21 DECEMBER 2012 : 0611 EST

Posted: December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

A YouTube mini-film plot: A guy is terrified of the Mayan prophecy so he YOLOs hard for the last week of life. Gets closure on every past relationship. Gives his extra clothes to the homeless near his neighborhood. Forgives every wrong done to and by him. Takes that extra moment to tell everyone he knows just exactly why they are special to him. Goes through his FB photos and quietly remembers all of the moments, meanings, and memories captured. With stoic anticipation he organizes himself. Puts on his favorite clothes. Jams his headphones in. Blasts out some Ghostland Observatory as part of his End of Days mix. And walks outside gazing up at the trees, the rising sun, the sounds of the birds chirping, the quiet calm of the early morning. He arrives at a serene patch of grass in his yard with a clear view of the horizon and sits calmly with his legs underneath him. He looks at his G-Shock. It says 0610:55. We see both the time ticking off and the look on his face. As the watch ticks from 0610:55 to 0611 the camera captures just his face on the frame and in just that moment his eyebrows raise. Aaaaaaand scene. 

Advertisements

Things like today are beyond sad. There really are no words to describe how awful this is. The only thing I can say – and maybe it’s too soon for this, I dunno – is that this isn’t a gun problem, it’s a cultural problem. Our culture has become obsessed with consumption to the point of hoarding. So many of us are willing to leave our families on a major holiday of thanks and instead spend it standing in crowded and chaotic lines to buy TVs and video games and all sorts of completely unimportant things. We fight each other to crash through the doors, trample each other on our way down the aisles, grab our prized TVs like conquering vikings, bring them home and then sit in front of them with our mouths wide open and our doors slammed shut.

In our lust for these goods we become increasingly suspicious that someone out there is coming for us. That there are groups of people who want to take away our freedom to sit and slobber. The TV does a great job of stoking that fear with night after night of “news” that’s a lot less news and a lot more “what’s new in paranoia”. Do bad things happen? Of course. But waaayyyy more amazing and beautiful things are happening every day. The problem with that is advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much for shows that make you happy. They know that a scared audience is an audience that’ll buy anything; shitty fast food, over sugared soda, bigger TVs, stronger locks, and smarter phones. WE are guilty. This is OUR problem. We have become a collective of consumers rather than a culture of humans. We have devolved.

We need to step away from all of this. We need to put stuff in its proper place. I have a flat screen. I have a Playstation. I have a smartphone. I’m of the same world. What I’m advocating isn’t that we throw all these things away and become vegans roaming the hillsides singing “Kumbaya”. I happen to like my smartphone very much. I’m instead advocating that we make a concerted effort to develop meaningful relationships with our neighbors.

It seems that we as a culture have lost sight of why we’re truly here. Having lost sight of that, things like today in CT happen. We’re not here to get a great deal on a TV. Life instead has a very simple purpose. We’re each here to leave the world in a slightly better place than we found it. We can start by reaching out to our neighbors. Getting to know them. Understanding them. Letting them understand us. When we do that, we won’t need more guns, more security, or armed guards on school grounds. We’ll know who the people are that need help and we will have already offered them the help they need.

We can choose to sink deeper into our working class/middle class apathy and paranoia or we can see that WE have the power to reshape the way we interact each other.

It’s come to my attention that we’re taking over. I’m 31 now so it’s just about that time for my generation to swoop into power and run things. Given that realization, I started to wonder about who we are. So I leave you with my thoughts on my generation:

My generation isn’t yours.
My generation doesn’t play baseball.
My generation doesn’t like to pay for things.
It’s not that we’re thieves, we just don’t have the same inane reverence for corporate trademarks that your generation did.
My generation starts revolutions with RTs.
My generation shops at all kinds of stores; Advertisers fear us.
My generation likes Urban Outfitters but we’ll also buy a shirt at Target if it looks cool.
My generation values substance.
My generation uses curse words for the same reason you use italics.
My generation eats less red meat.
My generation thinks constantly about going vegan; not because it’s cool but because it’s healthier.
My generation knows the value of a good bike ride.
My generation has a special place in its heart for the original Nintendo controller.
My generation tries all sorts of things and takes its time figuring out who it is.
We have a long term plan.
My generation apologizes for Hipsters; our bad.

