Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Bonfires of the Banalities

Sarah PalinWhen the mundane becomes revelatory, when banal pronouncements are considered startling epiphanies, when orchestrated spectacle is considered the apex of statesmanship; a society is fast approaching the finish line in its race to the bottom.

The corrupt leaders of society’s broken institutions remain busy spinning a self serving zeitgeist of denial, sowing gardens of ubiquitous ambivalence.  The liturgy of mass self delusion anoints a polity comfortably numb and safely ensconced in a political paralysis; keeping the Bozos bouncing along on the bus sans wheels, happily enthralled in the reverie of their disillusionment.

Sarah Palin, looking slim and extremely fit slugs down a mega calorie Big Gulp on the CPAC dais. Sarah’s slurp becomes an iconic moment in GOP history, as fawning star struck conservatives believe it to be the symbolism of a new Statue of Liberty.

Morning Joe stuffing handfuls of Captain Crunch into his mouth to tweak the eat healthy nose of liberal manikin Mika, cheers the American driving public for making the 6 mpg Super Duty pickup the best selling truck in the USA.  Morning Joe relishes any opportunity to confirm the resplendent truth of America’s voracious appetite for radical entitlement.

Newly elected Pope Francis closes his first Sunday address by advising visiting pilgrims to “have a good lunch” and the media falls all over itself with adulatory elation.

In a world understood as a branded sound bite, the affirming credo an individual adopts as holy gospel is self serving institutional propaganda that vigilantly defends the status quo.

In such a world, sound bites have become a school of famished piranhas that are devouring the body of rational understanding and the ability to peek beyond the veil of obfuscation.

The messages and symbolism signaled from our leaders and political celebrities is clear, loyal constituents are offered an absolution to remain stuck in the certitude ensuring the perpetuation of failing institutions badly in need of reform.

The CPAC crowd cheers Palin’s clownish moxie as she charges the battlements of Bloomberg’s Nanny State.  Though I wonder if Palin’s salute to Seven Eleven was more of a product placement exercise than astute Kabuki theater; Palin’s masterful pandering played well to the partisans.  She brought down the house and successfully sidestepped the issue of a commercial food chain that is progressively poisoning their customers with unhealthy food due to lax regulatory oversight, harmful food additives and corn fructose syrup infused processed food that is driving an obesity epidemic amongst the poor and minorities residing in the food deserts of America’s cities.

Palin’s showmanship appeals to the growing libertarian streak in the GOP.  Let the market decide is the mantra. The jury is out but when the toxic food chain has killed off enough of the process food industries customers, General Foods will hire a Stanford MBA as a new product manager to design and market better foods for a better world. After all that’s how responsible job creators work.

Mornings Joe’s insistence on his free market right to be a mindless consumer is codified in the divine celestial ledgers of Laissez-faire capitalism.  His fattened bank balance is the sole moral imperative to drive an inefficient gas guzzling truck that poisons the environment with carbon emissions. This is the same mind set that insists on building vacation homes on barrier islands. If a major storm destroys the dwelling so be it. FEMA and private insurance have socialized the risk to preserve the right of these homesteaders to settle on endangered land, tipping into the swelling seas, fueled by a changing climate brought on by excessive carbon emissions from Morning Joe’s Super Duty.

In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre the yearning of citizens to strengthen gun control laws is met by the intransigent commercial interests of gun manufacturers.  In a society bleeding from gun violence the NRA got busy greasing the palms of senators with filthy lucre to encourage diligence to protect 2nd amendment right to market high powered automatic rifles and 30 round magazines that can spray instant death into a room full of 1st graders.

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA gave an impassioned speech at the same CPAC conference pointing to “the Washington elites” and “liberal media” as the root of all evil.  States LaPierre, …gun control advocates “insult [us], they denigrate, and they call us ‘crazy’ for holding fast to [our opposition to gun control]. In their distorted view of the world, they’re smarter than we are; they’re special; they’re more worthy than we are; they know better than we do,” he said. “The liberal media can keep hating on me, but I’m still standing.”

How the CPAC attendees and the three million members of the NRA can fail to see the irony in Mr. LaPierre’s condemnation of “Washington elites” escapes me.  To be sure, like many CPAC attendees, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA are fully integrated with the elites of Washington.  In point of fact many are on the NRA payroll.  His pernicious attack on a free press belies his unquestioned fealty to the constitution.

Which brings us back to Pope Francis.  He is hailed as a much needed change in a scandal ridden Vatican.  The global prevalence of sexual abuse by clergymen and the institutional protection of predatory pedophiles continues to trouble the church.   Money laundering and other untoward financial transactions conducted by the Vatican Bank is another explosive issue that continues to fester.  The rising voices of women and LGBT communicants seeking reforms to fully enfranchise them as equal citizens in the church are liturgical and theological issues that will continue to be repressed. These questions beg an urgent response from the ossified paternal hierarchy that resists transparency and fails to transcend practices that sacrifices the faith in service to the institutional religion.

