Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Better Not Blink


Governor Comb Over ain't no joke.

Just when everybody thought he didn't have any more power moves left, what did Gov. Consonant do? He challenged President-elect Barack Obama to a game of racial chicken.

Crafty.

Tell me y'all see it. The disgraced governor decided to thumb his nose at everybody who advised him to resign quietly and allow somebody else to appoint a replacement for Obama's senate seat. Blago not only appointed somebody for the seat, but he appointed a black man with a sterling reputation who has already held several statewide offices. Well ain't that a bitch.

Obama is now in the unenviable position of having to decided whether to support a well-deserving brother who is getting a promotion, or to rail against a man accused of trying to sell a senate seat for profit. If Obama supports the nomination, he gives Blago's claims of innocence credence just by his association, and throws red meat in front of the Republican dogs.

If Obama criticizes the move, he could further alienate segments of the black community while angering some black power brokers in his home state. He could potentially face a racial backlash and gain the label of "Uncle Tom." Finally, if Obama tries to follow his usual path of staying above of the fray, he'll still get lambasted by the media and Republicans for being a coward.

What to do, what to do?

First, I think we all have to tip our hats at Blago's impressive political maneuvering. Even without the Obama angle, Blago's pick masterfully interjected race into the discussion of his indictment and case. I think he's banking on the idea that black people will want a black senator no matter what, and that we will be pissed at anybody who prevents this from happening. So, Blago hopes to either rally indirect support to him by forcing people to allow his pick to go through, or he figures that if this thing actually goes to trial at least he will have some sympathetic black people on his jury.

"Serbian gangster" doesn't do him justice.

I'm hesitant to speculate about what political moves Obama should make because I am woefully unqualified. What I will say, is that I don't think Obama needs to put too much weight on the racial backlash issue.

What Blago and most white people don't understand is that Obama is holding the ultimate racial trump card. Like I said in an earlier blog post, Obama is going to have to get caught snorting coke of a white girl's titty to lose the support of black people, and even that screwup might not do it since a lot of black folks would blame that "scheming white heifer."

Most black folks are so invested in Obama's presidency that we view all obstacles in his path as the byproducts of the evil machinations by the long-dreaded cabal of rich white guys who run the world. There is a distinct possibility that Blago's attempt to put Obama on the hot seat will only infuriate black people because they will see it as an attempt by a white man to hurt Obama's presidency before it even gets started.

And we will not be grateful.

So, while Blago's move was somewhat crafty, he is still operating from the typical white man's position of ignorance regarding black people. He only has a surface understanding of how black people view race and success. He thinks we're still focused on how many checkers we have left on the board instead of worrying about whether we have a king. While we would like to see a black man in the Senate, honestly, we've been there and done that. The goal now is for Obama to be the greatest president of all-time.

By any means necessary.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nature of a Sacrifice

My wife had been bothering me recently about seeing a movie together, so I took her to check out that new Will Smith joint last weekend.

Smith has followed a pretty predictable formula with his last few movies; conflicted hero overcomes internal or external demons while getting the girl and, sometimes, kicking ass. All wrapped up inside a nice morality tale about how we can all be better people.

Lovely.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm not a fan of Smith's. I respect how he's improved himself as an actor and how he typically makes movies of a decent quality. I've just noticed that there is a fairly predictable pattern to those movies.

Anyway, I saw his most recent offering, "Seven Pounds", and it hewed pretty close to the Will Smith formula. But, despite its predictability, it did make me think about the nature of sacrifice.

I won't spoil the movie, but it's safe to say that Smith's character makes the lives of needy people better through sacrifice. In order to decide who deserves his help, Smith basically stalks individuals and watches how they treat by other people. He won't help them until he's certain they really deserve his gift.

Hmmm...

On one level, given the nature of the sacrifices Smith's character makes in the movie, the amount of time he spends getting to know these people is understandable. I probably wouldn't want to waste the sacrifice he makes either. But, after watching the movie, I began to wonder if his sacrifice was devalued because he thought he had the right to decide who was worth saving?

What's that about?

I guess it's not that unusual for folks to be picky about who they want to help. I've seen it all the time covering the crime beat. Certain victims inspire people to raise money, do marches and demand change. Other victims make them wonder why it's taking so long for the weather report to come on the nightly news.

In fact, I've been guilty of that behavior myself. I've sat in my car at a red light and decided which people on the side of the road truly deserve my piddling dollar. In church, I've decided whether or not to give an offering based on whether I thought the pastor was about the right thing. It's natural for human beings to only want to help those people we think deserve help, but I wonder if that really qualifies as a sacrifice?

Doesn't the word "sacrifice" imply a certain amount of pain and stretching to benefit others? If we only "sacrifice" for those people who make us feel good about it, what are we really sacrificing? Aren't we actually getting repaid for our generosity, just in a different coin?

I don't know the answers to these questions. It's beyond my area of expertise. But, I thought it was interesting thing to ponder.




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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tis The Season

Jesus's birthday.

Or the day we celebrate as his birthday.

I hope all of y'all are with family or friends celebrating this joyous occasion. And if you don't believe in Jesus, I hope you're having a good time anyway.

Be safe, be happy and enjoy yourselves responsibly.

See, y'all next week.



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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Don't Like Doing This

This is kind of uncomfortable.

I'm about to write a post that rebuts something another blogger I respect wrote in their space. It's not having a dissenting opinion that I dislike. Rather, it's the difficulty in finding a way to express my opinion powerfully without being insulting, that's a problem. Anyway, here goes nothing.

So, the Christian Progressive Liberal over at Jack and Jill Politics took Obama to task yesterday because she felt he was allowing a double standard regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright to flourish. She said that Obama needed to be called out because he dumped Wright from his life after embarrassing statements about him surfaced, but decided to allow Warren to speak at the inauguration despite the furor regarding his comments about homosexuals. Here is a link if y'all want to check her argument out.

There is no doubt that Jeremiah Wright was treated differently than Rick Warren. While Warren has been criticized and condemned, the outrage is nowhere near as great as the outrage and attention paid to Wright. That's an indisputable fact. Moreover, it's absolutely true that this is partially due to the color of their skin. Again, I can't dispute that.

But, I'm still trying to determine why it's Obama's fault.

Let's recap: Videos of Wright preaching sermons that roughly 80 percent of black folks agree with surfaced during the primary. White people went bat shit. Obama, running for a position that needs the support of white people, told America that he didn't agree with what Wright had said, but cautioned people not to judge the man by a few small soundbites. White people continued to go bat shit. Obama gave the best speech on race ever given by a politician, and most white people calmed the fuck down.

Then, after spending a few months chilling in an undisclosed location, Rev. Wright resurfaced and decided to go bat shit crazy himself. This dude was getting jiggy in interviews, showing out in speeches and then damn near had a fit during a press conference. That's when black people got angry. They questioned Wright's motives and his timing, and urged Obama to cut his old ass loose. Obama, feeling hurt and betrayed, gladly obliged. The end.

I'm still waiting to get to the part where Obama threw his spiritual guide under the bus.

In my eyes, Obama handled the Wright situation pretty well. He refused to give in to pressure and call his pastor a raving black lunatic when the initial videos surfaced. He then urged Americans to move beyond their trite discussions of race. Finally, he only dumped Wright when the pastor clearly did not have his best interests at heart.

Where was the betrayal?

