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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump... A Clear and Present Danger to Civil Society

It has been declared that politics is about life. I want to expand and expound on that: Politics is about our lives together. 

Beyond our individual interests and the group interests that are at times used to divide and rule us; there is that greater imperative that calls us to build the kind of national and international community that will secure our mutual interests and bolster our collective security. The leadership that this vision of our lives demands is what we are constantly  being called on to bring into being. Donald Trump is NOT the kind of leader our country and the world needs. His lack of moral acuity, his demonstrably horrible temperament, his ill-mannered attitude toward others - these traits are antithetical to everything we should be working toward as a society.

One does not have to look far in order to find the reasons that disqualify Mr Trump from holding the highest office in the land. Any casual observer of his conduct can, without much effort, identify a host of such reasons. His unapologetic divisiveness. His crass abrasiveness. His activist appeal to the racist underbelly of a nation still scarred by its history of bigotry. His disrespect for women, and for immigrants who are not white and rich... and corrupt. Add to all this his obvious inability to intelligently address any of the issues of critical importance in our national life and we have the ingredients for a national crisis.

Trump has demonstrated a lack of intellectual curiosity about our world that, in an otherwise uncorrupted process, would disqualify him from leadership of any corporate entity - much less the United States of America. His careless disregard for those with disabilities among us is a marker of the kind of warped amorality that those concerned about the health of our nation find detestable. His history of exploiting the economic system to benefit himself to the disadvantage of others is the primeval scream of a corrupt economic soul. 

When we add to all this Trump's careless disregard for truth, we have nothing less than the recipe for a national disaster. His propensity to promote violence against those who do not share his worldview calls the civilized among us to engage in the necessary constitutional measures to preserve our democracy. His ludicrously inconsequential bravado is matched only by his disrespect of those who have served in our military. 

This man is a clear and present danger to the further establishment of civil society here in America, and in the world. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Building Blocks Of Hope

Though we may disagree, there is no need to try to invalidate the perspective of the many of us who look back and conclude that times have gotten worse. To be sure, there has certainly  been an erosion in our sense of security. Truth be told though, the “good old days” weren't all that good for most of us. There is real progress going on all around us, and we are being called to be part of that progress. Our challenge, and we must choose to accept it, is to find ways to partner with each other across the divides constantly being highlighted amongst us.

Beyond the superficial national, regional, ethnic, and religious boundaries that divide us, we are constantly being called to reach out and touch each other in recognition of that deeper connection which is our common humanity. That reaching out must be defined by a coupling of the needs we share, and the resources available to us. A little from the many will go a far way in meeting the needs of multitudes.

The development and propagation of dynamic technologies, bring us closer to each other in our world. These technologies avail us of opportunities to break out of the isolationism that partners with ignorance to breed a pessimistic outlook on life. We are now able to reach out and touch each other in ways never before possible. The revolution in information technologies facilitates the  sharing of our lives and concerns in ways that were once impossible. In large measure it is now up to each of us to develop the resourcefulness to take advantage of every opportunity to empower ourselves and each other.

A greater sense of hope can be realized in the normal day to day circumstances of our lives. It comes when we live into the greatest calling of Life - the call to enter each other's lives in transformative ways. The seeds of hope are sown whenever we open up our hearts and minds, and make whatever resources we have available to enrich the lives and circumstances around us.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

We Can Build Walls... Or We Can Broaden Our Perspectives

If you are a consumer of “news” in our society you have probably developed a certain emotional obliqueness to the repetition of adverse events coming at you constantly. Indeed you may have come to cultivate a lack of attachment to any and all the issues being exploited in order to grab your attention, just so you can maintain some modicum of balance in your perspective on life. This expressed indifference has become a defining feature of the attitude of many people in our world.

A significant number of people have come to the conclusion that their indifference is necessary in order to maintain their sanity in what many have come to regard as a crazy world. The conscious construction of this wall - this defense mechanism to keep the madness out - might seem necessary, but it is not our only option… nor is it the most viable one. Reality bites, but we can find creative ways to avoid being uncritical consumers of the menu of an unconscionable media culture.

To be sure, there are things happening in our world that hold grave concerns for the future. There are enduring wars and strife. There are political dramas that raise questions about the assumptions we have cultivated about what constitutes good governance. Challenges to the foundational values that have come to underpin our political systems and the way we expect our societies to operate abound. Beyond the hypocrisies that are a part of the day to day relationships between nations, we continue to be concerned about the gross demonstrations of immorality and amorality in international affairs.

