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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Word For The Week

When I was a doolie at the Air Force Academy we had certain people that were referred to as muck-magnets, only we used much more colorful language. These were the people who, no matter what the situation, would somehow mess up and draw all kinds of negative attention to themselves. Much like the character Private Pyle that Vincent D'Onofrio played in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket they seem to have a knack for screwing up at the most inopportune times, and everyone around them has to suffer because of their screw-ups. Have you ever known a muck-magnet?

The prophet Jonah became a muck-magnet when he intentionally disobeyed the direct command of God. God told him to go to Nineveh to preach against the wickedness that was Assyria, but Jonah chose to go in the opposite direction. Completely.

It's not that you can really blame Jonah from a natural perspective. The Assyrians were the most powerful nation on the earth in that day. They had the most powerful military and the strongest economy. Assyrian culture was exported and imposed on all of their neighbors and their neighbors resented the Assyrian interference with their societies - and they had to pay the Assyrians tribute in order to keep the Assyrians from invading (think: "protection" racket). The Assyrian people grew fat, lazy, and debauched in their supremacy over all other nations and God commissioned a prophet to tell them that their days of reigning supreme were coming to an end, that they would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd and subject to the same societies that they currently subjugated. Can you imagine a Chaldean being called by God to go to Washington D.C. and preaching judgment against America and George W. Bush? I'm sure that Jonah thought about how he would be received and said, "Thanks, but no thanks" and headed straight for the seaport.

But Jonah found out that God is in the hijacking business, because before Jonah could get to his destination in Tarshish God had another word for him. This word didn't come in audible form and it didn't come in a vision. It came in the form of storm that seasoned sailors had never encountered or endured. It came in the form of gale-force winds that stretched the seams of their sails and stressed their souls. It came in the form of fifty-foot waves that wounded waxed wood and wrecked their world. It came as a wake-up call for Jonah because Jonah thought that he could go somewhere to escape the presence and power of the LORD, but there is nowhere that you can go where God can't find you. Like the psalmist said, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." There is nowhere that you can go where God can't reach out and touch you, so God jacked Jonah between Joppa and Tarshish.

The sailors soon discerned that Jonah was indeed the source of their stressful situation, and they tried everything within their might to save the ship. Once they discovered the futility of self-help in a God-ordained situation they submitted to the will of God and chucked Jonah overboard, and immediately there was peace in the deep. We need to help people as best as we can, but sometimes God is trying to get their attention and the best thing that we can do for them and ourselves is to cut them loose. We have to do our due diligence to make sure that that is indeed the case, but having discerned God's will we will on occasion have to chuck some folks overboard. When the Word of God says to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, love on the imprisoned, while certain leaders say, "Nah, we're taking Saddam out instead!" we may need to chuck them overboard. Don't worry about them - God has a fish waiting for them...

May The LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who has a fish waiting for the disobedient,
My He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (2) minds freed

Friday, July 29, 2005

What? You Scared?

When I was growing up boys used to challenge each other to do things that seemed courageous but were in fact quite stupid - sometimes even life threatening. The ultimate challenge that could never be refused was the Double-Dog Dare - if someone double-dog dared you then you either did it or were socially shifted to the bottom of the pecking order, often with cat-calls of, "What are you? Chicken?" Today that has been somewhat modified - instead of calling guys "chicken" they are asked, "What? You skeered?" Can't be scared in the urban jungle, that can cost you your life.

It occurs to me (after having read The Rude Pundit yesterday) that the Bush Administration has been operating like a pack of petulant pubescent punks, and the best way to shut them down is to give them a taste of their own medicine. We have to demand that they open up all of their records - from Judge Roberts' Iran-Contra dealings to Cheney's energy task force details and everything in between. When they balk we have jump in their face and ask them, "What are you trying to hide? What? You scared? You Skeered? If you have nothing to hide then put up or shut up." Nothing will shunt them quicker than them being punked in front of their base - their base understands power and when they see Bush's bitties being brow-beaten by liberals - liberals - they'll write off the Bush Administration quicker than a teen-aged boy gets happy to see Beyonce.

We have to think boldly, so let's work that theme - "What are you trying to hide?" - and watch Bush try to dance like they do it in North Carolina...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 12:30 PM :: (3) minds freed

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Missing Non-White Woman

(from Richard Cranium on dKos)

Latoyia Figueroa is still missing after 8 days. And as tragic as the Natalee Holloway case might be, Natalee doesn't have a seven year old child wondering where she is, nor was Natalee (to the best of our knowledge) 5 months pregnant.

Here's an overview of the important details in this "missing woman" case:

  1. Latoyia (we should only use her first name) is not white.
  2. She does not have blonde hair.
  3. She was not scheduled to get married last weekend.
  4. She's from West Philadelphia.
  5. There may actually be a lead or two in her case.
  6. HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY.
  7. To the best of our knowledge, no one from Texas has yet offered to bring in cadaver dogs to search for Latoyia, nor have forensic dive teams volunteered to scour the Schuylkill or Delaware rivers.
  8. Also to the best of our knowledge, the FBI hasn't been requested to participate in the investigation (even though Philly actually is in the US of A), nor have any DNA samples been rushed to Washington, DC.
  9. HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY.
Oh, and did I mention that Black folks are still being butchered by the bushel in Darfur?