And that brings me back to the Warren issue. Obama is handling Warren the same way he handled Wright. Warren said some crazy shit and Obama made it clear that he does not agree with those comments.(By the way, comparing homosexuality to bestiality is going too far. Here's a question, how come preachers never compare homosexuality to adultery or fornication? They're all in the same sexual sin family, yet preachers always skip right over adultery and fornication when they talk about actions that should be illegal. Just a thought.) Obama then pointed out that Warren has a right to his opinion and asked people to consider where his viewpoints come from.

Now Obama is ready to move on and is urging everybody to do the same. Once again, I don't see the double standard.

Obama has clearly stated that he supports civil unions and not gay marriage, just like the majority of Americans. He has made it clear that he believes that homosexual civil unions should have all of the financial and health benefits of heterosexual marriages. When has he wavered from this position? He has not compared homosexuality to bestiality or pedophilia, so why is he suddenly being held responsible for the words of Rick Warren?

See, this whole convoluted issue would be funny if it wasn't so serious. People are becoming upset because of Obama's ASSOCIATIONS! Didn't we rail against the media and white people for doing the same thing? Didn't we tell them that you can only hold Obama responsible for what he says and does, not for what people he knows say and do? Strangely, while Warren may hold views that many liberals disagree with, the Philadelphia pastor chosen to do the benediction falls right in line with a liberal Christian doctrine on abortion and gay marriage. Yet, Obama has not gotten any credit for that.

Obama is allowing two preachers with vastly different opinions to speak at the same event. They are being given the same profile and the same honor, and basically people on the left are saying that since they don't agree with one dude he should just shut up. Seriously, people don't think that there are conservatives appalled that a preacher who believes in gay marriage and abortion is being allowed to do the benediction? Don't liberals think that is a big deal for conservatives?

I guess liberals have learned some valuable lessons from the Bush presidency. They've discovered that the best way to deal with dissent is to minimalize it and drown it out. They've learned to force everyone you vote for to think exactly the same way you do by threatening them with banishment. They haven't learned to treat opponents with respect, instead they've decided to rule with an iron fist and kill anyone that fights them.

Wonderful.

I know some gay marriage supporters will compare opposing gay marriage to opposing interracial marriage or opposing basic civil liberties for black people. They may wonder how I as a black person would feel if a politician invited one speaker who thought blacks were fully human to speak and then invited a speaker who thought blacks were sub-human to speak. Good point. I would feel like both sides had their chance to speak and now people need to make up their own minds. I would also look to the politician and see what he believes to decide if I still supported him.

That's the main issue here. If gay people want to use gay marraige as a litmus test, then Obama fails. He has already said he doesn't support it. He was not vocal in opposition to Proposition 8. This is who he is and who he has been since the campaign began. Gay marriage advocates sound ludicrous saying Obama's selection of Warren is a betrayal when Obama is basically holding true to his own previously stated beliefs!

More and more, I'm starting to suspect that folks on the left are just as bad as folks on the right when it comes to wanting people to follow there views in lockstep. These folks love to crack down on politicians who deviate in the slightest from a staunch liberal platform. Well that's bullshit. Dennis Kucinch did not get elected president!

We elected Barack Obama. He's a politician who has embraced some liberal economic policies, but has also been fairly close to the middle of the road on social issues. He is not staunchly ANYTHING except for his own man. That's who we elected. Holding him to some random standard that has nothing to do with what the majority of Americans, or black people think, and then basically calling him a traitorous coward seems ridiculous.

Obama has treated Warren almost exactly as he initially treated Jeremiah Wright. There has been no double standard from Obama.

The real double standard is from folks on the left crying about the hardness of Republican hearts and then unveiling their own granite tickers as soon as they smell power.



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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boring 'Bama's Blandness

I think Barack Obama is pretty cool.

He has a little bit of swagger that makes his obvious intelligence less nerdy. He may not be John Shaft, but he's no Steve Urkel either. And, from what I've gathered from several news reports, the bop in his step tends to make the ladies panties wet.

So, why have I seen several reports lamenting the fact that Obama is pretty boring?

One man's boring is another man's smooth operator.

I think boring is the best bet for 'Bama. A drama-filled White House managed by a black is a racist's wet dream. Seriously, Pat Buchanan gets a boner every time there is even a hint of controversy dealing with Obama. And let's not even discuss Tucker Carlson's reaction.







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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bitterness Deferred

I posted a link yesterday that nearly ruined my day.

For those of y'all who missed it, the link was to a story by The Nation about some small scale ethnic cleansing that took place in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina. The story described the unsolved murders of several black men by a gang of roving white men in a mainly white neighborhood on New Orleans' West Bank. Apparently, these folks took to killing any black person walking through their neighborhood in an effort to prevent looting.

That's right, people were murdered to prevent them from even CONSIDERING stealing a television.

As I read that story, I felt a mixture of anger and dismay build inside my stomach that quickly soured the bootleg Apple Jacks I'd had for breakfast. The men featured in that article bragged of shooting black people in cold blood, one of them compared it to pheasant hunting in South Dakota. The word nigger was clearly something they were quite familiar with. The most galling thing was that none of them saw anything wrong with hunting human beings simply because of the color of their skin.

I was not feeling charitable towards white people when I finished reading.

Then, I went out on a story assignment to talk to someone whose child had been killed. It was an older white woman, and I prepared myself for comments about the "animals" in New Orleans and their lack of humanity. I was already practicing my poker face and reminding myself that going off on people I needed to interview was the best way to end up in the unemployment line.

And then God happened.

I attribute what happened next to God, but some of y'all might just think it was fate or luck. But, my faith makes me think it was God.

This old woman was so sweet. She was obviously torn up by the murder of her son, but she treated me with nothing but dignity and respect. She was kind, forthcoming and just nice. Like, the kind of nice that makes you take a step back and just marvel at people's composure. When I left her living room, she even asked me for a hug.

That was God speaking to me.

He was telling me that general, random bitterness is not something he condones. He was reminding me that when I allow hatred and anger to fester in the recesses of my heart, I only contribute to the evil in this world. That woman was sent to me to remind me that if I was going to fling my bitterness out at all white people, I was really no better than the bastards that killed black men for sport.

She reminded me that I claim to be a child of God.

As such, I have to remember exactly how important forgiveness is in God's eyes. That doesn't mean I excuse bad behavior, but it means that I must not cling to anger. It was a lesson I needed to learn this morning.

And I thank that old lady for teaching it to me.


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Friday, December 19, 2008

Chilling Read

Check this story out when y'all get a chance.

It's a look at some stuff said to have happened immediately following Katrina.




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Dirty Double Standard Drama


Yo, I need y'all to ponder something for me.

So, Barack Obama picks Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. In response, a whole host of homosexual lobbyists get pissed at him because Warren is opposed to gay marriage. Like many other people on the left, these individuals now accuse Obama of betraying them, and wonder if he's lost his moorings. They note that they helped him get elected, and he owes them something for their support.

Y'all with me so far?

Here's the million dollar question in my mind.

How would the media be handling this if it was black people complaining that Obama wasn't looking out for us enough?

That question isn't totally hypothetical. I watched a program on CNN Wednesday where Donna Brazile was discussing that very same scenario with Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer asked Brazile if black people were out of line for complaining that Obama hadn't done enough to show his support for our community. He didn't say "some" black people, he lumped us all in there together.

I'm still waiting for him to ask that question about homosexuals.

