No More

             I have decided that I will no longer watch cable news. None of it.

Ever since Donald Trump has been the center of the American political landscape, his antics, name-calling, insulting, lying and disregard for the feelings, rights, and needs of broad swaths of Americans has dominated the cable news operations.

Instead of giving us real news, cable news programs – on both the left and the right – have inundated us with talk-show segments, talking about the same event in every segment. We have not gotten real news, but rather the opinions of others.

It has been maddening and spiritually and emotionally exhaustive.

The opinions proffered by cable news guests have only served to make people angrier, more cemented in their views, and more intolerant and increasingly violent. The programs have left many, including me, weary and drained.

Emotional opinionating is not helpful. It does not help us to be able to sort out fact from fiction. It makes us angry and as a result, people who flail instead of fight. The administration has done a magnificent job of gaslighting us all, helping us to remain in winless conversations and also to remain ignorant of all else that is happening in this administration.

Hearing people argue is not helpful. As we draw near to the midterm elections, we need to know what is really going on, including the issues driving policy decisions which will affect us long after the current president is gone.

When any individual bullies and lies, as does the head of this administration, the human response is to fight back in kind. But that kind of fighting is ineffective. This administration is masterful at manipulating emotions of people through its vitriol. It is masterful at saying just enough to make the cable news operations report what is being said over and over again, thereby keeping attention from the important changes that are being made.

This administration – including its Congress and now its courts – are leading this nation toward autocratic rule. Those who are presidential sycophants are more interested in showing loyalty to the president rather than doing what they swore to do – to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. They are working to undo all of the gains that hard-working people concerned with justice for all have achieved. And all we can do is listen to people argue about the president’s bullying et al on cable news.

Enough.

Ella Baker, the Civil Rights leader responsible for the formation and growth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) said: “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” We cannot. And neither will we have the strength to fight against bigotry, hatred, economic amorality, Xenophobia, racism, sexism, capitalism, militarism, and so much more if our spirits are weighed down by our immersion in someone else’s drama, being shaped to do just that – demoralize us.

I refuse to allow this spate of time in American history to steal my spirit, not one more day.

There are things that have happened that we will have to fight against, and others that we will have to make the best of. To do that, we need to be spiritually and emotionally strong. Cable news is like a virus that saps the very strength we need.

For me, not another day will I allow myself to walk around in anger. We need strength for this journey, and I choose to nurture my strength, even as I neutralize my weaknesses caused by anger.

I will not allow this administration or its cable news partners to steal my resolve, my energy, my strength and my belief in fairness, justice and the need to fight for both not another day.

A candid observation…

What If?

The western front of the United States Capitol...
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What would America be like if it were run by a plain, old, middle or lower middle class president, and if the Congress wasn’t filled with millionaires?

There is so much conversation about how we are a plutocracy and not a democracy at all – meaning that the wealthy are doing the controlling and the governing. Government and big business are in bed together, and they are not about to give up or even consider policies which will threaten their class status or their wealth.

That’s understandable. They have no vested interest in the common people; “we the people” are merely puppets used in elections. Ironically, we elect people who do not really have our best interests at heart, not if it threatens the status quo.

It is not surprising, though it is sad, that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is getting larger and larger and that the middle class is almost non-existent. GOP presidential candidate shows absolutely no sensitivity to this reality, saying this week that the complaints against the wealthy is really envy.

Perhaps somewhat. It would be unrealistic to deny that the “have-nots” would rather be “haves.”

But what if the presidency went to a middle class person who was not so far removed from the days of real economic hardship, who remembered personally what it was like to work and still not have a decent, living wage? What if that person had a Congress that was likewise filled with people who could relate to the vast majority of Americans because they were in basically the same boat? What if the members of Congress didn’t have health care, or what if their jobs at Congress paid minimum wage or just above? What sorts of policies for the American people might emerge?

It is telling that in debates, the words “poor” or “poverty” are seldom heard. We hear that conversations criticizing the distance between rich and poor as being “class warfare,” and we hear jabs intimating that people who depend on entitlements or even government employment are burdens to the system of free enterprise.

