Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh, The Horror!

Was watching CNN on Thursday.

This dude Jack, don't know his last name, was ranting about that gang rape in Cali. (Which reminds me. Does anybody know when it became cool for anchors to stop being objective? Rick Sanchez is freaking ridiculous. I was just wondering.) You know the incident where a 15-year old girl was raped by nearly a dozen men.

Anyway, Jack was pissed because according to police, folks stood by and watched the girl get raped, and some might have even joined in. Jack tied the actions of bystanders in this case to the failure of witnesses to come forward in the Derrion Albert beating incident in Chicago. He then wondered when we became a nation that watched while people were raped and beaten.

Hmm....

Might I refer CNN to the Lynching era and Civil Rights Era of American history.

From my vantage point, Americans have been pretty good at ignoring rapes and beatings for some time, especially when those rapes and beatings involved black folks getting brutalized by white folks.

For centuries, black people were severely mistreated and abused by a portion of the white population, while the majority stood on the sidelines and said "Not my concern."

See, while I believe racism was pervasive in the past, I understand that its most brutal aspects weren't things discussed out in the open. That's why the Klan and other domestic terrorism organization handled much of their business at night, and why they liked to wear disguises. That allowed the general public to pretend they didn't know what was going on, or who was responsible.

But, they did.

They saw the people of this country being mistreated and they turned their heads. They watched women being beaten and raped, men being castrated and lynched and sometimes they even cheered. They cheered and had picnics.

I think what happened to that young girl is horrible. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. But, as I've said before, this rush to pretend that what's happening today has no parallel in history is ridiculous. Humans have been the same savage creatures since we were created.

This ain't nothing new.



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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Is That?

The jeans were so tight.

I wouldn't have been able to walk in them. The pants weren't exactly a second skin, but they looked pretty uncomfortable. They required mincing steps that were almost feminine.

Yeah, I'm talking about the jeans on a man.

It was Sunday morning. The young man wrapped snuggly in denim was walking down the center aisle at my church. To complement his skinny jeans, he'd selected some of those bulky tennis shoes kids favor these days, along with a snug and short jacket. No boxers were actually showing, but it wouldn't take much for them to be exposed. Not much at all.

My first thought was "What the hell is that?"

Next thought was "Is that what's passing for church attire these days?"

Finally I realized, "Why do I even care?"

I'm glad I got to that final thought. I'm not going to say I still didn't think the young man's clothes were a tad improper, I did. Later on in service I gave a side-eye to a young lady rocking a sundress that showed a lot of thigh and cleavage. But, I didn't dwell on those things like I might have in the past. I didn't silently condemn them for their dress. I noted that they had made choices I didn't agree with, but I then forced myself to acknowledge that I don't have to agree with the choices of other people.

Man, that's progress for me.

I think I've mentioned before that I have this urge to impose my view of the world on other people. It's not so much that I have to control their actions, but I feel like even if I can't make them do what I want, I can make them acknowledge that I'm right.

Marriage has shown me the depths of my stupidity.

Now that I am trying to eradicate my idiotic tendencies when it comes to my wife, I've also been attempting to do the same for other folks. I'm trying to walk that tightrope between staying true to my own beliefs, while not using my beliefs to condemn others. It's a very difficult task.

Which brings me back to the clothes. The Lord knows I've worn some pretty shady clothes to church as a youngster, and you would think that would make me more accepting of the stylings of today's youth. But, often I'm not. It seems that I view the young me as this bumbling idiot who should be pitied and avoided, not held up as a some sort of guiding standard. I know this is wrong, yet it's still a challenge to resist this impulse.

I still ask "What is that?"





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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bedtime

Little Big Man was sitting on my lap. It was bedtime and he'd been lotioned up and we'd just finished reading his bedtime story.

The little guy was sad. We'd just had it out earlier because he claimed he wanted cereal for dinner, but when I gave him his bowl, he did more playing than eating. I tolerate a lot of stuff, but I don't tolerate wasting food. It just wasn't allowed in my house growing up, and even today it's like I can see the actual dollars attached to the food being tossed out.

Little Big Man is pouting now, his face is buried in my chest and I can still smell the cereal on his hands. Damn, should have done a better job washing those hands, but I'm tired. It's time for his prayers, but I figure we'd better talk it out.

"What's wrong man, you sad?"

