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.