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 5:30 AM :: (3) minds freed

Monday, July 25, 2005

Oops, My Bad

Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Amadou Diallo case should be gravely concerned about the recent news about British Bobbies busting a Brizillian's cap. Two Five to the dome of an innocent man? Somehow, "Oops, my bad" doesn't quite seem appropriate. There's a reason for due process, and that cannot be replaced with due dilligence - "He seemed guilty enough for us so we took him out" won't cut it. Cops as judge, jury, and executioner is not the way to deal with this problem. This is not some random screw-up, this is the very reason why we have courts in the first place - because sometimes the cops are wrong. Dead wrong.

That will come as little solace to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes - he's dead.

I certainly understand that people are scared - those nasty terrorists and all that - but personally I have much more fear of cops with itchy trigger fingers than of terrorists with murder on their mind. I've never personally encountered a terrorist, but I see cops every day and they already view people who look like me as being suspect. They already seem to have liberal rules of engagement when it comes to shooting niggers Black men so this recent development is incredibly disturbing to me. I see a trend and it does not favor people of color.



How did NWA put it?

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 6:30 AM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Word For The Week

I preached today at Temple of Faith Baptist Church - this is the text of the message (continued in the comments)

In our text today we find Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. There seems to be something special about the greenery of a garden. A garden is a place of rest and relaxation, a place of peace and tranquility, a solitary sanctuary from the sources of stress that spoil our situations in this life. You know, there’s something special about a garden. The Babylonians created the Hanging Gardens in order to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar’s wife who was from the country and couldn’t stand the city life. The White House has a rose garden outside of the Oval Office to cheer up the president whenever he looks out of his window. When God created Adam and Eve He put them in the perfect place for people – the Garden of Eden. There’s something special about the serenity found in a garden.

Yet it was in this place of peaceful meditation that Jesus faced His final temptation. His last temptation was the same as His first temptation – the same as Adam and Eve’s temptation – because there is truly only one temptation. All sin and all temptations can be boiled down to one simple question – will you submit to God? It is a matter of the will. It doesn’t matter what you think about a situation and it doesn’t matter how you feel about a situation, all that matters is what you will to do. We have to submit our will to the will of God – anything contrary to that is sin, and every temptation that comes our way tempts us to overthrow God’s sovereign rule. Satan told Adam and Eve straight-up – "And you will be like God." That is the essence of all temptation – instead of submitting to God we want to be God.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 2:38 PM :: (1) minds freed

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Duck And Cover

Folks, they're getting ready to nuke Iran. For real. Back in the day there was a drill that school children had to practice in order to prepare for the eventuality of nuclear war breaking out - it was called Duck & Cover (58 MB mpeg video). In a similar fashion, today we may very well need to simply put our head between our legs and kiss it goodbye because the ramifications of nuking Iran are astronomical. Can you see Pervez Musharraf being overthrown in Pakistan, Iran retaliating against Saudi Arabia and/or Israel, and a few million Iranians flooding over into Iraq to fight us there? How would China react to all of this? Invade Taiwan? Nuke our positions in Iraq? I don't know how it will turn out but one thing I know with certainty - it will be bad times for everyone on the planet. Just when I think it can't get any worse.

What we need (OK, what I need) is some comic relief, because the only solution to this problem is not to be spoken aloud let alone put in print (I have no desire to see Gitmo up close and personal) so here are some comics to lighten the dark and dreary mood.

Menage A Trois


How To Serve Americans


Treason Is As Treason Does


Family Values


High Crimes & Mister Meaner


Missionary Position


Tilt


Exercise In Futility


Self-Explanatory


Voice Of Moderation


When In Sudan



Phone Disconnected


HNIC


White Men Can't Jump Either

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wanted: Moderate Viewpoints

It seems that the political discourse of today is all about two things: liberals and conservatives. Left and Right.

What ever happened to the middle?

What ever happened to being able to respect multiple views and opinions and working to find the common ground?

While I am continually disgusted by right-wing propoganda, I'm starting get really annoyed with left-wing propoganda too.

For example, I feel like PFAW and MoveOn would want to reject anyone who President Bush nominates to the Supreme Court. I got an email today asking to fund efforts to fund propoganda for the rejection of John Roberts. I don't think that's very constructive. The fact of the matter is that Bush is the president and he gets to nominate justices to the Supreme Court.

I don't like it anymore than anyone else but there needs to be some class. The same millions of dollars that are going to be spent on television ads could be spent funding grassroots election campaigns, or public service announments about the role of the Supreme Court in American society.

Dividing government and society between "liberals" and "conservatives" will only serve the narrow interests of whoever is in power at the time.

One thing that we need to remember as Black folk that our future lies not within labels such as liberal or conservative. We must remain focused on our political, scholastic, and economic freedomem and empowerment.

Freedom is neither liberal nor conservative. Justice is neither liberal nor conservative.

We must continue to stand committed to freedom and justice under God.

Emancipated by Talib @ 2:47 PM :: (3) minds freed

Prolific Nuclear Exchange

As Talib wrote yesterday, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo has suggested using nuclear weapons against the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in response to another terrorist attack on America, should one occur. There is some troubling logic behind Tancredo's statements.



Have you ever found yourself in a situation where some idiot actually said, "Well, all y'all look the same to me." This is essentially the thinking behind Tancredo's words. Why sweat differentiating between the culprits and innocent bystanders when all of those people are as good as guilty? Collateral damage of millions of murdered Muslims being nothing more than grist for the mill? It's that kind of stinkin' thinkin' that gets you to Auschwitz.

Oh yeah, holocaust and/or Nazi references are out-of-bounds in political discourse, they're unfair comparisons in polite discussion, right?

