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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Pain For My Tears

Dark words
On a blackened page
Like sadness
On a countenance in rage…
Hardly visible
But there despite the camouflage…
*******************************
Is it any wonder that I die…
Is it a mystery that my children do not live long…
Living in this place designed for the likes of me…
Breathing the poison of a polluted sphere…
Inhaling the available carbonmonoxided air…
Living I die
Laughing I cry
Hurting obviously… And wondering why...
Why the roads run through my living room
With their yellow lines dictating the flow of my life…
A linear circle that leads…but does not…
For here I sit in the rocking chair
Where my grandmother nursed me…
And it hurts…a lot…
But I have no tears to show…for my pain

I see the priests and publicans
Passing by on the other side…
And here I am… Getting high…
That is how I know they lied…
To you…to me
To all of us... And to themselves…
For although I know they feel my pain
They have no markings on their veins
To show that they…empathize
Yes they lied… They lie
I can see it in their eyes
Which they keep focused on not seeing me…
How can they not…
They know me…they must
They cannot pass…
I will not let them…

Hey…preacher man…look over here…
I feel your pain... I empathize
I have no lie to hide behind
I have no reason to be kind... At least not to myself…
I can let go
Can you “reverend…”
Can you let go... And prostitute your soul for your need…
Sex…drugs… And the momentary pleasures that they bring
So that I can forget…
So that I can unload my heavy burden…
My cross... My bitter cup… My Gethsemane…
Think you can see me “father”
Think you can know my heart…my pain…
My love…My hate…
My turmoil within/without…

Can you speak to me
Without the cloak of your dogma…
Can you understand my tumult within…without
You want to save my soul
But I must own this life…
Let God have this life… I will have my soul
Let God have my tears…I will have this life
And I will have eternal paradise…
Let God be me
And know this cruel life that i must live
Must I be punished for my father’s guilt…
Must I live his death… Must I…
Why can’t I just have my life...

I am sick “father”...
Sick of your convenient formulated answers…
Sick of your preaching…
Sick of you theo-logical postulations…
Shit and pain…
This is the logic of my life
Help me father…or leave me alone
So I can burn this hell…
So I can destroy this destruction which is my world…

Go back to the safety of you seclusion “man of god”
Leave me alone that I may unravel…
That I may rage on this hateful world…
Pass by as you would…on the other side
And I may pass you by also
On the road that I must walk…
For I am lost in this maze…
And I have no patience
With the process of a timely discovery…
I will…I must…
Tear down the walls that trap me…
******************************
Dark words
On a blackened page
Like sadness
On a countenance in rage…
Look closely and see…
That I have no pain…for my tears

From the book 'In My Element' by Roy Alexander Graham




Virtue... A foundation for organic change

Virtue is defined as: moral goodness; upright living; righteousness. It is the conduct of one’s life in accordance with principles of Righteousness. It is doing to others as you would have them do to you. 

Virtue challenges us to lift each other up in the face of circumstances that are down-pressing and depressing. Virtue is that light in the darkness that warms the cold, comforts the afflicted, reassures the frightened, and points the way to those who may be lost.

Virtue moves us toward each other. It makes us care in a culture where one person’s mis-step or misfortune is treated as nobody else’s concern. Virtue opens our eyes where it is more convenient to be blind. When we care, we align our lives with the cause of Justice. When we align our lives with the cause of Justice, we find ourselves in solidarity with the purpose of working to liberate ourselves and our fellowmen from all circumstances that are dehumanizing. These circumstances range from personal habits of drug and sexual addiction to  the corporate cultivation of inhumane working conditions. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, the culture of brutality that has become entrenched in some of our vital institutions.

