Happy other people’s Independence Day


Today is the day millions of Americans celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule over 200 years ago. But was that declaration of independence a natural extension of the frustration felt by the early colonist against the “tyranny” of the British monarchy, or was it more about a powerful few wanting to secure their riches through their newfound money printing machine, aka, slave trading.

That the Declaration of Independence heralded the foundation of a new nation is a foregone conclusion. It is well known that, despite the fact that there were still many British loyalists making up the voices of descent (of which one of them was William Franklin, the then Governor of New Jersey and son of Benjamin Franklin), those voices wanting full secession from British rule prevailed. These “patriots” eventually, through diplomacy and battlefield victories, prevailed.

We have been told all too often that the colonists were angry about the fact that they were being taxed so heavily by the British crown yet had none of their interests represented. Taxation without representation was one of the main reasons that many of us were taught was the reason why the American Revolution was even considered.

But, consider the fact that British soldiers were better paid than the fledgling colonies were able to pay their soldiers primarily comprised of rag tag militias. The British crown was powerful enough to provide protection against hostile nations and savvy enough to provide incentive for businessmen looking to make their fortune in the new colonies as long as they remained loyal to the crown.

Interestingly enough, prior to 1776, the amount of African slave rebellions in the colonies and in the Caribbean, which was home to many plantations owned by wealthy colonists living in North America, were increasing at an alarming rate. North American plantation owners were consumed with fear that the uprising of the African slaves abroad would spill into the borders of this fledgling nation. Additionally an increasing amount of African slaves were escaping from their owners and joining the British Armies in order to fight against American secession. Why? The anti-slavery sentiment in London was growing at a fever pitch and, by all accounts, according to professor Gerald Horne in his exhaustive historical analysis called The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, that sentiment was going to spread through the British empire and was leading to the institution of slavery being abolished in all of its colonies (even though it hadn’t yet happened).

It is argued very effectively that the wealthy land owners, slave owners and those sympathetic to them were the primary drafters of the document called The Declaration of Independence. This document insured that their fortunes made by virtue of slavery being legal would be secure for many more generations. The counter-revolution, aka The American Revolution, therefore was a targeted campaign that the framers of this new document approved of in order to maintain their way of life, namely legalized slavery.

African slaves, my ancestors, were not set free as a result of that Independence Day. Almost another 100 years would have to pass before their freedom was secured by the bloodiest war in US history and the ratification of the 13th amendment. Another 100 years after that would have to pass before they were fully able to participate in the political process.

So, as a proud American whose ancestors were undoubtedly victimized by the morally bankrupt system of chattel slavery that this country perfected, Independence Day does not resonate as much with me as it does with many other Americans. Yes, I enjoy the food, the fun and the revelry, but by acknowledging the facts of the story of my people in this country I am no less proud to be here. In fact, that I am able to acknowledge these facts and still be proud to be an American makes me not only a good American, but a great one.


