Monday, July 06, 2015

Dog Gone Dogma or is Religion a Scapegoat?

So part of the US anti muslim narrative is that the Qu’ran is a book full of hate that preaches jihad, war, intolerance, yada, yada. Another part says that Muslims are just barbaric like Christians were a few hundred years ago and they just need time to mature a bit. Muslim apologist say that radicals are a small part of the muslim world. Statistics say muslim extremist are less than 1% of all muslims. Pastor Rick Scarborough threaten to go up in flames if Gay marriage was rendered legal in the US. 

He later, recanted his statement saying it was a metaphor from an old spiritual. He said, “I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritua
l song, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in which the three were given a choice—to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar or burn in a furnace,” said Scarborough.”‘We will burn’ means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [Friday's] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.” Maybe some of you see an easy parallel but it is over my head, extremely premature at the very least. I guess he is anticipating a law that makes it illegal for churches against Gay marriage to opt out of performing them.

In a debate between ex British prime minister Tony Blair and atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens, Hitchens argues, “Religion forces nice people to do unkind things, and also makes intelligent people say stupid things” your thoughts? Sadly, June 23 retired pastor Charles Moore sets himself on fire in protest of racism. The Tyler Morning Telegraph obtained a copy of the suicide note from Grand Saline police. In it, Moore lamented past racism in Grand Saline and beyond. He called on the community to repent and said he was “giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart” for those who were lynched in his hometown as well as for those who did the lynching, hoping to address lingering racism. “Giving my body to be burned with love in my heart,” is straight out of the new testament, 1 Corinthians 13 King James Version (KJV) 13.... 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. I doubt pastor Moore can be called a radical, fundamentalist Christian but I know little about him. 

I’m more inclined to think that there was unfinished business in his life, sometime when, in his own mind, he should have acted and didn’t and it got to him. He could have been a religious person like he was or an atheist or agnostic and had the same end. Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic but hadn’t practiced for a long time and at the time of his execution considered himself agnostic.

 Is Hitchens correct that religion makes good people do bad things? Does the good that comes out of religion, any religion, eclipse or even balance out the wrong doing? We’ve had the Inquisition, witch hunts, sex scandal cover up in the catholic church, the Ku Klux Klan, a religious organization vs., the Salvation Army, Abolitions, ecstatic, spiritual experiences in all religions and pissing matches: My God is the real thing, yours is fake and it says so right in the book. Is religion the culprit or the scapegoat? Less than one percent doesn’t sound too bad does it? If one percent of Islam is radical, fringe, and a potential hotbed of terrorism that is 16 million people. If one percent of Christianity worldwide is radical, fringe, and a potential hotbed of terrorism that is 22.3 million people.

 The way it’s painted there is a line in the sand and never the twain shall meet, terrorist on one side and people who frown on terrorism on the other side. However after watching terrorism in the US just since the turn of the 20th century through today it seems to me there are a lot of terrorist sympathizers who systemically support terrorism against People of Color, our LGBT brothers and sisters, filling the gap between terrorists on one side of the line and their antithesis. They have posh jobs in the media. Six churches have been set on fire since Dylan Roof, I think they are terrorist attacks because of the number and the timing to the 9 South Carolina deaths and because they are black churches, but the media is showing an unusual amount of restraint calling this arson,: “The Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog reports that as of Friday, "a string of nighttime fires have damaged or destroyed at least six predominately black churches in four southern states in the past week." Investigators have determined at least three of the fires were set by arsonists.” “ One Tweet Nails The Hypocrisy of Media Coverage as Black Churches Burn Across the South”

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Weeping Jesus Strikes Again!

These poor people in Mumbai and probably all over the world are mislead flocking to a statue of Jesus in Mumbai purportedly weeping.  So often religion is at odds with truth and physical evidence.  Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  Of course it doesn't mean just widows and orphans but at the time and in the place this was written these two groups held the most helpless of society; I doubt that it is much different in 2013.
All organizations be they churches, temples, mosques, social service agencies or governments are oganizations that work against the good of human kind out of human and organizational nature.  The number one "instinct" of organizations (which I believe the U.S. and most of the world consider a legal person) and people is self preservation.  
Once a church forms we must realize, the church it self must acknowledge that it puts its existence and comfort ahead of worshipping (upholding) the Life, the Way, the Truth. In keeping with this the church in Mumbai upon being proved wrong about the miracle weeping statue sued Sanal Edamaruku the bringer of bad tidings who had to flee the country to Finland to maintain his freedom.  The church will drop the charges if Edamaruku apologizes.
Governments put self preservation ahead of the common good of the people en mass that they serve.
It is up to all individuals to see this and realize individuals do the same thing.  Once we realize this we can balance it against our actions on behalf of others.  Next step the more we realize that we are all one then we find ourselves being holistically healthy so as to benefit others.  Then we will see that a huge part of our own self preservation, happiness and wholeness hinges on giving, loving and meeting the needs of others.  We will see we have needs that others need to fill. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Carpe Diem by Begging Forgiveness?

Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, 
USN, Ph.D. By James S. Davis 
[Public domain], 
via Wikimedia Commons

By Cavana Faithwalker, Organizational, Community and Personal Empowerment Strategist, Facilitator
"Another thing you may or may not know about Admiral Hopper is that she is credited with coining the phrase, “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” a lesson I still may not have completely learned."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Troublemakers and Pain

One of many struggles people deal with when considering the question, 'is there a god' is the question of pain. Pain can register from minor social irritants like the loud neighbors next door to homelessness, the ravages of death and disease.  

Some people reason that all pain is necessary and has benefit.  Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and teacher in the Shambhala tradition,in the Tibetan tradition, she says that in the vaJiana tradition of Buddhism your teacher becomes your biggest trouble maker.  The idea is these irritants reveal chinks in the armor so to speak.

 Pema Chodron "Troublemakers"

Does all pain have value if one knows how to leverage it? Do we value the human irritants in our lives or shun them? Part of a healthy meditation regimen is bringing your 'third eye' to bear on uncomfortableness in yourself.  Do your experiences bare this out or not agree?  What about pain inflicted by war or natural disasters, necessary and fruitful? To those of you that are perhaps Buddhist initiates or laymen forgive me for not talking about what Buddhism says and for making pain and suffering synonymous.
*Your thoughts?*
Once in the early 80s when I managed a Howard Johnson restaurant in New Jersey, I had inherited a very good staff that got along with each other for the most part and were kind of on auto pilot.
At one point a young man interviewed to be a waiter.  Spencer had big strawberry blond curly hair and had the biggest attitude I'd seen in a while.  He was FLAMING gay, and a white boy, 'girlfren' neck jerk, two snaps up down hands on hip, 'I ain't the one' in your face individual,.
I think I hired him on the spot and others just knew at some  point upper management would fire me for this.
Man, Spencer turned that restaurant upside down and inside out especially Peggy. Peggy was probably 60 years old, a career server, and a devout fundamentalist Christian, as was I.  Well after this she didn't think I was, lol.
I should have had a badge for Spencer, 'I push buttons,' and another one, "my button stays pushed."  I had to suggest to him time-outs, shut down cat fights, and constantly cool off Peggy and others too.
The other side of Spencer?  Spencer was very professional on the floor, conscientious, and one of the most talented people person, food delivering waiters I've ever seen in the ten or so years I was in food service. He had a great sense of humor, used the word 'bitch' way too much, and seemed to accept others, and didn't hold a grudge.  Spencer was an authentic person and I am so glad I hired him.
The culture of the staff improved, he was a great salesperson and other's sales went up.  At first one or two _maybe_ because they weren't gonna let 'that fag' outsell them but mostly because of his example and egging them on.  As time went on it was very hard to ignore Spencer's humanity... He bonded well and became part of the Hojo family and developed great working relationships and relationships outside work.
A poem from an irritant.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Incremental Change

Metabedu Incremental Change
Ways to change yourself, then your community and neighborhood, then the world.

graffiti by Banksy

A fundamental concept at Metabedu is changing things through the changes you make in yourself that leads you to action.  When one is educated about where one can become empowered, one may choose to become empowered and then action and empowerment are one in the same.    

Many times we belong to well meaning groups centered on change of some action such as fracking, on some issue, such as who gets taxed how much or some societal malady such as homelessness.

It is clear that in most examples, surely the ones mentioned previously there are identifiable reasons dis-eases exist and reasons they haven’t gone away.  Many issues exist because many people allow them to exist.  Some would say they are part of the problem if not part of the solution. 
There are pages and pages of websites about changing and listening.
I would like to challenge you to listen to yourself, the inner being and make decisions toward change, some incremental some perhaps more radical.

What is it you don’t like that you participate in?  What is it you like that you can reinforce?
I once caught myself tsk tsk tsking the grounds around a local middle school as I entered.  I made the decision I could be part of the solution and now I pick up a piece of trash or two when entering places; just a piece or two and not every time. 
Incremental change is not completed in a vacuum ever.  We may not see the ripple but there is a ripple internally and many times if not always externally. 

