brotherpeacemaker

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What Happened Mr. McClellan?

Scott McClellan’s new book, What Happened, is about some of the more embarrassing and sensitive inner happenings of the George H.W. Bush presidency while Mr. McClellan held the position as the White House press secretary. Mr. McClellan served in this role for a little more than two and a half years from July 19, 2003 through April 26, 2006. It has been two years since Mr. McClellan resigned from his post in Mr. Bush’s presidency. And his new book has quickly caught the attention of the various political and entertainment machines.

There is a lot of speculation about Mr. McClellan’s motivation for picking right now to release his book. Didn’t he know there was a presidential race going on at the moment? Then again, the way American politics work, there’s always a presidential race in progress. Regardless, the current presidential race, quickly winding down to a two man contest, is ideal timing for this particular read.

A CNN article has described Mr. McClellan as “dismayed and disillusioned” about the incidents involving the clandestine release of classified information outing Valerie Plame, the fact that President Bush had secretly declassified a report on Iraq so Vice President Dick Cheney and “Scooter” Libby could disclose the information to reporters, and quoted Mr. McClellan the day after his memoir hit bookstore shelves as saying, “We had been out there talking about how seriously the President took the leaking of classified information, and here we were learning that the President had authorized the very same that we were criticizing.”

Mr. McClellan also said that the White House manipulated intelligence in the run-up to the war to in order to make the invasion of Iraq the only inevitable conclusion. “One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency,” he wrote. “Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”

He described the aftermath to hurricane Katrina, arguably one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history was one of the biggest disasters of the Bush administration as it failed miserably to protect and defend American citizens. The Bush administration was mired in propaganda and political spin and fabricated an altered truth. Sounds like typical political bullshit if you ask me. Mr. McClellan’s book tells us nothing we didn’t already know if we only cared to look and to pay attention to what was going on at the time. But Mr. McClellan says that he was so naïve that he actually believed Karl Rove and Mr. Libby. He actually believed that the President wanted to help the people in New Orleans. And this is Mr. McClellan’s way of setting the record straight at $27.95 a copy.

Nevertheless, current and former Bush administration officials have circled the wagons and have roundly refuted the Mr. McClellan’s claims. A senior administration official not authorized to speak about the book or on behalf of the White House said, “Scott McClellan’s assertions about the administration’s decision to go into Iraq are just flat-out wrong and not supported by the facts.” But the facts are that this President has routinely and intentionally misled the public on a variety of subjects and has little credibility. A look back on this administration’s record would make a snake oil salesman scratch his head and say “god damn”.

Current White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said of the release of McClellan’s memoirs, “Scott is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.”

Former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend said advisers to the President should speak up when they have policy concerns. Mr. Townsend said, “Scott never did that on any of these issues as best I can remember or as best as I know from any of my White House colleagues. For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional.”

Former White House adviser Karl Rove said on the FOX News network that the excerpts from the book make Mr. McClellan sound like a left wing blogger rather than his former colleague.

But one thing none of these people said was that the details Mr. McClellan spells out in What Happened are untrue or incorrect. The comments are little more than attacks against his character as someone who is sad, disgruntled, or inappropriate. He is now depicted as a leftist. But if you read in between the proverbial lines, it sounds like Mr. McClellan might be a left wing blogger who just so happens to be telling the truth.

What we have here is a number of Bush administration personnel practicing their own version of the no snitch policy followed by various police agencies, military units, government agencies, corporate insiders, Girl Scout troops, but made famous by the insistence that the black community is hampering police investigations. Mr. McClellan provides us with a first hand look at what happens when someone in the Washington inner circle has the audacity to expose the truth about executive branch incompetence and politically skewed bias at the expense of the nation’s welfare. The problems are not the latest version of the incompetence or misdoings of the President’s administration. The problem is that someone on the inside has betrayed the secrecy of the incompetence and misdoings.

What will Mr. McClellan have for his troubles? He is now on the outs of any future with any Republican administration. If Mr. McClellan wants any influence in the District of Columbia he had better hope for a Democratic win in November. But then again, now that he sees first hand the length these people who seek all this political power will go to maintain their control at the expense of the people, why would he want to stay connected to such a self serving and narcissistic system of influence?

Former White House counter terrorism chief turned Bush administration critic Richard Clarke said that the reaction to Mr. McClellan’s book has a familiar ring to it. Said Mr. Clarke, “They’re saying some of the exact same things about McClellan they said about me. I think the difference with McClellan’s book is he’s now telling us something we all know, that the war with Iraq was a disastrous war [and] was sold with deception. It’s a little different when you say something as I did and a few other people did four or five years ago, when the war was popular and when we were unpopular for saying what we said.”

Friday, May 30, 2008 Posted by | Iraq, Life, News, Republicans, Thoughts | Leave a comment

White Privilege Under Attack

A white internet surfer was lamenting the fact that white people are being treated like second class citizens. This person felt this way despite the fact that white people control the vast majority of wealth in the United States. He or she felt this way despite the fact that white people obtain the majority of educational opportunities at the majority of institutions for higher learning. This person felt this way even though white people occupy the vast majority of upper, middle, and lower echelons of government positions. And the number of white people who are in executive, middle, and lower management positions in corporate America overwhelms any other racial minority.

This person felt this way despite the vast majority of white actors and actresses in movies and television programs that dwarf their black counterparts. For every black actress there must be a hundred white ones. For every Halley Berry, who claims not to be fully black because her mother was white, there are dozens of Kate Hudsons, Angelina Jolies, Kate Blanchettes, Gwen Stefanis, Reese Witherspoons, and Hillary Swanks. For every Will Smith there are dozens of Joaquin Phoenixes, Jack Blacks, Russell Crowes, Viggo Mortensens, Dennis Quaids, Ben Afflecks, Matt Damons, and Jake Gyllenhaals. But white people who want to go into acting can’t catch a break these days because of all the movies and television programs that don’t feature white people.