Well get over it. Tancredo blew polite out the window when he exercised his nuclear option.

Tancredo waded right into those heavy waters when he proposed a "Final Solution" for the "problem" of Islam. Understand, destroying Mecca & Medina would not be merely "tak[ing] out their holy sites" - it would be the equivalent of invading a man's home, raping his wife and daughters on his kitchen table, and then murdering them before his very eyes. After that, one of you is going to die - there would be no negotiations, no conversations, no compromises, and no restraint. There would be war without end or mercy, and billions - not millions - billions would be killed on both sides. Nations and peoples who have been tacitly friendly to the West would become murdously hostile - and justifiably so. Suffice it to say that this was possibly the single-dumbest thing to come out of the mouth of an elected official since Neville Chamberlain crowed about achieving peace in his time.

But this isn't simply a matter of political stupidity - it's a matter of American character. George Bush hasn't distanced himself from Tancredo's words and the Republican Party hasn't even censored Tancredo, let alone insist on his resignation. If you thought the Newsweek article caused a stir in the Muslim world, what do you think a Republican Congressman threatening to destroy one of the five pillars of Islam (hajj) will do? Tancredo should be ousted from Congress, unless the Republicans actually endorse that kind of talk - a man of character would resign for putting such shameful ideas into the public square that will inevitably make it more dangerous for the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is Tancredo such a man of character? Tancredo must go - if he lacks the character to resign then will the Republicans have the character to oust him?

Threatening nuclear war against an entire religion is not something that most American families value.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:30 AM :: (4) minds freed

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Land of Confusion

Last Friday, during an interview with Pat Campbell of WFLA-AM in Orlanda, Florida, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo suggested threatenting to "take out" the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The Congressman said he was just brainstorming, and that the "ultimate threat" might need to be met with an "ultimate response."

I saw Rep. Tancredo defend his statements on a television program last night. His rationale is that if Muslims believe that the U.S. would actually blow up holy cities, then the Muslim population would stamp out terrorism.

How much sense does that really make?

So, if the U.S. threatened to blow up Nazareth, would that deter people like Eric Rudolph from committing terrorism?

Would threatening to blow up Bethlehem deter people like James Charles Kopp from committing terrorism?

How about the Ku Klux Klan, do you threatening to blow up Jerusalem would have stopped them from murdering people and terrorism, or just angered Christians around the world?

There are about 1.2 BILLION Muslims on the planet. If 1.2 BILLION people were connected to terrorism I doubt we'd all be alive today.

I am a Muslim. I have never met anyone ever in my life who even remotely considered the actions of groups like Al-Qaeda "okay" or justified in the name of Islam.

From my own travels to Egypt and Ghana, to the Pakistani driver I had the other day, the killing of innocent people is haram.

What is so troubling about the Rep. Tancredo's statements is the logic and thinking behind them. If this is the mentality that is expected to stop terrorism and bring peace, then we're all doomed.

Seriously.

The battle we find ourselves engaged in is not one of Muslims vs. Christians, or Islam versus the West. But if the U.S. were to threaten blowing up Mecca and Medina- and actually do it- we would be locked in a holy war, and I fear the worst in humanity would make itself known.

Emancipated by Talib @ 7:08 PM :: (2) minds freed

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Family Values

The Religious Right has been running the "Family Values" meme for many moons and it is time for that tripe to take two to the dome, so let's cock the rhetorical Glock and get ready to roll. There are innumerable avenues of attack but let's begin with the basics: what family is to be used as the model for Family Values? Bobby Brown heads a family and they have a set of values - should their values be the gold-toothed standard to which all families affirm fidelity? How about the values of Ozzy Osbourne's family? Just whose family values should American families value?

Perhaps they really mean that America should value families. That would mean that the Religious Right would have supported the Family Medical Leave Act. That would mean that they should support a livable minimum wage such that families can earn a living and take care of their children. That would mean that they would support universal health care so that families don't have to choose between food and medicine. They don't support any of those measures, so clearly they don't mean that America should value families.

So what does Family Values really mean to American politics? The Israelite Theocracy of the Old Testament never involved itself in marital matters - that was the purview of the family. The Aaronic Priesthood and the Levities had nothing to do with marrying Israelites - it was purely the purview of the family. In the Old Testament neither the Church nor the State had anything to do with sanctioning marriage, so why does the Religious Right insist on America's government sanctioning marriage? It is not a New Testament teaching or tradition either - the Catholic Church considers marriage to be a sacrament, but that was not the practice of the early church. Marriage is purely a function of the family - not the Church, not the State.

Besides, why would Christians spend so much effort on something that has no eternal value? Jesus said, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." Jesus' response to the Sadducees' hypothetical question about marriage in eternity was essentially that there is no such thing. If marriage is of no eternal value then why are Christians so concerned about it? Marriage is merely a means to an end - "It is not good for the man to be alone" - so why are people trying to sanctify the practical? Marriage has no "sanctity" - it's greatly practical and Jesus did have some things to say on that matter - but God initiated the practice of marriage, not the institution of marriage. Shouldn't Christians be concerned about the main thing - the Great Commission?

