A Case Against Closed Debate

What would make you re-examine your views?  In our hyper-partisan climate where view points on virtually everything seem to be heavily embedded in our subconscious, what manner of evidence would persuade you to look upon a subject or ideology with a fresh pair of eyes?  Maureen Walsh discovered her switch in this video.

Many of us retain principles based not upon reasoned facts, but passionate emotional fervor.  It’s derivative of our religious beliefs or background, and how we extrapolate that to form decisions.

I find myself distressed at this thought however.  Absent a sort of attitudinal flexibility, we find ourselves waging a perpetual war of ideology with neither side giving one inch–or even failing to acknowledge those inches.

There are too many issues which illustrate this problem vividly.  All of them–income inequality, same-sex marriage, political division etc., showcase a dearth of intellectual honesty in how we apply factual statements to our beliefs.  Herein lies the problem with open, honest debate.  To ignore the ideas presented by the other side, to completely disavow them false, is to leave yourself hollow and uninformed.  Intellectual rigidity is not just wrong, it’s harmful to a free society.

Santorum’s Battle To Prevent The Execution Of Religious People

Rick Santorum has grabbed the President Obama’s war on religion narrative and has choked the life from it.  Santorum may prove to be more adept at scoring points from this talking point than Mitt Romney.  It’s his strength as the principled religious conservative in the race.  But this play will only work with conservative evangelicals, not the broad swath of support he would need in a general election.  One of the reasons Santorum is unelectable.

Bishop Eddie Long

The Tragedy That Is Eddie Long

Bishop Eddie Long

photo credit: Newsone

Sad and beyond contemptible:

“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community, or any group. Furthermore, I sincerely denounce any action that depicts me as a King, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord,” Long wrote in a letter dated Saturday.
The letter was addressed to Bill Nigut, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League — a Jewish group that fights anti-Semitism.
“While I believe that Rabbi Ralph Messer has good intentions during his message at New Birth, I understand that the ceremony he performed on Sunday, January 29th, caused harm to the Jewish community, for which I am deeply sorry,” Long wrote.
Long’s spectacle managed to achieve the near impossible:  offend devout Jews as well as gentiles.  His downfall is snowballing into something insidious and creepy.  Surely a late night sojourn to a motel isn’t far behind.
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The GOP’s Lazy Black People Meme

Goldberg’s take on Republican strategy:

Black people have lost the desire to perform a day’s work. Black people rely on food stamps provided to them by white taxpayers. Black people, including Barack and Michelle Obama, believe that the U.S. owes them something because they are black. Black children should work as janitors in their high schools as a way to keep them from becoming pimps. And the pathologies afflicting black Americans are caused partly by the Democratic Party, which has created in them a dependency on government not dissimilar to the forced dependency of slaves on their owners.

An exhaustively odorous narrative to be sure– but it plays well in many parts of the electorate.  Aside from its obvious  vitriol, there is an air of patronization and shamelessness that borders on the obscene.

And they wonder why black folks vote Democrat en mass.


Don Cornelius: A Socially Conscious Pioneer

Soul Train was must see television before that phrase was ever coined, and Don Cornelius was not simply its host — he was its maestro–conducting virtuosos of dance, music, and style in an age of black chic.  His deep baritone illicited  more than questions seeking answers–they spoke plainly and loudly to black youth in America.  They spoke about how cool black consciousness was, how black music framed American culture, and how black folks were all beautiful.

Don Cornelius’ death was a jolt to those who learned to dance through Soul Train. It was blow to those who finally felt a sense of swagger and pride in their appearances… their styles… their culture.  He revolutionized black hipness and reached across swaths of Americana, introducing millions to artists not allowed to appear on other music shows.  His death strikes deeply into the consciousness of those who are and were culturally aware, but it does not dull his swagger– and it will never diminish his influence.  RIP Mr. Cornelius.

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The Reality Of Racists

Newt Gingrich’s efforts to cast himself as the white knight, cleaving through the murk of blacks leeching off government, exposed more than the seedy opportunistic side of  politics–It laid bare an electorate fueled by racist mores.

The interesting part about being a racist is the not so subtle manner in which you promote your racist dogma.  Most racists don’t believe they’re being anything other than truthful… denying the invocation of  racist diatribes creates a protective cloak against which repudiation rarely penetrates.  In fact, the views of the accusers are seen as more unpalatable than the accused’s invective.

Racism is itself as insidious and ingrained as lying.  As Coates puts it, “The habit of lying does not end with the racism itself. It is a contagion that extends to the defense of the initial lie.”  To wit:

People who are regularly complicit in wrong, are not in the habit of admitting such things. The unwillingness to admit wrong, the greedy claim upon the powers of disappointment,  the deep sense of injury is not coincidental–it is a necessary fact of wrong-doing. The charge that the NAACP are the actual racist is the descendant of the notion that abolitionists wanted to reduce Southern whites to “slavery,”  that the goal of civil rights was the rape of white women.That Barack Obama would have a “deep-seated hatred of white people” is not a new concept.

Those that commit acts of wrong doing never admit to the act because they are in fact not wrong–at least in their mind.  Their business is all about proudly basking in their racism– totally unfettered.  It is an inherent trait that fuels their ambition.

Newt Gingrich’s goal is gaining the republican nomination for presidency of the United States, and those people in South Carolina weren’t just acknowledging a gotcha moment from moderator Juan Williams– or a deft retort from Gingrich–they were proudly reaffirming their own racist reality.   The promulgation of racist narratives isn’t incidental, it’s coolly calculated strategy–and to many, a way of life.  That much is now apparent.


