Friday, April 27, 2007

It's all about US.

For those of you who don't know, I didn't support the invasion of Iraq back in 2003. We had no solid proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the connection to 9/11 was shaky at best. I'm hardly a pacifist, but I do think that you only go to war when there is a certain threat and you go in to win. Iraq was only a certain threat in the minds of a few neocons.

You'd think I would be all for getting the hell out of Iraq ASAP, but I don't. It's not that I support the war or anything, but I tend to think that we are to blame for the state Iraq is in now and we have to do what we can to set things right. I have no idea what that means, but we have to think about what's best for the Iraqis NOT simply what helps satisfy a political base.

You know, from the beginning, this war has never been about the Iraqis. Both pro-war and anti-war have never really cared about the actual people who live in this country. The invasion was done for political reasons and the urge to withdraw is also political.

Both the White House and the Democrats are dealing in delusions. The Bushies believed that they would be greeted with flowers and are still telling us that we will face another 9/11 if we pull out. The Dems seem to think that if we pull out everything will be fine. Both side have their own version of reality and they are not planning to change their minds. In my humble opinion, both sides are full of it.

I don't have any easy answers here, but we need to think about what is best for the Iraqis. That means that both sides have to own up to some sense of responsibility. The fact is, even though the Bush Administration invaded, he did so with Democratic support and the support of many average Americans. We have to start seeing that Iraq is America's problem, not just the problem of one adminstration. Democracy isn't just about rights, but about responsibilities and we, the United States have a responsibility to help Iraq. We broke it, we have to fix it. We can't simply leave 26 million people to a fate we created.

Having said that, we also can't continue to send our sons and daughters in battle without some plan. The Bushies say we need to keep fighting, but offer no plan on how to at least bring some stability to country and then pulling out. And no, the "surge" isn't a plan.

I get mad with Democrats who talk about the fact that Iraq is in a civil war and we have to leave since we can't be engage in a civil war. Well, Iraq would not be in this position had we not invaded. That's evading responsibility.

I get mad with Republicans who try to scare people into thinking we have to stay to prevent another 9/11. Please, there never was a connection to 9/11 and our staying there isn't going to stop a 9/11. If bin Laden and his ilk want to attack us, they will do so, regardless.

I wish both side would get off of their collective high horse and work together to find a solution that will help our troops and the Iraqis. Some say that there needs to be a political solution to the current mess on the ground in Iraq. I think we also need political solution in Washington as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why Andrew Sullivan Frustates Me...Sometimes.

Andrew Sullivan is acting like spurned lover these days.

Where as once he was a full-throated supporter of the Bush Administration and supported the Iraq War, he has become a critic of both.

Now, on some level, I should be happy. Like Sully, I am frustated with the current state of conservatism. I've been crtical of the Bushies long before Sully was. I am glad that he is speaking out against the support of homophobia by conservatives, it's paens to religious fundamentalism and its willingness to support torture.

But when I read him lately, he tends to bug me. Why?

Let me count the ways.

First, his criticism of torture. It is welcome, but one can remember a time that he didn't really seem to care:

NO P.O.W.S, PLEASE: The debate over whether to treat the al Qaeda terrorists and murderers at Camp X-Ray as prisoners of war seems to me a no-brainer. To be a prisoner of war requires that you observe the rules of war. A critical part of those rules is that you wear insignia clearly identifying you as a member of a particular army. Al Qaeda did no such thing. Another critical component is that you obey the laws of war. Among those rules, in Yale professor Ruth Wedgwood’s words, are also: “never deliberately attack civilians, and never seek disproportionate damage to civilians in pursuit of another objective.” Al Qaeda, of course, massacred thousands of civilians as a deliberate act. These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified. And vast majorities of Britons and Americans agree with them.

So, back then he didn’t seem to care if these people were humanely treated, even though groups like Human Rights Watch and Colin Powell were raising alarms. Yeah, I know I could say that he and many of us were very angry in the days after 9/11 and we were all tempted to treat the members of Al Queda as cruelly as they treated the victims of that dark September day. But actions do have consequences. Supporting such policies even then meant that all of us, Sullivan included, were basically opening the door for torture. If you agree with the Bushies that these people were less than human, you really shouldn't be that surprised when they do what you ask.

