President Obama, ain’t we Amer-I-can too?


Midterm elections are typically viewed as a mandate for or against the party that is currently in power. As a result of this year’s fallout the Democratic Party, by losing control of the Senate, has all but given away any semblance of real power on Capitol Hill other than the presidential veto.
Looking beyond the immediate results, from a strategic standpoint, what the Republicans have done is nothing short of brilliant. They have succeeded in convincing a highly polarized and highly ignorant electorate that President Obama is the true enemy of the state. This comes in spite of the fact that under his administration the stock market has traded at record high levels, the deficit has been reduced by $1 trillion, job growth has steadily improved while unemployment (as tricky of a statistic as it is) has decreased. Of course the cornerstone of his administration has been the Affordable Healthcare Act (which is, for all intensive purposes, a recycled Republican idea).
In response to this ideological onslaught the Democrats did…nothing. In fact they tucked tail and ran away, going so far as to distance themselves from the very president who, a little over 10 years ago, carried their blood stained populist banner in an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Conventional. In the end the Democratic Party and its leaders have suffered a major blow that, for the most part, they allowed to happen.
But this has not all been the fault of the Democratic Party. A lot of the blame of President Obama’s fall from grace has been President Obama himself.
Contrary to the popular belief, when black folks elected Barrack Obama to be the 44th President of the United States it wasn’t just because we wanted a president who was black. The black electorate is more sophisticated than that, just ask Alan Keyes and Herman Cain (both of whom are black and both who have unsuccessfully run for president).
The reason that we elected Barrack Obama is because in him we saw someone who seemed to understand our heartbeat. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was raised by a single mother and then grandparents who loved him. He graduated from law school and met a true sister from the Southside of Chicago who had also spent her life defying the odds laid out before her. After graduating he came back to the hood as a community activist. He could play hoops, wasn’t too proud to admit that he listened to rap music and could drop the mic and walk away after giving a speech. We were proud to prop him up as the best of what our community had to offer to the country and to the world.
On many issues he ran on a solidly progressive and left of center platform. He was very honest about the fact that he thought government should play a more expanded role in the lives of its citizens. He promised to give the common man a much needed voice in the often white shoe closed door power meetings held in the nation’s capital. In the end he campaigned that electing him would mean that it wouldn’t be business as usual in Washington D.C.

When he began his first term we knew the job was a tough one. For the most part the black community gave him a collective pass. We said “you didn’t create this mess. We’ll give you time. Handle your business brother, we got your back.” We began to see appointments of highly qualified and skilled black leaders in his administration. He showed up on the talk shows, he and the first lady brought a joie de vie to the White House after some really tough economic and political years. It was refreshing to see his oratorical skills readily on display on almost a weekly basis. We watched him fight an outwardly hostile congress and senate. We had his back, almost to a fault.
When it came time for re-election he could rely on us to stand firmly behind him, even though he had made statements about how he wasn’t just “our president” but he was “America’s president.” Well, we knew that. We deal with the fact that everyone in America doesn’t look like us or have our perspective or deals with the same stuff that we do on a daily basis. We’re not stupid. But, hey, we’ll let that one slide. We still got your back.
When the runaway housing industry came to a screeching halt due to the corrupt and illegal practices of the mortgage industry it was found that Wall Street and the banking industry willfully misled the American people. Millions lost their homes while these same bankers and brokers who stole billions of dollars received what was equivalent to immunity from prosecution by President Obama’s administration. His response was “it’s too big to fail.” Taxpayer bailouts ensued and the banking industry, after fleecing billions, was allowed to continue doing business, only this time much richer.
What happened to the “this won’t be business as usual,” Mr. President?
Last year a larger percentage of young black women chose to have an abortion more than any other ethnic group in the country. And while we understand that protecting a woman’s right to a legal and safe abortion does not mean the same thing as being pro-abortion, President Obama, indeed having learned profound oratory skills from the very community that helped to ignite the flame that propelled him to the White House in the first place seemingly can’t conjure up those same skills when defining those very nuances which might save one more black baby’s life from being extinguished.
The black community has always had a very strained relationship with the issue of homosexuality. This president has seemingly made it one of his top priorities to use his office as a sounding board of support for those members of the community who make the very difficult decision to go public with their sexuality. The same fortitude does not seem to be on display when it comes down to taking the lead on social injustices committed against black males. And while sending the attorney general to Ferguson, MO was a step in the right direction, not showing up himself was disheartening. We won’t even talk about how relatively silent he’s been on the violence in his own city of Chicago.
In his effort to prove to an ever-fearful white America that he is not simply “the black president” in some ways it seems that he has forgotten that he is the President who is black. Going into the latter part of his second term we should hope for a more forceful voice of advocacy for a community of Americans most in need. Our issues are America’s issues. When do we get a little more love?
In the end, for many, the question remains: do we have a Black President or a President who is black? In short we can, and should be, unapologetic in our critique yet diligently guard against being used as the political gun powder of the opposition.


