A People’s History of Pots, Kettles, Finger Waggers, Bullies, and Accidental Amnesiacs

The wonderful thing about being in America is having the ability to speak one’s mind.  Not only that, there are so many ways an individual can express his/her thoughts these days via social media.  Add to these traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television, we find ourselves surrounded with 24/7 access to thought and opinions on all subjects political, social, religious and so forth.

What I do find particularly frustrating at times is the simplicity and lack of nuance and imagination within many thoughts and opinions.  With the tools we have to communicate with one another, there is so much opportunity to discuss, debate, and grow as a society.  But what seems to happen on most occasions, is that the simplest, most unsophisticated thoughts are the ones that not only get the headlines, but are also leading the discussions. I plan to follow that thought up with another blog post soon.  But for this thought, I will direct my attention to the trending topic of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

Personally, I don’t care what people think of Sam in terms of his sexuality.  You can be for it or against it.  In this world, and certainly in this country, people are going to have an opinion on what they think is right or wrong for whatever reason.  As we can see via many comments on Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN as he spoke to Rams’ brass,  there is no shortage of opinions on either side.  I’ll address my thoughts on it shortly.

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People who know me understand that I have no sacred cows when it comes to my perspectives.  All of us individually and as a group deserve a basic level of respect. And we all deserve our fair share of criticism. I love being black and I love black people.  That doesn’t mean I vouch for everything black folks say and do.  I am pro equal rights for all, regardless of ethnicity, political, religious preference, sexual orientation and so forth.  Still, I don’t blindly endorse what any political party, Christians, Muslims, atheist, the straight or gay community says and do either. Unfortunately, far too many have a ‘you’re for me or against me’ victimization mentality, when they are called on the carpet for inconsistencies or hypocrisies.

With this in mind, on the subject of Sam’s PDA with his male partner, I have a message to all parties who care.

The Religious/White Folk: I’ve already spoken to you about this before.  Be anti-gay.  Just don’t talk to me about morality and your kids seeing Sam and his boyfriend kissing on TV.  Fact of the matter is, Ray Rice knocked his fiancee’ the hell out and I don’t see any of you protesting that.  Straight players have publicly cheated on their wives, laid pipe all over the country, objectify women in strip clubs making it rain… and again, you never mentioned that in your pulpits or your social media formats.  What trips me out the most though, is that for every preacher, politician and anti-gay public figure, a certain percentage of them are closet drag queens, or somebody on the down low having sex with men.  Seriously?  

The Religious/Black Folk in General: See message to white folk.  But add to this that as you say things like, “I’m tired of this being thrown in my face; when you say, “Yuck!” or “Gross” or “I don’t want my kids to see this on TV…,” remember that Dorothy Dandridge got in a pool at a hotel, and the same white folks who said they don’t have a problem with black people had that pool drained. Traditionally, racist white folks have always had a use for black folks.  As slaves, mistresses, servants, entertainers, or even as a ‘friend.’  JUST NOT AS EQUALS.  There are layers.  I don’t expect everyone to accept me for who I am.  But not attacking me is not the same as respecting me and protecting my right to exist as an equal!  For a person to say I have gay friends/family,  but I wouldn’t teach my kids that it’s OK, is like saying, I don’t have anything against black people, I just don’t want my kids dating them.  It’s still bigotry.  At least admit that.  That doesn’t make you a criminal, it just means there is some potential for growth.

**Most bigotry is in some form or fashion related to sexual fears and myths.  That’s another story.**

Look, we all have biases to overcome. The first time I saw Omar Little kiss his partner on The Wire, I was like, “Whoa WAIT!  What just happened?  It wasn’t a shock because it was sickening.  It was shocking because I hadn’t seen it before.

Black people especially should be mindful of our own history with biases against us and the imagery that was important towards our own progression as a people. When I was a kid, I remember my parents gathering us around the television to watch The Flip Wilson show because there wasn’t another show like that for black people.  There were hardly NO shows for black people. From ‘Good Times’ to ‘The Jeffersons,’ we were able to receive images on television about our families, our values, often referencing issues that were important to us.  Many times in Southern states, they refused to show black people in a light that was integration friendly.  They lost their minds when Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm in 1968.  Can you imagine what it was like when Jim Brown (who was then the personification of black male sexual power and prowess) did a love scene with white sex symbol Rachel Welch in “100 Rifles?”  Talk about an OMG moment!  This struggle has continued despite many strides.  Even when the Cosby show was on, many criticized the show because they felt a black family with a father who was a doctor and a mother who was an attorney was ‘unrealistic.’