Across America there are thousands and thousands of companies with office staffs that are predominantly white. Many of these companies don’t even have a black employee in the office. And many of these companies don’t even have a black person on the payroll. Let one of these companies take proactive steps to racially diversify their workforce and the next white person who doesn’t get a job will be suing with claims of reverse discrimination. White people who apply for jobs at predominantly white companies can’t find a job these days.

From the perspective of a lot of people, white people are treated like second class citizens for having to share social resources with nonwhites. The moment some white people realize that they don’t have an exclusive choke hold on opportunities, these people begin to feel that white existence is under attack. Some people have yet to learn that white privilege is not a god given right but an artificial construct of a culture so dominating that it thinks nothing of locking nonwhites in chains for the crime of being not white.

One of the most evil institutions that ran contrary to the great establishment of white privilege was affirmative action. Wikipedia describes affirmative action as a set of policies and/or programs intended to promote access to education and/or employment opportunities aimed at historically socially or politically oppressed groups, typically minority men and/or women of all races. The motivation for affirmative action policies is to help rectify the effects of wrongful discrimination in the past and to encourage public institutions to be more representative of a racially diverse population.

But the protectors of white privilege countered affirmative action with claims of reverse discrimination. Suddenly, institutions that tried to correct their history of focusing on providing opportunities exclusively to the white community are being too unfair to white people. Companies with beaucoup white people on the payroll are suddenly unfair to white people and are being successfully sued for not hiring even more white people. But white people never sue an institution because an inferior white person is hired. However, it is a near given when black people are involved.

It’s not fair to do anything to correct the hundreds of years white privilege has enjoyed at the expense of the other races. It’s much better to keep the status quo and let white privilege continue rather than give affirmative action any legitimacy. In fact, everyday more and more black people are convinced that affirmative action is more hurtful to the black community than helpful. The fact that many black people calling for its demise actually benefited from these affirmative action programs is just an awful coincidence best overlooked. People who are benefiting from white privilege will support anyone who will promote the end of affirmative action and other concepts that can threaten white privilege. Black people who call for an end to affirmative action are one of this world’s greatest ironies.

White privilege is in no danger of disappearing. It is strong and it is flourishing to greater limits each and every day. No matter what measure a person applies to success white people are overwhelmingly represented.

It must be admitted that white privilege is much more satisfying and/or more gratifying for white people when other races do without. Black people getting jobs mean fewer jobs for white people. It doesn’t matter if white people who make up seventy percent of the population and are already getting ninety five percent of the jobs and the educational opportunities. White privilege needs it all. White privilege needs every last opportunity in order to make sure other people better understand their place in the social, economic, political ladder. White privilege does not thrive when it has to indulge the black community or the Latino community or any other non white community. In order to be secure in itself white privilege needs to make sure it has it all. Anything less is an attack on white privilege.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts, White Privilege | 6 Comments

Too Racist For Our Own Good

Last week Senator Barack Obama lost to Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary contest in Kentucky. Ms. Clinton won sixty five percent of the vote while Mr. Obama received only a piddling thirty percent. But that’s better than the twenty five percent or so that he was able to gain in West Virginia last week.

An exit poll of the people who voted for Ms. Clinton revealed that more than forty two percent would vote for Senator John McCain if Mr. Obama won the nomination and another twenty three percent would simply stay at home. Interviews with some of these voters were displayed on CNN and you could hear a variety of reasons why these people wouldn’t vote for Barack Obama. People in Kentucky claimed that they didn’t know anything about him or what he stood for. There must be a ton of caves and a lot of rocks keeping people in Kentucky from educating themselves. But then again, the uneducated, white working class is Ms. Clinton’s core constituency. Another interviewee said that he was suspicious of Mr. Obama’s Muslim connections and his affiliation with the Christian Reverend Jeremiah Wright. However, another interviewer was very candid and said that he couldn’t see a black man as President. In my opinion, what the interviewer should have said was that he didn’t want to see a black man as the President.

The last seven years have been a dismal time for the majority of the populace of this country. Economics are seriously screwed. Status in the global community has plummeted. We are embroiled in two wars that have connotations of perpetuity. The American constitution has been trampled by the executive branch of government. Gas prices have tripled since George Bush took office. We can’t even fly across the country without surrendering our rights at the airport. A Republican President with a Republican controlled Congress has rubberstamped every single piece of legislation Mr. Bush wanted. So many of our constitutional rights have been compromised with executive orders marketed to the public as giving government the tools necessary to keep us safe. Our image as the leader of the free world, the entire world, has been seriously tarnished.

Mr. McCain has promised the American people that he will continue the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He has promised that he would reduce government oversight of the privately held institutions that have led to the housing crisis. While most economist say that there should have been someone watching what these institutions were doing, Mr. McCain says that he doesn’t want anyone to control the greed of the handful of people who control these high wealth, low morals organizations. There will be no suing for peace under John McCain’s presidency. The key to diplomacy is essentially to unilaterally bomb our adversaries into submission. The judges that Mr. McCain wants to appoint to the bench will be along the lines of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia is the justice that said on a 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl that racial slavery is constitutional simply because our founding fathers exercised this particularly devastating form of slavery when the constitution was written. The subjugation of black people is constitutional in America. This is the justice who says that the constitution does not guarantee protection from a painful state sponsored death. This is the justice that says torture is acceptable as long as it is not in the form of punishment. I find more justices of this ilk seriously scary as an example of what I can expect from Mr. McCain as President.

