In 26 years (27 in August, for those who care), there are only a handful of times where I've been left completely speechless. Occassionally, I'll run out things to say at that moment; while in most cases, I just don't care enough about the issue, or the person to whom I'm talking; to generate discussion for too long. In rare cases, though, I just don't know how to respond.
This is one of those times...
In Gary, Indiana a gay student was prohibited from attending his senior prom because he showed up in a prom dress. I wish I was making this up...
Interestingly, though, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a lesbian girl who attended the same prom was allowed to wear a tuxedo while escorting her girlfriend.
The male student, 18-year-old Kevin Logan, was banned from the prom because the school's principal believed that his dress was inappropriate and disruptive to the other students. Logan thought otherwise. Though the school board expressed their regret over the incident, they ultimately stood by the principal's decision to ban the student.
Fitting that this all happened in the hometown of Michael Jackson...
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
In 26 years (27 in August, for those who care), there are only a handful of times where I've been left completely speechless. Occassionally, I'll run out things to say at that moment; while in most cases, I just don't care enough about the issue, or the person to whom I'm talking; to generate discussion for too long. In rare cases, though, I just don't know how to respond.
If you've ever checked out my profile, you'd see that one of my favorite movies is Bedazzled. It's probably one of the few comedies out there that's actually funny. But, above all, its story relives the old addage "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it".
In the movie, the main character (Brendan Fraser) is willing to do anything to capture the love of a woman; including selling his soul to the devil (Elizabeth Hurley) for seven wishes. Each one of his wishes comes true, but with a comedic and ironic twist. He asks to be rich and powerful; she turns him into a Columbian drug lord. He asks to be famous; she turns him into a professional basketball player with a small...how do I put it...winky. He asks to be a charming and alluring intellectual; she turns him into a highly renowned, Cassanova-type author--who just happens to be gay. Each one of his wishes comes true, but not in the way that he expected.
I'm starting to realize that sometimes God uses the same twisted irony when He answers prayers. That being said, I think that my new mantra would have to be "Be careful what you pray for, you might get it." Why do I always seem to learn these types of lessons the hard way?! Oh, that's right! Because I pray to God.
I guess you can say that I had it coming to me.
My experiences have made me realize one simple truth: When we go to God with a specific request, we need to be fully aware of all of the ramifications of that prayer. Simply put: Don't pray to God for strength. If you do, He'll throw tough situations in your face to make you strong. Don't pray for wisdom. If you do, He'll give you challenging and damn-near impossible problems to solve. Don't ask God for direction. If you do, don't be suprised if He tosses you out in open water and causes you to find your way to Him. Don't ask for healing unless you're willing to get punched in the face. Be careful what you pray for.
You've been warned...
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I'm completely convinced that nothing, not even Season 2 of Chapelle's Show, is funnier than politics.
I could go on and on about President Bush, but he makes too easy of a target. I could sling a few insults at Rummy, Condi, the Supreme Court, or the rest of the GOP, but what fun would that be? I could poke fun at the idiotic team of Democrats who constantly make a fool of themselves, but that joke is getting old.
Rather, I've found a few stories that gave me a good chuckle...
For starters, please tell me that you've been following the story of a certain corrupt official from Louisiana. As it appears, Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) has been caught taking bribes. Though they are only allegations, the evidence is pretty convincing. Is it just me or is the whole hiding $90000 in a freezer thing a bit shady? I mean, I've read about some pretty ridiculous made-for-TV plots out there, but this one takes the cake (the ice cream is OK because it's probably where he's stashing the rest of his loot. But I digress...). This is a story of corruption worthy of Spiro Agnew.
What I found even more amusing was that House Speaker Dennis Hastert publicly spoke out about the search of Jefferson's office (and -- *chuckle* -- his freezer). You'd think that the GOP, who have been on the losing end of corruption all year long, would be more interested in going for the kill here. Instead, in a shocking turn of events, he actually attacked the seize stating that it violates privacy and damages the "delicate balance of power among the branches of government." To make this story even more amusing, your President has ordered that the documents and evidence seized in this search be sealed for 45 days. Hmmm...
Is he really concerned about privacy rights (though his support of the Patriot Act suggests otherwise) or is he worried that maybe -- just maybe -- someone from the Department of Justice will start peeking in his freezer? It's funny how legislators don't mind molesting the Constitution and selectively applying it to things; until it hits close to home.
To spice up the humor a little more, I read about how members of the Congressional Black Caucus got all riled up when Nancy Pelosi moved that Jefferson resign from the Ways and Means committee until this whole thing was over. Is the CBC willing to stand by a fellow Black legislator even if he's a crook?! Hmm...
It'll be interesting to see how this story unfolds; particularly how the GOP, the Dems, and Black political leaders will respond. Will this corruption give the GOP a little more equilibrium for the upcoming midterms? Will Jefferson pull a race card? Will the Dems respond to allegations? Stay tuned...