He nods into my chest. I've been trying to break him of this nodding thing and get him to say "Yes sir" every time, but it's a work in progress. Plus, my wife thinks there is something "country" about adding the honorific "sir" and "ma'am" to responses. People these days, I tell you.

"I can't hear you man. Are you sad?"

Another nod, this time while squeezing me tighter.

"Why you sad"

"Ummmm..."

He likes saying "um" now. I didn't teach him that. Just like I didn't teach him to say "tasty" when he likes food, or to say "I love it" when he likes something. I don't know where he's picking this stuff since he's around my wife and I all day. Maybe tv, maybe our passing conversations, but he amazes me all the time with the things he does and says.

"You sad 'cause of Daddy?"

He nods his head.

"Why Daddy made you sad?"

"Um..."

"Daddy was mean to you? That's why you sad?"

"Yes."

"Daddy wasn't trying to be mean, Daddy was trying to teach you something. Daddy has to discipline you so you can grow up right. Daddy has to show you what to do, right?"

Silence.

"Does Daddy love you?"

"No."

"Look at me."

The little boy has amazing eyes. I feel sorry for all you mothers and fathers out there with little girls because I got a feeling my little man is going to break hearts. Expressive eyes, that are so brown it's shocking. He hates to meet my eyes when he's angry, but I force him to anyway. My father taught me that. Look a man in his eyes and he knows you're a man as well.

"Little Big Man, Daddy always loves you, no matter what. But, just 'cause Daddy loves you doesn't mean he's going to let you do what you want. Sometimes Daddy has to be mean."

I kiss him. He giggles, then hugs me.

"You still mad?"

He shakes his head.

"You love Daddy?"

This time I get a nod. It's enough.

"Let's say our prayers."


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Heart Warming

My heart grows cold.

Day after day, minute after minute, the chill creeps in. Slowly stalking me, its patience is feline. The cold need not rush, its prey can never escape.

Why must the world be this way? Like Solomon I look around at the pursuit of knowledge or wealth or even love, and I cry out "Vanity!" It is all vanity, silly flower petals that will only wilt as the seasons change. Wilt and then die.

Who but God can comfort the comfortless? Yet, is God's comfort anything more than a psychosis of the human mind? A chemical imbalance that leads us to believe in an omnipotent being who spends his time caring about insignificant, finite humans? Where is this God, point to him and let the world see...

Those thoughts make me shudder. I shiver now. The cold creeps onward, slowly like floodwaters, drowning passion and hope. Where is my stronghold, where is my safety?

I cling to God. I cannot point to him. I cannot produce his being for the satisfaction of others or even myself. I only have this blind faith, blind like Justice is blind, blind like bats are blind. My sonar is my heart.

Who can offer me more?

Not corrupt officials, consumed by the lusts of their flesh and their eyes, overcome by pride. They offer no succor, they offer no wisdom, they offer no relief. They offer nothing but a high-fructose serving of hope, a Splenda infused helping of faith. Master forgers, they traffic in illusion.

Who but God offers me more?

The cold grows. So cold it's almost warm. My heart burns with the cold, a raging inferno of ice, a glacial bonfire. Slowly, slowly it beats, its rhythm the key to my questions. Yet, I cannot find the beat. I've always lacked rhythm. Instead I stumble then fall. My feet followed the path of my heart and could not support me. I fall, and I hear my heart beat.

Colder, colder.



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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Evaluating Your Blessings

Is a blessing always a good thing?

I'm involved with this group at my church where we talk to young men about life and God. Anyway, during a recent session this young father, who I think is still a teenager, asked me whether he and the mother of his child should stop having sex even if they plan on getting married soon.

I told him that if he wasn't married now, he shouldn't be having sex, period. He didn't like that answer, but then he changed course. He asked me why some folks talk about children as a negative consequence of fornication, but then turn around and call his little girl a blessing. He couldn't figure out how his daughter could be a blessing if the only way she came in to the world was because he was doing something contrary to God's will.

Good question, right?

Is it possible for a blessing, (children are typically seen as a blessing by most most Christians) to be a bad thing?

Calling something a "blessing" implies that your life is positively impacted by it. But, as all parents will tell you, children can both negatively and positively impact your life.

I wouldn't trade my two boys for anything, but that doesn't mean I don't think fondly of my life before parenthood. Being a parent is a massive responsibility, and it's only natural to grow weary of carrying that burden on occasion.