And this leads to another thing that is bothering me. Because he is more sensitive to torture and civil liberties than he used to be, he is less attracted to GOP candidates for president, even though we don't really know what they would do once in office. Look at this piece on Rudy Giuliani:

I think Giuliani will run as the Jack Bauer candidate. It's in his DNA. There isn't a civil liberty he wouldn't suspend if he felt it was necessary for "security." And there isn't a dissenter he wouldn't bully or silence in the interests of national security. There is a constituency for this - a big one. It has been primed by pop-culture to embrace torture and the suspension of habeas corpus. It is a constituency with scant respect for any civil liberties when a war on terror is being waged. If that's the path Giuliani wants us to take, we have to be very clear about what it means. We have to ask ourselves: after the next terror attack, what powers would a president Giuliani assume? And what would be left of the constitution after four years of the same? Give Rudy the office that Cheney has created - and America, already deeply altered, will become a new political entity altogether.

So, Giuliani is basically Dick Cheney (whom Sully now doesn't like)in drag. Now, I do have some misgivings about his views, but I am willing to bear these views out before I make a decision. Remember that Governor Bush talked about having a more humble foreign policy as a candidate, but we see that he changed his tune once in office. We really have no idea what Giuliani would do in office. I have no idea if he continue the Bush policy on torture, civil liberties and foreign policy.

I can't say I know what Rudy is thinking, but I do know that as a Republican running for President, you do have to run on the "tough on terrorists" the same way that people like Nixon and Reagan had to run on the "tough on the Communists" platform back in the day. The GOP tends to run on a national security platform, and to paint oneself as different from the Dems, you have to talk tough. But we don't know what this means if we had a President Giuliani. Nixon opened relations with Red China, and Reagan achived a new era of peace with the Soviets. Both were tough talkers, but knew how to achieve peace as well.

I do wonder if Sullivan's apparent willingness to label all the GOP candidates as faulty comes from his near reverence of the Bush Administration from 2001-03. He viewed them as gods that could do no wrong until he found out they had clay feet.

Maybe the other thing that bothers me is that he thinks one can reform conservatism apart from reforming the GOP. I find that complete nonsense. Since the GOP is the party that tends to house conservatives, it's where one has to work. Otherwise, what you will have is a group of independent conservatives with no real power and a theocratic GOP that still has the reigns of power.

Maybe there is a lesson here, one that is quite conservative: don't trust authority. I'm not saying that you have respect for it, but don't put any leader on a pedastal. Our leaders are human beings, not gods, which is why we can vote them out when they mess up. Maybe if Sully were more skeptical and willing to see the President and his gang as fallible humans instead of larger than life heroes, he wouldn't be so disillusioned as he is now.

Okay, my little rant is done.

Conservatives: Mind Your Manners

Via Andrew Sullivan: Sully has an interesting post about the differences between conservatives and liberals. He links to an article by Andrew Klavan about how conservatives view the world, and like Sully, I agree with Mr. Klavan-to a point. He notes:

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Okay, but then he drives off the conservative road:

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen. (Italics mine.)

Okay, that's a bit disturbing. The reason that I'm a conservative is that I perfer to see the world as is instead of trying to be politically correct. But I don't think that means that we have to be uncivil or just plain mean. Calling someone in a wheelchair "crippled," is not being conservative, it's being mean and demeaning. Listen, I can cring when people use "differently abled" for persons with disabilities, but I will not call someone "crippled." That's just plain tacky and not very Christian.

Sullivan has his own views on this:

Look: I understand the issue here. Political correctness is a new form of sanctimonious etiquette. I don't like it either. I'd probably end up as cranky as Mickey if I lived among the Hollywood left. In my time, I've argued for fundamental differences between men and women, aired "The Bell Curve," was a skeptic of the mythology around Matthew Shepard and generally rubbed many liberal nerves the wrong way. But the point of all this is to find reality, and to be open to be proven wrong as well. It is not to assert a new form of dogma. Nor is it a way to find excuses for cruelty, bad manners or bigotry. I see no conservative reason to refer to people with physical handicaps as "crippled"; I see no real distinction between a slum and an inner city (but I was and am for welfare reform); and I find the attempt to describe the excruciating problems in Iraq as a choice between "surrender" or "victory" to be little short of moronic.

He goes on to say that this sort of boorishness is hardly conservative:

This, moreover, is not conservatism. It is faux-conservatism. Shock-jock conservatism. Or conservatism calcified into an ideology that has become very difficult to disentangle from arrogance, ignorance or just plain old prejudice. The job of conservatives is to filter fact from ideology. And that includes filtering facts from the ideology that now passes among so many for conservatism itself.

Maybe conservatives "don't lie" but many of its leading figures are starting to be real jerks. Witness the rhetoric coming from the Ann Coulters of the world regarding gays and lesbians.

The funny thing is that many conservatives like to say how they defend the faith, but they tend to forget what the faith is all about. When Jesus was on earth, he practiced love. I don't think he would be calling the lame he encountered "crippled."

Like some on the Left, many on the Right have become so sure of themselves that they have forgotten humility and tolerance of others. If conservatives are to be a driving force in American life, they need to learn some manners. Being a jerk doesn't make you right, it just makes you a jerk.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Can we Get Rid of Racism?