This is a perfect example of how black people are insidiously denied equality in this country. Our concerns are minimized or ignored because the larger society deems them superficial and selfish. We are chastised for expecting loyalty from politicians or political parties that we support at overwhelming rates, while other groups with far less consistent support see their concerns hailed as earth-shattering issues.

We get told we don't really count.

Sidenote: I wouldn't have picked Warren to say the invocation because I think he allowed McCain to cheat during the Saddleback "debate," but that's just me. I'm also sick of people saying Obama shouldn't be buttering up the religious right because they won't support him no matter what he does. In order to be successful Obama must minimize his opposition by their support, and selecting Warren helps with that.

I've noticed that mainstream America has become increasingly less willing to critically examine racial issues, and things have only gotten worse with Obama's victory. I'm not talking about placing a camera and microphone in front of the usual suspects and telling them to discuss the current most popular racial issue. I want Americans to examine their basic assumptions about this country. I want black people to have the freedom to shake free of our role as constant complainer, and instead be seen as people raising valid issues.

If black people were criticizing Obama because we though he wasn't doing enough for us, it would be taken as further proof of our greed and innate racism. (That's right, many white people think black folks are the real racists.) Our protests would not be considered legitimate, not would Obama feel the consistent heat from the media that would compel him to respond to them. It would just be another example of black people showing their ass in the minds of the mainstream media.

This issue reminds me of the hoopla surrounding the passage of Proposition 8 in California, particularly the quid pro quo relationship implied by many gay people. Opponents of Prop. 8 seemed outraged that black people would heavily support that measure considering the fact that the majority of gay people supported Obama. (However, Obama received less gay support than John Kerry. Gays were one of the few groups he lost to McCain and it didn't matter what age they were.)

At the time I was outraged that some gay people felt like black people were being ungrateful by supporting Prop 8. That paternalistic mindset is not uncommon among white people, but it's even more galling when it's coming from people who are arguing that they are the victims of an injustice. It's one thing to disagree with black people's support of the proposition and to be appalled at the levels of anti-gay sentiments in the black community. It's quite another thing to tell black people they need to be more grateful to you because you were willing to let a black guy be president.

The recent uproar has the same undertones. Yet, very few people seem to find this mind set troubling even as black people are continually reminded that we don't have any special claim on Obama because he's everybody's president. If he's everybody's president, then why are gay people getting so angry that he's trying to appeal to everybody?

Makes no damn sense.

Scratch that, it makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense in a country where double standards regarding black people are accepted with little critical thought. Some might wonder if I'm seeing the racial bogeyman where he doesn't exist, but they are wrong. This situation is exactly the sort of racism that black people face most often today. The subtle demeaning and undervaluing of our worth that erodes confidence and excuses injustice.

Same drama, different day.


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pimping Ain't Shit...


This is going to seem kind of random, but hang with me.

Remember a few years back when it seemed like every black man in America wanted to be a pimp? 50 Cent had just dropped his ode to a life of tracks and bottom bitches, and Snoop seemed determined to make us believe that his friendship with an unrepentant former pimp was deeply spiritual. Pimp cups were the newest must have accessory.

In hindsight, it was all pretty sick.

As a man, I have been known to scream out some nonsense about pimping, or bob my head to the misogyny rappers casually spew about the subject. When I chanted those words I wasn't really thinking about the reality of prostitution. Rather, I was indulging in an adolescent fantasy that glorified bedding as many women as possible with as little commitment as possible. If I could convince those poor women to buy me gifts, so much better. That was my concept of pimping.

I came face to face to with real pimping the other night.

My wife and I watched this documentary on Showtime called Very Young Girls. Well, I can't honestly say that I watched it. I tried to watch it, but after listening to one young lady describe how she was anally raped by her 30-year old pimp when she was 12-years old, I kind of gave up on the movie. I hung around long enough to hear another girl describe how she often wondered if God had made her body to be used by men, she figured that must have been her purpose in life. After that, I spent a long night trying to understand the evil that men do as I tossed and turned in my bed.

That girl showed me what a pimp is. A pimp is a man who is heartless enough to prey on love-starved, prematurely developed young girls and then convince them that their purpose in life is to lie down with an endless stream of men to make him money. A pimp is a man who will keep those same girls working for him, not just through the strength of his charisma, but also through the power of his fists.

Like I said, pimping ain't shit.

I have no familiarity with the world of prostitution. Even though my job entails dealing with crime, for the most part the prostitutes I see arrested are older women strung out on their drug of choice. They are not baby-faced, attractive youngsters who look more like majorettes than hardened hoes. I have a pretty antiquated view of prostitution.

It's amazing what a movie can do.

Before I watched those little girls speak, and watched footage of actual pimps indoctrinating prostitutes, I never really understood how a man convinced a woman to sell her body. I just chalked it up to one of life's mysteries. Now I understand that these men aren't convincing women, they are convincing children. And then they are systematically stripping these children of their self-respect so they can be compliant receptacles of men's sperm.

That was a reality check.

Like I said, this a random post. It's not about politics, it's just about a movie I saw that gave me bad dreams. But, that movie also made me reconsider what other things I take for granted. How often have I excused unacceptable behavior by myself or other men because I never took the time to really consider the true impact of those actions? In turning a blind eye to this suffering, am I just as culpable as those committing the heinous acts? Considering the size of the problem, what can I really do?

Just some things I thought about while watching real pimps at work.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Second Childhood


I spend a lot of time thinking about the past.

Mostly, I think about what I did wrong, although I do take the time occasionally to remember my successes. Whether it's failing to apply myself in school and in sports, or missing out on boning that fine sister in college, I think a lot about my personal failures. I wonder what my life would look like now if I had the chance to relive life with my current wisdom.

I often long for a second childhood.

It's funny how time dulls all wounds. I say that because I read something recently that reminded me that childhood was no paradise. This piece perfectly describes how vicious children can be. Children seem to thrive on the pain of others, and it's easy to forget how sharp that pain felt as the years go by.

It's good to remember the bad times.

Pain can teach as well as wound. The lessons I've learned from the bullying I endured and that the bullying I dished out have taught me a lot about group behavior and morality. Without that pain and shame, would I have the wisdom that I have today? If I went back and erased all the mistakes in my life, what kind of man would that make me?

Like many of you, I'm raising childred. Miniature people completely dependent on me to protect and provide for them. I'm sure every parent has been struck by the awesome nature of this responsibility, but for me it's particularly enticing.

For someone who spends so much time considering his mistakes, it seems like an unbelievable boon to have children to shape and mold. It's almost like an opportunity to relive my life, to correct my mistakes, to accomplish all of my goals.

But, it's not.

I'm convinced that no matter how hard I try, I can't protect my children from the world. Nor can I truly protect the world from my children and their inner cruelty. Inevitably, my children will be hurt and they will hurt others. So, I ask myself, how much can I do, and how much should I do to guide their lives?

How far should any of us go to improve our children? When does guidance cross the line into control? Is control really a bad thing when it comes to children? How do you raise an intelligent, sensitive child in a world where intelligence and sensitivity are the blood that shark-minded children converge upon?

How can you equip your children to handle the wolves without turning them into a wolves?

These are the questions I ask myself when I look into my little boy's brown eyes and when I pat my wife's rapidly growing stomach. I've been given an incredible gift, but stories like the one I linked to tell me that gift is a crushing responsibility as well.

If my children are a continuation of my life, but how do I give them their own?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back in Effect

I'm back from my short hiatus because of a houseguest.