Virtue calls us to call each other to personal and corporate accountability. It challenges us to let our light shine as a guide to others. Virtue reminds us that an authentic love is not a function of our simple-minded heroism, but rather a substantial commitment to the kind of organic change that transforms our communities and nation. It is the necessary foundation on which our functionality as individuals, as communities, and as nations are built. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gladiators Don't Beg


Prominent observers of the experience we call life, from playwright William Shakespeare to militant cultural icons like Tupac Shakur and Dr Dre, have noted that persons who are filled with fear die many times before their deaths. The courageous die once; and then they live forever in the wind that drives men to act against the brute force of tyranny. They thrive after death in the unwavering spirit of the courageous. Ultimately, it is not the grace or mercifulness of others that the survivor of a dog-eat-dog world should seek. A person who would survive the injustice of others must treasure above all things, the authenticity of his or her own being. We must not bow before the cruelty of the wicked. We will never go begging at the feet of a presumptive conqueror for our humanity, or for our salvation. We must make no excuse for our determination to live and be free to enjoy the bounty of this world which we have all inherited simply by being born. We must come to possess, and cultivate in ourselves, the  certainty of our personhood beyond every idiosyncrasy, whether they be differences of race or national origin or gender orientation. We must know the truth of our authentic humanity as a fact of our being; and must allow no cultural deception to separate us from this truth.

There is a culture of lies all around us. Some persons and groups create falsehoods in order to justify the advantages they seek. All power relationships in society as we know it are based on one lie or another, all designed to create and maintain certain advantages. The lies about variations of color and national origin and gender are designed to create and maintain a culture of racism, sexism, and other vain exceptionalisms. Superiority and inferiority complexes are created and maintained by even more sophisticated claims about differences which are nothing more than occurrences of nature. People claim advantages based on color and creed. They demand obeisance from others who have not cultivated the defensive and offensive technologies to repel these demands. It is the existential responsibility of every human being to create and maintain the resources necessary to defend and maintain one's life, and the lives of those who depend on us for sustenance and security. This is, as it should be, the first principle of survival... Of life. It is as much the basis of survival of the individual as it is of nations... Self-defense. It is our most sacred responsibility. It is our solemn right.

The liars among us are hidden in plain sight. They require others to supply their lives and labor to them so that they can be rich even as they systematically keep others impoverished. They are in our economic institutions and businesses. They are among our politicians. They proliferate among the actors in law enforcement. They are religious and some are not. They claim allegiance to gods, and they are atheists. They are straight, and they are gay. They are black, and they are white. They are Jews, and they are Gentiles. They are Christians, and they are Muslims. They are male, and they are female.

Ever so often the time comes when the lies that deny the humanity of others are exposed for what they are. In those times the earth shakes with the sound and fury of the ensuing struggle to authenticate the common humanity of all. Nowadays the revolution is televised. Nothing is hidden in our brave new world in which it is given that we all know what is going on... Even in the uttermost parts of the earth. Through the advent of the information super-highway we are able to witness the contradictions of being as they are expressed from neighborhoods in the Middle East to cities and towns in South Africa; from Pakistani byways to the streets of Ferguson and Tulsa.We are now able to witness "Man's inhumanity to men" with a stunning immediacy, and we sympathize and empathize with the oppressed as they assert their humanity in the face of those contradictions.

When a man puts his bony knee or booted foot on the neck of another and presses... When the oppressed utters the words "I can't breathe..."; and the oppressor's response is "F-ck your breath!", ... In that very moment the oppressor forfeits his humanity. In the existential moments that follow, we must make the ground shake to displace the atrocity at hand. It is for this reason wars are justified and fought. That very ground under the broken neck...the severed spine of the oppressed, must become the sacred soil in which a revolution is bred. The time for treating our humanity as a product of the oppressor's benevolence is over and done with.

 No civilization has ever survived the mistake of relying on the benevolence of others for its survival. The same is true of individuals and communities. We survive by assuming the role of gladiators in our own lives. It is our responsibility to physically, spiritually, economically, politically, and culturally assert and take control of our destinies. There comes a time to rise up and claim our rights as human beings despite the odds stacked against us. We declare that time to be NOW! With the indomitable spirit typified by the heroic black gladiator in Pompeii; with the whole world crumbling around him he declares "I die a free man!". With a broken sword at the throat of his beaten adversary, he states with emphasis something that every warrior worth his salt will attest to...  "Gladiators don't beg."