Next story: I literally laughed myself into a stomach cramp when the "sounds of gunshots" at the Capitol were actually the sounds of workers in a nearby garage. So, if I'm not mistaken, the sound of a man working his garage can strike fear in the Capitol while it boasts the "best defense in the world"?! You will forgive me if I can't stop laughing at this one. So much for faith in Homeland Security...
Besides that, what makes this story even funnier (if that's possible) is that it seems to me that our nation's Capitol is full of cowards who must be doing a lot of shady stuff to get them so up in arms and paranoid. But, I'm not in the mood for conspiracy theories right now. I just want to laugh this one up for a little longer.
Next story: Normally, I hate using internet shortcodes. But when Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were both convicted for conspiracy and securities & wire fraud, I could only think of one thing: "LOL"!
It's interesting (and probably funny) to see how long -- or should I say, how short -- their terms are going to be. Likewise, I'm curious to see if the assets they stole from their shareholders and employees will be restored to their rightful owners. Regardless to what happens, I'm having my own laugh-a-pa-looza here.
Next story: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin won re-election last weekend. I was watching Fox News when the story broke. LOL! You really should have seen how shocked the reporter looked after he shared the news. Even after the infamous "Chocolate City" comment that Fox News analysts were sure spelled his demise, he pulled off a suprise political victory. That probably made a lot of writers -- who couldn't wait to present their pieces about how Nagin was dumped -- upset because that story would never make it across headlines. It was classic.
Now, comes the work. Can he deliver for the people of Naw'lins, as the hurricane season approaches? Will the federal government support him and the rest of the people in the Gulf Coastal region? Will the rebuidling efforts be successful for the sake of the thousands of homeless and displaced?
Next story: Although this is an older story, I was amused to read the article which reported that the Bushes have essentially given Katherine Harris, the Florida recount queen, the cold shoulder as she attempts to run for the Senate. Now, to be clear, I don't feel sorry for her at all. In fact -- like the rest of these stories -- I'm getting a stomach ache from laughing. But, how's this for an example of political betrayal. After virtually handing Dubya the election, they don't have the simple consideration to throw her a political bone. Whether this whole thing really is political betrayal or there is some sneaky, underhanded, and nefarious plotting being done, one thing's for sure: this story is hilarious to me.
Sometimes I wish I was cartoonist. The daily news would definitely keep me with something to joke about...
Friday, May 26, 2006
Agliophobia: The fear of pain.
My heart is hurting today. I'm in a position where I need to make some difficult and painful moves in my life. But, truth be told: I'm scared to death to do it.
I remember hearing someone once say that "The fear of pain is worse than the actual pain itself." Why did this person have to be frickin' right?! The truth is: I strongly hate the feeling of pain. I hate it so much that I do just about everything in my power to get away from it. I take refuge in school. I read. I get lost in my video games. I blog. I'll do almost anything to avoid confrontation with those things that bring me pain.
Sometimes the pain gets so bad for me that it causes me to question myself. It makes me wonder if I'm the one at fault; as if I had it coming to me or something. Sometimes, my pain deceives me into thinking that I can't get away from its grasp. It keeps me from seeing things logically, or from weighing things spiritually. It keeps me from being honest about things that I may not always want to accept.
Essentially, my pain keeps me from being real to myself.
The truth is: I'm ready for this pain to go away. I'm ready for it to stop declaring its victory over me. So, my new prayer to God is for Him to help me face the things that continue to hurt my heart. To face the pains that keep me from experiencing God and what He has for me. To face the fears of letting go of the very things that do me the most damage.
I think that it's interesting to note that it was only after Jesus' faced His fear of pain at Calvary that His identity was made clear. It was only through His suffering that someone finally said "Surely, this man is the Son of God." Maybe God is telling me that the only way to truly discover who I am is by facing the fear of pain that comes with bearing my own personal cross. Maybe I have to face the hurt and scars that come with life to come out victorious.
Maybe it's time for me to face my fear of pain.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
- Matthew 7:12 NIV
This passage has been labeled the Golden Rule. This rule has become a universally accepted principle for just about every religion on the planet. It provides us a basis upon which we should treat others. Considering the following:
Example 1: *Note* The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and, I suppose, the not-so-innocent):
A few days ago, I got into a little skirmish with a friend. My issue with him was that he neglected my needs to protect the interest of another person who may have somehow been affected by me. Although this other person probably didn't deserve this special consideration given to him by my friend (especially at my expense), he received it anyway. When I asked my friend about it, he essentially said, "Well, I wouldn't want (whatever the situation was) to happen to me, so I wasn't going to do it to him (the other person)."
Sounds good, right? Sounds like a perfect way to use the Golden Rule, right?
Example 2: Last Sunday, I went out to lunch after morning church services. I sat down in the restaurant, ate a good meal, did some reading and left. One the way back to church, I passed right by a homeless guy. I would've helped this guy out. Really. But, I was running late for church (Ain't it funny how the religious folks did the same thing to beaten man in the Good Samaritan parable? Further evidence that I also suck at being a Christian...)