Yes the monied pilgrims that made their way to Rome will enjoy the day and most surely find a wholesome meal to eat. What will sate today’s pilgrims and sustain the future generations will be to sit at an inclusive communion table to richly feast on the bread of truth. Throw the institutional banalities into the ovens to stoke the fires capable of baking a rich wholesomeness into the glorious bread of life.

Music Video: Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized

Risk: political, religious, psychological, cultural

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March 19, 2013 Posted by | conservatism, faith, gay rights, LGBT, Palin, psychology, religion, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Party of Values, Thoroughly Bankrupt

Republican’s fancy themselves to be the party of values.  They profess to love God and country.  They believe themselves to be the real Americans.  They are the absolute definition of righteous patriots.  They see themselves and their families basking in the light of a celestial exceptionalism.  They occupy the center of a universe anointed by the invisible hand of free market capitalism, governed and sanctified by the benevolent love of their heavenly father, Jesus Christ.

Their values are based on a fundamentalist foundation of the King James Bible and the US Constitution as it was originally conceived and authored by the Founding Fathers in 1787.  They are resolute in the belief of the correctness of their interpretation of this hallowed literature and remain adamant in how the instruction of these sacred tomes should be applied and implemented to shape and govern our Federal Republic.

If you question the basic supposition of their position they will tarry your thrust by questioning your love of country and your belief in God.  Those same questions must be asked of them.  The virulent defenders of the cross and crown of liberty consistently undermine the spirit of both. They serve the corporate objectives of church, military and industrial institutions that have formed an unholy alliance to rule and exploit the hearts and minds of an enslaved consumer market that cannot discern the difference between political liberty and a have it your way experience at Burger King.

America’s political ignorance is a poverty exploited by the oligarchs; giving them full sway to control and manipulate the levers of power to secure and advance selfish interests.  They cloth their motives in priestly robes, medal adorned military uniforms, Rotarian flannel suits and Joe “the wannabe” Plumber overalls feigning a martyrdom of being crushed by the menacing liberal elites by standing for the values of free markets, Christianity, class mobility and a military spreading the global march of democracy.

The GOP presidential debates provided some telling political theater of how the party of values advanced the cause of individual liberty and governance informed by moral precepts. In one session a gay officer serving in Iraq asked the candidates “now that DADT has been repealed and gay service personnel can serve in the military would they support  same sex marriage”.  The gay serviceman unselfishly serving his country in a theater of war was roundly booed by the uber patriots sitting in the audience before Rick Santorum piled on and asserted not only would he not sign a same sex marriage bill into law, he would also reinstate DADT.

In another session the question concerning the mandatory requirement to purchase  health care insurance was raised.  The moderator asked a hypothetical question, “if a person failed to purchase insurance and required a life saving procedure who should pay?”  One of the more compassionate conservatives shouted “let him die”.   This was undoubtedly the same guy who condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Another high water mark of GOP moral turpitude occurred when the debate moderator questioned Rick Perry about the State of Texas position as the leader in capital punishment executions.  The audience erupted in cheers.  The United States is home to the worlds largest penal colony with an inmate population that exceeds 2,000,000.   This belies the myth of the United States as the land of the free; particularly for the people of color who account for the largest proportion of the inmate population.  This is good news for the free marketeers as the privatization of prisons is a growth industry.  The profiteers of misery require the judicial apparatus of the states to maintain a prison occupancy rate of 90% to assure profitability for private investors.  The threat to a fair trial has never been more at risk.  This is a business opportunity right up the GOPs free market alley. The devaluation of the rule of law an unfortunate consequence.  The value of money trumps the grace of justice.

The GOP’s deep investment in the culture of death mirrors a country thoroughly committed to the continued militarization of the economy regardless of its cultural cost.  Republicans eagerly beat the drums of war and use the poetry of destruction  to articulate a cutesy point.  Remember John McCain using the melody of  Barbara Anne to sing, “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”  The neocons ate it up.  The peacemaker may be considered children of God,  but in the GOP the business of war and righteous crusades are divine.

Republicans pledge undying fealty to the Constitution and the rights of citizens.  One would think that this would encourage vocal opposition  to President Obama’s Executive Order to execute suspected combatant citizens without due process in respect  to the right of a trial by a jury of their peers.  Not a single word has been raised against this grievous violation of a basic constitutional protection.  Where are all the freedom loving, constitution waving Teabaggers?  It’s a natural extension of Republican’s refusal to recognize the full civil rights of  citizens.  As in the case of LGBT civil rights, the GOP’s vision of America protects civil liberties only for select citizens they deem worthy.  The rights of the republic’s citizens and the rule of law be damned.