I'll have a long post tomorrow, but I wanted to thank all y'all again for the response to the marriage and sex post. Great thoughts there.

I also had to say something else.


A fucking shoe? Crazy.

Worst. President. Ever.


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Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's Talk About It


Stealing a move from my homie Deacon Blue, I'm going to broach a topic that typically drives up the blog statistics.

Sex.

Ooohwee, I can already feel it getting hot in here.

Actually, don't get your hopes up. Today we won't be discussing the best positions to use in the back of a pickup-truck, (those damn ridges in the truck bed are a beast on the back), instead I'd like to talk about a sexual marriage.

No, that's not an oxymoron although this story and this one might make you think differently.

Now I don't want to get into trouble, but those two articles really made me think about the state of marriage today. Sadly, several of the points raised in those pieces reverberated with me because I've seen them in my own relationship.

Marriage is a complicated dance. One wrong step can ruin the mood, and a string of missteps can leave you searching for a new partner. But, when two people learn each other's moves, it can an awe-inspiring thing.

New couples are typically warned that the three biggest obstacles between them and a successful marriage are money, family and sex. No matter how much two people love each other, those three issues will cause an amazing amount of heartache. And sex, which seems like an area of smooth sailing before you get married, is probably the trickiest issue.

As both of those articles point out, it's not that unusual for marriages to turn into "no-sex" zones. Outside pressures combined with the wide range of problems that arise from trying to meld with another human being can kill many married people's libidos. Particularly women.

That's right ladies, those articles seem to deal mainly with the ways your libidos can disappear once you say "I do." I have to say that I read with baited breath to find out what it is that causes y'all to lose your desire for loving. I don't want to alienate my female readers, but trying to understand a woman is like trying to appreciate George Bush's presidency.

What I discovered is what I always suspected. Today's society, despite its focus on all things sexual, is really not set up in a way to facilitate sex between married people. Our schedules are too busy, our lifestyles too extravagant and our children too important. It's an unfortunate byproduct of all the different movements that have attempted to establish equality in our society. Change often makes things more difficult, and marriage is no exception.

So, I'm curious, what do my readers, married and single, think are the best ways to maintain a healthy sex life when you're dealing with a crying baby, two working parents and vagaries of a relationship? How do you get it up or keep it wet, if you want to be a little vulgar. It's an open forum for advice because it's obvious that quite a few people out there need it.

(This will be my only new post until Monday or Tuesday of next week, so I'm counting on some good discussion.)

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Eerie Epiphany


I know I should be talking about Gov. "Let's Make a Deal" in Illinois, but I don't have much to say. He appears to have been a blatantly crooked bastard who seemed oblivious to this new invention called wiretaps. The cats on The Wire were much better criminals then him, and therefore, far more interesting.

Instead, I would like to talk about an interesting conversation I had with a friend recently. Since I opened her eyes to the rampant racism in the world, this friend has been astounded at the hatred that abounds in people's hearts. She and I often send each particularly vicious comments left by readers on racially-tinted articles just to marvel at the level of vitriol and predictability.

The other day, after reading a ridiculously racist comment, my friend broached an interesting topic. She said that as she's gained more knowledge about racism and interacted with people who fight against racism, it's made her more conscious of racism's role in the world. She's also found validation for certain niggling suspicions she had in the past, simply because more people have echoed her suspicions.

She said she considered herself pretty "race-neutral" in the past, but that's changed. She wondered if white people who consider themselves "race-neutral" change that position once they encounter groups of other white people validating stereotypes about minorities and discussing various negative experiences with minorities. My friend thought since racist sentiments abound on the internet some people might feel validated in their own personal racism, which in turn would create more division in the world.

Well I just had to write a blog post about that.

Where to begin, where to begin...Honestly, it's not that far-fetched to assume that hanging around like-minded people only reinforces our existing beliefs. That's why strident racism and strident religious beliefs typically decrease with more education and more diverse life experiences.

Yet, I honestly had never considered the possibility that what I consider obviously racist anonymous comments might soothe the consciences of some people and make them less likely to root out and remove racist attitudes from their lives. Now that I have considered it, it makes perfect sense.

The truth is, just about everybody in the world believes in some stereotypes. Stereotypes are the easiest ways to classify people into benefactors or threats and most human beings like things easy. In fact, the only thing holding people back from embracing and repeating the stereotypes accepted as gospel two or three decades ago is the fact that minorities are better able to generate a backlash today.

Back in the day, there was no real penalty for saying black people did worse in school because they were genetically inferior, or saying that Asian women were more docile because they have weak blood. Everybody just nodded their heads and agreed. Today, those same comments generate a shitstorm of attention thanks to the plethora of minority groups who immediately spring into action and create the perfect media controversy. Thanks to civil rights gains, minorities have a bigger stake in America, and their complaints are given more weight.

But, in many ways, the internet is a lot like the good old days.

The anonymity and sheer size of the web makes it difficult for minority groups to combat digital racism. In addition, mainstream media types tend to marginalize the impact of web behavior because there are no easy images or named sources. That has turned the internet into the racial Wild Wild West, and it explains why the comment sections on most websites rapidly transform into Klan rallies when issues of race are discussed.

Initially, I actually viewed the racism on the web as a good thing. I figured that people were finally saying what they really felt, and I was being given a true idea of where the world stood as far as race relations. But, my friends comments made me reconsider that position.

Validation only encourages idiocy. Instead of the web becoming a place where idiotic ideas are challenged and refuted, it's becoming a place where idiotic concepts are celebrated and given more heft because more people are saying them. Before the web, a racist idiot might be isolated in their racism, and if given the right life experiences, might begin to change their views.

Now, that same racist can find a whole community of like-minded individuals who not only bolster his beliefs, but also provide him with a great recruiting tool to sway other folks. After all, most people only need to be told that they are part of the "in crowd" to adopt any imbecilic position. If a racist can show easily influenced individuals that the resentments harbored inside their hearts are normal and acceptable to hundreds of other people, it's much less likely that person will do any self evaluation.

While the internet is traditionally praised for its ability to open up the world and spread knowledge to everyone, I now wonder if that's true. How many of us use the web to learn new things, and how many of us use it prove the things we already believe?


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Birds


My parents never sat me down and had "the talk."

You know, the sex talk.

My pops told me that if I ever brought any babies home they were my responsibility, but we never discussed love or sex in any detail. I got a lot of reminders that God wanted me to wait until I was married to copulate, but I also got treated to stories about how my dad got his first piece of nookie at either nine or 13, he could never be sure.

I could have been described as a "sex rube" for much of my young life.

In fact, as a youth, I thought foreplay was punching little girls in the head and running. I was more likely to call a girl I was enamored with an "ugly dummy" while tripping her, then to whisper sweet nothings in her ear.

Basically, I had nothing on this little boy.

That young fella recently wrote a dating book for adults. He outlines the dos and don'ts of how to get the girl of your dreams, and he's only nine years old. Plus, as an added bonus, he'll soon by publishing a children's book about the Watergate scandal.

Ain't he precious?

Actually, he's scary. He's scary because he's not living in a child's world. No nine-year old should be getting book deals for relationship tomes. I understand that he originally wrote the book for his school's book fair, but in the end it became something that was pumped out to the masses. Now he's doing book tours, and according to the Post's story, posting up at the bar with his adoring fans.

That ain't right.