I told the teenage father that sometimes God can bless us, and punish us at the same time. Having a child is a blessing, but the responsibility that goes along with parenting can feel like a punishment at times. When you have to handle the hassles of parenting outside of a marriage, it quickly becomes apparent why God intended for children to be raised inside of marriages.

I've found that like most parents, God doesn't refuse to care for his children, or bless them, just because they misbehave. He has the ability to bless and chastise at the same time. Unfortunately, we as humans often lack the ability to see the duality in our situations, particularly when our situations seem negative.

Black Girl In Maine talked about something related to this topic recently. She discussed the fact that given their economic conditions, some folks really shouldn't be having children. She noted that the idea that all you need to raise children is "love," is ridiculous.

I agree with many of her points, but her post made me think.

Just because something is difficult doesn't make it bad. Conversely, every blessing doesn't come easy. Children are the epitome of this principle, but it applies to most things in our lives. Too often we expect good things to come with no strings attached. Some of us mistakenly believe that when God blesses us, he'll magically do all the work.

Snap out of it.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eating and Pooping

If you're angry, disillusioned, disappointed, or just plain unhappy that President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Price recently, I want you to raise your hand.

Lift it a little higher please.

Okay, now that I've got your measure, I want to refer you to two of my favorite Jay-Z lyrics of all time.

"Nigga respect the game, that should be it
What you eat don't make me shit - where's the love?"


"You don't even know me and you mad, how it feel to be a hater.
Now I know exactly how it feel to be a Laker"


And, since I don't really listen to rap like that anymore, and I'm trying to be a better Christian, I'm also going to refer to the parable of The Workers in the Vineyard.

Now, some of y'all might be a little upset at my flippancy. Truth be told, I had planned on avoiding this entire topic cause y'all know I don't do politics like that over here any more. I've got a hands off policy on all this political wrangling, plus I'm more interested in other stuff.

With that said, I felt like I had to speak on this thing. Not because I wasn't surprised that Obama won, I was. In fact, my initial reaction was "Well, what did he do?"

Nah, I felt like speaking now because while my initial reaction was without rancor, it was based in ignorance. It seems that Obama has done more than enough to qualify for the award given the standards set forth by the Nobel committee.

We can debate whether there were other qualified candidates, but I refuse to entertain the idea that Obama was wholly unqualified. And, given this fact, for anyone to still question whether Obama "deserved" what he got, or to be upset that he got it, well that's crossing over into some unsavory territory.

That's Hater Land.

And, when folks cross over into Hater Land, I think of those Jay-Z lyrics and that parable. The lyrics are easily understandable, but everybody might not be familiar with the parable. It's about a master who hires some workers to do a job, and they all agree to get paid the same amount.

However, the master hires each worker at different times of the day, so they all work different periods in the vineyard. So, one worker might have agreed to work 10 hours for $100, while another only worked 1 hour for his $100. At the end of the parable, the owner of the vineyard chastises those workers who are upset that some folks basically got paid $100 an hour. He notes that it's his money and he can do what he wants.

The parable is designed to discuss salvation and the fact that God bestows salvation on whom he chooses, when he chooses. But, it also works in this President Obama issue. The simple truth is that most people in the world are completely unaffected by the president's victory. It has no impact on their lives, and they are still getting everything they were getting before.

Yet, for some folks it's unacceptable that somebody else can get something they think that person doesn't deserve. It's ironic that these feelings seem to be most prevalent among the media and Republicans. Obama's succes irks them to no end. Not because it affects their lives, but because it affects their sense of fair play. Guess what?

Ain't no fair play.

Fairness is a concept created by humans to justify their attempts to make the world work the way they want it to work. Justice is a concept created by God to explain why the world works the way it does. God doesn't care about what you think is fair.

There is no reason for most people to be upset at President Obama's good fortune. None. So I feel justified in labeling those folks who are upset "haters."


What do y'all think?



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Friday, October 9, 2009

Oooh, Y'all So Wrong

Outside of President Barack Obama's recent Nobel Prize, one of the biggest stories floating around the cable news networks and the web has been Harry Connick Jr.'s comments about blackface while guest judging an Australian variety show.

Based on the clip I saw, Connick was serving as a guest judge on an Austrailian variety show when an act called "The Jackson Jive" performed. The group was comprised of several white doctors who reprised their previous performance from 30 years ago mimicking the Jackson Five while wearing blackface.

Yep, blackface.