Show me the money: When keeping it hot goes global


Whew, can you smell that? Of course you can’t now, but wait a few minutes. There it is…there it is. Now let it settle. A ninja just passed some strong smelling evidence of garlic, grain and milk from the night before…and then disappeared.
Silencers are the deadliest of all gasses. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve eaten something that comes back to surprise you in a gastrointestinal kind of way. I call it the dirty ghost. It’s the noxious trail of tears that you leave in your wake as you cleverly maneuver yourself away from the scene of the flatulence crime.
Even stink would say that stinks!
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about another gas.
Natural gas.
Russia and the United Stated are the world’s top producers of the stuff. The United States, thanks to new technology (see fracking) has recently unseated the one-time champ of all time. Russia still has the upper hand in the global economy though as they are obligated, by contract, to provide natural gas to all of Western Europe. Without their gas supplies many parts of Western Europe would simply freeze during the often harsh winters.
Now, before you get started, the United States, under then President George W. Bush, because of a belief that our supplies were dwindling, considered importing natural gas from Russia. We had a real world problem. How do we prevent half of our country from freezing if we run out of natural gas during a harsh winter? Russia was a practical solution, albeit a risky political alliance.
Now the suits in Washington have started their collective finger pointing and ideological saber rattling against what Russia is doing in Crimea. By referendum, albeit true or fake, Ukrainians in Crimea, most of who are ethnic Russians, have voted to rejoin the Russian Union. In other words they want to become part of Mother Russia again.
So what’s the big deal?
Most Americans are unaware that Crimea is a small peninsula in the Black Sea that is north of Turkey and East of Romania. Had it not been for the recent Winter Olympic Games in Sochi most Americans wouldn’t even know where that part of the world is. Needless to say it’s not a region of the world that holds any strategic geographical advantages for the United States, unless it’s about……..natural gas. Crimea is the home of a major natural gas pipeline that comes from….wait for it, wait for it, RUSSIA.
So what does this have to do with anything? One of my all-time favorite Arizona Cardinals, Rod Tidwell, said it best when he exclaimed, “show me the money!”
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has never really been an ideological friend of the United States. Big deal, we’ve never really been an ideological friend of his either, so we’re even. However, whenever he starts to flex his muscles everyone in the European Union, and thus America by default, starts to take notice. This is no different (even though I find it somewhat hypocritical for us to get involved in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but that’s a different topic.)
A few weeks ago, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner said

“One immediate step the president can and should take is to dramatically expedite the approval of U.S. exports of natural gas. The United States has abundant supplies of natural gas, an energy source that is in demand by many of our allies, and the U.S Department of Energy’s excruciatingly slow approval process amounts to a de fact ban on American natural gas exports that Vladimir Putin has happily exploited to finance his geopolitical goals. We should not force our allies to remain dependent on Putin for their energy needs.”

So, if we don’t want our allies to become dependent on Putin, then who do we want them to become dependent on? It should not go without notice that Halliburton, yes, Halliburton has started exploring for natural gas in Poland and Shell Oil just signed a contract that allows them to explore for natural gas in, wait for it, wait for it….Ukraine!
In other words, become dependent on us, not them.
There’s a valid argument for price competitiveness of the global market for natural gas. Anytime there’s a monopoly on anything you’re asking for rampant corruption. I get that. But Boehner’s statement goes both ways. If Putin is using his resources to spread his geopolitical goals, then won’t the United States do the same? And as much as I hate to say this everyone in the world doesn’t, nor should they, aspire to live our way of life, nor do they want to live a Russian life.
In the end I fear this is, once again, about the almighty dollar. Rod Tidwell was right. We want access to Russia’s global market for natural gas. Russia wants to keep those markets. In the interim, as always, we have to create a boogey man who wants to kill us. To me, this one is simple. It’s not about politics. It’s about money. It’s about money that comes from the sales of natural gas.
And it stinks!

