Wednesday, July 17, 2019

If Protesting Racism is "Un-American" What is Not Supporting 911 First Responders?

(Official House  of Representatives photo)

Rand Paul spent his day (July 17th) blocking an attempt by House Democrats to pass an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He cited concerns over the Trump administration's massive deficits as reason to stifle the bipartisan bill which had already passed the Senate.

This is the same Rand Paul who voted for a trillion dollar tax cut and hasn't said a mumbling word about the 100+ million dollars spent on golfing and personal family trips by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Funding for first responders is where his "fiscally conservative" principles showed up.

This brings me to my larger point: Never Forget is, and has always been, an empty signifier. It's like saying America was founded on Christian values while ignoring all of the hatred, bigotry, violence and death wedded to her.

The fact that Jon Stewart has been a bigger advocate for 911 first responders than a majority of our elected officials is an indictment on those myths some of our fellow citizens believe about the purity of our nation.

If Americans stopped listening to what politicians said and actually looked at their voting records, half the country wouldn't believe the Republican party is the party of God or the rightful heirs to the American empire.

Here's a question for folks sensitive to any critique of America: is opposition to funding healthcare for 911 first responders more disrespectful than protesting racism?

When we protest racism, police brutality and discrimination in our country all we are saying is enough is enough. We will no longer tolerate second class citizenship in a country that is as much ours as it is yours. What is Rand Paul saying when he doesn't support New York City Police Officers and Firefighters?

Monday, July 8, 2019

Five Questions For People "Offended" By Protest Movements

There are people committed to avoiding honest discussions about any topic that challenges their worldview. This fact intersects the Venn Diagram of "socially unacceptable" conversations. 

Some of this reluctance is steeped in a sincere desire to avoid controversy, but some of this is more malevolent. There are people committed to hijacking any conversation that makes them feel uncomfortable. 

Too often people understand their defense of an untenable status quo as patriotism, while simultaneously condemning people who are actually fighting for equality. This is the exact same pushback abolitionist faced. I have five sincere questions for people caught in this paradox.

Are you willfully confusing protest movements against police brutality and discrimination with being anti military?

What is it about the legacy of racism in America that makes you uncomfortable?

What does your refusal and/or inability to get outside of yourself and view this country through the eyes of someone who hasn't had the traditional "American experience" say about you?

What are you actively doing to change the ways race and racism affect your fellow Americans?

Do you really believe that if marginalized communities stopped telling their stories  about discrimination and bigotry racism would disappear?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Falwell Jr., Sexual Deviance and Why Christians Should Worry About Their Own Bedrooms

Photo courtesy of CSNBC

"In 2013, the Falwells completed the deal for the Miami Hostel, which rents beds for as little as $15 a night, bunking 12 people to a room. The hostel became known as one of South Beach’s best budget party hostels and is sometimes listed as gay-friendly."

Frances Robles

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't care that Jerry Falwell Jr. has invested money in properties that make money from sex and alcohol. I normally wouldn't care that his wife, allegedly, enjoys younger men and exhibitionism. I normally wouldn't care that Michael Cohen, allegedly, purchased those photos to keep them from leaking.

If Jerry kept practicing law and stayed out of everyone's life with his sophomoric ideology and faux religious convictions none of this would be an issue, but Jerry, like many pseudo-saints before him, lives two different lives. He is the heir to a Moral Majority that excels in castigating others for publicly engaging in behaviors they enjoy privately.

I think Falwell Jr. is a blowhard and a hypocrite. As much as I'm enjoying watching another "real Christian" deal with the consequences of their duplicity, part of me hopes the sexually explicit pictures of his wife are never published. There are enough people willfully sharing their naked bodies without seeing his wife and the "pool boy". I don't care what kind of threesomes or foursomes they were having. They deserve the respect they have often refused to give other people.

“There’s a bunch of photographs, personal photographs, that somehow the guy ended up getting — whether it was off of Jerry’s phone or somehow maybe it got AirDropped or whatever the hell the whole thing was,” 

Michael Cohen 

There are two kinds in this world: them that do and them that do. I'm more comfortable around confessed sinners than holier than thou deviants. The worst theologies are those rooted in denying the flesh. It's been my experience that behind every "Fire and Brimstone" spiritual leader is a closet full of fetishes and secrets capable of destroying the "perfect" image they portray.

It would be refreshing if Falwell's sexual scandal led to more Christians worrying about their own sexual proclivities than those of other people. Tell the truth: how many of y'all think any of these beacons of morality could survive a quick browser history check?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Ben Shapiro Met A Real Journalist: Meltdown Ensued

“This whole thing is a waste of time. Frankly, I don’t care — I don’t frankly give a damn what you think of me since I’ve never heard of you... I think we’re done here.”

When I saw Ben Shapiro trending on Twitter my imagination started running wild. Did he have another college visit canceled? Did someone expose plagiarism in his latest book? Was he subpoenaed to testify by the House Judiciary Committee?

My mind raced from one morbid conclusion to another. What happened that set social media on fire?

