The Conscious Pharisees: Don't Let Them Steal Your Joy


Dear Family,


Happy Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted to drop you a few lines before you get too far into your plans. I know we are supposed to shun all Thanksgiving related activities, but I hope you didn't allow the Pharisees in the "Conscious" Community to talk you out of spending time with your family. There's a qualitative difference between celebrating colonialism and being with loved ones. I hope you didn't let people more interested in your money than you convince you that eating a meal in a predominantly Black space somehow contributes to racism/white supremacy. I hope you didn't fall for someone's narrow conception of being Black or woke.


The Conscious Community has 20/20 vision when it comes to pointing out the crooks and hypocrites in the church and Mosque- and there are plenty, but they go Stevie Wonder when it comes to seeing the nefarious actions some in their movement engage in. There are prominent Conscious leaders who have a history of "swirling," engaging in some of the worst forms of misogyny, ripping off charitable donations, selling curricula available through open access courses and charging you to participate in the kind of marches civil rights activists use to do for free.


There are some strong brothers and sisters in the Conscious Community and there are some snakes. It may take some time to distinguish the real from the fake. Some have honed their craft for decades.



Here are three easily identifiable traits in false leadership you should lookout for:


1.   Anyone who is unnecessarily condescending or tries to come off as your intellectual superior. Charlatans rely on the gimmick of possessing some esoteric knowledge that the rest of us aren't privy to. They will reference a book or thinker you aren't likely to have read or heard of any time you challenge an assertion they make. Last year B.o.B. and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had a public spat over whether the earth is flat: the earth is not flat. It ended with Dr. Tyson publicly humiliating his young woke adversary with hard science, “It’s a fundamental fact of calculus and non-Euclidean geometry. Small sections of large curved surfaces will always look flat little creatures that crawl upon it."



2.   Anyone who habitually engages in personal attacks against people in the Black community who question their logic, motives or actions. Pharisees in the Conscious Community don't suffer challenges to their authority well. If someone refers to Black women as "Negro bed wenches" and you call them on their misogyny, watch how quickly they redirect their anger. If someone solicits money from the community and you ask them about oversight you will feel their wrath.



3.   Anyone who has too many obvious double standards in their words and actions. False leaders are experts at what everyone else should be doing. They excel in finding fault in the actions of others while ignoring their own problematic behavior. They preach ad nauseam about unity inside the Black community, but they will be the first to attack a Black woman who doesn't conform to their narrow conception of what it means to be a woman, anyone who holds beliefs different from theirs and the entire gay and lesbian community. We are all kings and queens until we step out of line. 


Pharisees inside the Conscious Community are no different than their Biblical counterparts; they crave attention, approval and money. You don't have to give them any of the three. There will always be Black people who have convinced themselves they have transcended the psychological effects of racism/white supremacy in America. Some are genuine and want to help others overcome its crippling effects. Some are stuck in that sunken place they are trying to deliver you from. The truly lost souls believe their way is the only way to advance our people. Their inability to confront ideas and opinions different than their own is only topped by their inability to confront white supremacy in the world. Sadly, this has caused too many within our community to create hierarchies that give them a false sense of status.



Hypocrites will tell you not to celebrate Thanksgiving while they eat at their in-laws; they will call someone a coon or a Negro bed wench for shopping on Black Friday, but they won't return anything someone buys them; they will tell you not to bow down to the government, and then go pay their personal property taxes. Don't listen to them. They are hiding their short comings and failures behind empty rhetoric. Their opinions don't matter. Your family is more important than their approval. When it comes down to it they need you more than you need them. 


Sincerely


Danny Cardwell

T'was Election Day 2017

Virginia is unique; every year there's an election. We have an annual opportunity to set a political course. The politicians on the ballots build their platforms based on what they view as the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth, but we give them power. This is an awesome responsibility. An informed electorate is the best defense against those who would willfully distort facts in order to gain access to legislative and executive powers.