The monster that rap created….


I love Iggy Azalea. I think what she’s doing is brilliant. She has taken the rap industry and turned it on its head by coming out with a song, err rap, which highlights her ability to sound like a drowning kitten WHILE racking up over 135 million views on YouTube. That’s right, 135 MILLION YouTube views. You do the math. If only 10 percent of her fans went out and bought her single, she will have sold 13.5 million copies, on one song!

Get yo’ paper girl!

And after all, isn’t that what the rap game has turned into? Cash moves everything around me, CREAM, get the money, Iggy, Iggy, Iggy yawl. The ends justify the means, and if the ends are all about, well, ends (money for those of you less initiated in hip hop vernacular) then Iggy Azalea gets my vote as being the queen bee.

Still, there are the critics who are saying that there’s no way this white Australian should be rapping about the things she’s rapping about.

I believe that this is where her true genius shines. What she has done is pull the sheets off the façade that says this generation’s brand of rap has to have any nutritional value in it.  Today’s brand of salacious cellulose that is saturated in gross consumerism and passing itself off as rap music is audible crack. The first time you hear lyrics and a beat that you like, you’re hooked. Couple that with the visual stimuli of The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets ghetto-fabulous and voila, you have found the mixture that is sure to gain you a lot of customers.

And, just like crack, it’s equally as useless and destructive.

Growing up in New South Wales, far from the pot-holed riddled and drug infested southern neighborhoods that created the style of music she does, little Miss Amethyst Amelia Kelly heard her first rap song and decided “I want to be a rap star.” The pull must’ve been so strong that, along the way, she decided to trade in one form of white privilege (Australian heritage, long legs, thin waist, blonde hair, and opaque white skin) and morph herself into the object of overt male misogyny. She traded in one career, which was modeling for one of the top agencies in New York, for some butt injections and “swag-on-demand” when the studio producers yelled “spit” (with lyrics undoubtedly written for her).

One of her first hits to go viral was a song about a part of a woman’s anatomy that rhymes with the name Delores. Her audience was primarily comprised of hard living, what I call “catfish folks” who either don’t understand or appreciate the art of subtlety.  She put it all out there, and then capitalized on flaunting her “otherness” to a people programmed to be envious of the very physical traits that she was genetically pre-disposed to have.

Think about it. She already had the hair texture that she witnessed many of her rap contemporaries spend hours, and thousands of dollars, to get their hair to look like. She already had the white skin, sans skin bleaching creams and who knows whatever else many of her other women of color artist were doing. She learned how to rap with the inflection, and the swag, of a rapper from the “dirty-dirty”. She even started dating from what I am sure was a very willing, and eligible, pool of black men.

What Iggy Azalea has done, rather what rap music in its degenerated bastardized form has allowed her to do, is to become the face for a new kind of minstrel act. Like Dr. Frankenstein, she is the monster that rap has created.

In the earliest days of minstrel the performers were exclusively white. They performed in black face to white audiences who were very comfortable with seeing the buffoonery and racially insulting caricatures of black people. What Iggy Azalea has done is a hybrid of minstrel act and survival in a male dominated industry. I have no doubt that she is truly a fan of this style of rap music, and as a woman she is doing what she feels is necessary to succeed in this genre. But, what is most damaging now is that black people have a much greater degree of control over our image than we did back in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The best that we can do is to equate having a big booty and over-exaggerated sex appeal as a mark of approval for a woman rapper?

The repetitive message that most of today’s top rap artist broadcast is as healthy as the residue of a used crack pipe.

This is why I like Iggy Azalea. Her presence atop the charts right now is a mirror that this present rap industry should look into and see that they are the emperor who is wearing no clothes, that they are the evil mastermind that has gathered the parts of a thousand dead bodies and recreated something that has no soul. They’re the ones who have made it very easy for someone like her, and the multitudes that will surely follow, to become the maniacally unpredictable brute who roams the countryside.