And I'm not jealous because I know some of y'all are wondering about that. What I am is disturbed with how quickly modern children are asked to assume adult roles in today's world.

When I look at my little boy, I want to teach him how to become a man, but I also want to give him space to enjoy childhood. I would not be ok with him sipping Shirley Temples at the bar and talking to women about the lame pickup lines guys use. I also don't like how so many kids today need their own Blackberrys to keep up with all their ballet lessons, piano recitals and sporting events.

I wonder if we as a society have become comfortable with seeing our children as nothing more than tiny adults. They have adult responsibilities and adult rewards. Flashy jewelry, expensive toys, all the trappings of the American dream are being thrust on children at younger ages. And that doesn't even account for the violent, sexual images streaming into our homes.

When are we going to allow kids to just be kids? Actually, when are we going to force our kids to just be kids? We need to tell them that some things just aren't for them, and that no matter how mature they may feel, they are still just children.

And they need to play their positions.


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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Three Black Men

O.J., Dollar Bill Jefferson and Barack Hussein Obama.

The killer, the crook and the politician.

The Holy Trinity of blackness in today's America.

At first glance, these three men don't have much in common. They aren't friends or confidants. You don't think of one when you mention the other.

But, there is a connection there.

First, let's discuss the killer. Most people in America believe O.J. did it. They think he killed his wife and her lover in cold blood and then skated at trial because of crafty lawyer and black people's racism. That's the popular explanation of why O.J. was a free man the past 13 years instead of sitting on death row.

O.J., and his trial, became a rallying point for white people who wanted to harp on black racism as a way to disguise their own prejudices. He was the ultimate bogeyman. White people, with the help of the mainstream media, hounded this man year after year in what they felt was a fair exchange for his acquittal. They believed he didn't deserve to be free, so anything that happened to him was his own fault.

And then he decided to take his shit back. Yep, that's what his case boiled down too. He went to a hotel room to get back some stuff somebody stole from him and he brought some friends and a gun. He made a choice that many people can relate too, and he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping. He now faces at least 9 years in prison, and possibly 18. White people across the country must think Christmas came early.

Now, let's discuss Dollar Bill. I won't say much about his case or its merits, but I do want to talk about the mood surrounding this election. Jefferson has been in Congress for generations and was once one of the most important black people in my city. He is no angel, but he was always a well-known and respected figure.

He's just a joke now. Someone to be gawked at and disdained. There has been a concentrated effort by many white people in this community to turn him into proof that evil surely follows allowing black people to gain power. Without being convicted, he has been labeled a common criminal by the same folks that love to discuss the mishandling of the Duke lacrosse case.

So what does that have to do with Big Homie? I think his election means we'll be seeing a lot more of stuff like this.

Some might argue that none of this is connected. They would note that the only reason Jefferson survived his run-off against Helena Moreno was because people came out to vote for Obama. In truth, they would say that it's amazing that an indicted politician survived so long. And of course they'll point out that O.J. was a simpleton who stretched his luck one too many times.

But, that's not considering the big picture. Those of us who have paid attention have noticed a steady increase in the targeting of black people as bogeymen in recent years. Sure, that practice never disappeared from American culture, but it had waned a bit. Things are now heading in the opposite direction.

It's evident in the way the foibles of black athletes are covered by the mainstream media and the missteps of white athletes are glossed over. It's clear in the way the coverage of corruption changes depending on the color of the suspected politician. Black criminality has always been a money maker, but these days, people are searching high and low to make that criminality a big issue.

And, it's because of Obama.

Obama is the opposite of a black male stereotype in so many ways. Educated, soft-spoken and non-threatening, he does not easily fit into the normal little box. And, unlike many other black men who challenge black stereotypes, Obama has maintained an air of authenticity that has endeared him to black folks across this country. He really does appear to have figured out how to play the game, and not get played.

And, I'm beginning to wonder what that means for the rest of us. The tightrope Obama walks is one he is uniquely suited to balance upon and I doubt the rest of could manage his highwire act. If all black people are expected to "be Obama" that is an unfair and unjust burden, just like expecting all white people to be John Brown would be unfair to them.

Truthfully, I expected a certain segment of the population to feel discouraged and angry about an Obama victory, but I didn't believe they had the power to touch most of us. Their petty insults or pranks would be nothing. Now, I'm not so sure.

I always suspected Obama's victory would be followed by a push by certain white folks to roll back some of the advances black people have made, particularly those aided by affirmative action, but I didn't realize how far-reaching that push might be. Even "liberal" white people felt vindicated by O.J.'s conviction. You know, the white folks who have tons of black friends and don't see color. Those same folks were ok with Jefferson being treated like a criminal despite never being convicted.

They were ok with perversions of the legal system because they figured the right "black" guy got his just desserts.

I think we will continue to see black people punished much more harshly when the mob decides that they have messed up. It will be justified with the lame explanation that everyone is being treated the same, that everybody who does the crime should do the time. We will be told that Obama's election is proof that racism is nearly a thing of the past and that white people should not have their motives questioned because "they" elected a black president.

We will be told to sit down, shut up and take our medicine.

Just like O.J. and Dollar Bill.


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Monday, December 8, 2008

Always Bet on Black


Do y'all remember this movie?

It starred an up and coming Wesley Snipes as a troubled counter-terrorism instructor who had to thwart the diabolical scheme of a plane hijacker. In the film, Snipes was aided by a flight attendant, who he had met earlier during one of his training seminars on how to handle hijackers. It was a fairly entertaining movie, not great, but decent. It also introduced the line I stole for today's blog title.

"Always bet on black."

It seemed like such a cool line back then, and Snipes was a cool brother when he delivered it. He was Hollywood's favorite dark-skinned brother, the perfect combination of overly-dramatized karate moves and a completely jacked up haircut. He was a bad Negro.

Unfortunately, it seems Snipes believed the hype.

I wrote about Snipes getting convicted a while back, and I still feel like he got too much time. But, I had to stifle a little chuckle when I read that article about the recent move by his lawyers.

Snipes is using the Passenger 57 defense.

Seriously, he's saying that his time should be cut short because basically he was the real life Passenger 57. He helped America fight terror, so he should be free.

I just found that funny.

He is betting on stupid.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

King Coon Returns


That is the face of an uber-coon.

Study it. Learn it. Despise it.

A friend of mine referred to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a "troubled man." He said he feels sorry for someone who is so obviously messed up in the head.

Sympathy for uber-coons is hard to come by in my house.

Why am I using such strong language for a man I've never met? Check out this story that I found on Jack and Jill Politics. That, my readers, is the work of an uber-coon.

For those of you allergic to links, the story details exactly how Uncle Clarence is trying to derail President-elect Barack Obama's ascension into the White House. The Cliff Notes are that Thomas is going out of his way to investigate whether Obama is a legal citizen of this country. Uncle Clarence is bucking (pun intended) some longstanding Supreme Court tradition to conduct his "investigation," and he's aligned himself with some kooky people.

Truthfully, this case has very little chance of progressing. Not only would stripping Obama of the presidency pretty much assure that the Supreme Court lost all public trust considering the Florida debacle, but it would mean that we'd have to have George W. Bush as president longer.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants that.

I'm not upset because this might prevent Obama from becoming the HNIC. Nah, I'm upset because this is such a flamboyant display of coonery that it makes me sick to my stomach. Really, I just had to swallow bile.

