Thursday, June 30, 2016

Radical Perspectives: Malcolm X and Donald Trump

In his 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Malcolm X, Manning Marable shows a leader with a compelling vision, but with consistently shifting position statements. Subtitled A Life of Reinvention, Marable's account retells a the life of a radical leader who skillfully fit each argument to best suit his audience. The author lets each incident of media catnip speak for itself, but introduces his account by saying that while one may disagree with his subject's always intense and sometimes extreme rhetoric, one finds much to admire about Malcolm's sincerity.

Malcolm X shot from the hip on numerous instances and nearly made an art form of it. A life of constant revision, as his biographer has put it, had him modify his rhetoric considerably from speech to speech, platform to platform. The same has been true for Donald Trump on the stump and in his numerous social media postings. As has been extensively noted, Republican primary voters cast their ballots for a formerly staunch Democrat with many liberal positions. Incredibly, he is now somehow the presumptive standard bearer of the GOP.

An undisciplined campaigner at best, Trump has foolishly ignored even the basics of Campaign 101 from the outset, letting his outsized ego mostly dictate what he says and the decisions he makes. He has stepped on his own message on many occasions, allowing bluster and hot air to jeopardize his entire Presidential run. But this significant issue is certainly not uncommon to many who court attention. Neither Trump, nor Malcolm could pass up the opportunity to speak their mind when in front of the camera. Both enjoyed a life in the limelight, serving up salacious comments for an enraptured audience.

Malcolm X couldn't help himself from feeding incendiary statements to the press and, as a result, made many of his own unforced errors during his career as official mouthpiece for the Nation of Islam. The most damaging remark of his decade or so in the public eye had him refer to the November 1963 Kennedy assassination as "chickens coming home to roost," which led to his temporary silencing by Nation leadership. Nation of Islam theology was hostile enough, but Malcolm took what was termed by some the Hate that Hate Produced to a brand new level.  

Trump is indebted to no one, and, if current trends hold, is only nominally indebted to the Republican Party. Aside from a few weak slaps on the wrist, his own party will not discipline a schoolyard bully. Few in his own party have been willing to silence him or to have him pay the consequence for the vitriol spewing daily from his mouth and onto his Twitter page. The Dump Trump movement that would have him forcibly removed from the ballot at the Republican convention a few weeks from now has never truly been a viable force. Many hope it will, but as of now the Republican Party seems frozen in place due to its own indecision.    

The comparisons and similarities made here between two admittedly very different men might be worrisome to everyone who believes in the basic ideals of this country. And there are major differences, too. Malcolm X almost always strove to be impeccably disciplined in his personal dealings, sought to organize in large numbers, and by the end of his life, formed alliances with related groups who espoused Orthodox Islam and Pan-Africanism. He was willing to modify his stance to marry together his own loyalists and followers, even if that required the kind of about-face tactics that any politician worth his or her salt must perfect to stay in office. Malcolm might not have liked the game, but he knew he needed to play it.

One wonders what he would say today about our age of radical Islamic terrorism (irony), and what conclusions Malcolm X might draw from the wanton destruction.

Trump wants to return the United States to some golden age, but can't say for sure what that age really looks like. Perhaps it is a time where white men were in control of every aspect of governance, before globalization and at a time where we could afford to be more isolationist in nature. Now the world is too interconnected. The argument advanced is out of synchronization for an increasingly global world that everyone now inhabits.

The Donald’s message is too garbled and messy to easily reduce to position statements and political minutia, but what he lacks in specifics he makes up for in channeling the hostility and frustration of those who feel themselves powerless in a new age. Details matter little to the Trump campaign. His is a movement of the disenchanted, the angry, and the secretly fearful, those who view with great distress the changing demographics of this country, the 37% of Americans and growing who are not Caucasian. Some fear change, and some welcome it.