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Roots Of Wisdom... Beyond our vulnerable sensibilities

Reflecting on the ordinary events and circumstances of our everyday lives can, with the right frames of reference, produce deeper insights into our existence. In fact, the extraordinary “revelations” produced by many of our sages are the results of a deeper analysis of events and circumstances that most of us bypass, or otherwise gloss over in the course of our own experiences. We can connect with our “deeper” selves by cultivating a more acute awareness of the implications of ordinary events and circumstances that occur daily in the various facets of our living. A deeper appreciation of the ordinary lays the foundation for better decision-making. It allows for extraordinary interventions on our part, when faced with critical situations.
Take for example the “wisdom of Solomon” as demonstrated in the case of two women who came before him in a dispute over a child. Both women had given birth to sons within a short time of each other. While they slept one of them overlaid her baby, resulting in his death. Now they were before the king, each claiming that the surviving child was hers. After considering the dilemma before him, the king proposes to split the surviving child in two with his sword and give each woman a half of the child. A horrendous proposition, but one readily approved of by the woman who was clearly not the child’s mother.
What mother in her right mind would say yes to such a thing? In a culture where the definition of womanhood is tied to the ability to bear and raise children, some women become desperate about attaining and maintaining that status. But even in that desperation, the bond engendered between a mother and child during the course of gestation remains more often than not, durable and unmistakable. A caring mother would never casually or otherwise agree to such a proposition to resolve this or any other crisis involving her child.
The other woman, heartbroken and going out of her mind about the possibility of such a fate for her baby, begged the king to give the child to this other heartless person in order to save its life. This was a demonstration of that motherly affection which we know to be almost universal, and with which most of us can identify. The king, recognizing her motherly instinct, gave the child to this woman. She had, without doubt, authenticated her motherly claim by being willing to save her child’s life even if that meant she was going to lose custody to this desperate person.
The king’s action was that of a wise judge. Solomon demonstrated wisdom derived from an in-depth knowledge of his society’s norms, a real appreciation of the dynamics at work in the socio/cultural environment, and an intimate connection with the complex workings of the human mind and heart. We rightly applaud such great judgement. But as we do so, it is vital to realize that each of us can give ourselves the benefit of this kind critical ability. We do so by cultivating a deeper awareness of the world around us and its workings.
To get a real grasp of the world outside the one we inhabit we must become daring. We must be willing to delve beneath our own ingrained superficiality. It demands that we unlock the gates of our old familiar comfort zones, and venture into the uncomfortable realm of mindsets and experiences that are foreign to our own experiences and unkind to our vulnerable sensibilities. Solomon cultivated this critical ability. To be a good king, he had no choice. His was a groundedness wrought in the inconvenient, and at times agonizing business of governing. This is what it takes to be the masters of our domain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Terrorism By Any Other Name...


An article by Victor E. Kappeler PhD, Foundation Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Justice Studies in the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University, makes the following salient historical points:

"The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. For example, New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation's first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.


Policing was not the only social institution enmeshed in slavery. Slavery was fully institutionalized in the American economic and legal order with laws being enacted at both the state and national divisions of government. Virginia, for example, enacted more than 130 slave statutes between 1689 and 1865. Slavery and the abuse of people of color, however, was not merely a southern affair as many have been taught to believe. Connecticut, New York and other colonies enacted laws to criminalize and control slaves. Congress also passed fugitive Slave Laws, laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850." 

Professor Kappeler strengthens his argument via other scholarly sources (Turner, Giacopassi and Vandiver (2006:186) who observe : "the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”

Anyone witnessing the blatant criminal brutality demonstrated in the actions of members of police forces in today's Ferguson, New York City, South Carolina, Tulsa, and other American states and cities, must stop to reflect on the origins of American policing as stated by Kappeler and associates. There can be no doubt that the behavior of the officers in question and those who continue to justify their behavior through what former NY City policeman Frank Serpico calls "testi-lying", must be understood in the context of this history. Serpico experienced the terroristic treatment of his own colleagues. He bears the scars of that abuse. The terror that characterized slave society continues to be reflected in the actions of law-enforcement departments that have a view of people of color rooted in the social dynamics of slave society and its aftermath. The terrorism that was used to deny the humanity of persons of color is still evident in the callous practices of today's "slave patrols". The ruthless criminality of these officers has led to a national outcry, symbolized by the declaration "BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!".

