Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Clouds, Shade and Darkness

It's hot as the dickens down here in the city where sin comes to party.

It's so hot that every little bit of shade feels like paradise, and even the sun's departure brings no relief from the heat and humidity. The unrelenting heat, and the constant battle to escape it,  makes it impossible not to think about clouds, shade and darkness.

Every life is filled with seasons. The unbridled, potential-filled spring of childhood. The hot-headed, lust-filled and pressure-laden summer of young adulthood. The brisk, but comfortable middle-age of fall and, finally, the hoary cold of the winter of old age. For those blessed with a long life, we will see all of these seasons and experience the joys and pains that accompany each one.

We will all have our clouds, our shade and our darkness.

There is a difference between the three, particularly as it relates to how they affect our lives. Take shade, for instance. There is nothing more comforting when the summer sun is beating down on your head than a tiny oasis of shade. We seek that shade, it comforts us and provides a small escape.

But, when it's cold, shade is not a positive, but a negative. When we can't find the sun's rays in the cold, it's far easier to get chilled to the bone. In the cold, shade is not an oasis, but an ice patch, providing us with discomfort and some danger.

But, the shade is almost always a temporary and small thing. We can easily find it, or easily avoid it. When one area of shade deserts us, there is always another we can seek out. When we are trapped in one area of shade, we can usually escape with a minimum of effort.

That's not the case with clouds. Whether they be fluffy and white, or dark and gloomy, clouds have a far larger impact on our lives. In the heat, a passing cloud can provide us with comfort wherever we stand. It can also blot out the sun completely in the cold so there is nowhere to find warmth. Rain clouds can bring cooling rain, or violent and destructive thunderstorms.

We don't seek out clouds and typically we can only avoid them with some serious effort, if they are avoidable at all.

In fact, the only thing more unavoidable than clouds, is darkness.

We will see darkness. But, just like shade and clouds, it can be both boon and burden.

Darkness gives our world a rest from the sun. For while the sun helps sustain life, it can also erase it. Darkness provides a time of coolness, a time to recover and prepare for what will come in the future. Without darkness, would we even appreciate the light?

But, darkness also provides cover for things that are dangerous. Without the sun, things that abhor the light become bold. There is a reason so many people are afraid of the dark.

In our lives, we often get to make small decisions that will positively or negatively impact our lives. That's the shade. We also have unexpected situations that we cannot control, and that make good or bad impacts on how we live on a larger scale. They are obviously temporary, but that doesn't diminish their reach.  Those are our clouds.

Finally, we have things that are inevitable and unavoidable. Good and bad, these things will come and we must prepare ourselves to handle them. That's darkness.

What's your weather report looking like?


Monday, June 28, 2010

That Final Statement

When you die, what will your obituary say?

Will you even have an obituary worth noting?

I thought about obituaries, and their role as the final public explanation of life, as I read the lengthy obituary of Sen. Robert Byrd in the New York Times. Byrd, one of West Virginia's senators for more than 50 years, died over the weekend and the Times took time to reflect on his lengthy and distinguished career.

Byrd was a Senate stalwart, a largely self-educated man who rose from humble beginnings to control the halls of legislative power. His life was one dedicated to upholding what he saw as the purpose of the Senate, and he played a role in many of the decisions that have defined our country over the past half century. He was the epitome of a mover and shaker, and his obituary takes care to give us a detailed picture of  how much accomplished.

Byrd was also a former Klansman.

This information is introduced some time around paragraph 20 of his obituary. It is followed by a fairly brief description of how Byrd joined the Klan, and how he later disavowed the group and its teachings.

Byrd's former Klan affiliations were known by many. On several occasions, in his autobiography and other forums, Byrd lamented what he called a foolish decision to join the group. He claimed he joined because it could provide him with political and social capital in the South. Byrd apologized many times for his transgressions, and often wondered aloud how long he would be punished for his mistake.

For most folks that has been enough. They refused to allow his Klan tenure, however regrettable, to overshadow everything else he had done with his life. Yes, Byrd opposed the Civil Rights act of '64 and the Voting Rights Act of '70, but he said that was more about protecting state's rights than hating Negroes. He also stressed that his branch of the Klan didn't physically harm Negroes, and directed most of its vitriol at Communists rather than black folks.

This was a distinction made in the article.

As, I read Byrd's obituary, I thought about how the world decides who you are, and what your life meant. For most of us, myself included, there will be no hoopla when we leave this world. Our families will grieve, but few folks outside of our immediate circle will take notice. It doesn't mean our lives were immaterial, it just means that we may have toiled in obscurity.

Byrd lived his life in the public, and consequently his successes and foibles have become public fodder. But, I found it telling that his stint as a Klansman, no matter how far it resided in his past, was not seen as something that needed to be included right up top when we considered who he was as a man. The Times decided that his tenure in the Klan was just a small and fairly inconsequential part of who he was.

Obviously, I disagree.