My generation doesn’t understand war.
I mean we understand what it is, we just don’t understand why it is.

My generation loves ripping and remixing.
Your generation was all about appreciating the sanctity of a created piece,
My generation is all about living works of art that reflect the moment, this moment.

My generation voted for Obama.
My generation doesn’t understand why your generation cares about his religion.
My generation isn’t comfortable with his buddying up to big business but we’re calling him out on that.
My generation will live at home longer than any other generation.
We blame your generation for that (ruined economy, job market, and housing bubble).

My generation doesn’t think it’s ‘neat’ when someone speaks a language other than English.

My generation marries whomever the fuck it wants.

My generation knows how to party.
My generation knows how to get it done.
My generation knows how to text without looking.
My generation created Facebook, Twitter, and (basically) the whole Internet experience.
You’re welcome.

My generation will have children that won’t even understand why Obama being President was such a big deal.
My generation will be kinder to yours in old age than it seems.
My generation can still sing the theme song to Captain Planet.

My generation will deliver on the promise of yours.
Your generation marched, was shot at, and died for a cause.
Your generation then came into power and seemingly forgot about the cause.
My generation will not.

My generation’s got this.

Image

My Masculinity

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tom’s piece “Being a Dude is a Good Thing” has troubled me. His narrative about how men, “get blamed for everything,” rings hollow to me. His description of masculinity conjures all sorts of antiquated demons I thought we had laid to rest long ago. I suppose not. So, I write this to present an alternative narrative—my masculinity.

I love my Father. He is my favorite person on this Earth. However, my Father is not the kind of man to raise a son to become a Feminist ally. He was born to a hard life on a farm in the poorest parish of Jamaica in 1927. As a Black man immigrating to this country in the 1950s, he faced his own challenges. As he marched and chaired organizations to lobby for the rights of persons of color in the United States he never connected the dots to see the interwoven nature of the struggle for gender equality—or, perhaps better stated, gender equity. To this day, he continues to lament the disproportionate nature of racial inequality while simultaneously insisting his third wife prepare all his meals, clean his house, and dutifully receive her monthly allowance from him to buy household necessities.

Given this role model I suppose you can see where my path toward masculinity headed. In school, I played every sport possible. I tackled hard. I talked trash. I dunked on people. I studied the martial arts. I beat people up. After high school, I joined the military. I freaking guarded nuclear missiles with a damn machine gun for God’s sake. For real. After the military I fought in full-contact martial arts tournaments, which occasionally included breaking the bones of complete strangers. I was a “real man.”

But you know what I also did during that time? I took courses on watercolor. I learned how to figure skate. I took salsa lessons. I played the violin for fifteen years. I became a classically trained opera singer. I developed an affinity for Shakespeare and Henry Fielding. I acted in several musicals and plays. I made love to beautiful women. I made myself vulnerable enough for these same women to make love to me. Now that can mean many things. If it sounds physical to you, sure, it is. If it sounds emotional and/or spiritual to you, sure, it’s that too.

I don’t know. I’m frustrated by this whole thing. I’ve never been nagged by a woman in my life. I’ve never felt belittled for being a man. I’ve never lived in the world of American sitcoms where capable, beautiful Women are happy to marry bumbling, shallow men, and I’m glad. The women I surround myself with respect me and themselves enough to never make that a reality. There’s been a tremendous amount of space here devoted to saying nasty things about Feminists. To those folks I would ask: have you ever actually developed any kind of relationship with a Feminist? Feminists can be amazing partners. The most significant relationship I’ve ever had has been with a Feminist scholar. She came to me from a place of power and understanding. We stood together as equals. Try making love to a Woman that is self-actualized like a Feminist. I promise you’ll never go back.