In America today we are willing to invade countries to defend the Human Rights of people. We are committed to fight against terrorism wherever it exists. We call out the perpetrators of murder and target them for international scorn and the sting of Justice. What about the terrorism that is daily perpetrated against Black People here... When will we see the same commitment to obliterating the scourge of hate in our midst?  When will the rotten apples in our police forces be singled out for the treatment we reserve for terrorists? That is what they are. That is how they should be treated. The assumptions that informed the slave patrol are alive and well in Ferguson, NY City, Tulsa, South Carolina, Florida, and every place where certain white police officers see people of color as less than human. Some of these officers have been shown to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were primary actors in the original slave patrols.

 Our ancestors were terrorized for over four hundred years in order to maintain the control that an evil system of exploitation needed to secure itself. We will not submit to these atrocities anymore. The random stops that Whites are spared, and which become the excuse for chasing us down, running us over, and shooting us in our backs must be called what they are... Acts of terror. Our society must end its practice of local policing as slave patrols. The time has come to acknowledge that terrorism by any other name ... is still an evil. It must be discredited and stamped out. It is time to do to others as we would have them do to us.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jesus And The Downtrodden... Reality vs reactionary sleight of tongue

Let us speak truth to presumptive power. The stark reality of our national life is that the growing inequalities in our economy are sadly expressed in crime and violence, in diminished access to quality education, and in the diminished health and life expectancy of the many who struggle to “make ends meet”. It is convenient for pompous conservatives to point the finger at the presumed “immorality” of the disadvantaged. By objectifying the unwed parent they are able to direct attention away from more substantial issues amongst us. For example, we might be asking questions as to whether it is moral for a fast food chain to bank billions of dollars in corporate profits while denying its workers a livable wage. Or we may ask about the morality of speculators who manipulate commodity prices...like oil...to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us who are getting screwed at the pump.
We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by the well developed sleight of tongue of our socio/economic/cultural detractors, who want to talk about individual responsibility while corporate entities get to call their lack of a collective moral orientation “success”. It is time to ask ourselves some hard questions about the kind of nation we are. Is community only essential when we want to mobilize the children of the working class to shed their blood in wars that have their raison d’etre in the undisclosed economic motivations of the neoconservative class?
Jesus of Nazareth whom many conservatives worship as their “Savior” rebuked those pointing their fingers at those who are too disadvantaged to effectively answer with the instruction, and here I paraphrase... Remove the log from your own eye before you talk about the speck in the eyes of others! As for this Jesus, he was a man surrounded by the working class. He himself is believed by many to have been, among other things, a carpenter.  This was a man who understood the predicament of the Mary Magdalenes of his world. He did not look down his nose at fishermen among whom he moved easily, his buddy Peter being one of them. He got Matthew, a tax collector, to leave a profession that many saw as oppressive and join him in the work of liberation. Jesus stood up for the poor, as his embrace of that well read mission statement from Isaiah 61 shows. The “Good News” he proclaimed to the poor was bad news for those who gained from keeping things the way they were.
There is no doubt in my mind that today’s conservative would condemn this Nazarene’s “social gospel” as unadulterated Marxism. His relationship with the political leadership and its economic partners was by no means a comfortable one. Remember that incident with the “money changers” in the temple? These economic vampires were using their monopoly of the currency supply to make exorbitant profits; charging “whatever the market would bear” for coins that the people needed to pay their annual Temple tax. Jesus physically threw them out of the Temple after branding them “thieves”. Days later these same bankers called for his death. How dare he do anything to compromise their hard earned profit margins?
According to Bloomberg, the average CEO makes 204 times the salary of the average employee. Is this what we mean in fact when we spout off about “American exceptionalism”? How long will civility hold when the social contract engendered by our economic relationships continues to guarantee the fecundity of the few at the expense of the many? Simply put, how long can we expect that the poor will accept that their lot in this life is to be fodder for the ambitions of the rich?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Justice As A Shared Value... The only true worship

As a student of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is my conclusion that every 8th century prophet would have had to endure the satanization of the so-called "religious right" of our time in their stand against the economic and cultural status quo. As we work toward a more just society we must stand up to the the pseudo-intellectualism of the moral halfwits among us. We cannot sit idly by while the apostles of what the current Pope calls “the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system” hold court. Furthermore, we should not allow the voices of the prophets to be drowned out by their heresy. How would the religious conservatives of our time respond to Amos when he declared on behalf of God:

