Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Oct
04

“These men ain’t shit out here! Where the REAL men at?”

“Man, I don’t care about these hoes.”

These verbal strikes are very common in the all-out war between black men and black women. It seems that for at least the last 20 years, men and women of African-American decent have been campaigning on just how hideous each gender has been to each other, and to society as a whole. From songs, to YouTube videos, to blogs, both sides have been rampant at taking shots at each other in bunches, either as a defense mechanism, revenge tactic, or as some sort of validation to prove their own self-worth.

How? How did we as an entire black population in America become the most divided ethnic group on the planet? This was not always so. No less than 60 years ago, being born black in America seemed like it came with a billboard that said, “cursed” on it. We all know the horrors of segregation, prejudice, and racism (some of which continues to this very day in America) and how our parents and grandparents struggled with these conditions. However, something wonderful came out of all that suffering, namely being black folks united to stop segregation, fighting for their God-given rights, and proving they belong in America just as much as anyone else that was given entry to this country.

Part of the reason seems to be more of a class war than anything else. As the rich has been known to look down on the poor in general, in America, this especially has rung true when it comes to black people. There are countless articles and editorials written by women disinterested in their male counterparts, citing particularly that most men “aren’t up to their standards, either professionally or financially”, and “I can do bad all by myself.” On the other side of the spectrum, a lot of successful men see women who are lower class women as “gold diggers”, “scammers” and “women looking for a come-up”. This type of behavior seems to be magnified amongst black folk for one reason or another, and get very evident in small things such as when certain people move into a prominent neighborhood, or gain entry into a night club not in the proper attire.

Another huge part seems to be how most people are conditioned to believe what their counterparts are almost from birth. Women who are born with no father figure tend to deal with abandonment issues pertaining to men as they grow up, which also normally manifests during their own relationships, leaving a deep feeling of resentment towards black men. As for the black man, there are some that feel black women simply demand too much of them almost seemingly from the time they can talk, whereas they are expected to “be the man of the house” at earlier ages than other races, which in turn can develop into anger when they feel they may not be adequate enough to please their black female mates.

There are several factors in this war such as: religious beliefs, education, and even political preferences. Here’s MY whole question…why? Why have we become a race so divided towards the other gender? What difference does it make in the long run? Why can’t our population as a whole see that whenever someone makes personal proclamations like this public, it not only embarrasses the gender they’re attacking, but in the eyes of the rest of America (and the world, for that matter) it pretty much stains the whole race, bit by bit. Not to say that other races don’t attack each other, but certainly not to this sheer degree and quantity. We don’t see the Jewish female community say that their men are oppressors. You’ll never hear Asian men claim that their women make them feel worthless on a seemingly daily basis.  Even in Middle Eastern countries overseas, where there are laws pretty much guaranteeing men have dominance over women and women are more responsible for raising men, there’s no gender division amongst the people. What baffles me to no end about this war is that black people born in other countries – most notably, island and African countries – say that black Americans are disgracing themselves putting men against women all the time.

So, how can this war end? Well, one solution is been made clear cut: interracial dating. Black men and women have both branched out, dating and marrying other races to fulfill the needs they felt they weren’t getting in their own race. I actually applaud this move, because everyone needs love somewhere, and color should never impede that, but this has seemingly made things worse on the surface. Many people who have stepped outside their race – especially to be with white counterparts – have been met with accusations of self-hatred, “selling out”, and disloyalty.  How many times have we heard a conversation like this, either portrayed on TV or in real life?

Black man: “I’m done with yo’ ass. You’re so bossy. I bet white women wouldn’t do me like you do!”

Black woman: “If that’s how you feel, Uncle Tom, white women can have your sorry ass!”

Or an exchange like this:

Black woman: “See, this is why I date white men. THEY know how to treat a black queen like me.”

Black men: “Well, let them white dudes put up with your shit, then!”

Look, the only way black men and women are going to get along and preserve our race is that we all have to accept each other. Accept our faults and failures, just like we accept each other’s triumphs and successes. As a black man in America, it angers me to see our race in such a state of disarray, to the point where we feel we can’t even rely on each other to build lives and families with. Like I said before, I respect love, no matter where a person finds it. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I love to see two black people, working with each other to build a life together. This is why I applaud many older couples I know; like my parents, my girlfriend’s parents, the President and First Lady, and several others that have celebrated decades of loving marriages to each other. Throughout those relationships, the big difference in them making it and others failing is that they are willing to accept the fact that while they are certainly not perfect, each other has been perfect for them, which has been a lost concept into making relationships work across the board, not just amongst black folk. Even with my relationship of nearly 10 years to my Nubian queen, we work with each other, comfort each other in hours of darkness, and learned from one another to become perfect mates for the life we want to have together.

I just wonder 10, 15, 20 years from now, how many black couples will have the same successful results as our parents and grandparents. As long as this war goes on, that number will be low to the point of rarity. We HAVE to end this war, black people! There’s no other alternative.

10/4/2012

Sep
25

So, here we stand again. As we Americans do once every four years, we become enthralled in the time period known as election season, where we choose new leaders to govern. This biggest title of all is the Presidency of the United States, or POTUS for short. During this season, we see conventions, commercials, and endorsements for why one candidate should be chose over the other. After all, this is one of the building blocks of America and one of the basic concepts of democracy; the freedom to let the people decide who leads them. This election will mainly pit Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts, against the current Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American leader.