Even thought my politics are center-right, I consider my self a Mainline Protestant, which tends to be more liberal. While I support their stance on social justice and caring for the poor, one of the things that bothers me is the insistance of some who are involved in race relations to think that we can one day get rid of racism. I tend to look at them as starry-eyed idealists who think that racism can just be easily removed from the human race, like purging a bad computer virus. I sometimes think my co-religionists tend to forget that we humans are imperfect and will always be susceptible to hurting others and ourselves. I don't think we are ever going to get rid of every bigoted thought about someone, not because people are so far gone, but because if we got rid of racism, we would be getting rid of the entire human race.

So what does a black person do? Well, for me, it means that we have live with it and press on. I have long accepted the fact that I will probably face some kind of racism. Yes, we have laws that allow people like me to do things my father who grew up in Louisiana back in the 30s and 40s couldn't do. For that, I am thankful for those who marched, faced the dogs and the water cannons and even gave their lives for me.

But the fact is, a government can't change a human heart. It can help, of course, but it's not going to change everything. And because of this, because racism is entrenched in this culture, black people have to learn to deal with the fact that someone, somewhere might not like them. We are going to face people looking at us. We are going hear the occasional racial slur. We might not get a job because of our race. In the face of this, we press on, learning and growing.

David Schraub has an fascinating post about Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court justice views on race. It's funny how they mirror mine:

Many people, left and right, think that Thomas believes racism is over in America. Conservatives believe it because they believe it and think of Thomas as one of them. Liberals believe it because they can't otherwise fathom why Thomas seems so uninterested in the fight for equality.

But they've got it precisely backwards. Thomas doesn't believe racism is gone in America. Thomas believes racism is irrevocably ingrained in America. In this respect, he draws from a deep Black Conservative tradition that sees little hope in the full-frontal assault for civil rights. Rather, they think the only way equality will be achieved in America is by absorbing everything racism has to throw at you, and still excelling. What this means differs for different theorists (the Black Conservative tradition contains men as widely varied as Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey), but the strain of thought tends to accept racism as a fact and demand Black people succeed anyway.

Thomas has faced an incredible share of racism in his life--as a child, as a seminary student, in law school. He considers the affirmative action (that he admits he received) to be a form of patronizing racism as well. In the face of that, Thomas still has risen to be one of the most powerful and most influential men in the country. Were he not so famously quiet and reserved (another characteristic of Black Conservatives is self-discipline), you can almost hear him taunting: Is that the best you got?

As a black conservative, I tend to agree with this viewpoint. Black leaders like Booker T. Washington, believed that racism was always going to be with us, so we might as well work for self improvement and not wait for White America to get a clue.

I think one of the problems with white conservatives is that they tend to think we had a few marches and presto, racism was gone. Well, it's not that easy. Yes, things are better, but there are still barriers that need to be worked on. The problem with liberals is that they think racism they can just make racism and every other ill go away when sometimes what has to be done is overcoming the problem, not trying to think you can erase it.

If conservatives and Republicans are serious in courting blacks, then they are going to have to realize that a lot of black folk still see racism as a problem. The don't have to subscribe to the liberal viewpoint, but they do have to come up with ideas that can help "uplift the race." For example, GOP leaders could support school vouchers and charter schools as a way that black children can improve themselves and stay out of poverty. I know my left of center friends tend to detest that idea, but it is something the GOP could do.

As a black man, I am always going face some idiot who will not like me because of how I look. No it's not fair, but then life isn't fair, it's just something I have to deal with. Sometimes, you just have to hold your head up high and not let the idiots get to you. As Langston Hughes said in his poem, Mother to Son:

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The "And" Theory of Conservatism

You, sometimes I think I was born on the wrong continent.

Don't get me wrong, I like livin' in the USA, but I am pretty upset about the state of American conservatism. My right of center brethern accross the pond have a understanding of governing than the current leadership of the GOP.

Via Andrew Sullivan, I came across the website, Conservative Home, which kind of takes on the whole compassionate conservatism that Bush was touting back in 2000, but it's more than just a slogan.

If you have some time, read the entry on the "And Theory of Conservatism."

* A commitment to actively support healthy, traditional marriages and fair pension and inheritance arrangements for gay adults…
* A bigger budget for the armed forces and an end to the sale of arms to despotic regimes…
* Faster, longer imprisonment of repeat offenders and more care for the vulnerable children of prisoners...
* A willingness to confront the Islamic roots of global terrorism and and more opportunities for mainstream British Muslims to set up state-funded schools...

