Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gassin’ My Head with Sub-Prime Talk

The traffic over by the mall was crazy… just like in the old days. Skibo Road had taken on ghost town qualities since the middle of the summer. I was confused about it for awhile, sitting there trying to get to my daughter’s daycare in a reasonable time. Then I saw the sign for gas at the station one block up the street. One dollar and ninety-eight cents!!! I realized then what all the traffic was about… people were going shopping. It had been so long since I had seen “shopping traffic” that I was caught off guard. Then my thoughts went back to that morning when I got my gas… $39.00 to overfill my tank. This compared to the max of $80.00 that I paid around the first of September. I remember doing the simple math standing at the pump. A $41.00 difference is $164.00 a month…

…$164.00 a month... that’s a lot of money. At least for me it is. That is the cost of my phone, internet, cable, and water bill each month, with enough left over for a pack of Pampers (I go as cheap as possible with local cable, Vonage, etc.). As a commuter, I’ve had a $300.00 per month gas budget for the past five months, but I suddenly find myself with a surplus of $160.000. I just happen to now own a new, blue, long-overdue, $160 suit… not directly related, but the timing is perfect. Of course, clothes for me are not important; this money means I have a slight cushion for monthly expenses, so things like car repairs won’t cripple the family finances like they did last summer. It’s amazing when you think about it, how big an effect gas prices can have on a family. Then when you think a little more about it… it’s not amazing, it’s frightening…

I know I make a pretty good salary. Along with the wife’s salary, things are tight, but we don’t miss any meals. It really makes this whole thing with the sub-prime mortgage crises take on greater meaning. We are just a few bank closings away from a complete financial collapse, and everyone is pointing the finger of blame at folks who bought houses that they “knew they couldn’t afford”! Talk about infuriating… One thing we know we can do well as a country is blame the victim and protect the system. I remember when I bought my first house. I was 33 years old with a 10-month old baby, and one on the way. I had just started my first job as a “Director”, and I was in graduate school. I was way too busy to learn the housing business, and really had no interest. I just wanted to buy a house for my family. I got a real estate agent, a lawyer, and a loan company, and I expected them to do the job I paid them to do. It was the first house closing for my lawyer, but he was a college buddy so I knew he would do his best not to let me get screwed.

In the same way that people trust me to provide the best educational environment for their kids, I trusted the people whose job it was to help me purchase a home for my family. The phrase, “predatory lender” had not yet made it’s way into our national conversation, but if they wanted to screw me over there was no way that I could have known. So I can sympathize with those folks who did get screwed with these crazy mortgages in the last five or six years. To expect them to know about prime lending rates is idiotic… and I think anyone who feels that way is a pompous, insensitive @sshole… with all due respect. Those same folks would scream bloody murder if a refrigerator repairman, plumber, or car technician screwed them. No one is expected to know enough about refrigeration or plumbing to keep from getting screwed, you expect the person you hire to be reputable. And even though there are “predatory plumbers”, there are unions that keep that kind of behavior in check. Well, we didn’t have that kind of thing with predatory lenders, because all checks and balances were deregulated. People who went for those mortgages were considered “prey”, i.e., creatures that another creature sought to attack, subdue, and feed off of. Owls prey on Rabbits. When a rabbit gets caught and eaten, it’s not the rabbit’s fault. Rabbits are victims of the system. That same owl will not attack a puma cause he knows he can’t win. Predators pick on people based on their inability to defend themselves. There were people who believed that they were blessed from God because “someone who was in the housing business” said they could get them approved for a home loan. There was no way to know that person was actually working for the devil. Professional criminals are professionals… whether lending agencies or pick-pockets. There is no such thing as a professional victim. Victimizers always have the advantage. Don’t blame the victim.

Anyway, I can imagine what would happen to me if gas went to $6.00 a gallon. I would have to give up my phone, internet, and baby cable. Then I would have to choose which bill not to pay, or what part of what bills not to pay. I would be on a slow financial decline that would eventually find me car-less, then jobless, and finally homeless. For folks that make half my salary, with the change in gas prices from $2.20 when they bought, their homes to $4.10 last September, that is exactly what happened. Many would have found ways to cut corners if there was just a rise in interest rates. But coupled with a rise in gas prices, which affects their ability to get to work and pay their bills, etc., they were completely undermined.

Now gas prices are dropping… rapidly. And the one thing that is being passed over in our post-presidential election euphoria is… why? There were a bunch of reasons given for why prices kept rising: the war in Iraq, China blocking the ports in the Middle East, hurricanes hitting the US, etc. But none for why gas prices are falling so fast? The Dwane T. theory is because the people who artificially/arbitrarily inflated the prices know it was the basis of our economic collapse, so they are cutting back on the profits in the short term to keep making money in the long term. The traffic over at the mall proves it. People who have jobs are shopping again… and what do you know, just in time for Christmas. A healthy shopping season will save many of our struggling businesses… particularly the chain stores. Gas prices going down is, economically, like getting a pay raise… for those who still have jobs.

Dropping gas prices will also help the oil companies get both Congress and the public off their backs for awhile. They will show a dramatic decrease in forth quarter profits, making it look like they were affected by the recession as well. Then, if they want to sabotage Obama’s first year in office, they can slowly inch prices back up through the second quarter of next year. Whatever economic plan Obama introduces will be sabotaged because rising gas prices will steal any benefits his plans have. Back in the day, we used to say that if someone was trying to convince you that something unlikely or ridiculous was actually true (for their personal benefit), we said “stop gassin’ my head up, son” (although brothers gassin’ girls heads up was the most popular use of the term).
Well, Bush and the other oil millionaires/billionaires who run this country have been gassin’ our heads up about why we are in a recession, but in this case the truth is… in the gas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Re-Enfranchisement of Da Brovas

Like a lot of folks, I’m still on a post-election high. It’s only been a week, but Barack Obama is quickly establishing himself as a man who is capable of leading not only the United States, but the free world. He is a great visual, and great to listen too. I watched the replay of him and George W. meeting yesterday, and while W. is known for the confident bounce in his step, which is still evident, the only way to describe Obama’s gate as he walked next to him is… swagger. He had on $1,500 suit, and walked like he was coming off the basketball court after a 21-8 one-on-one victory. I know his lineage, but whether by nature, nurture, or a combination thereof, that man is all brotha.

This brother is soon to be the leader of the free world, but he is definitely the new leader of Black men. I realized this when I was standing in line to early vote. Being late in the day and obviously going over the time allotted to vote, they moved everyone on line into the gym of the youth center where we were voting. There were so many folks there, we wrapped around the wall and still went out the building. I saw my wife pointing and counting, and when she finished she said, “14”. Of course I asked what she was counting, and she said, “there are 14 black males in this building between the ages of 18 and 34.” Yeah, it was an estimate, because brothers down here age quickly and there could have been about five more. Also, she didn’t count the seven or so Hispanics that I like to include in the brother count. Those brothers had dreads, and bald heads. Some had their hats forward, some had them backward. One or two were obviously a little preppy, others looked like they wouldn’t know Izod from Ipod. But they were all there together. As a percentage of the crowd, they were small, but as a percentage of black men in society, they were definitely more than the national average. Can I say, as an older brother, I was proud.

That is the effect that Obama is having. Brothers recognize when another brother is putting himself out there, and they will rise up to hep dat brova out. In sports, it’s called making those around you better. Brothers who felt they were in this country, but the country was not in them, are feeling… American. Brothers are also feeling the need/desire/pressure to be better and do better, because they have the ultimate example of how to do it from the Commander/ God-fearer/ Husband/Father/Brother/ Professional/Community Activist/Educator–in-Chief.