Bad news is a fact of life, but, thankfully, it is not the only news. While the reasons for pessimism persist, the necessity for optimism beckons. We may not be living in the best of times, but it is not true that we are in the worst of times. The violence that causes many to retreat is a fact of life; but cultivating hope for a more peaceful and prosperous world is an ontological imperative we must not ignore.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Contrary To Our Pervasive Pessimism

Harvard University professor of Psychology Steven Pinker, author of the book – The Better Angels Of Our Nature – disagrees with the popularly held notion that the world is falling apart or getting more violent. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Michel Martin in 2016 he states the following in regard to this hypothesis:
The only way you can really answer the question – has violence gone up or down? – is to count how many violent incidents have there been as a proportion of the number of opportunities, and has that gone up or down over the course of history? And that’s what I tried to do in the book. I looked at homicide, looked at war, looked at genocide, looked at terrorism. And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes, is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in United States has fallen by more than half in just a decade. The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.”
Asked whether or not this was a worldwide phenomenon he says:
Well, it’s highly uneven. If you certainly choose the most violent parts of the world at any given time, they’re going to be pretty violent. But if you count the number of parts of the world that are violent versus those that aren’t, then you see that the world is becoming more peaceful. The impression that some kinds of violence have gone up over the last five years has some truth to it. Because of the Syrian civil war, the rate of death in warfare has drifted upward a little bit in the last five years. There has been a small increase in homicide in the United States in the last three years. But both of those figures are at a fraction of what they were in the ’60s, ’70S and ’80s.”
Admittedly the foregoing is small comfort to many who, try as they may, cannot escape the overwhelming sense of gloom and insecurity in the face of tragedies that are ever present around us. But contrary to the pessimism bolstered by a mass media focused on the reporting of bad news, there are reasons for optimism in our world. In addition to the perspectives researched and presented by Steven Pinker and others, we can state the following with certainty…
Despite recent downturns, economies around the world are growing at significant rates, with seven out of ten of the fastest growing in Africa. Global poverty, according to United Nations estimates, has been reduced more in the last 50 years than in the previous 500 years. Educational access has vastly improved, with a fourfold increase in the number male college graduates and a sevenfold increase in the number of female graduates.

In a world culture now fueled by the work of researchers developing and advancing new technologies that are revolutionizing the way we live, these are significant facts that we must not allow ourselves to overlook despite the retrogressive rubber-necking to which we are frequently drawn.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On Raising Our Sons



'On Raising Our Sons' by guest blogger Monica Rhea Graham (as posted on her Facebook page).

As we were headed to brunch to celebrate My Birthday and our Wedding Anniversary, unbeknownst to us, our son Trei took this picture from the back seat... it's Me and My Honey holding hands (the norm for us). He captioned the picture 'Happy Anniversary' and sent it to us.

I read a few posts today that pointed to the fact that as we raise our sons, remember that we are raising them to be someone's Husband and Father. The fact that Trei felt compelled to capture this Loving image and honor his parents on their Anniversary makes my heart smile and let's me know that he is definitely on the right track.

Just in case you think that your children are not paying attention to what you say and how you move in this world, think again.

One Love!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Walking Bare-footed Over Perilous Paths... A word to those like myself

There is a vacuous liberalism that would have us believe that we can claim our human right to Freedom while slighting our communal call to Responsibility.  This is especially true in the cliched analyses of what is wrong in many communities, and specifically in African American life.

On any given day we can tune in to various media, and read and listen to the arguments that basically posit the view that the reason peoples' lives are the way they are has to do with the overarching influence of some other entity flexing its cultural and economic might to the disadvantage of those perceived as victims in this dynamic. Any contradicting critique of this way of seeing this issue is usually greeted with the reflexive liberalism that we are "blaming the victim for his/her victimization"? Any serious analysis of the socio-economic disparities in our society must account for and acknowledge that such disparities have some roots in the victimization implicit in the liberal critique. It is true that greed and a corrupted sense of being are afflictions in the pathology of our societal dysfunction; but we would be incredibly amiss to end our analysis there.

We cannot ignore the fact that corporate compensation has outpaced the value placed on labor to an extent that a moral society will find abhorrent. This, in some cases, acts as a disincentive to pursue work, especially where the reality is that becoming a welfare recipient is a better option due to the accrual of certain necessary benefits. The current ongoing political haggle over raising the minimum wage highlights much of the impoverished logic that go into objections to  doing what is right for workers and their families. Moral voices must continue to insist on doing the just thing over the loud objections of those who have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Let us note for the sake of History that those objecting to the demands for a livable wage were the same voices against the 40 hour work week, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, the ACA, and other programs designed to make this a more just and economically secure society.

Having acknowledged the persistent inequities in our society, we must nevertheless not ignore the most fundamental consequence of our claim on Freedom. That consequence is the need to assume responsibility for our present circumstances, and for our futures as individuals and as groups.