As I have sat and watched both Governor Romney and President Obama, I can’t help but to wonder about the apparent circus-like atmosphere the campaign trails were almost guaranteed to become. With the non-stop media coverage reporting and analyzing literally every word that is spoken by these two gentlemen, every issue becomes a story within itself: Just as he was questioned four years ago, President Obama has been scrutinized on his religious beliefs, while Governor Romney’s Mormon background has become a topic for concernment. Obama has seen himself criticized on his handling of the economy over the past four years, while Governor Romney has been pretty much vilified for his comments stating that 47% of the country – mostly people he assumes will vote for Obama, no matter what – rely on government assistance, thereby explaining why he is not concerned with their livelihood.

I see these things, and it always makes me think about why we as Americans are pretty much entrapped to the same two-party fight for political power every four years. In playing Devil’s Advocate as I normally do, I wonder why, if we as a nation are now mostly registered as independent voters (as of now, the number of people registered to vote to a political party are 40% Independent or Unaffiliated, and are now the new voting majority), then why don’t we vote independently more often? Why does it seem like most of us feel like when we vote, we’re not necessarily voting for whom we feel is the best candidate for the job, but rather the “lesser of two evils” for America?

Here’s what most people aren’t educated about on American politics: there are actually five major political parties in the United States that produce a candidate for the POTUS. In addition to the two juggernauts of the Republican and Democratic parties, there is also the Green Party, The Libertarian Party, and the Constitution party, formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The Green Party has a candidate running named Jill Stein, also from Massachusetts, who has made intentions known that she is running on the basis of opposing largely the 1% of the wealthiest Americans and not succumbing to the lobbyists that are corrupting many of Washington’s officials. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former Republican presidential candidate, is strongly oppose to the US intervening in international affairs unless said affair is deemed a legitimate American threat. Finally, Virgil Goode from the Constitution Party has made his bid for the White House, mostly running on a campaign that Obama and Romney’s policies really aren’t that different from each other, and still favor the privileged rather than the common or underprivileged citizens in this country.

All four Independent candidates make very good sense in their arguments, but it seems to me that most Americans are even ignorant to their appearances on the ballots. Honestly, who can blame them: The GOP (Republican) and Democratic parties have amassed political funding by the hundreds of millions of dollars to campaign, they have networks dedicated exclusively to the promotion of their party (in FOX News and MSNBC, respectively), and they run on the main basis that people believe that “if you’re not voting either Republican or Democratic, you’re basically throwing you’re vote away.” This is one of the biggest myths that I believe has corrupted the voting process as a whole. Well…. that, and repeated attempts of voter suppression. In spite of the widespread assumptions of minor party candidates, what the voting public needs to be made more aware of is:

1) Voting for a third-party candidate keeps the main candidates not only honest, but also on their toes to deliver on their campaigns. The worse thing a candidate can do is take their voters for granted, assuming that they’ll always be there, and a third party candidate can swing an election greatly in favor of their opponent if a piece of his presumed base decides that they would rather vote for someone else, then rather vote for him or his adversary.

2) A third-party gives voters more freedom to not feel inclined to succumb to the “red vs. blue feud”. If they relate to a candidate more than who’s mainly presented, voters feel a stronger sense to one that has their best interests in mind, even if they are aware that their respective candidate has virtually no chance of winning.

Third-party candidates can create a swell of voters. The most famous third party candidate to date is Independent Party candidate of the 1996 president election Ross Perot, who used most of his own money to create a moderately successful campaign, even though Bill Clinton ended up being re-elected. Even Ralph Nader’s role as “spoiler” in the 2000 election is believed by many to have been one of the biggest factors in George W. Bush walking away with the Presidency.

I say all of this to just reinforce this fact; there are more options out there for you if you feel that neither President Obama OR Governor Romney has your best interests in mind. I am one of these people. I am also very sure I’m not alone in this belief. Finally, I believe that maybe not this election or the next one, but soon, one of these parties will have just as big a following and major part in shaping America’s future leaders as the main two parties do now. So, while I do not push voting for any of the six candidates specifically, I just want to emphasis to everyone that is eligible to go out and vote. Even if your vote is an Independent one, it exercises your greatest liberty in America; the liberty to choose your leader. The liberty to say you will not accept just anyone, and the liberty to fight against a system that assumes you are powerless to change that line of thinking.

 

9/25/12

Jun
28

You know, for all its ups, downs, and creamy middles, life can be a pretty cool thing. Mostly because if for no other reason, that (barring some sort of mental deficiency) we were all born with the ability to think independently. Now, what happens between birth and the time that we become old enough to think for ourselves is a totally different story.

From the time we are born, we are constantly learning; learning the basic functions as human beings (using the bathroom, tying our shoe, how to eat and drink), learning the basic building blocks of society (schooling), and learning about the world we live in. In doing so, we start to take favoritism with certain things like favorite foods, clothes, places, music, etc. This helps shape who we are, who we’ll be, and sometimes, who our kids will also become and so forth.

I guess that’s my motivation for today’s episode. As the main idea of the blog suggested, my way of thinking isn’t intentionally meant to be different, it IS meant to be displayed on my own terms. I like to challenge the “boxed in” way of thinking on life; from the generalization of society’s views on family and marriage, to religion, to how we feel about sports and the athletes that play them.  Not that my way of thinking is right, or that I even think it’s the correct conclusion to the issues I’ve talked about, but I like to present a way of thinking that expands or totally challenges the views most people are subjected to have.

In going deeper on this subject, it made me wonder, “Why DO people think certain ways about stuff? Was it ingrained into their minds from birth? Did they have experiences to shape their decisions? Or did they just wake up one day and thought that this would be their new thought process?” 