This is the Re-enfranchisement f the Brothers/Brothas/Brovas/Bros (depending on where you are geographically externally and/or internally). It even affects older brothers more than younger ones. Church service this past Sunday was a celebration of Veteran’s Day. Since my pastor, most of the ministers (male and female), and probably 1/3 of the adults at the church are Vets, we take this holiday seriously. They all agreed that in many respects, this exemplified the change they were fighting for. After church, I went to visit my Uncle Jay, the WWII Veteran, to tell him about the service. He came over to me and showed me the giant poster of the Obama Family in the Fayetteville Observer and said, “this is what makes today special”. He agreed that this is what he was fighting for six decades ago when his hearing, sight and mind still worked the majority of the time. Then he did something I didn’t think he could do… he told me a story he hadn’t told me before.

Uncle Jay said that when he got back to Georgia from Asia after the war, an old White farmer told him he needed to come work for him. The man had a reputation of being abusive and not paying what he promised, so my uncle told him “no, thank you”. The man was irate, and told my uncle, “So you went away to the war, and now you think you’re too good to work for me. You just need to be beat one good time, that’ll fix you. You’ll work for me then”. My uncle asked him, “why do you want to beat me, I didn’t do anything wrong?” Pleading your case was the standard response to something like that back then, because if a White man felt justified in beating you, he would do it. While he spoke, my uncle said in the back of his mind he was thinking, “I spent the last three years of my life driving weapons and ammunition to fellas fighting on the front line with people shooting at me, and this is the thanks I get?” Then he poked the newspaper picture with finger really hard a couple of times and said, this is what it was all about… this is the thanks I get!”

After two years of prime time coverage on a Brother that represents what is good about Black men… not perfect, but good… our country is beginning to see Brothers differently. Even more, the world is beginning to see Brothers differently. But best of all, Brothers are beginning to see themselves differently.
Welcome to America my brothers, and make yourself at home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope, Obama, and a Harvest for the World

The Great Experiment… that’s what our system of government was called. After almost 250 years, we are still trying to work out this experiment… but I think it’s going pretty well. I often cringe when I hear about spreading democracy, considering the fact that we were founded as a republic. In a democracy, majority rules, and in a republic, a system of checks and balances is in place to make sure that the majority does not become so powerful that they deny equal rights to the minority. But by the fact that we are trying to make sure majority will is protected at the same time that the minority rights are protected shows we are still in the active process of making the US a great country. The important thing in America, whether you consider us a democracy or a republic, is that our goal is to get the most people involved in the system, whether by their direct action, or by their choosing someone to act for them.

Policy-wise, I gave a full breakdown of the type of candidate I would want in my blog, “Who Would Jesus Elect?” But on a more practical level, what do/should we want in a president? A president should be able to pull together the greatest minds available and place them in associate positions of leadership (like his cabinet), develop the appropriate programs and strategies to solve problems, and mobilize the citizenry to support these efforts. If a president can effectively do this, he will be able to deal with issues from taxes to foreign aid. The president is not necessarily an economist, or a soldier, or a city planner, or a farmer, or an ambassador, etc., but he is expected to have studied those areas and debated the merits of various philosophies pertaining to those areas in some meaningful way at a regional or national level. Based on these criteria, Barack Obama is the best of the five candidates we have to be elected president in 2008. I think Huckabee was probably the best candidate overall, and Edwards was the best for what I wanted our next president to do, but Obama has proven himself, even to me.

A wise pastor once said to me, “if you don’t know what to do next, find out what God is doing, and do that.” He was basically saying that the best way to get something done is to work with a person or person that was already doing it. People don’t walk into a job and magically take on new skills, philosophies, and personality traits. Whether taking on a partner, hiring an employee, or looking for a mentor, you want someone who already exemplifies what you want. Going back to the previous paragraph, Obama’s campaign is presidential in nature, and is based on who he is professionally and personally. Although highly educated, he is professionally, first and foremost a community organizer. His campaign was truly a grass roots effort, organized from the ground up. He has the biggest “ground game” of door to door workers ever assembled. He is a visionary that saw online communities as true communities, and met with his fellow Americans on Myspace, Facebook, and Blackplanet. He included all fifty states as part of his campaign target area, something that no party candidate has done in a very long time. And he has successfully, through his national effort to get people involved at the local level of the political process, brought more first time voters into the process than anyone in history. Win or lose, he has forever changed the way campaigns are run, because he proved that he could do it without lobbyists or political favors as long as you involve the people you plan to lead.

He was not successful at this alone. He was successful because he was able to bring in the best minds available to him to plan out his strategies, to plan out his platform, and to serve as his “cabinet” and his sub-leaders. There is an old saying that Democratic presidents are brilliant men who surround themselves with idiots, and Republican presidents are idiots who surround themselves with brilliant men. Obama is a brilliant man who surrounded himself with brilliant men and women. Obama’s presidential campaign is a great example of someone already being presidential. All of his policies, whether economic, or foreign affairs, or education, involve bringing people to the table and getting them to understand each others’ perspectives first, then implementing change from the bottom up. He is consistent… you want that in a president.

There really is no thing as “being prepared” to be president. That’s why they all go gray in their first two years in office. But you can be presidential in how you conduct business before you’re elected. Obama has done that. . To say he is inexperienced would be like saying Ross Perot would have been incompetent as president. But as a non-politician, Perot was accepted across the board as a viable candidate, and if he were on a major party ticket would probably have won. Experience has to be taken in the context of level of exposure, level of success, and ability to translate success in one area to success in another. Although his is constantly compared to Sarah Palin in experience, if you take accomplishments by age, he is closer to Bill Clinton. If you make the same comparison by age with Palin, at age 24, when he a community activist, she was a sports reporter. At age 30, when she was serving on the Wasilla town council, he was graduating Magna Cum Laude from law school as the president of the Harvard Law Review. At age 32 she became the Mayor of Wasilla, and he was Founding Executive Director of Public Allies Chicago (and organization that trains youth to become future leaders) while teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law school. Regardless as to what they did in their first two years as Governor and Senator, respectively, Palin has devoted her life to mastering where she is, and Obama has devoted his life to learning from the past to help create a better future. Also, Palin has spent her life pushing people who don’t agree with her out of power, and Obama has sought to win those who don’t agree with him over, or finding common ground.

Some things that have been issues with him, really just aren’t issues To say he is a socialist is to define him by sentences rather than by track record. He has offered no socialist legislation at the state or national senatorial level. He has no socialist advisors in his inner or outer circle. But beyond that, for him to have any impact as a socialist, he would have to have a socialist leaning Senate, Congress, Supreme Court and Governorship. Even if the Democrats control government, unless you can equate being a democrat with being a socialist, any change to socialism is IMPOSSIBLE… particularly changing 242 years of government in four years. No president in recent times has had any meaningful impact on the “direction” of our country in only one term… except for maybe Kennedy… and that was because Kennedy was primarily a visionary who was able to get his vision to be excepted by the people from the ground up so it lasted beyond his life. The only way we will become a Socialist country is if we are conquered by Russia, otherwise it is IMPOSSIBLE. Is Obama a closet Muslim, or a Hateful Christian? He can’t be both, because no Muslim would sit in any Christian church for twenty years. Based on his track record of “his” actions, he is neither. If he was, someone from some mosque would have come forward by now, as would someone who feels that Obama had acted racist toward them. Neither has happened. The majority of his advisors over the past fifteen years have been/and still are White, as was his mother and grandparents who raised him. In the Bible, the Hebrew boys stayed in the oven, but since they were focused on Jesus who was in there with them, they couldn’t get burned. It’s the same with Obama hearing occasional race-based talk from his pastor. As far as being a terrorist, working on a committee with Ayers no more makes him a terrorist than working on a committee with Dick Luger makes him Republican. Obama works with people on the commonality of a goal, and not on of their philosophies other than that goal. He is also criticized for not going against his party. When your goal is to find common ground, you work to bring people together rather than “go against” anyone. I could go on, but hopefully that’s enough.

There are actually six candidates in this race, and two of them are named Obama. They are Hope Obama, and Fear Obama. The majority of voters are either voting for Obama because he represents Hope, or voting against Obama because he represents Fear. The republicans have spent so much time and money pushing Fear Obama, that the little time and money spent on promoting McCain relegated him to third party status. While this may have worked in the past, people have lived in unceasing fear for the past eight years already. Whether the Axis of Evil, or Terrorists, or Orange Alerts, people are tired of being governed by Fear. That is why Hope Obama speaks to crowds of 100,000, while McCain talks about Fear Obama to 6,000.

