Upon hearing that today is the 70th Birthday for the (Greatest of All Time) Muhammad Ali, it reminded me of the evening that I was honored to spend with The Champ. The year was 2005 and the occasion was “The Butterfly Ball” in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was a fundraiser for The Ali Center, a museum dedicated to the career and humanitarian efforts of Ali that was being constructed in Louisville, KY.
Before I go further you have to understand what Muhammad Ali meant to me growing up in the 70s. As a child there were two celebrities that I looked up to. Muhammad Ali and then Sugar Ray Leonard. At the time I was too young to understand Ali’s political and heroic defiant stand against participating in the Vietnam War, and I wasn’t necessarily a boxing aficionado. But what I did recognize was Ali’s charm, confidence, star power and unapologetic boldness in public at a time when many black public figures wouldn’t dare. Inwardly I knew he was making a place for me and his persona gave me a definite sense of pride. Muhammad Ali to me was so significant that he was almost legend and unreal; An ethereal figure on television that may as well have been from outer space in terms of what I felt was my chance at ever seeing him face to face. That feeling never left me even as I grew older and cried when he lost in humiliating fashion at the of his career.
(Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Tom Joyner)
The event was star studded and included people like Cornel West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Tom Joyner, and many others including former Heavy Weight Champion Lennox Lewis, who gave $2 million of his own money because of the love he has for The Champ. Brian McKnight had a trio set for the entertainment. The week before making the trip to the ATL, I called Ali’s people and asked if there was a chance that I could meet The Champ and get a photo. The woman on the phone told me that Ali hadn’t been feeling well as of late, but when he is generally he’s very generous of such request. I hoped for the best.
After dinner and music, several speakers came up to talk about what Muhammad Ali has meant to them. The most touching was probably Professor West who couldn’t hold back his tears as well as Ali’s daughter Lala who also tearfully recalled so many occasions where ‘daddy’ loved and cherished her and her siblings. I was about 25 feet from the podium in awe.
(Lala Ali, Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali)
Finally when The Champ got up, he struggled to stand and speak but offered several jokes and took assorted pot shots and the people he loved. Except for the laughs the room was totally silent as he spoke. He was a total hoot. When he finished and after he exited the stage I wanted to get a hand shake and possibly a photo. The celebrities were getting theirs in and I was sort of intimidated to step in. But then I thought to myself, “It’s now or never. To hell with it man get in there!”
So I made my way through the big shots and tried to approach him. He had a handler with him and I said, “Is it ok if I take a picture with The Champ?” The handler said, “The Champ is tired and we need to get him out of here so he can rest.” And this is what I’ll never forget…what gave Ali the beyond the universe status with me. He heard me and pushed his handler away motioning me to come close to him. I shook his hand and said my peace in his ear, then needed to get this photo taken quickly. Over my right shoulder is Mayor Andrew Young. I said, “Mayor would you mind,” handing him my camera. He smiled with enthusiasm and said, “Sure.” And there struggling to stand on his own The Champ made two fist and took that damn picture.
A few seconds later I looked at the camera hoping to God that the mayor didn’t screw up my photo and there it was. I stared at it. A photo of me and Muhammad Ali. I thought back to my childhood and all that he had meant to me and thinking how untouchable I thought he’d be. It was surreal as if time had stood still. All I could think to myself was, “That’s freaking Muhammad Ali. That’s freaking Muhammad Ali!” Talking about ‘floating like a butterfly….’
If he had went on his way without taking the photo I still would have felt blessed. It would have been all good and I would have understood. But the fact that he pressed his way and didn’t “big time” me as just another cat he’s met out of millions, I will NEVER FORGET THAT!
For this reason as well as the many others are why he will always be The G.O.A.T. to me!
Happy Birthday Champ!
(Me and the G.O.A.T.)
It was June 5, 2010. My son Christian had just graduated from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. The ceremony, held outdoors at the athletic field was hot, crowded and awesome. It seemed like more than a thousand graduates. Caps and gowns covered nearly the entire field.
Soon after the festivities, I told my son Alex (one year younger than the older graduate), “Just think, this will be you next year. And you will be wearing the white robe and sitting in the front where the honor students sit.” Alex said, “Well dad I don’t know about that.” I assured him that there would be no doubt.
Alex is my fourth of 5th biological children. And it seemed as each one began to grow up, I became a better father and a better teacher. I don’t know if I helped my two elder daughters at school much at all, other than to offer encouragement and help with a homework assignment or three. Not that I wasn’t interested. I went to parent teacher conferences, showed up at whatever activity they were doing, and followed up on all of their progress. They were motivated young women in regards to their primary education.