I guess the biggest “boxed in” thought can stems from the world’s oldest and most popular belief: religion. If you ask most people how they came to the current religion that they practice, most answers will stem from a tradition that was instilled to them from birth. In other words, their family raised them on it. While this is the norm, it’s not the ideal way people find their way. Some people go through personal anguish to get to their beliefs, and some people experience disappointed with their former religion and decided to find solace in a new one. While I have no qualms with anyone and the beliefs they adhere to, I DO take issue with people trying to force their way of thinking onto the population. From who (or what) to worship, to how their religion supposedly effects the rest of their lives regarding love, sex, work, and everything else, some people are born into their situation and grow with it, almost to the point where they cannot – or WILL not – accept anyone else’s point-of-view on issues. This is why we as a society have issues. Not because that people have different views on life, but because some people are so “boxed in” to their beliefs or thoughts, that they aren’t able to see another person’s point-of-view to probably understand where their side is coming from.

Of course, that’s just one of the many examples. The real point here is simply this, just because you may think your side is right, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else’s point is wrong, or right. I guess this really means this: stop trying to trap people in your boxes and let them escape when they want.

6/28/2012

Mar
26

On the evening of February 26th, a 17-year-old teenager named Trayvon Martin left his father’s fiancé’s home in Stamford, Florida to get an iced tea drink and some Skittles during the NBA All-Star game.

He never made it back home that night alive. Now because of this, the country has once again regressed back to massive fear, ignorance, race baiting, as well as the inevitable opportunity of profit.

Back to the dearly departed Mr. Martin: a neighborhood watch leader by the name of George Zimmerman assumed Trayvon Martin for a suspicious suspect, mostly due to the fact that Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Mr. Zimmerman followed the boy, even after calling 911 to report the suspicion. A scuffle ensued, shots were fired, neighbors could hear someone crying for help, and then another shot was fired. Trayvon was dead. These are the facts.

Everything else has been a toss-up, and the focal point of America’s latest racial controversy. From what may have been said on the 911 call to who came after who, the story has been one huge tragic disaster. There have been several YouTube videos displaying not only Mr. Zimmerman’s call, in which the self-appointed gun-toting watch leader was heard uttering a racial slur to the term of, “coons get away with everything”. Also, there are videos of the neighbor’s call to the police, a 13-year-old witness’s account of the incident, and a new witness coming forward. The truth is, no one really knows now what happened but two people; one is unable to speak about it, while the other is in fear for their own life.

What has developed throughout this incident has definitely put America into a time machine of a segregated South. Due to the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, Mr. Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime by the Samford police. Of course, the black community is outraged, as expected. Protests have sprouted all over the country from a “Million Hoodie March” to rallies in Ohio, to the Miami Heat basketball team donning hooded sweatshirts in support of Mr. Martin. Now, these types of non-violent protests are exactly what should be done to let the government know that an injustice like this shouldn’t be tolerated by the population. Of course, there’s always a flip side to this. The New Black Panther party has put out a “bounty” on Mr. Zimmerman for his ‘capture’ to the tune of $10,000.

Now, I have a question for this. Exactly what are people supposed to do if they catch Mr. Zimmerman? Being as those has he not been formally charged with anything, where would someone seeking this bounty turn him into? How is THIS even justice anyway, especially knowing that this type of action could result in more violence, possibly with innocent people ending up hurt or killed trying to capture this man (or Zimmerman himself)? How does promoting vigilantism help the cause for justice here?

If this action on the side of ‘doing what’s right’ isn’t bad enough, the discrediting of young Trayvon has already begun. Geraldo has already stated (albeit very foolish-like) that Trayvon was practically asking to be profiled by wearing a hooded sweatshirt at night. What sense does that make at all? In fact, in all the anti-Trayvon stories that have recently surfaced (his grades), how is any of this relevant to that one night that ended his life? I’m not going to portray the kid as an angel, but if he was followed home by a man seemingly on a power trip enough to disobey an order from an 911 operator, how is discrediting the victim post death help his case at all?

Now, in being the Devil’s #1 Advocate I am, while I am happy to see the African-American community let their voices be heard on this, I am also troubled at one simple concept regarding this: why does it take a tragedy of this magnitude for us to finally get involved in the killing of our youth? Every day, we hear about how a young black person (or older black person, for that matter) has been gunned down, with normally the killer being of the same dark color. You see it on 30-second short stories on the news, in eight inch columns in our local papers. Killings happen in the streets, in community centers, even in our schools. And yet, the black community as a whole has gotten almost desensitized to hearing story after story of another black person being taken away from us. However, because Mr. Zimmerman has white features (when in all actuality, he is of majority Latino decent); now it the time that we point fingers at the white population, and blame the system for failing the black community. How about when Bill Cosby warned us that black people were killing themselves off for nearly an entire generation and that until we learned how to stop this, we are all an endangered species in America? He was rewarded with jeers of “haterism” and accusations of being condescending for his approach. Does that not seem like providence now?

Also, I’ve seen people capitalize off this tragedy, which has further disgusted me. Party flyers have popped up for “Trayvon” parties at local clubs, giving free admission to people who come in with bags of Skittles. I would be lying if I didn’t say things like these are why America as a whole can’t take this generation of Black America seriously.

So, what do we do? How does this get resolved in a way that America can feel like justice has been served? The protests are a bold statement, yes. The wearing of hoodies in support of Trayvon have been especially touching. However, how does Black America make their voices heard that we are tired of seeing our youth murdered, whether racially-motivated or not? Well, first and foremost, there needs be more accountability held to our homes and communities. After all, they are the most basic staple of society. Making improvements in those will go very long ways in improving the quality of life in black communities. Secondly, there needs to be more of an accountability held to the police departments that are designed to “serve and protect”, to make sure that every citizen, regardless of race, deserves the same level of service and protection.