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Naturally, the gay and lesbian community is going to support images on television that reflect a celebration of their value and right to exist.  So seeing Sam kiss his boyfriend at the pinnacle point of his life is a big deal.  There is no gay conspiracy to force acceptance upon the straight community.  Will and Grace is for them is what Sanford and Son was for us.

Acknowledging this puts me in the cross hairs of many of my straight friends. Even now, on social media when I defend gays, I am often assumed to be gay. They say things like, “I don’t care about what you do with your life.” When I try to show them the parallel between our plights with bigotry, I’m told, “Be gay and do you!  Enjoy your lifestyle… but don’t force it down my throat!”   Remind me of how many whites were and are called “nigger lovers,’ when they stand up for our rights as a people.

I believe the topics of free thought/free speech is a wonderful thing to discuss.  Donald Sterling’s fiasco as well as Michael Sam’s coverage are just the latest opportunity which brings that subject to bear.  I just hope that we maximize all these thoughts and speeches to do more than hyperbolize.

You know what came to my mind when I first saw the kiss?  I thought, “Look, Michael Sam is just like most other African-American big time athletes.  They get to college and go white!  No different!

See,.. now there is a bias for you!

 

 

 

 

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Contradictions and Compartmentalization of the Jameis Winston FSU Case

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After the state attorney announced that there would be no charges in the Jameis Winston case, I listened to a Miami based sports radio talk show via podcast.  The context was ‘IF’ the accuser in the case made up the story regarding sexual assault, would you feel bad or sorry for her?  Of the three person set of host, two said they would and one said he wouldn’t.  One of the host assessed, (paraphrasing)  “I don’t believe at her age she would have really thought this all the way through.”  Another host said, “If it’s true that she made it up she has to live with that in front of her family, in front of her father for the rest of her life.”  The third host said he wouldn’t feel sorry for her at all.  His argument was that there is no excuse for making a false allegation of rape.  And that the consequences of what could have happened to the accused far outweigh any ‘reason’ she may have had.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

I am a man with a wife, a mother, two sisters and five daughters.  I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that most of the women I know have experienced some form of sexual assault or abuse.  Sexual abuse towards women is horrifically pervasive to the point that men should recognize that the question is not how many women you know who have been sexual assaulted in some form or fashion.  It’s how many do you know that haven’t?!  This is NOT hyperbole either.  The subject matter has hit home for me several times over.  I don’t envy women at all.  It is a fact that our society, hell our world is stacked full of misogyny.  Women are the last and the least recognized of the worldwide historically persecuted and oppressed people.  It’s not so easily recognized either as it’s so pervasively normal to attack and witness attacks on women’s value and character.  Sexually speaking, men have dominated women for centuries from female genital mutilation which still goes on in many cultures, to rapes on college campuses, in the military, so called ‘date rapes’ within acquaintances, relationships, marriages and so on.  Needless to say, us MEN need to re-evaluate and assess ourselves and ask ourselves if we are treating the women in our lives with the proper respect and dignity they deserve.  Most of the time the answer is, “Hell no!”  Let’s start there!

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RESPECT:

Giving women the credit they deserve, I have to acknowledge that they have held down the families, the churches, and have still risen to great places of power in society.  In so many ways they have had to learn a develop a cunningness about themselves to advance in what James Brown called, “A Man’s World.”  Women have skills and mental expertise that men simply don’t.  They know men’s strengths and weaknesses inherently.  They can read us like books when they really pay attention.  And yet, the sophistication of the female species is one men can rarely grasp.  I’ve always said that smart men rule the world, but wise women rule men.  (thus ruling the world by default without the hassle) Without them there is a missing element essential to our existence.

TABU:

I think it’s a good thing that mainstream media didn’t go in on the accuser despite the details of the Winston case which revealed she pursued and attached herself to the QB seeking sex.  I think this was in deference to the challenges women have had to deal with day to day.  I imagine they believe that this case shouldn’t take the focus or deter recognition of the legitimate sexual assault victims.  (see statistics)

What should not go unsaid however, is that women are sexual beings.  They enjoy sex.  They are not just submissives but also dominates.  This is a newsflash to many Americans as we tend to view women and women’s bodies from a religiously conservative perspective.  Thus the dichotomy of boys sowing oats for sexual explorations while women’s are not afforded the same privilege.  I can’t even imagine how hard it is for women to navigate through these messages growing up.  Nevertheless, women and their sexuality eventually manifest through the cracks.  They get it in even in the most male dominated venues.