A lot of people should see the writing on the wall. The nation is going to hell in a hand basket. Compassionate conservatism is seriously kicking our collective ass. But so many people are so racist that they would be willing to vote against their own interest just to keep a black man from obtaining the highest office in our land. And considering the other contenders for the presidency, this black man just might be the best candidate available despite his flaws. It is a fair bet that Mr. Obama would be a refreshing change after all the damage that our Republican executive leadership has done.

People don’t trust the black candidate. He says he is not a Muslim. But if you don’t trust a man who you condemn for his affiliation with a Christian pastor that has caused him political headaches to say that he is a Christian and not a Muslim then it becomes pretty obvious you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If people in this country don’t want to see a black man as President so strongly that they don’t protect their interests, if they are so willing to cutoff their nose to spite their face, then we truly deserve whatever may come of our national collective shortsightedness.

In typical double standard fashion many people point to Barack Obama and ask why he didn’t or couldn’t win over people so racist that they would prefer to go broke and do without than give a black man a chance to be President. Knowing Mr. Obama is facing people’s ingrained, hostile racial prejudice against black people, some people point and ask the question why he can’t win these people over. I would offer a guess because he is black.

Instead of asking the question how we as a nation combat the problem of racial discrimination, a problem way too many of us continue to tolerate and allow to flourish, we perceive it to be a personal problem of Mr. Obama’s character. We expect Mr. Obama to bend over backwards and convince people who would be more likely to string him up from the nearest tree than to vote for this man to be their President. It reinforces the presumption that racism is a personal problem instead of a social problem. It reinforces the notion that all he has to do is work harder to convince these people that even though he is black he will do his best to be the best President these people ever had. And no matter how hard he works, for some people, white as well as black, he just can’t bend back far enough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 9 Comments

Only In Texas

About fifteen years ago, as a young adult minding my own business as a resident of Texas, I received a letter in the mail from the state saying that I had to report for a paternity test. If I failed to show up for testing I would be arrested. I was livid. I did not recognize the name of the woman who was suing me. She had a two year old child and had identified me as the father. I called the state office that sent the letter. I told them I didn’t know who the woman was and that I was not the father of her child. Well, the testing would prove that beyond a doubt. What evidence do you have that I might be the father? We have your name, that’s good enough for us. I was livid, livid. I called a lawyer. The lawyer’s advice was for me to quit wasting his time and just submit to the test. I was most livid. I think I was the lividest I had ever been in my life up to that point. If I wanted to go on with my life I had to submit. Technically, they couldn’t force me to surrender blood for a paternity test. All they could do is lock me up and ruin my life until I agreed to have the test performed.

If someone from the Maury Povich show gave me a call and asked for me to be on the television program so they could determine the paternity of a woman’s child I would hang up on them without even a discourteous goodbye. I would hang up not out of fear of being somebody’s baby daddy. I just know the chances of me being somebody’s baby’s daddy are better than the chances of this country actually developing the collective will to seriously make racism a thing of the past. Why? This is a bit embarrassing for me, but I have never had a history of sleeping around. I was in my early twenties when I lost my virginity. You can lose a couple of digits and still count the number of women I’ve slept with on your fingers. I don’t think I could ever meet a woman in a bar and bag her that night. I need to get to know a person. I need to know that we have something in common. I need to know who a woman is and if I find her attractive and compatible on an intellectual level. Sex with a woman is more than just banging away with a pelvic thrust. It involves mind and body and soul. And easy women just don’t do anything for me.

Anyway, the state of Texas didn’t buy any of my arguments and I had to submit. I called the office and made the appointment. But then a day later the office called back and said that a paternity test was unnecessary and that I was free to go about my business. What about all the anxiety I’ve been through for the past week or so? Mr. Peacemaker, do you want a couple of sheriffs to come over there and show you what could still happen? We still have quite a few unsolved cases. My recommendation is that you shut the hell up and consider your self lucky that my finger doesn’t slip and hit the sheriff’s number on the speed dial. The state of Texas takes the safety of children very seriously and we always err on the side of caution.

That is until the children at a polygamist compound of white people gets the public’s attention. An appeals judge in Texas has ruled that the state was out of line when state officials made the assumption that there may be a reasonable risk that other children might be in danger because there were a few children already in danger. A judge in Texas believes that a compound with a history of fifteen year old girls being unofficially married to fifty year old men, getting impregnated, and having babies is a perfectly safe and wholesome environment for other children.

I have seen extraordinary stories of children being removed from their homes, taken away from their parents, because one of them winds up in hospital with an arm injury after an accident. Let a child appear in the emergency room and hospital personnel are bound by law to call Child Protective Services if anything looks the least bit fishy. State personnel will show up at people’s home and will take the injured child away and every child in the home without hesitating to think that the whole affair may be an overreaction to a legitimate accident. Children are clumsy. Parents are human. Accidents will happen. And children get taken away by the state until people can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their living environment is safe.

Given such proclivity to protect children from the normal, accident prone residence, how in the world can anyone with a reasonable intelligence quotient make the assumption that this polygamist ranch with not just one or two examples of statutory rape but an extensive history of such behavior a safe environment for any child let alone well over four hundred? That’s their belief system is not a sufficient answer.

I remember my government class back when I was a virgin in high school. We learned that here in America we are entitled to believe whatever we want. We are free to believe that the eleventh commandment says that a man can marry and have sex with girls as young as eight years old. But if the law says that it is a crime for fifty year old men to have sex with underage girls then men better believe they’re going to jail for breaking the law and having sex with underage girls.

