Friday, January 30, 2009

What Kind Of Ruler Are You?

In the political world, President Barack Obama is catching heat from some of the left for trying to compromise with Republicans and pushing forward a stimulus package the left deems inferior. To make matters worse, despite all his efforts, Obama couldn't get a single Republican vote in the House for his package.

That got me to thinking. Which of course got me to writing.

Rick James once said that "cocaine is a helluva drug." Jay-Z once rapped that fame is the strongest drug known to man. I think they are both wrong.

Power is that good ish.

Most of y'all have heard about the corrupting influence of power. Any marginal student of history has seen this truth proven over and over by all sorts of men. Power is seductive, it's addictive and it's transformative. There is no comparable force on this planet, except maybe faith, and very few people chase faith the way they chase power.

America's political system is governed by one simple rule:"He who has the power makes the rules." Minority political parties, just like racial minorities, are often reduced to begging to be treated as equal partners by those groups in the majority. Rarely does this begging and pleading produce anything besides crumbs and jeers, but it's really the only recourse available to those without power.

The funny thing is, most of us have been powerless in our lives. We've experienced the frustration and anger that comes from having our fate decided by someone else. Maybe it was your super strict parents refusing to allow you to date that cute boy with the motorcycle and dimples. Or possibly it was your idiot boss and his brain dead management style. Whatever it was, nobody in this world has wielded power since birth, we've all been at mercy of others.

Yet, whenever the power dynamic shifts, whenever an oppressed group manages to wrest power away for their oppressors, we see the same sad morality play acted out again. The actors may change, but the roles and the plot typically stays the same. More people need to remember what it was like to be powerless, when they assume power. How a man or woman behaves when they have the power to inflict pain is the true measure of their humanity, not how they behave when they are powerless. When we have the ability to punish, but yet show our enemies kindness, then we can be proud of who we are and what we represent.

Otherwise, what's the point?





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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Current Is Strong

Self-hate is a fast-moving river, and it's easy to be swept away by the current if you lose focus.


Among the many benefits all of us expect to reap from an Obama administration, one of the most overlooked is the fact that with a brother in the White House, it will be much harder for self-hating black people to hide.

This brother in New York got exposed relatively early. Juan Williams, who most of us already suspected had a ShD, "self-hating degree," recently confirmed his self-hate by labeling Michelle Obama as a potential albatross around President OBama's neck. He said that once she taps into her inner Stokely Carmichael, it's all downhill for Obama.

That's right, Juan Williams believes that an intelligent, beautiful, loving, career-oriented black woman who can also raise children will eventually cause the downfall of the most powerful black man in America.

If that ain't self hate, then nothing qualifies.

What I've noticed since Obama's election is that media companies are trying to find more black faces to put in front of the camera and offer opinions. Because of that, certain black people who hold self-hating beliefs are now being given a larger platform to tell the entire country about those beliefs. Consequently, black people are learning a lot more about who the haters are among us.

I'm not saying that every black person has to serve as a cheerleader of Obama, or fall in line with whatever the conventional Negro wisdom is about the world. I appreciate diversity in thinking, and it makes for more interesting debates. It's better for the world if people learn that black people can represent the entire political spectrum.

What I'm saying is that some black people have been quietly making a living espousing doctrines that are teeming with self-hate, and Obama's presidency has the power to expose them and their lies to the light of day. Before Obama, Juan Williams' comments about a successful black woman might have been only heard by a few bigots on Fox News. Now, those feelings are being heard by many more people, and I think some folks will reevaluate their opinion of him as an intelligent, albeit contrary, black person. Now he's the one that seems bitter and angry.

People who say hateful, mean-spirited things that are clearly based on their negative feelings about black people in general, need to be noticed by the world and publicly shamed. Sometimes shame is the best agent of change.

It's been very disturbing to watch the cottage industry of black self-hate that has grown in this country as many white conservatives have learned that the best way to say the nasty things about black people is to get a black person to do it. Unfortunately, the traitorous bastards who have been willing to spout these lies have often operated somewhat in obscurity because few black people paid attention to the news organizations that employed them. With the coming of Obama, not only are more black people paying attention, but the ridiculous remarks of these commentators are being picked up by a wider range of stations.

Obama is outing them like a Senator in an airport bathroom.

Obviously, I find this to be satisfying. I think these people need to bear the full brunt of their opinions, and they need to be shunned completely by intelligent, conscious black people. You cannot take every opportunity to denigrate and devalue black folks, and still expect to be treated with a modicum of respect.

Sadly, I doubt that this move towards public shaming will be enough to deter certain black folks from continuing on their chosen path. Many of them are so deluded, they actually believe they are doing the Lord's work when the parrot back accepted stereotypes and trite truths about black people for conservative white audiences. In fact, some of them view their ostracization as a badge of honor. Yet, I can't help but believe that is always better to shine the light of truth on those operating in the darkness of deceit.

If only to watch the roaches scurry.



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Point of Reflection

I was thinking about Barack Obama's presidential campaign recently.

Well, scratch that. What I really was thinking about was the similarities between Obama's campaign and the Civil Rights movement. I would never compare the two events, but they are definitely linked in some interesting ways.

Recently, I 've been binging on non-fiction books, and I'm currently immersed in David Halberstam's The Children a massive tome discussing the work of the early organizers of SNCC. It's a topic I'm somewhat versed in having read two of Taylor Branch's three books on Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement.