I only have a passing familiarity with Uncle Clarence. What has been written about him suggests that he is deeply troubled by feelings of inferiority that are rooted in color issues and were heightened by a mistaken belief that Affirmative Action's sole purpose was to promote unqualified folks. From my vantage point, he's a deeply disturbed individual.

But, if he was only disturbed, I would be loathe to label him an uber-coon. Maybe a regular coon, but not an uber-coon. Uber-coonery requires malice and evilness, not just an overwhelming sense of self hate or greed.

I have a friend who hypothesized that Thomas believes, mistakenly, that by taking a hardline stance against affirmative action he is really saving black people from a lifetime of victimhood. My friend saw Thomas as a Quixotic figure, tilting against a black pathology he has grossly overestimated. Someone deserving of pity, but not anger or disgust.

It's not the first time we've had a difference of opinion.

Clarence Thomas is the prototypical crab in a barrel. Sure he had a hard childhood. Orphaned and mentally abused, he definitely earned some leeway regarding his lack of social grace and even some of his color issues. But, that's as far as I can go.

Uncle Clarence has benefited from affirmative action at every stage of his life and he has the nerve to tell other black people that he's trying to prevent them from using the same tool because it's bad for them? Is he serious?

No, if Thomas really opposed affirmative action he would have refused that first federal appointment from George Bush I, the appointment that later led him to the Supreme Court to replace the court's only black member. If he really opposed affirmative action there was no way he would have replaced Marshall in what was clearly an affirmative action hire. In fact, there is no way Thomas would still be practicing law if he truly abhorred his tainted degree from Yale's Law School. If his feelings were that intense, he would have abandoned his pursuit of a career in the law and sought to make his mark in another career without the help of sympathetic white administrators.

He didn't do any of that.

Instead, he reaped all the benefits he could from affirmative action and then dedicated himself to insuring that no other black person could ever have that opportunity. He believes that any black person who has as much success as a white person must be unworthy of their position, and should be deemed inferior. He willingly claimed an uber-coon destiny.

Now, Thomas may actually believe that he is a martyr and that his courage and perseverance will be celebrated by later generations. He may have convinced himself that is his real motive. But, I have seen beyond that facade.

Uncle Clarence is looking out for Number One. He is protecting himself and his position, all while abasing himself at the altar of white superiority that is his real God. Thomas is willing to endure ridicule from black people because he does not care what we think, after all, we aren't white. As long as white people treat him with love and respect, and there are many white people who do just that, then he is fine. His life work is complete as long as he receives that figurative pat on the head from his smiling master.

He can die a happy uber-coon.



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Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Hear Those Rumbles

The grumbling continues.

Across the political landscape, folks are wondering if the presidency of Barack Obama will be change they can believe in, or just $700 billion worth of the same old thing.

The streets are talking.

I'm not listening.

It's too early for me to get all excited about who Obama picks for what post. I understand the concerns folks have about Clinton, Holder and Geithner. The disappointment regarding Obama's backtracking on several issues, like tax cuts, NAFTA and ending the war in Iraq is understandable. After all, people elected Obama because they thought he represented certain interests and if he fails to hold up his end of the deal, well people have the right to stay home in 2012.

I get it.

Only, I guess I don't.

I've said this in several places, but it's worth repeating. There is only one HNIC, and he's the one who has ultimate decision making ability. It doesn't matter that much who is in his cabinet because they will be carrying out the vision he has set forth.

I know that's a gross simplification of how the executive branch works. I fully understand that the president is dependent on his advisers to provide him with information, and I know that the people who control the flow of information have a lot of power.

The point I'm trying to make is that nobody is going to take bold action unless Obama signs off on it. Conversely, nobody is going sit on their asses when Obama wants action taken. He's smart enough, and informed enough to stay on top of the people working for him.

Plus, homeboy has a vision.

I think that's what comforts me even as I wonder about some of the changes he's made to his rhetoric and actions. See, from what I've noticed, Obama is excessively pragmatic and somewhat obsessed with having his vision of the world come to fruition. He has definite plans for his legacy and the world, and I'm convinced his selection of political retreads is an attempt to hit the ground running and get his vision moving.

At least I hope so.

I really want the brother to succeed. Honestly, I'm not sure what success would entail, but like pornography, I'll know it when I see it. If Hillary and the rest of the crew can help him get this country back on the right track, I'm all for them joining the team. If they are standing in the way of progress, I fully expect him to jettison them quickly. He's cold-blooded like that.

Basically, I hear the rumbles, but I ain't listening.



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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not This Again


You would think that with the world's economy on the brink of collapse, terrorists rapidly regaining their strength and our plant dying faster than ever, journalists would have more than enough serious topics to discuss.

Yet, when I turned on CNN Tuesday morning, what was the topic that merited a special panel of experts? "Is Barack Obama really black?" The other day the Washington Post ran a column that said that people calling Obama black are really mistaken.

Seriously, WTF?

I thought we'd cleared this up months ago. Look, Obama's daddy was African, his momma was white. They made a little mixed-up baby in 1961. Back then, the "one-drop" rule was still in effect, so if you had some black blood and looked like it, you were black. Period.

Obama recognized this early, bonded with the brothers, and whenever anybody asked him about his race, he told them he was black. Not mixed, not bi-racial, not half-black. Obama is blackity, black, black. Simple, right?

Wrong.

Truth is, some folks don't like how Obama took the whole "black president" mantle and ran with it. Some of these people are mixed race people themselves who never liked the idea of having to choose between their parents, but many of them are just white people who want to steal black people's joy. Happy Negroes just give some folks heartburn.

For the mixed race folks, I understand their pain. After all, if Obama viewed himself differently, he would be first bi-racial president, which would likely give mixed race folks the same sort of feeling that black folks have today. Y'all know what I'm talking about, that whole "I can do anything" vibe that's been going around.

However, while I have sympathy for their plight, I'm perturbed that some of them are trying to force Obama to be bi-racial instead of being just plain black. These same folks have a problem with anyone trying to stuff them into a racial box, but they're doing the same thing to Obama. If Barack wanted to check "other" on the census, that would be his business, but he doesn't, and they should leave it at that. Some folks don't mind choosing one race over another, particularly if they grew up in a time when the world wasn't as accepting of riding the race fence.

Now, the white folks who are making this argument out of spite just tickle me. After all, these same people were the ones willing to call Obama a Muslim because his father was a Muslim even though Obama says he's a Christian and he was raised in a non-religious household. These folks claimed that according to traditional Islamic law, if your father was a Muslim you are automatically a Muslim, no questions asked.

Apparently these folks have never heard of the traditional rules of blackness.

See, before he became a senator or politician, Obama was just another nappy-headed Negro to most white folks. The rules of blackness said that his daddy was black, so he was black, end of story. Add in the fact that he wasn't light enough to pass, and there really was little wiggle room. The fact that the same people who established these draconian rules of limitation on black people back in the day are now trying to change those rules because a black man beat the odds is ridiculously ironic.

Y'all got some nerve.

Thing is, this new flip-flop shouldn't pass the smell test and should be roundly deconstructed and vilified by any intelligent person. And I'm specifically talking about all the intelligent people who make up our media. We should not be having discussions about Obama's blackness. His blackness is like Hillary Clinton's womanhood. Damn the pantsuits and rumors, when Hillary was born, she was a woman, she will always be a woman. And despite his lovely white grandparents and mother, when Obama was born, he was black and he will always be black.

Let this thing go, and explain to me how to survive when civilization collapses.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Man, Man, Man....