I believe in forgiveness. I believe in moving forward and moving on. But, no matter what Byrd accomplished in his life, and make no mistake he accomplished a lot, I think the fact that for a nice chunk of his life Byrd sympathized with the Klan is incredibly important. Even more telling was that Byrd used the Klan as a means to get into politics, so either his entire bid for public office was shaped by the Klan's beliefs, or he was a self-serving opportunist willing to align himself with anyone to get ahead.

I don't think the man's entire obituary should have been dedicated to the Klan, but I do think his time in the group merited mention early in the article, if not in the lede, or first paragraph. Joining the Klan, America's most well-known and deadly terrorist organization, is not a small thing. It's not something that should be just mentioned quickly and moved past. It's a defining piece of any man's legacy.

I know that when Al Sharpton dies, Tawana Brawley will be mentioned before the 20th paragraph because his mistake in that instance has defined him in many people's eyes.

I know when Michael Vick dies, dogs will be mentioned early in the obituary. When Kobe Bryant dies, the incident in Eagle, Colorado and his longstanding enmity with Shaquille O'Neal will be mentioned quickly. Just as Michael Jackson's issues with children were mentioned high in his obituary.

Some folks are never truly allowed to escape their pasts. No matter how fast they run or how much they achieve, those mistakes will forever feature prominently in any story told about their lives. They will not be swept aside to discuss other "more important" matters when folks are considering their lives in retrospect.

I'm not sure how Byrd earned that privilege.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two Homies

I know this boy named, well let's just call him Jay.

Homie is a fool. For real. Black as sin, and just as popular. Everybody knows Jay, and can't help but hang out with him. Matter of fact, it seems like he's everywhere, the club, the bar, church, the pool hall, it doesn't matter. That boy gets around.

He hangs with this other cat we call EV. Sometimes we call him by his middle name, Nathan. Now EV is slick in his own right, he ain't just Jay's wingman. His favorite color is green, and at the risk of losing my hetero-card, I must admit that the boy wears it well. EV is the type of cat who everybody wants to have around and be like.

Truth be told, Jay and EV got a lot of pull where I live, and if you let them tell it, their swag is appreciated worldwide. I can only vouch for the fact that they seem to popular everywhere I've been. Women or men, it doesn't matter, everyone is drawn to Jay and EV like those cats got some sort of magic aura. Reminds me of Charlie Murphy talking about Rick James back in the day.

Of the two, EV is easier cat to be around. I mean, with Jay you gotta worry about him actually taking stuff that belongs to you, but with EV he's typically just a harmeless hater. Yeah, he might covet what you have, or what you've accomplished, but he's not going to actually trying come at you and take it. He just figures he can get his own.

Jay on the other hand would jack his momma. That boy is never satisfied, particularly when other people are happy. It's like he thinks there's a finite amount of happiness in the world, and the only way to insure he has an adequate supply is to make sure he's living like Deebo. I try to tell the boy that happiness is just like pain, there's more than enough to go around, but he ain't trying to hear me. He's hardheaded. Sometimes I want to take a brick upside his head like Craig.

In fact, I often wonder why I'm even cool with Jay and EV. It's not like they really bring anything positive to my life. Hell, I can't say I've seen them bring anything positive to anyone's life.

But, no matter how often I tell myself to ignore those cats, I find myself drawn to them like fat folks to ribs. (Mmmmm... ribs.) It doesn't matter that they cause me to make bad decisions, or lead me to hurt other folks, I still hang around them.

Personally, I'm confused by my inability to shake those two cats. It's not like I don't have other friends, I do. But, no matter how much fun I have with those friends, and we do have fun, I find myself back on the couch with Jay and EV.

I hope they aren't my homies for life.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Was Gonna Chill

Father's Day has come and gone, and I really didn't plan on saying anything about the day.

Not because I have a bad relationship with my pops, nope me and the old fella are fine. It's not because I think fathers are fairly unimportant, I actually think they are equally important as women, if not slightly more important.

Nope, I wasn't going to say anything because I figured there wasn't much to be said. Sunday was a day to celebrate fathers, it seems like a fairly simple issue.

Only, things are rarely simple these days, no matter what it seems like on the surface.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that many people didn't see Sunday as just a time to appreciate their fathers, but also a time to castigate those men who are failing at their fatherly duties. I don't mean the folks who wrote heartfelt blogs about how the Dad's absence hurt them, I understand those folks. I mean the scores of people who decided to promote backhanded compliments at best to the fathers "who give a damn" through Facebook and other social media sites.

It was almost as if people felt they would have been doing a disservice to the world to write "Happy Father's Day," and instead felt compelled to let the world know their pleasantries only applied to certain fathers, not everybody with working sperm.

I found that strange.