What I've found extremely interesting about the book, well besides once again reading about a distant cousin of mine who was a minor celebrity in the Civil Rights movement, are the portraits it contains of some of the current movers and shakers in the black community back when they were young. James Bevel, John Lewis, Diane Nash, Marion Barry, Julian Bond and countless others are discussed in great detail.

Where Branch used his books to provide a step-by-step accounting of everything that happened during the movement and told his tales in a bland style, Halberstam provides detailed profiles of these leaders complete with enthralling family histories. It also doesn't hurt that Halberstam's prose is his strength, while Branch's strength was obviously his skill as a researcher. It's amazing to have these scions of the Civil Rights movement come to life, and it's incredibly enlightening to compare their college-aged personas to the people they are today.

One of the most consistently fascinating figures is John Lewis, the current United States Congressman. I'd heard about the amazing abuse Lewis endured to advance the Civil Rights cause, but this book not only recounted those ordeals, but also painted a poignant portrait of the inner spirit that drove Lewis. It is humbling to see his commitment to the movement.

Many of you may remember that during the Democratic primary campaign, Lewis was initially a supporter of Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. It was only after intense criticism from the black community that he changed allegiances. I don't know Mr. Lewis, so I won't speculate on his motivations for supporting Clinton, but the way he dealt with the controversy, and way many people dealt with him, bore some resemblance to the power battles in the Civil Rights movement.

Lewis initially presented his support of Clinton as a point of individual loyalty. In contrast, his critics presented it as an example of unacceptable Uncle Tommin'. At the time when these charges were being leveled against him, I found myself agreeing with Lewis' critics. How could this black man not be appalled at the racism that Clinton and her supporters harnessed to attack Obama? How could he be so comfortable on the wrong side of such a crucial issue?

Hindsight is so very illuminating.

As I consider the book, I am reminded of how life slowly, but surely, changes us. Our priorities shift and our thoughts on what actions are right, wrong, prudent and foolish change as we gain more experience and more fear. It's much easier to judge someone, to label and denigrate them, when you have failed to grasp the totality of their journey.

As I read about the early lives of these Civil Rights veterans, I get a fuller picture of why some of them have succeeded and why some of them have failed over the years. With that picture, I get an appreciation for how difficult live is, how hard it is to hold on to youthful visions of who you will become and what values you will hold.

Over the years, the Civil Rights movement has received the same white-washing as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the result has been that many of us have an unhealthy idea of what the movement really entailed. It was not a magical moment when black people graciously put aside their many differences and were consistently united under one purpose. No, the movement was just as full of jealousy, anger, hubris and mistakes as our lives today. The black people of that time were gifted and strong, but so are modern black people. Our problem is not a lack of ability, but rather a lack of faith and vision in ourselves.

Obama's campaign was an example of what younger black people, along with other concerned citizens, could do to effect a change that few thought possible or prudent. Just like the Civil Rights movement, young and old had to work together to achieve a common goal, but was it most assuredly young people whose initial belief spurred action.

When you combine the faith and energy of young people with the experience and resources of older people, it's possible to do amazing things. In fact, the disparate qualities of the young and old reside within each of us as individuals, and when we combine them internally their is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Quite an interesting idea, don't you think?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's In A Name?

Buddy, Ramsey and Smiley

Those were the names of the White House ushers that the Bush twins mentioned in their letter to Sasha and Malia Obama. I'm sure most of you have heard about this letter since it made the rounds on all the cable news stations and was written about by most newspapers. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

The letter was an unprecedented attempt by the Bush twins to offer the Obama girls some advice on life in the White House. It featured practical advice on how to live in America's brightest spotlight and also some heartfelt words on how the Obama girls should deal with criticism of their father.

I'll admit that when I first heard about it, it seemed like a fairly nice gesture.

Then, my pops brought the names of the ushers to my attention. Anybody whose paid attention to the ins and outs of the White House knows that most of the lower level support staff is black. The cooks, the ushers, the maids, these are all black men and women who often have had these jobs in the White House for decades. Obama isn't the first black man in the oval office, he's just the first one to sit in the big chair.

My father was miffed by the names of White House ushers. Actually, what he was upset by, was something that was missing from the names of the White House ushers.

The word "mister."

Black folks know what's up. It's almost unheard of for us to call older black people by only their first names, let alone nicknames, unless they're related to us. It's just not done. There is a certain respect level that is assumed with our elders, no matter how menial their jobs may be.

Some folks may think I'm reaching for something to complain about, and I'll admit that I can see their point. Honestly, when my father mentioned this issue to me, my initial reaction was to blow him off and tell to stop being so sensitive. After all, we have a black man in the White House, it's time to stop sweating the small stuff. Plus, I'm sure those three men encouraged the twins to call them by those nicknames.

But, then I thought about it some more. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I began to question the casual manner the Bush daughters assumed with the ushers. It seemed particularly egregious when I considered the fact that the girls came into the White House fairly young. They weren't adults when they crossed that historic threshold, they were just teenagers. For teenagers to blithely call grown men by nicknames like Buddy, Ramsey and Smiley just felt wrong.

I don't know about y'all, but it's pretty much a reflex for me to call older men and women, "mister" or "missus." When I was kid, my parents, particularly my father, constantly reminded my brother and I to say "yes, sir" or "no, ma'am." I'm pretty sure I could get comfortable enough to call the ushers "Mr. Buddy" or "Mr. Smiley," but dropping the honorific completely seems unlikely. It would feel disrespectful.

My father definitely saw it as a sign of disrespect. He thought it was proof that Bush could never truly see a black person as his equal, and that the former president had passed that mentality along to his children. I'm not sure if I'd make it a racial issue, although I'm not ruling it out either. I think it's just another example of the casual way Bush viewed life in general.