In terms of what he is currently doing and how that will translate to his presidency, I think McCain made two major mistakes. Sarah Palin was not one of them. As I stated in my blog, The Brilliance of John McCain, I think Palin was an excellent political move. If the bottom hadn’t fallen out of the economy, McCain would have won. One thing he did wrong was to bring in Karl Rove, and his campaign strategy. Rove destroyed what would have been McCain’s best chance to be President in 2000, by all but destroying his good name. Its true that those who live by sword die by the sword, but those who die by the sword cannot be brought back to life by the sword. McCain should have left Rovian politics alone. But even before then, McCain made the decision to “go after the base” that had never accepted him. Your base is always a fringe group, and you have to have confidence that they will come through for you regardless. He didn’t have that confidence. When Obama was being pressured to bring in Hillary, he didn’t go with political expediency because he would have turned off his base of young folks looking for something different. Biden may be old as dirt, but he was not the familiar face for Obama’s base that Hillary was. If McCain would have stayed focused on the Independents from the beginning, he would have cut into Obama’s growth factor, and almost ensured he would have won the numbers game. To summarize, what McCain is currently doing is changing who he is on the fly and not sticking to any plan of attack long enough for people to rally behind it. Thus, he is currently getting more Fear Obama votes than pro-McCain votes. He is not being presidential.

Obama would not have been a great candidate four years ago, and may not even be one four years from now, win or lose. But he is the best candidate for what our country needs today. We need to not only be proud to be Americans, we need to be happy to be Americans. Obama makes people happy to be Americans. Bush destroyed Kerry over his “global litmus test” line four years ago, but we have failed it, and we need to rebuild our international image. McCain has a good reputation with leaders around the world, but Obama has a good reputation with citizens around the world. That’s what we need in our global community. I took my soon-to-be two year old daughter with me in the booth Saturday, because I was voting for her future. I thought I would tear-up, but I didn’t… I felt relieved. But this morning I heard Harvest for the World by the Isley Brothers on Tom Joyner’s show, and I did tear up. I remember listening to that song on 8-track when I was a kid, knowing I planned to devote my life to making that song come true. I used to tear up on the line, “Dress me up for battle, when all I want is peace. Those of us who pay the price, come home with the least”, just like I did today. Like those who came before me, I don’t mind coming home with less if my children get to reap the rewards of my sacrifice.
Hope Obama doesn’t just represent the possibility that we will heal our divisions as a country, he represents hope that their will be a Harvest for the World… my daughter’s world… and that’s why I voted for him.

Dedicated to my boy Zachariah

Thursday, October 30, 2008

White Extremist Terrorism and the Jack Johnson Effect

Currently, The Butterfly Effect is probably the best know of all the effect theories. It basically says, if you change the smallest thing in the past, it can effect major changes in the future. As a person who believes heavily in Chaos Theory, it makes perfectly good sense to me. One of the funniest episodes of The Simpsons was a Tree House of Horrors episode that parodied the Butterfly Effect. Homer, after going back to pre-historic time and killing an insect, then returning back to the present and finding his world turned upside down, continued going back and forth making changes, with increasingly worse results. When he finally had the perfect world, family and home, better than ever before, he found out that this world didn’t make donuts, so he screamed and left that scenario before it started raining… but it just happened that in that scenario, when it rained - donuts fell from the sky. Finally, Homer reached a version of the present where everything looked normal, but when his family started eating, they all had tongues like frogs. After Homer thought a minute, he said “ahh, that’s not so bad” and went on with his meal.

The basic premise of an “effect” theory is that something happening will cause something else to happen based on some related factor or factors. The most talked about Effect recently is the Bradley Effect. The Bradley Effect is the theory that White people will “say” they will vote for a Black or other minority candidate if s/he is qualified when polled, then vote for that candidate’s White opposition when they get in the voting booth. The Bradley Effect is named after Tom Bradley, who ran for Governor of California. He was ahead in the polls among White voters, but lost decidedly on Election Day. It is believed that happened because White voters who never intended to vote for him said they were going to, or claimed they were undecided, because they didn’t want to be seen negatively as racist. Political pundits are now wondering whether Barack Obama will be subject to the Bradley Effect.

Some Pundits have created a new and very interesting theory called the Obama Effect. This theory states that, Conservative Republicans who say they would never vote for Obama when polled, will actually cast a vote for him in the booth. The premise behind this theory is that, while they don’t want Obama for themselves, they will elect him for their children because their children believe that Obama offers hope for their future, and Conservative Republicans will choose their childrens’ hope over their own fear. I think this one is a stretch, but I can’t say it’s impossible. Only time will tell.

The one effect I fear during this run for the White House is the Jack Johnson Effect. Jack Johnson was the first Black Heavy Weight Champion of the world. He was an intelligent and dapper man in his casual relationships, but when he was in the ring, he was known to taunt and brutalize his White opponents with his superior skills and strength. The term “Great White Hope” originated based on the effort to find someone who could beat Johnson. Jack Johnson was a source of pride for Blacks in the first decade of the 1900’s… to a point… because he also brought a great price tag. Johnson not only held the title that was considered to represent the greatest athlete in the world, but he also dated and married White women. The concept of a Black man beating a White man in public, and then walking off with a White woman afterward, and doing both legally, was too much for many White men of that day (I got jokes here, but I’ll let it… goooooo…). So every time Johnson won a fight, and reminded them of his superiority in “their” sport, White men would go out and indiscriminately brutalize Black people. Lynching, drowning, rape, mutilation, and other atrocities were all part of the reaction to Johnson’s victories. Thus, the Jack Johnson Effect: When Blacks experience a victory over strong White opposition, White Extremists will retaliate violently.

History has shown that there are White Americans that will fight and die for the right of African Americans to pursue their goals and receive their rights as Americans. History also shows there are White Americans who take pride and pleasure in showing their feeling of superiority, whether socially, or physically. I have stated several times that there will be repeated plots/attempts on Barack Obama’s life. That is an accepted part of a Black man running for president. I don’t fear for Obama, he made his peace with God when he decided to run, and three exposed plots to kill him so far haven’t slowed him down yet. I do fear for the safety of his wife and children, because anyone who kills the wife or children of Obama will become either a White Extremist cult hero or martyr like Byron De La Beckwith did when he killed Medgar Evers. But that’s not the Jack Johnson Effect. I fear for what will happen to regular ole Black folks after Obama wins.

This latest plot to kill Obama also included the bombing of a school. School and church bombings were a staple of white retaliation during the Civil Rights movement by those who felt that Blacks who wanted to be seen as equally human were taking something away from racist Whites; technically what they were taking was the “feeling” of superiority and entitlement. Taking personal offense at something that was not done to you personally, and then attacking innocent people in retaliation has been part of White Terrorism from before the Ku Klux Clan until now. And don’t believe for a moment that every act of violence against Blacks is Klan related, anymore than every shooting in the Black community is drug/gang related. There are just some sick folks out there, and the “rogues” are often the most dangerous. White Extremist Terrorism is not subject to just Black victims either, as the Oklahoma City Bombing proves. There, the victims were predominantly White, and the attack was done on a building that was known to have a daycare operating on the premises. The previous Oklahoma bombing of Black Wall St. in Tulsa, as well as race riots in East St. Louis, N.Y., and other cities, shows White Extremist Terrorism knows no bounds