The next day, as I walking through downtown during my lunch hour, I encountered another homeless man. To make up for the guilt that I had from the day before. I gave the man the rest of my sandwich. I walked a little taller that day, thinking that I had really done some good. I could stick my chest out knowing that I successfully applied the Golden Rule to my life.
Example 3: Most people who know me would say that I'm a kind-hearted person who would go to great lengths to do for other people, even if it means putting myself in a compromising position. In fact, my siblings have affectionately nicknamed me "The Captain", because I'm always "saving" other people. The list of things I've done for others could take up quite a few blogs.
I could end this post right now by telling you that these examples are perfect illustrations for how the Golden Rule works.
But, I think you all know me by now...
The truth is, these are ACTUALLY examples of how we often mistaken our good intentions with our overpowering egos. In each of the aforementioned instances, the people who committed the 'good deeds' (my friend in Example 1, me in Examples 2 and 3) didn't do so for the sake of another person, but rather to satisfy ourselves. Lately, I've noticed that I've been griping (to both my cybernetic and everyday friends) that I'm "giving, giving, giving", but not "receiving". This has been troubling my heart lately, largely because I'm starting to realize how self-centered I am. I guess I need to come clean and say that most of what I do for others is more about me being able to wear it as a shiny badge than for the other person's edification.
For the record, I've never had any beef with the Golden Rule. I mean, it's Biblical for Heaven's sake. My issue, instead, has to do with our application of it. Rather than truly doing for others, we do for others in response to what we do or don't want to happen to us. We pay our tithes and offerings so that God will bless us with tangible items in return (or to have our names visible in the church bullentin. But that's another story...) or that He'll punish us if we don't. We give to charity because we would want people to do the same for us if we were in need. We show kindness to one another because we want to be treated kindly ourselves.
But what happens to our benevolence if it's not reciprocated?
For instance, I'd like to think that I would never kill anybody. Not only is killing flat out wrong, but it causes suffering for more than just the victim. But, what if I said that the one reason why I wouldn't kill someone is because I wouldn't want someone else to kill me or someone close to me? At that point, I place more emphasis on what I don't want for myself than what I do want for the other person.
Don't get me wrong: the Bible clearly states that we should do for others in the way we want that we want them to do for us. But, it doesn't tell us to use our expectation for reciprocity as a motivator for doing what's right. If we really demonstrated God's love in our walk of life, we wouldn't need to follow a rule for us to figure out how we should treat one another and how we respond to God. Do we really need a rule to tell us that we should love, respect and do good for others? Do we really need a rule to tell us that we should love and honor God for...well, just being God?
How much of what we do for others is more about them and less about ourselves?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
A friend sent me an interesting article, Fascism Anyone?, written by Dr. Laurence Britt. Britt, a political scientist, analyzed various fascist regimes, which include Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco "El Caudillo" Franco's regime in Spain, António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, George Papadopoulos in Greece, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and Suharto in Indonesia. During his analysis, Britt discovered that each of these regimes shared 14 different characteristics. Though some of these characteristics were more prevalent in different movements, they all provide a link to the existence of fascism. Here they are:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism -- Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights -- Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to 'look the other way' or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause -- The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
4. Supremacy of the Military -- Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism -- The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and antigay legislation and national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media -- Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security -- Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined -- Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected -- The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed -- Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts -- Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment -- Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses, and even forego civil liberties, in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption -- Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions, and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections -- Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against (or even the assassination of) opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Sound like anyone we know?!
Monday, May 22, 2006
According to an article I read, a host of analysts are arguing that there is much more to the debate about making English the official language of the nation. When I think about the oppression and racism that has historically come to shape this country, I'm inclined to agree.
This debate is so ridiculous and idiotic that it offends me on every level. I mean, is there a single person in this coutry -- illegal or otherwise -- who doesn't already know that English is the language of this nation? Why does Congress feel like they have to devote unnecessary time and resources trying to affirm and notarize something that is already well known? If you want land a job in America, chances are you need to know English. If you want to watch television, listen to most music, or understand literature, chances are you know English. For that matter, if you're even reading my post right now, then you know English. Do we really need legislation to validate this? If that's the case, then -- while they're at it -- why don't they pass a bill that reminds us that Lansing is the capitol of Michigan?
Before you start thinking that I'm against the idea of making English our national language, let me assure you that I'm not. If an immigrant wants to realize the "American Dream", well then -- dammit -- they need to learn how to communicate with the vast majority of the American people; which translates into English. If I want to live out a "German Dream", then guess what? I need to learn German. Same with Japanese, Chinese, or French. Foreign exchange students have already figured this out. I suspect that most immigrants have also caught on to this already.
So why, then, are congressional bills being presented to address this issue?
