Monday, January 23, 2012

Cry Racism

Racism as a force in America is over-rated, especially in these modern times. Most often, racists are viewed as "ignorant" and "fringe," which immediately limits their ability to effect change. Add to that, their visibility - flags go up the moment a racist enters a room. They are an easy target. Most Americans' stock rise just by standing across from them.

Now, Ron Paul, a prominent Republican presidential candidate, is being dogged by a racist newsletter he circulated in the 90's. He claims to have written none of the nasty rhetoric himself, though his signature appears on the newsletter, and he profited from its sales.

The question becomes: Is this a deal-breaker? Does such associations preclude Paul from serious consideration for the office of president of the United States? Many on both sides of the aisle say "Yes." I say, consider this: Ron Paul may be a racist; he is not a warmonger. While all of the other GOP candidates virtually promise a war with Iran, he alone says, "Don't be stupid." Neither is he a big spender. Of all the candidates - President Obama included - Paul appears to be the only one with the guts to tackle the national debt, vowing to trim a trillion from that 15 trillion-dollar monstrosity his first year in office.

Look at it this way: Racism is a kind of bad window dressing. It is not substantive in America anymore. It was years ago, when congress could legislate "Jim Crow" laws and the courts would uphold them. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized entire communities, and blacks could do little more than cower and pray. Those days are long gone. No racist legislation can get through congress now; no racist legislator would try. Today, all a racist can do in America is practice free speech. And each time he opens his mouth, his freedom and his power is further contracted.

We have a greater need to fear warmongers and big spenders - like twin vampires, they stand poised to bleed this nation dry. Warmongers are greater destroyers of nations than all the racists combined. Hitler's racism killed six million Jews. His warmongering killed 35 million others, besides.

Napoleon's racism barely merits a page in the history books. Yet, he was one of the greatest warmongers of all time. His militarism devastated the entire continent of Europe in the pursuit of a greater France. When he was finished, millions lay dead, and France was no greater than when Napoleon started.

Racism in America covers a wide spectrum. At one end are people like the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan; at the other end is each of us. We all harbor some form of racism, prejudice, bias, or simply fear of that which we do not understand.

Then there are those who claim to detest racism. They are posturers - no better than tin men. (Only a fool would be for racism). To say, "I hate racists", is the same as saying "I hat liars", or "I hate thieves." Who don't? All there is to do about those people is to keep an eye on them.

As for the worst of the racists among us: They are oddities, aberrant personalities that are more surprising when unearthed than scary. Our real fear should be of leaders who would send our children to kill and die for nothing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Statue for Smokin' Joe

Former heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Frazier, is dead. And a clamor has risen in the African-American community for a statue in his honor.

"Hey, they put up one for Rocky. Why not for Joe?"

Maybe because they don't want to (and you can't make them.)

True, Rocky is a fictionalized Philadelphia fighter, portrayed wonderfully by Sylvester Stallone in the movies. Joe, on the other hand, was a real Philadelphia fighter - one of the greats of all time. Yet, the city of Philadelphia chose to honor the fake fighter because Hollywood made him look so good.

Ye members of Philly's African-American community, try this: Erect a statue of Joe, yourself. You can do it. And it doesn't have to be a wholly black effort. People across the breadth of Pennsylvania, and the breadth of the nation, loved Joe Frazier. Start the ball rolling, and watch how whites, Asians, Hispanics, and a kaleidoscope of communities kick in. But this time, the African-American community should kick in first.

Often, blacks feel that if they do it - if it is not done by whites - then it will not be as good; it will not be official. Nonsense. Quality of effort is what makes it good, and official. Do it.

Historically, blacks have felt powerless to effect change, and they became accustomed to this powerlessness. They began to look forward to it. Powerlessness seemed to empower them to do whatever they wanted, (which, in many instances, was nothing.) Go to a "brother" to kick in, and he might respond: "Ask the white man. He got all of the money. He just left me with enough to have fun."

Fun. It is over-rated, and the bane of the African-American community. In fact, never in the history of America has so many adults been so consumed with having fun. Is it any wonder the children have lost respect for their elders? Their elders are behaving too much like them.

It is time the African-American too full responsibility for his community. Time to kick in, and keep kicking in. How else will great communities like Detroit survive? How else will we break the bonds of dependence and powerlessness? What other way to usher in a new era, and a new ethic of effort of empowerment?

A statue for Smokin' Joe could be a beginning - a glimpse at the new African-American resolve.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Michelle's "Cougar" Moment

This time, my favorite first lady of all time, has taken a wrong turn.

At a Toys-for-Tots event, a marine corpsman asked Michelle Obama to be his date at Marine Corp ball. She said, I'd love to..." (For a first lady who prides herself on serving up healthy dishes to America's youth, the serving up of herself to an anxious young corpsman is taking that bit a bit too far.)

With today's nouveau coupling of "cougars" (forty-something women) with twenty-something men, (and the rash of high school teachers who seduce their male charges), the first lady's flirtation with the young soldier further blurs the line.

It is one thing when female corpsman asks Justin Timberlake on a date, or a male corpsman asks some "hot" female rock star the same. It is quite another when our first lady includes herself in this awkward tribute to America's troops.

(Mrs. Obama, you are the most respectable woman in America. Act like it.)

Bob Schieffer, the aged CBS News anchor who brought us the story, thought it cute, and called the twenty-year-old marine a "courageous young man." We have different word for such shenanigans where I come from.

"Cute" and "courageous" is when a timid ten-year-old asks the first lady to his fifth-grade marshmallow roast. It becomes something else when a soldier "full of beans" asks the same.

Calling it "innocent" won't do, either. There is something about young men that, when it comes to a beautiful woman, there is no such thing as "innocent." This is why the line must be drawn with a steadfast marker.

If the date comes off, I'm sure the corpsman will be a gentleman and, of course, Michelle will be a lady. But the optics are all wrong: Picture the first lady, dressed to the nines, on the arm of a man who looks much like Barack - same complexion, same body type, but half Barack's age. Nothing is to be got from that but the appearance of impropriety.

It turns out that Michelle told the young man, "I'd love to...but you will have to ask my husband." No, Michelle, he does not have to ask Barack anything. No man should ever ask another man, "Can I take your wife out?" Any woman worth her salt can answer that question herself.

Marine corpsman Leeks did not show courage when he asked the first lady out. He showed disrespect to her, to her husband, and to the institution of marriage.

The first lady should have recognized this as a teachable moment, and been instructive. Instead, she succumbed to some odd vanity.

'Nuff said. Next time, just say "no."