I'm not the only one. Several other folks on the Internets found it weird that well-wishes for fathers came with caveats. I don't think there were the same sort of messages sent out to the ladies on Mother's Day, but if I'm wrong, somebody please correct me in the comments. And look, I understand that the absence of fathers, particularly black fathers, is a touchy and sensitive subject for folks which often creates hard feelings. But, the bottom line is that there are 364 days to lament all the men doing a bad job at being fathers, why would folks decide to do that on Father's Day?

Is it just me, or is that a little off?

I think it speaks to the strange relationship we as Americans, particularly black Americans, have with fathers. We acknowledge their importance, we understand they fulfill a need, but honestly, we don't really appreciate them as much as we do mothers, no matter what we say. And I'll admit that I'm guilty of the same attitude when it comes to my dad.

Things have only gotten worse as it's become easier and easier to blast dads due to the rapidly rising out-of-wedlock birth rate among black women, and the subsequent absence of the men who helped cause those births.

I haven't swallowed the meme that most black men don't care for the mothers of their children or even their children, but I do realize that many people today find marriage optional when it comes to raising babies. In fact, I wrote about it here.

The thing is, while I readily admit that many men are failing at the job of being fathers, isn't it obvious that many women are doing the same? If you consider the fact that being a good mother begins with selecting the man that you allow to impregnate you, the failure is quite massive. Combine that with the women who may be present in body, but absent in love, affection and dedication, and the problem becomes even worse.

Women are being asked to raise children alone and that's a very, VERY difficult job, but as the late John Wooden was found of saying "Never mistake activity for achievement". Bottom line, women have it rough, but quite a few of them are simply failing.

Yet, those failures don't require us to link caveats to our praises on Mother's Day. Instead, we focus on the positives, and we celebrate motherhood in all of its aspects. We don't take a day set aside for appreciation and use it as a time to denigrate. If we can do that for mommies, why can't we do it for daddies?

Daddies need love too.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Just Move On

Well, I'm sure many of you have seen this blog post that is currently sweeping the internet and email accounts.

Frankly, the author does quite a number on black churches. She goes to great lengths to lay the blame for the lack of married black women at the feet of the church, and basically questions the sanity of anybody who would embrace religion, particularly black Christianity. Citing a study done by the Pew Research Center, she decides that if you're looking for a good black man, the church is the last place to look, and she also questions why anybody would limit themselves to a black man anyway.


There were a lot of issues with the piece. For one, the author uses general statistics to make some of her points, but then uses specific statistics to make others. For example, she notes that the survey found that black folks are far more religious than other races, yet when she goes to make a point about how men are less religious than women, she uses general stats about "men" instead of figures about "black men."

It would stand to reason that if black folks in general are more religious by such large numbers, than black men would also be more religious, which would invalidate the argument that religion doesn't matter to black men. As a matter of fact, a chart in the original study seems to buttress this train of thought since it shows negligible differences between men and women as it relates to what types of churches they attend, and their level of  "non-affiliation" with church. This is the only chart that breaks things down by race and gender, and would seem to be directly related to the author's point. Strangely, it is not referenced.
See, I read the entire piece and scanned the comments. There are many distortions and outright lies about the teaching of Christianity on marriage. There was also the interesting tidbit that the author has never attended church because she doesn't see any value in religion of any sort. Obviously, I found it strange that someone would dedicate such an extensive post to a topic on which they have no firsthand knowledge. Here is one of the author's comments on church:

Deborrah says:

June 21, 2010 at 9:38 AM

You must have missed the part where I said I don’t now and never have gone to church. It’s not anything I’m interested in. Why Black folks always want to assume someone has been “hurt” because they have a controverting opinion from the masses is hysterically funny to me. You all think EXACTLY the same, which to me shows the limits of people that follow religions

This woman doesn't like church. She doesn't think it's useful and, in fact, she finds it detrimental. She thinks more black women would be involved in loving, stable marriages and relationships if they would just remove church from their lives.

More power to her and those who agree with her.

I don't want to attack the messenger, but this woman admittedly has never spent much time in church and currently lists herself as "single." She sees no value in marriage or religion. She believes that black women are fools for maintaining so much loyalty for black men. She expresses disdain for anyone who would embrace the roles for men and women outlined in the Bible.

If women want to take advice on how to serve God and find a black man from this woman, well what can I say? They've made their choice. Personally, that's not how I roll.

When I want to learn something about writing, I speak to writers. Or I write something myself.

When I want to learn about women, I talk to women. Or I observe women for myself.

When I want to learn about marriage, I talk to folks who had been married for a while and appeared to still love each other. And I pay attention to my own marriage.

It doesn't make sense to listen to the advice of someone who has spent very little time researching or studying the topics you are interested in. Why would I allow someone to tell me everything that's wrong with church, or with marriage, if they haven't bothered to experience those two institutions for themselves?

Bottom line, this makes no sense. And, if people are willingly engaging in behavior that makes no sense, and then have the audacity to label those who disagree with them as members of the uneducated masses, well it would appear that there is nothing to be gained from engaging those folks.