I think that the problem is most of the political and social leaders are doing their best to alleviate the fears (both theirs and others) that come with having an explosion of 'immigrants' in the country. What better way to do that than to officially regulate the very thing that is the centerpiece of our existence; our ability to communicate. But mainly, I suspect that this bill is an attempt by the GOP to lure our attention from other pressing issues that they aren't handling very well. I can't say that I blame them. The best way to handle a situation is to either pass it off to someone else or to distract everyone else's attention from that situation. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Language has never just been about language. It's never just been about words, syllables, and syntax. It is a social and political tool used to maintain power and control over groups. Since language is the most critical tool for us to communicate with each other and to procure our identities, the people who control that language can ultimately control people's identities. As James Baldwin argued in his powerful article, "If Black English Ain't a Language, Then Tell Me What Is", language has the power to connect and/or separate a person or a group of people from the larger public square; making it a symbol of power. Though his eye-opening piece specifically addresses "Black Language", the same principles apply to any language which deviates from the 'standard' language used in this country. Language has always been about power.
That being said, I suppose that I'm really not all that suprised by some of the moves that Congress is trying to make. In fact, perhaps we can even file this under the "War on Racial Control" category.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
I attended a funeral this weekend. For the record, I’ve never been a fan of funerals. Although they are not as sullen and depressing as one would think (especially not in a Black Baptist Church), I can still name a thousand and five places I’d rather be. But, if you think about it, funerals are also a pretty interesting part of life. This particular funeral was pretty memorable for me; but not for the reasons that one would suspect. Let me explain:
After the service, I ran into some brotha in the restroom. I didn’t know him, nor had I ever seen him. I couldn’t tell if he was with the family, a friend of the deceased, or just a simple acquaintance. In fact, I never even bothered to get his name. What I was more interested in were some of the things that he said. I don’t even recall how the conversation came up, but he mentioned to me that he used to be an avid ‘church goer’. But his presence today marked the first time he had been to church in over fifteen years. Fifteen years! When I asked him what kept him away for so long, he replied with five simple words: “Them hypocrites in the church.” (his language was a little broken, but I understood the gist of his statement). Now, I know that this shouldn’t be an excuse for his complete dismissal of the church, but I couldn’t help but to ask myself how often the toxic practices of the church destroy people’s connection with the body of Christ and shames them to the point of no return (Lliterally; to point where they don't return).
I have to admit something here: I can talk a mean game when I’m ranting about something. But when a situation like this pops up in my face, I have a difficult time finding the right words. But – in this instance – I simply told the man, “Look. Don’t throw your salvation away just because of a few close-minded, intolerant, and perhaps ignorant people. What people think about you will never dismiss the fact that God loves you.” I think that I caught him off guard when I made this statement, largely because I imagine that he was either trying to form an “Amen Corner” with me in it; or he was trying to size me up as one of “them hypocrites”. But, when I deflected the attention away from “hypocritical” church folks and onto God’s love, I think I shocked him, though I can’t say for sure what really happened. But, from that point, his tone mellowed significantly. He even told me that he was going to go back to church. Whether he does or not is anybody’s guess.
But, all things being equal, this situation represents some serious problems. Sadly, I think that this type of stuff happens much too often in the church. Too many people have been brought to shame, anger, and discontent by church folks who have attempted to convince the rest of the world how vile, evil and rotten they are. Paul was perhaps one of the greatest and most important followers of Christ in history. But, it took deep wounding and shame for him to get to that point. But, I think that it takes a certain level of hurt, shame, and suffering for us – like Paul – to really discover Jesus.
It might sound funny for me to say, but I have a serious issue with how we try to convince sinners of how bad they are and how much they need to be ‘changed’. We tell them that that they are terrible sinners who need to turn away from all of their wrong-doing before they are accepted by God. In a way, this type of holy practice is downright scary; and – frankly – not something that I think Jesus would do. I mean, if you think about it, the Gospel consists of all sorts of stories that tell of Jesus’ ministry of restoring sinners to the dignity and fullness of being His people; long before He called them out on the actual sin itself. Why can’t we do the same? Especially, since we all had to rely on God’s grace at one point or another to free us from the guilt, shame, and bondage that came with sin. Especially, since we are all still dirty Christians today. I’ve admitted it. How about you?
The truth of the matter is: I wouldn’t be all too surprised if many church folks suffer from shame themselves. I’m not trying to judge or even criticize anybody (though there are some people who I really have in mind right now), but I think it’s important to gain important perspective on our lifestyles before we criticize others. This idea applies to me, you, the man in the bathroom, the “hypocrites” he mentioned, etc. I suspect that if any given person were to open anybody else’s secret closest, what they’d find would be boxes with deep inner recesses of sin and shame. However, because of God’s unmatched grace, we have the chance to eliminate our shame and to change our views of others. Now, does this completely dismiss the sins we commit? Of course not. But, it does – at least – give us a greater perspective of God.
Simply put: if we go around telling people how dirty, sinful, and vile they are, that’s exactly how they’ll act. Don’t believe me? Well, look no further than our prison system. More often than not, people respond to others based on how they’re treated themselves. I dare you to treat that “sinner” like some who is loved by God and see how they act in response…
It’s sad to point out that much of our lifestyle in the church has more to do with control and judgment of others than with love, forgiveness, and acceptance. As I’ve said before, much of the significance of grace stems from God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance of us, even when we were buried in our own shame. Even in the Garden, Adam’s shame led him to hide from God.