Charelle, for instance, was always a “Five-Tool” type of player. (To borrow a sports analogy) She was excellent in math, science, english, reading, art; you name it. I recall checking on her progress with her teachers in high school. One teacher in particular looked at me and said, “You’re Charelle’s father right? Don’t bother wasting your time. Nothing I can tell you about this girl. She’s got it!” In addition, she was tremendously popular too; something I never was in any level of schooling.
Chrystal, talented in her own right, I recall being especially great at art. My biggest challenge with her was fighting over what items she created that I could keep for myself after the art exhibits. I wanted them all. She was also popular and was able to hang with literally any crowd and thrive. Something I also could not do at her age.
Back to Christian, he was always a decent student. But he seemed to thrive more on the creative. He could get an A in any given class if he wanted to; if he was interested enough. What was really impressive about the time of his graduation is that his journey was featured in a local newspaper detailing what it took for him to graduate overcoming many obstacles. Oh and did I mention, he too was very popular among peers.
By the time I had any clue of what I was doing to help with my kid’s education; since Charelle and Chrystal were already accomplished, my focus was on Alex and Christian during their latter school years. While I wasn’t sharpest knife in the drawer and half of the work they did was way past my expertise, I focused on what I was good at. Simplifying the process and helping them to see the big picture of life lessons and personal accountability. These are what I would offer them:
By the end of the first week of school, you should know exactly what it takes to get an A out of each class you take. If you don’t know by the end of the first week, ask.
I honestly could give a damn about whether you make an A or a D. The issue is to never ever cheat yourself. Never be lazy or content. If you got an A only because of your ability but did not maximize your efforts in the class, it doesn’t do anything for you in the long run. But if you got a D and worked your ass off, you can be proud of it. Only YOU know the difference. And that’s the person who counts. Just be excellent and let the results speak for themselves. This is what being a leader and not a follower is all about. Be a leader!
Some teachers are great, and some suck. Those that suck still have the pen that you will be graded with. That grade will follow you. So you must learn to make the best of those classes as well, if for no other reason than to get your grade and get the hell out. Teachers are like bosses and co-workers. Even with the ones that suck, you still have to learn to work with them to be successful in life.
Thus were the abiding principals I would hammer home regardless of the situation or circumstance. Every year we would have long conversations revolving around these somehow. I tried to capture their imaginations. I wanted my sons to envision themselves as adult men in life, not just boys in school. Most times I couldn’t tell what they thought of it. And I didn’t spend too much time wondering. I felt I did my job and gave them what I had. Ultimately they had to decide for themselves.
Then it happened on May 30th 2011. I’m back at East Paulding for Alex’s graduation. The ceremony had just wrapped up. There were several hundred students, parents and family members walking on the field taking pictures and celebrating. Alex seemed as pleased as I was to soak up this moment. Then he pulled me to the side and offered this to old dad.
“Hey! Remember what you told me last year? You said that I was going to wear the white robe, sit in the front and be an honors graduate.”
“Yes I do remember,” I told him.
“You also said no matter what you do, always be excellent. I can’t believe I graduated with honors. It was hard work man. But I did. I always listened to you, though I know most years I didn’t act like it.”
We both laughed.
That moment for me was one of significance because it dawned on me not only how important it is for fathers to be in their children’s lives, but how important I was to my children. That through all of the struggles, mistakes, and second guessing I’ve done as a man and a father, my presence and support in my children’s lives makes a difference. Then I wondered what would have happened if I had not been there. What if I never taught my sons to be leaders and not followers? Wow, my job has been important.
I have four adult children from ages 18-24 and they are all in college. I give them way more credit for making their own breaks and striving for their own goals than anything I’ve done for them. I give credit to their mothers who were there day in and day out. I’m very proud of them all. With each of them as well as the ones still coming up, my focus is always to train them to be adults on their own making their own contributions. I consider myself very blessed to be a part of their lives and being able to witness their transformations.
I’m just wondering what it’s been like to be the Commander-in-Chief over the past week.
Obviously it takes a special person to be president of these United States. I’m reminded of Seth Meyers’ comments at the White House Correspondence dinner the other night when he talked about how Michelle Obama looks even better today than she did during inauguration; while the president was looking a bit aged. Said Meyers’ to The President, ‘If your hair gets any whiter the Tea Party is going to endorse it!”
With crazy gas prices, Gaddafi Gate, two wars, budget deficits and ‘birther’ bashing led by ‘The Donald’, President Obama has definitely been taking some lately. But like Sugar Ray Leonard in Leonard/Hearns 1, and Jordan in the 4th quarter of a pivotal playoff game, Obama put some work in that dazzled supporters and critics alike! He proved once again that in the world of politics, sometimes it only takes a little to turn shit into sugar. Just a few days revised this President’s potential legacy from pre-lame duck to WFT just happened.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Thursday April 29, 2011:
Obama releases long form birth certificate:
Though I was initially conflicted by this decision, I can’t help but believe that the ends justify the means. While most Americans understood that the birther movement was a ridiculous play on race, and that Donald Trump was behaving like an idiot, some gullible yet well meaning citizens may have started to believe it was an issue. The rules of basic propaganda are that if one repeats a lie long enough many will take it for truth. The media gave coverage as if it were possibly legitimate. And so as to not allow it to continue to be a distraction the administration put it to rest – thus shutting the mouths of birthers for good. Now the question of citizenship and conspiracy of his mother in 1961 (I know it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it) are permanently put to rest.