But not in Texas! A judge doesn’t know for a fact that the other children are in danger in an environment where just about every fifteen year old girl is being bagged by men as old as fifty years. The state hasn’t proven anything and common sense isn’t a factor. Send over four hundred children back to the polygamist ranch. There’s nothing to see here. But the woman who dropped dime up in Colorado that started this whole ball of wax rolling is the real criminal in this whole affair. It is interesting that with the hundreds and hundreds of people involved in this ordeal of statutory child rape, the only person who is being prosecuted so far is the black woman who lived in another state. Only in Texas!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 Posted by | Life, Thoughts | | Leave a comment

Memorial Day Reflections

Everybody is expressing so much gratitude to the American military for their effort on behalf of the country. Considering all the support, or lack thereof, from the executive branch of the federal government, with all the swagger and bravado challenging insurgents to, “bring’em on”, and the insistence of secrecy and executive privilege to prevent the truth about the reasoning for such a commitment for war in Iraq and a similar push that seems to be forming for war in Iran, the insistence to keep our troops in a destabilizing role in the middle east, our troops have done a tremendous job.

Unfortunately, many people who work for many people in America have to work for people who don’t hold much of an opinion for the little people. The President may shed a tear or two when it is politically advantageous to make a public appearance for the sake of a favorable public opinion. But the man could not give a rat’s ass about the people who worked for him. We see the manifestations of how much he cares when stories appear about how disabled veterans are neglected and their claims of injury in the service of their country are denied for the sake of saving money. This is nothing more than a typical business practice in America. Cut losses. Cut people!

A lot of people made the choice to join the service fully aware of the possible commitments they were making. Join the military and you will go off to war. Join the National Guard and there is a good chance that you too will be called to go off to war. And since 9/11 everybody knows that odds are that you will get shipped to Iraq or to Afghanistan. More than four thousand of our troops have made the ultimate sacrifice for their chosen profession. Tens of thousands of others have come home with physical injuries. And countless others have come home with post traumatic stress disorder. Our troops have made the choice of a profession that demands so much sacrifice from so many of our troops with so little to gain. The troops deserve better from a government, from a President that demands so much. Troops deserve better. They have a tough job to do. A lot of people say we the people owe these troops.

I appreciate the service of the men and women in the military. The United States would not be the country it is now without a strong military presence. But I also appreciate the service of the men and women who work to pull oil out of the bottom of the sea and bring that precious fluid to the corner gas station despite the fact that the executives they work for will earns a nine figure annual income while the oil conglomerate itself will earn an eleven figure income. Sometimes there are accidents and the people will be injured or lose their life in the process of hunting oil. We owe these people a debt of gratitude for their service.

I appreciate the service of the people who work to put food in the grocery store. I just heard that some of the grapes I eat have to come from as far away as the southern tip of South America. Some other food staple was coming all the way from New Zealand. A variety of food staples that used to be grown over in the next county now have to come from continents on the bottom half of the world. My salmon usually comes from the pacific ocean and I try to stay away from the farm raised stuff. But my eggs are usually farm raised. Not to mention the people who transport the food, stock the food, and others who work the store where I buy my food. An entire army of people are working hard to put food on my table and I am grateful to each and every one of them.

I appreciate the people who work to put clothing in the store for me to buy. I appreciate the people who put the building supplies into the lumber store. I appreciate the people who put together my family’s Honda Accord and our Chrysler Town and Country. I appreciate the struggles of the people who keep the utilities on in my house, despite the fact that Ameren UE wanted to keep me from having service until I paid the previous tenet’s outstanding electric bill. I appreciate the workers at Maytag for my refrigerator and my oven. I appreciate the people at the hospital where my son was born. I appreciate a lot of people.

And I hope people appreciate the contribution I make to our culture. I hope people appreciate the credit card processing software for the fleet billing system I developed for one of the oil companies I worked for. I hope people appreciate the database synchronization system one of the communication companies I worked for had me develop in order to keep their various databases current with the same information. I hope the public appreciates the database application I developed to help a commodities trader that I worked with determine their profitability. Not many software developers lose their life in the line of work. But like a lot of people, we make the choice to go into a profession with its own ups and downs. At least a lot of people don’t have to worry that some guy over in India is trying to put them out of work with promises of doing a lot of things easier and cheaper.

My point is that despite all of our chosen professions we all have a job to do to keep things going. We all have to work together to keep our civilization smoothly running. To think one part of the social equation is more important than another is to overemphasize one part and to take another part for granted. We owe a lot to our veterans. That’s a given. But we owe a lot to people that we don’t normally recognize. And while it is true that being a doctor or a soldier or a police officer takes skill and training that not everybody may be apt to develop, it doesn’t mean that the garbage collector or the bus driver or the ditch digger is someone that we don’t have to acknowledge.

We all have a job to do. We all have to work together to do all the things necessary to make a civilization. No one owes me for the choices I made to do my part. I don’t think I should be made to feel like I owe somebody for the choices he or she made to do his or her part. We are all in this together. The more we start to appreciate or recognize one part more than another then we start giving status to some and leave others out and left to be taken for granted. And that and that is hardly a formula for a good union.

Monday, May 26, 2008 Posted by | Life, Thoughts | | Leave a comment

No Comparison

Like a lot of people I have been keeping an eye on the happenings in China since the massive earthquake last week. I have to applaud the Chinese government. For all practical purposes the government went into action the moment the disaster struck. There was no hemming and hawing for bureaucratic paperwork or fussing over the details regarding the appropriate protocol for helping people in immediate need. It was common sense that the massive quake would overwhelm the local or provincial government’s ability to handle the crisis. Governments from all over the world were stepping forward to offer aid. It was a humanitarian crisis and it would take humanity to respond. The official number of dead has risen steadily standing at about thirty thousand as I write this. The death toll will be changed higher before I will finish writing this article.