But, none of this dismissed the fact that we have a loving God who is always ready to heal, forgive and restore us. He’s waiting to take our lives our dirty, slimy, and sinful lives; and make them like new.
Can we do the same for others?
Friday, May 19, 2006
Is it just me, or is it unsettling to know that there are only 5 major corporations that own the vast majority of the media in the USA (with Vivendi Universal and General Electric closing in on this group)?
Since 1983, 50 corporations controlling news media has been reduced to 5. Five. So, in a little more than 20 years, 45 different media corporations have been merged, taken over, or eliminated. Man! What do you think this says about antitrust laws that were suppose to circumvent the formulation of these types of conglomerates?
It's scary to think that the power of the media has been reduced to a few groups because -- essentially -- whoever wields this power controls the minds of the people. This is particularly unnerving for me since, as heavy consumers, African-Americans have succumb to this more than any other group. For instance, the media has an unmatched ability to dictate pop culture; largely since they produced the movies, television shows, images, and music that we see and hear. Though most people think that recording labels like Motown, Murder, Inc., Bad Boys, and Def Jam are independent of media control, they are actually mere subsidiaries of Vivendi Universal, one of the major corporations in the U.S. Likewise, Black Entertainment Television is owned by Viacom.
Sadly, African Americans have no control over any of the messages or images that are plastered on the screen; even in -- what the artist would claim -- is his outlet. Sure, you see the artist's name on the CD cover, his/her face in the videos, him/her accepting the awards and accolades. But, the truth is, the real power is behind the scenes. The major U.S. media conglomerates determine every facet of pop culture. Troubling indeed.
Yesterday, I went to an interesting talk at Michigan State University, where the panel broke down how powerful the media really is. Said one of the panelists, "These media conglomerates are in an exclusive club, which survives largely by exploiting large groups of uninformed people. Essentially, they have the power to control what people think, how they act, and what they know."
It is interesting to note that, to the casual observer, negative images that are bombarded through the media are all the fault of African-Americans. Yet, the proverbial "buck" stops with these power whores in the media. The images that are being portrayed in the media exist mainly because corporations seek to perpetuate certain behavior to elicit a particular outcome, namely profit. Too many African-American are too distracted to pick up on that. We're more concerned with how many times 50 cent will get shot today, how many more CDs Beyonce will come out with, or how many points Kobe will hit in the next game. Now, I'm not implying that being entertained is a bad thing. In fact, I'm a frequent visitor to Detroit Pistons games (though, I'm not liking their chances in the playoffs right now). I buy CDs, DVDs, clothes, etc. like the rest of 'em. But I think it's important to understand what's also going on behind the scenes, and why it's happening.
When the media creates a subterfuge by selling images of broken families; deteriorating communities; an over-emphasis on violence, crime, and life "in the streets"; mindless consumerism; and ignorance, it's up to us to determine what entertains us and what controls us. There is too much at stake for us to allow ourselves to become so easily manipuated by the mainstream media.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Welcome to another installment of "Andre's rants".
I recently posted a comment on another guy's blog about President Bush's low approval rating. For the record, I won't call this guy out; although I'm really urged to do so. Anyway, my comment painted the 43rd President of the United States in a less-perfect-light. Though I really didn't think my statement was that crude, apparently this guy thought otherwise. He deleted my comment from his post. When I asked him why he did that, he replied (and I quote) "I've decided not to allow any unclean comments on my site."
On the one hand, I take no issue with this guy's decision. After all, it was his blog. He's free to do whatever he wants (likewise, whatever I post on my blog is at my discretion. Just so you know...) So, to that end, I don't have a problem with his decision.
But, to me, this represents a much bigger, more disturbing picture. On the one hand, as I've argued before, I think that Jesus made it a habit of defying religious folks by using uncoventional methods; labeled by Pharisees as "unholy". But, since I've already argued the life out of that point, I'll go in another direction with my other point...
You see, people like this guy cause me to ask myself if this the type of Christianity that we've been reduced to. Have we gotten to the point where we are so intolerant and closed off to others that we feel like we need to censor, delete, and protest anything that we consider "unclean"? Is complete sanctification the way to keep us "pure"? Before you answer, let me remind you that the Vatican has started a boycott of "The Da Vinci Code". Now, you can answer...
One of the tragic things that I've noticed about Christianity is that we spend too much of our time disassociating with those who we deem unholy and sinful. Instead of getting to know people different from ourselves or opening our minds to new and foreign concepts, we turn and walk the other way; thinking that any association with these things makes us culpable. In essence, we deem ourselves guily by association. Lord knows we can't do that! After all, we need leverage over the "unholy" ones so that we can thank God that we're not like them (remember the parable of the Publican and Pharisee? Same concept.).
But, how many of us realize that this type of thought process is not Christ-like?