It's simply time to move on. I'll close with one of my pops' favorite lines:

The proof is in the pudding.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Fault Divorce in Gotham

Who would have thought that New York required more from married folks to get a divorce than the vaunted Bible Belt?

Certainly not me.

I guess I was fooled by the evangelistic appeals to God and the rants against that godless bastion of evil known as Gotham City. I was sucked in by the claims that New York was a cesspool, filled with degenerates and low-lifes. I believed the hype and swallowed the hyperbole and equated the entire state of New York with the massive city of the same name.

In short, I may have been a fool.

But, even fools can be enlightened, and I have been. I now know that New York is currently the only state in the Union that prohibits "no-fault" divorce. It requires parties to "prove" why they can no longer live together, and while that "proof" is often not too stringent, they still get points for having the requirement.

The thing is, New York lawmakers are considering eliminating their ban on "no fault" divorces and joining the rest of the country in letting folks split for pretty much any reason. And, I think that makes me sad.

Divorce is painful. It destroys lives and families. Marriage vows are designed to be lifelong pacts, but all too often they turn out to be temporary agreements. I understand many folks feel divorce is an acceptable and necessary option in America, but I don't agree with them.

In fact, I'm troubled by how often marriages seem to break up because people just can't get along. Not because of infidelity or abuse, but because folks personalities are clashing. Speaking as a married man with married friends, it seems like personality clashes, small and large, are just part of the marriage package. They are unavoidable, and they're probably the reason why most marriage vows include "for better or worse."

At least New York's law makes folks explain why they're breaking up, and justify it in some way. You can't just dump your wife because she has a few more wrinkles and a few more pounds. You can't leave your husband because he tends to be emotionally unavailable during the playoffs. Nah, you have to prove some serious, egregious malfeasance to split up a marriage, and honestly, I like it that way. (Rather, I like the spirit of the law, not how it's actually pitifully enforced.)

Something feels wrong about one person deciding they're no longer interested in pursuing a marriage, and just walking away. Obviously, it's rare that people split up for nothing, but it still doesn't feel right that one person can decide "Hey, this isn't working for me" and there goes the marriage.

So, while I hate the crowded, people infested streets of New York City, and I'm no fan of the bitter cold winters of Buffalo, I say congrats to New York for having a marriage law with some teeth.

Here's hoping you keep things the way they are.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Things We Miss

Not too long ago, The Root wrote an article comparing the Tea Party movement to the Black Panther Party.

The author of the piece performed some impressive mental gymnastics to create the link between the two groups, including glossing over the racial discrimination and outright evil that was the impetus for the creation of the Black Panther Party. Instead, he focused on both groups' violent rhetoric, their fringe status and their unrelenting animus towards the federal government.

While the Black Panther Party had obvious socialist leanings that would seem to be the anti-thesis of what the Tea Party celebrates, the author explained that away by noting that the Panthers were in favor of disbanding many aspects of the federal government. Of course, that was because the federal government was largely hostile towards the interests of African Americans and were treating black folks as second-class citizens, but hey, it's no fun to let salient facts get in the way of incendiary arguments.

The thrust of the piece seemed to be that the Panthers loved guns, just like the Tea Party loves guns. Of course, that thesis ignores the fact that the Panthers embraced the arming of the black community in a response to the violent and corrupt tactics of the police and vigilante whites. The piece also ignored the fact that the white power structure worked tirelessly to change laws to make it more difficult for the Panthers to remain armed, In comparison, Tea Party members are arming themselves because they are unhappy, not because they are truly oppressed, and nobody is doing anything to short circuit their right to arm.

However, I don't want to just blast the piece's author because I think he does ask an important question: What if the Tea Party looked like the Black Panther party?

I think it's safe to say that these rallies where assault rifles are openly toted and protesters sidle up to lawmakers to yell and scream would have a different outcome. Maybe something resembling what happened at Kent State, or even worse, what happened at Jackson State University in 1970.

History tells us that when the Black Panthers exercised the exact same right as folks in the Tea Party, they were systematically hunted down and executed or imprisoned by government agencies. History tells us that the federal government used tactics typically reserved for foreign countries right here against black folks on American soil.

History tells us that there were no attempts to figure out if the concerns of the Panther party were legit, or whether they deserved to be included in the political mainstream. Even without openly discussing political assassinations the Panthers were deemed a threat in need of deadly force. That's right, the Panthers and their sympathizers were identified as threats to national security and dealt with accordingly.

I'm surprised the author of The Root's piece missed those important salient facts from history in his comparison.

Then again, it's amazing what we miss when we're trying to make dishonest and ridiculous points.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Toys R' Us Kids Of Today

Nas has a song called "Second Childhood" that I always liked.

I wonder if this New York times writer has ever listened to Nasir spit.