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,  I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,  I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs;    to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters,  and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”Amos 5 vs 21-24

The fact  is, Amos makes the Rev. Jeremiah Wright sound tame! Imagine what our popular media would have done to him.The resetting of our priorities to which we are directed by this rebuke has its very essence in the reality that to “do justly and to love mercy” is in fact the ONLY meaningful religion... The only true worship. The virtuousness of this statement is however not reserved for the religious. Prosperity for all does not happen in a social vacuum. The law of the jungle might have a certain appeal in the greed induced coma that typifies the behavior of those who have blocked the need to be “righteous”, but it only sets them up for destruction by the hosts of the aggrieved. The “jungle” is by no means a desirable social ideal. Ultimately our hopes for progress must be rooted in a fundamental understanding of the kind of community where justice is a shared value... A society in which I-Thou takes the place of I-It in our socio-economic interactions. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bigots And Their Gods Can Go To Hell...

Remember when it was morally justifiable for men to enslave other men because their gods permitted it?

Remember when it was okay to lynch a black man for daring to look at a white woman because according to white theology and sociology, the black man was always either a "boy" or  an "animal"?

Remember when the socio-religious conscience of some white folk permitted them to exclude people of color from their establishments... And they could appeal to the law to back up their warped sense of humanity?

Remember how the exercise of their "religious freedom" led the European "explorer" to rape and pillage and decimate whole populations of "New World" peoples and their civilizations... Their guns and swords in one hand, and their "holy books" in the other?

To be sure, the use of religion to justify the subjugation and dehumanization of those considered "other" is not the exclusive purview of any particular race. Since the beginning of time people have solicited the approval of their gods for all kinds of atrocities. Gods have given their permission for the conquest and theft of lands and the possessions of the inhabitants by the conquering horde. Gods have given their permission to kill the inhabitants of towns and villages, and the men, women, and children therein. Gods have ordered that having killed the human inhabitants, their pets and other domestic animals should not be spared the edge of the sword, the blunt force of sticks and stones, and the brutal fingers of believing brutes.

Throughout time our co-dependent gods have wreaked havoc among us. They have brought death and destruction to those who are identified as being threats to the order of things as they have "ordained" them. Gods have reflected the warped sense of justice of their worshipers. They have vented their rage against those who dare to represent in their experience, other ways of being. Our gods have reflected the hypocrisies that we carry in our hearts and minds. They have represented the myopia of our selfish ways of perceiving the world and those with whom we are required to share it. They perpetuate through their followers every frailty and foible of the human experience. They bid us go to war to vent their insecurities. They spread poverty among the disadvantaged to satisfy their greed. They spread hatred to mask their fears and jealousies. They have monuments built to mask their lack of substance.

Progress toward the establishment of Justice in our society has rightly forced many of our gods out of the public domain into the parochial cubicles where they belong. The separation of religion from our most important political constructs is a necessary feature of this process. But because it is more true that our gods serve us as a first principle than that we serve them, there is always a pining among some for the "good ole days"... For a return to the advantage that slips away when society becomes more just. They are constantly seeking to graft their own corrupt nature into the budding tree of Liberty. There will always be those among us appealing for the supremacy of their most primitive inclinations. In order that they may gain the advantage they once had, they want to bring back the days when their God reigned unchallenged. Well... those days are gone. We recognize the truth that our alter egos want to obfuscate; that all persons have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The moral contradictions exposed in the hypocrisy so evident in our religious practice will not be covered over by any insistence on doing the bidding of our various gods. Equal protection under the Law is the prevailing tenet of our emerging civility. We will no longer permit the whims and fancies of unjust or supernatural forces to determine our social, economic, and political life. The declaration of our Human Rights and our insistence on the establishment of Justice in accordance with these Rights is the Way forward. We are done with specious tenets of being that victimize those who aren't privileged enough to assume universal compliance with the wishes of some unspecific being. The butterflies in the boxes of those who want to rule through supernatural means have been exposed as nonentities. We will not bow down to the "powers" that used to be... Bigots and their gods can go to hell.