Maybe this incident woke America up a bit. Maybe this will be just another “hot topic” then fade into the background, like so many others. I hope everyone learns at least one thing from this: EACH life is precious, and injustices everywhere must be met with action, not just those of the ‘black vs. white’ variety. Until that happens, the only thing that’s achieved is that the country in racial killings are just that people get mentally reverted back to the days of Emmitt Till, pretty much guaranteeing that age-old sentiment of “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

3/26/12

Nov
11

I once mentioned in my blog of how valuable sports can be to our nation. How the spirit of competition enriches our lives, and takes our minds off of whatever else seems to be going on we want to forget about. I also said that the people who play and coach these games we love so much are often times given special status in society: millions of dollars, instant celebrity perks, and sometimes passes when trouble may find them.

Unfortunately, it seems that this was one case where football pretty much took priority over everything…including the safety of children.

Unless you’ve been living in a cauldron for the last week, I’m sure you’ve heard all about the very, very sad and outrageous state of affairs at Penn State University. If you didn’t here’s the shortened sentence synopsis.

An assistant coach. Trobuled kids. Gifts. Pedophilia. Sordid Showers. Eyewitnesses. Blind eyes. Buck passing. Little to no effort to stop it. And finally, a massive cover-up.

(By the way here is the report: http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/Press/Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment.pdf – Warning: this is VERY explict, graphic, and pretty goddammed gross.)

(I agree. This definitely sounds like a future “Law & Order: SVU” episode)

Well, it’s seems as though the past caught up with the administration at Penn State. The assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the man accused of molesting kids for almost 20 years is now about to go on trial, the athletic director is also going to have his day in court for his role, and the university president was fired by the board of trustees.

…and then, there’s the head football coach, Joe Paterno.

For the last half-century, “Joe Pa” has not only been the head coach of the Penn State, he’s pretty much been the face of the university and the town of State College, PA. The NCAA’s most winningest coach, he also led the school to two national titles along the way. At 84 years young, the man has been an inspiration to thousands of Penn State alumni, both on and off the field with his leadership and commitment to not only making champions on the field, but champions in life. In the shortest terms: before the scandal broke, if he died, I’m sure he would’ve been up for sainthood someday soon in Happy Valley.

But, even he apparently couldn’t escape the outrage and anger caused by this ever-growing scandal. Just as the president was relieved of his duties, Joe Pa was also shown the door by the board of trustees for his role, or non-role in the scandal. You see, Coach Paterno had been told of one particular incident by Sandusky involving sodomizing a 10-year old boy in the locker room one night by a witness to said incident nine years ago. Having heard this, Paterno then alerted the Athletic Director, but that was the end of his involvement in the matter. Now, why was the country calling for HIS head, especially when he had fulfilled his obligation in the matter? Simple. Every person around the area knows that Paterno simply did the bare minimum in this matter. He could’ve called the police and had they investigate it; he could’ve banned Sandusky from the facilities. Neither was done, and Sandusky was allowed to use PSU facilities as he pleased.

Well, the news of Joe Pa’s firing wasn’t received well at all by the student body. That night, many students rallied…then rioted on campus, to the point where tear gas had to be used to calm the situation down.

Now here’s what’s troubling me about everything:

1) Exactly why are the students rioting? Joe Pa himself stated that he was told a man was abusing children and didn’t do all that was required to protect those kids. He took his punishment (albeit, very reluctantly) like a man and accepted everything handed to him. So, the student body – even if they wanted him to stay – really shouldn’t have gotten that much up in arms about this. No, he didn’t touch the kids, but not stopping it was pretty much enabling it to happen. So, if he’s guilty of at least that, how can the students get that mad? Is the career of a well-respected coach that much more important than sordid details of sexually abused kids on the campus? Really?

2) Why does it seem as this was more about Joe Pa and less about everyone involved? There is a TON of culpability to go around here, not just on Paterno’s shoulders.  The Graduate Assistant who saw it and ran away, the janitors, the victim’s parents who knew previously, etc, etc. I think America saw a major name in college sports with the word “scandal” next to it, and simply got bloodthirsty. As much as I hate to admit it, this isn’t about the kids or even the monster molesting them. This was about power, privilege, and status. Yeah, everyone’s been saying the right things, but I wonder who will really have those kids’ (some of whom are now grown) interests at heart? And this country…honestly,  if you’re outside the Penn State family, will you really care what happens three months, six months, a year down the road?

I see these things, and it still serves as a reminder that no one is above the law. However, the more we want to say this, the more we have incidents that try to prove quite the opposite. So, what ARE we saying to the youth out there? That status triumphs all? That the rules really only apply to normal people?

I can only hope that the Penn State family takes a LONG look at itself, and its actions over the last couple of days. Because I’m having a hard time taking them seriously as an “institution of higher learning”, and I’m sure I’m not alone. When football takes precedent over kids getting abused, that speaks volumes about all of us. Yes, the games are fun to watch. Yes, they help greatly in recruiting, not just players but students. However, football isn’t that big to where it gets put over people, especially children….it just isn’t.

Someday, we’ll all learn this….at least, I hope we will. Maybe this scandal is the wake-up call we needed.

 

11/11/2011

Sep
10

On the very bright and clear Tuesday morning of September 11th, 2001, I was headed to convocation at Delaware State University, to signal the official start to the school year, which would be my sophomore year. Being a member in the concert band, we all just figured it would be just another morning performance, and then we’d be going to class as usual.