Finally, what ever happened to personal responsibility? If the people of the Religious Right would focus on their own families instead of everyone else's families then they might be able to do something about the divorce rate within the Church - it's identical to the divorce rate outside of the Church. There's a speck-plank thing going on there that the Religious Right needs to address. They should focus on their own families - they're obviously in need of some attention...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 2:00 AM :: (5) minds freed

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Word For The "Religious Right"

I've just returned to Louisville from Dallas where I had a wonderful experience last week at the 10th Annual International Conference on Expository Preaching. It was an enlightening event that illuminated my eyes with the pregnant possibilities that exist when Evangelical Expositors focus on the primary purpose of our preaching - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There were men and women from all across the world and yet there were no Democrats. There were no Republicans either. There were only prophetic voices speaking as one man that all should be saved and none should be lost. There were only Christians seeking to advance the Kingdom of God. There was only the Body of Christ seeking to serve our sovereign Savior. It was a vision of what the Church should be.

However, returning to the real world I remember that we have Christians prominently aligning the name of Christ with a specific political party. I find that curious since the prophets of old never joined the government, but prophetically spoke against the government when it deviated from revealed truth. It is almost as if the Religious Right has never read Amos where he said:

Seek the LORD and live,
or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour,
and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
You who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground

You hate the one who reproves in court
and despise him who tells the truth.
You trample on the poor
and force him to give you grain.
Therefore,
though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore
the prudent man keeps quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

Amos could have been talking to the administration of George Bush II instead of the administration of Jeroboam II. Nonetheless, we see the leaders of the Religious Right in Bush's court, not in Bush's face over his treatment of the poor and the corruption of Tom Delay, Bob Ney, et al. It would seem that Amos' quoting of God's words near the end of this chapter are prescient regarding the Religious Right, if I may paraphrase:

"I hate, I despise your worship services;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
Even though you bring tithes and offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your praise teams.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!"

Like the woman riding on the back of the scarlet beast, the Religious Right has aligned itself with the Thingdom of America instead of the Kingdom of God - America worships consumptionism above all else - and it is the job of actual Christians to expose the true Gospel of Jesus Christ such that it blots out the political abomination propagated by the Religious Right. Christianity is not about opposing abortion and homosexuality, cutting taxes on the wealthy, and promoting American nationalism - Christianity is about Jesus Christ first, last, and only. As we go about trying to form a more perfect union it is the responsibility of Christians to counter the abomination known as the Religious Right. Let's get to work.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (2) minds freed

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Time for The Real World?


Why do we need coalitions instead of "outreach"? Because coalitions take us further out of the world of being too polite. Closer to the real world.

Have you seen MTV's long-running reality series The Real World? Yeh, a chunk of the show doesn't seem very real world anymore. People on the show are mini-celebrities, get a cool place to live, and MTV finds them jobs and sends them on exciting trips and adventures.

But the core premise of the show, I believe, is somewhat intact: What happens when people stop being polite, and start being real. Where else can we see the social twitches of American society played out? Racism, homophobia, and quite a few of the other prejudices, stereotypes, and cultural war clashes have gotten addressed on the show over the years.

I'm not saying that citizen activists should engage in dramatic talk-show confrontations or re-enactments from the movie Crash. But there might be something to the premise that we are all different, won't naturally mix and get along, and have sensibilities that are in conflict.

Does this premise explain why outreach is so unsatisfying to everyone, particularly in the pre-dominantly white world of progressive activists? We have good-intentioned white people who want to reach out to Black communities to bring more diversity. They believe in doing it because it's the right thing to do, and don't understand why their efforts don't have the effects they want.

Meanwhile, within the Black community, there's a threshold of how much we will take listening to the priorities set by white people without getting our own needs addressed. When you are interested in addressing problems from the view of a Black experience, an organization dominated by white progressives isn't really the place for that. I know from experience that if you're not careful, you're busy doing a lot of educating.

So the questions that I'm left with are: Do all of us need to perfectly understand each other's experience to act together?
If outreach is the standard by which Black people should participate in an organization, why not join the Republican Party? It's a white-run organization with a well-managed outreach plan.

Why should Black people en-masse join any organization or movement (conservative or progressive) when, in practice, it will mean that our priorities and sensibilities will be subordinated? Do coalitions provide a workable means to obtain diversity, in a way that helps us find common cause and make a difference together?

Emancipated by Quintus Jett @ 8:21 AM :: (4) minds freed

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Is Outreach Dead?



When hundreds of citizen activists convened for training, networking, and good times at DemocracyFest in Austin Texas in June, there was one frustrating session for me. The one on diversity.

Two hours dedicated to the thing, organized with the help of some very cool people at Latinos for Texas and Democracy for Texas who ensured that diversity got a reasonable time span and slot on the program. And they had a reasonable approach to make it work that included the input and perspectives from various people (including me). So what happened? I sat through the first 15 minutes and, figuratively speaking, wanted to drown myself. That's when I really began to think "outreach," as conceived in progressive activist circles, may be a dead end.

I really don't blame anyone. White progressives want to see more racial diversity in their groups. I can understand that. They break with the majority of the white population; they'll agree with how most Black people view the historic, economic, and social patterns of discrimination and how they persist. Great. But I've heard from and met many a person who is white who tried to reach out with emphathy (and, yes, skill and, sometimes, with experience) to Black folks in particular, without really seeing much of a difference.

I've reached the point where I don't think we should continue believing in outreach as its being practiced, just because it seems like the right thing to do. What kinds of results are we really looking for? And our different groups of us looking for different things?

Without necessarily getting into a long(er) rant, I think "outreach" needs to die and that all of us together need to work on building coalitions instead.

Emancipated by Quintus Jett @ 9:01 AM :: (1) minds freed

Monday, July 11, 2005

Knowledge is Power

I recently attended a Democracy for America training. It was really a great experience; I learned a lot, networked with a few people, and spread the word about AAFD.