Instead of being a good husband and enjoying a peaceful Friday, I watched this video and started writing. OMG! This could have been a masterclass in contrarian journalism. His BBC interview with Conservative Journalist Andrew Neil was better than anything I could have imagined.

Shapiro knew he was in trouble when his arrogant and condescending brand of deflecting from tough questions didn't work. His career was built on his ability to dictate the terms of debate. His bait and switch style of avoiding tough questions is predicated on creating some ridiculous ad hominem fallacy and forcing his protagonist to defend an indefensible position they likely don't hold. Andrew Neil didn't take the bait.

What happened to Ben Shapiro is what happens to pseudo-intellectuals who are forced to defend their elementary arguments at the grownups table. He thought this interview would be a great chance to hock his book across the pond. He was wrong. His narcissism and immaturity is all anyone is talking about.

I've watched this interview twice. This was a perfect opportunity for Shapiro to cement his status as an intellectual leader of the modern conservative movement. He failed. He failed because he's spent too much time in the echo chamber. No one benefits from avoiding challenges to their ideology and worldview. Years of debating stoned undergrads and having his beliefs confirmed by Fox news pundits have caused him to believe the voices in his head telling him he's a genius. 

Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, Dan Bongino and Sean Hannity are intellectuals for people who don't read. The fact that serious conservative voices have been replaced by this group of lightweights hurts the country. Public policy is being driven by people who don't have a fundamental understanding of history, governance, our problems or how to fix them. This is every bit as sad as it is funny.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Aubrey Huff, Trash Takes and Why Social Justice Warrior Isn't an Insult

"I miss the days when #athletes entertained us with the athletic ability, and didn’t bore us with their political opinions! I know the American 🇺🇸 sports fans will greatly appreciate it! Please @MLB @NHL @NBA @NFL @espn leave politics out of sports!"

Former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff represents the views of 90% of the people I encounter on a daily basis. This point of view isn't inherently trash.

When I watch a game, I want the announcers to offer commentary based on the possible strategies that could be employed and any locker room, or behind the scenes, drama that could affect the game play.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to use sports to escape the pressures of life. All of us need down time, but this point of view becomes problematic when it seeks to silence reasonable criticisms and commentary about issues that affect everyday people.

Athletes, like anyone in the public eye, are often asked questions about topics outside of their professional purview. This is normal. Athletes are allowed to have opinions. Athletes, like everyone else in our society, are entitled to their own opinions.

The Aubrey Huff's of the world will always place their comfort ahead of the suffering of others. Being an athlete doesn't insulate a person from racism, nor does it mean they have to ignore it.

Using celebrity to magnify a cause has and always will be an effective way of getting people to pay attention to the suffering of disadvantaged people. One doesn't have to be overtly oppressed to have empathy for people who are.

Comparing the last two president's politics is folly. Athletes of color aren't protesting Donald Trump because of tax policy. They have seen his disdain for anyone who isn't white and refuse to legitimize his bigotry. Ignoring the president's words and actions are a luxury people of color don't have.

Talking about this is exhausting. It shouldn't be this hard to get decent people to recognize the constant dehumanization people of color have faced at the hands of this administration. 

Being Labeled a "social justice warrior" isn't an insult; it's a badge of honor. Fighting for equality is serious business. People have lost friendships, money, their freedom and their lives standing up for the dignity of others. We are allowed to disagree about politics, but we should all agree that people have a right to stand on their principles. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

You Can’t Spam Your Way To Success!

Image: The Center for Client Retention 
Have you ever been in that awkward social media position where you are being tagged in every post a friend makes? They turned their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram into the most annoying advertising campaign ever. They’ve convinced themselves that the first 100 times you ignored their posts were due to some circumstance beyond your control, and if they keep adding you eventually you will click the link or donate. This constant spamming is actually alienating the people who are most likely to support them.

Here’s the hard truth: You can’t spam your way into support. Social media can be cruel to anyone trying to find their customer base, but especially content producers. I understand the mentality: you have a list of contacts, who have contacts, who could help you create a ripple effect through your social media feeds. This compound interest of people could give you a solid launch into your business endeavor, but this only works if you deliver a product people feel compelled to share. Telling people you have a product and showing them your product are two different things.

It’s a double edge sword for content producers: you have to give a certain amount of your product away in order to build your clientele. People aren’t going to buy content if they don’t know what they are getting. People want to know what your brand is.

Everyday people swipe past hundreds of free articles and videos written and produced by academics, experts in their respective fields and seasoned journalists. Why should someone pay for your time? What have you given them? How can they benefit from their investment in you?

There is an audience for all kinds of content, but you will never connect with them without first letting them know what you have to offer. Social media advertising campaigns have to be supported by underlying content. You need a place people can go to see what you produce. Telling people you have a product without giving them an example is wasting your time. You can’t spam your way to success. Constantly spamming people in your social network is more likely to alienate them than cause them to support your efforts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Why Are You Hiding Your Testimony?