Connick has become an even bigger star because after the group's performance he awarded them a big fat zero for their score, and later talked to the crowd about the way blackface is viewed in America.

Connick added that if he had known he was going to be asked to judge a blackface act, he wouldn't have even come on the show. His response has been lauded by most folks, who also have been blasting the Aussies for the their insensitivity.

So, I'm going to talk about something else.

First, it was quite interesting to watch the response of the Australian audience to the performance, and look at the attitudes of the other folks on the show. From what I could tell, most of them had no problem with a blackface performance and found it to be a smashing success. Hell, the host of the show was damn near giddy with amusement, and one of the other judges awarded the act a 7 out of 10. However, to be fair, another judge did give the group a score of 1.

It was funny watching Connick try to discuss blackface, while attempting to avoid being "the bad guy." Any one who has discussed racism and bigotry knows that the first thing that happens when you call out people for their idiocy, is that they turn on you. They label you a downer or too sensitive, and generally come up with plenty of reasons why you should be ignored.

Connick worked hard to introduce a serious subject on a show that seems built around silliness. It was a daunting task and one I'm sure he wasn't prepared for when he rolled out of bed. So, given the circumstances, I think he did a decent job.

However, it was still galling to watch the contortions he had to make to discuss the topic. I know about Brits and their spoonful of sugar, but it was damn near ridiculous. And his attempts to avoid angering the crowd led to him saying something stupid like "We Americans have worked for years not to make African Americans look like buffoons..."

Like a friend of mine said, it was obvious what he meant. But the way he said it implied that black folks naturally look like buffoons and white people have been carefully working behind the scenes to keep this a secret. As if the problem hasn't been white people selectively portraying black folks, it's really been their inability to hide our egregious faults. Connick's phrasing was just off.

But, what really got me miffed, was how the mainstream media was falling over themselves to congratulate Connick and wag their collective fingers at the British. You would have thought Connick saved a black baby from a burning building, instead of just doing the decent thing. I mean, when you see people making racist jokes it is your job to say something no matter what color you are. It's kind of like that joke Chris Rock said about people wanting congratulations for stuff they're supposed to do. So what if you take care of your kids, you're their damn father, that's your job!

Plus, it was funny how easily the American media could decide that blackface was bad in this instance, but in other instances we get these tepid reports trying to show how the folks in blackface were really trying to make a point. The headlines were like "Connick snuffs out racism" and we know damn sure if he had said the same thing to some college kids in South Carolina, nobody would have thrown around the dreaded "R" word so easily. I guess it's much more comfortable talking about the failures of Australians than discussing our own foibles.

But, I always learned that when you point a finger at someone else, you really point three at yourself.



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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Storm Season

Wind blow, tree bend.

Bend, but don't break.

Break, but don't splinter.

Splinter and suffer.

Rain fall, ground drink.

Drink, but don't gulp.

Gulp, but don't drown.

Drown and suffer.

Trouble come, man cry.

Cry, but don't wail.

Wail, but don't despair.

Despair, but don't succumb.

Succumb and suffer forever.



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Monday, October 5, 2009

Word Power

Urban Terrorism.

That catchphrase has been floating around the internet and the mainstream media for a few years now, but it recently gained prominence with the brutal death of Derrion Albert in Chicago last week. I avoided writing about Albert's death partially because I couldn't think of anything profound or worthy to say about this tragedy. I also kept quiet because I felt my opinion on what happened was so far outside of the mainstream opinion that it would only stir up trouble, and I wasn't interested in that path.

But, now I have something to say.

A good friend of mine recently described what happened to Albert as "urban terrorism." In fact, she described most of the black criminals who threaten and harm folks in the hood as terrorists. She said given their actions and the trauma they inflict on their communities she feels perfectly comfortable labeling them as such.

Obviously, we disagree.

First, I want to say that what happened to Albert was a tragedy. He seemed like a young man doing the right thing and trying to make it in a tough situation. It's horrible that his life was cut short. However, I think that the way this incident was categorized, the way the men responsible were labeled and vilified was ridiculous. Yes, they are caught on camera apparently killing Albert. But, this didn't happen in a vacuum, we must consider context.

The beating happened during a massive brawl. I don't know about most of y'all, but I've seen violent brawls with weapons up close, and nobody is really checking to see if the person they are beating is a good kid or a bad kid. Pretty much people are hitting and beating anybody they don't recognize as one of their friends. I'm not saying this is right, just saying it's normal for a brawl.