I speak as a descendant of a once enslaved people. I was raised by a grandmother who was born in the year 1900. That happens to be one generation removed from the Emancipation Proclamation. I grew up in a house in which the absence of "modern conveniences" was immediately obvious. My children look at me with a pronounced incredulity when I tell them that for most of my primary school years I walked the five or so miles to and from school... barefooted over mostly unpaved roads.

We did not have much in terms of the stuff that many now take for granted, but what we did have were parents (in my case Grandma, and Mother) who inculcated in us, sometimes through harsh means, a sense that we were expected to "do right" regardless of the challenges around us. Remember that dictum about "sparing the rod and spoiling the child"? Disrespect was never tolerated. Laziness was always discouraged. We were taught that "cleanliness was next to godliness", and that went as much for our garbs as it did for the floors of our oh so humble abode.  Despite the scarcity of opportunities, we were nonetheless raised to have great expectations.

Through a connected effort between home and school and church, we got not just an education in the "three Rs", but in the Ten Commandments which we were expected to live out in our relationships. Don't kill. Don't steal. Don't covet. Don't bear false witness. Honor your mother and father so your days may be long...and so on. My Grandma, and in my teenage years my Mom, would ask us "What did you learn in school today?"  When they did not go to church with us we had to tell "What the preacher preached about today".

My Mom knew nothing about Pythagoras' theorem, but it was enough for her to hear me trying to explain something about the square on the hypotenuse being equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. The idea that “the shortest distance between any two points was a straight line joining those two points together” made perfect sense to them as folk who walked almost everywhere. They couldn't help with homework, but they did what they could to make sure that we were doing as we should. We kept the house and our yards clean. It was our duty. No allowances either! We participated in growing and harvesting the food for our sustenance. We were taught to respect our elders. By these means my granny helped my mom raise seven children, all of whom are upstanding productive citizens to this day. What I got from those experiences was a solid foundation for my own life, and a template for raising my own children.

Without belaboring the point, I will put before us the reality that we need to return to some basics. Whether we live in cities  or wherever, there are basic acts of living and growing up that we are ignoring. They are acts of industry. The inculcation of moral and ethical values. Acts of basic decency. Cleanliness. These are the foundations which we are ignoring to our peril. With regards to the business of  being free, we have come to the bank of our lives without the collateral of assumed responsibility. By so doing we are complicit in the impoverishment of our own circumstances.

And oh yes... I remember spending part of a summer with my father in my preteen years - but I never met saw him again until my brother and I and our mother went in search of him just before my twenty first birthday. My brother was a year and a few months younger than I. We still remember the tears he shed when he finally realized who these two young men standing beside the woman he once knew were.

We loved our father, but his tears were his. He chose to act out his freedom by ignoring his responsibilities to two sons that he helped bring into this world. His pain is demonstrative of the peril of claiming his freedom while ignoring his sacred duty to be responsible... Kinda like walking barefooted over a perilous path.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

You Are Only Human...

Superman is a figment of our imagination, as dynamic a figment as we can imagine, but even he has his kryptonite.

We are all prone to influences that have deleterious effects on us and on our ability to be the dynamic operators we wish we could be in our various worlds. As such there are times when we succumb to being tired.  We become torn by the various challenges that are ever present in the course of our lives. Those challenges come from within and without. They originate in our own deficiencies as individuals. They come from the inevitable bruising of lives lived in the real world where things don't always pan out according to our idealism.

Beyond our desire to rise to every circumstance lies that bothersome reality that we are in fact breakable. We discover, much to our chagrin, that we are vulnerable to the battering that comes our way in the course of the many transactions that we are agents of. And so it behoves us to periodically pause, and take stock of our need of repair.

That nagging headache. That developing tendency to snap at everyone about  everything. The repeated collisions of our feet and our other body parts with objects that more and more seem to be “in the way”. An inability to focus. That creeping hypertension. The inability to summon the energy we need to get going at the start of our day. The fact that rest does not come when we lay down to sleep. The unwelcome observation that we are becoming more and more absent in our most intimate relationships. The deficit of joy that everyone around us now notice, and that we can feel in ourselves. These are but a few of the indicators that become present in our lives when we are operating on the ragged edges of the wear and tear that is a natural part of being. And while it is natural that living will take its toll on us, continuing to operate in a state of disrepair should never become the norm… as so often it does. Ignoring the need for personal repair eventually has disastrous consequences.

In the face of the many demands of life, there comes a time when we are required to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of the developing dysfunctions in ourselves. These dysfunctions have physical, intellectual, and spiritual manifestations. They adversely affect our ability to get up and go. They present as distortions in judgement, rendering us unable to think straight about the most basic problems we face. Eventually they cause us to fail in all the relationships essential to maintaining balance, and achieving the success we desire in our world.