The problem with the current GOP is that it is pretty happy only reaching the base (known as the "Karl Rove strategy"). But the thing is, you need more than the base to win. Will the GOP presidential candiates be willing to reach beyond the base and embrace...the "and?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil (Sort of.)

Something has been bothering me in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech and I feel conflicted that it is even bothering me.

It's how some bloggers and writers are so flippant over the killer, Cho Seung-Hui. From the blog Stubborn Facts, we get this post, which is from an op-ed in Time:

"I've lost interest in the cracks, chips, holes and broken places in the lives of men like Cho Seung-Hui ... The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are only symptoms of the real explanation. ... Only a narcissist could decide that his alienation should be underlined in the blood of strangers. ... The real problem can be found in the killer's mirror.."

To which the blogger replies: "That's about my take on it too."

Now, I can understand this. When I heard that Cho had taken his own life, I was somewhat glad that he could no longer walk the face of the earth. It's hard to not feel anger looking at his face. It's easy to not care about the plight of this man who was so full of evil and hate that he took the lives of 32 people just for being people. It's easy to make Cho into a simple, evil character who should be forgotten, if not forever cursed.

(I refused to watch the video Cho sent to NBC because I have no interest in hearing his explainations.)

But the fact is, the story is more complex than that. From the media reports, it seems that this man had some serious mental problems. For whatever reason, in his mind he felt invisible and felt that the world was against him.

Some have argued that we should pay the killer no mind because of what he did, but then one wonders if he already was forgotten by others before he did this heinous act.

Now, none of this excuses what he did. There are many people with mental problems that don't take this extreme. But the fact remains, that Cho had some problems that couldn't simply be solved by "getting over it."

I don't have a simple explaination as to why Cho did what he did. There isn't one. What I do know is that this wasn't snot-nosed kid who needed to stop whining, or simply an evil person, or even someone with a mental illness, that could be excused. The answers are far more complex; and we might have to face the fact that there just is no answer.

In the end, good and evil are not always so obvious, even when they appear to be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech. What can I say, really?

What bugs me is that everyone seems to have something to say. We need more gun control. We need to control our culture of violence. We need to allow people to carry guns.

I wish people would just shut the hell up for a few days before we get into the usual game of pointing fingers.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

So, Is Don Imus a Bigot?

Over the past week, I keep hearing over and over that now fired shock jock Don Imus was a bigot. His remarks concerning the Rutgers womens basketball team were surely bigoted, but is he a bigot?

Here's this blurb from a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times:

Just as black comedians who make mean jokes about Asians and Latinos don't see themselves as racists, I'm sure that Imus doesn't see himself as a racist either. He reveres blues artists such as B.B. King and Ray Charles. He praises American icons such as Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. He clearly likes former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford and has interviewed Sharpton a few times. He treated Lani Guinier with uncharacteristic respect during her guest appearance to discuss her latest book.

His sympathy for the Katrina victims came through. And after the James Byrd dragging-lynching in Texas in 1998, Imus did not joke. In serious tones that couldn't hide his sorrow or disgust, he quietly remarked that it was unwise for black people to ever trust whites.

After listening to him for 10 years, I've concluded that Imus is not a malevolent racist. He is a good-natured racist. And the streak of decency running down his self-centered, mean persona is sometimes pretty wide.

In my own view, it's hard to say if he's a bigot-at least in the sense of someone ala George Wallace back in the 60s.

However, there are also people that I know who are friendly to me and truly wonderful people- and yet are pretty bigoted in the views of people. And yet, I still like these people, because even though they have some wacked out view, they still have caring hearts.

A few years ago, I was traveling with my ex-boyfriend and we were near his grandmother's house in rural Illinois. We stopped by and chatted. She was a darling woman and after a while she looked at me and asked if I ever played basketball or football.

I simply said no, while chuckling to myself silently. What she said was sort of bigoted (thinking that because I'm black I must play basketball), but I also know she was from another time and that it didn't come from a spirit of meaness.

My guess, and this is only my guess, is that Imus is not the mean-hearted racist of old who really hated black people. My guess is that he is someone who has preconceptions of blacks and maybe women that are bad, but that he also has some good in him as well.

The fact is, we really don't know what is in Imus' heart regarding race. Maybe we do know, but I tend to think we don't. This article seems to say that he probably does like black folk even though he says things that would take my breath away.

This is a long way of saying that things are complicated in this world of ours. I've encountered bigots who are terrible people and some who are good people. And I've encountered people who will say all the right things in regards to race and are yet pretty bigoted.

Imus words were wrong, but I think the answer to the question of him being a bigot is far more complex than some bloggers and pundits think.

Tax Day Thoughts

I just filed my taxes for 2006 (the deadline is April 17 this year). I had to pay this year, not a whole lot, but I did have to send a payment to Uncle Sam.