Uncomfortable comparisons can be fairly made, as well. Malcolm X's most unforgivable act was, while a Nation of Islam minister, to propose an alliance between George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party and Malcolm's Muslim sect, the Nation of Islam. Both were separatist groups who believed that integration in American society was impossible. The American Nazi Party routinely referred to black Americans with racial slurs, as Marable points out, characterizing them as mentally and morally inferior to whites. This had been a common stance far too many white Americans had taken a century or more before.

Once [American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln] Rockwell learned of the Nation of Islam's anti-integrationist positions, he became fascinated by the concept of a white-supremacist-black nationalist-united front. He even praised the Nation of Islam to his followers, arguing that Elijah Muhammad had "gathered millions of the dirty, immoral, drunken, filthy-mouthed, lazy and repulsive people sneeringly called 'n*****s’ and inspired them to the point where they are clean, sober, honest, hard-working, dignified, dedicated and admirable human beings in spite of their color."

This sounds a little too much like Trump for comfort. Under the dubious logic of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Malcolm's secret talks tarnish his legacy. There are plenty of other missteps to scrutinize, but none are quite so damning as these. What is plain is that these covert 1961 talks are hard to excuse or rationalize for any reason. What is also plain is that these two rival groups captured the attention of the press more than they did recruit members to their cause. Actual membership of both groups was reasonably small, despite fearful pronouncements from commentators. Media hype was as prominent then as it is today. Many people would rather believe in romantic glory rather than the patently offensive.

To much of the Left, Malcolm is seen as an energetic freedom fighter along the lines of Argentinian Ernesto "Che" Guevara, which is why some Leftists will no doubt bristle with this comparison. The former Malcolm Little channeled a different sort of populist anger, one that progressives and liberals still embrace. It led many to cast their ballots for Bernie Sanders in an unusually contentious Democratic primary. In its time, despite being characterized by Nation of Islam propaganda as devils, white people in search of true racial diversity had to concede some of the group's militantly espoused tenets. In particular, it did not fail to address the centuries of abuse the people of color endured upon arriving in the New World.

As we know, disenfranchisement of minorities did not stop at the conclusion of hostilities during the Civil War, nor the Civil Rights Movement. Today's activists and political leaders would have us consider whether black lives matter. This might well measure how far we have come in what will be, in a few days, 240 years of our great experiment in Democracy.

To some extent, every prominent figure, movement, or party evolves over time. The same is true for Supreme Court judges, religious leaders, and nearly everyone in positions of power. The same is true for faith groups, of which the Nation of Islam is only one of many. Remember E Plurbis Unum? Out of many, one. That is the United State’s official motto, but some would have us deny the intentions of our very founders.

We like to believe that religions are rigid and unchangeable, to best guard against the cheap and corrupting fashions of the present day, and to some extent they are. Sometimes we call that tradition, and it gives us considerable comfort to know and to recognize consistency. When it becomes oppressive, we want change.

Examine the Catholic Church, for example. Catholic dogma and doctrine has responded to changing times with a combination of reform and a desire to keep things much the same way they always have been. This is distressing to some, satisfying to others. The dictates of hierarchy and the leader of the church of Rome that we call the Pope weigh that balance with every pronouncement made. We are often beholden to our own myopia, since the human record is long and our lives are relatively short. Individuals and groups of individuals differ about tactics and directives and indeed, they always will.

But let’s remember the best parts of ourselves and not give in to the very worst.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Plug

To the Student Who Asked Why He Earned a "C" on an Essay about Love

by Clint Margrave

Because love has its own grammar,
its own sentences,
some that run-on too long,
others just fragments.
It uses a language
not always appropriate
or too informal,
and often lacks clarity.
Love is punctuated all wrong,
changes tenses abruptly,
relies heavily
on the first person,
can be redundant,
full of unnecessary repetition.
Every word is compounded.
Every phrase, transitional.
Love doesn’t always know the difference
between lie and lay,
its introductions sometimes
lack a well-developed thesis,
its claims go unfounded,
its ad-hominem attacks
call in question
its authority.
With a style that’s inconsistent,
a voice either too critical
or too passive,
love is a rough draft
in constant need of revision,
whose conclusion
rarely gives any sense
of closure,
or reveals the lingering
possibilities of a topic
that always expects high praise,
and more often than not
fails to be anything
but average.