Being an informed voter is more difficult than it use to be. There are so many negative campaign ads that trying to focus on what's important to our daily lives has become work. This is a sad reality, but it doesn't absolve us of our civic responsibility. Every voter has an obligation to the generations of Virginians who will be affected by decisions made at the ballot box.

Ed Gillespie’s plan of capping Medicaid would be bad for all Virginians, but it would be disastrous for the Blue Ridge Mountains. Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Any cuts to this program will adversely affect the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth.

According to the “Local Department of Social Services Profile Report 2016” there 838 citizens in Bath County who were enrolled in the Medicaid program. These are our neighbors. These are the kids we cheer for at sporting events. These are the people we sit beside in church. For too long the debate at the center of what role the government should play in providing for citizens has been hijacked by people who view poverty as a sign of moral failure. Suffering economic hardships is hard enough without being stigmatized for it.

Ed Gillespie’s tax plan doesn’t make him a bad person. It just proves that he doesn’t look at the world through the same lens as a mother or father raising children on stagnated wages. In Bath County over half of the students in our schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Many of those same children are covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program or (CHIP). These kids did not choose the circumstances they were born into. If you wouldn’t look a kid in the eyes and take their breakfast or lunch tray from them why would you cast a vote for someone proposing budget cuts that would effectively do the same thing?

Gutting the social safety net for the sake of tax cuts is immoral; it's antithetical to the 25th chapter of Saint Matthew and the Christian belief that what we do for the least of these we do for God. Budgets are moral documents because they set forth our priorities. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone can properly  pursue happiness without the necessary tools to preserve life. I don’t want to live in a society that views the needs of children as negotiable budgetary issues. Don't just listen to what politicians say watch what they do and make a decision based on what's best for the future.


America's Latest Mass Shooting

Twenty-six people were killed during America's latest mass shooting. First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas joined a growing list of places this shouldn't happen. A list that should include everywhere. This is the 377th mass shooting this year. We average more than one mass shooting a day. We have a problem that we don't seem too interested in fixing.

Writing about mass shootings got old a long time ago, but not nearly as old as our canned response to them. These tragedies have happened so often that they have become part of our life. This is the new normal and our responses have become ritualized. America's inability to respond legislatively after Sandy Hook broke my spirit, and I know I'm not the only one. I mourn those who are lost and sympathize with the people tasked with rebuilding shattered lives, but I am numb. I think a lot of us are numb. We offer our thoughts and prayers and then split into our respective corners and debate. We talk because talking is easier than acting. Talking allows us to defend ourselves and our political ideologies. Talking is our coping mechanism.




Instead of talking maybe we should address high occupancy magazines and semiautomatic weapons that can easily be modified? We look for reasons not to do this. If the killer is African-American​ their actions are chalked up to their "upbringing" or black people's "knack for committing crimes". If the shooter is Latino we can avoid gun control legislation all together by talking about building walls and banishing people. Muslim shooter's are terrorists who hate "real Americans". If the killer is white their actions said to be the result of a mental health issue; we're told it's too soon to politicize a tragedy and in a few weeks we pretend it didn't happen. All of these excuses fall short of dealing with the real issue and none of them protect us from being the victims of or affected by the next tragedy.

We have to come to grips with the fact that sending our thoughts and prayers isn't solving this problem. This doesn't keep happening because we aren't praying hard enough. Too many Christians are praying for cake, but refuse to use the eggs, flowers, oil and milk God placed in front of them. There is nothing wrong with praying, but we have to pray and then act. It's that simple. No, we can't prevent an evil person from committing murder, but we can limit the methods and tools they use to carry out their deeds. 

Playing politics with mass shootings makes us look smaller than we are. We choose to be powerless. We choose to avoid the tough work of making these killings harder to pull off. We choose to be accessories to these crimes. America is governed by laws that can be amended. We can amend laws that put us in danger, but we don't have the moral conviction to do so. We are not passengers​: we are holding the wheels of justice, but they won't turn themselves.