So called ‘groupies’ have existed for decades.  Just look at any episode of Behind The Music.  Women used to throw their panties at Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye and Tom Jones concerts.  There are women who seek the affections of ‘ballers,’ (high school, college and pro.)  At FSU they call them, “Cleat Chasers”.   (Yes they have a name for it.)  Many are very deliberate in the fashion in which they pursue and dare I say attempt to conquer their targets.

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Look at someone like Karrine Steffans.  She wrote a book on how she sexually conquered dozens of celebrities.  She bragged about it.  And yet when she was on the Tom Joyner morning show was got offended and hung up the phone when Jay Anthony Brown referred to her as “Super Head.”  She gave herself that name and was promoting a second ‘tell all’ sexual conquest book.  But she was offended as if Jay was disrespecting her.  Are you kidding me?  But she is hardly the only one.

As this relates to the Winston case, from the pages in the report, she was not only a willing participant, but initiated and pursued the entire event.  Along the way something happened that caused her to make a decision to tell a plethora of false narratives that could have put an innocent man in jail and ruin his reputation.  Sexual promiscuity among young people is a side issue worthy of debate.  Winston himself said he has some growing up to do.  But otherwise, the only thing that happened was a consensual sexual experience between consenting adults.  The only victim in this case was a man who was accused of taking something from her that she didn’t generously give.

To go even deeper specifically as it relates to racial matters, most of my adult life I’ve heard older black folk tell their sons before they go to college, “Don’t go messing with them white girls when you get in that school.”  Translation: There is no trouble for a young black male like ‘white girl’ trouble.  Having an interracial relationship is one thing, but if it turns negative and the authorities get involved, you’re a gonner!  Even if you don’t make jail the chances of getting kicked out of school are massive.  The black male is the one going to catch hell regardless of what really happened.   Or as Ice Cube said, “Smilin’ cuz you out on a date, But sooner or later, the bit#!’ll yell rape.  Soon as daddy founds out you a jigaboo, he’ll kill like he did Emmitt Till.”  (Don’t shoot the messenger.)

If the state attorney decided to take this case to a grand jury, chances are Winston would have been charged.  A grand jury will indict anything including my pet cockatiel.  Sure we would have found out about the details a year or so later during trial.  If he would have been found innocent, (cause that’s not a sure thing) in the meantime at best, Winston would have been dismissed from the team, possibly from school and his family name tainted for life.  His sexual cavalierness is not justification for suffering a lie and being dragged through the legal system.

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FINALLY:

This case should be another example of why we need to educate young people on sex, sexuality, education and self respect.  Men have used and abused women as sexual objects for centuries.  This must stop if we are ever to be about anything seriously. Women need to be able to express their own sexuality freely as validated people without the stereotypes of being called sluts, whores etc.

I as a man am willing to hold sound off in holding other men responsible for the way we have disrespected and abused women over time.  Equally so, women should hold women accountable, in calling out those who use sex as a means of weaponry.  Women who willingly do the deed, then tell lies to protect their reputation from friends, boyfriends and parents.

‘Why I Refuse To Join A Church (Part 2)

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:

(Paraphrasing)

“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 reiterated:

“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:

Matthew 16:13-15

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:

John 6:5-14

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.

 Newt Gingrich

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.

 Rev Ike

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.

Read Why I Refuse To Join A Church Part 1 here.



Small Steps, Giant Leaps, and Conspiracy Theories

Since this is the 40th anniversary of the walk on the moon, I am reminded of the beliefs of some that the moon walk was a hoax.  Did Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong really walk on the moon?  Or was this a fraud put on by NASA?

There hasn’t been a recent poll I can reference, but according to Wikipedia page on the subject, there has been some poll data as recent as the last decade that all Americans are not convinced that we landed on the moon.

What do you think?  Did we land on the moon or is this an ongoing hoax?

Why do you believe one way or the other?