The White House, and by extension America, was just a place for the Bush family to have fun and feel comfortable. President Bush never saw his position as a sacred trust. Instead, he saw it as a way to pad his resume, burnish his father's legacy and enrich a few cronies. The tragedy of September 11th was the only thing that pushed him from his projected path of footnote in American political history, to arguably the most infamous president ever.

I'm sure Bush didn't see anything unusual in his daughters calling grown men by nicknames, hell, how else do you address the help? Just as I'm certain that Bush left all of those folks fairly nice parting gifts upon his departure, I'm also sure he never once saw them as fully formed individuals. And clearly, neither did his daughters.

It's all in the names.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm Breathing Better

So, I made some inquiries about my job's new policy, and, without disclosing too much information, I've been able to determine that I'm pretty safe.

However, I will have to be even more vigilante in the future about not revealing too much about my work or identity. I've conversed with some of y'all using my real info and everything, so I just wanted to give you a heads up that I'll have to stop by your homes in the next few days and kill you.

Sike.

Nah, but seriously, I feel confident that what I'm doing isn't violating company policy. If I learn something different in the future, I re-evaluate the situation. For now, the blog will continue as it currently operates. Political matters are still fair game.

Speaking of political matters, on Tuesday I'm going to have a quasi-political post that discusses something my father and I found very interesting about the letter the Bush girls left for Malia and Sasha. He pointed it out to me initially, and it's been bothering me ever since.

Anyway, thank all of you for your input and I feel blessed that so many of you would read what I had to say, even if it wasn't political. Y'all made me cry inside. Only on the inside though, I'm too hardcore to shed real tears.

Lol.


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Friday, January 23, 2009

Horrible News. It's Really Horrible.

There is a crisis in Lunatic world.

I have been notified that my place of employment is cracking down on the online expression of political views. So, no blogs or other online endeavors that are political in nature.

Of course, that's a problem since I run a semi-political blog.

So, what say you good readers? Should I try to continue the blog without dealing with so much political stuff? You know, focus even more on racial, personal and religious reflections?

Would that even be interesting? Would y'all still read it?

I mean, I love doing this blog, it's a great creative outlet, but I got bills to pay and babies to feed. Can't jeopardize all that just for my creativity.

So, I'd like to hear from y'all over the weekend and Monday and next week I'll make a decision. Thanks in advance.


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Words, Schmords...

“I’m not only uninterested in having children. I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it is nothing but vanity, human vanity.”
Ingrid Newkirk, PETA founder, New Yorker magazine, April 23, 2003


Many of y'all are scratching your heads wondering why I would pick such a ridiculous quotation to lead off my blog.

It is a ridiculous comment, isn't it? What person in their right mind would compare having children to breeding purebred dogs? Whose mind works that way?

I showed this quote to a friend of mine and she pointed out that it wasn't really that crazy. She said that if you ignore the word "purebred" you can see Newkirk's point that many people's insistence on only having a child of their loins is as bad as folks who only want a purebred dog. She said I was putting too much emphasis on one word.

Hmmm...

Well, of course I had to disagree with her. That's what I do, I disagree with people and get into arguments. It's why I have this blog.

I pointed out to my friend that certain words have the power to invalidate the most insightful messages. For example, if a white person was giving me the solution to black on black crime, but that white person kept using the phrase "you people" well it's unlikely I would get his point because I would be caught up in his words.

A few years back, the mayor of New Orleans promised some black residents that the city would remain a "chocolate city" despite the forced evacuations Katrina caused. His comments ignited a firestorm of controversy, mainly because many white people felt like he was telling them to leave and never come back. Now, I didn't think he was saying that, and I actually thought he was addressing a real concern in the black community. But, the way he decided to word his statement is what got it interpreted as an attack on white folks, and his administration has never been the same.

Words mean something.

How often have you tried to discuss a topic with your spouse or significant other and had them say, "I just don't like they way you're talking to me." Sometimes they express that sentiment because of your tone, but often it's because the words you're using aren't the words they want to hear, no matter how justified or accurate they may be.

Communication is all about imparting information in a way that sticks with people and makes them want to understand your point of view. Our new president understands this, as do most people who effectively impart knowledge.

I can't help but wonder how many of the people who make a living "communicating" actually understand this simple truth. How many of them really want their message to stick with us? How many of them are satisfied if they just touch off an emotional response?

What about you?

How are you communicating?



(Being president is so nice, Obama decided to take the oath twice. I can't blame the brother for being cautious. He's like, "You bitches are stuck with me now!")



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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Confused Farewell

History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I'm not going to regret what I see -- except maybe some gray hair," - Former President George W. Bush.


When does stubbornness and self-confidence become a curse?

From what I can remember, and from what my parents tell me, I've been a pretty stubborn child most of my life. When my brother and I would get whippings, I would defiantly refuse to cry until I couldn't hold the pain in anymore. Think Denzel Washington in "Glory." My brother would start crying as soon as the best was revealed, which typically meant his session ended much sooner.

I always argued with my parents, I always tried to convince them I was right. When my father told me I had to pay for my own car insurance if I wanted to drive his car in high school, I told him I'd rather catch the bus. And then I waited for him to ask me to drive to the grocery store to pick up something and blackmailed him with "So this means I can drive the car again, right?"

My father once told me an interesting story. He said that if he needed my brother and I to cross a lake, he knew that if he gave my brother good instructions, my brother would make it across easily if he never had to deviate from the guidelines. He said that if he gave me the same instructions, I would completely ignore them, but I would make it across the lake no matter what.