Irene was there also, so AAFD was in full effect.

Unfortunately, Black folk were not in full effect. Sure there were a few of us there...out of over a hundred people total.

That's one of the reasons our voices aren't being heard in the Democratic Party these days, because we're not as involved as we should be.

Right now is a golden opportunity to effect some real change within the Democratic Party, but we have to show up. Voting by itself just isn't enough. We have to go knock on doors, take up leadership positions on the local level, and run for office ourselves- at all levels. You don't have to have any experience to volunteer, just do it- or you can get trained.

Get involved with AAFD, that's a start that doesn't require a lot of time or money. Donate a few bucks, leave comments on the blog, discuss issues of concern with your family, friends, and neighbors.

No one else is going to do it for you.

Emancipated by Talib @ 5:44 PM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Word For The Week

Fred Rogers - Mr. Rogers, that is - once recounted the most memorable commencement address he'd ever heard. The speech was delivered at Harrow in England, the school where Winston Churchill nearly flunked out three times. After Churchill had become Prime Minister of England, Harrow invited him to give their commencement address. One can only begin to imagine his feelings as he went back to that school where so many years earlier he had had such a hard time. His commencement address was like none that that school had ever heard before-or since! Churchill walked up to the podium and said three words: "Never give up." Then he paused and said: "Never give up." And he paused even longer and said: "Never give up." And then Churchill sat down.

That's all he needed to say because he had lived it. He hadn't given up at Harrow and he hadn't given up what was important to him all along the way afterwards. And you can be sure that he had just as many obstacles as anybody else did. The Gospel writer Luke recounts an instance of a woman who suffered for 12 years with an issue of blood. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. Be that as it may, she never gave up. She heard that Jesus was coming by and she believed that if she could just touch the hem of His garment that she could be healed. Sure enough, she was immediately healed when she touched Him. The problem that many of us have is that we give up before we achieve our goals. Our problem is that we give up before we reach our objectives. Our problem is that we give up.

NEVER GIVE UP!

Yesterday, I went to Kings Island with some of my friends. There is a new attraction there called The Italian Job - based off of the Cooper Mini advertisement movie of the same title. We wound through the line for about an hour, and then an announcer came across the PA system and told us that there were some technical difficulties with the ride and that they'd try to get it fixed as soon as possible. After about 15 minutes of waiting for them to fix it we gave up and got out of line to go to the next ride. No sooner than had we walked 100' away from the ride there were Cooper Mini replicas running on the tracks again and the ride was back in business. We gave up 90 seconds before our mess got fixed. How many times have you given up? It may be that the fix for your mess was already in the works but you gave up before the fix could be completed. It may be that you would have had to wait 12 years for your fix to come "immediately" - or it might never come - but if you give up you can rest assured that nothing will ever change.

NEVER GIVE UP!

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (2) minds freed

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Will You Be Pretty Like He Is?


We are In-juns, In-juns, In-juns
of the nation, the whole wild creation
And we won't bow down,
on that dirty ground,
Because I love to hear
you call my In-di-an Red...


I'm in New Orleans today. Beaucoup Blues, the event which brought me out here, got postponed due to concerns about Hurricane Dennis. But it's all good. Last night, I participated in the Celebration of Life of a great man: Chief "Tootie" Montana of the Mardi Gras Indians, a group of tribes which grew from Black folks who had escaped slavery and were taken in by their Indian/Native American brothers and sisters.

The Chief of Chiefs Tootie Montana died recently at a special session of the New Orleans City Council, which was called to address police brutality complaints at the Mardi Gras Indian celebration last March. Chief Tootie was one of the speakers, and he was among other chiefs and supporters when he died. He was at the podium, recalling the police brutality that he has seen and experienced in the city throughout his life -- countering the argument being put forth that the recent brutality was a "misunderstanding" and something that doesn't usually happen. Then Chief Tootie had a sudden heart attack and collapsed. His final words: "This has got to stop."

What should we make of this? Well, there are many people out there who are tourists of the New Orleans Mardi Gras (or, alternatively, tourists of Black culture or anything "ethnic") who will speak of their admiration of how pretty the costumes are of the Mardi Gras Indians, particularly the ones made and worn by Chief Tootie each year.

If you focus too much on the Mardi Gras suit, you miss the essence of the man. Tootie Montana is the prettiest. As I attended the celebration of his life last night, I couldn't help but be moved by the many rememberances of his dedication and commitment to who the Mardi Gras Indians are, shown in one of many ways by the serious care and detail that he gave to preparing the most pretty and colorful Mardi Gras suits (some take a full year to make). The Chief's passion to seriously commit himself to a thing is what made him pretty. Can you express love through your work and your play? Can you express your love for the brothers and sisters around you? Do you have enough love in you - and around you - to give of yourself, and to resist oppression with heart? Can you be that pretty?

If you were there with me last night, you could feel the man's seriousness, as well as the warmth that others felt around him. You could feel the community's resistance to unjust power, that Chief Tootie empodied, and the struggle that has lasted generations. I had never before experienced a moment like this. African. American-American. Indian. Distinct experiences that are joined together without contradiction, expressed through the Indian Red. "We won't bow down, on that dirty ground."

Chief Tootie Montana didn't need any validation from white people. Or from anyone else, from that matter. He is the prettiest. Brothers out there, you can take this however you like. More of us need to be more pretty like the Chief of Chiefs. I intend to be. I challenge you to become more pretty than me.