But the candidates show their disconnect from what is the reality in America, and it goes beyond comprehension why they do not seem to know that a country cannot be its best if the masses are in distress.

And clearly, the masses are in distress.

Someone said to me that if more people would just try harder and get a good education, the playing field would be more level.

I wondered which country she lives in. The cost of a college education is skyrocketing, way out of reach for more and more people, even as jobs that don’t require college educations become fewer and fewer.

Something is wrong with this picture.

So, I just got to thinking …what if the president were just…one of us? I cringe as I see these millions of dollars being spent to get elected. It’s like the money was pulled from a reserved tree or something; this while so many people are suffering. The poverty rate in America is 46 percent…

To make matters worse, the money being thrown around isn’t getting us any closer to knowing who, really, has the best interests of “the rest of us” at heart. No, super PACs are doling out money so that candidates can tear each other to shreds personally.  All these guys are super wealthy, and all they want to do is get into office to create policies that will protest their wealth. So, what’s a few million dollars to get that done?

If there were to be someone who came aboard advocating for the masses, he or she would be quickly dubbed a socialist. People call President Obama a socialist, but his policies have not been all that kind or helpful to the masses. The complaint against him seems to have stemmed from rabid opposition to his Affordable Health Care Act, but other than that, I find it hard to figure out why people are saying that he has been against big business and free enterprise.

At the end of the day, those who “have” fight to protect their interests. That’s all that’s going on now. That’s why I wonder what America would be like if someone less wealthy, with a less wealthy Congress, were in control?

Would we be a more equitable nation, or would those in power aspire to be like their mentors, i.e, the wealthy who are in power now?

A larger question might be, would a less wealthy president and Congress create a more equal America, or do the masses of people, wealthy, middle class or otherwise, even believe that financial and/or social equality  is even a part of the definition of democracy? Was this country ever intended to serve the interests of and protect the masses, or were we, the common people, duped into believing in the ideal of equality by Thomas Jefferson’s words, “all men are created equal?”

A musing …and a candid observation.

The Racial Double Standard of American Politics

Republican Presidential candidates at the Ames...
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For the past few days, there has been much attention placed on comments made by Republican presidential hopefuls as concerns their thoughts and opinions about black people.

Needless to say, there has been little to nothing complimentary. New Gringrich says black kids have no work ethic; he thinks black kids ought to get part time jobs as janitors (and thereby push the union guys out who have a job to support their families). He most recently said that black people ought to demand paychecks, not food stamps.

Rick Santorum said that President Obama ought to oppose abortion because he’s black. More outrageous, he said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

He has since said he didn’t say “black” people and that he stumbled on his words; he was “tongue-tied.”

Ron Paul has been linked to newsletters published under his name which have published ridiculously bigoted statements. A newsletter which referred to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles had Paul saying that “order was only restored when it was time for blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

Never mind that these statements are inaccurate and feed into a mindset that black people are lazy, that they dominate the welfare rolls, and, by suggestion, that black people and their plight are largely responsible for the vast amount of entitlement spending.

What I have noticed is that these politicians often say things like this when they are in the midst of all-white, receptive audiences.  GOP presidential candidates have been famous for ignoring the conference of the NAACP, something which New Gingrich recently faulted them for and said he would go if he is invited.

But what hit me is that GOP candidates make no effort to talk to black and brown people, though they say they want more black and brown people to join their ranks. They unabashedly cater not only to white people, but to white people whose views align with theirs.

That is politically all right, and necessary, one guesses, but if a person is elected president of this nation, isn’t he or she supposed to represent, to know and understand, the needs of all of the people?

Had President Barack Obama only catered to black people, he would never have been elected, and he would have been labeled a racist. One of his weaknesses has been that he has tried hard not to be “too black,” too interested in the needs of black and brown people. He has really partnered with big business an awful lot; he has reached across the aisles and tried to practice bi-partisanship, but it hasn’t worked.