I cannot help but compare the Chinese government’s response to their earthquake disaster to the United State government’s response to the hurricane known as Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the President all proved too politically motivated to help all the people whose lives were turned upside down by the storm of the century. When President George H.W. Bush exercised foresight and declared parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama disaster areas, he conveniently left out the heavily African American areas such as New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. The explanation from the executive branch of the federal government was that the Governor of Louisiana didn’t ask for help. But Governor Blanco produced a letter in which she specifically asked for a declaration of all parts of Louisiana along the gulf coast. Despite the lack of a quick response to the disaster, our government excelled when it came to finger pointing.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe we all would have a different take on China’s response to their disaster had there been an area with a heavy black population. Maybe the Chinese government would have held back any aid to their black citizens until they provided the appropriate paperwork through the appropriate channels. Maybe three years from now China will continue to have the affected population staying in temporary shelters and suffering from formaldehyde poisoning like so many people in the wake of Katrina are being poisoned in their temporary mobile homes built with lumber cured with formaldehyde for the past three years.

We already know that the Chinese premier visited the area and gave comfort to the masses in a fraction of the time it took the American President to visit New Orleans. The day after the disaster China had over a hundred thousand troops working to help the populace. It took America’s National Guard five days to find New Orleans on their maps. People existed without food, water, medical care, sanitation, and any hope that their government cared about their welfare for five days. The idea of airlifting supplies to all those people concentrated around the Superdome in downtown New Orleans just never occurred to anybody who could have made a difference.

This is not to say that China is doing everything right while America did everything wrong. On the contrary, China has its own set of problems. I’m sure many people will contend that the Chinese government’s response to the earthquake was entirely too slow. But honestly, as of Thursday morning, less than seventy two hours after the initial quake, more than 130,000 Chinese troops were engaged in relief efforts. Rescuers were operating in each and every county and town stricken. Military transporters and helicopters had made over three hundred flights to either transport or airlift rescuers or relief supplies. Seventy two medical teams with over two thousand medical personnel were in the area. Comparisons with Katrina response are inevitable. But really there is no comparison.

Saturday, May 24, 2008 Posted by | China, Hurricane Katrina, Life, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Lapel Pins And Patriotism

In the belief system of Ifa, a person who is initiated in a ceremony that recognizes an Orisa is referred to as an iyawo which can be literally translated as bride of Orisa. It is a spiritual process meant to heighten our awareness and social consciousness. As a fresh iyawo initiate we are to don all white clothing from head to toe and wear an all white bag, white hat, and all white accessories when we venture out into the public. This will help the community identify the iyawo in their midst so they can pay their respects.

But I have come to believe that the wearing of all white is a crutch to make things so obvious for even the most dense in our community. The white clothes makes the recognition of the iyawo so plain and simple that a moron can pick him or her out of a crowd. But I’ve developed a theory that if the Ifa community wants to know who is the new initiate in our midst, if the iyawo wants the community to know that he or she is the iyawo in our midst, their behavior and their character will be a much more accurate measure of their spirituality. Anybody can put on all white clothes and say that they are a student of Ifa. But when you take the principles of Ifa to heart, when the principles become imbedded as part of your conscience, those people who themselves are truly aware of good character will know that you are a student of Orisa and ancestors. White clothing is little more than window dressing giving people who want the expediency of being instantly recognized as a new student of Ifa as well as others who want to be able to see the new students of Ifa, a way to recognize each other.

In the short time that I have been aware of Ifa, I have been severely disappointed with the character of some of the iyawos I have met. More often than not their character is not one of being an integral part of and in service to the community at large, but their character is more one that expects to be served by the community simply because they wear white. The principles of inclusion and of community that should be an integral part of our spirituality and our sense of insignificance in this wondrous universe take a back seat to the promotion of self importance by learning rituals, prayers, dancing, singing and language so we can impress others with our immediately recognizable, spiritually driven, Ifa specific but ultimately trivial talents. It’s good to know how to dance. It can keep a community entertained and distracted. But in the grand scheme of things dance does not supersede the need for good character.

I am reminded of people’s desire to rely on the obvious but trivial when I look at people questioning presidential candidates for not wearing a lapel pin in the shape of the American flag. It is mind boggling that we will choose a presidential candidate over wearing such a useless trinket, more often than not, made in China. Donning a flag pin is by no means an ironclad sign of somebody’s patriotism. In fact, I would make the supposition that having somebody point to the flag on their lapel as evidence of their ability to run the country as evidence of their inability to run the country. Such a person would probably think he or she could solve social issues just by giving everybody a pin. A lapel pin is proof of what? All it proves is that somebody likes for others to see them wearing a pin. Somebody’s lack of a pin is evidence that they don’t want to be seen wearing a pin. To assume more is to significantly misunderstand the issue at hand.

If we as a people judge a candidate’s ability to run this country based on who wears a pin or who bowls better or who drinks beer better or who can stay in denial better or who used the word “bitter” or who used the word “typical” or who appears on Leno or who appears on Ellen or who appears on Oprah or who will shed a tear when he or she thinks of a dead soldier then we truly have a problem. It’s no wonder we now have the problem of a lack of political leadership when such trivialities are considered when making the choice as to who will be President. There are serious social and economic issues that must take precedence over who wears a pin or how big their pin is.

But then again, some of the issues that we push to the forefront are truly some of the most narcissistic and demeaning to others. Some people who vote for the next President aren’t concerned about the affects of global warming on the planet or the plummeting value of the dollar against other world currencies or the affects of higher gasoline prices because the Middle East is destabilized or the affects of asininely high oil prices on the economy or the affects of so many people across the nation are losing their homes and these foreclosed homes are glutting the real estate market and some many of our fellow citizens are falling into financial disaster because of a lack of adequate medical coverage or the affects of a war that continues to decimate our national treasure and brings our soldiers home in caskets because somebody wants to destroy our freedom.

To some people the issues that are most important are things like who will keep people in the homosexual community from being able to have their devotion to each other recognized by the state or who goes to a Christian church most often or who wants to deny a woman the right to control what happens to her body or who wants to make the ten commandments the official golden rule of the country or who wants to keep Latin American immigrants out of the country or who listens to FOX or who is the Democrat regardless of their position or who is the Republican regardless of their position.