Some of the embarrassments and failures we buried in our past are constitutive parts of who we are. A lot of us are hiding the obstacles we had to overcome because of pride. It's not illegal to acknowledge the roll our mistakes played in making us who we are.

One of the most liberating things we can do is accept ourselves. This doesn't mean we don't work to overcome our limitations, but we have to accept every foible and idiosyncrasy that makes us unique. You are allowed to love yourself. 

Loving yourself is empowering. Self-esteem isn't gifted to us; it, like faith, is hard won. No one can give it to you, and no one can take it from you once you have it. Your trials and tribulations are proof that you are a conqueror. Why are you hiding your scars? Why are you hiding your testimony? Why are you denying yourself?

Too often we allow ourselves to be prisoners to the cult of perfection. You don't have to be perfect to stand with your shoulders back and head up. You don't have to wait for the world around you to affirm your dignity. If you love and accept yourself you can stand in a room full of people who don't like or respect you and be unfazed. Every mistake you've ever made can be something you draw strength from. Don't hide the things that make you possible.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What Are Our Priorities?

"What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

Friedrich Nietzsche

(Philippe Wang/Getty Images)

The Cathedral at Notre Dame should be rebuilt. As a preservationist and someone with a genuine interest in history its imperative that the architects tasked with this job make every effort possible to restore this Gothic monument to its former glory. This isn't controversial. There are iconic structures throughout the world that should be preserved for future generations. 

What's controversial about the billion plus dollars raised is how the restoration of an inanimate object has been more of a unifying factor than the suffering of flesh and blood people. This isn't an either or proposition. We can do both, but we should start with our neighbors. No society can call itself just while the people suffer. 

As we celebrate this Easter we should put the suffering of the very people Jesus died for at the top of our to do list. Too many offer lip service to the plight of poor people. We are ignoring and shunning the very people we should be helping. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

America's Response To Police Brutality In 26 Steps

1) Guy pulls gun on Black woman. 
2) She calls cops. 
3) Cops forcibly tackle HER and take HER to jail. 
4) Guy who pulled gun is not detained. 
5) Black people get upset.
6) White people get mad because we are upset.
7) They say, "We need to see the whole video."
8) They say, "She should have just complied."
9) Police release body cam footage. 
10) Footage shows egregious abuse of power.
11) Cop placed on desk duty. 
12) They say, "Police work is hard."
13) They say, "Sure, there are some bad apples."
15) They say, "All lives matter."
16) We say, "Yes, but clearly our lives matter less."
17) They say, "You are a hater. Why do hate so much?"
18) We say, "How is loving ourselves hateful?"
19) They say, "You are dividing the country."
20) We say, "like Black Codes and segregation?"
21) They say, "We were immigrants."
22) They say, "Our family didn't own slaves."
23) The conversation is no longer about the incident. 
24) We get mad, disappointed and then sad.
25) Systematic dehumanization goes unchecked.
26) Another brutality video goes viral: restart at step 5.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Was It Really Gayle's Fault?

I've avoided a lot of the social media conversations surrounding the R. Kelly interview. This has been difficult: I've never had a problem using my 2 cents to make it rain. With that said, at what point in the interview did Gayle King become responsible for the answers he gave? When did his tone and temperament become her responsibility?

Full disclosure: I think R. Kelly is a pedophile. I wouldn't let him near anyone in my family. He's a pedophile and comparing his brand of pedophilia to the pedophilia practiced by Woody Allen or Elvis Presley does nothing for the victims of their crimes. I understand the racial component of this story. Hollywood has protected prominent white and Jewish pedophiles for too long. There is hypocrisy at work, but that hypocrisy doesn't negate the fact that R. Kelly went on national television and had a complete meltdown.

Let's say you were accused of a heinous crime. Let's also say you were given an opportunity to go on national television and give your side of the story. Who would be responsible for you accepting the interview? Who would be responsible for making sure you had legal counsel by your side? Who would be responsible for the way you comported yourself during the interview?

I'm troubled that so many of the people "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" this interview found more fault with Gayle King than R. Kelly. Gayle did what any journalist would do: she went out and got the interview. She asked questions specific to the subject at hand. R. Kelly could have said no. He didn't have to go on television. He didn't have to make the spectacle he did. If he went on CBS and made a compelling case for his innocence the news cycle would have gone on without him. This blew up because he blew up.

There are a lot of the R. Kelly supporters who refuse to accept the fact that he created all of the problems he's facing. If he's innocent he will be given a chance to prove it. If he's guilty he will serve his time. Pinning this debacle on Gayle King does nothing constructive. There has been a collective blind eye turned to protect some of America's most beloved pedophiles, but Gayle King isn't responsible for this reality. She wasn't responsible for the sideshow that took place during her interview. She didn't create any of this and yet she's faced more heat from Black America than the man at the center of the story. We shouldn't be so quick to kick someone when they are down, but we shouldn't reflexively defend Blackness to the detriment of other Black people.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Top Three Reasons I Didn't Write About Paul Manafort's Sentence

The irony of me writing about why I'm not writing about this isn't lost on me, but here  goes.