The Obamas visit Tuscaloosa:
Unlike the previous presidential initial reaction to Katrina, Obama got to Alabama pretty quickly after one of the most devastating tornados in our nation’s history. The Midwest has experienced tornados, storms and lots of flooding. Unfortunately this is not new to us. But what has happened in The South last week is on another level. When I saw the footage of the tornado that hit Alabama, it seemed as if it were actually alive as it reeked what seemed like intentional angry destruction. It’s expected that federal dollars will be given to aid with the rebuilding of these devastated communities. But having The President’s presence there so quickly was encouraging to many. He showed himself to be in touch with the suffering of his citizens.
April 30, 2011: Obama roast Trump at Correspondence Dinner:
I can’t get over the timing of this event. ‘The Donald’ was brashly on television trying to perpetrate a fraud with this certificate thing. He even threw in some racial basketball and affirmative action shots to boot to question the president’s intelligence. Unfortunately on a typical day, the president can’t just respond to some reality TV hack whose major decisions have to do with evaluating the job performances of Little John, Hulk Hogan and Gary Busey. But on this once yearly occasion the president is free to get off on anyone he chooses, and still remain presidential. And as long as it’s funny it rocks. The fact that Trump was arrogant enough to show up and get some of that in person was classic. The President straight got in him unapologetically. And the truthfulness of his remarks made it even more hilarious. I thought of Sergeant Waters’ comment on “A Soldier’s Story” to Peterson after Peterson smarted off at him in the barracks. “Peterson! I ain’t forgot cha boy. I’m going outside and wait for you geechie! And when you come out, I’m gonna whoop yo
Black White Southern Ass. Let the whole company watch too! You need to learn respect for these stripes!” Needless to say, Obama beat that ass … in front of the whole company of the same people Trump previously spouted off in front of, the press.
On top of that he got it from Seth Meyers too!
Is this karma at the utmost or what? And while I doubt that it was purposely timed to cut The Donald’s balls in the ratings department, I do know it to be ironic at least. Even with all of the information and misinformation coming to the forefront regarding details of the actual mission, one thing is for sure; The administration was able to keep this operation completely under wraps with no leaks whatsoever as to what was going on.
And to think that in the final days of the mission the president in addition to doing all of the things mentioned earlier, also had time to stop in to film an episode with Oprah as her last guest of her 25th and final season. So for all the smack The Donald and his birther friends talked during the last few weeks/months, the way Americans see it now, the president was indeed doing more than playing basketball.
As was it just me or did anybody else noticed how he just sashayed down the walkway of the podium with the swagger straight from Chicago’s South Side to announce Bin Laden’s death?
The only thing left for Obama was to quote Shaquille O’Neal: “Hey
Kobe Donald, tell me how my ass taste!”
Finally as we hear from the right some of the cowardly remarks trying to give much of the credit to former President Bush: While this is certainly no middle finger towards the former president, I do have to say is this. The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers was the MVP. You can try to give it to Brett Favre if you want to but that dog just won’t hunt. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove; none of them dudes have been in on the action for years now. And while they were hopelessly looking in caves, Obama and his leadership team caught Bin Laden sleeping in a luxury compound.
Since 9-11 this most notorious terrorist could have been named Osama Bin Missing. And politics aside, The Obama administration didn’t have to roll with Mission Accomplished, or fake stories like Jessica Lynch or that criminal fakery that happened with Pat Tillman to rally Americans. With no intent to deceive the American people the results now speak for themselves. The president had his hands on this entire operation for the last several months. And if he were wrong it would surely have cemented his legacy as a massive failure. As it stands now, he will forever go down in history as the president that took out the mastermind of the worst terrorist event in the history of our nation. Game, set match!
“So what you have a legitimate birth certificate! My investigators tell me you not a good student, you were raised by wolves and were at the grassy knoll when JFK was assisinated!” What to know how I know? Can’t tell you now. You’ll have to watch my #1 rated NBC show called Celebrity Apprentice to find out!”
Go to church but they tease us, with a picture of a blue-eyed Jesus! - Ice Cube
Well, sort of. I don’t take these lyrics from Ice Cube’s rant from his classical African-American community critique “Us” as an issue of merely color; but rather ideology.