As I said goodbye to my money as it makes its journey to Washington, I came upon this article in the Los Angeles Times:

SUE Carpenter pays about $6,100 a year in federal income taxes. But she might owe just half that amount if she had a mortgage, and nothing at all if she had minor children.

The fact that Carpenter doesn't have these deductions makes her part of a dwindling group: U.S. taxpayers. An estimated 50 million Americans won't pay any federal income tax this year. That's nearly a third of all adults, up from 18% in 1980.

To many, the shrinking tax base is not a big deal. Most of the people who don't owe Uncle Sam are of modest means. They don't pay because Congress approved tax credits aimed at helping working families and sought to encourage homeownership by making mortgage interest deductible.

I happen to be one of those people who get mortgage intrest deductions. Keep reading...

In 2005, a White House advisory panel proposed an array of changes aimed largely at simplification, including scaling back the mortgage interest deduction that for generations had helped persuade renters to become homeowners.

The panel also called for eliminating deductions for state and local tax payments and restricting tax-free health insurance benefits for employees.

Predictably, the real estate industry, healthcare providers and dozens of other special interests rose up in protest. The proposals went nowhere.

The article goes on to talk about some of the deductions we Americans get every year on our income taxes.

A few years ago, a friend who is an accountant said that one of the easiest ways to make the tax system simpler was to eliminate deductions. I would tend to agree, if we lived in a perfect world. But the fact is, we all like our deductions, be they the mortgage intrest deduction and the deduction I get off the interest on my student loans and I don't see many people wanting to give them up-unless they got something in return.

I know this might raise hackles, but I am beginning to wonder if a flat tax would be a good idea. I'd have to do more research, but I do wonder...

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Running Man

It was 1983. I was a freshman in high school. That fall, I decided to join the cross country team at my high school. Now you have to know, that I was a slow runner. I finished the race, but I always brought up the rear.

One day we had a race in a Swartz Creek a suburb of Flint, Michigan, my hometown. I was bringing up the rear, as usual. At some point, I started to hear some shouting and I discovered it was directed at me. Some young white boys decided this was a good time to taunt me spew some racial slurs. I believe the “N-word” was used as was some reference to watermelons. I kept running, though I did tell the young hooligans to go to hell under my breath.

As I kept running I saw one my teammates, who was also African American, running swiftly in the direction of the young men. It was later that I found out that he basically stared at the young men until they slinked away.

After I finished, people commented on how I acted. I didn’t react to their taunts, I just kept running. The words were hurtful, of course, but I kept running.

My parents always taught me that as an African American I would face racism. They also taught me to handle it with some grace.

As we talk about Imus affair, I have to think of something that Alan Stewart Carl said in his post. As an African American, living in even in this enlightened age, I am going to face racism and bigotry. I have faced racism and bigotry. My guess is that a lot of African Americans have faced some situation like this. Unlike Imus’ stupid remark, what I faced nearly a quarter century ago didn’t come from some old craggy guy trying to be cute; it came from hate.

On Sunday, we will commemorate the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. One the things I’ve learned about Robinson is that he faced some vicious taunts by white players and spectators and yet he never lashed out at them. He knew if he did, he would set back the cause of intergrating baseball. He knew that he had to pick his battles.

I think that Alan is correct, we need to teach people that the world we live in is harsh and that we need to develop thick skins at times. We need to teach them that there are times when you fight and times when you simply let the words slide off your back. And we need to teach that when people hurl invectives at you, whether in jest or otherwise, that we respond with dignity and grace, showing ourselves better than those who say hurtful things.

I believe that African Americans, women, gays and everyone need to stop seeing themselves as victims and instead of see themselves as survivors, willing to face the world no matter what it throws at them.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Letter to Jesse and Al

You know, I really don't know what to say about Don Imus getting axed, but I will let Jason Whitlock say a few things:

I’m calling for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the president and vice president of Black America, to step down.

If judged by the results they’ve produced the last 20 years, you’d have to regard their administration as a total failure. Seriously, compared to Martin and Malcolm and the freedoms and progress their leadership produced, Jesse and Al are an embarrassment.

Their job the last two decades was to show black people how to take advantage of the opportunities Martin and Malcolm won.

Rather than inspire us to seize hard-earned opportunities, Jesse and Al have specialized in blackmailing white folks for profit and attention. They were at it again last week, helping to turn radio shock jock Don Imus’ stupidity into a world-wide crisis that reached its crescendo Tuesday afternoon when Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer led a massive pity party/recruiting rally.

Hey, what Imus said, calling the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos," was ignorant, insensitive and offensive. But so are many of the words that come out of the mouths of radio shock jocks/comedians.