1) My own personal experiences with our two tiered justice system has rendered me incapable of responsibly writing about this lenient sentence without using profanity: I don't use profanity in my writing; unless, I'm quoting someone and it's imperative to providing full context.

2) I'm not in the mood to educate folks who willfully ignore or defend the racial and socioeconomic discrepancies woven into our legal system: that time is always better spent helping people who are sincerely intrested in researching the data and information for themselves.

3) I'm tired of the "illogical fallacies" and "whataboutisms" that doom serious discussions about illegitimate systems of power: these social media "debates" are exercises in futility and tribalism; facts, like the truth, is no longer part of public discourse.

* Honorable Mention 

Y'all already knew how I would feel about it. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Your Blog Is Valuable!

There's more to blogging than writing. For every blogger capable of seamlessly weaving together succinct ideas at blazing speeds there are hundreds, if not thousands, slowly throwing words at a screen hoping they stick. Both groups are part of the same historical, social and cultural epoch. Our blogs, no matter how silly or serious, have the potential to be part of a larger canon. Our words confirm or refute the dominant narratives about the events defining our present and shaping the future. This is valuable. Historians and sociologist of the past would have loved to have access to all of the information we produce.

Blogging isn't about who writes the best sentences or has the biggest audience. We are conquerors. We colonized territories once dominated by traditional media, think tanks and academia. We are a snapshot into a moment; we are the reflection of our audience. Our true value isn't measured in dollars and clicks, but in perseverance and authenticity. 

Our blogs form a block of information previously unavailable. So much of the history we learned as children was shaped by people who had access to wealth and power. This doesn't necessarily mean their motives were bad, but events are perceived differently depending on circumstances. There are so many instances where the voiceless were rendered invisible by the people who thought they were telling their story. How many of the books written about America’s move from an agrarian based economy to a manufacturing based economy do you think were written by farmers needing to learn industrial skills?

If you are a blogger, THANKS! Producing content can be difficult. Blogging requires more time and energy than most of us have. This can be a thankless and fruitless endeavor. Please keep honing your craft. Every blog has value: even if you are struggling to find the value in your own work.

If you are thinking about starting a blog, stop thinking and start blogging. Don’t worry about picking the perfect platform, templates or themes: all of those details will work themselves out over time. Don’t obsess over sentence structure or grammar: those details will also work themselves out. If you have something to say: say it. Presentation is important, but not as important as content. Your audience is waiting on you.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

When Did God Forsake Us?

Throughout the course of my life I've heard Christians, especially Evangelicals, argue that God has removed the blessings and covering from America we took for granted. They say all of the violence, addiction, death and destruction we are seeing is a result of losing favor with God. Let's say, for the sake of agreement, that's all true. Where was God during the genocide of this continent's original inhabitants, chattel slavery, Black codes, Jim Crow, misogynistic treatment of women and segregation?

Did God sanction those atrocities? Did a loving God turn a blind eye to the undeserved suffering of those people? Did God bless and cover those responsible for the crimes against their humanity?

When did God turn his back on America? What was the final straw? I have questions.

These aren't questions about Theodicy, bad things happen to good people all the time and we are left wondering why God allows the innocent to be victimized. These are questions about a nationalist ideology that ignores history and prioritizes the culture wars. Too many Christians refuse to address these kinds of questions. Did God bless the dehumanizing and barbaric behavior that was a fundamental part of the formation of this nation?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Something I wish I understood in My Teens


Duh! This should be obvious, but the truth is: a lot of us figure this out too late. We live in a society that applauds every effort and accomplishment of children, but at some point the cheering stops. The overwhelming majority of our lives are lived without people on the sidelines rooting us on. That's fine as long as we remember to cheer for ourselves.

We are the only ones responsible for setting and accomplishing our goals. All of us have had doors open and close right in front of us. Some of those doors closed because we were too afraid to walk through them. It's up to us to find the confidence necessary to meet our potential. It's better to fail miserably at something outside of your comfort zone than to live the rest of your life looking back and wondering what if.

This advice is cliche, but it rings true. Find yourself! Accept yourself! Love yourself! Believe in yourself! Keep pushing! Fail trying! Never fail the same way twice! Die living!

Your successes all start with a healthy relationship with yourself. Keep Grinding!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Writing is Life!

I write over two hundred thousand words a year. This number doesn't include texts, Facebook posts or work related emails. Words are my life. I read them. I study them. I work to understand them. I pick my words very carefully.

One of the hardest things about writing is knowing my words can be misunderstood or willfully distorted. With that said, I will never stop writing. I will never stop advocating for the people and causes I believe in. Being popular is a distant second to being free. Too many of us avoid "controversial" subjects because being "liked" is more important than being honest. I'm not that guy. I would rather a person not like me for who I am than "like" me for who they think I am.