I tried to make this point in the last church I belonged to. Our services were tailored in a fashion that allowed us to ask questions or make comments during the sermon. As you can imagine, that made for some memorable experiences, both for the good and not so good. At the time George W. Bush was campaigning for a second term in the White House. There was a heavy religious fervor regarding that election too. Both Catholic and Protestant organizations were galvanized similarly (if not more) than they were in 2000.
My comment during the service was that I found the election season offered at least two different Jesuses. Immediately when I said it there were cat calls from the other members. “Oh no, there is only ONE Jesus.” I think they thought I was being literal. And I found it hard to explain, as I was cut off continuously. My point was that while most Christian churches share the same basic bible for scripture references, Jesus’ points of emphasis and agenda seemed to go down racial, class, social and political divides.
I recall visiting a prominent church in South St. Louis when the subject of the election came up. The pastor of the church said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. But I will say that I’m not voting for someone who is for killing babies.”
I thought to myself, “Wow, I can understand Jesus being bent about abortion, but he’s not bent about torture or bombings of civilian communities? What about all of the other injustices and crimes against humanity out there perpetrated by men for political or ideological reasons? Is that ultimately what this election is about?” I’ll get back to that.
Later I attended a different church for a men’s breakfast. As usual when the subject of men come up at such an event it’s natural for the meaning of manhood and how it’s manifested in society to be brought up. Some of the speakers made a point of making sure that homosexuality and manhood had nothing in common. In doing so words and phrases to describe gays or being gay were slung around. They consisted of standards such as ‘sweet’ ‘sissies’ and ‘punks’ to name a few. Then there was the usual reference to Adam and Steve.
While all of these black macho evangelical males “amen’d” and approved of this name calling, I raised my hand and asked a question:
“I hear all of this name and cat calling regarding the homosexual community. And while I respect the fact that your brand of faith entitles you the right to have your own opinion that homosexuality is a sin, do you honestly believe that Jesus would endorse the name calling that some of you are using such as ‘sissy,’ ‘punk’ or even ‘fags?’ ”
At that point the pastor was silent. To speak boldly like this against the precepts of leadership in a powerful black church is not something grinned upon. But one of the elders jumped in quickly to the rescue. With anger he burst from his seat and started spouting off scriptures in Leviticus and how homosexuality was a sin and that God didn’t like it and neither should any Christian. He was practically foaming at the mouth from the front of the sanctuary as he looked towards my way in the back.
“I’m not discussing the validity or non validation of homosexuality as a sin. What I am asking… is that if there were homosexuals in this congregation, (and chances are there one or more among this group of men) if I were a homosexual who was struggling with my sexual identity vs. what I believe my faith allows, would your words as well as your spiritual disposition attract me to you as a source of help, or would I be repulsed, insulted or put off by your tone? Would Jesus address a person who happens to be a homosexual with the names you choose along with your mocking tone?”
DEAD SILENCE in the congregation. I think some thought a fight was about to ensue.
The elder grew more angry, then shouted something else before the pastor got up and addressed my question… sort of.
“I understand what you are saying brother. And perhaps you are right that we can do better with the name calling. But let me be clear, homosexuality is a sin. Now let’s move on.”
This, among other things at that time, drew me to the conclusion that as far as the evangelical community was concerned, all God/Jesus really cared about were what I called the ‘Big 3’ Abortion, Homosexuality, and Stem Cell Research- all of which He was against.
That’s right. Let it be known henceforth that these are the bullet points on Jesus’ hit list. But was it really?
The question of Jesus and the identification of his agenda have been going on thousands of years, right? In the scriptures he seemed to identify it himself:
13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is?
14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
In my estimation, this question is still the most divisive among Christian believers. Who Jesus is- a direct result of what he endorses- stands for, evangelizes, and lives by. As Christians (followers or Disciples of Christ) by very definition that agenda should translate into their own. And this is where confusion and division has obviously settled in.
Let’s take it step by step. While these are not absolute, I think we can agree that these are generally the focus, missions, and nature of Jesus, depending on the demographics and world view of the worshipper.
During slavery a certain segment of the population believed that Jesus endorsed the enslavement of Africans which included selling, beating, raping and murdering people that Jesus/God created. During this same period the slaves (often taught Christianity either from Catholics in Africa or Protestant enslaver in America) believed that Jesus would deliver them from their oppression.
Similarly, during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, The KKK (who defined themselves a Christian organization) believed as they do today that Jesus choose them to be superior, while other nationalities are inferior. Many churches, both black and white, believed that Jesus created, loves and values all men equally.
These days we face many of the same challenges. Some upwardly mobile church dogma believe that Jesus favors the wealthy while others believe Jesus is concerned for the poor.