Dear Republican Party…a love letter


Hi. How have you been?
When I was flipping through the television channels the other day I saw you. I sat down to watch. I listened. It’s been awhile since I let you back in. After we broke up it was hard for me because, well, we were so close before. I couldn’t bear to even hear your voice, let alone see you. The distance was good for my own sanity, but not for reasons that you might think.
I didn’t want it to end, and I don’t think you did you either. At least that’s what you said, but we both knew that it couldn’t continue the way it was going. We were fighting too much.
There was a time that I believed that we were going to last forever. We were like peas and carrots, like okra and collard greens, like cheese and macaroni. We were loyal to one another. Inseparable is what we used to say to each other.
I was ready to do what it took to stay.
Ours was a romance that was never supposed to happen anyway. I had only dated people my parents and peers approved of, and so did you. I think the danger of it all helped make our bond stronger. I still remember the first day we met. I thought you were beautiful in a way that I had never even considered admiring before. You were new, fresh, bold, and alive. You thought I was chasing you just for the benefits.
But you were wrong. I really liked you.
You took the time to get to know me, to know my fears and my feelings of inadequacy. You took me whole, flaws and all, and still answered the phone when I called you the next day.
And then we fell in love.
We both wanted the same things. We were both impatient and wanted what we wanted now. No excuses. No long speeches. No acts of appeasement. We had both grown tired of the status quo.
We wanted the real.
Do you remember the time we both stood outside in the rain registering voters? It was you, me and an ironing board along with a bag full of voter registration forms. I would go chasing after people as they tried to avoid us “You said you were going to sign this,” I’d jokingly yell at them. They’d start to laugh as I cut off their escape route and give them a pen to sign. Then you would walk up behind me and their entire facial expression would change, like I had done something wrong.
I knew that it hurt you. I wish I could’ve made it go away.
But you put on your tough face and said that it didn’t bother you, “that people had a right to choose or reject.” But I knew that it bothered you deeply because you kept talking about it later on when it was just the two of us. I understood. No one likes being rejected for who they are and what they believe. I had dealt with that every day of my life and it had deadened parts of me. I had learned to deal with it. You took a different approach. You weren’t able to handle it that way. You said that was unacceptable, and you wouldn’t have it. I found it particularly refreshing that you took a different approach to something neither of us had control over. I had never thought enough of myself to question what I had been bred into believing was an unfortunate reality.
But that’s what made us work. We were in the trenches together, changing the world one person at a time. I had your back and you had mine.
Then things started to change. I don’t know if it was me or if it was you. You said that I stopped looking at you the same way. I said that what you wanted from me was unsustainable and unrealistic. When people disagreed with us you began saying things like “they’re stupid,” or “that’s typical.” Those words came from pain, not from your heart. I knew the difference. I knew who you really were. But I guess eventually you just got tired of feeling like you had to defend yourself.
Still, I found a problem with your new resolve.
“So, why do you say they’re stupid?”
“Because THEY are. THEY are never going to change,” you said.
“What makes us any different than them,” I asked.
That’s when you said the words that cut me like a hot, fiery blade.
“You’re not one of them. You’re different.”
I never forgot those words. They put a sour taste in my mouth, like I had been forced to swallow an old dirty boot.
Did I have to be ontologically distinct from the masses that looked, lived and thought like I used to think in order to be in the “in crowd”? That really opened my eyes and made me think, what made me the “other” in your eyes.
And was I the “other” in the eyes of my peer group as well?
You started becoming hypersensitive and ham fisted about ideals, IDEALS. The ideals became more important than the people they were designed to help. In other words the message became more important than the vehicle. It seemed that you became obsessed with countering the ideas of others and saying why they weren’t good for the common good of everyone.
And you became very angry and defiant. You weren’t the same anymore.
That’s when we began fighting more. Every word that we said to one another became a problem. If we weren’t with your friends you were very short and rude. I didn’t know you anymore.
You said the same about me.
When I saw you on TV the other day my heart became sad because I know that we had something really special at one time.
Just the other day my girlfriend asked me “why did you break up with your ex?” I didn’t have an answer that was sufficient. On TV the other day I found myself agreeing with some of the things you said. It felt good. Maybe one day we’ll meet up again. I would like that.
Until that time I wish you well.
Your former boyfriend