White’s aren’t the only people who practice retaliation. Back in my teen years, when a carload of White kids shot me and my boy Tito while we were walking his sister home from work, my brother and some of the other Warlords went over to West Hempstead and gave a healthy beat down to pass on the message that behavior of that type was not allowed (beat downs were all we had since most Black kids didn’t have guns in the ‘70’s). Hey, Blacks and Latinos definitely do their share of killing, and sometimes they target Whites. But there is a major difference between going eye for eye based on a personal attack, and bombing churches and schools at random. Even the most vicious gang-bangers in Black and Latino communities know that churches and children are off limits. If a Black kid shoots another kid in school, it’s because he has a conflict with that kid, but Black kids don’t shoot up the whole school because they are bullied, or have a problem with their teachers, or they aren’t understood by their parents. Black kids understand that shooting a bunch of people for no reason can get your family wiped out. But I digress…

In this season of celebration, remember to be vigil. The origin of the Watch Night church service was that when news of the Emancipation Proclamation came through, being together and in God’s presence was the safest place to be… ‘cause there were White folks who would have done bad things to the newly freed slaves if they caught them. Just like in the Bible, the children of Israel had to fight their enemies most after they got in the Promised Land. Our battle should be first - spiritual, second - moral, third - intellectual, and “last” - political. And it should be fought with an army that is multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious affiliation, and multi-economic class.
Obama’s victory is a major step in the battle for America to live up to its ideals, but the war is far from over, and the White Extremist Terrorists will be attacking, ‘cause the Jack Johnson Effect will be in effect. Be proud, but humble; fearless… but vigil…
Last note:
In interviews with people at the McCain/Palin rallies, many good Americans express a fear of what an Obama presidency will “do” to their country. They say that if Obama is elected president, it will be the end of America as they know it. The reality is, America as they know it has already ended, and a new one is emerging. THAT’S WHY Obama is being elected president.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

WWJE... Yes, I'm Going There!

This is something I had to write. I was working on about five separate blogs, and couldn’t really tie down what I wanted to say for any of them. Then my wife came to me one night and said, “you need to write a blog about Who Would Jesus Elect… I don’t have the details, but I just know you need to write it. As soon as she said it, I knew that it was exactly where I had been going, and would tie together many of my loose concepts. It bothers both of us that we profess to be a Christian country, and our politicians talk about Christian values; yet so much of what we hear on Sundays in church contradicts what the politicians say before church on Meet the Press. So taking what I got from the pews, the Bible, and some conversations with my Lord and Savior, Here are the platforms for the candidates I believe Jesus would elect.

Education - Jesus went to synagogue every day. He went to teach and He went to listen, so He was into lifelong learning. He started His ministry by saying that education should not be just for the elite, but the common Jew. He ended His ministry by saying that His teachings should be available to anyone around the world. Jesus was all about knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and equal access to all three. So Jesus would vote for the candidate that advocated providing equal access to equal education across the board.

The Economy (The role of government) - Joseph had the job of organizing the government to make sure that the productivity of business was maximized, and the needs of the country were met long term. Through encouraging the growth of business, the collection of taxes, and the redistribution of the money and resources to areas of community and individual need, he got both Egypt and the Children of Israel through a major crisis. Had business been allowed to run without governmental oversight, the empire would have collapsed. Likewise, without a strong private sector in the seven years before the famine, the country would still have collapsed. Jesus would vote for the person who promoted the most comprehensive government that promote the growth of business within the framework of strengthening the government for the good of the people.

Job Creation – Jesus had no preference for private job creation or government job creation. Some of His disciples were private businessmen, others were government workers. Who created the jobs was not as important as how the business contributed to the benefit of society. The Bible promotes work and creativity in earning a living, and the responsibility to feed oneself to the best of your ability. God’s use of rich men in building His kingdom shows that he respects private business and their ability to create jobs. God also says that all leadership is of him, and he used kings, governors, tax collectors, soldiers, and other employees of the government for great tasks. Jesus would vote for the person who would promote the most comprehensive plan of using government and the private sector to create jobs.

Taxes – Jesus asked that everyone pay tithes and everyone pays taxes. Both send a share of your earnings to a common pot of money to be used for the common good. Jesus said of taxes, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Jesus pulled money out of a fish’s mouth in order to pay the taxes for He and Peter, and He chose a tax collector (Mathew) to as a Disciple and traveling companion. That means that he accepted that the government needed to have funds to maintain itself, and He needed to be abreast of the tax laws in the lands He traveled. He also said that the rich should sell what they had and give it to the poor based on who had most need. Jesus would not be thrilled with the rich withholding their fair share, as shown in chapter four of Acts, when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead after selling there stuff, lying about their profits, and giving less then their share. I believe that Jesus would expect the rich to pay more because they were obviously blessed more (and that doesn’t go to effort, because every coal mine worker works harder than every corporate executive), and people who tried to provide tax breaks to allow the rich to keep more than their share would be seen as aiding and abetting an Ananias/Sapphira situation. He would vote for the person who would uphold these principals.

The Poor – Jesus loves all people, but the Bible does not really address the middle class, or money and quality of life for the people in the middle, as opposed to how to live in a way that God can prosper you in terms of money and quality of life. He speaks greatly about the poor though. He expressed that you should help the poor. Jesus said the poor will always be among us (Deuteronomy 14:11 and Mark 14:7), so poverty is not necessarily a punishment for what you have done, but more a result of what you have not done, and what others have chosen not to do for you. The Beatitudes, say blessed are the poor; well, a major part of how they will be blessed is that those who are rich bless them. The candidate who most wants to reward the rich for helping the poor would be the candidate that Jesus would vote for… and dare I be so presumptuous, but limiting tax breaks to only those associated with giving to religious and/or charitable organizations would probably make Jesus really happy.

Equal Pay for Women – Jesus recognized that women had the right to divorce men. That was unheard of at the time. Jesus said that his Kingdom would not give preference based on race, sex, or anything else. All are free to come, and all will receive equally. Some may argue that Jesus’ parable about the workers who came in the evening getting the same money as those who came in the morning is justification for differential pay for the same work, but again, it was not based on any personal trait the workers had. The candidate that wanted to give women their due would be the one that Jesus would vote for.

Supreme Court Appointments – Jesus believed that you should study to show yourself approved in an area. The person that showed the best background in understanding the constitution would be the candidate that would be best able to choose people who knew enough to serve in those positions. He didn’t get farmers to be “fishers of men”; He got fishermen. This is more important for a Supreme Court Justice than for a Cabinet Member because the Justice would still be there after the president is gone, and the Justice would not be working directly with the president at any time after appointment. Jesus would vote for the candidate that had the most proven understanding of the original purpose of the constitution, and its creation as an amendable structure that could adapt to the growth and change of the country while holding onto it’s initial intent.

Roe v. Wade – Deuteronomy 30:19 says “…I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Based on this, I would say that Jesus was anti-abortion and pro-choice. Jesus would believe that abortion was wrong for any reason and at any point, which goes directly to “that you and your descendants may live”. But Christianity is based on teaching toward choice, ie. “choosing life”, and if you take away choice, it takes away the gift/responsibility to choose that Jesus places before us. God didn’t put a fence around the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, because he wanted Adam to choose to respect Him and not the fence. The candidate that advocated a comprehensive plan of education about the sanctity of life without taking away the ability to choose life would be the one Jesus would vote for.

Foreign Policy – The Great Commission, Jesus’ main foreign policy, was to go throughout the world preaching the Good News of Jesus. Within this is the overarching concept that Jesus is Love. Jesus would want our country to be a leader in doing the work that Jesus believed in, like feeding the masses both physically and spiritually, establishing systems of support for the lesser of His children, and teaching what His principals are in a way that would promote others to choose to do things our way.

Military Force – As a carpenter, Jesus had to understand the value of strength… particularly in a time when tools were primitive. Paul said to "lay hands suddenly on no man", so the Bible respects that you should neither attack, nor retaliate, without thought. It follows this up with “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger”, again saying that conversation should come before conflict. Moreover, Jesus said in the Beattitudes, “blessed are the meek, for the will inherit the earth”, and “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” As a member of a country that wants to be a world leader, Jesus would vote for the candidate who would be willing to speak to his enemies before striking at them, even if they laid hands on us suddenly.