If the most important issue on someone’s list is which presidential candidate will keep people who owns a cat versus who owns dogs then by all means vote for the candidate you feel will best satisfy that concern. But don’t forget that you might be passing on the candidate that would protect the planet, protect human rights, or do something simple like funding more research to make cancer truly a thing of the past. If what’s truly important is a two dollar lapel pin then by all mans vote your conscience. Just remember that when you focus on the person’s pin, you just might overlook the person’s character.

Friday, May 23, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Ifa, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 4 Comments

Keep Moving Forward

Auschwitz Sign

I was listening to the National Public Radio program Fresh Air with Terri Gross. The guest she had was comedian Robert Schimmel and the subject was his experience with cancer. Mr. Schimmel was struck with cancer of the lymph cells when he was fifty. He wrote a book about his experience titled Cancer On Five Dollars A Day.

Mr. Schimmel recalled a particular time during his treatment when he was in the hospital where he had one more chemotherapy treatment to go. But the physical drains on his person were so severe that all he wanted to do was die. His father paid a visit to him in his hospital room and Mr. Schimmel asked him to help him die. The father understood and left the room. A moment later the father returned with his grandchildren, Mr. Schimmel’s children, and asked him to repeat his request.

Mr. Schimmel said that his father was an Auschwitz survivor. The man saw a lot of death and destruction and had his share of Nazi horror stories to share. Mr. Schimmel shared one particular story that his father shared with him. One day in the camp there was a man with his son and the prisoners were being told to march for no particular reason. Maybe it was busy work to give the guards something to do. Or maybe it was just a chance to be cruel. But the boy could no longer continue and dropped to the ground from exhaustion. A guard walked up to the boy and shot him in the back of the head. The father went to his son and knelt down to hold him. The guard shot him in the head as well. Then the guard told the rest of the prisoners, if you want to survive keep moving forward.

Mr. Schimmel said that he seized on this memory of his father’s story as a source of inner strength as he continued the rest of his medical treatments on his way to a full recovery.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a father and to have your child ripped away so cruelly in an existence so bleak. An ancestor memory or imagination popped into my head. I seriously doubt if my bloodline includes any experience in the concentration camps of Auschwitz. But I’m confident that my bloodline includes experiences with the substandard living conditions of the African American on the southern plantation at the peak of America’s institutionalized slavery. There, black families and communities were broken apart based on the sadistic whims of plantation owning enslavers and their employees. And all the survivors had left to do was to keep moving in order to survive.

Everyday I am reminded of this philosophy. Everyday black people are told to keep moving in order to survive. But it’s not said so coldly and succinctly. When black people falter or when someone says that things are unfair, the standard white mindset retort is to quit complaining and just keep going. Black people have no choice but to keep on keeping on in this environment of disparity where conditions and opportunities are so unfairly skewed against the black community. Keep moving if you want to survive. Exercise some personal responsibility if you want to survive. No one is coming to help you. Suck up your frustration and keep going. Other black people are fabulously wealthy. Why don’t more black people get a work ethic or learn a skill or obtain an education that will make them employable?

And in this environment that supports and rewards people’s negative racial stereotypes of blacks, the black community must keep moving in order to survive. Never mind that we are paid less for doing the same work. Never mind we are racially profiled when driving automobiles. Never mind we are racially profiled when walking down the street. Never mind we are more apt to fall under the gears of the justice machine. Never mind that our children are more apt to be arrested and sent off to be murdered in boot camps for having sex and other behaviors that hardly gain a second look from children in the white community. Black people need to keep moving if we want to survive.

Black people have adopted this philosophy so well that if we found ourselves as the prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camps, we would be more likely to grab the soldier’s rifle and shoot any weak or exhausted prisoners for causing problems. Black people are quick to tell the other black people, the ones that we should have the most in common with, to shut up and just fall in line. If these people sound like they toe the line of the status quo it must be because that is exactly what they are doing. The prison yard guards aren’t even necessary any more. Without a doubt we have to keep on going. There are no allied forces gathering in a land far away to come here and free the black community from these bonds. We are in a perpetual march of keeping forward with little to sustain us. And when one of us stumbles heaven helps the one that actually turns around and shows signs of caring.

Thursday, May 22, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black People, Life, Thoughts | 12 Comments

Racism Is Not Fun

Racism is not fun. It isn’t even mildly entertaining. It is a harsh reality that many people in the black community must live with each and every day. It impacts the black community’s ability to earn a living. It impacts the black community’s ability to buy a house. It impacts our ability to obtain credit, medical care, a quality education, a modicum of justice in the legal system, or anything else that could be considered even remotely racially fair. Black people are more likely to be the victims of police brutality and die in a hail of bullets for driving or walking home. Black people are more likely to die from a latent sickle cell trait while a boot camp guard holds a baton against our neck. Racism is dangerous. Racism is disgusting. And racism should be exposed for the ugly reality that it truly is.

TIME Magazine recently reported its 2008 Time 100, a listing the one hundred most influential people in the world. This is the fifth time the list has been made. And under artist and entertainers, forty three old Chris Rock makes the list as one of America’s favorite comedians. Jerry Seinfeld wrote the article describing the reasoning for Mr. Rock being so influential. Said Mr. Seinfeld, “You know how hard it is to make racism just plain fun? Rock does it. Racism to Chris Rock is just a Hacky Sack on his foot. He kicks it up over here, over there, behind the back and then right over to you. The tension release he offers is available nowhere else, from no one else.” Click here to read the entire article, turn to page 112 if you have the May 12th edition of TIME Magazine lying around.