The Evolution of Me and Francis Scott Key

 

It’s never been a mystery to me that we live in two different Americas.  One for black people and the other for white.  That didn’t stop with the passage of the civil rights bill of 1964.  Whether it’s the criminal justice system, the rate of poverty, educational inequities, political conflicts, etc., we still have not been a nation united across the board.   

Starting in the late 80’s I made a decision that I would do something to show my displeasure.  In a subtle but defiant act, I decided that I would no longer stand for the Star Spangled Banner (aka The National Anthem) when it’s played publicly.  My thinking was that as long as my people are oppressed in this country, I would not stand along side, hand over heart giving reverence to their theme song.  If a game were on TV, I would turn the channel during the playing of the anthem.  Sometimes I would be at a sporting event, and if it was for instance a basketball tournament on Martin Luther King Day, they would play The Banner and James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the so called Negro National Anthem.  (And a most beautiful and majestic song may I add.)  In that case I would stand for only the latter, and sit immediately afterwards.  It never bothered me in the least nor made me uncomfortable when I would get stares or dismissive mugs from others.  I figured what the heck.   I wasn’t disrespecting anyone else nor making any noise.  I simply sat silently and waited for it to pass.  This was my personal protest.  This was my Tommie Smith gesture and I offered it unapologetically.

I talked about how the election of Barack Obama to the presidency has inspired me to do more to contribute to my country.  A close friend and I had a conversation yesterday where we talked about how inspired we were to improve ourselves and our surroundings.  He said, “Every American, black, white, brown, whatever has a responsibility to better themselves and their community.   I don’t care if you take a class, get a GED or whatever.  You need to do something to step your game up!”  I totally agreed and told him of how I was inspired to blog about that very subject for a week.  I have always done things to better my world.  But I felt isolated still.  I felt my influence would only go so far as the world at large with it’s political machine both locally and nationally was against most of what I stood for.  My loyalty only extended so far to the country as a whole.  Because I saw how arrogant we were and how horribly we treat the poor, the sick, children, the elderly, and more recently the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  I always noticed the hypocrisy in which we talked one thing to other nations about democracy and yet stole elections right here at home.  So though I always acknowledged that America was a nation with great benefits, a nation where a lot is possible and in some cases more so than other parts of the planet, still I could not give her the free pass that many often do.  In other words, I always knew I was a patriot, but never a nationalist. 

With the presidency of Barack Obama, I sense an elevation in my patriotism.  There is a difference in what I see in terms of possibilities.  The difference is now that I feel as if someone is actually on my team.   I don’t mean the team of the black man.  I mean the team of justice and righteousness.  The team of telling the truth and doing what one says.  I sense that my president is actually on the side of what is right and that I am included in the America that he envisions.  I feel as if my children’s futures are included as well. 

In President Obama I see a man.  A family man who loves his wife and daughters whom I know he would protect to the death.  I see an admiration and respect in the eyes of his wife.  I see a man who sees the office of the presidency as a mission to help make things right and follow through on what he campaigned.  On the first day in office he freezes the salaries of his top aides who make over $100,000, saying that Americans are tightening their belts and so should Washington.  He puts limitations on their dealings with lobbyist.  He pens documents to close Gitmo within a year pending finding a place for some disgruntled so called enemy combatants.  I mean this cat is SERIOUS and I can feel the sense of urgency to not only set policy but to set the example.  I see a man of style and grace, of strength from within not flaunting it like a sword but indeed at least offering a hand first.  I see President Obama as not only being the President of the United States, but being MY president too.  And since he is my president, I am going to let him do his job, as I look to do mine.  I don’t expect him to change my life, only enhance my opportunities.  Changing my life is up to me.  To help change my community is up to me.

So in addition to all the things I have decided to do to help make my country better – I have included in that the symbolic gesture of once again standing for the Star Spangled Banner. 

This is my investment of hope into mainstream America with its vanities and prejudices.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still know full and well that there are many haters out there for the cause of what is right.  There are still injustices happening everyday.  There is still a ton of work to do on the national and local levels of government and society and I will continue to fight vigorously against tyranny.  (I honestly think it’s silly to play the thing before every sporting event anyway.)  This is a tradition that was started in WWII.  Still I feel a sense of renewal and inclusion and as I embrace my president, I embrace the America that he is attempting to erect as again the greatest nation for possibilities in the world – more righteous than ever before.   Oh believe me, this symbolic gesture is a huge emotional investment for me just as it has been for the last 20 years on the opposite end. 