2nd Amendment - The King of Kings believed in turning the other cheek when it came to conflict. He would respect the dictates of the government in which he resides as along as it did not make him compromise His values. He would probably support the candidate that best tied gun ownership to an educational program of the sanctity of life and the dangers of gun abuse, and punishment for those who chose to ignore what they learned or chose to use guns without education. Jesus also preached temperance, so He would probably advocate hunting weapons for hunting, and restrict assault weapons to military and police use (those for whom “assault” is part of the job).

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. But if you don’t think I have a right to speak for Jesus, you’re wrong. I know Jesus… I have a personal relationship with Him. What I covered here is what He told me personally. If he told you something different based on your relationship, that’s fine. If He didn’t talk to you at all, you need to spend a little more time reading His Word and listening to Him. Just make sure that if you speak for Him you are doing His will, and not your will in His name. He doesn’t like that second one very much.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Brilliance of John McCain

I’ve been a John McCain fan for a long time. Yeah, I know it’s kinda weird to be a fan of a politician, but there are certain personality traits that just seem to pull me in. Ted Turner from his Captain Outrageous days, before Jane Fonda domesticated him the way Tarzan’s Jane did to him, had that personality. Also, folks like Adam Clayton Powell, Richard Branson, and Master P, who all said, “I think I can circumvent the old way of doing things, and change the game in the process,” have that personality. I like people who do conventional things in non-conventional ways… not just to be different, but because the conventional way just won’t work for them. Bill Clinton changed the game when he went on Arsenio Hall and played the sax; now all politicians make the late night circuit. Obama changed the game with MySpace, Facebook, and Blackplanet; don’t think that won’t be standard operating procedure from here on. Well, McCain has been doing similar things in the Senate for a long time. He always kinda messed things up for everyone, Republicans and Democrats, but always with a goal of making things better in mind.

If you had asked me 18 months ago, my dream ticket was either Obama/McCain, or Obama/Wesley Clark. My undergraduate chapter of my fraternity used to go neophyte/prophyte as President/V.P., with the young, smart energetic guy having an older, wiser guy to bounce ideas off of, and I was thinking the same thing would work with our top officials in government. Having Obama, who understood more of what was going on and where we needed to go as a country, team up with an old war vet and politician who could have been a great president in his younger years and still had enough knowledge of the past to make sure we didn’t repeat it, seemed like a great idea… kinda like Lion-O and Tygra in the ThunderCats. I wanted Gore in '80, but I would have been happy with McCain. I didn’t like a lot of his positions, but I knew where he was coming from and trusted him to be consistent and not spin his actions into some surreal act of God when it was just his choice to go off page.

I watched John McCain over the last two years, and I know this race has been killing him. He had to downplay what he really stands for, particularly in terms of his personality, and try to be the good party man in order to keep the Conservative faction of the Republican Party from Swiftboating him and getting a replacement. He was forced to take on all of Bush’s advisors to try to get him to be George W. with a McCain mask on. Well, like with any mask, the expression never changed. There was no joy in that mask. McCain is not the type of guy who gets off on a good smear campaign. I know deep inside, he admired and desired Obama’s ability to stay out of the mud, and use honor, dignity, and the issues to win over voters, rather than look to destroy his opponent’s character and track record, and attack his wife and children to do it. I remember when Sean Hannity tried to get McCain to say that Obama was not a loyal American, and McCain refused and kept saying that he knew Obama, and he knew he loved his country. Hannity showed the frustration of an old school Rovian who couldn’t get McCain to play the game, and McCain showed the frustration of having to deal with old politics.

McCain wanted to get back to his old maverick ways; the question was, how to do it without ostracizing the Conservative Right that already hated him for not embracing them. McCain flirted with the idea of putting Joe Leiberman on the ticket to get the Liberal and Conservative Democratic voters, but the Conservative Republicans told him they would cut him off if he did. His second maverick option was to get more women voters. McCain has been trying to figure out how to get the Hillary women for four months now. He didn’t make a decision on his VP until he saw the looks on the faces of Hillary’s Obama Haters during Obama’s acceptance speech. He could see their hearts melting like the Winter Warlock's when Kris Kringle gave him a toy. He immediately went to the playbook page that says, "…to divide White Women from Blacks, offer the opposite of what they have." Don’t think if Hillary didn’t win, he wouldn’t have considered Allan Keyes, Colin Powell or Condeleeza Rice… he may have even pulled J.C. Watts out of mothballs.

Well, it looks like the old McCain is back. With the selection of Sarah Palin, McCain has destroyed the Conservatives’ ability to play Rovian politics, and re-established his maverick approach to getting what he wants. The Conservatives can no longer attack Obama’s family, because he has made attacking families off limits based on Palin’s daughter. He has made Obama’s experience and readiness to lead a dead point, because anything that is said about Obama can be equaled or bettered by attacks on Palin. On the other side, he has countered the pick of Biden as the attack dog, with an attack dog of his own… but one that wears a pink collar. Palin has already won the VP debate, something no Republican male could have done against Biden. If Biden goes after her, women will move to one of their abused sisters in solidarity. If he lays off of her, she will live up to her nickname, Sarah Baracuda, and eat him alive. He’s lose-lose all the way.

The most brilliant aspect of choosing Palin is her daughter’s pregnancy. Many folks think he chose her despite the fact that her daughter was pregnant, or really didn’t know she was. I believe he chose her because her daughter was pregnant. He knew that he couldn’t just bring in some Hillary knockoff, because people would have seen right through it. He would have lost more votes than he gained, and probably some self-respect at the same time. The Rightwingers can’t attack Palin, because it will show that they are the mean nasties that people say they are; besides, on paper she represents their values. The Leftwingers can’t attack, because Palin’s daughter is the type of at-risk teen whose cause they are supposed to be championing. And the women can all rally around one of their own… except better. A woman who is a successful mother and wife and businesswoman, but still has problems, is just like them. She is like an episode of Desperate Housewives, or a "You can have it all... including great sex!" segment on Oprah. She is almost just like Michelle Obama… but even better… because she’s White. Besides, the Conservatives didn’t give him a distracting issue of God and country like 9/11 or same sex marriage to rally around for this election, but now he has his pregnant surrogate grand-daughter to rally the hearts of "real Americans" around. If not voting for Obama means you don’t like Black people, then not voting for Palin means you don’t like your own mother, daughter, sister, next door neighbor, co-worker, etc.

Of course, Palin is far from the best candidate the Republicans had to offer. She isn’t even the best female candidate they have. Linda Lingle is the Republican Governor of Hawaii. She has been governor since 2002 (this is her second term), and has been in politics since the 80’s. Being from Hawaii, she is even more of an outsider than Palin, and she has more than twice as much experience. My first thought about him picking Palin over Lingle was, “they were right, senility really has set in.” But McCain needed qualities, not qualifications. Now with Palin, McCain has his dignity back. It was noted that in the first three days after he chose her, neither McCain nor Palin mentioned Obama by name. Their focus has been to talk about their maverick backgrounds, and how they are going to attack the big dogs in Washington to bring about change.
Right at the moment when Obama started to fight back in a more Rovian style, McCain and Palin took a page out of Obama’s playbook and started ignoring the opposition and attacking voter apathy with a message of hope and change. I am happy to say my respect for McCain is back! And his brilliance is back. But he still plans to use his maverick style to continue the same failed policies as Bush, so I’m still voting for Obama.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Black Women Have More AIDS... Not More SEX

I remember sitting on the bus going to the suburban campus back in my first year at the University at Buffalo. Being one to read anything within eyeshot, it was not hard to see what was written on the back of the seat in front of me. “90% of American college women sleep around… the other 10% go to U.B.” That writing on the back of the seat proved to be the writing on the wall for me over the next two years. Not that it was too different than the twenty years before, it was just more noticeable now that I was considerably over the age of consent, and I still had no one to consent with. As time went by, things got better… much better. But I have to admit, it was always a struggle considering I was short, skinny, average looking and broke… with no rap to speak of. But I could make ‘em laugh, and I could make ‘em think, so I had a chance.