It is in this light that we can understand Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic characterization of Sandra Fluke as a slut.  Dehumanizing a group of people as “the other” or “less then”  because they hold a contrary position is a dangerous sedition that undermines democracy.

Democracies need its citizens to reach an informed consensus to function.  Consensus requires dialog to assimilate disparate views from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.  This presupposes that the participants in the discussion recognize and value the rights of citizenship for all participants in the dialog.  The highest value in a secular democracy is respecting the equal rights of all citizens.  Without this value democracies crumble.  Our democracy is in shambles.

This weekend Rick Santorum sat upon the alter at the Greenwell Baptist Church to accept the endorsement of Pastor Dennis Terry for the upcoming Louisiana primary.   After laying his hands on Santorum to bless his candidacy,  Pastor Terry delivered a sermon that spewed fire and brimstone onto the reprobate head of our secular democracy.  “America” he said “was a Christian Nation ruled by Christ the King.  He said American’s don’t worship Buddha, Allah or any other false Gods.  He said American’s worshiped the God on High, Jesus Christ.  And if they don’t like it they can get out.”  As a Christian I can’t tell you how much I loathe this blatant bigotry.  Jesus was all about inclusion and tolerance and I’m sure he would make short work of this Pharisee.  As an American citizen, I can’t think of a more ignorant and damaging characterization of  America’s promise and the democratic values it professes to uphold.

GOP wunderkind Paul Ryan, yesterday unveiled a budget that assiduously accounts for the price of every tax loop hole, generous corporate welfare allocation and tax reduction for the wealthy while demonstrating a chilling indifference for slashed social programs and its impact on human beings.  Republican’s know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  The party of values is thoroughly bankrupt.

Music Selection:  Sen. John McCain, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Risk: democracy, values, political culture

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, conservatism, culture, faith, gay rights, goverment, Iran, LGBT, McCain, Obama, politics, prayer, religion, republicans, values | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aids Awareness Day: Silence is Death

Today is Aids Awareness Day.  The organizations and people who have tirelessly worked to rid the world of this terrible plague is expected to announce that the scourge of Aids has peaked and that it is believed that in the struggle to manage, control and eradicate Aids the tide has turned.  Some believe that the total eradication of Aids is within reach and could someday soon become a reality.

I remember when the Aids virus came to the attention of the general public.  It was first called “the gay influenza” because of the preponderance of infection within the gay community.  I also recall a news broadcast that identified the first Aids carrier into the United States.  If I remember correctly it was reported that a Scandinavian Air steward had the unfortunate distinction of being carrier 001.  A convenient scapegoat that supported the narrative of the disease as transmitted and carried by promiscuous gay lifestyles.

As the plague of Aids grew it devastated the gay community.  Young beautiful men in the prime of their lives withered away to become living cadavers as the HIV virus ravaged their bodies. Caregivers and doctors fought to combat the disease but its cause and cure remained a mysterious enigma that baffled and perplexed researchers as the toll of is devastation mounted.

Friends, lovers and families were ripped apart by death and ignorance.  Bigoted intolerant beliefs were voiced that the disease was God’s retribution visited upon Sodomites for their sinful behaviors. The vibrant gay communities of Castro and Christopher Street were besieged within by the virus and from the outside by the rising vitriol and condemnation of the gay lifestyles.  The growing virulence of anti-gay bigotry paralleled the rising death toll of Aids victims.  The mysterious terror of the disease permitted public opinion to elevate the sin of homosexuality from a “misdemeanor nuisance crime” to a capitol offense.  Many believed the ghettoization of the gay communities was a rational response to quarantining Aids.  Bigots preached that God’s Divine Retribution would snuff out Aids as the last gay man succumbed  to the virus confined within the walls of their profane ghetto.

Medical science, social service and compassionate empathy of caregivers turned the tide and public perception concerning the nature, causes and treatment for Aids.  Today we understand that this disease is not a gay affliction but is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system. HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.  Aids afflicts people of all social classes, color, nationality and is particularly prevalent in the Third World where unprotected sex is common.

Aids Awareness Day brings us full circle about the need to be vigilant in seeking understanding and practicing intentional compassion.  Our ignorance and our willingness to blame a segment of society as the cause and curse of  Aids made us all complicit in the victimization of sufferers.  It also make us defacto carriers of the disease by enabling the politics of intolerance and exclusion by erecting a wall of silence around the steeples of bigotry.  Silence is death.  May our voices and prayers always be heard in affirmation of all life.

Selah

Lavender Light Gospel Choir: Be Encouraged 

World Aids Day

Scripture Reading: Mark 5

December 1, 2011 Posted by | LGBT, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Then They Came For Me

The ones shouting loudest with greatest vehemency for liberty are ironically the proponents of its gravest threat.   Rep. Peter King, the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled hearings on the radicalization of the US Muslim community and its threat to the homeland.  Mr. King said the hearings are the result of a growing concern by law enforcement officials that the US Muslim community has not been cooperative in rooting out the home grown terrorists multiplying within their midst.  In service to liberty’s highest ideals, the ever vigilant Mr. King looks to initiate an assault on the civil liberties of our brother and sister Muslim citizens.