The Ripple

A few days later at the same school I saw a child’s glove on the ground. I know my daughter’s mom and I work hard to provide for her and to replace one glove is to replace two.  One more pair of gloves goes into production then and all of the resources in making, distributing and marketing those gloves. I got out of my car, picked up the glove and hailed two students walking into the school; “are yall going into the school,” “ yes,” they replied.  “Will you take this glove to the lost and found?” they looked at me like I was a nut and took the glove.  Apparently they walked some distance away and threw the glove back on the ground before entering the school because I saw it the next day.  Now two ripples are set in motion.  The first was my moving from “litter police” to lost and found pariah.  The second ripple was two young people gently being confronted with a value apparently not their own and making a decision.  How many confrontations before they take the glove to the lost and found?  Maybe they never will.  Maybe next time they are honest explaining that it is too much trouble and they are late for the basketball game and tell me where the lost and found is.  Maybe they will endure a twinge of guilt talking to a gloveless classmate whose parents couldn’t buy another pair, and have an epiphany about our connectedness.  To be clear this is not about picking up trash and replenishing the lost and found it's about little moments of involvement that add up, really add up.

I told a colleague about my zeal for picking up trash, it’s not that I’ve haven’t done it before, but now I looked at what prevented me from doing it on so many occasions.  My colleague suggested having a box of those surgeon’s gloves on hand, cause ya never know what you are touching, comething to consider.
You may be wondering what was going through my mind when I picked up the glove on the next day.  I didn’t pick it.  I’m working on me too family.

Principle 5 - Incremental vs radical change

The Power of Incremental Change Over Time | Michael Hyatt

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Django Unchained - Avant-Garde Or Just Antebellum All The Way To The Bank?

Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen in Tarantino's Django Unchained
  If you like a really mindless violent action flick every now and then you might enjoy Django.  Before I forget it was good to see Don Johnson on the screen even if ever so briefly.

I went to a few galleries this week and I’ve decided that one thing I like about art is that it prompts great writing, sometimes mind expanding writing.  Curators and directors across the globe engross us in imaginative hyperbole and mind-expanding text that many times is not supported by what is on the wall in front of you, but that’s ok the writing is to support the art.  Such is the world of movies and reviews. 

One can read some very insightful commentary on the problem with Django and its merit.  I like that Django will incite conversation however to me the commentaries on race and stereotype are all but wasted because they should not be offered up to such a poor movie. 

The movie has garnered best picture nomination from the Producers Guild Award (PGA) proving I guess that I no nothing about film.

What made Spike Lee think Django Unchained would be that bad and was it?

Spike Lee say...
"All I'm going to say is that it's disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That's the only thing I'm gonna say," he explained. "I can't disrespect my ancestors. I can't do it. Now, that's me. I'm not speaking on behalf of anybody but myself. I can't do it."

The problem with Spike Lee is that he speaks out on so much so when people “see him coming” they start rolling their eyes, or in the case of this movie, buckin their eyes before he opens his mouth.  I think Mr. Lee was spot on. Yes it was that bad.

But wait Spike you haven't seen the action figure... Yall think I'm kidding. To be fair many of his movies, like Kill Bill and Reservoir Dog have action figures. 

Community activist Najee Ali holds a picture an action figure depicting Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio's character from the Quentin Tarantino film "Django Unchained," during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, in Los Angeles. The slavery-era figures are raising questions about whether they're appropriate. Ali, director of the advocacy group Project Islamic Hope, plans to call for the removal of the toys from the market. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) (The Daily Republic)

This movie could be jumping the shark for Tarantino, if he is not careful, with his characteristic over the top violence like watching Elvis after he had become a caricature of himself; it was still Elvis but...   It is still Tarantino but he seems to have forgotten how to tell a story in this django.  

It was difficult to suspend reality enough to enjoy the movie on so many levels, on one level because the absolute horrors of slavery and its aftermath seem to have eluded Tarantino and no one should be surprised.  His first written and directed movie, not counting My Best Friends Birthday, 1987 that he did on $5000, is Reservoir Dogs.  It is bloody, quirky, well written, violent and of course very well directed. In "Dogs" Tarantino spins a good tale.

What is distasteful is that Django is not about any of the issues raised or socio-racial dynamics captured in the movie by any stretch of the imagination.  They are tools; they are all a backdrop for Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western period.  Again the movie has all the blood we now expect from good Massa Quentin but the only palpable violence in the movie is exacted against black folk, he didn’t understand the impact of the historical context on our American psyche and this eluded most of the movie goers I spoke to.  In a Terry Gross interview he says a few things that show he didn’t have a clue; one of them being the fact that what happened to Black folks on the real, was a 1,000 times worst than what happens in his movie. He does not understand that his over the top violence was compared to a reality of Black life up through the 70s, the 1970s in this country and paled by comparison.