Emancipated by Quintus Jett @ 10:36 AM :: (0) minds freed

Friday, July 08, 2005

Economic Interest

One thing that I have despised is the flippant use of the phrase "voting one's own economic interest." This phrase is never used when talking about rich and famous millionaires like George Lucas or Rob Reiner who just can't quite figure out that Bush's tax cuts are in their economic interests. The phrase is never used, as Richard Cohen points out, to mention that while Jews as a definable group are among the wealthiest in the country, they time and again vote overwhelmingly Democratic. No, it is only used to refer to those poor dumb red-state bastards who don't seem to have the good sense to know that gay marriage and abortion shouldn't be as important to them as, as, um, as what? The problem isn't that the poor dumb bastards can't figure out what should and shouldn't be important to them (we'll save the White Liberal elitism discussion for later - they say that they want people to think for themselves...), the problem is that the Democrats aren't proposing anything that would directly affect their economic interests.


Think about it: other than a proposed minimum wage increase (and how many minimum wage votes are there?) what have the Democrats proposed that would directly affect most people's economic interests? Not much if anything. Most people don't have degrees in economics so the ramifications of NAFTA, CAFTA, and the WTO are lost on them - pro or con. The same goes for most economic issues - unless it directly affects voters the voters don't vote on those issues. So let's do put away the meme about people voting against their economic interests already.

Having said that, it is still in everyone's economic interest - and I do mean everyone - to vote Democratic. The American economy always performs better under Democrats than Republicans.

Always.

It is also true that the Democrats should be able to show how it is in the interest of the overwhelming majority of Americans to vote Democratic. The problem is that the Republican have effectively framed the government as a bad thing - big government, bad; big corporations, good. With that political landscape it is an uphill battle to argue for the goodness of government action, when it has been established in the mindset of most Americans that the government that governs least governs best. The Republicans were relentless with their attacks on "Big Government" and on "Tax and Spend Liberals" and we will likewise have to be relentless in emphasizing the fact that you can't trust Republicans with your money - they just borrow and spend us into bankruptcy.

We have a lot of work to do, but we can share some laughs in the comments.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:00 AM :: (3) minds freed

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Revolting Populists


It's the math, stupid!



It's all about Bush's base against the rest of the population - either you're with the Haves and the Have Mores or you're with the other 98% of the US population. You would think that something so painfully obvious should be an easy sell to the general public, yet around half of the votes cast in the 2004 election were in support of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%. If politics is truly about who gets what and when - the allocation of scarce resources - then it would stand to reason that 98% of the population would vote for what is in their best interests. You shouldn't lose too many elections when 98% of the population supports your party's position on an issue. That, naturally, requires one of the parties to actually represent the interests of 98% of the population, and that is exactly what the Democratic Party is beginning to do under Howard Dean - and that is why the Washington insiders are doing everything that they can to muzzle Howard Dean.

Whether or not Howard Dean is successfully muzzled, we the people have to speak up and agitate on our own behalf. We the people have to rise up and declare that we will not be divided by arbitrary state color codes. We the people have to decide that we will truly have a government of, by, and for the people. And you know what? "Us folks" have the biggest mouths of all of the people - the conscious of America as we've been called - and we have to get on our j-o-b. We have to declare that we the people want no parts of Bush's iTunes. We have to prod Republicans about what ever happened to their Balanced Budget Amendment. We have to demand truly worthwhile judicial nominees in the upcoming nomination battle. And we still have to ask the Republicans WHERE IS OSAMA BIN FORGOTTEN?.

We have the power, and we have a lot of work to do with that power.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:00 AM :: (3) minds freed

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Best Of: Doublecheck the Grass

The following comments are courtesy of Irene Lin.

While I sympathize with anyone who wants to form an alternative party to the Dems, the reality remains, in a winner take all system like ours, that that's a futile attempt and the best thing to do is to shift the Dem Party.

Any person of color who wants to try and work with the GOP, while I understand the impulse, is just foolhardy. Everyday I work in Congress, it's Democrats who are fighting the good fights, in terms of health care access, saving social security, holding the Bushies accountable for Halliburton and Iraq lies, fighting for environmental justice, against media consolidation. Sure, some DLC Blue Dog Dems sell us out time and time again on these issues, but it's Dems and Dems only who even attempt to offer amendments, to block bad legislation, who try to get crucial appropirations back into bills that Bush tries to cut and slaughter (like Section 8 subsidies).

So folks can say the Dems are sell outs, no better than the GOP, blah blah blah, but I think they are being naive about the political process. I may like individual Republicans more than I do certain Dems, but I know at the end of the day, the Dems are the best party and only realistic political force for addressing the ills of our community, so I am doing what I can to help them. If I lived in Europe, I would be a Green for sure, where they are offered some proportional representation. But we don't have those options yet here.

Emancipated by Talib @ 11:05 AM :: (0) minds freed

Let's Get Free

[Crossposted at Join the Cipher]

Ever wonder if we're in a matrix-type world and Black folk are still in bondage here in the U.S.?

Consider this fact: Black people are 12.3% of the general U.S. population, but make up 43.9% of the incarcerated population. If we are just under half of one quarter of the total population, how do we make up almost half the percentage of inmates?

Intelligent thinking will tell you that the social construct of race is not an inherent crime indicator.

We need different policies. We need policies that recognize there is no difference between powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

We need policies that encourage rehabilitation for drug users instead of locking up mommies and daddies for years on end.

We need policies that focus on crime prevention instead of criminal detention.

Who creates these policies? Our elected officials. Who gives our elected officials power? We do.