For the record: just because I disagree with you about something doesn't mean I dislike you- unless our disagreement is about the oppression and dehumanization of people. We can disagree about complex issues with dignity. I never use profanity to back my arguments, and I avoid ad hominem attacks. Anyone is welcome to agree or disagree.

If my words cause you distress please unfollow; no hard feelings. We are allowed to ignore each other. If you have been part of this from the beginning: respect. I appreciate your support. You helped make it possible for me to have many of the opportunities I have. Those of you who've invested their time and patience in me have helped me gain access to platforms that put my words in front of thousands of readers a week. I'm not on social media for cat pictures and gossip. This is part of my grind. If you rock with me, cool; If not, cool. I promise you my heart will stop beating before I stop writing.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Governor Northam: Exhibit (A) In The Case Against Politicians

Rudolph Cardwell Sr., Perlista Henry, Ralph Northam, Linda Cardwell, Danny Cardwell 

Ralph has to go! There's no way he can continue as the Governor of Virginia. This is a painful sentence to write, but a necessary one. I've covered the Governor at a debate, a ribbon cutting, and a few other small events. I've met him a handful of times. I sincerely thought he was the real deal. He came off as a kind and caring person, but he has to resign. I was fooled. We all were fooled. He. Has. To. Go.

If Governor Northam turned over a new leaf and changed his "past" racist ways he did a horrible job of trying to convince us. His press conference was painful. He either doesn't get the outrage behind his past actions or doesn't care. His apology was almost as disappointing as his yearbook photo and past fascination with Blackface. He acted as if he found out Friday this picture existed. He expected us to believe that a 25 year old intelligent medical student didn't have the intellectual horsepower to know how offensive those images have always been. He. Has. To.Go.

Governor Northam is the kind of politician older Black activist have been warning me about. He's the kind of politician I've been writing about since I started participating in politics. He's the kind of white politician who shows up in Black churches singing hymns and talking about how bad racism is. He's the kind of Democratic politician who understands how important the Black vote is and will say anything to get it. He's the kind of politician who makes communities of color distrustful of election year shenanigans. His presences in the Governor's mansion is a slap in the face to voters of color who have been taken for granted by the very politicians they entrusted with their support. He. Has. To. Go.

This has been a disastrous week for the governor. He started out having his words willfully distorted concerning Delegate Kathy Tran's abortion bill, and now he is facing calls for his resignation by many of the Virginia (and national) politicians who helped him ascend to the office of Lieutenant Governor and ultimately Governor. I'm sure he wishes he could return to the good ole days where the most controversial issue he had to deal with was the amount of money he has taken from Dominion Energy and his tacit support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He has to resign before Virginia Democrats are forced to impeach him. The only noble thing left for him to do in Virginia politics is save us from the media circus that would follow impeachment proceedings. He. Has. To. Go.


Friday, February 1, 2019

When Satire Exposes Hate

Nancy Pelosi is one of the few politicians who can say they have favorability, likeability, and approval ratings comparable to the president. According to a Monmouth University poll, Nancy Pelosi’s approval rating doubled after the government shutdown. The poll found that 34 percent of voters thought she was doing a good job— twice as high as the same poll found in November of 2018, when her approval rating was 17 percent. She doubled her approval rating and was still 16 points below 50%. There are legitimate reasons to like or dislike Nancy Pelosi, but more times than not people base their reasoning on the caricature of Nancy Pelosi.

About a week ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that one of my friends shared an article from "BEBEST.WEBSITE". I wasn't familiar with the website, so I was hesitant to click the link. I was going to settle for just reading the comments. Let! Me! Tell! You! They didn't disappoint. These people formed some very strong opinions about an article they either didn't read or understand. After reading the 20 or so comments I had to read the piece that inspired such hatred. 

The article opened as follows:

As the new Congress prepares to take control tomorrow, presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a final legislative offer to President Trump this morning : the border wall will be funded and built – in exchange for passing a bill banning the ownership and use of all firearms in the United States by private citizens. Pelosi’s edict sent shockwaves through Washington.
Pelosi noted that Fema and U.N. troops, already mobile from Operation Jade Helm, are ready to begin house-by-house confiscation, and sites in the Nevada desert and Utah plains have been readied for mass weapon meltdowns and burials. Liberal gun legislation activists like David Hogg and Taylor Swift have expressed overwhelming support for the ban.

I don't know how anyone could read the first two paragraphs of this piece and think it was serious, but there are people who did. Sadly, this is happening about issues of great importance. Critical thinking and literacy are more important now than ever. A former teacher once told me she spent the first 10 years of her career teaching her students how to find information and the last 23 years teaching them how to wade through the information overload. I'm amazed at how often people will chime in on conversations they know absolutely nothing about. We are allowed to research a topic before commenting on it. 

Facts aren't politically motivated. Facts are the cornerstone of truth. The constant attacks on the institutions of higher learning and the media have convinced a generation of people to be distrustful of any information that challenges their worldview. This will continue to hurt real people as long as terms like "liberal media", "intellectual" and "fake News" permeate the right-wing lexicon. I use to think a lot of Donald Trump's people were ignoring his daily lying, but now I'm certain many of them just don't know the difference.