"To the Student Who Asked Why He Earned a 'C' on an Essay about Love" by Clint Margrave from Salute the Wreckage. © NYQ Books, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Quote of Week

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.-Oscar Wilde

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Video

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto,
I've lived all over this town

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,
I ain't got time for that now

Transmit the message, to the receiver,
Hope for an answer some day
I got three passports, a couple of visas,
You don't even know my real name

High on a hillside, the trucks are loading,
Everything's ready to roll
I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nighttime,
I might not ever get home

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain't got time for that now

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, P. A.?
You oughta know not to stand by the window
Somebody see you up there

I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones,
Ain't got no records to play

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time
Can't write a letter, can't send no postcard,
I ain't got time for that now

Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock,
We blended in with the crowd
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines,
I know that that ain't allowed

We dress like students, we dress like housewives,
Or in a suit and a tie
I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,
I don't know what I look like!

You make me shiver, I feel so tender,
We make a pretty good team
Don't get exhausted, I'll do some driving,
You ought to get you some sleep

Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks?
They won't help me survive
My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Forgiving Sexual Assault Without Condoning It

The latest season of Netflix's Orange is the New Black, as usual, brings up several controversial issues and numerous topical points. For those unaware, OITNB is a popular streaming service television show set inside a minimum-security women's prison. Orange is the New Black features a large ensemble cast, encouraging viewers to pick their own favorite characters, following their development from episode to episode. Picking one single aspect of the plot to analyze is difficult, as many beg to be examined more closely.

The character of Tiffany "Pennastucky" Doggett (Taryn Manning) is a caricature of white trash culture. Earlier episodes have focused on issues like her remarkably poor dental hygiene and her status as a shill for ravenous pro-life organizations. For a time, it is her responsibility to drive the prison van, which allows for outside errands beyond the gates to be run. She is closely supervised by a male prison guard, but given some degree of freedom with the responsibility. It is on one of these excursions out that the guard pulls the van over at a remote location and rapes Pennsatucky.

In dealing with the aftermath, she confides what has happened to a friend, a fellow inmate. As has been retold in a series of flashbacks, Pennsatucky has had a sad history of acquiescing to abusive men. For a time she merely shrugs off what has happened as typical. Her confidant, Carrie "Big Boo" Black (Lea DeLaria), takes a very different approach. She is outraged by what has occurred and intends to avenge the crime, Big Boo concocts a plan. Drugging the guard's coffee with a powerful sedative, she renders him unconscious for a time. The plan involves sodomizing the guard with a mop handle in retribution, but when faced with the opportunity, Pennsatucky is too squeamish to comply.

Having had time to think the matter through, Pennsatucky decides, with time, to forgive the guard who raped her. Admitting she has read a few pertinent passages in the Bible, she believes that it does her better to put the assault past her. She states that her desire to forgive is more for herself than for her attacker.  Following her decision, Pennsatucky speaks directly to the guard who raped her. She informs him that she has forgiven him, but the two of them recognize that things between them will never be the same. Both of them were once attracted to each other, but they recognize that such contact is against the rules. They were foolish to let things progress, as the system is designed to keep them apart. Further resolution will be left to next season.

Big Boo reacts to Pennsatucky's perspective in disgust, and it does little to paper over the differences in opinion and action that have driven them apart. She continues to takes a strong stance against sexual assault in any form, laying down the zero-tolerance policy of a zealot. Pennsatucky is largely intimidated by the intensity of the entire experience, from start to finish, and her conflicting feelings. Two different points of view lead to a schism in both women's friendship. By the conclusion of the most recent slate of episodes, season four, the damage has yet to be repaired.