Who’s on first? The monster of health care reform vs a comedy team

abbott and costello

Abbot and Costello made a great comedy team. One of their more hilarious routines was the “Who’s on First” bit. What made the routine so funny was that no matter how much Abbott pleaded for clarity, Costello would repeatedly confuse the matter in a nonchalant way that insinuated to his comedy partner that it was his fault for not understanding something seemingly so simple.
Fast forward to the characters we have running the government today and you wonder the same question: Who’s on First?
Everyone knows that the current healthcare system is screwed up. It doesn’t take a scholar to figure that out. We don’t need special interest group-sponsored doctors telling us that we should “stay the course” and everything will be fine, nor do we need poverty pundits, and yes, I said it, poverty pundits telling us the sky is falling when it comes to healthcare costs in this country.
We can all smell the stench that is rising from the trash heap But like any pile of garbage it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the odor is originating from. Is it the leftovers we threw away last night, or the dirty diaper we threw away a week ago?
Here’s the twisted reality that I believe is at the core of this problem: Physicians, for the most part, actually want the patients they treat to get well. The insurance companies, most of which are either publically or privately owned, want to make a profit. So, how do you make a profit out of sick, dying people? Easily; you charge the healthy ones, you charge them deep, and you charge them that way for as long as you can.
I recognize that I’m oversimplifying a very complex problem. But I’m only bringing this to the table to illustrate that there isn’t only one answer, and you would think that our elected officials would understand and agree to that. There has to be compromise, which in Washington seems to be equivalent to saying another c-word.
Depending on who has the mic, this allegedly is what is going on behind closed doors. But, this is far from the truth. What we have here is a stalemate in reverse; it’s very stale and nowhere near mating.
The Affordable Healthcare Act has been ratified as law by the Supreme Court. Get over it! It’s done. Depending on who you listen to this act is either the greatest assault on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we have ever seen in our lifetime, or it’s the greatest thing next to sliced raisin toast with cinnamon swirl.
I understand the hesitancy of those who aren’t crazy about it. Never before in this country, minus slavery, has by virtue of being alive meant that you are immediately indebted to a controlling agency. Think about it. Auto insurance is mandatory only if you own a car. Homeowners insurance is necessary only if you own a home. Health insurance is now mandatory if you’re….breathing. It’s attached to you being a living, corporeal being. Yeah, let that settle in a little. The individual mandate is a tax on being alive.
There are a lot of people (Tea Party) who take a hardline against taxes of any kind. These people (Tea Party) are great with pointing out the problems of what has been retitled Obama care, but have yet to offer a solution whose logical conclusion doesn’t include sending the poor person who gets sick out to sea in a burning boat. (I mean, really, who doesn’t want to go out like a Viking? Just think of the cottage industry that it would create.)
Republicans, for the most part, have tried to push Tort reform, which puts limits on how much a plaintiff can sue for if they claim and prove that they’ve suffered damages while under a physician’s care. It is believed that the amount of money that is spent on frivolous lawsuits and overzealous juries prevents the medical field from being able to lower prices for care. And while this might be a component of the problem, it is, by no means, the whole solution.
But here’s the rub against the often impassioned pleas of the Republicans against the scourge of “Obama care”; Mitt Romney, their presidential candidate, proposed and signed into law a very similar program in Massachusetts in 2006. Yes, Massachusetts is a lot smaller, but after some tweaking (not twerking) it has been hailed as one of his greatest and most long lasting of his achievements. The individual mandate has been most effectively put in place by, dare I say, a Republican. So it’s not that it won’t work, it’s that “our guy” isn’t the one doing it.
Democrats have sheepishly boarded the support train behind this president who was sent over from central casting and have formed a human shield around the executive office. I can only imagine that had the president been a republican, the democrats would be doing the same thing that the republicans are doing now.
And who suffers from this political gridlock? The people do. The powers that be don’t get their way, so let’s screw the people.
So again I ask………who’s on first?

Are black athletes inherently faster than white athletes?