“Or the land of the free? ”  Oh yea, I’m seeing that for me.   

Lift Every Voice and Sing – indeed.

Playing The Game The Way It Should Be Played

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It’s being reported that global talk show icon an avid Barack Obama supporter Oprah Winfrey  accepted money from one of Obama’s chief political enemies.  Dallas Billionaire Harold Simmons an avid John McCain supporter not only paid almost 3 million to pay for ads linking Obama to Bill Ayers, once gave Winfrey 1 million (5 million pledged) for her girls school in South Africa.  Mind you this is the same cat that funded that scam “swift boat” ads that buried John Kerry and his heroic Vietnam tour. 

I applaud Winfrey for understanding how to play the game righteously.  She gets it!  Get what you ask?  Gets the fact that just because you take money or donations for one cause, it does not mean you have to compromise your morals, beliefs, or integrity for another.  Historically in most cases, folk get it all twisted and just hide behind some public relations firm.  Not Oprah!  She’s was not bought out like some soft feeble minded folks.

Now some people will just say that Oprah is paid so therefore she can afford to do what she does.  Not altogether true.  If it were like that she could have merely funded the project herself.  She has enough loot to do that for sure!  Not to mention I have a friend who spoke privately to baseball Hall of Fame member Ozzie Smith.  The subject of money came up and being rich after a lucrative career.  Ozzie said it this way, “I don’t care how much money you’ve made.  When you are used to making millions of dollars and used to seeing those checks coming in twice a month, you miss it. ”  

The point is that a 5 million dollars is 5 million dollars.  People who make that kinda money desire ways to make more of it.  So I don’t see Winfrey as being less ambitious.  It’s simply understanding that you can take the money but the money doesn’t have to take you.  To the contrary: Accept the money.  Use it for your purposes, and still keep your integrity. 

Too bad many other celebs and politicians don’t get that.

You go Oprah!

Joel Osteen’s Alright With Me…

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I am not much on preachers on TV.  I am not much for preachers at all.  Not that I don’t appreciate the men and women who really seek to make positive change and be a conscious for spiritual/universal truth.  I know of a few who are in this for the right reasons.  Far too many seem to be full of themselves, their “ministries” their dogma or their legacies.  I think many ministers (Christian in particular) start out as humble servants.  But when they achieve a certain amount of notoriety they change.  In short, many begin to overestimate their own importance in the grand scheme of things and leave the flock behind their cloud of ego driven dust.  Some are just pimps from the word go.  They enjoy not having a real job.  For them ministry is business first and foremost – and if people fall by the wayside, oh well.  Though I have seen this with my own eyes several times within my life, a few honest ministers have confessed as much to me during interviews.

When I look at Joel Osteen, I see something different, something refreshing.  Back in the day when his father John Osteen pastored Lakewood Church, my dad was a member there when he moved to Houston.  It was there that his own interest in ministry began to thrive.  When John passed away, Joel took over the pulpit and began to do his own thing.  When I surfed the channels and stopped on one of Joel’s messages, I smirked and said to myself, “He’s not a preacher, he’s a motivational speaker.”  Every message to seemed to be about how, “everything was going to be alright and God loves you just the way you are.”  Well, since I grew up in just about every church sect in the US, I wanted something stronger, more meaty.  I had heard everything and I wanted something to challenge me.  He was not doing it.  So I chalked him up to be another PK (Preacher’s Kid) who took over his father’s ministry but has no real depth himself.

Well after taking another look at Joel from the time I saw him on 60 Minutes, I have done a 180 on him.  I recently took the time to pay closer attention to his messages.  And what I see that I didn’t recognize initially is that Joel ministers something that is very needed in today’s world.  He offers hope, faith, and an outlook that allows one to view challenges with a glass “half full” mentality.  Also Joel is one who totally promotes personal responsibility.  He makes us fully aware that we are responsible for our own happiness as well as the task of making good decisions to put ourselves in position for success.  All the while his encouraging style allows us to forgive ourselves and turn the page on past mistakes, and turn towards the right path.

I got mad love and respect for Joel Osteen.  I know that he believes everything he says which is one of the greatest compliments I could ever give any person.  He reminds me that no matter how complicated the problem, the ways of working through the solutions are layered with simplistic truths and principles.  A small change in perspective can make the difference.  That is as much meat as a person needs during times like these.