Let me give you a biblical example and how it may play out today:
5When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
7Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
9There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
10And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
13Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
14Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
If something like this were to happen, one side of the Christian agenda would report it this way:
Boy donates food, Jesus takes the little and performs a miracle to serve thousands. The people rejoice.
Another Christian agenda would report it this way:
Unemployed multitude threaten to mug little righteous boy who has food. Jesus the self-appointed welfare socialist takes the food away from the one who had in order to spread the wealth. Claims of a miracle go unsubstantiated, but Newt Gingrich says that Jesus should face prosecution for robbery. Sara Palin said Jesus is an illegal alien- “just look at his name”- (Pronounced Hey-Seuss) and bad for American values. Finally, Rush Limbaugh called him “The Magic Hebrew.”
Ok (chuckle) I’m having a little fun with this. But you get my point. This conversation has political ramifications, but in this context it’s not political at all.
I have attended many of these churches during my lifetime so I speak with experience.
The evidence shows that our depiction of Jesus, given his world view, is something either given to us by others or something we decide upon ourselves- based on our own background- sociopolitical, socioeconomic and dogmatic vantage point. Christians decide which Jesus to follow based on what they are comfortable with. That’s right. Believe it or not, Christians have pretty much picked their own Jesus to worship and follow based on their own accepted set of criteria.
For those living in inner cities, their Jesus cares about the poor; thought not exclusively. For many living in upper class neighborhoods, Jesus wants you to have riches. Many ministers I know believe and teach directly that the level that God shows his favor and blessings upon you, and the very proof of your own level of faith is a direct result of the believer’s financial status.
Some Christians promote charity and believe that government should help with social causes. Other Christians are for cutting any and everything having to do with helping those less fortunate. It’s happening in this country in a big way right now. I’m not making a judgment one way or the other but more asking why is it that so-called liberal Christians believe one thing while conservative Christians believe something else entirely - while reading the same bible?
I’ve heard it said that it’s up to moderate Muslims to speak out against radical Muslims who are for violent and other unrighteous acts done in their name. While I agree with that I rarely see Christians doing the same.
When have you heard of moderate Christians speaking out against Pastor Steve Anderson and Rev. Wiley Drake for praying that President Obama dies? Have you ever been up late and night and seen those ministry programs where they offer to sell you God’s blessing for $500-$1000?
So why not just join a church that chooses a Jesus I am comfortable with?
On the one hand, that sounds kind of attractive, right? But on the other, I’m not so sure about that. My own personal evangelical bent lends me to believe that God, by virture of being the creator of the universe (which includes my very existence), has the authority to demand without question first and foremost that he be in charge. If that is the case I certainly don’t need to align myself with a church that simply makes me comfortable. Furthermore, I can’t fathom believing in a gospel that is not transferable to any and all communities in the world. I can’t believe a message in College Park, Georgia that could not be preached in the slums of Calcutta, India just because the economic opportunities are not the same.
The bottom line in my view is that Jesus (as we know him) has been bastardized and transformed into a political football, tossed to and fro by whoever wields his name. He’s been labeled like soup, and packaged for consumption like a Happy Meal or an Ipad too often for the purposes of manipulation, domination, or deceit. That’s not to say all churches, ministers, or parishioners, liberal or conservative, are all bad or good. But what is the difference in that or any other religious group that have segments that do good work? The point for me is that following God as I want to know him is so profoundly vital to my own spiritual growth and well-being, dogmatic preferences and spiritual limitations cancel my mere desire to belong in such a group.
In the wake of the tragic and cowardly shooting that took place in Arizona over the weekend, it didn’t take long for many conservatives to begin the quick process of separating themselves from any and all possible contributions of motivating this heinous crime.
One of my conservative Facebook friends posted this hours after the shooting:
Here’s a wild and wacky idea – instead of linking the tragedy in Arizona to the Right or Left and trying to score political points off of it, why don’t we have a little sympathy for the victims and hope they fry the psychopath who did this?
I get what he was trying to say. Media can be quick to make connections and jump to conclusions when it comes to sensationalizing a story like this one.
In fairness however, there has been some pretty tough talk and violent rhetoric in recent years from certain segments of the population. I can recall in the last presidential election from many McCain/Palin campaign outings where several supporters would shout rants like, “Off with his head!” when it came to then Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. I remember that initially team McCain/Palin and their handlers as well as many right-wing pundits dismissed these types of comments as being harmless.
Personally, I felt that while the Republican candidates didn’t literally desire to see harm come to then Senator Obama (some may find that debatable) at the very least the Republicans understood very well that a large portion of their energized voter base were extreme right wingers who held their guns, confederate flags, and racism as close to their hearts as they did their bibles. They didn’t want to turn off that block by confronting them. Eventually McCain had to make some concessions after his poll numbers begin to drop due to these radicals.