Racism is about as fun to the black community as the image of a little five year old white girl being raped by a big black man can be fun to the dominant community. It is horrible thing. Sure, there are some seriously sick individuals who would find the idea of child rape entertaining and fun. We would not tolerate such behavior. But there is a lot of seriously sick people who dismiss racism and manifestations of racial hate as harmless pranks as well as just plain fun. White people can hang nooses and other people will find it funny and a nice tension release. I’m sure Jerry Seinfeld thought it was a nice tension release to see his friend Michael Richards standing on stage at a comedy club and saying of black people in the audience, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass. You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now motherfucker. Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger! What? They’re going to arrest me for calling a black man a nigger?” I’m sure a lot of people thought Mr. Richards was just making some fun racist comments.

Everybody should be doing what they can to make racial disparity a thing of the past, including Mr. Rock and Mr. Seinfeld. But even when people see some of the most disgusting displays of racism manifesting itself right before our eyes too many of us disassociate ourselves from what we see and dismiss it with a variety of excuses. Mr. Richards was having a bad day and just so happened to gravitate to going off on the black people in the audience. The police that attacked Robert Davis in New Orleans just days after Katrina struck were tired and exhausted for working so hard and just so happened to gravitate towards attacking one of the few black people in the vicinity. Duane Chapman was behind closed doors when he went on his racist rant about how his son could not stay in the family business and have a nigger girlfriend. Don Imus was confused by all of the misogynistic gangsta rap music produced by the music industry so heavily controlled by white people, marketed to white people, but with black rappers willing to sell their souls as the front men.

Listen to people who are willing to tolerate racism and see only the humor of this ugly aspect of human nature and they will say that it is only a sad coincidence that only black males die in a hail of bullets for pulling out his wallet to identify himself. Only a black male dies for being too exhausted to run that a latent sickle cell trait can trigger his death and the fact that seven boot camp guards were beating on him simultaneously had nothing to do with it. Only a seventeen year old black male goes to jail for ten years for having consensual sex with a fifteen year old girl while fifty year old white men are free to marry and impregnate fifteen year old girls. Only black men are beaten senseless for running from police. It is acceptable for police to kill unarmed black men because a cop with his gun drawn and in body armor and with fifty of his police buddies around him and with police helicopters in the air over his head is in fear of his life. Sounds to me like this badge carrying coward needs to put his gun down and find another occupation. It is only acceptable for a cop to empty his gun, reload, and proceed to empty it again into the body of an unarmed black man. It is acceptable to see a police officer punch a fourteen year old black girl in the face while arresting her for breaking curfew.

And if all that is not low enough, police can burst into a home of a black woman whose boyfriend is suspected of distributing illegal drugs, and shoot her to death while she is holding her twelve month old infant son. The baby boy was hit by a police man’s bullet. But this is okay because the woman had a police record for a misdemeanor violation. For some reason, we are ready to excuse the irresponsible actions of cops killing black people because somehow these cops know that the black people they are killing have police records. It is a fair bet that every black person that is unfortunate enough to cross a police officer’s path has a record because racism refuses to show any leniency to any black person with the audacity to spit on a sidewalk or raise their voice. Black people are so violent that if we allow them to shout or yell they will be emboldened to do other crimes like pointing or standing up for their rights as an American citizen, as if black people have rights.

Like most high profile black people who make their substantial fortune with the support of people in the dominant community, the black community in general will not benefit from Chris Rock’s success. High profile black people will find a handful of black people to employ or to sponsor for higher education or apprenticeship designed to promote their assimilation into the dominant culture. Bill Cosby uses his clout to give scholarships to black people who want higher educations but berates poor black people for being poor. Oprah Winfrey uses her resources to reinforce the notion that it is too difficult to find African American’s who will honestly appreciate her financial help so she has to go all the way to Africa to find black people to help. Black authors like Shelby Steele and John McWhortor want to reinforce the notion that black people are poor only because they want to be and racism isn’t a factor. And Chris Rock gives white people the impression that racism and racial disparity is fun.

This is not to say that Mr. Rock is not a gifted, talented, hardworking comedian. But in many respects, his comedy can be interpreted as a modern interpretation of a minstrel show. Minstrels made racism fun for white people back in the day. It was funny to see a black person bulge his or her eyes in childish disbelief. It was funny to see a black person being the simple minded straight man for the humor of the white majority. And Mr. Rock’s work follows in this vein. The television show Everybody Hates Chris, no doubt a play on the popular television show Everybody Loves Raymond, starring Tyler James Williams as a young, Steve Urkel-ized Chris Rock, regularly relies on minstrel like visual gags to sell a cheap laugh. Instead of using his talents to promote social consciousness and racial understanding in the vein of a Dick Gregory, a gifted comedian who often speaks of the social ills affecting the black community, Mr. Rock is happy to sit back and make as much money as possible and not offend his dominant community fans.

By influential, Time magazine and Jerry Seinfeld must be referring to Mr. Rock’s influence on making people laugh. They certainly are not talking about his influence on helping to broaden people’s understanding on the realities of the black community. Instead, black people’s whole racism fueled experience has devolved into funny one liners that the white community can point to, laugh at, and say it is so funny that it can’t be all that bad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 35 Comments

For What Shall It Profit Us

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the world, and lose his soul?” – Mark 8:36

American politics is a system that breeds cynicism, corruption, cronyism, and mediocrity. The most successful political candidates are usually the ones that offer quick and easy solutions to problems that can have deep social implications. Can’t afford to rebuild the roads? Issue a bond, borrow the money, and let future generations figure out how to pay for it. Need to balance the federal budget? Tap the social security money reserves intended to help pay for people’s retirement and let the politicians in office when it’s time for people to retire figure out how to get the money. People are complaining about the racial disparity in the public school system? Instead of spending money to support the schools that are lacking, usually in the black neighborhoods, we can spend money on bussing so we can shuffle students around to various schools so everyone can be mediocre. Are the gasoline prices getting too high? We can suspend federal taxes for a time period so that the eighteen cents that the government collects to repair roads and other services stops. Instead of paying four dollars a gallon gasoline with eighteen cents going to taxes we can pay four dollars a gallon and someone just pockets that extra eighteen cents. In the world of politics, immediate, simple solutions are key to winning over a public with little interest for the details of public social issues.