But that’s what a president is supposed to do, right?

The point is, that if a person wants to be president, he or she ought to “sit down” with some of everyone who is American: Jewish, Muslim, black, white, rich, poor, Appalachian…America is a diverse nation. White candidates ought not be allowed to get away with just catering to a sympathetic and supportive white base.

Rick Santorum felt perfectly at ease talking about how black people ought not be using other peoples’ money to his all white, Mid-West audience the other night. I doubt he would have been comfortable saying that had he been speaking to a mixed crowd in an urban environment.

It is an ideal, I know, but the president of this nation ought to be at least ostensibly trying to reach out to all of America’s people and groups. The role of president on one level is not unlike that of a pastor, who has to be connected to all of his or her congregants, no matter how different.

Too many GOP candidates don’t seem to understand this basic requirement.

A candid observation …

© 2012 Candid Observations

Paul, Santorum Need Come to Jesus Meeting

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.
Image via WikipediaImage via Wikipedia

I keep thinking that somebody ought to tell Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum that racism is…not presidential.

Both gentlemen fared well in the Iowa caucuses, and both seem to have a hunger for the nation’s highest office.

But Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum, can we talk?

Just a couple of days ago, Rick Santorum said that he “didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.”  He was speaking to a group of white people, and I guess…well, I guess he was comfortable and he knew what they’d want to hear.

In the name of God, some white folks just think black folks ought to just …shape up, right?

He later on said that he didn’t recall making the statement, but that’s only after he said, in an earlier statement, that he had probably been thinking about what he saw in the movie “Waiting for Superman,” which focuses on black kids trying to get into charter schools…

Santorum said to Sean Hannity on the latter’s television program that, well, he doesn’t make racial distinctions, and, by golly, he has some black friends! Yep, sure does. Michael Steele and J.C. Watts, both black, are his friends.

Never mind that neither of those gentlemen seem to relate to the real plight of many African Americans.

And then there’s Mr. Paul, who, back in the day, had newsletters written under his name. Now, he says he didn’t read any of “that stuff,” but the fact is  that “that stuff” appeared in these newsletters and he did not disavow any of it.

What didn’t he disavow, you ask? Well, for one, his statement, “If you’ve ever been robbed by a teen-aged male, you know how fleet-footed they can be.” (italics mine) In that same newsletter, published in 1992, he said that “we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males (in Washington D.C.) are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”  He was the only member of Congress that opposed giving a Medal of Honor to Rosa Parks and opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mr. Paul said he is not a racist; in a 2008 CNN interview, he said that he’s the one who protects blacks in the inner city. He says that the statements show the tendency of the media to take things out of context.

That’s fair. The media does have a tendency to take things out of context.

He said in the 2008 interview that he repudiates all of the statements in the newsletters, and that is good. He said he has never read the stuff written under his name.

He said that the real issue is the drug laws that so unfairly impact black people, and he’s right on that.

But it’s the little things, the little tongue-in-cheek things that are said that help keep racial tensions alive, and keep marginalized people feeling, well, marginalized. It is a myth that most of the people on welfare are African American; though proportionately, the poverty rate for African Americans is higher than that for whites, statistics show that more white than black people are on welfare.

One of these presidential politicians ought to say that, don’t you think?

I know it is the job of a politician to get elected, and politicians will say anything to get elected. Ironically, I think of the words of the Apostle Paul, who said in 1 Cor. 9: “Though I am free, and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (9:19) Later he says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to get the prize.” (9:24) I chuckled as I read that entire passage of scripture and wondered if Paul, in addition to fiercely loving Jesus the Christ was not also a politician?

It seems to me, though, that a good politician ought to have the adjectives “honest” and “sensitive” somewhere in his or her resume. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul need to  “fess up” to saying, or allowing to be said in their names, some pretty racist stuff. It happens. This is America, and it is no secret that many to most white people have grown up with disparaging views and opinions about black people. How great it would be to hear a white politician just “own up”  and admit they’d said some things that reflected how they grew up and were taught?