A Reflection On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr And His Legacy

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

(This was originally published January 17th, 2011)

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”  Martin Luther King Jr. ,Letter From Birmingham Jail

An uncommon man leads in a common world, stripped bare of his dignity– but never his character, never his faith, never his soul.  To see the struggle is mighty.  To battle it heartily is righteous.  To maintain your serenity and love is Godly.  That defines leadership.  That defined Martin Luther King Jr.,  a man who led a struggle no average man or woman dared take on.

As I look backward, I gaze forward.  I celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dr. King’s holiday proudly, respectfully, and humbly.  I celebrate a man who in today’s climate of poisonous rhetoric, and unintelligible debate– would have been called anything from a treasonous Marxist– to an unpatriotic socialist. Some in fact, would debase and demean his work, while claiming to carry the awesome mantle of Dr. King’s legacy.  He demands more respect than that.

If Dr. King taught us anything, it was that sacrifice is a necessary burden of leadership.  Leadership must be tethered to a righteous cause.  It cannot be vacant in times of strife, or as the winds of discomfort shift the debate.  Righteous causes exist to give our lives direction– to fill our souls with purpose.  Dr. King knew his, and he shared it with all of us.  Those able to walk in his graceful path were anointed with the spirit of compassion, the power of forgiveness, the strength of righteousness, and the glory of eternal love.  With these qualities, man and woman shall endure.  They shall prosper.  They shall triumph over injustice and intolerance.

On this day, we should praise the true meaning of leadership.  We all should aspire to the heights of a man who worried less about his own mortality–and more about the mortality of those four little girls– brutally murdered in Birmingham.  Those little girls, whose lives “were distressingly small in quantity, but glowingly large in quality.”  We should aspire to quality.  We should wind our paths through gardens filled with light– never seeking comfort– but alwaysgiving it in doses large and small.

We have the power to lift the shadow of disappointment, cast widely upon us in times of difficulty.  It is within us to seek the solution to our problems, and reject with great confidence any attempt to dissuade us from our cause.  This is what real leaders choose.  The path is never a clean one, but it is a necessary one.  I pray I have the strength demanded of me to fulfill my promise.  But in times of doubt, the words of a man who worried less about his own mortality, and more about the quality of life for others, assuage my fears:

…when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Dr. King taught us that continuous struggle is a necessity of change.  We can be the mechanism that fosters hope, as we continue to make that change a reality.  There is no greater heir to the King legacy than that.

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Obama, The Alien Menace

This speaks for itself:

Even needing to ask the question provides the answer. It matters not where he was born; this man is deeply and fiercely alien to the American tradition. He thinks ordinary Americans “cling” to Gods and guns because we are “bitter.” He believes we should “redistribute the wealth.” He thinks cops are “stupid” for politely asking a Harvard professor to show proof of residence when a neighbor reported a burglary in progress. He thinks that if Congress doesn’t immediately do his bidding, he can ignore the Constitution because he supposedly has a superceding need to”act.” He thinks government has a right to tell people when they have made “too much money.”

He is an alien menace.

This what the president is supposed to compromise with? This is what passes as substantive policy debate these days?  These people have no monopoly on understanding what “the core of America stands for.”  The sheer audacity, arrogance, and ignorance of this borders on the obscene.


Living While Black In New York City

I try not to riff off of another blogger’s work, even though there are a significant number of writers I admire greatly.  But when I read this piece on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog regarding an op-ed written by a young black man in New York City, I had to link to it.  Here’s the dagger for me:

Last May, I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door.
One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn’t answer.
Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken…
It feels like an important thing to be part of a community of hundreds of thousands of people who are wrongfully stopped on their way to work, school, church or shopping, and are patted down or worse by the police though they carry no weapon; and searched for no reason other than the color of their skin. I hope police practices will change and that when I have children I won’t need to pass along my mother’s advice.

No matter how many times someone tells me profiling–and this case wasn’t even profiling, rather an unconscionable act of violation– is a necessary evil.  To me it just reinforces the double standard many black men face and white men don’t.  When there is an abrogation of your civil and human rights, that is not a necessary evil.  It’s simply evil.

So it goes I suppose, without recriminations or recourse for these officers involved.  The ever spinning wheels of tainted justice continue to claim victims who have no way to adequately respond to this molestation.  This is what passes for crime-fighting in many cities in America I suppose.

Congressional republicans

President Obama, The GOP, And Moving Poll Numbers

Congressional republicans

photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

There may be a price to pay for intransigence.  Because of a deliberate attempt at self-sabotage by congressional republicans, an inability of Speaker Boehner to reign in tea party freshmen, and the likelihood of a substantial tax increase on more than 160 million Americans–something conservatives would normally consider anathema–they find themselves on the wrong end of poll numbers.

Given the need to bolster the economy, something only the President has seemed willing to do so far, Obama has made significant strides with the public on the country’s most pressing issues:

Obama’s gains have come at the expense of the Republicans in Congress and the GOP in general. By a 50% to 31% margin, people questioned say they have more confidence in the president than in congressional Republicans to handle the major issues facing the country. Obama held a much narrower 44% to 39% margin in March.

And the GOP’s overall favorable rating has dropped to six points, to 43%, since June, while the Democrats’ positive rating remained steady at 55%. “The Democrats do particularly well among middle income Americans, while the Republicans win support only from the top end of the income scale,” adds Holland.

Perhaps the strategy of congressional republicans is to continue its abject stonewalling, lest they risk making the economy better right before 2012 elections.  Politics before country doesn’t sound like a sound, winning strategy to me.  In a divided government, absolutism is the wrong play.   If their intended result was to achieve historically low congressional poll numbers, mission accomplished.


Determining fact from lunacy in politics, culture, and American life