I’m not trying to say guarding nuclear missiles while learning watercolor is the only way to become a real man. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are several flavors of masculinity. My particular flavor happens to represent the ability to be physically and emotionally present. Where I feel Tom and I disagree is that to be emotionally present isn’t an indicator of femininity in my estimation; it’s an indicator of humanity. The gender studies Professor and Navy SEAL can be the same person. I hope I am proof of that.

Oh, and you may have asked how I was able to navigate away from my Father’s troubling performance of masculinity to craft my own, healthier version. The reason is simple: my Mother wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Note: This article originally appeared on Role Reboot: http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2011-12-my-masculinity and The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/my-masculinity/

Stop Barking and Start Working

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cotto’s evocative piece Obama’s Speech Won’t Matter Because He’s ‘Black’ deserves attention. Well written and supported, the piece points out the manifold subterfuges of those in opposition to the President. Um, so what?  With respect to his strong argument, where does that argument get us? Does the act of noticing a problem born 392 years ago solve it? Racism in America is older than the Declaration of Independence, older even, than the thirteen colonies. I assumed we were well past the illumination of the wicked underbelly of privileged white male society as a novel event.

Watching white male society divide itself along the lines of allegiance to the President is an interesting experience as a non-member. On the one hand, we have the establishment doing what the establishment has always done, on the other; we have progressives casting a derisive glance back toward the establishment – for perhaps the first time. The palpable disappointment of progressive white males with their brethren across the aisle is a revealing window in to this moment of time. Never before have white males elected a member of another race to the Presidency only to watch the awesome crushing power of institutionalized oppression. Having themselves never been at the mercy of this mechanism it is perfectly understandable why white supporters of the President would express surprise at the spurious actions of his opposition.

This reaction seems to be fomenting a collective cognitive dissonance within a fracturing white society. Addressing the manner in which the President is treated is difficult to balance against the knowledge that “the system” has, and continues, to do the same to countless non-Presidential members of marginalized groups.  To change how the President is treated is to change how ALL of us are treated. This leaves white progressives able to notice the need for change but unwilling or, more fairly, unable to change. Despite the emerging awareness of white privilege, it remains the thing spoken of but not acknowledged.  Fact:  it is easy to be a white guy in this country.  But again, so what?  How does the identification of this equally old reality help anything either?  Surely we must evolve beyond simply pointing out these two fundamental realities if we are to affect the change we all require. My entreaty to do so has been met by the folks at the Good Men Project making this space available to detail my actionable items to move us forward. So here they are.

First, we must see that no one person is capable of eliciting fundamental, systemic change. Our education betrays us by imparting the power of one to change all (e.g. George Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., etc). Without the military, Washington would have made a terrible General. Dr. King, instrumental as he was, was merely one man amidst a profound cultural movement involving persons of nearly ever creed, color, and disposition. Instead, we need to see the collective power of us. I am not smarter than you. I cannot fix a problem nearly four hundred years in the making, but WE can. We can accomplish all things.

Second, we must accept that, though we will often disagree, civil discourse will always be the order of the day. We the sheeple turn on the television to watch wealthy Housewives, Italian American twenty-somethings, and political pundits reinforce that contrition is weakness. Our Mothers taught us better than that.

Third, and lastly, I would invite you to read what I believe to be the only true solution to the problems uncovered by this ongoing discussion. The piece I am referring to is an earlier published work appearing on the Good Men Project entitled I Talk About Race Because I Don’t Know How Not To by Dr. Jackson. I won’t spoil the ending, but if you read it in full you’ll discover the actionable items The Good Men Project asked me to detail here for you.

Bob Marley once sang, “It’s a foolish dog, barks at the flying bird”.  If nothing else, I would implore all of us to stop barking and start working. Work on yourself, work on your family, work on your neighborhood. As we work, we will find how to work it out. Peace.