Imus’ words did no real damage. Let me tell you what damaged us this week: the sports cover of Tuesday’s USA Today. This country’s newspaper of record published a story about the NFL and crime and ran a picture of 41 NFL players who were arrested in 2006. By my count, 39 of those players were black.

You want to talk about a damaging, powerful image, an image that went out across the globe?

We’re holding news conferences about Imus when the behavior of NFL players is painting us as lawless and immoral. Come on. We can do better than that. Jesse and Al are smarter than that.

Hmmmm, what's worse, an old white guy who was trying to be cute, or some black athletes who are are basically criminals?

He keeps going...

Jesse and Al might win the battle with Imus and get him fired or severely neutered. But the war? We don’t stand a chance in the war. Not when everybody knows “nappy-headed ho’s” is a compliment compared to what we allow black rap artists to say about black women on a daily basis.

We have more important issues to deal with than Imus. If we are unwilling to clean up the filth and disrespect we heap on each other, nothing will change with our condition. You can fire every Don Imus in the country, and our incarceration rate, fatherless-child rate, illiteracy rate and murder rate will still continue to skyrocket.

A man who doesn’t respect himself wastes his breath demanding that others respect him.

We don’t respect ourselves right now. If we did, we wouldn’t call each other the N-word. If we did, we wouldn’t let people with prison values define who we are in music and videos. If we did, we wouldn’t call black women bitches and hos and abandon them when they have our babies.

If we had the proper level of self-respect, we wouldn’t act like it’s only a crime when a white man disrespects us. We hold Imus to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s a (freaking) shame.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Everyone's A Little Bit Racist

Everyone's a little bit racist
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

-from Avenue Q

I've given the whole Don Imus thing some thought and the thoughts that I have are mixed. One the one hand, what Imus said regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team was waaaay over the line.

But then I start to think about how people are reacting towards his words. Yes, they are bad, but they way people act, you'd think Imus just burned a cross.

I'm not saying Imus should be treated with kid gloves on this. I think his two week suspension is justified. But let's think about this. Imus isn't the only person that has said something racist or sexist or homophobic. For example, Jesse Jackson, who is demanding Imus' head, called New York, "Hymietown" back in 1984. Or, let's talk about why the NAACP gave actor Isaiah Washington an Image Award, even though he called a fellow actor who is gay a "faggot?"

And let's face it: a lot of hip-hop artists call women, "bitches" and "hos" like it was going out of style.

The video and the lyrics above come from the Broadway play "Avenue Q" and the words make sense: we all have some prejudice of some type. Lot's of African Americans have biases against Jews, Asians and gays; there are gay folk that are prejudiced against blacks and so forth. The sad fact is, this is a very human condition and we all have some prejudice towards some group. The challenge is to overcome it, not to pretend we are pure as the drive snow.

Again, I'm not saying that what Imus did was no big deal: what he said was racist and sexist and his suspension is justified. But I don't think we should start acting like what he did is the unforgiveable sin. Imus should be given a second chance, and not be treated as if he were a member of the Klan. In the end what he did was utter some words, horrible and hurtful words, yes, but words nonetheless. In the history of African Americans, we have faced far worse.

So my advice to is to calm down. Let Imus deal with what he said. Maybe his meeting with the women will open his eyes. But let's also know that none of us is without sin. We all harbor some bias.

Let he that is without sin...

McCain and a History Lesson

As I’ve been reading the blogs, I’ve been noticing a certain stream of consciousness concerning John McCain-and that is, that his campaign is over.

Now, I do think his campaign is in crisis, but we all might want to wait calling McCain a corpse at this time.

Let’s have a history lesson, shall we?

Back in 2003, long before a person casted a vote, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2004. He received a huge amount of media attention. Meanwhile, John Kerry’s campaign seemed to be sputtering and it seemed that he was going to lose.

And then the people voted.

Howard Dean came in third in Iowa and it went downhill from there. He went from being the presumptive front-runner to become a joke. In the end, the only primary that Dean won was his home state. John Kerry, who was considered a goner, went on to become the Democratic nominee.

I say this because we are still several months from the primaries and caucuses. In the end, that’s the only poll that matters. McCain might well implode and fizzle out before January 2008, but we don’t know that yet and it’s pretty stupid to declare him dead when no one has voted yet.

I still think McCain needs to retool his campaign to widen the base instead of pandering to the GOP as it is. And yes, I think McCain is in trouble because of trying to become the establishment candidate. But the thing is, we don’t really know what is going on in the mind of potential primary voters. People in media think they might know this, but in reality they don’t know anymore than the average joe on the street.