This thing in Mumbai is troubling.

It appears to have the potential to turn an already volatile situation between Pakistan and India even worse, and just adds another item to the to-do list of President-elect Barack Hussein Obama. More importantly, nearly 200 people died, some of them after being tortured, and the world has even more proof that terrorists still have the power to strike anybody anywhere.

Like I said, it's troubling.

I've been trying to decide how I wanted to write about this issue for a few days. I even had a disjointed, piece of crap blog finished, but I threw it out once I realized just how bad it was.

I'm no foreign policy expert, and I'm not even a political expert. Truthfully, all I can really do is watch people for a short amount of time and make pretty good guesses about how they view the world. I'm also not half-bad at writing down my guesses in a way that entertains people.

I say all that because unlike most of the talking heads on television and on the web, I don't want to pretend like I know what this means for America or the world. I don't.

All I know is that it hurts my heart that hundreds of families were devastated this weekend. It pains me that so many people died such horrible deaths. I'm appalled that no one had any inkling this activity was being planned, and it's shocking how poorly officials in India responded to what happened.

I'm dismayed by the rapidly growing expectations for Obama's presidency, and I'm disgusted by the way his victory has been used by some idiots to promote their hateful ideology. I'm happy that no one I loved was hurt in those attacks, but I'm frightened because I know there is no guarantee that will be the case next time.

However, I'm encouraged by one thing. In the Book of Job, Chapter 2 Verse 10, Job says "...What? Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil..."

Life is full of suffering and prosperity, full of good and evil. When we learn to take these changes in stride we learn the true meaning of peace and the true benefit of faith.

Until then, we can only mutter "man, man, man..."




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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hoes Gotta Eat Too


I know, I know, that title is a fool.

But, man, once y'all read this and this it will make perfect sense to you. Basically, even the market for kittycat is tanking given the current economic crisis.

It's hard out there for pimps and hoes.

I don't know about y'all, but those stories tickled me, particularly the one from the New York Post given that tabloid's ability to combine a few facts and a lot of snark to make an entertaining read. Seriously, if you actually pay attention, the author of that piece quotes very few women, but manages to churn out a story about the state of gold-digging all over New York. That's some old-fashioned reporting right there. (The story about the brothels in Nevada was more depressing, given the fact that those women are actual prostitutes and that's not cute at all.)

I wonder if President-elect Barack Obama has a five-point plan to jumpstart the ho-conomy? Maybe tummy tucks and discounted botox for everyone? What do you do when men rediscover the joys of manual stimulation, and decide that right now it's a buyers' market for vagina?

If these aren't the hardworking Americans we heard about during the campaign, I don't know who is.

Actually, I would assume that if Obama deigned to consider the issue he'd point out that once he gets the regular economy back clicking the sex trade will take care of itself. He's probably right. Once cats can handle groceries and rent, I would expect them to be willing to spend a little extra on some nookie. After all, as KIT often says, the hierarchy in most men's minds goes 1. food 2. shelter 3. vajayjay. And sometimes numbers two and three are reversible.

Yep, I guess those struggling gold diggers and flat-broke hoes are just going to have to hold on and hope for better times like the rest of us. At least they can take solace in the fact that they know their jobs are unlikely to be outsourced and they won't need to re-train.

After all, ho money may be slow money, but it's fo' sho' money.




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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We're Back On Top Again!



And it's the last place we want to be.

It's getting rough down here in New Orleans. Once again we've regained our title as the nation's "murder capital" and it doesn't look like things will improve any time soon. Seems like Hurricane Katrina only made things worse.

I don't write about New Orleans much. It's not that I don't have a lot to say, it's just that given my day job I'm trying to keep my conflicts of interest to a minimum. Plus, I'm always aware of the fact that some of y'all might not care that much about intensely local news.

But, just because I'm not writing, doesn't mean I'm not thinking about my city. My home. I grew up here, have lived here most of my life and while I'm not as fanatical as some of the city's residents, I still love my city.

Unfortunately, my city is dying.

Like most people watching a terminal illness run its course in a loved one, I've gone through the five stages of grief. My city was infected long ago as blue collar jobs dried up and the racial strife doomed the public school system. The symptoms are common in inner cities around this nation, but they seem to be more severe here. Honestly, there is still hope that my city may recover, but it is slim. So, I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Denial

Everybody in New Orleans must come to grip with the violence. It's impossible to completely ignore the daily murder count, the constant threat of armed robberies or the casual violence that seems to be woven into the fabric of the city. (When I was a kid, people looked forward to Mardi Gras season for the parades and partying, but also because you were guaranteed to see some great fights between roving bands of young men from different "wards.")

But, as I told a friend the other day, to truly be happy in New Orleans you have to convince yourself that the violence exists in a world outside of your own. That while young men are gunned down daily, they aren't young men like you or your sons. It's a personal hypnosis New Orleanians perform, a mental trickery that allows us to believe that despite the swirling violence, we're safe. It's a denial of the true extent of the sickness.

Anger

Ah, but when we come to grips with reality, then comes the anger. Here we rail against the twin evils of violence and corruption that are as much a part of this city's traditions as red beans and rice. In fact, like that delicious concoction, corruption and violence achieve their full flavor when left to simmer for an extended period of time with only minimum attention.

New Orleans residents rail against their politicians, they rail against their police and their bureaucrats. We shake our heads at the single mothers pushing strollers and giving their infants sips of grape "cold drinks." We stiffen at the approach of young men whose hair is a clump of disheveled locs. Resentment bubbles inside of us at these people we feel have ruined our city, the ones who make things so bad for the rest of us.

Why can't they get jobs? Why can't they go to school? Why won't they keep their legs closed? We ask ourselves these questions and revel in our righteous anger, content to direct its destructive force outward lest we be called upon to examine our own hearts. Then we'd be forced to ask ourselves if we helped them find jobs, if we helped them learn to read and if it's our morality, or our contraception, that is better than that of those teen parents.

Bargaining

When our anger wanes we want a deal. We'll spend more money if it means our city won't die. We're willing to pay slightly higher property taxes if it means that our police will be competent and honest. We're willing to do more, if only we can be guaranteed we can get more for our money.

Quid pro quo.

The only problem is that life doesn't work that way. The government cannot guarantee all of our money will be spent wisely and honestly, but it can guarantee that nothing will get done unless we spend more money. Of course, it would be ludicrous to write a blank check, but the truth is that what our city really needs is for us to have faith in a political system that has never given us a reason to trust. So, all of our deals are doomed from the start and the city continues to rot.

Depression

And that's when it sets in. When we realize that we are trapped inside the maw of a dying beast where it may soon become impossible for any responsible parent to justify raising children. We wonder how long our jobs will last in an economy famously built on cheap t-shirts and large, frozen hurricanes.

The Big D. It's a tricky bastard. Sneaking into our minds on little worries about bills and relationships, and then turning into a mind-numbing obsession that saps us of our will to think or act. At times, our will to live. In a city where death and poverty are kissing cousins it is almost impossible to avoid depression. Who can avoid its clutches while watching one more child travel the well-worn path from schoolyard to graveyard before they are 30? When our city's problems seem so massive, so entrenched, what is there to lighten the mood, to provide hope?

Acceptance

For me, in part, it's God. It's also that sense that things have to get better, that trouble don't last always. Things have to improve because so many people want them to improve and hopefully that collective desire will be transformed into a collective commitment to action.