Since the new President got into office, the rhetoric has continued, except there has also been some action behind it. To give a few examples:
Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina was also threatened. Imagine that, supporting a health-care bill can get one killed!
In addition in months past, Rep. John Lewis and Emmanuel Clever were called niggers and Rep Barney Frank a faggot.
A questions being asked now, is whether rhetoric via talking heads and even some of the politicians themselves are contributing to the shootings. Most who believe so don’t mean it in some literal sense as if someone like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin pulled the trigger themselves or hypnotized the murder into committing these heinous acts. Rather an understanding that with the desperation that comes with hard economic times bring about the tendency of needing someone to blame.
Advertisers know in marketing their products successfully, one common theme is finding the right endorser. This helps the product to generate a following. This is why Gatorade and American Express hired Tiger Woods years ago. The thinking is they can pay him $100 million dollars to represent the merchandise because just by his name being attached to it, Americans and beyond would purchase the product – not because it’s a superior product, but because Tiger at least says he drinks it. We know this and yet psychologically we fall for it anyway. Not all the time, but enough to make a killing. (no pun intended)
In the months leading to the 2008 Presidential elections, I often listened to black radio. DJs such as Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden used their influence with listeners to promote voter registration. They went on and on everyday as to why this election was so important after 8 years of George W Bush. As a result, many who normally would not have bothered to take an intense interest in the election did so with anticipation and excitement. The minority vote was epic, as was the vote of the youth. The combination changed the results of the election.
Of course the right has always had their talking heads too. According to Bernard Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh makes a cool $33 million a year to galvanize his listeners. So the evidence is there to suggest that there are varying voices regardless of the rhetoric that Americans find influential. Of course the same could be said about politicians themselves.
With this as a backdrop, I noticed soon after the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and 17 others (6 fatally) including a small child and a federal judge, there were many connections being made to the suspect perhaps being influence by the rhetoric via radio, television or political figures like Sarah Palin. Equally true was that many conservatives made a point to distance themselves as far away from shooter Jared Loughner. This was the epitaph of my Facebook friend mentioned at the beginning. My personal feelings on the matter cause me to take a broader approach that I started by mentioning the radio personalities and product sponsors. I think the best way to view this intelligently is to take a look at ‘like’ circumstances and gauge reactions to similarities based on deductive reasoning and hard-core facts. From that I come up with a list of questions to ask so that you can reflect based on your knowledge and experience of being an American.
1) Do we have military men as well as FBI monitoring websites of hate mongers, religious zealots, and most definitely Muslim extremist? Does the government and it’s citizens believe it’s worth monitoring?
2) Were groups like the Black Panthers targeted by the FBI because of both their rhetoric and arsenal of weapons in times past?
3) If for example, Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan used something similar to Sarah Palin’s cross hairs map to target a section of someone’s district politically saying we need to target and ‘get rid’ of that person, and some black guy named Abdullah X shot a public servant in point-blank range along with a group of people similar to what Loughner did, would the Minister be able to separate himself as easily as you see Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh doing now? Would it sit right with you as the Minister explains that Abdullah committed this dastardly wicked deed of his own volition, and was never involved with The Nation at all? Or would you be comfortable with the FBI tearing through the offices of Farrakhan ripping every single computer to look for further possible threats, to destroy his organization.
I believe most readers who answer truthfully know the answers to these questions. With that being said, regardless of what Loughner’s motivation stemmed from in all of it’s destructive glory and varying degrees, the ability for many Caucasians on the right to smoothly separate themselves from these criminals is quite astounding to me; Impressive really. From Abraham Lincoln, to the Kennedys, MLK, and so on, the story of the lone and weird spaced out anti-social vagabond gunman is one that never seems to get old does it? It’s as if saying those very words instantly sanitizes them from the mere thought of consideration.
‘Oh no! No responsibility on MY part! I didn’t kill those people! I don’t subscribe to such vicious violence! Why I never! This is obviously a sick individual who perhaps needed help but certainly couldn’t possibly be spurned on by anything I said.”
I think our culture, our advertising and marketing departments, the hundred of millions of dollars being spent on campaign adds, say something else.
What it says is at the very least, as a nation we cannot continue to throw rocks, hide our hands, and then act with a pompous holy shame when the results of those words, those signs and pictures, the seeds that are being planted come back with strange fruit hanging on the vines. It is simply idiotic to suggest that people want to be leaders, have listeners, gain an audience, carry a local or national message to the hearers, win support, and take credit for such when an election is won but not when a fool goes off and does something reprehensible.
Regardless of the true motivations of one individual, it’s time that we start to re-think and carefully consider what kind of nation we are allowing ourselves to be. And by all means don’t be surprised if we stay on this course when the future brings more of the same. This denial and self protective attitude of embraced ignorance is long past its prime.