To compound this problem, there are powerful entities that want to make sure that their interest are well represented whatever the political environment. Wealthy corporate and private entities will use whatever vast resources at their disposal to wield influence on just about any serious political candidate from the local level all the way to the federal. These people have the resources to influence even the most powerful politicians to their disposal. It is a foregone conclusion that this influence involves money. But the ultimate goal is the power to bend others, even the most committed type A personality, to act against their own self interest no matter what. Often, it is a system of quid pro quo where I scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine. It is a prime condition for secrets that betray not the public’s trust or sense of faith, but the public’s sense of comfort that the politician will do whatever so the public doesn’t have to care about it. A politician’s penchant for secret deals and under the table partnerships and is a prime environment for fostering the corruption and cronyism.

It is truly difficult for me as a member of the black community to develop a comfortable trust in someone who has become so adept at thriving in such an environment. With rare exception, the political environment of the manipulators and the manipulated rarely has the black community’s welfare at heart. Indeed, a politician that makes the choice to reveal his or her self as a proponent of the black community is a politician that will be quickly guided to the exit door signaling an end to their political career. Therefore, a politician, whether black or white, will do well to keep any affiliation with the black community as distant as possible.

Black politicians have been able to achieve public office at all levels of government. Blacks have been city councilmen, Mayors, state representatives, Governors, and federal representatives. The only office black people have yet to hold is the President. But just because a black person holds a certain political office means nothing to black people. Black people are just as likely to be lynched by the police in cities with black Mayors or black police chiefs as we are in cities with all white public officials. The black community is ignored in states with black Governors just as we are in any other state. Poverty in the black community is just as rampant. Black unemployment is just as pervasive. Education for black people will be just as lacking. Medical care for black people will be just as disappointing.

With all of that said, there is an inherent flaw in the black community’s proclivity to put its collective faith in any politician. A cursory glance at American history will show that some politicians have appeared as champions of social change and an enormous boon to the black community. People in the black community have been programmed to accept America’s most famous politicians as people who have done well for the black community. The black community is supposed to appreciate George Washington because he freed his slaves in his will. But the fact is that George Washington condoned and supported the institution of slavery just like every land owner in his day. The black community is supposed to be thankful to Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves. But little is mentioned of the fact that Mr. Lincoln was a stout segregationist he never wanted to end slavery, who believed in the superiority of the white race, and would never condone black people achieving equality to white people. John Kennedy may have made the phone call to Doctor Martin Luther King when he was in prison for his civil disobedience. But Mr. Kennedy had a history of selecting some of the most conservative judges to fill the openings in the American south. And while the black community may thank Lyndon Johnson for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mr. Johnson condoned the public harassment of all civil rights icons throughout his presidency. And these are the Presidents we are supposed to admire.

Richard Nixon hired Donald Rumsfeld to head the office charged with the responsibility of eliminating poverty in America. Hiring the uber neoconservative to manage one of the most socially oriented offices in the presidency is akin to hiring a fox to guard a chicken coop. Ronald Reagan initiated his war on welfare with his story of the black welfare queen who sits at home and robs the federal government blind as justification to cut the social welfare programs that helped the black community to the bone. And no President could have manifested more disinterest in the welfare of the black community than George Bush during the Katrina disaster. President Bush declared a state of emergency for parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, but his declaration didn’t include New Orleans or the parishes with a heavy black population.

So it is with a great deal of suspicion and low expectations that a black politician becoming President will do anything with the black community in mind. Indeed, it is interesting that a black politician that has to defend himself against white people who regularly make everything from highly suggestive racial innuendoes all the way through to outright blatant claims of African American inferiority will dismiss such language as something that must be ignored, but will become visibly outraged and angry when his former pastor says that the black politician is required to make politically advantageous moves in order to win the highest political office in the land.

It is understandable after all. A lot of black people say that the pastor should keep quiet in order to help the black man win the presidency. But what will the black community gain other than bragging rights that a black man has finally reached the final political frontier? If the experience with the black Governor and the black Mayor is any indication, we won’t gain anything that will achieve anything for us. It will be business as usual.

Most of the social changes that have benefited the black community did not come from public office. The social changes that we have craved came through activism. It came through people who have been front and center in the church. Most of our changes have come from the black community that works hard and made sacrifices of dignity, sacrifices of physical pain, sacrifices of time and money, and the ultimate sacrifices of life. No politician is willing to make these kinds of sacrifices to help the black community. The black politician has an image that white people can trust him or her to uphold. Social changes, the type of changes many white people protest in order to keep their white privilege, will damage that image of trust. It is the black church that has gotten us this far. If black people are to ever come back together again to continue our long, arduous fight for some kind of racial equality in America, it will be through the black church and not through any political office.

The way things look it is a fairly safe bet that soon a black man will wear the title of President of the United States. In order to help the black man gain that title, a lot of people are ready to turn their back on the liberal theology of the black church. Many of us are willing to sell our soul in order to gain what we think is the greatest political office in the world. And black people want those bragging rights so badly that we are ready to allow the only institution that has ever truly worked in our favor, the black church, to be labeled as some relic of a segregationist past fueled by black people’s victim mentality. The black community stands ready to abandon our collective soul.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black Culture, Black History, Black Men, Black People, Clarence Thomas, Democrats, Jeremiah Wright, Justice, Life, Michelle Obama, Philosophy, Racism, Reverse Discrimination, Slavery, Spirituality, The Race Card, Thoughts, White Privilege | 6 Comments