Here are some of the better comments. Even though they were made publicly, I redacted all of the identities except mine: I don't think it's fair to embarrass their family members. Also, I apologize for the language used: these are "good God-fearing Christian Conservatives", but something about Nancy Pelosi causes them to forget their upbringing. 



Thursday, January 24, 2019

What We Ignore About Senseless Violence

Zephen Allen Xaver, 21, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder after allegedly killing five women in a Sebring, Fla., SunTrust bank.
Courtesy of Highlands County Sheriff's Office
America is a violent country. We are the descendants of a violent people who committed genocide against this land's original inhabitants, we based our early agrarian economy on the violent enslavement of Africans, we fought a violent revolution to separate ourselves from the British Empire, we fought a number of violent wars to maintain and grow "our" country, we fought one of the bloodiest and most violent wars in history of the world amongst ourselves. Violence is embedded in our genetic code.

Every generation has had a "great" war. Every generation has taught the next generation the virtues of violence. We have fought wars for land, strategic resources and to protect our position as the global hegemon. Every generation has benefited from this violence: especially those who pretend like our violence was/is for noble reasons. Our problem isn't violence; Americans don't like violence that doesn't make our lives easier. 

Zephen Allen Xaver is the latest product of our violent culture. I know I'm supposed to feel sympathy for him. He's not like those violent "thugs" ruining our cities. He's not like those violent Muslims waging Jihad. He's not like those violent Mexicans coming to take our jobs. No, he's a real American, so we must try to understand where his violence comes from. America has to make sense of the senseless. 

By the time investigative reporters track down his friends and family he will be another "lone wolf" with mental health issues. There will be people working overtime to make sure he doesn't reflect poorly on the rest of real America. Zephen's actions had to happen in a vacuum.

He, like the other real American mass shooters before him, is a victim of society. Not a victim of the violence that is a constitutive part of the American ethos, but a victim all the same. He was ignored, rejected or made to feel less than. In other words, his real "Americanism" didn't afford him what he thought it should have so he lashed out. Real Americans spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about everyone else while Billy, Timmy, and in this case, Zephen are locking and loading. Five people lost their lives and the response has been muted. I have a hunch real Americans would be responding differently if this crime was committed by an immigrant or Muslim. 

The Government Shutdown in a Nutshell

The government shutdown is entering its fifth week. This could go on for another five weeks- if not longer. Why are we here? The simple and truthful answer: the president got his feelings hurt when Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and other right wing talking heads called him weak. Donald Trump shut the government down because the legislative branch wouldn't give him money for a wall he assured us Mexico was going to pay for.

Almost every statement he's made since being sworn into office has been a lie, but especially the claims he's made concerning Mexico, the wall and illegal immigration.

Fact: border crossings have been declining for the last decade. Fact: the overwhelming majority of drugs coming into the country come in through legal ports of entry. Fact: immigrants, whether here legally or illegally, commit less crime than Americans. Fact: Mexico is not paying for Trump's wall.

None of this matters. Donald Trump has been lying since he coasted down that gold escalator and his base refuses to hold him accountable or even acknowledge the fact that he's a habitual liar.

The government shutdown has been the worst consequence of his incessant lying. As I type, comfortably in my home, there 800,000 people working for free or laid off without pay. This could have been prevented. Donald Trump had complete control over the U.S. House and Senate for two years. The Republicans could have used reconciliation to build his wall but they didn't. The border crisis he's pushing didn't manifest until the Republicans lost the House of Representatives.

There are a lot of important emergency spending bills that need passed, but those bills, like the 800,000 workers affected by the shutdown, are collateral damage.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Biblical Look at The Service, Sacrifice and Faithfulness of MLK jr.

Photo: Chicago Tribune
Since 2007, I have given close to 20 talks about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of these talks have been in churches, but some have taken place in "secular" venues: libraries, a courthouse and an office building. 

I always approach a talk about Dr. King the same no matter where I may be speaking (or who I'm speaking to). It's not necessary for the audience to believe in the Christian God (or any God) to understand how Dr. King's religious convictions inspired his actions. With that said, I never proselytize, but I do ground his speeches and the actions he took in the Bible. Dr. King's service, sacrifice and faithfulness can all be traced back to the scriptures that shaped his life. 


In Galatians 5:1 Paul writes, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Dr. King often made reference to Paul's letter. Later in verses 13 and 14 Paul writes, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself." 

Galatians 5:1-15 were often referred to as the "Christian Freedom papers" by many Black denominations going all the way back to the early days of the abolitionist movement. The same Bible that was (mis)used to justify the enslavement and brutal treatment of Africans in America was also a source of inspiration for Dr. King and countless others. 