To head off the very real breakdown that can result from being worn out, we must heed the squeaky noises coming from our own internal commotion. There comes a season to retreat from the ever-present demands of our lives that eventually wear us down. There comes a time to reflect  on our approach to things, and the results we have been harvesting for ourselves and in our relationships. These are prerequisite steps which must be taken if we are to renew ourselves in ways that will lead to the kind of revitalization that impacts positively on every aspect of our being in the world. Take time off for self-repair... or suffer the unfortunate consequences.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Needed Now... A Remedy For Hate


Then Senator Barack Hussein Obama in his now celebrated address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 declared:

“… even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats…”

Senator Obama went on to become President Obama. His time in office was marked by his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the passage of seminal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act - now known as Obamacare. His Presidency was also, without doubt, marked by a significant challenge to the notion of a united country -  which was the main thesis of his 2004 speech. Those who hoped that we could put issues of race behind us were in for a rude awakening.

With the coming of a Black family to the White House we learned to our chagrin that there is in fact a Black America, and a White America. In the face of the hope-full-ness of the first African American President -  white supremacists came with a vengeance … to take their country back. This sentiment now finds fulfillment in the presence of Donald Trump in the White House - his stated commitment… to make America great again - is one which reenergized the likes of white supremacist David Duke, and the KKK. Every right wing racist extremist now salivates at the prospect of making America white again. They have all collectively embraced Trump as their new savior.

The essence of white supremacist sentiment in the United States of America is captured in a now infamous statement that Abraham Lincoln made in the context of a political debate in Charleston, Illinois on September 18, 1858. While there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not Lincoln harbored racism as a fact of his own cultural and ideological disposition, this statement in and of itself captures the gist of white supremacist thinking on issues critical to the lives of black folk. Lincoln's words, in this circumstance, demonstrate the awkward position that politicians put themselves in when they speak out of both sides of their mouths on a critical issue such as this. On this occasion he bites his own tongue when he responds to the prodding of a political opponent about his involvement in the abolitionist movement by stating:

"I will say that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, ...that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of  qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Lets talk about "inferior" and "superior" positions for a moment. There is a remarkably pathetic quality that marks the logic of the white supremacist. In his effort to justify his culture of exploitation he must employ the tactic of subjugation, and he must codify this in his laws and his philosophy of life. Thus he assigns an arbitrary "inferiority" to those he exploits based on their most obvious difference - color. One can see why they hate Marx... he has a better explanation - power. Marx points out that in a culture of exploitation all relationships are necessarily power relationships. Thus when reactionary half literates talk about black racists, ask them what black institution in our society has the power to exploit and victimize white people. In a culture based on exploitation - as in Slavery - the underlying power dynamic breeds fear for the simple reason that you must always watch your back when your prosperity is based on the brutal exploitation of others. Fear is an inescapable consequence of the dysfunctions inherent in a culture of oppression; and hate is a fruit of this fear. The one proceeds from the other.

Hate is the torment that fear breeds; and White Supremacy is nothing more than the agency of this dynamic. The oppressor lives in fear, and therefore his hatefulness

The cancer of hate that thrives in the gut of this nation needs to be diagnosed as such. It needs to be subjected to the necessary radical treatment that we reserve for any malady that threaten our lives. Make no mistake about it - people are dying from this sickness in our midst. It is not good enough that we engage in occasional outpouring of emotions when those infected with the disease of white racism spew their nasty venom at will. We have witnessed the snuffing out of vulnerable lives like those in that church in South Carolina, and most recently the killing of an African American man in New York City by a white supremacist who traveled hundreds of miles with the expressed purpose of murdering black men.

It is past time that this nation becomes proactive about its collective well-being. As a nation we are a house divided. That division is realized in the negation of every ideal that a hope-filled Senator Obama espoused in 2004. Wisdom and History have taught us that a nation that nourishes discord is destined for destruction. The cantankerous political argument regarding Healthcare that has dominated the news in recent years is itself a product of the issue of racial dysfunction in this society. Naming the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" was a way of denigrating it by appealing to the racist underbelly of a nation steeped in a history of bigotry. It is almost humorous to note that many who opposed "Obamacare" did not realize that it was in fact the ACA ... yes... the same insurance they were about to lose under "Trumpcare". 

The significance of Obama's legacy powerfully impacting one fifth of this nation's economy is not lost on those who would make his complexion - rather than his convictions - the issue. It is time to focus on preventive actions that will address the cancer of hate, a function of the racism in our country's body politic. Beyond Obamacare and Trumpcare, diagnosing and rooting out this malady must become our top national priority.