So, I will just sit back and not make any predictions on McCain’s future until the people have spoken. Maybe I will be proved wrong and McCain is done, but my guess is that McCain is not done yet. If this guy could survive the "Hanoi Hilton" he can survive a presidential campaign.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blogging Break

Since I am a pastor, I will be busy this weekend with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, so I will not be blogging. See ya all on Monday.

Dear John Mc Cain,

Dear Senator,

So, I see that you tinkering with your campaign after getting reports that you aren’t raising so much money as your GOP rivals. When I heard about this, I had hoped you were going to announce that you would return to your so-called maverick status in 2000. Alas, what I learned was that you were employing some of the same fundraising ideas that the President has used in the past.

Listen, John, (can I call you John?) your campaign isn’t doing so well. Lot’s of people thought you would be the nominee next year. As the saying goes, Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. You had been denied the nomination seven years ago, so it would make sense that it should be your turn to shine.

But things aren’t going according to plan, are they? I mean Mitt Romney is raising more money than you and Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner in spite of his socially liberal views. So, now you are basically hitting the reset button at least financially.

But John, the problem isn’t that you aren’t raising enough money. The problem is your message or lack thereof.

You kind of became the darling of a lot of independents in 2000. You talked a lot about what you wanted the Republican party to be about, what you wanted America to be about. I think there were a lot of people who wanted to hear this message and they did what they could to help you. Your condemnation of the Religious Right was a breath of fresh air. Then came South Carolina and the Bush campaign spreading vicious rumors and your campaign was over. I can only say this from afar, but I think you were hurt by that. Like a kid who touches a hot stove, you have recoiled back and become cautious. You have made winning important and will do what it takes to get there.

When you started making nice with President Bush in 2004, I kind of understood that. You are a Republican through and through and you wanted to be the loyal solider. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t think that everyone who has dealt with the President is evil. It also made sense to patch things up with the President. A protracted fight with the President would not help you in the long run, so it’s best to be cordial.

That said, I think you went a bit too far. You have started to court the Religious Right, the same people you said were corrupting the party. I’m not mad that you spoke at Liberty University last year- the speech was not a capitulation to the far right and was quite good. And you got a better response than what you got at the New School a few days later.

But I don’t understand you trying to talk to people like James Dobson. I don’t taking positions that would appease the far right. These moves tend to alienate you from independents- the people who made your campaign in 2000.

The other fact is that most social conservatives don’t trust you. No matter what you have done to kiss and make nice, they are still mad for what you said about the far right in 2000. As “holy” as some of the people think they are, practicing forgiveness is not something they are well known for.

I also don’t understand your trying to become the successor to the Bush legacy. The past six years has given us wasteful spending, and intractable war and an inept response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Frankly, what you are doing is getting independents upset at you and not convincing the far right- not a winning combination.

Senator, the GOP and American conservatism is in crisis. In some way it is a problem of being successful: we helped end the Cold War, and brought down tax rates from ridiculous levels to something more sane. However, some of this can be blamed on the acquiescence of the GOP to the Religious Right and the Bush Administration’s incompetent governing. I don’t need to recap all that has gone wrong, but I think the GOP is need of a change and you should be focusing on this.

I also think the Republican Party needs to start being a more diverse party than it has been. Under Karl Rove, the party has basically gone after the far right using such issues as gay marriage as wedge issue. But you can only reach so many social conservatives and this strategy only leads to narrow victories, not the landslides that candidates like Ronald Reagan once received.

I would also add that this campaign of going after gays and lesbians is going to destroy the GOP. There are a lot of gays and lesbians that would vote Republican, if the party were more accepting of gays. I would add that the anti-immigration tone of some in the GOP is also a bad move. It's one thing to have differences concerning our national immigration policy, but too many in the GOP have crossed the line into bigotry.

I think you tend to believe in a small government, but also one that is effective- something similar to your hero, Teddy Roosevelt. The fact is that most Americans believe in small government, but they also want a government that works. In short, Americans want governments that are "small and smart" instead of "big and dumb," which is what we have witnessed during the last six years of George Bush.

This means that you need to start being more vocal on fiscal responsibility. We Republicans always want to keep taxes low and favor tax cuts. But the problem with the present GOP fiscal policy is that we seem to want tax cuts all the time. However, we don't want to create tax cuts at the expense of a balanced budget and not during what many consider wartime. In the past you were against the first round of tax cuts in 2001, but you have since changed your position to ameliorate the base.

The thing is, I don't believe that is a good plan. If we truly are in war, then it seems foolish to keep pushing for tax cuts. We need those resources to go to our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think if you went back to your budget hawk ways, you would excite those who are appalled at the growth of government during the past eight years.

I could go on. The point is, what is considered the base in the GOP is not where the people are at and you know this. The GOP needs to expand its base and it's membership. That's what Ronald Reagan was all about. He was interested in growing the party.