To keep it real, short of being a millionaire, there's not much one single person can do to effect sweeping change.

However, one single person can form a link in the chain which tears down bad policy and lifts up good policy.

One person can write letters to the editor of their local newspaper or talk to their neighbors and enlighten them.

One person can call their elected official and give their two cents.

One person can make the decision to vote for someone who they believe will enact good policy.

Nothing will get better until YOU do something about it.

Emancipated by Talib @ 10:07 AM :: (0) minds freed

Lipstick On A Pig

Let me introduce you to the next Supreme Court Justice nominee - his name is Alberto Gonzales.




Democrats are notorious for feuding in public, but Republicans never air their dirty laundry. So why is it that we are being treated to a public viewing of the Religious Right attacking Bush's presumptive Supreme Court nominee? It may be the case that by attacking Gonzales they hope that the left will take an enemy-of-my-enemy approach to Gonzales and play dead during his confirmation hearings. However, considering their opposition to Gonzales being nominated as Attorney General, their opposition to Gonzales' Supreme Court nomination seems to be sincere (unless they are, once again, two steps ahead of the left and were merely setting him up for the Supreme Court battle).

Whatever their motivation, whatever their agenda, we cannot get sucked into approving of Alberto Gonzales' nomination simply because the Religious Right hates him. We have our own reasons for opposing his nomination. Not to mention that whole torture thing that he has going on with Abu Ghraib and all. There's not enough lipstick in a Fashion Fair catalog to beautify this piece of pork.

What to do? Ask questions about divisive issues - activist judges, medical marijuana, eminent domain, and equal justice under the law. There's not much that we can do directly about the nomination - it would have been nice if Justice O'Connor could have held on for three more years - but if we can get the right-wingers lathered-up into a froth about Gonzales' alleged ambiguity on Affirmative Action and abortion (remember, Clarence Thomas was allegedly ambiguous on these matters as well) then they might be able to pressure a few Republican Senators to oppose Gonzales.

Then too, Bush could come back and nominate someone even worse...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:00 AM :: (2) minds freed

Monday, July 04, 2005

My American Dream

[Crossposted at Join the Cipher]

On the Fourth of July I usually feel a little off. I am an American by birth and so one might think I want to celebrate in the founding of our country. However I can never shake the double-edged sword of reality as expressed by Frederick Douglass in his famous speech, "What to The Slave is the 4th of July?"

I feel like the 4th of July can be a sick joke, a mockery of freedom and liberty. The Founding Fathers regarded a lack of absolute political autonomy as tyranny, yet accepted a culture of owning other humans as legal property. Am I the only person who thinks that doesn't make any sense at all?

In reflecting on the 4th of July this year, I started to have a dream: what if in 1776, under this new nation with freedom and justice as founding ideals, all men were truly regarded as equals. What if there were blacks and whites, fighting side by side for the freedom of all peoples?

We'd have a vastly different nation, no doubt a much better one- a more perfect union.

Black people would have more of our own names.

The wealth of the many would not be so concentrated in the hands of the few.

We would be moving together for freedom and liberty- all the people of the United States of America- Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Native American Indians in all of our various cultural and ethnic blends.

Since things didn't happen that way, but we're all Americans now, can we move toward that ideal together? Can we progress our society to true representation of freedom, justice, and democracy? I don't know if we will, but I believe we can.

Emancipated by Talib @ 2:28 PM :: (2) minds freed

Monkey Business

"All men are created equal" -
Is this what I'm to understand?
According to the founders
Only a White man who owns land
Is equal to one vote
But those who descended from another boat
Rate three-fifths of a human being
To the seeing of their all-wise eyes

Eleven score and nine years ago
They got it wrong and fixed it so
We would still be second class citizens
Snake bitten by society's system
Of monkeying with the will of the people
Yet they say that all men are created equal
Yes, under God we are all brothers
But some still seem more equal than others

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 12:00 PM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Word For The Week

There are precious few people on the planet who actually like snakes. Snakes are universally reviled and with good reason - they're treacherous and they're often deadly. Snakes are hated in such a way that in our common vernacular one of the worse things that you can call someone is a snake. A snake is someone who has no character, someone who has no scruples, someone who has no problem with smiling in your face and patting you on the back for the sole purpose of finding out where to thrust the knife. Have you ever had to deal with a snake?

The Apostle Paul had been snake-bitten throughout his ministry in Asia Minor. Five times he received 39 lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked, he spent a night and a day in the open sea, and he was constantly on the move. He had been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from his own countrymen and in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and, above all, in danger from false brothers. Paul was well acquainted with snakes.

So Paul must have chuckled the last time that he was shipwrecked - on Malta - when a snake bit him as he was helping to gather firewood. Everyone thought that he was a dead man walking, but what did Paul do? Paul shook it off. Paul didn't sit around and cry about his fate. Paul didn't kvetch about his perpetual misfortune. Paul shook that snake off before the venom could get into his system. That is exactly how we have to face adversity:

Folks hating on you? Shake it off.

Spouse acting a fool? Shake it off.

Kids acting like Chucky? Shake it off.

Boss treating you like Toby? Shake it off.

Politicians lying to your face? Shake it off!

Player haters trying to take your place? Shake it off!