Some of the harshest criticism I have ever received resulted from my attempts to address this issue. In a post I wrote a few years ago, I argued that, like Pennsatucky, it might be helpful for victims of sexual assault to forgive their assailants. Some people take Pennsatucky's perspective, some people take Big Boo's. I find it impossible to say right or wrong to either. I think it probably depends on the person. Forgiveness should only be undertaken with the consent of the victim and should never be coerced or forced.

I understand now why this stance was greeted by the same kind of indignation and anger of Big Boo, and now I have a better comprehension as to why. It's the sort of rage that comes from seeing rapists and those who assault women repeatedly beat the rap or receive slap on the wrist sentences. The problem is far from over.

On the subject of religious conviction, Christians are supposed to practice radical forgiveness. The Gospel of Matthew makes that very plain.

"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Words cannot express how difficult, how very challenging that is. Secular people don't always recognize how difficult it is to hold oneself to high standards like these. Notice that it is not written that one should refuse to seek justice or that one should blame oneself. Sexual violation is against the law for a reason. Hating and exacting revenge are satisfying emotions, which is why we often cling to them following a severe hurt. That's what makes forgiveness a radical act. It negates the very parts of ourselves that clamor to seek justice in any form, especially violently.

The desired goal of victims, as I see it, is to seek a strong resolution and to get past the trauma they have experienced. No stint, no sentence, no statute of limitations can be attached to healing. I myself find it tragic to see the toll damage sexual assault and physical abuse exacts upon victims. I have made my own mistakes in interpretation and I won't repeat them, I will continue to encourage those harmed by sexual violence to consider forgiveness only as a means of greater health and well being.

If those damaged by acts of violence can get past their trauma in this way, then this might facilitate greater health. The way to avenge acts as barbaric as these is to work past them. Prosecution and court proceedings can add an additional layer of trauma and anguish to victims already unsteady and destabilized. None of this is easy.

Naturally, improvement comes with time, and probably also with pain. I have learned that few gains in life come without some discomfort. We must continue to encourage men not to commit acts of sexual assault. Once that is accomplished, women won't have to worry about protecting themselves, keeping pepper spray in their purses, or taking self-defense classes. I myself apologize for not seeing the complexities of this issue some time before. I don't excuse myself for my earlier ignorance, but now I understand why I stirred up the hostility I did.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Periodically it becomes time for me to undergo an extensive tuneup. The severe chronic illnesses I deal with must be treated with strong medications. These treatments are inexact at times and it takes a while to adjust as best one can. Some treat symptoms flawlessly, others produce other sensations that are strange and sometimes unwanted. My cocktail of medications used to treat bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder have undergone a rather radical reinvention, if you will. The body changes, and as it does, its needs change also.

I spent years on Seroquel, but it has provided more problems than it is worth. Going into all of them here would only exhaust my patience and yours. I've now switched to Geodon, and this weekend was full of spur-of-the-moment ER visits best forgotten. There was a time where I wanted to hash out every last detail, every drop of blood, every cry of pain, and now I'm weary of the constant recounting. They are helpful when they remind people what it's like to be more or less able-bodied. I've never been one for militant observance of all the ways in which life challenges me.

I will be 36 in October, and I feel myself entering a period where I am quieter. Youth has plenty of time for rowdiness in all of its forms. Something now whispers to me, "calm, calm," and so I am embracing calm. Embrace calm with me. What does it mean to take a moment to let everything change around you, monitoring the pace, minding the differences?

The height of summer is upon us and I felt it today, walking the streets. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year, partially because my body temperature runs high and I love feeling cold and secure. Paradoxically, everyone else seems to love hot, love wearing less, love being out and about. I wonder how they experience the season for themselves. I notice the kids out for school and the foot traffic on the sideways.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to write something else again. Maybe sooner rather than later, maybe not. It all depends. Same me, different me. I took a risk with the most recent essay I wrote and got some really vicious criticism that bordered on personal attack. It's tough not to take that sort of stuff seriously. I was making a harsh point, sure, but to belittle my livelihood is taking it a little far. It made me question from the person who said it whether or not they were now friend or foe. Sometimes you can see something from someone that makes you really want to step away.

