a pain more severe than the loss of a child. A woman who lost her child in 2010 was asking for letters to the judge who will preside over an upcoming parole hearing, deciding the fate of her child’s killer. I was honored to provide a letter giving perspective on how that December night didn’t just affect the families involved, but our city as a whole.

I have a strict rule. No matter what, when someone is grieving I will not ever question their beliefs. If it is prayers they need then I will take time to sit and reflect. I have witnessed secularists throw the question “where was your God?” in the face of a grieving mother and it made me sick and still does all these years later. Religion encompassed this particular case. From the fact that both the Clelands (victims family) and the Isimingers (killers family) were extremely religious, to the fact that they had just left Lexa’s church pageant, the mother’s own words “By faith, I know it’s not my fate to judge you. That’s in God’s hands. I can forgive you.” and the killers response “I can never make this right. On behalf of your daughter, I will include a prayer for Lexa and her family every day.”.  

Though I respect the rights of those to grieve as they wish I do not believe that it is enough to think that it is in God’s hands to judge or that a prayer a day is penance enough. I want changes in our legal system. I want drunk drivers who kill to be treated like the murders that they are. So I was proud to write to the judge and let him know that six years is not adequate and that we need to do a better job of protecting the public. I am not sure if my letter will make a difference to the judge, but by sharing it I can only hope that at least one person will think twice before they drink and drive.

To Whom It May Concern,

On December 4, 2010 our city suffered a tragic loss as a result of the choices of one man. Travis Isiminger, a young man from a good family, who had values and a bright future ahead of him proved that good people can still do wrong. In choosing to drink himself sick and the Hofbrauhaus, then choosing to get behind the wheel of his car he took all choices away from the public. His actions made those of responsible citizens irrelevant. No matter how careful they were, Travis making the choice to play God put all of our lives in danger.

That night the Cleland family paid the ultimate price on a tab that belonged to Travis. They lost not one but two children and their lives were forever changed. The forgiveness they have offered and the compassion they have shown towards Travis is nothing short of amazing. To be able to look at him, at his family, and take the murder charges off the table was commendable… but I doubt they thought doing so would cut his sentence down to a time frame less than the short life their daughter Lexa was able to live.

There is no sentence long enough to make up for the lives lost that night. The beauty and joy in the face of little Lexa cannot be replaced. The potential of the life forming inside of Nicole cannot even be imagined. Nevertheless, I believe the maximum sentence should be served. I did not know the Cleland family in 2010 but as someone who has lost a loved one to drunk driving I can tell you that I felt a closeness to them and my heart broke with each detail that was released. When you lose a family member to a totally avoidable tragic event such as that on December 4, 2010 it does not just affect the immediate family. Generations of people will suffer a loss from the choices Travis made. From all of Lexa’s future nieces or nephews to the classmates that had to learn the news of their friends death, to every citizen of Pittsburgh that drives down Carson Street and for just a moment catches a glimpse of the memorial cross… lives have been touched and they will continue to be touched until the end of time.

I hope that when you make the choice of whether or not to release Travis you will consider the severity of his crime and the impact he has had. I am sure that it will be said that he has learned his lesson, that he wants to raise awareness, that he is forever sorry for what he has done. That is all well and good, but his wants and needs should not be a consideration. The needs of all those who were touched by Lexa Cleland, especially the beautiful family that has been left behind, are what need to be addressed. Any future plans that Travis has will still be available to him when his twelve year sentence is up, but no amount of time will compensate for the lives he stole that night.

Sincerely,

Allison Reed

 

your privilege would allow it

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So much has happened in the past few days that it is hard to figure out what to write about. The horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and then the tragedy in Dallas that left five innocent police officers dead. I could reiterate the details of each case, give you bullshit excuse for why someone deserved what they got or an anger filled rant about who was justified. I am not going to do that. I will be frank and state that I believe that the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were 100% wrong. I don’t care about their pasts, those officers had their own demons and none of them deserved to die. I also believe that the shooter(s) in Dallas were wrong. The officers who were killed were not the ones that did the killing, it was random, it was fueled by rage and families will never be the same.

What I want to talk about right now is the frustration I am feeling by the views expressed by my demographic. Caucasian women, mothers, 30-40 living in the suburbs. There was little talk among the moms in my local groups when it came to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. An article or two was posted, a comment here and there… but in general last week was business as usual. Lularoe leggings, toddler problems and what’s for dinner tonight. I am not saying that I was trying to force it on them. I know from experience that these types of discussions are best saved for other groups, a more diverse crowd. Then the recording from  Diamond Reynolds’s (girl friend of Philando Castile) live feed sprouted up and this conversation did catch my eye.

Right off the bat, the person posting was commenting on how calm  Diamond Reynolds seemed. Many of the women in the conversations were intelligent enough to know that if nothing else she was probably in shock. Others speculated she was trying to keep it together since her child was in the car. Then someone dropped this bomb.

“What bugs my so much about this…. instead of trying to do something for her boyfriend in the seat next to her she feels it’s more important to video it for facebook! If someone next to me gets shot the last thing I’m doing is recording the aftermath of it…if she was that concerned with a routine traffic stop why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up? I’m not trying to justify anything anyone did
It just doesn’t sit right with me that her main concern was that she recorded the aftermath of her boyfriend being shot as opposed to trying to save his life…”

This comment made me physically ill. It is impossible to know what you would do in this type of situation and this is compounded when you remember that this a white woman putting herself in the position of a black woman. I am not sure if it needs to be spelled out this clear but just in case, here it is. WHITE PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A POC.  I am sure that she believes that the last thing she would do is watch someone she loves die next to her, white privilege allows for it. As a white woman I am sure that the thought of being held at gun point during a traffic stop has never crossed her mind and even after all of this it still won’t. A broken tail light should never, ever result in death. She poses the question “why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up?” that answer is simple, because she shouldn’t have to. No one should have to, though perhaps moving forward they should.

I can only imagine the fear that was going through Diamond Reynolds mind. A man so unstable shot four bullets into a man who died while still in his seat belt, all while a four year old child was in the car. Even as she is recording he has a gun on her…. what do people expect her to have done at this point? Scream, yell, jump on top of him in an attempt to save him? Any and all of these actions guarantee that poor child would have been witness to the death of both parents instead of just one. There is no doubt in my mind that the woman who made the post believes she would have done all of the things I mentioned above and that the worst that would have happened is that she’d be arrested, and then later interviewed by networks praising her bravery. Her privileged allows for that confidence… and also the confidence to know that the odds of her husband dying while buckled into the family car are slim to none…and if it did happen, a heart attack would likely be the killer. I truly admire the strength that Diamond Reynolds showed. I am thankful their child still has a parent and I hope that justice is served.

On a separate post I saw another member of my demographic say that she went to bed last night thankful that her husband is white and that she is not afraid of losing him to senseless violence then she reflected on how horrible it is to think such a thing. I really don’t know if it is horrible or just plain honest. When a white couple gets pulled over for speeding, running a red light or a busted tail light odds are they will get a ticket, maybe just a warning… but they are not being profiled. We may live in fear of the state of our country, we may be afraid that we will get caught up in a random act of violence, but we do not have to go out each day and worry that it will be our last simply due to the color of our skin.