We Should Really Talk!

1. There's nothing wrong engaging controversial subject matter.

2. There's nothing wrong with being uncomfortable. 

3. There's nothing wrong with not knowing.

4. There's nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

As a nation, we have never been comfortable talking about controversial issues; however, as individuals, we can work on this, but it will take deep dialogue and a lot of self reflection.

I get a few dozen messages every week from decent people hurt by things I write. This is troubling. I don't use profanity and I don't attack people- even when they attack me, but I'm still inflicting wounds on people I care about.

If I wrote an 800 word article condemning sexism it wouldn't offend people who aren't in denial about the role gender plays in society, but the same article about race has the ability to offend people. We have to get past defending ourselves when institutional practices are called into question. This defense mechanism refocuses conversations. It isn't helpful and diverts time and energy.

When the subject of toxic masculinity and rape culture come up men don't have to reflexively defend themselves from the indictments leveled at our society. Indictments against patriarchy are justified. This also applies to racism and white supremacy. Systemic racism is real; pointing this out shouldn't trigger anyone, but if you feel triggered ask yourself why? What is it about this subject that causes feelings of anxiety or annoyance?

I write about the world we inherited. I write about the gap between our beliefs and our practices. I write about things most would rather avoid. I don't lie in my writing, and any claim I make can be grounded by empirical data. You might not like the conclusions I draw, and if that's the case let's talk about it. This isn't about being right; it's about dialogue. If people who know each other can't talk how can we expect a stranger to understand us?

We have to do better. This includes me.

The Insanity of Mass Shootings


Every few weeks our lives are interrupted by breaking news about innocent people being gunned down in classrooms, movie theaters, night clubs, churches and most recently an outdoor concert. During these highly stressful times, we stop what we are doing to reflect on the preciousness and fragility of life, we offer our prayers and condolences to the families affected by the tragedy and we tell ourselves this isn’t America. We recite this claim with the convictions people give to their religious mantras. We repeat this lie hoping to convince ourselves that we were somehow different, but this is America. This is who we are and we need to accept it. Insanity isn’t just doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Insanity is also denying the truth right in front of us.

Violence is a constitutive part of our history. America grew out of a violent revolution and hasn’t looked back. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we are told that we can know a tree by the fruit it produces. In America, we scorn and rebuke our rotten apples, but we refuse to indict the tree that produced them. We have to quit using the same shocked language we apply to these tragedies and come to grips with the fact that this is normal. America is, and always has been, a violent nation.

Our culture has glamourized violence through novels, television, movies and video games. The spike in mass shootings over the last decade is a generational consequence of celebrating death more than life. America’s fascination with violence consciously and unconsciously affects many of us in different ways. It starts out as innocent games of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. We send these same kids to schools that have canonized our nation’s most historic battlegrounds and immortalized the soldiers who fought and died on those sacred grounds. We have Civil War reenactments where we simulate the experience of being on some of America’s most deadly killing fields. For every person truly repulsed by depictions of violence there are throngs of people cancelling out their voices.

Contrary to what we tell ourselves, the majority of mass shootings aren’t committed by people with a history of mental illness. These are meticulously calculated events designed to inflict as much pain and terror as possible. Too often we jump to the conclusion that the shooter must have been “crazy.” This is disingenuous. Saying someone is crazy is an easier pill to swallow than accepting the fact that our culture continues producing more and more people capable of committing these crimes.

There are so many Americans invested in the myths associated with America that (as a nation) we can’t look critically at this problem. Too many people are working overtime to systematically disconnect these shootings from each other- and often the motives behind them. America is under siege by the threat of random violence and we won’t accept the fact that our culture is complicit in some of the carnage we have seen.

America is stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief, inaction and denial. Our politicians don’t have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and we won’t look in the mirror. These stories start with a hail of bullets and end in death and prayers. We keep doing the same thing over and over and have the nerve to question the results.