So keep on doing it, and doing it and doing it well Miss Kelly.  Maybe one day someone in the rap “game” will wake up from their THC induced haze and realize that they’ve allowed one of the greatest musical art forms on the planet to degenerate into a watered down minstrel show.  But, until then, Iggy Azalea you really are fancy.

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.

Stop Paying Church Musicians!!!!

Playing Piano

Stop paying non-staff church musicians!

Let it sit. Stew in it for a few more minutes. Repeat.

Stop paying non-staff church musicians!

I don’t expect people who care about this topic to agree with me. In fact I expect to meet with a lot of resistance, if not outright hatred. But I’m not joking, nor am I holding back on the punch.

Stop paying non-staff church musicians!

There are clearly a million different directions I could go with this topic. But, for the sake of time and space I’m going to stick to three points. Those points are:

1)            Being specifically appointed, or called to your position;

2)            Is what you do an integral part of the gospel being proclaimed?

3)            With ministry comes sacrifice;

Temple musicians have always been a very important part of worship. This very topic is brought up in the Old Testament where we see King David actually appointing entire families to be responsible for worship music. In fact these families produced 288 people who were skilled and trained musicians (1 Ch 25:4) whose sole job it was to declare the greatness and goodness of God through music.

Still you might think that, “why are you against musicians being paid?”

Hang in there, we’re almost to the bridge (all of my musician friends, er, ex-friends will know exactly what that means. If you’re not a musician it simply means we’re almost to the good part.)

Under God’s instruction when Moses divided the land of Israel among the 12 tribes, the tribe of Levi was strategically excluded. Instead it was their job to be the priests of the temple and preservers of everything associated with the temple. Because they weren’t allowed to do anything else God declared that they could have certain food offerings that were brought to the temple (Deut 18:1) in order to sustain themselves. Ultimately God tells the Levites that “I am your inheritance,” meaning that they were ultimately to rely on Him for provision.

It is here that the biblical foundation for who is supported by the ministry, I believe, is set into place.

This principle permeates the New Testament as well. You don’t think so?

In the New Testament the apostle Paul was; a) specifically called from being identified as Saul of Tarsus to being called Paul, arguably one of the most influential apostles of all time; b) His writings, teachings and mission work probably did more for spreading the gospel than any other apostle of his time; c) He sacrificed earthly comforts and even his life (Phil 3:7-8). Therefore, it is my opinion that he passes the biblical litmus test for being supported by the gospel (even though he often chose to sustain himself financially as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). He did, however, occasionally receive support from believers while he was working on behalf of the gospel (2 Cor 11: 7-9).)

Fast forward to today. I know that it seems almost obscene to say that churches are businesses, but they are. They have bills to pay and people to support. I believe that if a musician is not an official member of the church staff, meaning they’re employed by the church, then their position should be on a volunteer basis. To put it plainly, if it’s work (and no job at a church is simply just “work”) then you’re in the wrong line of work. If it’s ministry, (and I think it I’m in-bounds by saying it should be) well, read on.

I don’t remember anywhere in the scripture where God did not amply reward someone who sacrificed something for Him. Relying on God for your provision takes, dare I say faith? (And of course no one is expecting you to sacrifice your life to play the drums on Sunday.)

If a musician only shows up because of a paycheck the church has established a very dangerous and destructive precedence. On whose provision are you forcing your musicians to rely upon? At the end of the day a musician also has a soul that needs to be fed by good theology.  I understand the heart of compassion that a lot of ministries have towards their musicians. I get it. But, at the end of the day these churches aren’t doing these people any good if they’re not being consistent in their teaching.

I believe that sound theology should permeate every decision and contract that the church enters into. And why shouldn’t it? Jesus addressed both the practical and spiritual needs of people in his very first recorded miracle, which was turning the water into wine. This profound event had both deeply spiritual and practical applications. The church is not immune from this same methodology.  Just writing a check, in many cases, is taking the easy way out.

And lastly, have we come to a point in our society where the only acceptable way to acknowledge the presence of a gift (i.e. musicianship) is by way of money? Sometimes a talent displayed in a sacrificial manner is much more profound than it would be if paying that person is compulsory.

This is something that I’m very passionate about (can’t you tell?) because all too often I see good musicians holding church leaders hostage by fleecing the weekly offerings by turning their gift into a “pay to play” exercise. I’m not detached from this reality because I used to be a church musician. I understand and appreciate, intimately, a musician’s role in worship.

In the end, above anything, I hope that this opens up a conversation between church leaders and their musicians. Ministries are very creative and resilient. They can, and should, find a way that is both theologically sound and legal to show how much they appreciate their musicians. It just doesn’t always have to be in the form of a check or wad of cash.