The movie isn’t even a morality tale even though the good guy literally wins and gets the girl.  Nobody dies as a blow to systemic racism they all die within it except for maybe Stephen. That payoff was not worth watching a Black man being ripped to sheds by dogs that real history is not behind us those wounds are not healed in Black consciousness.  It was not worth watching two Black men fighting to the death for the sport and the entertainment of White folks with one bludgeoning another to death with a claw hammer in a plantation parlor his reward, time off from fighting and a beer. During this scene a beautiful female house nigger, wonderfully dressed smiles aloofly in the background seated sipping brandy. 
              Which one of you says this dynamic sans brandy slurping Black woman is not alive and well in these here United States?  Unfortunately many would say that irrespective of the pageant of step and fetch it rapper buffoons and video vixens in front of the camera with until recently non Blacks behind the camera.  As an aside it is very telling that Jay Z was all right with “bitches and hoes” for your daughter but his child was too good for it; that’s what it took?
            Incidentally, throughout the movie King (I wonder why he picked this name?) Schultz, a bounty hunter who, during this time period had to have seen unmitigated violence against Black folk before is shaken by the violence several times … but oh no not the Black folk who could be subject to it at anytime on a whim.

I know there comes a time when what is sacred joins the ranks of the profane you see it in stand up comedy and advertising frequently where something that was once taboo transitions into fair game territory.  That is quickly happening with the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King as in this example from the Colbert Report; though the joke is about the usurping of Dr. King’s image you will notice the co-opting of the I Have A Dream Speech to make the point and the irreverent co-opting of his image.  None of the co-opting of Dr. King’s image for cash would have been anticipated in the immediate wake of Dr. King’s death.
If there will ever be a time for this transition concern the violence from which we still suffer that time is not now. 
            As of the 1990s it is estimated that trans Atlantic slave trade involve around 12 million Blacks that estimate down from an earlier estimate of 15million.  1.2 to 2.4 million lost their lives on slave ships.  Total lives lost are estimated at 10 million, that includes African slaver raids and deaths in the U.S. 
“I get to kill White men and get paid for it, what’s not to like?”

Every moviegoer of color I spoke to loved Django.  Their ages ranged from late twenties to mid fifties.  Django had it’s funny moments and its smart moments and even great Tarantino moments like the silhouette of Django and Broomhilda “Hildie,” Django’s love interest played by Kerry Washington in a loving moment juxtaposed against house nigger Stephen aptly played by Samuel L. Jackson and mourners returning from the funeral of Plantation owner Calvin Candy play by Leonardo DiCaprio.  “I get to kill White men and get paid for it, what’s not to like,” quips Django and apparent this is where many folks’ heads were.
     As a story so many things didn’t make sense like why was Django so hateful and dismissive of Black folk more so than Candy and King Shultz played by Christopher Waltz?  It doesn’t make sense he’d be dismissive and then kill Stephen for being an uncle tom; there were several issues like this that are due to poor character development.  Whites seemingly had more empathy for Blacks than did Django.

How did Django go from a tentative slave to looking white men in the eye and “talking back” seemingly overnight? 
            There is one scene in which uncle Tom house nigger Stephen has just called Candy into the library and when Candy arrives Stephen is sitting in a chair legs crossed swirling brand in a snifter; this along with several other moments in the film make it easy to believe Stephen just might be part owner of the plantation!  A buddy of mine who is a 75 year old redneck from the South has a truism about Northern and Southern racism, that goes like this; “in South you (meaning Blacks) can get as close as you want just don’t get too high, in the North you can get as high as you want just don’t get too close.”  In this movie we are high and close and I just couldn't suspend reality that much along with all of the other concessions the movie asks me to make.
            I’ve given this movie way more type than it deserves, it does not push the envelop in any way creatively.  The story is boring the manipulations obvious.  Leading into the final act of the movie Dr. Schultz, Django and Hildie, mission accomplished, that of saving Hildie are a handshake away from freedom and good health.  Inconceivably Dr. Shultz cannot bring himself to shake hands with Candy which leads to both their deaths in a shootout.  Inconceivable except Tarantino needed a reason to get to the final bloodbath and like many things in this movie the failed handshake was fast and easy. 

            Why do people like this movie so much?  The number one reason is our national desensitized appetite for violence.  Secondly Black folk need to keep their history, their stories and their collective memories, hold them dear they make us who we are.  I’d like to see Tarantino try this with instead of the 400 year Black holocaust as a backdrop, using the Jewish holocaust of approximately 8 years in which 6-10 million Jews died, as a backdrop for his vehicles and contrivances.  If this would occur I’d like to also see Spike Lee make a statement on how disrespectful it is to humankind.