bo jackson 2
A few months ago I’m standing and talking with one of the other parents on my son’s soccer team. He and I have known each other for quite a while now and have a mutual respect for one another. So, when the following conversation happened I was a little surprised. It went like this.
Him: “Man, your son is super-fast. I thought my kids were fast, but your son has cheetah speed. Were you fast when you were a kid?”
Me: “Yes, I was very fast at their age, faster than most.”
Him: “Can I ask you a question?”
Me: “Ssssuuurrre….” (Spider senses started to tingle).
Him: “My sons are the fastest kids on their track team, but when we went over to (insert name of all black high school in an all-black neighborhood) those kids made my sons look so slow.”
Me: “So your question is?”
Him: “Do black kids have an extra leg muscle back there or something?”
Welcome to no wiggle room Wednesday. Today’s topic is: Are black athletes inherently faster than white athletes?
It is well documented that slave owners, Thomas Jefferson being one of them, practiced what is known as selective breeding. Because slaves were looked at as a valuable financial asset (they were the second largest cash asset in the southern states), they were treated like cattle and bred for certain desirable characteristics that could be passed onto their children.
To do the type of back breaking labor that most slaves had to do, a wispy looking runway model type with soft hands and small, lady-like ankles would not do. You wanted muscle, strength, shoulders the width of a boxcar, a back as strong as a train of oxen. In other words you didn’t want a Michael Jackson, you wanted a Bo Jackson.
Often a strong male was forced to impregnate an equally strong female. The end result was baby Hercules. And, because institutionalized slavery lasted in this country for over 200 years, and forced segregation lasted another 102 years (laws that made intermarriage between black and white illegal were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967) the gene pool remained small and became more defined.
In other words, there was a bunch of baby Hercules.
Nobody wants to talk about this in our overly politicized society, but the fact of the matter is this: professional athletics in this country is the unintended beneficiary of the darkest moment in our American history.
Of course the white athlete has his place in history. I would argue, however, that had there not been forced segregation in all professional athletics black athletes would’ve been equally dominant in football before Fritz Pollard in 1919, in basketball before Church Cooper in 1950, and in baseball far earlier than Jackie Robinson. It can be argued that black boxer Jack Johnson would’ve won the world heavyweight championship had James Jeffries, who was white, not refused to face him in as early as 1900.
Not all black people were physical specimens of epic proportion. We can’t all run like cheetahs or dunk the basketball or outrun defenders or hit the baseball a country mile. Some of us missed that portion of the genetic gravy train. Still, there are enough that would give the casual outside observer the impression that we’re all physical wunderkinds, that we all have an extra leg muscle hidden away somewhere.
Sadly, that’s simply not the case.
Fast forward back to my conversation:
Me: “No, last I checked there was no extra muscle back there. I think it’s because we’re used to being chased.”
Him: (awkward silence)
Me: “Just kidding.” (I couldn’t resist it)

How n-words always ruin my day

“Twisted, jammed into a paradox….”
Going into today’s no wiggle room Wednesday I had nothing to talk about. But then, wouldn’t you know it, I’m sitting in my car, and a car full of young guys pulls up next to me. Our windows are down so I can hear them as well as they can hear me.
That’s when my auditory sanctuary was invaded with the bristling ugliness and vocal stench of a terrible, hateful word used so effortlessly by these guys that I had to do a double-take.
“Hey n-word….n-word hurry up and get in the car…n-word why you tripin’, n-word that’s messed (sic) up….”
I was shocked! I didn’t know who they were talking to. Someone is getting knocked out. Was I about to go to jail? Was I going to catch a case? I began to experience emotional overload.
But as I looked closer into their car my mouth flew open even more. It was a group of young Hispanic guys and they were referring to each other! When they saw me staring they looked at me like “what?” They never stopped using the word. In fact, I think their use intensified.
What just happened? Did these kids know what they were saying?
I was definitely offended, but it was more the type that accompanies copyright ownership.
“You can’t use that word like that. That’s OUR word,” was my initial reaction.
But my inner voice quickly reprimanded me. It said, “Do you really want to OWN that word?” It was right. Owning that word is the equivalent of being a white south Afrikaner who is proud of apartheid.
The struggle to define our own identity in a country that has historically been very demeaning in its imagery of people of color seems to be lost on the new breed of youth emboldened with an MTV styled bravado. The end sum of the struggle, if you listen to and believe the multitude of rap lyrics today, is in the ability to substitute the n-word for everything. The n-word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, participle and epicene.
On the one hand, these looked like high school kids who obviously had no idea of the history surrounding that word and how it was, and still is, used to subjugate and objectify an entire group of people. Should I read them the riot act? Where did they learn this crap from?
That’s when I heard coming from their speakers….the most foul mouthed rap lyrics I can proudly say I’ve never heard. And that’s where the paradox arose. The only reason these kids felt comfortable using this word is because of its overuse in popular rap music, by, regrettably, black rap artists.
So then the logical question becomes this: on what basis do black rap artists, and to a larger extent, the black community have in taking the moral high ground when it comes to other people using this word? I would say not much.
But then maybe that’s the genius of these artists, to strip the negative power from the word by giving it an interchangeable universalism. Morning cereal can be the n-bomb, a dog, a cat, a weasel (whom you should never tease, by the way) a pet hamster, all n-bombs. Appliances, especially computers, you got it, n-bombs. Perhaps one day the Pope will stand before millions of faithful at the Vatican and say “I bless all of you n-bombs in the name of the father, the son and my n-bomb Jesus.”
I’m not buying it! These folks are not that sophisticated. If I’m the only black person in a crowded room and someone yells out “n-bomb”, everyone looks at me to see what my reaction is going to be.
And that, sadly, is how I felt when these young kids were using it to address each other. As they sped off when the light turned green, what made me sicker was that I know it was probably someone who looked like me that taught them it was okay, in a rap song, to use that word in the first place.
Not cool!