It seems that more and more people aren't ready to grow up. It started with the Baby Boomers and their desire to rock out even from the rocking chair, and it's continued on to their children and grandchildren. Studies show that the traditional milestones of adulthood, such as marriage, children and getting your own apartment, are being delayed by folks who realize they have other plans. Other plans that appear to be all about them.

That's right, the power of Me is increasing, and it doesn't look like there will be a reversal of mindset without some serious changes in how the world works.

Sherwin Nuland wrote a book in 1993 called "How We Die." In that book, Nuland states that the way humans view death has changed immensely with the increase in our reliance on technology. Mankind has forgotten the ugliness and commonness of death as is has been shielded from death by doctors, medicine, hospitals, hospices and Hollywood thrillers.

Nuland noted that Francisco Goya once painted a picture of a doctor reaching down the throat of child dying of some unknown disease, and it was seen as commonplace and normal. The only people who wouldn't find that type of painting disturbing today are the people who make a living trying to shock and disgust.

Nuland's premise was that many people block out the inevitability of death and cling to the myth that most folks will die deaths of dignity. People don't want to consider that the Three P's, poop, pus and pain, will in all likelihood play a huge role in their exits from this plane. While that may have been a part of growing up in the past, a part of stepping into an adult's shoes, it's no longer the case now. And it appears that it isn't the only necessary life experience being consigned to the trash heap.

Honestly, if death is no longer thought of inevitable, is it a surprise that marriage and parenthood have also been deemed optional? If they are not optional, then they are seen as experiences that need to be put off as long as possible until the more "important" things in life can be accomplished.

That is one of the key themes from the Times article; people are delaying taking the plunge into marriage, parenthood and even independent habitation because they don't see these things as necessary accoutrements of adulthood when there are so many other things to be done.

When there are so many other things to be experienced, who wants to confine themselves within the straitjackets of "mommy" or "daddy" and "husband" or "wife"? People still consider life a journey and marvel at the milestones that mark the path, but those markers have changed as society has changed what it deems enlightened behavior.

There was a time when children and spouse weren't seen as distractions but destinations. That was when people saw getting married as something you did to let the world know you were ready for serious commitment, and children were something you had to drive home that point. Now, both are seen as sacrifices of the good life.

No one is immune to these messages. Any honest married person will admit that there are times when the apparently carefree life of single folks feels mighty enticing, and when it seems like a life filled with children and domestic responsibilities is also filled with never-ending sacrifices. But, when did sacrifice become a bad thing?

When did it become so horrible to deny oneself certain pleasures in exchange for other benefits? When did it become acceptable to ask others to bear the brunt of a sacrifice that should be your own? When did folks forget that independence is to adulthood what English 101 is to a college degree: it's an unavoidable and necessary pre-requisite.

This new generation of Peter Pans is so busy enjoying the feeling of wind rushing through their hair that they don't notice that the fairy dust so casually inhaled up their noses is causing them to confuse reality with fantasy. They don't seem to notice that a world where the traditional accoutrements of adulthood are abandoned is a world where it's mighty easy to come unmoored and drift aimlessly into the night. For while careers and pleasure can provide certain enjoyment, they do not provide as great a sense of satisfaction as a marriage well-preserved and children well-raised.

At least not to me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Well Ain't This Something

The homies over at We Are Respectable Negroes issued a challenge recently.

They asked the black blogosphere to take a break from "racism chasing" and take a look at something larger. In this case, this story about an ocean of mineral deposits being found in Afghanistan. The theory was that sometimes we get so caught up in the way race impacts our world, we forget that it can be used as a distraction.

I couldn't agree more.

I wonder if this discovery gives credence to the "conspiracy theories" surrounding 9/11 and the War on Terror. I know that the fact that Afghanistan has the potential to become super-rich makes the presence of all those American corporations and troops in the country very disturbing. Global power brokers may not be facilitating this war to line their pockets, but it sure seems to be the most likely explanation.

Regular readers know I don't spend much time on politics or world events. I moved away from that after President Obama's election because I didn't want to get caught up in chronicling the latest political salvo. And honestly, I didn't really feel comfortable talking too much about certain topics given my lack of knowledge, and unwillingness to get educated.

But, I felt this was something we all needed to be aware of and consider, particularly with a black man in the white house. I will be interested to see how he handles this new situation. I wonder what moves he'll make and how it will affect the war.

Honestly, I'm not informed enough about the issue to have definite opinions but I thought the information was worth passing. It behooves us as black folks to be aware of the large-scale changes occurring in our world because they will drive the smaller changes that affect us so deeply. How power is accumulated and doled out will always have an impact on our lives. I'm not an expert, but I do spend time listening to folks with a level of expertise.

You should too.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Word About Ms. Helen...

Look, I'm sure most of y'all aren't really aware of the current flap surrounding Helen Thomas and her recent retirement from her job as an opinion writer. Thomas, who was a mainstay at White House press conferences, worked in journalism for five decades and was quite the personality in the press room.