Is that lesson ready to be learned by those in denial of this? I doubt it. I just saw an article that Rep. Joe Wilson’s words,‘You lie,” that infamous unprecedented disrespect against President Obama statement is now being engraved on….wait for it….. the AR-15 assault rifle. Oh yea they are only printing a certain amount so that they can be a ‘collectors item’. Folks, that is as subtle as an assault rifles bullet being shot straight at our leader and anyone who supports him. I mean, really? “You lie,” engraved on an assault weapon? And what segment of the population do you think they are targeting for this beast of a weapon? And again I ask what would the nation say if Muslims were engraving AK-47s with the words “Mission Accomplished”, “Jihad!” or “White Devil?”
Take in the brevity of this. The engravings for the AR-15 is not the target of some guy from around the block. We are talking about the current President of these United States of America! Good old fashioned home-grown terrorism right within our midst. Unfortunately many conservatives thinks that’s OK. And yet… they stand poised and ready to distance themselves from the next shooter.
First and foremost I must say that this series is not so much a rant, as it is a possible plea for help. Help in understanding what a church environment is going to give me with all of its many contradictions and hypocrisies. I say ‘possible’ because perhaps it’s best after all if I don’t join a specific church organization. Perhaps my faith is best developed at home and practiced as an example in the marketplace where it actually matters. The problem is that I am just not sure. Most everyone I know and respect tells me I need to be somewhere where there is corporate worship and spiritual advisement. And while I’m not optimistic I haven’t totally given up. I am hoping that some of the issues that I am addressing will attract some feedback that may help me to either change my mind or at least give me something to reconsider.
While I won’t bore you with all of the bloody details, keep in mind that I was raised in the church and experienced several different denominations as a child, teen and adult. At one point I was that guy who carried his bible everywhere he went and openly ministered to co-workers and friends. I even preached in services and did some college campus ministry as well. I wasn’t obnoxious or spoke where I wasn’t welcome, but I was very earnest in sharing the faith that I bought into so much. Several factors led to my straying most of them having to do with what I felt was the lack of true leadership and the belief that they didn’t really believe what they were teaching. Instead it seemed that the real intention all along of leadership was to have followers and control over their congregants.
With that I will begin with my first example of why I refuse to join a church.
Yesterday I watched an episode of Unsung. For those of you unfamiliar it’s a show on TVONE that chronicles the lives and careers of musical recording artist. This episode focused on the female group The Clark Sisters, one of the most dynamic and significant gospel groups of all time. Though they never sang pop music, their gospel success reached a milestone where they were able to perform at the Grammy awards. Raised and groomed by Mattie Moss Clark, a hardcore purist pioneering singer, writer, arranger and director of the music for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the sisters wanted their mother to share in this national stage.
At their Grammy performance these sisters represented their faith and their denomination quite well. They strolled down the isle dancing and swaying giving praise to God towards the audience that were full of the biggest and most successful performers of our time. They dressed to the nines in classic COGIC dress attire, (long dresses that covered their legs with the classiest of designs befitting black church traditions) and sang with a joy unspeakable as if it were Sunday morning without shame proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Their performance received resounding applause. And it helped add another nail in putting gospel music on the mainstream map. Their hit “You Brought The Sunshine” was even played at New York’s famous Studio 54. In other words, people were dancing to a gospel song in one of the most infamous clubs in the nation. The group was invited to sing on stage at Stuido 54. That was a bit too much for Mattie at the time. She wasn’t having that. But it said something about the gospel message doing something revolutionary; reaching a mainstream audience without compromising it’s message.
The COGICs are a very strict and conservative denomination however. The women are not allowed to wear pants to this day. Still one would think the success of the record and the free worldwide exposure of some of the best the COGICs had to offer would be a good thing. But it was not. Upon returning to their local congregation after the Grammy performance, Mattie Moss Clark was called in to the elders meeting and chided for their on stage performance. The Elders felt that the women performing at a secular event was sacrilege. And since Clark held a high position within the COGIC hierarchy she had to vow never perform publicly with her daughters again.
(pictured l-r, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Elbertina ‘Twinkie’ Clark-Terrell, Jacky Clark Chisholm and Karen Clark Sheard )
Now I ask you what kinda shit is that?
First of all I thought the purpose of the gospel was to preach it all over the world. If one is getting his drink and freak on at the club and a song speaking about the love of Jesus is played, isn’t that where you want the message to be exclaimed more than anything. I believe it was Jesus who said that those who are well do not need a physician but those who are sick. I know very well the COGICs feel that the clubber needs Jesus!
Second, the Clark Sisters have always been a very devout group and have represented the COGIC denomination well. I saw Dorinda Clark-Cole preach myself in a small church in Illinois. She came in looking like Miss America and by the time her sermon and singing was over with you would have through she ran a few country miles as she sweated her suit and hair doo out ceasing to care about her appearance while preaching the gospel and expressing her love for God.