When we admit our goofs, we can begin to fix them.

And fixing their apparently racist ways of looking at black people is a must, in my view, for anyone who is striving to get to the White House. The American government has not been a friend to black (or brown) people, or to women or other oppressed groups. The American government turned its head to the injustices suffered by black people and would not, did not, protect its black citizens.

The country has suffered as a result of that.

Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum would do themselves and their campaigns a favor if they would just have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Jesus, and ask Jesus to change their thoughts and beliefs when it comes to black people, black life and black culture.

Because the country is not a lily-white place, gentlemen, and the country cannot be as great as it has the potential for, if all of its people are not treated having been created equal.

A candid observation.

© 2012 Candid Observations

RuneScape Wiki: The Ancient Curses are a set of prayers obtained as a reward after completing The Temple at Senntisten.

America, Christmas, and the Great Commandment

Though I’ve heard a lot of people voice anger and angst over not feeling comfortable saying “Merry Christmas,” being urged to say “Happy Holidays” instead, I find myself thinking that it’s good that America is really living up to its legacy as a pluralistic nation.

When I was a kid, nobody said anything else about any other religion. It was simply, “Merry Christmas,” and it was fine. There was Santa and Christmas Carol, and there was the baby Jesus. We never mentioned Hanukkah, though there were plenty of Jewish children around, our classmates, actually. In fact, some of my Jewish friends said that their families celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah …not the Jesus part …but the tree and gift part.

We Christians didn’t hear much, if anything, about Hanukkah, and if we did, we certainly didn’t know what it was about. That is so …not cool…for a religion, Christianity, which sprang from Judaism. The eight day celebration, commemorating the dedication or rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem seems to be as central to our existence as Christians as it is to the history of Judaism.

In other words, had the Jews not regained control of Jerusalem, there might not have been a Christianity.

That opinion aside, there is something larger here. America is not monolithic. Our motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” or, “out of many, one,” is what America is supposed to be all about; it is what marks us as a unique place, a democracy that is different from every other country in the world.

Instead of celebrating that, though, we have had an environment where everyone has tried to assimilate into the mainline culture, which was white and Protestant. In doing that, we created boundaries between us, something Rev. Dr. James Forbes once called “verusism” in a sermon he did about the woman at the well. We became a nation which was diverse according to the census, but closed according to the reality of how we lived. One had to be “better than” or “truer than” another in order to feel affirmed.

Meanwhile, what happened to all of the other faces in the crowd?

The worst thing about being a pluralistic yet closed society is that such a state creates, increases and incubates ignorance, which leads to hatred, fear, and bullying.

Saying “Happy Holidays” acknowledges that we are appreciative of all of the people who live in America and who have made important contributions; it says that we are secure enough in our own religion to respect another. There is Christmas, the birth of the Christ, surely, but there are also other religions which, to their adherents, are just as important to them as our religion is to us.

Sarah Palin blasted President Obama for sending out a Christmas card that says “From our family to yours, may your holidays shine with the light of the season.” But a card sent out by President Reagan in 1987 says, “The President and Mrs. Reagan extend to you warm wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.”

The card is signed by Mr. Reagan.

On a caustic note, every politician knows that he or she cannot govern or expect to win re-election by being exclusivist. They must be diplomatic and use language that does not offend any of their potential supporters.

But on a humanistic note, to use “neutral” or “inclusive” language is just plain …American, not to mention polite. A mentor of mine, the late Rev. Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, shared with us that we Christians should never do an invocation at a public event and end the prayer with “in the name of Jesus,” because many people in the audience will not be Christian and will feel left out.

The thing is this: at the heart of every religion is the need for love, and love is inclusive. In the Christian Bible, we are fond of quoting 1 Corinthians 13, where it says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…it does not delight in evil but rejoices at the truth.” Paul the Roman Jew touched and converted by the Christ, wrote that.

And the truth is, America is a pluralistic nation.  We don’t often embrace that fact.

A candid observation …