As the Bible teaches us, Jesus was the complete opposite of most of us. He made it a point to associate with those who were on the fringe of society; marginalized for being "unclean" and sinful. He ate with sinners. He forgave prostitutes. He healed the demon-possessed. I mean, when He was at the wedding in Cana, He supplied the booze! Jesus was "one of them", while maintaining His status as God's Holy Son. What many people don't pick up on is that, as a result of the relationships Jesus has with us sinners, not only are we changed, but we are all given the opportunity to restore our lives back to the Father. What do you think would've happened if God decided to avoid us since we were "unclean"?
One of the biggest problems with Christianity is that we declare to the world how we live to follow Jesus' example while we fail to minister to a lost world. In the parable of the Good Samritan, some of the key actors were the religious folks who passed right by the beaten man so that they could 'make it to church' and be the holy, righteous, and clean followers of God in front of other believers. How many of us are like that? How many of us think that separation, disassociation, and avoidance of the unsaved is the best way to procure our cleanliness? How many of us would compromise the lives of the unsaved just so we can sleep a little better at night knowing how holy we are? How many of us would rather move to the other side of the road so that we can protect ourselves from impurity?
I don't know about you, but if avoiding the "unclean" is the price I have to pay to stay pure, then I'd rather be the impure and unclean Samaritan.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I just read an interesting article that reminds me of the tension that continues to brew over this whole immigration debate. According to the author, Tennessee (of all places) has become a battleground for immigration conflicts. In the article, he cites that:
"From 1990 – 2000, Tennessee’s Hispanic population grew by 278 percent, from 32,741 to 123,838. The state ranked sixth in the growth of foreign-born residents with a 168 percent increase that also included Asians, Africans and other nationalities. Nashville also boasts the nation’s largest Kurdish population and served as a regional voting center in the Iraqi elections."
At first this all seemed rather odd to me. I would've never equated Hispanics with Blue Grass and country music. But, in light of the demographics provided by the author, coupled with the history of racism that continues to stir in Tennessee, it makes sense that immigration debate is hot topic and that Hispanics in that area would be subject to oppression. As the author comments:
"In November 2005, a former Ku Klux Klan member, Daniel Schertz, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for building pipe bombs to kill Hispanic immigrants. Next, in May 2005, vandals scrawled Nazi graffiti on the La Lupita Mexican store in Maryville, Tenn."
I guess that, by and large, I'm not too surprised at the racial hatred aimed in the direction of Hispanics, mostly because I've expected it to show up sooner or later. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I also speculated that all of the attention given to the Hispanic community would somehow assuage some of the racial tension faced by the Black community and give us a little breathing room...
I don't presume to know where this whole immigration debate is going. But, one thing is for sure: this whole thing is going to lead to a proliferation of racist, hate crimes being committed all over the country.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Warning: I am not perfect. Though I don't drink or do drugs, sex is my number one vice. I can manipulate the truth to satisfy my own purposes. I'm stubborn as all outdoors. I'm a very negative person. I get angry. Often. I can be downright mean and inconsiderate to people; even more so to those who I feel have been mean and inconsiderate to me. I pout when things don't go the way I want them to. I can get very cynical about some of the Church's practices. I'm a procrastinator. I'm impatient. I'm very opinionated (although, I suspect that you've figured that out by now). I have zero tolerance for ignorance; especially from those who I think should know better. I like "secular" music (but, as I've said before, this isn't always a bad thing). I spend a lot of time venting. Words like "damn" and "shit" 'slip' out of my mouth way too often. Disassociation is my weapon of choice for handling people with whom I'm upset. I can be a real smart ass sometimes (see, there I go with the cussing again). Sometimes I pass right by homeless people. I hate Black Entertainment Television and I make it point to remind people -- whether they care or not. I don't always accept responsibility for my actions. I get very easily annoyed. On top of everything else, I've been known to carry deep-seated resentment.
The truth is: I can't begin to tell you how many times I've fallen short or how often I miss the mark. Sometimes, I just down-right suck at being a Christian. Nevertheless:
...I belong to God.
Friday, May 12, 2006
For those of you who don't know, one of my lifelong goals is to eventually earn a Ph.D. In fact, in my mind, I've drawn out a plan and a timeline to see this goal through.
But, what if it doesn't happen?
Someone once told me that as we draw up the plan for our lives, we should always follow the path toward our Plan A. That way, you have no other choice but to do what you've always dreamed of doing. Initially, that made sense to me. If I decided in my mind that I wanted a Ph.D.; then -- dammit -- I'm going to get myself a Ph.D.; or die trying. But, after thinking about it, I'm starting to disagree with this idea.
I think that, in life, we all need a Plan B. The reality is that dreams don't always come true. Not every basketball player makes it to the NBA. Not every aspiring actor/actress will win an Academy Award. Not every musician will sell 10 million albums and win a Grammy Award. Every professional won't land their dream job. Every friendship/marriage/relationship won't last. Every child won't succeed in school (courtesy of the No Child Left Behind Act. But, I digress...) .
Essentially, life won't always turn out like we planned.