George W. Bush is pretty stubborn as well.

He won't let go of this mantra that history will prove he wasn't that bad. So, not only is he stubborn, he's the eternal optimist.

Back in 2004, when I first got engaged in national politics to a small degree, I was one of those liberals who couldn't understand how anyone could support Bush. Then, I watched a speech he gave and realized that if I didn't already understand that he was a blithering idiot whose policies would hurt me immensely, I might be drawn to his personality and cocksure nature. I kinda sorta understood why so many people liked him.

Of course, that was before the next four years.

What I'm trying to say is that it's kind of hard for me to decided what I think about Bush. Part of me, the stubborn part, is impressed with his ability to cling to his beliefs despite any opposition. Another part of me, the sensible part, wonders if Bush's stubbornness is a sign of an enormous ego that is the true cause for all of his failed decisions. And, finally, one last part of me wonders why Bush can't just exit the stage quietly.

Because it really doesn't matter whether he had good intentions when he led this country into this morass. It doesn't matter if he loves America the same way he loves God.

Good intentions are the asphalt on the road to hell.

And, what's love got to do with it?

Sidenote: This whole flap about Obama and the oath is funny. What I'm hoping is that a black person with a national platform will put forth the theory that John Roberts purposely sabotaged Obama because his latent racism wouldn't let him swear in a black president. That would be a great charge to force conservatives to refute. Don't you think?







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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hard Hat Time


New Day.

New President.

Back to work everybody, and welcome to the most difficult job of your life Mr. President.

I don't know if any of y'all have been to a construction site, but at everyone I've visited they have this annoying rule about hard hats. If you want to walk around the site, you have to wear the hard hat. Now, anybody who has ever worn a hard hat knows that given their flimsy design, if something actually did fall on your head a hardhat would be little protection. But, you have to wear them anyway.

Well, Obama is wearing his hard hat now.

I'm sure that Obama already had some idea of the scope of the massive American "construction" project he signed up for because he's been receiving official briefings on the state of the country since he was elected. But, I would be shocked if those reports were as detailed as the information he's receiving now that he's actually the president.

People are offering him advice, he's probably drinking coffee and by the end of the day he might be puffing on a cancer stick. Right now, Obama is quite busy dodging the buckets of shit that are raining down on his head thanks to the incompetence and corruption of his predecessor. It's definitely a hard hat kind of day.

But, that's just the way life works. Typically, once you finally climb the mountain and reach the summit, you find that it's just as difficult to maintain your perch as it was to attain it. Obama knew what the job he sought would entail, and if there's one thing that gives me confidence, it's that this brother is unlikely to be shocked or surprised.

He'll just get to work.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Don' Came


That's what this guy said Tuesday morning.

I was out on assignment for work, standing in the cold, listening to people talk about what "President Barack Obama" meant to them. That's when this guy broke out that memorable, and increasingly familiar line:

Change Don' Came

It's a cool way to talk about today.

Change is everywhere in our country and much of it is not good. Everyday I get up and hear more bad news about the economic state of this country and I wonder if the dire predictions of my web friend KIT are going to come true. Are we on the verge of a total collapse of civilization? Will my children and grandchildren be doomed to a standard of life much worse than my own?

At times it seems like the answer is a terrifying yes, but then I think about Obama.

His election means that in at least one way, life will be incredibly better for the generations to come.

Times still will be hard, and people still will suffer, but this election means that there is a good shot that future generations will have to expand their idea of what black people can achieve. Obama, if he heals America's ills, has a great chance to become the most celebrated and appreciated president of all time. And that would be huge for black people.

But, enough of worrying about the future, today was about celebrating the now. The crowds gathered in D.C. and the even larger crowds gathered around television sets across the country, reminded us all of how big this thing is. The smiling, upturned faces of children, the beaming smiles of our elders, this was a day to remember. It was a time of joy, of hope, of happiness.

Tomorrow will hold many dark moments and troubling sacrifices, but today did not. Today was not marred by those future fears even as Obama spoke about them honestly and directly.

Change is here.

Long live change.



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Monday, January 19, 2009

Dream Life

Most of us are off from work enjoying the one day a year the country has set aside to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Some of you may use this day to take in a parade, or do some community service or just sit around the house in your pajamas. Hey, whatever floats your boat is all right with me.

However, while we all may be celebrating the day in different ways, it's pretty much guaranteed that all of us will think about tomorrow at some point. That's because tomorrow is THE DAY for black America.

The day the dream comes to life.

It's been talked about ad nauseam, but I still feel compelled to add my two cents. Tuesday, Big Homie will take that stage in front of millions of people and he will confirm for all of us the power of possibilities. He will reaffirm the cliche that nothing is impossible, and he will take his rightful place in the pantheon of black heroes.

That's some impressive shit.

Like most of you, I plan on watching at least part of the inauguration, and I will definitely write about my feelings. And even though I've already grown tired of listening to media personalities debate the importance of this moment, I'm sure I'll still try to watch as much coverage of the event as I can stomach.

This inauguration is important for so many reasons, some of which I've discussed in previous blogs. Without a doubt, we are all living in a time that will be discussed for decades as a turning point in history.

Not only is Obama's presidency historic, but the challenges facing our country and our world have reached a fever pitch. We may finally have reached the apex of America's reign as the world's sole superpower, and we might have to prepare for a slow spiral into mediocrity. This could be the beginning of the end.