Choosing a black woman…consciously


I used to cringe every time I heard a black woman cry about a black man they saw with someone from a different ethnic group. It used to literally make me nauseas because, to me, it assumed that just because people have the same outside wrapping means that they’re automatically supposed to be a match. The simplicity of such fallacious logic never made sense to me, but in this arena we weren’t dealing with logic. This was some straight emotional stuff sent over by the special effects department.
As this socially discomforting drama would unfold, quickly rising to a full scale code red alert the glaring black woman would often eventually enlist the help of a few friends who likewise expressed their utter contempt for what they saw. As the fully fueled and battle ready sortie readied themselves for takeoff I could only look on in pity at the poor, unsuspecting villains who, until the storm clouds of dissension had formed, were probably having a good time. And God please don’t let it be a white girl. That was usually his, and her, death warrant.
Over the years I learned that their anger/frustration wasn’t random. It was very specific. Yes, and while the often unsuspecting female companion was made to feel as unwelcome as someone showing up to fashion week in Paris wearing overalls and an Elmo t-shirt it was the black man who received the majority of the visual gunshot blast. The often raw emotions hid what was really at the core of the reaction: the black man consciously chose the other.
Being told that we live in a society that values a more Eurocentric standard of beauty is a foregone conclusion. Most of the fashion magazines that you see while standing in line at the grocery store display images that, except for hair color, could pretty much all be the same woman. Whenever a Black woman graces one of these covers it becomes such a big deal because, well, it’s out of the norm to say that something not gleefully Eurocentric is actually worthy of being a standard of beauty.
And then there are cultural differences. The African culture is a very expressive, live out loud experience. How we love, how we communicate, how we feel music, how we dance, how we desire, they all solicit passion. It is a fundamental element of who we are as a people.
Of course there are varying in-house degrees of temperance. We’re not all running around a fire, naked, at night on the beach (which sounds kind of cool…and is actually something an “other” girlfriend once told me her family thought black people did…seriously). Some of us find it equally fulfilling sitting in a quiet room all day long fully engaged in a book, a variety of cheeses and a cup of herbal tea.
While we may all have the same root truly there are many different branches to our tree. That we are not monolithic is quite evident, but rarely a message that we hear.
The prevailing messages that we do hear and see tend to be the most damaging ones. For instance, if you turn on the radio and listen to pop music, most of those messages are two-dimensional at best. They mostly consist of “your booty is_____________” or “I’m wanna take you home and _____________”, or “let’s ________”. All of the songs sound the same. And the videos are…let’s just say they’re pretty much soft porn. In them women have been reduced to being the basest form of sexual objectification. In fact that’s their only job. Having a big butt and walking across the screen in clothes that are too tight must be a hard job to cast for.
So the next logical role that many young women feel forced into assuming, if they want to get the attention of the vast majority of young hustlers, ballers and shot callers, is that they have to look like the video girls. So now you have an inordinate amount of young women getting boob jobs, butt jobs, ribs removed and plastic surgery. And what’s the result? You have an army of young women, and men, sprinting to the bottom of social decency.
My goal is not to bemoan pop culture. It is what it is. It has always been about making money by appealing to the least common denominator in people. I get it. But when you look at the most recent study by the Centers for Disease Control regarding marriages by ethnic groups and out of four distinct ethnic groups in this country, black women have the lowest rate of marriage at 29%. Conversely, research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that black teens between the ages of 15-19 have the hands down highest rate of all abortions at 41%.
So, do you still think those images don’t do any damage? Of course they do. These images make it easy to perpetuate the myth of the oversexed black woman. The numbers above speak for themselves. There’s a lot of sex going on, but not a lot of marrying. Consciously choosing a black woman to be your wife is quite different than choosing a black woman to go to bed with. Those two are not even remotely the same thing.
Sometimes consciously choosing a black woman means turning off the television, getting up from in front of the computer screen and actually going out and meeting one of them. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of men are chickens. It’s easy to hit it and quit it. That doesn’t take any social skill nor does it exhibit the kind of backbone that it takes to create a legacy. Why not choose a black woman to settle down with? That means you’ll have to suspend any pre-conceived notions that you may have (see fears) and realize that they’re as fiercely loyal, passionate, creative, complicated, endearing, loving, supportive, calculating, multifaceted, intelligent, reserved, vulnerable, alluring, articulate and physically wondrous specimens as any woman worth loving is.

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