We cannot sit around and complain about what has happened to us - we have to shake that stuff off and move forward with what God has for us to do. If you look at the text, Paul didn't just shake the snake off of him - he shook it into the fire. You see, not only do we have to get past the problem, we have to solve the problem. Paul eliminated the source of his problem - he didn't just sit around and whine about it, he did something about it. There's an old saying that God helps those who help themselves, and there's some truth to that. We have to get past our helplessness and take care of our own responsibilities. We have to shake off adversity and squash whatever problems hinder us so that we can achieve all of our objectives. That is what Paul did on his way to Nero's chopping block, and that is what we have to do in our every-day living.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who implores you to Shake It Off,
Turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (5) minds freed

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Option #4

Third parties are about as relevant to American politics as the 49ers are to the Super Bowl. However, much like there was once a time when the 49ers were more than relevant to the Super Bowl - 4 times to be exact - there was once a third party that made a huge difference in American politics: The Republican Party.

Looking back over American history it occurs to me that the only way for a third party to be relevant in American politics is for it to be positioned to assimilate members from an established party when the established party implodes. That is how the Republican Party went from being an irrelevant third party to being the ruling party in a matter of a decade - it assimilated the abolitionist Whigs once the Whig Party disintegrated. Conventional Wisdom says that if any party is going to self-destruct it would be the Democratic Party, but Republican hubris could bring down the GOP - and I think that is much more likely. The Religious Right has pledged to remain within the Republican coalition, but if O'Connor and Rehnquist are not replaced with staunchly Pro Life judges then the Religious Right might reconsider that commitment. Likewise, the unions are not getting anything for their support of the Democratic Party - CAFTA just passed the Senate. It may be possible to unite these two factions along with Black folk under the banner of a New Populist Party. "Power to the people" would be the rallying cry and the central theme would be the supremacy of individual rights over the rights of corporations.

I think it is informative to look at a discussion that the Religious Right had regarding the pros and cons of forming a third party - they concluded that it was impractical. They concluded that it would be a more efficient use of their resources to take over the GOP, and sure enough that's exactly what they did. I believe that is the same model that Black folk should use regarding the DNC, but there is this Option #4 that we can consider.

Finessing the abortion issue could get thorny, of course, but if we confess/declare a fetus to be an individual then we would be philosophically consistent and would truly have common ground. Naturally, that's one huge "if" there, and in reality it probably wouldn't happen, but that's what would have to happen for a third party to become relevant in American politics. Otherwise we're just shooting spit wads at the sides of the Democratic and Republican heavy armor.

Another point of commonality - emphasizing the priority of people over faceless corporations - would be prioritizing support for the soldiers over support for the weapons manufacturers. That should resonate with the people, but getting it through the media filter could be a daunting task. We should emphasize the necessity for justice to be equal for all lest there be no justice at all. We also have common ground in our common opposition to the expansion of eminent domain.

On international affairs we would emphasize the golden rule - do unto others as you would have them do to you. We'd pledge to hunt Osama down and bring justice to him instead of milking him to keep the people in fear. We would emphasize our commitment to leveling with the people - especially on Iraq - instead of selling the public a song and dance that in no ways resembles the reality on the ground. We must also oppose Capitalistic Marxism with every fiber of our beings for the benefit of the American worker.

Of course, if the Religious Right stays the course with the GOP then this is a moot point - unless they run everyone else out of the GOP. Cannibalizing the Democratic Party is useless without also getting part of the GOP base - if we cannibalized the entire Democratic Party we'd still be in the minority. If our objective is to govern and not merely to replace one opposition party with another then we'll have to make common cause with a lot of Republican refugees. Or we can work on taking over the Democratic Party and then expanding the base to create a new majority throughout the 50 states. Seems like I've heard that plan before...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 4:30 AM :: (2) minds freed

Friday, July 01, 2005

Nuclear Option

Sandra Day O'Conner is retiring, and if you have never witnessed or been a part of a gang fight then watch the Senate over the next few weeks.

How will this affect Black Folks? We will need to come together as a people because America is about to tear itself apart. If the Republicans are foiled at installing a Clarence Thomas clone then the Religious Right could - essentially - declare a jihad against all things even remotely affiliated with the Democratic Party. Keep in mind that the Religious Right is no more an accurate example of Christianity than is Osama bin Laden an accurate example of Islam. On the flip side, however, if the Republicans are successful in installing a Clarence Thomas clone then you can bet your life that the secular left will declare war on the Church - specifically the Black Church, but the White Church, Evangelical Church, liberal Church, or whatever church will get some too. Mosques and Synagogues will probably catch it too. The point is that no matter who wins this fight we're going to be attacked in the aftermath.

So what do we do? If history is our guide then we can reasonably expect that Black folk won't come together until there is a boot lodged firmly in our collective coccyx. Personally, I'd like us to get it together before it comes to that and position ourselves in such a way as to avoid getting kicked in the first place, but how do we do that? I believe it will take a critical mass of Black folk working in concert, and I see three options:
  1. Vocally and overtly religiously throw our support behind the Democrats. Most of us are at least tacitly supporting the Democratic Party anyway, so this would take the least amount of effort and coordination, and it could lessen the left's reaction when they get steamrolled in the Senate.
  2. Overtly throw our support behind the Republicans. Personally, I think this is suicidal on many levels, but it is an option. If you believe that the left is destined to lose this fight (I do) and that their reaction against all religious folks is inevitable (I do) then it could be argued that we should go ahead and switch camps now and find common cause with the GOP. I don't buy it, but it is an option.
  3. Sit back and watch the fireworks. Let the chips fall where they may and then go get some K-Y Jelly because we will get caught up in the reaction, like it or not.
What do you think?

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 12:00 PM :: (3) minds freed

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