She retired after causing a firestorm of controversy in certain communities after she said Jews need to get out of Palestine and go home to Poland, Germany and America. Her comments, which were made after this flotilla debacle, enraged many Jews and journalists, and ultimately she decided that at 89-years old, it was time to go. Her departure has been discussed in several columns in papers across the country with many folks expressing anger at her words, and some expressing sadness that she had to leave like she did.

I admit, I was a bit nonplussed.

Honestly, while I understood that her comment wasn't something most folks would say, I didn't see it as the act of an anti-Semite. I actually viewed it as an inarticulate rant, although it possessed a main thrust that many people agree with it. Lots of folks think that the decision to give the Jewish people a country in the middle of somebody else's country is the root of the problems in the Middle East, not an irrational hatred of Judaism.  Personally, I don't think it's that simple, but I don't think believing that it is that simple makes you an anti-Semite.

See, I have lots of opinions on lots of things, but for the most part I recognize they are the opinions of a sparsely educated man whose thoughts are grounded in his own theories about human interactions and foibles. I doubt that what I have to say is ground-breaking or will provide a solution to most problems, so often I keep my mouth shut. But, my philosophy is not everyone's cup of tea.

Some folks are clearly anti-Semitic, and other folks just have unpopular viewpoints. There is a difference. In Thomas' case, I got that sense that she just had an unpopular, unrealistic and fairly naive viewpoint. But, I sensed no malice or hatred from her comment, just frustration and a willingness to grasp at simple solutions to a complicated problem. That never works. There are often simple explanations for complicated problems, but rarely simple solutions.

Now, my view is obviously colored by lack of connection to the Jewish people. I'm sure I would view this situation differently if similar comments had been made regarding black folks, and I readily admit that bias. However,  unpopular, naive and unrealistic opinions about black people are commonly expressed and defended in today's society. So, if I happened to take offense at one, I wouldn't be joined by a long list of prominent mainstream writers, instead I'd likely by the lone voice crying in the wilderness.

What Thomas said wasn't particularly insightful, it wasn't going to spark minds and it really wasn't all that helpful. But, that doesn't mean it was hate speech. The Holocaust was horrible, but just like slavery doesn't provide immunity for black folks from criticism, neither should the Holocaust provide Jews with cover. Jewish people needed a safe haven, and they needed assistance, but there are legitimate questions about how that safe haven was established and how it's been maintained. While free speech means we get to respond to other folks how we see fit, the response that Thomas received gives the impression that challenging the right of Jewish people to occupy Israel is somehow prohibited.

And I don't agree with that at all.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I remember reading "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost in English class.

At the time, I found it a cool poem. It was a nice read, I liked the idea of following your own path and I've always been a sucker for things that make you consider "what if"?

I mention Frost's poem because it popped into my head the other day while sitting in church. The preacher was talking about gratitude, and during the sermon he made a comment about life's detours. He noted that often life's detours are a positive, not a negative, but most of us lack the ability to see them that way. It got me to thinking and I want to share my thoughts with you all.

When most of us see the word "detour" while driving, we think of aggravation and a change of plans. When we hear someone talk about taking a "detour" in life, we think of them falling of track. But both of those thoughts are shallow.

Think about when detour signs are erected on our highways and byways. They typically warn drivers of a road hazard up ahead and advise us to take an alternate route out of protection. Sometimes the danger is because of freak accidents, other times it's because of ongoing road repairs to make our driving experience better in the long run. But, when you think about it, rarely are detour signs erected just as an annoyance. They are honestly a warning about impending danger, a warning that is typically justified.

And what happens when we obey detour signs? We often have to take the "scenic" route to our destination. Sure it adds time to our journey, but it often allows us to explore a new neighborhood, to have an atypical experience. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's bad, but it definitely relieves the monotony of life.

It also forces us to pay attention to our driving, it forces us to focus on the task at hand. We can't just drive on autopilot when we're taking a new route because we're not aware of all the hazards. Finally, when we take detours, we often express more gratitude and happiness upon arriving at our destination. The additional difficulty on the journey leads to added appreciation at arrival.

I'm sure most of y'all can see how this relates to real life, not just driving. Detours in life may seem like a problem, but often they prevent us from making even larger mistakes. Every dream deferred does not dry up in the sun and burst, some of them just get a nice tan, while others become tasty raisins. Lol. Seriously, sometimes God puts detours in our path to focus on him, to force us to realize where our strength comes from. For those of you who don't believe in God, detours can allow you time to do some much needed self-evaluation.

Detours give us time to appreciate what we have and they force us to appreciate what we get in the future. Detours provide us with new experiences that make us more well-rounded and make our lives fuller. Detours are not ridiculous aggravations designed to make our lives miserable. They are warnings and opportunities all wrapped up in one.

Take a detour.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Our Flawed Impressions

I have this friend who is a really sweet girl in a lot of ways.

Pretty, intelligent, and thoughtful, she's got a lot of the qualities that attract men. Unfortunately, she has one quality that ultimately drives them all away.