I always had White roommates back then; there were reasons… but that’s a blog for another day. One thing I did get a chance to see, going to a predominantly White university and having White roommates, was the dating pattern of White guys my age. Business was always good for guys like my boy Todd, who had women coming through like tag-team wrestlers; one would leave, and another would immediately jump in the ring. Other guys would just sit around watching Letterman and getting drunk. What I realized was that White guys dating habits may have differed from me and the Brothers, but the levels of success and failure with our women was exactly the same. As I progressed out of my younger years, and my relationship with my White brethren moved into the business world, I noticed that our styles became less distinctive, but our results were the still same. Even into more recent times when the White guys I know are almost equally as likely to hook up with sisters as the brothers I know hook up with White women… the results are the same. I don’t know much about the dating for my Native and Asian brothers, but the results for my Hispanic brothers have always been equal to the Blacks and Whites from my observations.

So if brothers of all shades are experiencing the same level of success and failure with the ladies, women of all shades must all be doing the same things… well… they may not be doing the same things… but the things they are doing, they’re doing just as much of. With that thought in mind, it greatly disturbs me that whenever there is a discussion of “the face of AIDS” in this country, there is a Black female face under the caption. This was evident again in the Black in America series, where they spent an extensive amount of time spent talking about Black women and AIDS. Now it doesn’t bother me when the discussion centers on the fact that Black women contract HIV at a higher rate than anyone else, facts are facts. And I do find it encouraging when the discussion extends to finding inexpensive treatments, or even a cure for them. What bothers me is the fact that the discussion generally migrates to them being involved in riskier behavior than other folks who contract the disease at a lesser rate. The conversation will then emphasize them dealing with down-low brothers, being less precautious, or being overly promiscuous. The “they must be victims, careless, or morally depraved” assessment of their situation is insulting, infuriating, and socially and scientifically wrong.

I addressed the scientifically wrong part in depth on another blog page in terms of Blacks in general (
, but I’ll touch on a little of it here as it pertains to Black women. First of all, women in general are physiologically more susceptible to HIV than men. Some studies show that woman may be 2000 times more likely than men to contract HIV, as sexually they are a natural receptacle for fluids. Second, people of African Ancestry are genetically predisposed to contract HIV, Northern Europeans are designed to resist it, and everyone else kinda falls in between. Now whether this is a happenstance of biological adaptation or biological engineering, I addressed in the previously mentioned blog. But the reality of it is absolute, as stated in Scientific American Magazine:

Genetic variation also plays a role in individual susceptibility to one of the worst scourges of our age: AIDS. Some people have a small deletion in both their copies of a gene that encodes a particular cell-surface receptor called chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5). As a result, these individuals fail to produce CCR5 receptors on the surface of their cells. Most strains of HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, bind to the CCR5 receptor to gain entry to cells, so people who lack CCR5 receptors are resistant to HIV-1 infection. This polymorphism in the CCR5 receptor gene is found almost exclusively in groups from northeastern Europe.

Several polymorphisms in CCR5 do not prevent infection but instead influence the rate at which HIV-1 infection leads to AIDS and death. Some of these polymorphisms have similar effects in different populations; others only alter the speed of disease progression in selected groups. One polymorphism, for example, is associated with delayed disease progression in European-Americans but accelerated disease in African-Americans. Researchers can only study such population-specific effects--and use that knowledge to direct therapy--if they can sort people into groups.
Does Race Exist? Scientific American, December 2003

So a being that is designed as a receptacle for fluids has a cell in their bodies that is a prime receptacle of the HIV virus which is transmitted through fluids. Based on that information, it is really easy to see why Black women contract HIV at such a great rate. Now since this article is almost five years old, and the information contained is even older, why isn’t this yet given as a reason for their susceptibility to HIV. Unfortunately, it probably goes back to the line of thinking used for the Hottentot Venus (Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman), the African woman who was paraded around Europe in the early 1800’s as a side-show freak because of her big butt (Beyonce’ would have made a fortune), and pronounced vaginal lips. Although she was by all accounts a highly intelligent and respectable woman, it was said by the scientists that “studied” her, that based on her physical appearance the essence of African women’s sexuality was in their genitals, while the essence of European women’s sexuality was in their brains. They even went so far as to have her genitalia removed and put on display in a museum after her death. …And there it began, the concept that Black women are nothing but a big butt, and a big… vagina (no, the disrespect was not started by rappers). Before Sarah’s time, and definitely since then, Black women have been reduce to or dismissed as sexual being on various levels. So them dying of a sexually transmitted disease can’t be a big deal, can it?

Now I’m not a Black woman, nor do I play one on TV. So why is this issue so important to me. My daughter, my nieces, my goddaughters, and every other Black girl and young Black woman that I have dealt with in my personal life and professional career! They see and hear far too many negative images of who they supposedly are, and not nearly enough positive ones of who they actually are. To see them portrayed as stupid and careless is highly offensive, but the immoral part really pisses me off. When I have seen them torture themselves with guilt over basic mistakes of life in their attempt to do what is right, even when they are fed information that should convince them without a doubt that wrong is right… shows me that they have a high intrinsic level of morality, even when they don’t know why. I like to believe it is the Holy Spirit whispering in their ear, but that’s my explanation. Whatever the explanation, they do not need to have some physiological issue explained as everything but that… particularly while they are trying to avoid, or live with, some life threatening disease. Black women are not necessarily more or less promiscuous than anyone else, they just suffer worse for their actions than everyone else. Physical death from the disease is bad enough. They shouldn’t have to endure moral execution by society as well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Drug Laws: Fair? Maybe... Profitable? Definitely

In terms of material that gets me going to the point that I have to write it out to find some peace of mind, the Black in America series may have me spending more time writing than I spent watching the show. The panel discussion on the second night takes center stage right now. The comment made by Conservative Columnist Tara Wall, that there is no racist intent in the sentencing of minority offenders, prompted me to write her a letter. Since her comments were made publicly, I felt it gave me the responsibility to reply publicly as well, so I’m reprinting the letter here. To be consistent, I’m using my usual blue background with red highlights on my opening middle and closing statements.

Dear Ms. Wall:

I wanted to first thank you for serving as a panelist for the Black in America Series. To be chosen as such, where only a small fraction of our nationally known representatives had an opportunity to participate, was obviously an honor to you, and thus an honor for those of us who were represented by you.

Second, I wanted to share something with you. Watching the young district attorney in the expose’ and hearing how conflicted he was in serving a system that is often “flawed”, my heart went out to him. Anyone that works within “the system” or any system that has unresolved issues of fairness must deal with that conflict at sometime. I have been in that position far too often myself. For the sake of sanity and retaining your self-concept, you eventually have to take a side, and to that end, the more information you have to be comfortable with whatever truth you may accept for yourself, the better. To that end, I share this with you

The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

In terms of the fairness of our legal system, and in particular the legal ramifications of the War on Drugs, our national legislature did what was in their legal remedies to continue our growth as a capitalist nation. You were right on one hand with your assertion that the sentencing of drug related crimes was not done intentionally to be racist. The root of it was economics, but the pathway to get there, its secondary motive, was indeed racist.

Interestingly, the initiation of the war on drugs coincided with the divestment from South Africa by US corporations. The companies that divested from South Africa, in various ways, invested in prisons. New prisons were built in areas where there was not significant crime to fill them, funded by many of these corporations. Immediately afterward, free base cocaine was replaced with crack as the drug of choice for those wanting an intense high on a budget. Then mandatory minimum laws were put in place to crack down on people who were selling the less pure version of an old drug, i.e. 10 year sentences for an ounce of crack, two years for an ounce of coke. This would be the equivalent of a credit card company charging 5% interest for an item bought at Sach’s, and 25 % interest for an item bought at Wal-Mart. It’s not inherently racist; it’s punishing the poor for being poor. But when the dominant numbers of Blacks are poor, and when there is no Sach’s in the Black community to shop at even if they wanted to avoid the higher penalty, it is systematically racist.