Or, it could just be a beginning. A rebirth. Maybe these turbulent times are the fire needed to burn away the dross that has weakened our country. Maybe Obama's visionary nature will be what this nation needs to move past the bumbling idiocy and unbridled corruption that was ushered in by Dubya.

We can only hope.

I don't know what the future holds, prophets are uncommon in our times. What I do know is that these next few weeks will likely be some of the most important in American history. I think all of us should take the time to appreciate that privilege as we celebrate the legacy of man who lived in some pretty important times himself. That man's dream has not only endured, but it's gained power.

I hope we can say the same about our next President's dreams.



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Friday, January 16, 2009

Enjoy Your Weekend

A little present from me to you....






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Little Mr. My Way


He wouldn't stop crying.

They were painful sobs. Building deep in his stomach, they made his body shake like a shack in Category 5 hurricane winds. Wails exploded from his lips in waves, washing over my ears and rattling my sleep-addled brain.

How could someone so small express so much rage?

I tried to comfort him, but he wasn't having it. "Naaah" he screamed, using two of his fists to push me away from his forehead as I tried to plant a soothing kiss. He squirmed in my arms like an agitated housecat, clawing, kicking and screaming.

It was a full-blown tantrum, the type of thing that used to be unusual, but has become increasingly familiar. I watched in awe as the little boy who two hours ago rushed across a room just to hug my legs, now didn't even want to be in the same room with me. As he screamed, it was clear that I was no comfort to him, and he would prefer if I found somebody else to annoy.

Welcome to the world of raising a toddler, I thought to myself.

Welcome indeed.

They say that there is no joy like the joy of being a parent. They are right. But, what they don't say, I guess because it might mean the end of the human race, is that there is no pain like the pain of child rearing.

What pain can compare to watching a little person you have sacrificed for and who you love to death, blithely hurt your feelings with no remorse and no understanding of what they've done? And, it's only supposed to get worse as children get older. I'm not whining and my world wasn't crushed, but it did make me think.

Once again, I came to grips with the fact that it's my responsibility to mold another human being. This topic has been creeping into my mind lately as my oldest son approaches the terrible twos and I prepare to welcome another baby to the fold. The article I linked to above discusses that topic as well.

I've begun to reassess all the personality failings I and my wife possess and, honest to God, I'm beginning to wonder if there is any way I won't screw these kids up forever. Basically, God is going to have to step in soon, or I expect things to get really ugly.

In addition, I'm not dealing with some wilted flower, I'm dealing with a defiant, opinionated smaller version of myself. When I watch him casually swat my hand away, or stare into my eyes when I correct him, I can almost feel how my parents must have felt when I recklessly told them "you're not the boss of me."

Lord help me...

Nah, the Lord better help him because I'm about to start beating that ass.


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Because I'm Me and You're You

A recent rash of shootings involving police officers and black men has sparked a lot of discussion and led to some very familiar questions:

Would there be fewer police shootings if police departments more adequately reflected the makeup of the communities officers patrol?

Can black men ever be safe in America when our default position is that of an imminent threat?

Why are police officers given the benefit of the doubt whenever they commit a violent act involving black people?

Those are all worthy, valid and important questions. Unfortunately, those questions haven't been asked enough by the general public or by the mainstream media charged with informing the public. Instead, another question has been asked way too often:

Why is it such a big deal when the police shoot a black man, but it's not a big deal when black people shoot each other?

I live in New Orleans. Black on black crime, particularly murder is as common here as red beans and rice on Mondays. Just about every single day in this city brings the news of another young black man gunned down in the streets like a rabid dog. Rarely do these shootings involve the police. Most often, they involve other black men involved in some way in the narcotics business, and often they go unsolved. The public is upset by this reality, we complain about it, but it rarely leads to riots.

Those are the bleak but accurate facts.

What I'm still trying to figure out is what those facts have to do with the fact that unarmed black men are killed disproportionately by police officers.

Do any of y'all know?

In my mind, those are two separate and important issues. The fact that young black men are killing each other at an alarming rate has very little to do with the fact that the police are killing young black men at an alarming rate. Logically, those two things are not related. Both issues are worthy of attention, but that does not mean that the two issues are connected.

So why do people keep bringing up one issue when I want to discuss the other?

Well, we all know why this happens. It happens because self-serving white people and idiotic black people love to point out examples of black pathology whenever they are confronted with the pathology other groups display towards black folks. It's as if people really believe that because black people have their own internal problems we have no right to complain when other people fuck us over.

It's like telling a rape victim she really shouldn't have been wearing that miniskirt and walking alone on the street.

Police officers are not supposed to be common criminals. They have privileges and rights that common criminals do not have. Police officers demand a level of respect and wield a level of authority that common criminals do not possess.

So, why would anybody expect the public to react the same way to a shooting involving police officers and a shooting involving common criminals?

It is pure hypocrisy for police officers to regularly embrace the benefits of being part of a special class, and then shirk the responsibilities that come with that status when things get rough. That's not the way life works.

You dance with the girl you brought to the prom. You live with side effects of the job you chose. Life is about living with the consequences of our choices, and one of the consequences of being a police officer is that you are held to a higher standard when you shoot someone.

Because you're you and I'm me.


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pass That Good Stuff, Dubya


George Bush got the chronic.

That sticky-icky.

That Death-Star, lung-clearing, slap-yo-mama weed that makes the world a better place with every single puff. That boy's weed is so good, even Snoop be like "No thanks" when the blunt comes around.

I mean, George W. Bush has got to be high, right?