Sometimes we drop the ball ourselves by screwing up the Plan A's in our life. Sometimes, however, things happen that are beyond our control. I mean, you've got people who do everything right and still face a Plan A that didn't work. I think that's why we need a Plan B. Plan B, as I see it, is a second chance. It allows for us to make up for whatever situation that prevented us from living out our Plan A; without holding on to the resentment and disappointment that we could carry for having to "settle" for the Plan B. If identified properly, our Plan B's can give us the peace that even our Plan A's couldn't.
In some way, I think that Plan B's can also apply to our relationship with Christ. I believe that Jesus is a Plan B type of person. Through His grace and His love for us, He restores new life in us and allows us to start all over again, even when we screw up. He sets us up so that we don't have to stay stuck in a Plan A that doesn't seem to be working. Likewise, the Plan B's that are in place can turn out so well that they make us forget about our Plan A.
Will this stop me from pursuing my Plan A? No way. But, will I embrace the possibility of a Plan B, C, D, or E? I most certainly will.
So if your Plan A isn’t working the way you'd like for it to, I think it's important to remember that Jesus' Plan B includes grace, hope, and new life. As the Bible reminds us, He wants to give us the desires of our heart; even if we don't know what they are yet.
Have a blessed weekend, folks. And, to the mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Never mind the fact that he's a blithering idiot. Never mind the fact that he makes up his own words during speeches. Never mind that, as a 'leader', he has made America the laughing stock of the world.
Sometimes, I wish I was George W. Bush.
(1) He's rich and privileged.
(2) Despite being incompetent, a constant failure, and...well...a moron, he manages to keep his followers supporting him.
(3) Finally, when he scratches his friends backs, they scratch his.
Must be nice to be President...
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
"A furious storm came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a pillow. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Master, don't you care if we drown?' "
- Mark 4:37-38, NIV
Sometimes the idea of going through life's storms really scares me. I think that, when it comes down to it, I'm mostly afraid of being uncomfortable. For the most part, the waters in my life have been pretty calm. So, I really don't know the feeling of weathering a huge storm. Sure, I've had my fair share of doubts, pains, and hurts; but I've never been a real storm. I mean, I've lost loved ones to death, had my heart broken, dealt with questionable friendships, been poor, and struggled through school. But, all things being equal, I'd say that I've only had to deal with a few simple storms.
In fact, through it all, I'd actually say that I came out pretty good. I've managed to accomplish a few things in my life, maintained some solid relationships, stayed out of trouble (for the most part), and kept a pretty clear and sane mind (again, for the most part). I've always had a roof over my head. I've never gone without having food on my table (though, last week I only had eggs and a bag of beets in my fridge. But, I digress...). Most of all, I have God on my side.
Yet, I find myself afraid of some of life's troubles.
What's interesting to note about the disciples at sea was that, even when they had Jesus on their side, they were still afraid. They were afraid of the gushing water. They were afraid of the strong winds. But, mostly, they were afraid that Jesus didn't seem to care. After all, this dude was asleep at the bottom of the boat.
The truth is, I don't believe that Jesus was really too concerned about the storm. I mean, how else could He get in such a good nap, even in the midst of all the chaos? I can just see Jesus now: knocked out unconscious at the bottom of the ship, with a little drool hanging from His mouth, muttering something about a three-piece chicken dinner in His sleep. That type of peace tells me that for Jesus, the same storm that froze His disciples in fear, wasn't that big of a deal to Him. The last thing on Jesus' mind was some silly storm.
I think that it's important to realize that we will all face storms. It's almost inevitable. As we travel across our own personal sea, we're sure to face opposition from the storms of life. Though most of our storms aren't really that strong, sometimes they feel like they can be. That said, it's really easy to get rattled, to lose faith, and to live in fear. But going through storms is all a part of life. It's all a part of the transitions we take so that we can move from one place in our lives to another. And even when it feels like we're being overwhelmed by our fierce storms, we should be able to rest knowing that Jesus is still with us.
Now, I'll admit: Sometimes when problems get ahold of me, I want to head down to the botoom of the ship and, like the disciples, yell to Jesus: "Dude, don't you care if I drown?!" If I did, I think that He'd eventually wake up and calm the storm for me. But, I don't think He'd do it because I really needed to be saved from the storm, but rather to show me that He's always there for me. Just because it may appear that Jesus is sleeping, doesn't mean He's won't be there for us; and it certainly doesn't mean that He's not concerned about us. It's just that He's not worried by the problems that have us so perplexed.
So, if Jesus can sleep during the storm, why can't we?
Friday, May 05, 2006
In an interesting turn of events, Zacharias Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison. After deliberating for a week, the jury was unable to unanimously decide on the death penalty, leaving life imprisonment as the only other option.
It's likely that Moussaoui will spend the rest of his life in the Florence Maximum Security Prison in Colorado; dubbed the "Alcatrez of the Rockies". Initially, I was a little unnerved by this, mostly because of how cruel and unusual the punishment is at this instution. At this facility, prisoners spend 23 hours a day in their small, cold and damp cells; with concrete furniture, a small TV, and none of the amenities that most country club prisons have these days. The other hour of their day is used for solitary exercise (under strict supervision, of course). The conditions of this prision are virtually uninhabitable.