From slavery, to Jim Crow/Share Cropping, to Apartheid, to the prison industrial complex (I despise that term, but I’ve had to accept it as it is the commonly accepted terminology), to undocumented workers, our country has always had free or reduced cost labor to allow our capitalist system to thrive. Those who drafted the thirteenth amendment understood this, and they also understood that there was never going to be a better system of free labor than slavery. So rather than abolish slavery, they merely changed the tenets of slavery from race-related to crime-related, and left themselves (Congress) the ability to resurrect it at a later date if it were ever needed. And the ending of Apartheid brought about that need. I do need to emphasize one thing: slavery was never abolished, it was set aside. If more people understood that fact, many of the disagreements about the intent of our legislative and law-enforcement systems would indeed be abolished. Anyway, enterprises within the prison walls include, auto parts production, call center operations, computer hardware production, and other would/could/should be unionized jobs. Economically, non-unionized prison labor hurts more working Americans than undocumented worker labor, but again it goes to the root word of capitalist system being not capital, but capitalize; the only way for me to make more is to take advantage of someone else.

The kids at the youth detention home associated with my job create some of the most beautiful hand-crafted furniture you will ever see. It’s a shame they had to go to jail to learn those skills… no… actually, it’s as criminal as the activities that got them locked up… no… it is constitutionally established, and therefore allowable and acceptable. But it’s not fair, it’s not right, and it is racist. And that’s the truth… at least that’s the truth that I have accepted for myself that allows me to sleep at night. Thank you for allowing me to share my truth with you.

Sincerely and with the utmost respect,

Dwane T.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Ahead Obama, Take Me For Granted

No one can give you power, you have to take it!!! (Jock Ewing, fictional character on Dallas)

If you let them do this to me and get away with it, then you’re giving them the eternal right to do the same damn thing to anyone of you!! (fictionalized real-life character Bufford Pusser in Walking Tall)

I’m old enough to command a certain amount of respect, and I’m young enough to take the rest! (my older brother Gerald… a real-life character of fictional proportions)

Every news channel has begun to re-examine the theme: Does Obama take Black people for granted? It’s a long way away from, is Obama Black enough to represent African Americans, but it has the same divisive quality when you repeat it enough. On that issue, one hundred-fifty years ago, octoroons (look it up) were still considered Black enough for use as slaves, and Obama is four times blacker than they were (I hate myself for saying blacker, but I had to make a point). But back to the real issue, that being Obama taking Black people for granted. Where Obama is, and what he has to do to be successful for where he is going, 1) it is impossible for him to take Black people for granted, but 2) to whatever extent he can, I believe he should be able to.

As my quotes above show, I understand a little about power and respect (I’m still working on the money thing). I could have used Frederick Douglas’ “Power concedes nothing…” quote, because it is definitely the best, but I was in a mass media state of mind. I know that life in general is a struggle to be accepted, respected, protected and empowered. I generally don’t take anyone or anything for granted, and I don’t like folks taking me for granted. But there are exceptions. When my daughter says “Da?!?!” at 2:30 in the morning, she expects me to come. She doesn’t know if the monitor is on in our room, she doesn’t know if I’m sleeping, she doesn’t know what my day was like the day before or what my schedule is the next day. She knows I need to be there because of our relationship. Our lives are intertwined in a way that, regardless of how we may feel about each other at any given time in our lives, we are one. To get her to feel it before she can understand it, I play the You Tube clip of the song “We Are One” from Lion King II for her a few times a week. From now until the day one of us leaves the earth, if I am the father I should be, she should be able to take me for granted in the same way she does now. Having said that, let me get back to my points…

1) It is impossible for Obama to take Black people for granted. The top candidate for president, universally accepted, in the last three elections was Colin Powell. There were very few people who didn’t love and respect him, but his wife knew that a few of the ones who didn’t would try to kill him the first chance they got; so she killed his presidential run before it got started by saying, “no, you ain’t runnin’. Obama undoubtedly had that conversation with his wife before he started this run. They both understand that he can die at any time for no other reason than he is a Black man running for president. He cannot escape the fact. There is nothing in his personality that shows that he is so self/power obsessed that he would risk leaving his daughters fatherless unless he believed in a cause greater than himself. Obama is Black everyday, and he proves it by his willingness to die representing his people everyday. No greater love hath a man that he should lay down his life for his brother… look that up too if you need to.

2) Obama should be able to take Black people for granted. In the same way that he is willing to sacrifice some or all of his life for da brovas and sistas, they should be able to do the same for him. Black people will never be a homogenous group with one set of values and thoughts, and they never should be. But as the radical brothers used to tell us youngbloods back in college, more important than unity is mobility. We can’t always agree on an issue, but we can recognized its significance beyond our philosophical differences and mobilize to do what is best for the greater good. Obama being president is for the greater good. If its not, the alternative would be…. What? I’m not saying that he should completely ignore us. But like I said before, he can’t ignore us, he is actively Black all day, everyday (unlike some other folks who are passively Black). Some folks make the comparison that Bill Clinton actively sought the Black vote. But Clinton could reach out to Black people and still be seen as pro-White. Obama reaching out to Black people will be depicted by many as being anti-White. For those who don’t think that’s true, it may sound crazy and/or offensive, but it was just as crazy and offensive for Obama giving his wife dap to be seen as a terrorist fist bump.. LOL LOL LOL LOL… anyway…

Barack Obama is running for president of the United States, not president of the inner city, selected suburbs, and a few rural pockets. He is running for George Bush’s job, not Rev. Al Sharpton’s. It does not make sense for him to apply for a job that effects 300 million people by focusing on the issues that effect 35 million of them. Do I want him to address police brutality, redistricting, redlining, gang violence, lack of grocery stores and fresh food, and other issues that directly effect me and many other folks I love? Absolutely! But if he addresses jobs lost overseas, a living wage, cutting tax breaks for the rich, equal access to quality education, higher standards for landlords, and other issues that effect 285 million Americans, including me and those folks I love, I would love that too. And if talking about the first set of issues prevents him from getting elected so that he can’t get anything done at all, then Barack he needs to let Rev. Al do his job, and focus on his own. When a general is trying to conquer new territories, he doesn’t need civilians sticking notes in his pocket telling him who shot at them, what he needs to do to protect them and who he should get first. He needs to focus on winning the new land. After that, everyone can assist the general in making the resources of the new land benefit the inhabitants of the old land… get it?

I would not be making this argument if Obama was not qualified to be president. No one wants the first Black president to be an unqualified screw-up that sets Black folks back 100 years. To be able to put together a team of leaders with the skill and vision to develop, implement and maintain a system that changes society is the function of a president, and his successful campaign against all odds has proven Obama has that ability. I believe McCain has those skills as well, just not to the same extent. I also believe that there are at least 500 people in this country who would be more qualified than both of them to be president… but those folks aren’t running. I believe that Obama will be a fair president, which will piss off people of all races because many want to get their share of “fair” off the top, with the rest of “fair” being distributed equally to everyone else. But I also believe the majority of us, from all races and ethnicities, understand what fair is, and will support him being fair… even when we have to give up something for the greater good of the many. I hope Obama does take me being there for him for granted right now, like I will take him being there for me for granted later on, because ultimately we both know this thing is bigger than both of us.

Jesse Got OutFOXed!!!

I am not a fan of FOX television. FOX news, FOX Sports, FX, or plain old FOX, I don’t like them. At best, they are a necessary evil, since NFC football games are shown on FOX (and I have to watch the Giants), the King of the Hill, Simpsons and Family Guy come on Sunday Night. Other than those shows, there isn’t much they offer me. My dislike (disdain) comes in how the separate channels and programming are all tied together. Forgive me if I insult you here, but… FOX makes its money programming for the non-intellectual masses on all of its channels so that it can afford to finance its’ news channel. Fox News then reinforces stereotypical fears among the non-intellectual masses, so that they move our government to protect them from the would be destroyers of their non-intellectual way of life, giving corporations like FOX the power to continue to take money away from the non-intellectual masses.