It's impossible to serve anyone or anything without sacrifice. Dr. King had a one way ticket to a professional life in the north. Sure he would still be living under a lesser form of Jim Crow, but he could have built a lovely home, pastored a church and raised his children in relative obscurity. He could have done all of those things and been a success in the eyes of his friends and family. In the second chapter of Philippians Paul writes about some of the sacrifices that are necessary to be a humble servant. Philippians 2:1-8 reads as follows:

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Dr. King's ministry and the life task he believed he was called to fulfill prevented him from running away to the north. Martin didn't want to be a martyr, but he believed disobeying God would be worse. this leads me to his faith.


In Revelations 2:10 John writes, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested... Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." 

Dick Gregory once joked that it would be hard for Dr. King to get into heaven. He said he asked Martin how he planned on explaining all of the time he spent in jails. Jailings, assaults, death threats and government counter intelligence tactics were all things that challenged Martin's faith. Through it all he held to his convictions. 

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech ended up being his sermon on the mount. As aspirational and inspirational as that speech was it was also a testament to faith. King was acutely aware of the sacrifices many of the participants of the March on Washington made. He knew all to well the scars he carried with him to the lectern. His faith  made his service and sacrifice possible. We don't have to believe what Martin believed to respect the way his beliefs guided his steps.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What Do You Think He Does During A Traffic Stop?

We've all been there. One minute you're driving along and out of your periphery you see those flashing lights. You squeeze the wheel and look at the speedometer to see exactly how fast you are going. Everything was normal until it got real.

This feeling transcends race, class and gender; however, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the fact that race, class and gender can all factor into how the rest of the stop goes. This leads me to the brother in the video, What do you think he does when he sees those flashing lights?

For the record, I know the majority of police stops end without incident. I also have heard the "just comply" talking point, and I know "not all cops". I'm talking about the psychological stress that comes with watching an anthology of videos starring people who look like you being choked, beaten and shot for no reason. How do uber-patriotic Black people process these images and deal with these situations?

America means different things to different people. I don't know a lot of Black people who feel as included in the "American family" as this man does. I've asked the few Black people I know who Own MAGA gear if they've noticed any difference in the way they are treated when they wear their hats and t-shirts. For the most part they say Black people stare at them, some white people stare at them, but people who may not normally talk to them give a nod and a smile.

Immigration is a complicated issue. There is no economic incentive for the Black community to support mass immigration. In many cities Blacks compete with legal and illegal immigrants for the few service industry, manufacturing and construction jobs left. This argument doesn't negate the issues at the center of the mass exodus from Central America. I understand why poor and working class people are so emotionally invested in this debate, but I can't, for the life of me, understand how people of color can hear the rhetoric espoused by the America first crowd and believe they are included.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bird Box, R Kelly and Trash Hot Takes

Here's a hot take I'm tired of: while you were busy watching _____. Did you know such and such was happening?

This trash hot take is usually offered by that overly "woke" person you know trying to overcompensate for their own deficiencies. News flash: neither Bird Box nor Surviving R Kelly changed how people lived their lives. This take is garbage for a few reasons.

1) It's possible to do more than one thing at a time. Most movies are two hours. Most docuseries run 4 to 6 hours. Most books, depending on the length, can be read in a few hours. Watching a movie/docuseries or reading a book doesn't constitute a huge distraction for most people. I watched Bird Box. I didn't watch Surviving R Kelly. Neither of those choices altered the trajectory of my life.

2) Just because something is trending on social media doesn't mean it's truly captured the nation's attention. Most trends, good and/or bad, are caused by an enthusiastic group of people tweeting, subtweeting or retweeting the topic over and over. Once a topic trends on Twitter, people on Facebook figure out they should be part of the craze. This still doesn't constitute a massive distraction. 

3) It's pseudo-elitist. The underlying sentiment is that the person offering this viewpoint should be setting the agenda for the things we think and talk about. This doesn't mean the issue(s) they are attempting to highlight isn't worthy of thought or discussion, but it does assume they are the only ones thinking about or discussing said topic.

4) It's counterculture virtue signaling.  Nothing says I'm trying my hardest not to be like the rest of society than someone waving a flag and pointing out the fact that they didn't participate in a thing that has gained a certain amount of notoriety. You have every right not to get caught up in the moment, but beating people over the head with the fact that you didn't get caught up is just as annoying as being caught up.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hannity vs. Smith = Entertainment vs. Information

Fox news has made a fortune by giving their viewers what they want: entertainment! The average Fox news opinion show is part Jerry Springer, part WWE, and part Ringling Brothers with a smattering of breaking news and human interests stories. This is their right. They can provide whatever service they choose. It's up to us to know better. 

Fox news has created and disseminated some of the most vitriolic and harmful propaganda on television the last 20 plus years. Sean Hannity is the current leader of the assault on decency and the truth. 

The Fox formula is genius: for 22-23 hours a day "opinion" shows cloud the water. The few non-partisan journalists on staff get about 2 hours to cleanup the mess. This is what passes for a news organization these days. 