There is no other explanation for his recent comments about Katrina. When asked about his administration's abject failure following the storm that destroyed my city, Dubya actually had the nerve to swell up and tell folks that his people did a good job.

That's either good weed or pure insanity.

No objective observer has said the federal government did a good job. Sure, some folks have tried to spread blame around to local and state agencies, while also blaming residents who didn't evacuate, but nobody, NOBODY, has tried to exonerate Dubya and his cronies. That's because it's effing impossible.

Look, Dubya effed up. It happens in everybody's life, and during his tenure as president it happened to him a lot more than most people. I think we all understand that. It doesn't make Bush look good to deny that his presidency has been one massive clusterfuck from start to finish. It makes him look whiny, dishonest and delusional.

That's not a good look when you're trying to burnish your legacy.

I wonder if Bush realizes that claiming that Hurricane Katrina wasn't really a big deal makes him look like a pompous, callous imbecile? I wonder if really cares? After all, he's allowed nearly 5,000 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens to be killed because he won't admit that the Iraq war was a ridiculous endeavor. Maybe he actually does believe that his administration did everything it could after Hurricane Katrina.

Well, at least when he gets high in the future only the cattle at his Crawford ranch will have to deal with it.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Me, Me, Me


"How could you be so, Doctor Evil...?"


I haven't downloaded purchased Kanye West's new album. I've been meaning to get around to it, but life has intruded.

But, his single is all over the place, and I've read enough reviews to get a general understanding of what the album entails. Fresh off critical acclaim for his first three albums, West has decided to take things in a different direction.

In short, Kanye is sad.

Now, seeing as how I haven't listened to the entire CD, it would be irresponsible and impossible for me to actually review it. But, I would like to discuss what appears to be one of its themes, romantic pain.

We've all been there. Heartbroken, sick, angry and, ultimately, sad. The truth is almost all of the romantic relationships we participate in are doomed to fail, yet, most of us truly believe that every person we profess our love to will be with us forever. It's a peculiar human delusion, most acutely found here in the good ole USA.

I was reminded of that delusion listening to Kanye's CD because not only does he appear to suffer from it, but the root cause of his delusion is also familiar.

Kanye loves him some him, and he can't understand why everybody else doesn't.

Does that sound familiar?

I was talking to a friend recently about how easy it is to fall in love with ourselves. Think about it. Which person do we spend the most time with, which person do we know the most about? Which person's motives are we most familiar with? Now, some people have serious issues about their weight, or skin color or anything that makes it seem like they don't love themselves. They might not love themselves as strongly as the rest of us, but there is still love there.

Truthfully, most of us love ourselves so that we're confused when other people don't reciprocate that love. More importantly, we can't understand why more people don't see the world the way we do, so that we could love them too.

Unfortunately, the world is not made up of me, or even a close facsimile of me. The world is made up of them, or rather a bunch of youse. That means that in order to find true happiness in love and in life in general, I need to sublimate a little of me, and embrace a little more of you. And that ain't easy.

For example, in Kanye's song, he spends a lot of time bemoaning how vindictive his former lover is, but very little time discussing what he did to bring out that side of her. I seriously doubt that she was some evil ice queen when he met her because it would be highly unlikely that he would fall so hard for her in the first place. See, Kanye, like most of us, is much more willing to gloss over his own personal imperfections because after all, he loves himself that much.

Love compels us to forgive and move on. Love forces us to see the best in people when logic would make us see the worst. How love does this, I'm not sure. Nobody is sure. But it happens every day. Personally, I think that once we stop thinking so highly of ourselves and our merits, once we understand that we possess flaws just like all the unsavory characters we despise, then it becomes easier to submit to love's healing balm. We don't have to love ourselves less to do this, but we do have to understand better why everybody else might not share our feelings.

One of the most difficult things in life is to truly see the world from a different perspective. It's a constant challenge and trial. And, unfortunately, there is no tangible reward once you develop the habit. There is no pot of gold, no magical angel wings. Instead, you'll just find other people's lack of empathy troubling and you will be less able to assimilate into society. Sure, you might feel better about your development as a human being, but that's a cold comfort indeed.

Ice Cold.

As I look back over this piece, I realize that it's pretty dreary. That wasn't my intention at, I just wanted to get some thoughts off my chest. Oh well, y'all are hardy folk.




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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Work it Out

Church.

Not like Bishop Magic Don Juan, but more like Bishop T.D. Jakes. That video I linked? That's church right there.

I remember my first real job. I had recently finished grad school and was living in a new city with no friends or relatives. Grad school had been a very difficult time in my life, but it had also drawn me closer to God. However, the final transition from life as a child to adulthood awaited me in my new city, and that carried it's on special set of difficulties.

As I struggled to stay afloat mentally, I asked my mother to send me some gospel music. Sadly, I didn't own much gospel myself, my music catalogue consisted of hardcore rap and some old school R&B. That music is great to groove to, but when you're crying your eyes out wondering if you can make it, it doesn't get the job done.

Anyway, my mom sent me a care package (Aren't mommies wonderful?) and along with the usual goodies, it had a few CDs. I listened to the CDs non-stop for weeks, and they helped me get through some tough times. I arrived at work one day and a certain song came on the CD. It was one that had spoken to me previously in some of my darkest hours. I was parked in a garage, but I sat there for the next five or six minutes and had my own personal praise service.

I bounced, I swayed, I clapped. I sang at the top of my voice, and right there in the front seat of my car, I worshipped God. People passed me by, some giving me strange looks, others hurrying on to their destination. I felt a twinge of embarassment once, but then the praise caught me up again.