I accept the reality of my city's slow death, I've come to grips with that pain, but, thankfully, I haven't become fully resigned to its inevitability. I retain hope that eventually, the people of this city who love their home will figure out a way to help it reach its potential. We will discover how to overcome the past racial hurts and the current economic woes and we will make New Orleans live again.

After all, as a Christian, I've been trained to in believe in happy endings.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Check This Out

http://www.newsweek.com/id/167582

That's a Newsweek story about the election. It's part of a VERY long series. Don't know if y'all caught it, but I wanted to pass it along because it's interesting.



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Babies and Bathwater



This might seem a little contradictory to some of y'all considering this piece I wrote a few days ago, but just follow me for a while.

Ever since the presidential election, there has been a lot of discussion among conservatives about the direction of the Republican party. More specifically, there has been a lot of discussion about how to marginalize the religious right while still keeping their votes.

Don't believe me, check out this article by a leading conservative discussing that very topic.

Now, in the past I've castigated many of my white Christian brethren for perverting God's message and blindly following leaders whose actions do not align with values taught in the Bible. I've complained that they spend far too much time discussing gay marriage and abortion, and too little time talking about poverty and violence. I still think that's true. But, this new movement is extremely short-sighted, it shows a shocking lack of understanding about minority believers and, ultimately, it reeks of elite secularism gone amok.

Let me explain those three points.

First, the idea that Republicans need to stop letting the Bible dictate their policy decisions has merit. Americans have a wide range of religious beliefs and attempting to force the entire country to live according to some strict interpretation of the Bible would be impossible. More importantly, it would be un-Godly. God does not force human beings to obey him. He lays out his commandments and then he lets us make choices. There are rewards and punishments for those choices, but the choice is up to us.

However, that doesn't mean that Christian values should not play a role in policy making. The problem in the past has been that we've seen a skewed form of Christianity that adheres to the philosophy that thinking about God's true intentions is a waste of time. Far too many Christians learn their values through the mouths of their preachers instead of through biblical study and prayer. That's not to say that preachers do not offer insight, after all that is their purpose, but the Bible instructs believers to "study to show themselves approved" and that means critical thinking, not just rote memorization.

I think that this country needs the Christian values of forgiveness, kindness, charity, patience, long-suffering, gentleness and self-control. If our foreign and domestic policy was guided by the two most important commandments, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself, I can't envision how the world would be in its current state. I think many secularists focus on the negative aspects of Christianity without giving credit for the good the religion's members do, and that has led to this short-sighted view of the role of the religious right.

My second point is that this push to encourage Republicans to abandon much of the religious underpinnings of their party would actually make them less attractive to minorities, not more attractive. Truthfully, the main reason conservatives have struggled to attract minorities is because they often make direct appeals to the racism of some of their members and because on issues that are key to the country's two largest minority groups, conservatives had taken the wrong stances.

From what I can tell, Latinos are attracted to the conservative message of hard work and self-reliance, at least when they initially arrive in this country. In addition, most Latin American countries are extremely religious with Catholicism enjoying huge membership in them as a carryover from colonization and ministry work. I'm not an expert, but it seems that if Latinos and Hispanics were asked to describe their value systems and outlooks on life, they would closely align with the conservative ethos. The success George W. Bush had among that group is proof of that.

The problem for conservatives is that they took a hardline, violent and racist stance on immigration, particularly illegal immigration, that in some ways contradicts their other values about free markets. That's one of the main flaws in modern conservatism; they discuss the value of the free market and personal liberty, but then take ridiculous stances that support government intrusion into the free market and into people's personal lives.

Latinos heavily supported Barack Obama because he refused to demonize illegal immigrants and promised to give them a path to citizenship after they paid for their infractions. That's much more reasonable than the most prominent stance of conservatives, which was basically "kick them all out." That stance, and the racism and xenophobia that flourished among those who held it, was what hurt conservatives among Latinos, not the Republican party's overwhelming whiteness or religious base.

Conservatives have the same sort of problem with black people. Most black people believe that there is still a need for affirmative action, we think that mandatory minimums unfairly target our community and we understand that our children are being warehoused in inferior schools that need improvement. On just those three issues we are diametrically opposed to the basic beliefs of most conservatives who see affirmative action as an unfair advantage, think long prison terms reduce crime and think the solution to the problems in the public school system is to eliminate the system.

Those are just three examples, but they are representative of the real problem for conservatives. Most of their policies attack government programs that provide assistance to poverty stricken individuals and African Americans have a higher incidence of poverty than any other group in the country. While some of us may see the social programs as fostering dependence and weakness among black people, most black people see those services as the basic help they need to eke out a living. Since Republicans constantly are trying to cut those services, most black people see them as constantly trying to harm us.

In addition, black people remember that conservatives had no qualms about aligning themselves with virulently racist organizations in the South and providing legitimacy for their activities. Not only is this history undeniable, but the practice continues today. Combine that with conservatives' economic policies and you have the perfect explanation for their lack of support among black people. It's not because there are so few black faces at conservative events, successful black people are used to operating in lily white environments. No, the problem is that black people have a sinking suspicion that if a lynching party broke out at these lily white events nobody would have a real problem.

However, it's not about religion. Blacks, like Latinos, are overwhelmingly religious. Both communities have a higher incidence of traditional Christianity than white people. In fact, many black people would like to vote for Republicans because of their religious stances, but can't get past the rampant racism and distaste for the poor. Religion is not a problem for minorities, and to think otherwise shows a shocking lack of understanding about how minorities view religion and view the Republican party.

Unfortunately, that lack of understanding isn't surprising. Most of the people attacking the religious wing of the Republican part have very little experience with dealing with "the masses." They espouse grand theories, but they haven't spent the time studying the way humans interact, which would give them true insight.

These people, if they were being honest, would admit that they don't really have much use for prominent displays of religion. They prefer a more sedate worship service and much more quiet faith, if they like any faith at all. And they are convinced this is the way things should be.

However, any traditional Christian would tell them that this runs counter to a huge number of biblical teachings. From childhood, traditional Christians are taught that it is a virtue to be demonstrative of their faith in public. While we are instructed that a true relationship with Christ is cemented in our "prayer closets," we are also taught to be "beacon lights" to non-believers and to never appear ashamed of our faith, or God will be ashamed of us.

Consequently, the idea that traditional Christians should practice a more "quiet" version of their religion is insulting to them. I would compare it to a straight person asking a homosexual to practice a less "flamboyant" brand of homosexuality. The person making the request is implying that there is some shame associated with certain activities, so the person practicing those activities should try not to call attention to themselves.

There is a difference between shouting down those individuals who disagree with me about God and boldly proclaiming my belief in Jesus. I've found that many secularists cannot see this difference the same way many white people don't understand the concept that race can be a factor in a person's decision making without that person being a virulent racist.

Honestly, some of the blame for this state of affairs can be attributed to my Christian brethren who seem to have forgotten how to share the gospel with non-believers and how to conduct themselves in general society. But, I've also discovered that those who do not have a belief in Christ or any god have a tendency to look down on those people who do, particularly those people who talk about their beliefs often. I think that secular branch of the conservative movement is marshaling its forces and trying to make a power play because they would be more comfortable if the party moved in a new direction. However, they haven't made many good arguments that this new direction would win the party more converts.

So, they are tossing out a relatively clean baby, just to rid themselves of some filthy bathwater.


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Raving Black Lunatic