Had it been a random reader, that's not as much of a big deal. I've received some vicious trolling, as has anyone who puts a personal piece of writing up in front of an audience. As much I try to love people as a person of faith, sometimes you need to love a person from a place of distance. It's a difficult lesson to learn. Enjoy your summer, readers.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Quote of the Week

Freedom is never given; it is won.- A. Phillip Randolph

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The "Epidemic" of Single Parenthood

I've recently returned from a week-long trip to the Pacific Northwest. I was pleased to have the opportunity to see a different part of the country I had never before visited. In the time I was there, I observed the many distinctions between the West Coast and the East Coast, asking natives and current residents alike their impressions of the area. Most were glad to answer my questions, but many displayed a lack of introspection regarding their home that I found curious.

I’ve lived in DC for eight years and have become something of a mini-Chamber of Commerce for the benefit of tourists and newcomers. It struck me as strange that many did not seem to care one way or another about the particulars and the superficial statistics. Native Southerners like myself have a way of playing to the crowd, like a skilled impressionist. The level of disengagement was notable, and I found it challenged my understanding. Was this due to modesty or were such issues thought to be unimportant?

Aside from the obvious differences in general attitude always cited, I viewed an area of the country largely dominated by whites, with a smattering of Asians drawn in by their proximity to the Pacific Rim. Underneath the Portland transplants and the hipper-than-thou milieu of the city is a somewhat washed out, working-class attitude even naked bike riders can't quite conceal. Strip away trendy donut shops and highly competitive brunch restaurants, and one sees something of the essential character of the region.

I could never be confused as a conservative in any form, and never a social conservative. I have no unwavering allegiance to the cult of the sanctity of marriage, nor how God ordains that such an arrangement ought to be composed of exclusively one man and one woman. Moreover, this post is not an attempt to raise a purely racial argument aimed squarely at the black community. What I saw in eight days of constant motion made little to no exception for race or class.

Instead, I saw instance after instance of mothers raising children alone. Most of them I noted only in brief. While stationed there for the duration of my trip, I did have the great fortune to keep company with two single mothers. One was in her mid-thirties, separated from the biological father, and raising three children on her own. The second was in her mid-forties and divorced, having waited as long as possible to have even one child. The subject did not change very often to the absent father in both instances, and if it did, it didn't linger very long beyond the perfunctory. I gathered the topic was still a very sensitive one and I did not press it.

Back home in DC, I live in an affluent blue enclave, full of yuppie parents and double strollers. Privilege and wealth are in prominent display. Here it is manifest in two-parent households, usually opposite-sex in makeup, though not always. Children are expected to be high-achievers in every station in life, eventual candidates for expensive, exclusive private schools. They are fed on food and drinks from the local Whole Foods. I'm sure for some that the same is true in Portland, for example, but priorities and goals are often very different from coast to coast.

Never was this more in evidence than a trip that took me 2,500 miles northwest and six hours by airplane. It may have taken a change of surroundings to amplify and illuminate the unreality of my home, the bubble I can sometimes convince myself exists everywhere. Single motherhood was in plain view everywhere my travels took me, reminding me that it is an inordinately difficult job and all too commonplace. Being privy to instance after instance of it made me pause to count my blessings

I am quite fortunate to have been raised by two parents who, forty-one years later, are still together. My mother and father have only been married exactly once, betrothed to themselves and no one else. Many of my classmates and friends growing up in the Eighties were children of divorce, part of that moral panic that may have been overstated but was nevertheless more prominent than it needed to be. Midway through their childhood or adolescence, they were often forced into compromise measures. Yours, mine, and ours families are not always a comfortable fit. Anyone with a half-sibling and a step-parent can tell you that.