I often tell her that her heart is scarred. I know how it got that way, and I recognize that those wounds are real, but it doesn't change the fact that her scars are affecting her quality of life, at least in my opinion.

For example, I have been chided her recently about her fickle nature when it comes to men. One moment she thinks a dude is awesome, the next moment she doesn't want to hear his name because of some minor character flaw or mistake. I told her it's like she's actively searching for reasons to end relationships, instead of trying to find positives that make her want to stay together.

I've come to realize that most successful relationships come down to our impressions. How we view the actions of others, whether we give them the benefit of the doubt, or a skeptical eye, often determines how long-lasting our bond with them will be. In addition, our preconceived notions of others, and their motives, impacts how we will view everything they do in the future.

My friend was complaining that she always has to be cynical with guys because they all have ulterior motives. Mainly, she was concerned that if she relaxes her guard, a man may use that opportunity to get into her pants. Pause... The horror.

I calmly informed my friend that every married man in America wanted to get in his wife's pants when he met her. Think about it. There are no men who have truly committed to women for eternity who did not, typically when they first met those women, want to have sex with them. That's just how men operate.

What I was trying to impress on my friend was that it was quite silly of her to be so bothered by the idea that men want to have sex with her, or for her to think that simple desire makes a man unacceptable for a long-erm relationship. While women have many gifts that men can appreciate, when most men are attracted to women initially it's because we think it would be fun to be naked with them. Doesn't mean we won't marry them or love them eventually, but the joy of getting naked is typically our first selling point.

Is that so horrible?

Our impressions of people, which are often flawed or unreasonable, impact how we deal with them. My friend is repulsed that men would be sizing her up as a potential bedmate upon meeting her, and thus she finds it hard to relax around men or trust them. This is despite the fact that even the good men think like that; the men who eventually go on to become good husbands.

I am guilty of the same sort of behavior. Whether it be about racial matters, or religious matters, or financial matters, I often approach new situations with a significant amount of cynicism. That of course impacts how I deal with those situations. The scars found on my friend's heart, can also be found on my own psyche.

 My mistrust breeds more mistrust, which erects more walls, which then creates more difficulties. The sad thing is that just like my friend, I see the cycle and its impact on my life, yet I don't feel an overwhelming desire to correct my behavior. Sadly, my comfort overrides my desire to improve what many consider a character deficiency, and I regularly suppress any urge to step outside my comfort zone in this area. I've done the cost/benefit analysis, and I've decided it's not worth it.

So I, and my impressions, remain flawed. And, I would wager that many of you are guilty of the same thing.


Friday, June 4, 2010

I Think You Missed Something

I don't own a pet.

But, I read a recent New York Times article about the relationship between pets and marriages anyway. I'm a sucker for the Times' wacky stories about random trends and New Age science.

Anyway, the article basically tells pet owners that they should consider treating their spouses the same way they treat their pets. The article advocates that married folks refuse to hold grudges, show affection regularly, exchange exuberant greetings, assume the best about their spouses and commit to their relationship for the long haul. The article adds that many people are far more forgiving with their four legged partners than they are with those who walk upright.

I must admit, I nodded my head a little reading it.

After all, the article gave some sound advice about how spouses should treat each other. Hell, it's good advice on how everybody should treat each other. The things is, once I took a step back and truly considered the information, a problem emerged. Basically, human beings and pets are very different, and the reason why we cut our pets more slack is because, well, their our pets.

There is a big difference between a pet and a spouse. There are different expectations, and honestly, different freedoms. The level of intimacy and connection is far greater for most of us with our spouses than it could ever be with our pets. Well, at least for those of us who are not a six-pack away from a bestiality charge.

When I did have a dog, I made sure that sucker obeyed me. When I said "sit" I expected his rump to hit the floor. When I stayed "stay" that dog better become a statue. He ate what I said, walked where I said and slept when I told him to sleep. In fact, he lived in little cage and thought that was normal.

I think we all know there would be a Gary Coleman-type situation if I tried to pull that stuff on my wife, and she's a fairly mild-mannered woman.

We don't have the same level of control over our spouses that we have over our pets, which obviously makes our spouses more aggravating. We also don't expect our pets to be very intelligent, while most of us assume we married somebody with common sense. The different expectations, and the different level of control create a very different type of dynamic.

It's amazing to me that this story sort of glossed over that in an effort to make a point. Well, not really amazing since most people gloss over inconvenient factoids when they're making an argument, but this seems like a pretty glaring factoid to ignore. People and pets are different, and that's why our relationships are different, and why we find it harder to put simple solutions into place.

Now, let me go take my wife for a walk.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why I Watch

The NBA Finals are about to kick off, and it got me thinking.

I've been watching pro basketball since I was a little kid, and I rarely miss the Finals. When I was younger, my father teased my brother and I all the time about getting so involved in professional sports. His favorite taunt was "You don't make any money when they win." Of course, my dad is now a Tiger Woods fanatic, and I never miss an opportunity to throw his taunt back in his face.