With that in mind, I'm not surprised that Albert got beaten. I'm not surprised that the men were particularly vicious. I would be surprised if the opposite occurred. This young man stumbled into a very bad situation and he was killed because of that. Not because the men who beat him were soulless humans, but because they viewed him as a potential enemy and threat due to the prevailing circumstances and they responded with force. Unfortunately, they were wrong and an innocent died.

Now, about the terrorism aspect.

I pay attention to words. It's my business and a hobby to understand how people use words and what they convey through their word choice. I have to be familiar with their denotation and connotation. In this case, I'm worried about connotation.

Terrorist and terrorism are loaded terms in today's world. Hell, they've always been loaded terms since mainstream society selectively decides who they get applied to, regardless of actions.

In the Israeli and Palestinian conflict have any of you ever heard of an Israeli group routinely labeled a "terrorist organization?" Hell, for decades the KKK and other groups behaved exactly like so-called "terrorists" but weren't given that label until very recently.

It means something to be called a terrorist. It connotes a certain evilness and unworthiness. There is no nuance to terrorists, they are just people to be feared, then hated and ultimately eliminated.

Is that really what we want the mainstream media calling folks in the hood?

It reminds of how we got such disparate laws regarding crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't some diabolical plot of "The Man." Nope. We got those laws because African Americans lobbied for their creation in response to the crack epidemic that was destroying our communities. That's right, we ASKED the government to treat us unfairly to solve a problem that the government helped to create.

Mindboggling.

I see the same thing with this urban terrorism issue. Clearly violence is a massive problem in black communities. I see it all the time, I know how bad it is. I also understand that most folks outside the hood ignore the ripple effect of that violence, how it damages the minds of young and old.

It's hard to study for a test when you're worried about a drive-by shooting on your street. It's way too easy to view 21 as "old age" when you can't think of a single man on your block who lived too far past it. It's more than the lives lost to death and prison, there are also lives lost to the conditions that violence creates.

The reason why the term "urban terrorism" was created was because black folks were crying out for some attention and assistance for our crime-ridden neighborhoods. The problems are so massive, so ingrained, that we know it's unlikely we can solve them all alone. Hell, we didn't create them all alone. But, in our rush to get assistance I feel we're inviting a response that will only exacerbate things.

Just like the government has used the crack cocaine laws to finance and populate the for-profit prison system, I can see them using "urban terrorism" to justify all manner of evil in black communities. Like I said, terrorists have no rights and neither do their neighborhoods. We see how our government treats "terrorists" in other countries, do we really think they'd hesitate to do that to black folks?

I think the hood needs help. I think it needs attention. I think it needs a lot. But what I don't think it needs is a new label that only invites trouble.

Remember the power of words.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Falling Back

I got this bad habit.

I've told y'all about it, promised to change, but man I can't shake it. Feels like King Kong is copping a piggyback ride, and that hairy bastard got super glue on his chest.

I, Big Man, am a Debate-a-holic.

Like many folks with a dependency problem, I've long told myself it's no big deal. I could stop arguing with random people at any time. Hell, it was easy for me to cut back, to stop visiting certain sites, to stop checking the comments section. Yeah, I liked the thrill of eviscerating someone's weak argument, and I loved having folks jump on my bandwagon, but I didn't need that stuff. It was just something to pass the time.

But, I'm addicted.

I've only recently been able to acknowledge that I have a compulsion. A near uncontrollable desire to argue with people and their opinions. I'm not saying I can never control this desire because I often can. What I'm saying is that the desire never, ever goes away. It's always lurking in the pit of my stomach, waiting for a chance to force my lips or fingers to do it's bidding.

I've seen it ruin perfectly good evenings with my wife. Sometimes it forces me to waste hours of my life with strangers on the internet. I'm not saying it's all bad, but honestly, I'm hard-pressed to find a true "good" in it. Sure, I feel like I'm a better "thinker" than most folks, but how does that benefit me in the long run?

So, I've recently committed myself to toning down the arguing and teaching myself how to let people say what they want without feeling compelled to answer them. Currently, I'm failing miserably, but I have hope that I'll have a breakthrough soon enough. What I need to do is channel my ability to think critically and formulate arguments into something that is truly productive, not just entertaining.

Any suggestions?



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Raving Black Lunatic