I do think that two-parent families are the most stable, most solid pairings. Should one parent grow exhausted with routine duties, another can step in to take over. That, for no other reason, is cause enough to opt for raising a child with a partner. Having said that, I do recognize that the situation is not that simplistic, nor as easily fixed. Absentee fathers are prominent, and, in my opinion, we've been far too culturally lenient, demanding financial payments and custody arrangements from one half of the equation, not time spent in the company of offspring. Children don't need fathers like piggy banks or sporadic trips to Disneyland, they need the moderating influence of active parenting.

I'll tell a brief anecdote. About ten years ago, I was in a relationship with a woman who was much older than me. She had two kids from a previous marriage, both boys. The youngest kid was a bit rebellious, something of a behavior problem. Though I pushed away from him, uncomfortable with the attention he lavished upon me, the idol-worship he made plain, and the void I filled, I could tell he craved my company.

One night I arrived home late from work and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Having read somewhere that letting manual toothbrushes drain upside down was more sanitary, I'd turned my brush bristles in that direction, facing towards the basin. Returning late from work, I discovered that someone else had turned his bristles downwards towards the basin as well, right next to mine. I have to admit I shed a few overwhelmed tears once I observed his behavior, as I was nowhere near ready to be anyone’s surrogate father.

This might come across only as a sweet story. For me, it was evidence that my very presence was more prominent and influential than I had even dreamed. But it also reveals more about the compelling need for fathers, or at least the need for more than one single parent. Married or partnered same-sex parents can replicate the same loving household dynamics. Provided the relationship between partners is stable, regardless of sexual orientation, I have no reservations. Children demand better.

I recognize that some may choose to criticize me for these remarks, to seek to spot a few holes in my argument. Single parents might believe that they have an adequate grasp of their duties without needing to rely on anyone else. I know of single parents who do an excellent job rearing children on their own. I don’t seek to criticize their hard work. It is also true that I have no children of my own, nor intend to have any myself.

But even casual observation, on one level, is sufficient enough. Spend enough time around airports, on board public transportation rails, or shifting uncomfortably on a bus and one can view ample evidence of good parenting and bad parenting. To be fair, one can also observe single parents, often single mothers, at the end of their rope, struggling massively with misbehaving and unruly children. Single parents of any gender may assert that conditions on the ground are fine the way they are. This may well be true. I seek not to challenge their intentions.

My experiences may not fit the norm. Sometimes bad behavior is not relegated only to children. I have known single mothers who have spit in their faces of their children when they wouldn't mind and cursed at them violently when they wouldn't get up in the morning. And I have called them friends and acquaintances. I don’t condone their behavior, but neither did I cast them aside. One of them had a child at seventeen who she came to resent, but tearfully confessed to me the nature of this offense. At what point does parenting become abusive or, at best, incorrect? It’s easy to make sweeping generalizations, and it’s equally easy to take a zero tolerance attitude when a child is not our very own.

I have also known single parents who agonize about striking a balance the best way, between raising children and dating, darting back and forth from A to B in the deepest of ambivalence. In my case, I observed her berating her children verbally when they wouldn't spring to action immediately. I was indebted to her as her partner, and I resisted reporting her behavior. Unlike some, she was well-connected legally and I knew nothing would be done. In addition, I wasn't sure it was my place to say right or wrong. It's easy to call out behaviors that some may say border upon child abuse, but often difficult to make them stick. One parent’s perceived discipline is another parent’s abuse. That was a difficult lesson to learn.

Divorce rates have actually decreased with time, but so have the rates of marriage. More people are living together for years at a time, many with no intention to say their vows. The question at hand should then be phrased a little differently. No one seems to understand if or why people marry for all the wrong reasons. And even then, marriage success is no guarantee. Problems with rearing children, particularly children with special needs, have proved the undoing of even the most stable marriages. What we are observing is, in part, fate, luck, devotion, and unrequited toil. But again, we can’t overlook the need for a two-person household. For some, it’s a paradoxical situation.