 Such is the circle of life.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking about the way I spend my time. As a married father of two, time is one of my most precious possessions. There is always something that needs to be done at my house and over the years I've had much less time to devote to watching the NBA and following its players.

But, the love is still there.

I still love talking about basketball, thinking about basketball and watching basketball. Over the years I've been exposed to different aspects of the game from coaches and friends (Shout to M32 for all those late night film sessions) and I think I've gained a decent appreciation for the nuances of the sport. Often, I will go over techniques with a friend of mine and everyday we're amazed at all the little things that these professional athletes consider when making themselves outstanding.

I think that's how I justify my time investment in sports. Honestly, it's not like they're very important in the grand scheme of life. The outcomes of contrived contests will not save lives or feed people. Sports are not important despite what people tell you about how they build character and save lives. It's true that they can do that, but so can a lot of things. And you don't get paid millions of dollars for doing most of them.

But, what sports do provide, if you're intrepid enough to search for it, is an ability to acquire knowledge and then put it into action on a fairly obvious basis. They can allow you to examine cause and effect, or considering the impact human relationships have on outcomes. When you're pondering how Kobe managed to escape a double team with a smooth reverse pivot, you should stop and consider the hours of dedication and preparation that go into truly being great. Looking at John Stockton or Deron Williams run the pick and roll is a lesson in mastery.

Watching NBA should give you an appreciation for anybody who has attained mastery in the their craft. It doesn't mattern if their craft isn't particularly important in the grand scheme of life. Just the chance to watch mastery, is a privilege.

And that's why I watch.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Keeping it 100

Today is a happy day for me.

I noticed today that I officially reached the 100 "followers" plateau.

When I started this blog it was in response to my friends complaining that I was always writing these long emails about what people needed to be saying about race and life, and they were tired of reading them. My friends were tired of my rants on the phone, which I'm sure was due to my fairly irritating voice. They told me to get my own platform and share it with the world.

I started in Jan. 2008, using President Obama's campaign as daily fodder. That first year was amazing, man, I look back over those posts and I see some good writing and funny material. I had a lot of anger and pent up opinions I needed to get out there.

Over the years, I've calmed down quite a bit. There isn't very much raving on this site anymore and that's a reflection of the changes I'm making in my personal life. It's why I don't curse on the blog, and I try to be less mean-spirited when discussing some of the foibles of my white brethren. I'm trying to grow as a man and a Christian.

That said, I still cut loose every once in a while and I appreciate it deeply that 100 people think I'm interesting enough that they want to be notified when I have something new to say. It's allowing me to live out one of my few professional dreams.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who follow the blog formally and informally. I'm going to continue to try to stay relevant and entertaining and I hope we all continue to learn from each other.

Stay crazy.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Black In America

I want to talk about being Black in America real quick. No Soledad.

Before we begin, everybody needs to watch this video which will provide the jumping off point for today's discussion.

Now, I know some of you are shaking your heads already. "Big Man, it's Bill O'Reilly, what do you expect? If racism was underwear, Bill O'Reilly would be be Charlie Sheen." I get that, and that's why this isn't going to be a rant about Fox's favorite commentator.

Instead, I want to discuss his guest's reaction when O'Reilly said that this young, black college professor "looked like a drug dealer." (Bet y'all will click on the link now.)

Look at that brother's face after O'Reilly makes his comment about drug dealers. I told a friend, that watching face that brother's face, I could damn near read his mind:

Wait, what did he say? Did this...? Did this cracker just say I looked like a drug dealer. Cracker, I have more degrees than you and my suit costs more than yours! I should come across this table and... Whoa, hold up. Don't forget where you are, you can't do that. I will go to jail for that... But, I can't let this white boy punk me on tv. He thinks that drug dealer comment was clever. I gotta say something to him, but I can't go too hard 'cause then he'll play the white victim card and I'll never hear the end of it.

As y'all could see, the brother went on to make a quip about O'Reilly fitting the profile of a cocaine user, but you could see that wasn't how he really wanted to handle it.

Watching those mental gymnastics brought to mind DuBois often-cited comments on the double consciousness black folks in America typically possess. We have to be able to see the world from various vantage points and process situations in ways that white folks can avoid. It's part of the burden we bear for the privilege of living in America.

Many white folks and a few black folks don't like to acknowledge that burden, or they downplay the strain it causes. It's tedious and tiring having to filter your thoughts and comments. It gets old considering all the possible outcomes of your decision to make things "racial" particularly when you feel like somebody else has already made the situation "racial." Seriously, that brother should have been able to call O'Reilly an idiotic bigot with no repercussions, but in the real world a huge swath of the viewing public would have seen that response as unwarranted and out of line.

That's what it's like to be Black in America, and it's something that CNN never actually discussed.

Raving Black Lunatic