Then, history decided to intervene.

Somewhere during the end of the ceremony, we were all told something we thought would never happen in America; that buildings in New York – the Twin Towers – were attacked and fell, and that someone flew a plane into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

WHAT?! How could this….BE??

I guess my reaction upon seeing the scenes provided by CNN in the café after convocation ended was the initial reaction that pretty much everyone else had.

Shock. Bewilderment. Disbelief.

Followed by horror, fear, and widespread panic.

Little did we know, but the “future” of America that we always talked about in the 20th century had begun. Except there were no flying cars, robot maids, or one-course meals like we saw for years in The Jetsons. It was this. The nation in tears, the world on pause, and the country pretty much on edge.

America, for the first time in its history, had been attacked by a foreign entity on its soil. That freaked everyone out enough, but it happened in the epicenter of not only the cultural population of New York, but the business center of the modern free world. Services were on hold for several days to absorb the tragedy and mourn those who were victim to it. Sporting events were cancelled for a week out to let everyone understand just how serious this was.

However, what’s important about 9/11 is not only the horrible event that happened on it, but the aftermath – both immediate and long-term – effects of it.

Well, as we all know, this act lead to war….LOTS of war. Two of them that America personally decided to lead up. Since then, tens of thousands of American troops have died defending their freedom, the country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and a nation that once seemed invincible had been broadcasted to the world the proverbial first chink in the armor.

As the decade went on, some of America’s changes were directly a result of the WTC attack: security in airports felt more checking through fortresses (I know firsthand; the band flew to San Diego, CA for a game just two months after 9/11….unpleasant is an understatement of that airport experience), the Patriot Act has been established to ensure America would never endure this again, and the general psyche of Americans have changed. Unfortunately, for our Middle Eastern-oriented Americans, they are constantly reminded – as well as blamed, persecuted, and sought out – of the horrible events of that day.

While nationalism has come to the general forefront in American life in the last decade, those who practice the religion that is also worshipped by the group responsible for attacking this country has faced near segregation-levels of prejudice. Hate attacks, mosque defacement, out casting those with that decent and ridicule has befallen some of our fellow countrymen, and have pretty made them choose between their God and their country, which is something that was pretty much outlawed on the founding of this nation. Even in helping to heal this country has proved extraordinarily difficult to do, with the country pretty much wanting the mosque near “Ground Zero” to be nowhere near the spot where our future was changed.

Tomorrow will mark the 10th year remembrance of this attack. We will reflect, but we also have to accept EVERYTHING that has come with this, so we can continue to move on. I’m aware that some measure of justice has been extracted with the killing of Osama bin Laden, leader of the “Al-Qaeda” organization responsible for this horrific attack a few months ago, and that many of the co-conspirators of 9/11 have been caught, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to live the rest of their lives in federal prison, that’s only a minor role in getting this nation’s “swag” back. Yes, there will be honor of those that were taken away from us; yes, we will continue to cheer for the heroes who’ve sacrificed their own lives to help those that were trapped in the rubble and risked their own lives to rescue survivors; yes, the nation’s flag will fly in pretty much every major gathering in this country as we will remind ourselves that we are one of the strongest nations on Earth, and we have endured and will continue to persevere. However, there is still much work to be done to get this country back to the future we were promised many moons ago.

Look, I realize that for most of my peers in this generation, patriotism isn’t one of our strongest suits. In fact, most of the people I know in my age range pretty much think America is corrupt, elistist-driven, moraless, and headed for a massive collapse if things keep going the way they are. But, despite all of this, we still care about this country and the welfare (for the most part) of ALL Americans who live here. After all: unofficially for us, 9/11 can be called our generation’s “defining” moment, just as Pearl Harbor was to the youth who lived through World War II, or just as Vietnam helped define the 70s generation, or the Berlin Wall finally coming down and the Cold War between USA and the Soviet Union help tale the tale of 80s youth. For the last 10 years, we ‘ve seen a lot and experience some pretty amazing things on both sides of the spectrum – a black man becoming president of these United States, live revolutions in African countries, natural disasters both in America and abroad, technology rapidly evolving and bringing us new ideas to improve our lives….NONE of which have hit more personally than this.

That was a day that will burn in our memories not only for the rest our lives, but will seemingly live forever in American history. And to properly respect that, we will always remember those lost.

WE SHALL NEVER FORGET!

9/10/2011

Aug
11

Ok, by now, you all should know the score with what has now happened to the ongoing punchline that is the American economy.  Thanks to a political pissing contest, America’s pretty much has been pretty much labeled to be untrustworthy, spendthrift, and fiscally irresponsible. Unfortunately, all of us that are not super-wealthy are the ones that have to deal with this quandary head-on in the next coming months and maybe even years as the daily grind just got that much harder.

No, this episode isn’t to place blame on any ONE entity, because quite honestly, all  of Congress – from President Obama on down to every member of the House – needs to be beaten with paddles and sent to corners with dunce caps on to think about what they’ve done to America. So, this will shy away from that notion.

What this episode will serve as is a “how to survive” type of guide in this very slippery slope this economic downturn has led us. Following the following tips from a true penny-pincher such as myself (with a degree in Finance) will help you save, save, and save some more.

1)     Keeping up with the Joneses’ normally is the main vice of middle-class folk that eventually breaks them financially. Honestly, do you really need that 60-inch TV with the HD just to outdo your next door neighbor’s 57-inch? Anything after 45” really doesn’t matter when watching either the Super Bowl or The Dark Knight. It’s all pretty visually stunning, and you don’t have to go on crazy-interest laced payment plans from marked-up department stores to enjoy it. This also goes for those $200 pairs of Jordans your kids simply have to have to be ‘accepted’ at school. Speaking of which….