I believe the issue was not the gospel at all for these Elders. It was that the COGIC denomination like many others is a very conservative male dominated group. They didn’t appreciate the shine these women were receiving and wanted to control it. According to their own faith, it’s God who promotes and God who has the wherewith to get His Word across as He see fits. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son… or so they quote. But in reality they don’t believe that as it relates to the Clark Sisters. The church is a business, and far too many preachers are business men first. One cannot rise in the Eldership of such denominations if he/she doesn’t buy into these same old school ways of thinking. But here you have a group of pioneering and devout women arguably being used by God to present His message persecuted not by the world, but by their own church leaders for making a national impact that the preachers themselves could not make.
I’ve been around and heavily involved the COGIC denomination for many years and know the ins and outs very well. I know some great people too involved within that particular faith that do outstanding work. I could not on the other hand subject myself to the politics and limitations of faith this way. If the organization itself is more important than the faith that it defends, then it’s going to be repressive more than progressive in my view. This concept for me is a deal breaker.
This isn’t an indictment on COGICs either. It’s merely an example of what I am talking about overall; the embracing of sexism and control over the very gospel that the organization was founded upon in the first place.
When General McCrystal lost his mind and went ‘E-Hollywood in an interview with Rolling Stone recently, it reminded me of another high-ranking military official. McCrystal’s attitude of arrogance against the civilian leadership of Washington took me right to Col. Nathan R. Jessep of the United States Marine Corp.
McCrystal didn’t like President Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan. He resented that he didn’t get the 30,000 troops he requested a long time ago. He felt that Obama was ‘disengaged’ or whatever. Surely Obama, ’a liberal Democrat tree hugging African-American slick politician from Chicago couldn’t resonate with what it takes to win a war with such sophisticated circumstances.’ Right?
Jessep also didn’t believe that the Navy Kid Lt. Daniel Kaffee who hadn’t seen military combat had the right nor should he have even had the inclination to question a decorated colonel about the way he ran Gitmo. If he felt ordering the ‘Code Red’ on PFC Santiago would save lives in the long run then so be it! After all as he told Kaffee in the initial interview on the island:
I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash your badge, and make me nervous.
I feel for General McCrystal because I understand his world-view. I spent a short time in the military after high school and I recall well that there are some military people who can do the job of serving their country and going home at the end of the day to a normal life and family. The dichotomy of being a military person in a civilian world outside of war is easy.
There are also the hard-core military people who live and breathe that life on another level. In other words it’s ‘us against them.’ As far as they are concerned their military world is the only world that matters. They provide and protect freedom. They secure borders. The rest of us are flag burning/gay-loving weaklings who are only concerned with hedonism. I empathize and agree that most of us don’t understand nor appreciate the work our service men and women do – nor the sacrifices they make.
However; what McCrystal failed to realize as he poked fun and disrespected both the President as well as his VP, is that regardless of how he felt about the administration, the President is the Commander In Chief, not just some politician. He is the head of the military. Period.
McCrystal’s position is a politically appointed one as well. And there is no doubt that while he has had political favor, he had earned his credentials by also following orders and respecting authority. No doubt he expected and received unquestioned obedience within his own command.
Obedience and order are traits that the military need to save lives and protect the nation. There is no doubt about that. The military world is different from the civilian one as well. Of that I am also sure. By mocking the administration, McCrystal violated the very principals that helped shape and advance his entire career.
I will never forget the day I was in basic training and one of the drill instructors asked our class what our jobs were to be in entering the service. Many of us named off positions such as Security Specialist and Aerodynamic Engineers for example. These answers were wrong. Our jobs we were told was simple; TO KILL! “Your job is to kill the enemy. You have no other agenda but that. The sooner you realize that the better off you’ll be.” In reality, this is the absolute truth. And if we didn’t have military service men and women who understand and feel this way we wouldn’t be as safe as we are now.
I think Jessep summed it up at best before he admitted to the Code Red.
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
I understand Jessep’s and McCrystal’s sentiments. Still neither of them is above the law nor authority. Therefore; the President had to break him off.
I didn’t write this but received it in an email. A perfect letter to the so called Tea Party!
They sould call themselves the NazTea Party!
We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, now you get mad!
You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.
You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.
You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.
You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed..
You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.
You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq .
You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city drown.
You didn’t get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.
You didn’t get mad when, using reconciliation; a trillion dollars of our tax dollars were redirected to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage which cost over 20 percent more for basically the same services that Medicare provides.
You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark, and our debt hit the thirteen trillion dollar mark.
You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans… oh hell no.
BUT YOU ARE 100% MAD BECAUSE WE HAVE A BLACK PRESIDENT.