This is not new information. FOX was built on programming for Black people and dumb people (some would say dumb Black people). Once they made enough money to challenge the big three stations, they threw Black programming to the side… except on FOX news, where you could always find a story about some black thug, baby mama, heartless murderer, etc. And if they couldn’t find a story, they’d spend hours speculating about one. So, with this basic history in mind, I have often wondered… why do Black folks go on FOX News? With the adage, keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer, in mind, I occasionally give myself a 15-20 minute dose of FOX News. I watch them talk down to, cut off, disregard, and blindside their Black guests. And those folks keep coming back… and bringing friends!!!

When gatekeepers masquerade as moderators, talking about having fair discussions with no spin, while having a scroll of the topic being discussed running along the bottom or the side of the screen that contradicts whatever the Black guest is saying, you may want to stay away from that environment… or at least come up with a counter attack. Bill Clinton came with a counter attack last year when Chris Wallace tried to blindside him. Even though Clinton’s defense, in the form of an attack, was portrayed as borderline hysteria by the other news channels, it didn’t change the fact the Clinton tore Wallace a new one. Fox left Bill alone after that one.

Slick Willy knew enough to be on guard at all times, so how did Jesse Jackson get caught out there? As many times as he has been misquoted, misrepresented, and had his statements just twisted into an entirely different point before his eyes, Jesse should have known better than to trust anyone at that network. An intelligent Black person going on FOX news and expecting not to be attacked is like the Crocodile Hunter going into a swamp with the same expectation. They don’t care who you are, you are food to them… and they will feed on you to make their cause stronger. That insanity reminds me of a joke from my childhood watching Hee Haw (yes, Hee Haw… alas, I can’t lie…):

Patient: Doctor, I just broke my leg in three places!
Doctor: Well boy, I suggest you stay out of those places!

Even on Hee Haw, they understood that it didn’t make sense to treat the injury without treating the behavior that brought it on. Brothers and sisters need to stay away from FOX. At least with CNN, you know they are going to going to show everyone in a negative light… because they know that to combine fairness with high ratings, you have to have drama, and nothing brings drama like negativity (the desire to make a joke comparing the FOX and the Wolf [Blitzer of CNN] is strong, but I’ll fight it off). Even Obama knows enough not to go on FOX. They can talk about him all they want to, call him every name in the book, but they can’t use his words against him if they don’t get to talk to him.

I don’t fault Jesse for saying what he said. He has earned a right to feel how he feels, and say what he wants to say. Had he said the same thing at the barbershop, some brothers would have agreed, others would have disagreed, but everyone would have laughed. I do fault him for saying it where he said it. I have never heard a proponent of FOX News say, “boy that Jessie Jackson sure changed my mind on that issue!” On FOX, Jesse could add to the argument, but he cannot win it… and he does not need to be anyone’s additive at this point in his career. Jesse does not need to risk his past accomplishments looking for present relevance. Jesse will always be relevant. I remember sitting 10 feet behind him on the podium as he addressed a crowd in Buffalo, NY, during his 1984 presidential run. The man was larger than life. And when I shook his hand afterward, his hand was larger than life as well. I actually met one of my heroes… not everyone can say they’ve done that. I want to hate Fox News for tarnishing his image, but I can’t. They just did what foxes do… drag their pray back to the den, and bite them on the neck and back until they die.

Get On The Bus, Sit Down, and Shut Up!

“Free speech is an inalienable right to avoid prosecution for your views, not persecution because of them”. The Mo’ Kelly Report

A few months back, Mo’ Kelly wrote an exceptional blog about Rev. Jeremiah Wright ( I hope he wins the Pulitzer Prize of bloggery (or whatever it’s called) for it. But in reading his defense of Rev. Wright, it brought back to mind his own quote from a different blog, which I quoted above. Everyone is accountable for what they say, not only when they said it, but when others hear it. Of course, no one should be held hostage at age 55 for something they said at 25. But you are still accountable for the good or damage that is done. That is why people go back and thank or curse teachers for things they said years ago.

I am a fan of Barack Obama for a lot of reasons. Being just over six months apart in age, and knowing his story as I do, our milestones toward getting where we are mentally are very similar, even if our paths toward getting here are totally different. Born at the middle of the Civil rights movement, we watched Watts burn by Molotov Cocktail, and Viet-Nam burn by napalm, as children. We listened to former Black Panthers on the Speaker’s Circuit, while in college. We ignored corporate America to work for the uplifting of the people as a first (and second, and third) job. We’ve gone into middle age with one foot in the past and one in the future, holding onto the Black culture we represent with one hand, and the mainstream culture that we hope to influence with the other hand, while keeping our minds on Jesus so we don’t lose this psychological game of twister. Yeah, Obama is my brother.

Just like my brother Obama, I’m also a student of history. I love, admire, and respect those who came before me, and the work and sacrifice on their part that allowed me to be where I am, and who I am. I have a special appreciation for those who know when to pass the torch. I love the scene in The Rundown, when Arnold Schwarzenegger walked by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the beginning of the movie and said, “Have fun”. He openly passed the torch. The Apostle Paul spoke about running his race, and finishing his mission. He knew he had blazed a trail, and that people had trained for such a time to build on his work, and was at peace with that it was that time. Aside from what he represents to everyone else, sisters/brothers who have struggled to build us up to where we are now need to understand that this is Obama’s time.

I was watching the movie, Get on the Bus, last week, and it was the perfect metaphor for this time. There was a passing of a torch, in the form of an African drum, from the oldest brother, to the second youngest brother on the bus. Why the second youngest? Because he was the one that had shown the most interest in carrying on the legacy! There are brothers now that were driving the bus before Obama even knew where the bus stop was. Jesse Jackson, Maxine Watters, Charles Rangel, even Jeremiah Wright, drove the bus that was built from Crispus Attucks and Phylis Wheatley, through Shirley Chisolm, MLK, and Malcolm X. But now it’s time for those folks to get on the bus, take a seat, and see where Obama is going to take them. No one knows exactly where this ride will go, but no one knew when the last wave of drivers took over either.

Anyone who has ever ridden on a bus knows that backseat driving is not accepted. That is why, for the most part, folks have kept their mouths closed. Recent remarks, like Jesse Jackson’s, and previous remarks by Jeremiah Wright, are just unacceptable at this time. I’m not talking about Wright’s sermon; that was in the past, and regardless, he should say whatever he feels God leads him to say in the pulpit since he is directly accountable to God. But his post-media-hype road show was uncalled for, and unproductive. Obama has other things to do with his time than having to make statements distancing himself, or accepting apologies, from folks whom he has admired and aspired to be like. Even his contemporaries like Tavis Smiley, and me, need to recognize that he can take us someplace that no one else can right now. We may not like his driving style, but without him, the bus keeps running it’s same old route. As I find every time I leave a job, and as Tavis is learning from the applicants to his spot on the Tom Joyner show, there is always another talented sister/brother waiting to do what’s already been done. We can ride shotgun on the bus, but there can only be one driver.

Jessie Jackson, Jr. gets it. Any problems he has with Obama will be voiced after he finishes working to get his brother elected, and he will ride shotgun to protect him until then. Junior knows that, whether Obama wins or loses, it will make things easier in the future for brothers like him and Harold Ford. Like other’s times have past, they know their time has not come yet. Until it does, they need to do like the bus driver told them back in grade school: stay in your seat and keep your mouth shut, because any negative thing you say about the driver might get you suspended from school, or whupped by your parents. It’s the same now. Our leaders who are not currently running for president need to watch what they say about the man who is, because they will be held accountable… and it may get them a whuppin’. Another way to think of it is, by choosing not to get on the bus, you may be choosing to get thrown under it. Those folks are still viable, honorable leaders, and have earned their right to, and made their mark by, speaking their piece. But weakness being the absence of power, and meekness being the control of power, can they allow us to inherit the earth by showing they are strong enough to be meek. Can they just sit back and enjoy the ride?