2)     Leave the store-promoted cards ALONE. That 30% your first purchase at Sears or Champs seems nice, but wait till the payments come in on 10% interest for $1,200 worth of stuff you broke three months after you got it.

3)     It’s still very possible to have a very enjoyable social life without breaking your wallet to do so. Museums, outdoor concerts, various shows are often shown for free…or pretty close. And they also let your mate know you can broaden your horizons instead of the usual club/movies/Dinner at TGIFriday’s.

4)      Don’t be afraid of the “4 for $5” deals at the supermarket. The stores are selling stuff like this for a REASON. They simply have too much of it, and need to get it out. Besides, most of the stuff is “name brand” goods that go on sale. Be a very cautious shopper. Investigate. The money you’ll save on grocery is worth putting in a few minutes of market research.

5)     I’m sure this has been mentioned a million times by every “financial expert” on the planet, but I’ll repeat it again….PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Every check, put aside a small portion, possibly in a separate account, for a emergency/rainy day fund. You’d be surprised how much you’d have over a period of a few months.

6)     Minimize your bills, as best you can. If you have a premium cable package, but don’t watch none of the premium channels except HBO, then you’re just throwing money out the window. Shrink it down. If you hardly talk on the cell phone, a 3000-minute per month plan seems unnecessary and foolish. Give yourself some leeway, but be reasonable.

7)     For you college students, I’m going to be as blunt as I can: refund checks are NOT winning lottery tickets. There’s no way a student should receive a check of $1500 after one semester, but be totally broke by the next, cause they spent the whole thing on a shopping binge over Christmas break. Put aside that money to help pay for next semester. The less you pay out of your pocket (or with scholarships/grants), they less you’ll ultimately have to borrow, which will save thousands on interest after you graduate and begin to pay these things back.

8)     Have some willpower in controlling your money. All those fast food lunches at work add up over a month, running that AC all day will crush your electric bill. It’s no shame to seek alternatives for things. Pack a lunch, get some fans, ride the bus to work, be creative.

9)     I guess the biggest point I can make. Kids = $$$$ spent. LOTS of it. Look, everyone (for the most part) wants a family, and I dig that. But raising children is TOUGH; tough mentally, tough spiritually, and ultra-tough financially, especially when they come at a time you aren’t ready for them. Regardless of what people may think, pregnancy is 100% preventable. Be smart. Use birth control if you’re not ready for the joys – and potential burden – that a child can bring to your life.

8/11/2011

Jun
14

The Internet. What else to say about it?

Powerful. Informative. Revolutionary.

And apparently, the home of attention whores and idiots, both common folk and famous people alike.

So, what’s up with this? Why are people so prone to ruin their careers (and in some cases, their lives) for the admiration of people they may never see in person? What is it about the internet that makes people so…stupid?

Well, my first guess is that the sheer power of promotion that cyberspace provides. Ever since social network sites came along, people have seized this opportunity to broadcast themselves to anyone who would click on their pages, be it through Blackplanet, Myspace, and later on, Youtube and the uber-popular device, Facebook. Anyone who had music to share, photos to show, or stories to tell could simply post them up, and watch the people subscribe, “like”, or join to.  However, the early sites were mostly off-limits to celebrities, as the amount of work needed to be done to design, update, and maintain a personal page usually required more work than a celebrity would want to spend time managing.

Then Twitter came along.

Convient. Easy to have people “follow” them. And more importantly, easier to posts thoughts, tour dates…and pictures.

Now, I will say this; when Twitter is used for noble purposes, it actually can be a big vessel of awareness and gathering, since so many people get on it, and access to a famous person’s page is so easy. Twitter can also entertain us to hear what most celebrities are going through almost instantly as they put it out. Charlie Sheen’s Twitter revolution of amassing 1.2 million people to follow him just a mere 24 hours after he announced he had come onto the Twitter scene is an amazing example of popularity amped up.

However, as we all know, Twitter has been everything but noble these days. More often than not, celebs get on there and they post very inane things, or just outright offensive stuff. Occasionally, a celeb will put out something that actually seems harmless, but people will be offended by it just the same. Take the case of Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rashard Mendenhall. His tweet about question people cheering upon hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden drew many an angry fan, thinking that he’s siding with the man responsible for 9/11. Honestly, I just think that he was question whether it’s right to cheer for anyone’s death – no matter how evil they may have been to their fellow man – but, with so many people affected by the attacks, having someone diminish the “closure” that was felt with the announcing of Bin Laden’s death upset them even more, which drew angry responses on his page and other websites.

Of course, there’s the now defeated LeBron James. Shortly after tweeting how “The Greater Man upstairs knows when it was his time to win a title”, people everyone compiled the ever-growing animosity to LeBron, claiming he blamed God for the Miami Heat losing the NBA title.

Then, there are pictures. Nude pictures. Yes, those pictures. What makes a person want to put up a picture of themselves nude, I don’t know. In some cases, most of the pictures “accidentally” loaded gets when a celeb send a picture to a private person, than that person puts them out, and unfortunately, that comes off as being just stupid, which in that case is unfair. (Although, it should serve a warning about sending nude pictures to ANYONE, especially if they’re famous sending it to a non-famous person). And we’ve seen the damage they can do, as in the case of Greg Oden, or even more recently, NY state rep Anthony Weiner, who put out nude pictures of himself, lied and said his account was hacked, then finally admitted that he released those photos. Now, because of this, pretty much every politician in the country wants him to resign from his seat. If that doesn’t work, I’m sure he won’t be elected to serve again. So, his career, for all intents and purposes, is over. All because he let his cyber irresponsibility get the better of him.