The GOP that Reagan encountered was one that was in need of reform. The problem today, is that the GOP needs to be reformed again. The current version of the party is horribly out of date and will not be viable.

I know that you were hurt badly in 2000 and you've learned to be careful. And maybe you can't be the person you were seven years ago. I can understand learning from your mistakes. But trying to be the sucessor to the President's legacy is not an answer. I think you need to find a way to separate yourself from the President and be your own man. You don't have to declare war on the Religious Right, but you don't have to try to get them to like you either. Trust me, they never will.

Senator, we need you to stop pleasing the powers that be and try to lead the party in a different direction. Bush-style Republicanism has been discredited. We need someone who is a visionary and I know that is what you are deepdown.

It's not too late. You can still turn things around. But you need to be willing to be a bit more risky.

Thanks for listening. Take care.

Rev. Dennis Sanders

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Carter Redux?

This is just me wondering:

After reading Michael van der Galien’s post on Rudy Guliani’s views on Executive power, I started thinking about something; could the next President we get become so weak that he or she will be ineffective? Could we see another Carter-type presidency?

Now, I am not saying that we need another President like the current one that has amassed more and more power at the expense of civil liberties. And while I like Guiliani a lot, I am skittish about his views on power. But I wonder if we are going to go from one extreme to another.

In the 1970s, we witnessed a President that amassed power and threw the nation in a crisis. After he resigned in disgrace, the electorate gave a former governor from a southern state, Jimmy Carter, the keys to the White House. But many people saw Jimmy Carter as very weak and not able to really rally the people. The image that probably sticks in people’s minds is that of a President that trapped by the Iranian Hostage Crisis that was visualized in the failure of Desert One.

In two years, President Bush will leave the political scene. Will the next President be one who will bring more balance to the system of checks and balances, or will it be someone that is weak? Will we have someone who won’t be an effective executive like Carter was?

I don’t know the answer to that, of course. All I know is that as much as I don’t want an Imperial Presidency, I don’t want a weak Presidency either.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

"It's sad, so sadIt's a sad, sad situation, And it's getting more and more absurd, It's sad, so sad, Why can't we talk it over, Oh it seems to me, That sorry seems to be the hardest word."

-Elton John

This week, millions of Christians will be commemorating the death of Jesus culminating with the celebration of Easter when we believe Christ was raised from the dead. For Christians, Christ’s life and death signifies God coming in our midst and walking amongst us and dying for us. God showed grace when humanity deserved punishment. Followers of Christ are urged to live lives of grace just as God did in Christ.

So, why the mini religious lesson? (And even moreso, why the Elton John lyrics?) Maybe because grace is so missing in American politics. There is not much sense of forgiveness or even humanity among the diehard partisans.

That has been evident among some on the left in regard to Matthew Dowd’s regrets concerning working for the Bush Administration. Some, including myself, who read the New York Times article, felt bad for Mr. Dowd. He truly believed that he was doing the right thing. James Moore doesn’t feel that way. He refuses to forgive Dowd for his working with the Bush Administration. He made his bed with the devil and now he must lie in it, according to Mr. Moore.

I don’t know what has happened in American politics that people have taken politics so seriously that they hate those who don’t agree with them or consorted with the “enemy.” I’ve said a lot about how hard-hearted conservatives have been towards liberals, but liberals can be just as cold-hearted as well.

It’s funny: one of the main criticisms is that the Bushies never liked to admit a mistake. Critics wanted a president and advisors that were “open-minded” and willing to change their mind. So, when one advisor does just that, instead of getting praise, he gets more judgement for not seeing his mistake in the first place.

One of the passages of Scripture we read during Lent was the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. In the story, the younger son, who had shamed his father by demanding his share of the inheritance, and then wasted his money until he was flat broke, decides to come back to the homestead. He makes his way back home and is welcomed lavishly by his father. Some biblical scholars believe that the young son’s return was nothing more than a scheme to get more money from his father. Whatever the case, the father welcomes him. The other son, was mad about how the younger son acted and how he was celebrated by his father when he was the loyal son who never left. The father responds that both sons are welcomed.

James Moore and others are acting like the older son, mad at the past sins of the “younger son” Matthew Dowd. Maybe like the older son, they are justified in their anger, I don’t know. But it seems to me that they need to get off their high horse and give Mr. Dowd a little bit of grace.

Grace is something that is missing in American politics. It’s grace that allows us to see each other as fallible humans instead of arbiters of truth. Mr. Dowd thought he was doing the right thing and now he thinks he was wrong. In a political culture when we never want to admit we were wrong, I think what Mr. Dowd did was important and should celebrated, not condemned by arrogant blowhards.