Other opponents of his life imprisonment (i.e. Nancy Grace, the nutcase that she is) use a skewed manipulation of numbers and dollars as justification in support of the death penalty. According to their uncalculated numbers, it will cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $50,000 a year to keep Moussaoui incarcerated. Being a numbers man myself, I'll have to actually see those figures first before I buy into that argument.
But, after thinking about it for a moment, this is a perfect punishment for sending the right message. For one, lifelong incarceration is effective. Studies have shown that people who serve life sentences are much more likely to develop pyschological complications than convicts with limited and parolable sentences. At the outset, this sounds like a pretty mean and cruel thing to impose on another person. But, if you think about it, although the prison system is allegedly designed to punish for the purpose of rehabilitating, that's not necessarily the case with lifelong convicts. Chances are, those who are condemned to life imprisonment have done something so horrible, that they forgo their rights to live happy and normal lives themselves. What better way to ensure this than by locking them up until they die (versus being barbarians and killing them ourselves)? The slow decay of time, lonliness, and diminishing sanity is a fate far worse than death.
Secondly, (and what many pro-death penalty people don't seem to get) life imprisonment robs the 'bad guy' of the opportunity of being a hero in their own eyes. For many Islam extremists (for that matter, most terrorists), their own death is the perfect conclusion to their work. They want to "go out" in a blaze of glory by making the ultimate sacrifice for their cause. By robbing them of that instant death, they are left to settle for -- what they believe -- is a prolonged, less-than-honorable death. For instance, I once read that a Japanese kamikaze actually lived through his suicide attempt and was so depressed about it, that he later killed himself anyway. The point is: some people are so convinced that they have a higher calling to die for a cause, that living through it is almost unbearable for them.
Finally, and perhaps most notable, were the interviews with two women who had lost loved ones on 9/11. Interestingly, both women praised the jury for their decision not to execute Moussaoui . I have to say that I share in their sentiments. The last thing we need to do -- in this "war on terror" -- is to create a martyr for Al Qaeda. To me, this jury has single-handedly done more for our security and international reputation than Bush or any of his buddies have ever done. There is no better way to slap the Bush Administration, Fox News, or Al Qaeda in the face than by fighting terrorism with means other than incompetence, lies, and violence. Above all, this event -- I think -- shows the entire world that not all of us have subscribed to the archaic and brute practice of the death penalty.
Are we allowing an evil terrorist to live on? Yes. Are we better off because of it? I believe we are.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
According to an article, conservative talk show pundit Rush Limbaugh was arrested on drug charges. Apparently, he was caught "doctor shopping" for painkillers. For those of us who aren't drug addicts, that means that he was illegally deceiving numerous doctors so that he could receive overlapping prescriptions. Though he pled "not guilty" to the charge, there's no secret that the guy's a serious addict.
A part of me felt sorry for him. Anyone who has developed such a strong and uncontrollable addiction to drugs has my sympathy. But, after the eight second sympathy period I had for him, I've been laughing at him ever since.
Here are a few interesting quotes that I dug up:
"Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."
-- Rush Limbaugh
"What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use, too many whites are getting away with drug sales, too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."
-- Rush Limbaugh
"It's kind of like sentencing. A lot of people say that we have a heavy sentence for this crime and a light sentence for another crime, and what we ought to do is reduce the heavy sentence so it's more in line with the other. Wrong. In most cases we ought to increase the light sentence and make it compatible with the heavy sentence, and be serious about punishment because we are becoming too tolerant as a society, folks, especially of crime, in too many parts of the country."
-- Rush Limbaugh
What's interesting to note about this whole thing is that Limbaugh's offense can be dismissed in 18 months if he stays in treatment and gets his act together. He is also required to pay the State of Florida a $30,000 restitution for the cost of the investigation. So apparently, despite his strong arguments suggesting that drug offenders need to be hit with heavy sentences, he'll be receiving a mere slap on the wrist.
Ironic, isn't it?
Monday, May 01, 2006
My apologies go out to my cybernetic comrads out there (all three of you!). I haven't been as prolific with this blogging thing as I normally am. Mostly, I've been struggling through finals (as I'm learning graduate school is a lot more difficult than undergrad...). On top of that, there is something to be said about the whole 40+ hour a week employment thing. After a while, these types of things take their toll on even the most disciplined person.
However, if something compels me enough, I'll take a moment to comment on it. Whether it's something God put on my heart, a conversation that I had with someone, something that happened in the news, or an experience that I've gone through, I'll always find time -- irrespective to how busy I might be -- to share my thoughts on it. I had such an experience yesterday...
Without getting into all of the explicit details, I'll sum up my experience with one word:
...or, should I say, a lack thereof.
Let me ask you a simple question: At what point do you give up on the people for whom you'd do ANYTHING, when it appears that they've completely given up on you? I mean, how far do you go to be mindful and considerate of others when they fail to offer even a little consideration for you?
What happens if relationships that you've tried to form with others aren't met with any reciprocity?