Look, by now all know that these social networks have both their upsides and downsides. But what amazes me is how celebs keep falling into the same cyber-trap, either with their posts or their pictures. They should know by now that being a person of stature, fame, and/or fortune makes their world so much more scrutinized, that any indiscretion gets that much more magnified

Oh well. I guess that the one bright side to the internet. Since we all like watching train wrecks, the internet is just one trap loaded up to another. So, keep ‘em coming!

6/14/2011

Apr
27

*Sighs*

So finally, the mystery is revealed. I can finally say my president’s a natural-born citizen of the United States.

Dear God, how did we as a country honestly get to this point? Two years ago, when President Obama first ran for the office, amongst other things his detractors wondered about him, the most significant detail about him was whether or not he was an actual American citizen from birth. Well today, they and the rest of the country finally got their answer. The documentation of the president’s birth was finally published for all to see and some to shut up about.

My whole thing with this is: how did people really get THAT petty to demand this from the leader of the free world?

Look, I understand that when someone runs for public office, the people have a right to know about that person’s basic background: birthdate, birthplace, family, etc. It’s no different than any other job’s requirements. Actually, it should be lots more, considering their going for the most powerful position this country has to offer and the most influential title (so far) on Earth. So, with all of modern media’s techniques is digging up info on pretty much anyone, you mean to tell me that NO ONE could get a copy of this before now? I’m pretty sure Mr. President didn’t have his birth certificate locked in a laser-netted vault inside of Fort Knox, and that he was required to provide proof of his citizenship before his announced his candidacy. I find it near impossible to believe that if there wasn’t a sound document the media couldn’t have obtained back then, they wouldn’t have already gotten. This just sounded like one more complaint in the long lines of which done by folks who never wanted the man to win the office in the first place.

What’s really irking me over this whole episode is more so who’s behind this latest round of going after President Obama on the trivial stuff. Billionaire tycoon and mogul, reality game show star, and now presidential candidate hopeful Donald Trump has been for the last few weeks the driving force behind President Obama making sure he can be viewed as a legitimate American citizen. At first, I wanted to just chalk this up as Trump being a media junkie starving for free press. Something tells me this is only the beginning, however. My thing is; does Trump truly believe that getting the president’s birth certificate will help him in the long climb to what he thinks is the next President of America, even after most of his own political party (let alone 98% the American public) wants nothing to do with him leading this country due to his very sordid history as a businessman?

There is one final thing I wonder about with President Obama. Now that he’s produced this record (or re-produced it, since it was first put out in 2008), I’m sure that this won’t be the only thing people who be satisfied with him about, outside of normal politics and how he’s done running this country over the last two plus years. This all being said, it is really worth running for four more years of this? Counting the mega-heightened scrutiny of people salivating at the mouth for the tiniest blemish on this guy to lead an impeachment campaign, going to the way-too-personal attacks of his whole family’s history, from his father to his wife. This aslo doesn’t count the record amount of death threats a president has gotten in their term in office, or the fact that his Republican counterparts that have been elected to serve in Washington have mostly tried to either block or simply undo every policy he’s put forth to the country since taking the Oath of Office.  None of this seems really worth it to endure until 2016.

You’d think in a time where unemployment is still on skyrocket status, right up there with gas prices, in a society where moral outrage is at dangerously high status, while the country is still in numberous wars, that politicans – even ones running for office next year – would have something, anything more important to worry about. You’d think that people would’ve created whole  movements for this “birther” law the Repbulican party has conjured up, who’s sole main objective was to prove that Obama wasn’t a natural-born citizen, to which this document all but crushed that. You’d think so, anyway….

One thing’s for sure. At least my president’s made in the U.S. of A….for whatever that’s worth these days.

4/27/11

Mar
24

In life, everyone has a past, present, and future. We are all told that was we do in the past can seriously alter the present and either enhance or destroy our futures. More often than not, one event in a person past can stay with them for the rest of their lives, and sometimes, no matter what else they do, or had bad they want to escape this stigma, they’ll be forever linked to this incident.

For example, baseball fan, Steve Bartman. We’ll all remember him as “the guy who stopped the Cubs from reaching the World Series.” All he wanted to do was catch a simple foul ball at a playoff game. What we did was stop Moises Alou from making an 8th-inning out, when they were seemingly four outs away from winning the pennant, and going to the World Series. From there, the Cubs collapsed and lost National League Pennant. Now, was that one catch the reason why the Cubbies lost? Of course, not. Bartman was branded with this ‘jinx’, nonetheless, and all-but-ran out of Chicago because of it, forever going down in baseball infamy.

Today’s episode pops up in the wake of one Chris Brown, a young singer/entertainer, who for the last two years, has been battling his past and seemingly losing. As most of you know, back in 2009, Brown was arrested on domestic charges of brutally assaulting his then-girlfriend, R&B sensation, Rhianna. Images of the beating were released, court bargains were made, fans disowned him, the public blasted Brown for being a woman-beater, and rightfully so. Over the next two years, Brown went through various degrees of trying to rehabilitate his image: anger management training, counseling, and court-ordered community service.