 

Note: This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/stop-barking-and-start-working/

I’ve been watching/reading the coverage of the newly opened memorial and have had a flood of thoughts. First, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing man. His personal conviction, unflappable courage, and virtuoso mastery of the English language have given each of us an opportunity to see a public life well lived. One of my favorite speeches is his fateful last speech in Memphis. His clarity of thought, conviction, power, and purpose are stunning. I’ve included a moving tribute video of this last speech [I will add that I do not support the “fight the new world order” sentiment or whatever rabble appears at the end of the video]

King was clearly an important and transcendental figure in world history. I fear, however, that the ways in which the U.S. celebrates King as a solitary leader of the Civil Rights Movement flies in the face of the actual movement. There were countless persons involved in the fight against Jim Crow-Apartheid in America: men, women, persons of color, white persons, immigrants, and persons of nearly every faith. To reduce this coalition of the conscience to one person is a dangerous reduction. I understand that American history overwhelmingly relies on the “Great Men” approach, but in 2011 I feel it’s time we move beyond this. I crave the stories of White folks in Indiana that helped tear down a KKK cross from a Black neighbors yard. I want to hear about the Black Panthers providing ambulances to the poor neighborhoods that were refused service. I want to hear about international efforts to end hatred in this country through peace and compassion. I want our story.

I also wonder if the monument may be a convenient way for White America to show how sympathetic they are by celebrating this figure. King is a safe foray in to civil disobedience. To celebrate a complex individual like Malcolm X is a bridge too far for polite, White society. An independent read of MLK, however, shows that he changed his role near the end of his life. He realized that Vietnam was an abomination and that the war on the poor being waged by the wealthy was an issue that needed more of his attention. If you pull articles from the last year of his life you’ll see the hatred these efforts were met with by the press. Even within the legacy of King we see an example where the consonant is made great and the controversial (but morally correct) is disregarded and diminished.

I long for the day when the United States of America puts an end to the injustices King died for. Did you know schools are more segregated now than the day before the National Guard escorted the first few black students to school in Little Rock, Arkansas? Have you seen the wealth, achievement, and arrest rate gaps in Black v. White America? Have you seen the type of health coverage offered the working poor in our country? King fought these battles day after day. A monument to these incomplete efforts is a stinging reminder of a dream not yet realized.

Leading up to the Presidential election of 1984, President Reagan was eager to have an ad made to tap into his view of the American ideal and ensure his re-election.  The resulting Ad is widely credited as being the best ever made for a political campaign.  It ushered in a new era of television advertising: the slice of life appeal. Advertisers were now showing people an ideal life and, at the end, providing the means to achieve it. This could mean voting for Reagan, buying a Chevy, or remembering to bring a six pack of Coors Light to your next BBQ. Turn on your television and you’ll still see this appeal in use. The benefits to this appeal for advertisers are staggering and thus they are hesitant to try something new.

The average American is estimated to experience 10,000 advertisements in a day. I’ll leave the citations to you as this is a short form blog. Given the high volume of advertisements reaching American viewers it is easy to see how, through social learning, cultivation, and classical conditioning, persons begin to blur the lines between advertisment and real life. In the words of David After Dentist, “Is this real life?” When the lines become blurred, value systems blur as well. Consumers inundated by messages demonstrating how material possessions can lead to personal fulfillment are susceptible to falling prey to this profit-motivated construction. Those living in this kind of society but lacking the income to participate in this vapid material exchange are left with strong feelings of cognitive dissonance. Is it any wonder then that when persons of a lower socio-economic strata revolt against the weight of being at the bottom the first place they head is to retail locations to steal the things they are made to feel they deserve but reality dictates they cannot afford?

Under this context I can understand why people steal TVs when stuff goes down. I get it. I don’t support it or approve of it, but I get it. Food for thought I hope.