Church.

A friend of mine who doesn't believe in God said that at the annual Jazz Fest hear in New Orleans she loves to stop at the gospel tent and stay for a while. She talked about how well the choirs sing and how amazing it is to see people dancing in the aisles. I understood her feeling completely.

Y'all know I'm a traditional Christian in most ways. But, I also understand that God can be understood and felt by all, even those who don't share my beliefs. Sometimes in life we may not truly grasp the importance of certain things, but just by watching people who do, we can catch a glimpse.

By bearing witness to other people's worship, we can comprehend faith a little better ourselves.

I don't know about y'all, but that's helped me at times. Even when I couldn't feel God, I could watch my mother feel him and feel comforted. I'm sure that feeling can be extended to those who have no wish to know God. Seeing other people step out on faith can be a source of comfort and confidence to anyone who needs it.

There is a beauty in most worship. A sense of wholly communion between man and something larger.

Church.


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Friday, January 9, 2009

Public Service Announcement

My homegirl is looking for love.

In order to find it, she's decided that she will go on at least 50 first dates over the course of the next year. The catch is that she will only go on first dates with these men. No matter what they do, they will not qualify for a second date.

Now, some of y'all may find this stupid, but you're wrong. Like many women, and a few men, my homegirl has some relationship baggage she needs to shed. She's hoping that all these first dates will be like an enema for her mojo, or something like that. Plus, if her escapades are really funny she might be able to swing a book deal or something.

Anyway here is her site First Date Frenzy. She and I both would appreciate it y'all took the time to look around and leave some comments. If you like it, pass is along to your friends. The first posts are at the bottom of the page, most recent posts are at the top.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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Flashing Lights


What do flashing blue and red lights in your rearview mirror make you do?

My stomach clenches up. Heart rate increases, sweat forms on my palms. I quickly scan back over my past few minutes of driving time to see if I've done anything wrong. Did I come to a complete stop at the corner? Was that last signal yellow or red? Is all my paperwork up to date. I chastise myself for becoming anxious, I remind myself that I have a right to drive my car and live my life. I prepare myself for a humiliating confrontation and quickly review my rights as a citizen.

I don't truly relax until those lights, and the police officer controlling them, pass me by.

Do you fear the flashing lights? How about the officers controlling them?

Do you wonder if they'll pull you from your vehicle? Do you fear that they may rough you up a little bit if you don't seem suitably contrite or respectful?

Or, are you afraid of something much more serious.

If you're a black man, you might worry about dying. It's an understandable fear. For black men, interacting with the police is an activity fraught with peril. Sure, most of the time both parties go on their way without violence or serious conflict. But, far more often than with any other group, these exchanges turn ugly, and it's typically black men who suffer the most.

Oscar Grant III died the last time he met police. So did Adolph Grimes II and Sean Bell. There have been countless others over the years. Black men, some of them good men, some of them bad, who have had violent interactions with the police. Young or old, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, it seems like no subset of black men is immune. Those flashing lights haunt us all.

Some people scoff at the idea that black men are in any special sort of danger. Innocent people are safe, they say. If you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?

Flashing lights.




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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

So, I'm walking through a discount grocery store the other day.

Yeah, I shop at discount grocery stores all the times. Can't trust the produce that much, but everything else is fair game.

Anyway, as I'm walking the aisles looking for random cheap treasures like chocolate Chex, I see a little boy walking behind his mother a few feet away. Like most kids, he's looking up and down the aisles to see if there are any items he can persuade mommy to buy him.

His eyes spotted a wooden guitar on sale for $60 or $70, and he began his sales pitch. Here's what he told his mother:
"Oooh Mama, I know what I want for income tax, this right here."

1. Notice how he made himself seem extremely excited to see a random toy in a store.
2. Notice how he began his conversation with the assumption that he was already entitled to a present.
3. Notice....

Wait, hold on.

When did income tax refund season become a gift-giving holiday?

My people, my people. It's shocking how many of us view income tax season as our Second Christmas. I don't know if this is exclusive to black people since I don't have any friends of different races who I could poll. But, I do know that black people look forward to income tax refunds the same way fat kids look forward to lunch time.

I'll admit it, there was a time when I got that same sense of joy from income tax season. After all, who doesn't like the idea of a lump sum payment coming to them? Of course I was disappointed that one year I actually had to PAY Uncle Sam money, but for the most part I was happy to sit back and collect my free money.

Free money.

I guess ignorance is bliss. My whole perception of tax season changed once somebody hipped me to the fact that I was not getting free money, but rather the government was finally paying off an interest-free loan that I gave it the year before. They pointed out that if I hadn't overpaid in the first place, I could have just kept that money in my paycheck and used it earlier in the year.

That kind of put a damper on my tax season celebration.

I guess I wrote all this because it's amusing to me the things we as Americans celebrate, and how little we understand about how our government serves us. We're all sitting at home anxiously awaiting our checks, when we should have had our money a long time ago.

That seemed funny to me.


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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Now That's Gangsta


I hope y'all enjoyed yesterday's brevity because I'm thinking about making it a habit.

Anyway, did y'all see how Roland Burris got gangsta with the United States Senate on Tuesday? Even though he wasn't formally "invited" to the Senate's "party" for incoming members, Burris reminded everybody that he had purchased a ticket and just showed up anyway.

Like, "Where the food at?"

Now that takes a set of brass ones. How you gonna just crash a government party? This wasn't some random house party at your second cousin's roommate's apartment. This was a party being thrown by political bigwigs and Burris basically dared them to throw his black ass out. Then he had a press conference about how they threw him out!