The Confederate Flag and other stuff that makes me go hmmmm.

The other day I was standing in line at my credit union. Ahead of me was a very large statured man wearing a motorcycle club jacket. He was wearing gloves and a helmet and using very colorful language with the clerk at the window, but it wasn’t because he was upset or frustrated. On the contrary, the nature of his conversation was quite friendly. He simply chose to use profanity in his everyday lexicon.
But that wasn’t what caught my eye, err ears. The back of his motorcycle club jacket had two very ornately embroidered flags, one was the American Flag and the other was the Confederate flag.
At first, my visceral reaction to these two symbols being co-mingled was one of disgust. I didn’t like it. But the longer those images were 8 feet away from me; I began to ask myself “why?” Is it not possible for a person who claims to be proud of their European, Asian, African, First Nation, Aboriginal, or Asian-Pacific Islander ancestry to also be a proud American? Of course it is. Likewise, if we are truly a nation that embraces freedom of expression, then no matter how offensive someone’s ideology may be, don’t they have an inherent right to express it (as long as it doesn’t cause any physical harm to their neighbor).
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines ethnicity as being a group associated with or belonging to a particular race or group of people who have a culture that is different from the main culture of a country. By that definition I consider a person who identifies with the Confederate Flag and all that it stands for within historical context as being part of a distinct ethnic group. Not all people identify with the ideology surrounding the history of the confederate flag. And, being a Civil War historian buff, I know the difference between the actual flag flown during the Civil War and the one that many groups identify with today. The Confederate Flag that we see today is typically the one pictured in this post. It was made popular by southern segregationist in the 50’s and 60’s who wanted to fight against the federal government’s stand that they could not discriminate against people who were non male white anglo saxons. This was NOT the same flag that was flown by the confederate army during the civil war. The ideals may be the same, but the two flags look different. Likewise the same dictionary defines patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country.
There is no inherent problem with being proud of whom you are. Self-pride does not, in my opinion, interfere with you being a productive American. The problem arises when that pride metastasizes into misplaced nationalism of any kind.
On that day in the credit union there was only one teller working because it was close to lunchtime. The very large man said his very foul mouthed goodbyes and turned towards me to walk away. As he passed by he looked at me and said “what’s up brother,” and kept on walking. I was in shock for two reasons: 1) rarely am I at a loss for words, which I was in this instance; 2) it’s not every day that you see a Black man wearing a confederate flag on his back.