Sadly, the few shows on the network  grounded in objective facts are the least watched and most despised by the average Fox news viewer. Sheppard Smith is the most hated person on the network by Donald Trump's base. Smith's propensity for grounding his arguments in facts irks some of Fox's more partisan viewers. Watching side by side video of Smith debunking Hannity's lies is amusing, but also depressing. The fact that Hannity is allowed to be so reckless with the truth proves the network is more concerned with entertainment than information.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Lies Are True We Just Don't Get It!

"If the only trade that occurred between the United States and Mexico was my buying 10 Mexican avocados for $30 and someone there buying a T-shirt from me for $10, the trade deficit would be $20. But if I only bought five avocados, dropping the trade deficit from $20 to $5 ($15 for the avocados minus $10 for the shirt), it is not the case that the U.S. government is suddenly $15 richer. The feds don’t suddenly have $15 more to spend on wall building; the $15 is in my pocket."

Phillip Bump

On December 13, 2018, Donald Trump tweeted the following lie:

Donald Trump has convinced his followers that reducing the trade deficit with Mexico would pay for his wall; this lie, like the 7,000+ other lies he's told since becoming president, has been swallowed up whole and regurgitated by his base.

Phillip Bump's analogy disproving this trade deficit lie is spot on; sadly, it, like basically every known fact, will be ignored and/or explained away. For the better part of three years the truth has been getting its proverbial ass kicked by the constant lying of this administration. The only thing we can do to restore any since of sanity is to let Trump and his base have their version of the truth.

We need to quit arguing with them. We need to quit trying to convince them. Blog posts, newspaper articles, fact checks in real time and scholarly think tank pieces have all failed. We are wasting our time and ruining our relationships. There isn't a better argument.

America has to admit there's a third of the country we have to let go. I know this is a hard pill to swallow for some progressives. Trump's base is their ultimate afterschool special. There are progressives who sincerely believe that the lies, racism, xenophobia and misogyny Trump feeds his base is something other than food for their souls. What we've been witnessing aren't the symptoms of economic anxiety. This is a full on attack on sanity and reason. To paraphrase Lil Duval we have to stop going back and forth with his people.

“When during the campaign, I would say ‘Mexico is going to pay for it,’ obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they’re gonna write out a check, I said they’re going to pay for it. They are.”   Donald Trump

Mexico was never going to pay for the wall. Anyone who believed they would knows absolutely nothing about how sovereign nations operate. The fact that he has wiggled on this so much matters to the Conservative media, but it means very little to his base. There's some nuanced way to understand him that we just don't get. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Divided We Stand

It is very appropriate that from this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us time and again down through history. Let us rise to the call for freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South… I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.
George Wallace

George Wallace was right! Not the sick and dying Wallace who apologized at the end of his life for the role he played in spreading racism and bigotry, but the younger, fitter champion of the segregationist and populist movements in the south. As a Black man, it pains me to admit this.

Race relations are better today than when George Wallace was sworn into office as the 45th Governor of Alabama, but in many ways our society is just as segregated. The push for Civil Rights and equal access to resources was the right thing to do, but I’m starting to question the notion of a fully integrated society. I don't understand why some Black people so obsessed with the idea of assimilating into social clubs and organizations that want to remain separate?

Black bodies in predominantly white spaces are almost always scrutinized and policed in ways that make it crystal clear our presence is not welcomed. Over the last calendar year, we have been bombarded with cellphone videos of Black people being detained, forcibly removed and even arrested. These incidents have taken place in coffee houses, gyms, hotels, parks and golf courses. Each of these transgressions was followed by a lawyerly crafted apology and a promise of more diversity/sensitivity training.

At the end of 2018, a story about an all-white rifle club denying membership to a Black medical doctor made the rounds. Dr. Melvin Brown is an accomplished man. He graduated with an engineering degree, served 20 years in the Navy and is a member of the Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees. He was nominated for membership by a friend. There were 13 other people up for membership on the night he was denied admittance into the club. He was the only person rejected. He was the only Black person. A lot of people were upset by the blatant racism on display. I didn't care then and I don’t care now. Civil rights leaders didn't march, protest and die so bourgeois Black people could join the good old boys club. The risked their lives for equal treatment under the law.

Dr. Brown's story highlights what’s wrong with an overly assimilationist mentality. In 2019, Black people need to focus more on appreciating ourselves than seeking the acceptance of others. I understand the mystique and allure of navigating what was once forbidden territory. For some Black people, white acceptance is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Internalizing America's lies about Blackness is the psychological equivalent of breathing in poisonous gases. Sadly, too many of our brothers and sisters believe the grass is greener and that water freezes at a lower temperature in the presence of white people.

It would be nice if America took Dr. King's dream and added a dash of Rodney King's dream. We would all be judged on the merits of our character while getting along. There's nothing wrong with closing your eyes (and in the words of John Lennon) imagining, but I would suggest waking up before your wake up call. The last three years have seen a spike in hate crimes. Black people are being surveilled and questioned by people with no legal authority to do so. It's one thing to deal with these issues in every day life, but to put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of “prestige” seems a bit needy.