I said when this Burris appointment first broke that Blago was a sharp cookie for playing this game of racial chicken, but now I have to admit that he probably didn't think of this all by himself. Considering the way Burris has handled this whole fiasco and his longtime connections to Governor Felon, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe this brother isn't the real mastermind.

After all, old black people understand better than anybody how the game of racial politics and quid pro quo works. Maybe Burris realized a long time ago that black people might be pissed if Obama's elevation to the presidency meant that no black people were going to be left in the Senate. I wouldn't be surprised if he lay back in the cut, waited for that crooked sucker Blago to get popped, and then whispered in his ear about a great way Blago could stick it to that Uppity Negro Obama and all his fawning white friends.

Seriously, if this brother could get elected to statewide office, I'm guessing he understands the way white folks' minds work. Maybe he's been playing Blago like a fiddle from jump street.

That would be foul, but it would also be quite gangsta.


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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Short and Hopefully Sweet

I'm swamped so I can't write one of my ridiculously long posts for today.

But, I was thinking about something the other day that I thought I might share.

Y'all know I'm married, and, like most married people, I've found that staying married is a daily struggle of love and patience. Anyway, the other morning the wife and I have a disagreement and I leave for work in a huff.

Have y'all every noticed how easy it is to get sidetracked by anger? It almost seems like anger and frustration are delicious cookies just begging to be devoured when you pass them in the kitchen. They call to you, entice you and can even sate you. But, in the end, you'll end up feeling worse after having indulged.

I'm really working on controlling my anger and refusing to allow my self to succumb to certain temptations. It's a constant struggle, but I've learned, as many of you have learned, that most things worth having take work to attain. Anyway, I thought I'd steal an idea from my homeboy Deacon Blue and leave you with a scripture I have marked in my Bible to remind myself of how I need to behave.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath"James 1:19

Now, wasn't that both short and sweet?


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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Peep Game

I'm about to put y'all on.

I mentioned this in my last post, but I wanted to elaborate on it and leave y'all to consider my reasoning over the weekend.

Barack Obama needs to worry about being labeled a coward.

Before some of y'all come at my neck, take your time and read my thoughts.

For the past two years, Obama has mastered the art of avoiding conflict without appearing too weak. He's sidestepped most of the controversies his opponents and the media have tried to involve him in, and he's been amazing at keeping his cool and refusing to be angered when insulted or discriminated against.

In the words of the immortal Andre Benjamin, the brother ain't cool, he's ice cold.

But, while Obama's laid back demeanor won him the White House, it also exposed him in other ways. African Americans voted for Obama overwhelmingly, but I think we all can admit that our votes were as much about the moment as the were about the man. Sure Obama was the most qualified candidate, but he also represented a major racial checkpoint. His election was a definite sign of black people's progress and that drove the massive support he received from us as much as his attitude and intelligence.

In fact, I think more militant black people wavered constantly in their support of Obama. I'm not even a militant, and I know I was conflicted at times. I wanted the brother to be more fiery, to call attention to historic wrongs and demand redress. I wanted him to call out sniveling Republican operatives on their racist attacks, and dress down the pandering media that never challenged mainstream mindsets. A part of me was disappointed that Obama didn't use his platform to finally force America to honestly assess itself in a mirror, even though I understood that there was no way he could do that and get elected.

Eventually, I got over it.

The thing is, now that the media and white people have watched Obama succeed despite their doubts, they now are questioning his placid manner. Some of this is in response to Obama's constant promise of change, but most of it is because the media thrives on controversy and they want to maintain the ridiculous ratings they enjoyed during the campaign. Obama is being goaded to take broad and decisive action because the media understands that no matter what action he takes, or whether he's successful, it will be news.

And that's why I think he's going to be labeled a coward.

I see the media quietly laying the groundwork for this meme with stories about whether Obama has the "mettle" to lead this country in a time of distress. I see them belaboring the point that now is not the time for a president who considers things from every angle before acting. Slowly, the media is creating the narrative that Obama is so afraid of conflict and drama that he will never take a stand on any controversial issue. Despite the fact that Obama has yet to be officially sworn in as president, they are criticizing him for not doing something to solve the world's problems.

This is actually a fairly predictable ploy.

Over the past eight years, the media have been repeatedly bitch-slapped by President Bush and the Republicans. Initially, journalists went along with most of the president's policies because the decision makers in the media shared his beliefs. As public opinion has shifted, the media has pushed back against Bush, but for the most part it's been too little and too late. The average American has far less trust for journalists now than before Bush took office, and it doesn't appear things are getting any better.

Logically, the media sees an Obama presidency as a chance to regain their stature.

Obama is still vulnerable to negative press, and unlike most politicians, he does not seem interested in buttering up the media to control his image. Sure, he's benefited from positive coverage for the past two years, but that was the result of what he represented not his own savvy. Obama has decided that transparency does not mean media access, and that stance has not endeared him to journalists dependent on leaks and anonymous sources to break news.

Truthfully, I don't see a way for Obama to avoid being labeled a coward without violating many of his key political principles. The media must create that narrative, so that they can justify the outpouring of criticism that Obama is sure to receive once he dons the presidential mantle and the country continues its descent into economic hell.

There is no way Obama can correct Bush's screwups quickly, but that won't stop the media from demanding he do just that. And in order to justify their critiques, journalists will have to create a narrative that places the blame on Obama because continuing to blame Bush just won't capture the public's attention.

Keep watching and reading and see if I'm right.


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Raving Black Lunatic