We're told to believe that things were more solid and stable in the past. This is not always the case. My father's parents stayed together, but theirs was an immensely difficult union, an arrangement put together by family members for the sake of the children. Few people were divorced in the Fifties, and each had a child from an earlier marriage. Mutual guilt has rarely motivated people to make sound decisions. My father has a step-sister from his father's first marriage who he has never even met. She has never made any overtures to connect with him, and, sixty years later, he doesn't expect it. My grandparents conformed to an ideal that was socially acceptable, but a bad fit for both.

A relationship that was the product of his mother's first marriage produced a half-sister, who hated her step-father. She and my father were estranged for years, and never reconnected before her untimely death by way of a premature heart attack. My aunt married five times before her death. The first was an effort to get out of her step-father's house at all cost. One disastrous marriage involved an ex-convict who proved to be an abusive sociopath. These are difficult issues to consider, as they strike at the heart of our personal development and understandings of self.

I may not have said my vows, but I have made substantial mistakes in relationships. When children become part of the equation, the stakes are propitiously raised. Parenting can be like a highly dramatic, incredibly competitive hand of poker, with all of the chips on the table, with a risk for great gain and great loss. Often, sufficient parenting is revealed years after the fact, not in the present tense. Children are not raised in isolation. They are raised by all of us, and it may indeed take a whole village.

Laid-back or Type A, granola or traditional, parenting is a reflection of who we are and how we ourselves were raised. My parents grew up in families where problems were swept under the rug and never confronted. They vowed that they would not take the same approach when it came their time to be parents. I appreciate the courageous stance they took, but have come to realize how many families simply do not follow this same basic model.

And that unfortuate lacking is clear in our governance, the patchwork of laws which are intended to maintain decency and morality. It is easier in the short term to not call things out, but it also encourages a kind of evasiveness that is not predicated upon honesty or trust. Having tried the old standards of mutual love and best intentions, I wonder what fruit truthfulness and integrity would bear. We may need to rethink our approach while recognizing the complications. We can't hide from ourselves any longer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Portlandia and The Coast

Portland and the Coast

Click to explore the entire album.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Saturday Video

Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and take it slowly
Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and make you want me

Now that I escape, sleepwalker awake
Those who could relate know the world ain't cake
Jail bars ain't golden gates
Those who fake, they break
When they meet their 400-pound mate

If I could rule the world
Everyone would have a gun in the ghetto of course
When giddyuping on their horse
I kick a rhyme drinking moonshine
I pour a sip on the concrete, for the deceased

But no don't weep, Wyclef's in a state of sleep
Thinking bout the robbery that I did last week
Money in the bag, banker looked like a drag
I want to play with pelicans from here to Baghdad

Gun blast, think fast, I think I'm hit
My girl pinched my hips to see if I still exist
I think not, I'll send a letter to my friends
A Born Again hooligan only to be king again

Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and take it slowly
Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and make you want me

I play my enemies like a game of chess, where I rest
No stress, if you don't smoke sess, lest
I must confess, my destiny's manifest
In some Goretex and sweats I make treks like I'm homeless
Rap orgies with Porgy and Bess

Capture your bounty like Elliot Ness, yes
Bless you if you represent the Fu
But I'll hex you with some witch's brew
If you're doo-doo, voodoo

I can do what you do, easy, believe me
Fronting niggas give me hee-bee-gee-bees
So while you're imitating Al Capone, I'll be Nina Simone
And defecating on your microphone

Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and take it slowly

You can't run away
From these styles I got, oh baby, hey baby
Cause I got a lot, oh yeah
And anywhere you go
My whole crew's gonna know baby, hey baby
You can't hide from the block, oh no

Ready or not, refugees taking over
The Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock Rasta
On the twelfth hour, fly by in my bomber
Crews run for cover, now they're under pushing up flowers
Superfly true lies, do or die

Toss me high only puff la
With my crew from lock high
I refugee from Guantanamo Bay
Dance around the border like I'm Cassius Clay

Thursday, June 02, 2016


I will be out of town from Saturday until Sunday of the next week. Postings will be light in my absence.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016