Let’s fast forward Brown’s life to yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America, a nationally syndicated daytime show. Brown was scheduled to go on to help promote the release of his new album, F.A.M.E, an album that he hoped would get his career back to his meteoric rise before the incident derailed it. As Brown went on the interview with the show’s anchor, Robin Roberts, he was asked several questions of how his life has been since the domestic incident. He simply shrugged them off; stating that he was looking more towards the release of the album and hoping his fans would appreciate the music that would be featured on it. Instead of the interview shifting to what would be expected on the album, instead he got another question from Ms. Roberts about the restraining order originally imposed on him as a result of the incident. Brown, slightly frustrated, shook of the question and stated that he was hoping the fans would love the album. Another Rhianna-related question was asked, and another answer was given that he was done with that chapter of his life and looking foward to moving on and embracing his future.

After the show apparently, Brown was so angry that Rhianna-related questions was asked at all instead of focusing his interview on the release of his new album, he went on a all-out tirade backstage, cursing in the dressing room, screaming at people, and cultivating it all with throwing a chair through the dressing room window on the 2nd floor. It seems as though the two years he had spent trying to escape this incident was still there, haunting him and in still very much in his reality.

If that’s not bad enough; for this meltdown, he may face prison time as a violation of his probation.

Now, here’s what I have to ask; at what point does a person’s history is allowed to keep holding them in their past, especially if it was altered criminally, that sentence has been served and in the eyes of the law, their debt to society is paid?

I’m not naïve enough to know that with being a celebrity, there comes a higher degree of scrutiny for any wrongdoing. Certainly, this young man wasn’t naïve either. During those two years, he sat down on numerous shows and talked about how horrible that act was he committed against that young girl, and how truly sorry he was, while admitting some very personal things in his life which may have played a role in his anger getting the better of him.  However, even he believed that in admitting these things, and expressing remorse for this, there would be some sort of way he could redeem himself in the public eye….while putting this whole ordeal in his past. This interview, if nothing else, proved that he was wrong.…really wrong.

OK, I will state this for the record: I am not, nor have even been a Chris Brown fan. In the 10.5 gigabytes of music that is stored on my iPod, not one song exclusively features him, so I didn’t choose to make him the target of this episode to be perceived as a “fan boy”, or some biased malarkey like that. I also don’t give the guy a pass for wailing on a woman. That was a sucker move, and every bit of hell he caught cause of it was deservedly justified.

However, in playing the #1 Devil’s Advocate as I so like to do, I’m just trying to call a spade a spade here.

Most people talk about the guy flipping out as “he’s still hasn’t accepted humility in his situation.” For that I have to ask how much humility does the guy need to “accept” for the public to, if not forgive the guy, then to at least go on with his life and career? The heavy scrutiny, the title of being a woman-beater, being banned by other countries (Yes, the UK banned him from putting on shows there)…when does it stop? When would it stop? I don’t see any of this going forward as “accepting humility” at all. Seems to me people still want to see the guy suffer, and disguise it as “humility”. That’s not humility; that’s further punishment. Going on talk shows and still having to talk about this when he’s said all he needed to, apologized all he could, and expressed remorse all he should’ve is punishment. There’s nothing humble in this situation.

However, I also blame the handlers around Brown. If they had any inkling at all that he would be subjected to these questions previously, they should’ve never let him go on Good Morning America. Take Michael Vick, who had the chance of sitting down with Oprah, but declined it. I think he and his people knew that by going on that show, this could end up become a reoccurring nightmare, and Oprah would’ve probably made 95% of that show about his dog fighting case that landed him in prison, rather than the strives he made as a person, spokesman for PETA and, his resurgence as one of the NFL’s best talents. And yet, if Vick would’ve went on Oprah, hoping for a public relations boost to those that still feel he should be locked in prison, permanently banned from the NFL, or even executed for his crimes, would sitting on Oprah’s couch, allowing himself to be grilled worse than a Triple Whopper at BK, and opening up to the general public – again – change their opinions that much about the guy….honestly?

Yeah. I thought so, too.

Yes, like you, I agree; young Chris Brown should’ve kept his emotions in check yesterday. Throwing chairs through windows – no matter how upset you are – is no way to convey anger, even if he was blindsided in an interview by either an overzealous reporter or the producer who got Ms. Roberts to ask those questions repeatedly, ignoring any signs of changing subjects. Yes, I agree; Dude needs a lot more help to manage his anger, or this trait he has will get worse and worse in the upcoming years. I don’t condone what he did in the least, but I understand why.

The thing of it is, especially if you are a celebrity, you are still human. Still flesh and bone, still wired with emotions that range from eternal joy to never-ending rage.  And Chris, like every human, wanted to be left alone about a part of his life that caused him great shame. It’s outright hypocritical to assume that he can’t have this wish respected due to his status as being an entertainer. It’s not “the nature of the beast” or “something that goes along with the territory”, or even “it is what it is.” It’s hypocritical, no matter how you sort it out.

Also, this is pretty laughable when people complain about how they should feel “entitled” to ask questions about private lives just because someone has reached a plateau in social standing or economic stature that hasn’t been attained by the general populous, more so when other people on higher statuses are doing worse things behind closed doors and are being revered and seemingly praised (or at least, not lambasted enough) for their actions, like the suddenly uber-popular Charlie Sheen, or movie star sensation/Jewish crazy man, Mel Gibson.

Look, in the eyes of the law, once a person has served their sentence, then they – by all rights – are redeemed and allowed to rejoin society. This is the furthest from the truth when it comes to the court of public opinion. However, if people ever truly wish folks to move on with their lives in the event an ugly incident finds them in the middle of one, then regardless of what status they hold on this planet, this will never happen as long as people can’t allow folk to move on themselves. Chris deserves, if nothing else, that. No one questions Rhianna anymore about what happened two years ago. She’s moved on, put out an album (and half-nude pics), and dated about three people by now. Perhaps his questions need to end, too.

3/24/11