A group calling themselves The Liberty Alliance  are in full support of Mr. King’s ethnic profiling and the grave threat it poses to the civil liberties of all citizens.  Mr. King’s committee hearings will be a resplendent grand standing platform for him to play to the basest prejudices of his constituency and stoke up the fear of American angst already overloaded with a symphony of terrors.  Muslims, like the LGBT community and illegal aliens, labor unions and teachers make convenient scapegoats for the myriad problems confronting the nation.  Mr. King and The Liberty Alliance would like us to believe that labor unions have plundered the wealth of the nation.  Teachers have destroyed the schools.  The poor have bankrupted our federal treasury while the LGBT and foreigners continue to undermine the true American Judeo-Christian culture by defiling the purity of its heritage.

Its a grand irony to witness self styled libertarians mobilized into action to attack civil liberties and right to privacy of their fellow citizens.  They clamor for disclosure and transparency with the diabolical refrain,  “if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to be afraid of.” Such seditious thinking undermines the spirit of liberty.  It is a direct assault on a  society governed by laws and its citizens shielded by due process and protected by a Bill of Rights.  These democratic virtues once distinguished America as the shinning  city on a hill.  Now The Liberty Alliance denigrates it with an Orwellian platitude believing civil rights, privacy and due process are covers for terrorist cells that must be dispensed with at all costs.

It is not difficult to divine that  Peter King’s committee will encourage a number of informants to come forward to meet a specified quota for stool pigeonry.   A legion of rats and informants are the armies of despots not agents of democracies.  But these are the same Real American Freedom Fighters who led the charge against American Muslim’s right to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.  Ask them about religious tolerance and the freedom to worship as guaranteed in the US Constitution and they’ll concede the point with the promise to serve Halal meals and build a mosque with extra capacity at Gitmo.

The ones shouting the loudest for liberty do indeed pose the greatest threat to it.  The libertarians who opened the door to 527 llcs have turned Lady Liberty into a common prostitute hiring her out to the highest bidder.  The zealots waving the Constitution with the fervor of a Red Book sprouting Maoist, forms a reactionary vanguard eager to deny the very same sacred civil liberties and rights to fellow citizens in their deranged constitutional republic of unfree and unequal citizens.

Despots and non-democratic societies do not offer or practice universal rights, freedoms and liberties for all its citizens.  Pitting one group against another, scape goating, delineating special classes of people or dual classes of citizenship are hallmarks of repressive societies.  Mr. King’s committee hearing of racial and ethnic profiling divides citizens and denies the constitutional  rights and liberties for Muslims.  This is apartheid.  Gov. Walker’s and Chris Christie’s attack on labor unions and teachers as the source of our economic debasement obfuscates systemic inequities and masks the identities of the perpetrators who plundered the wealth of this nation.  The economic elites are trying to beat the rap by forcing their public elected shills to make the working people of America pay the price for their own victimization.

Peter King’s sons of liberty are complicit agents of enslavement to the power and privilege of corporate oligarchs; hiding behind the billowing smoke of America’s civic strife and brewing internecine struggle.  They are gravely mistaken in believing that they are safely ensconced behind the golden walls of their enclaves the piles of cash allowed them to build to protect themselves  from the seething masses. Mubarak nor Gaddafi’s moat protected strongholds could protect them from the volatile tide of history.

Peter King opening up hearings on radical Islam and its role in creating home grown terrorism is of course just in time for the 2012 election.  It will provide some red meat for rabid Teabaggers screaming for blood.  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other righteous Falangist Crusaders can use the grist of Peter King’s xenophobic fear mill to paint our Mau Mau  loving President and any progressive opponent a Fifth Columnist for the new Caliphate they are working to establish in the last stand of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

You Tube Video:  James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Risk: tolerance, politics, civil liberties, Bill of Rights

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, class, conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, ethnic, faith, gay rights, government, labor unions, LGBT, Muslim, Palin, psychology, race, republicans, social justice, Tea Party, teaching, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

The suicide of Tyler Clementi was more then a personal tragedy for his family, friends, those that loved him and the greater LGBT community. It was an event that forced America to hold up a mirror to itself and take a long honest look. It provided an opportunity for a nation that professes to uphold cultural tolerance and civil liberties for all its citizens to truthfully search its heart to determine how well America upholds these sacred ideals. I believe America found itself wanting.

The practice of self examination is not one of America’s strong points. We are much more comfortable living a life of convenient denial. The military practice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) codified the plausible deniability of institutional ambivalence. It sequestered the need to act to address a nagging injustice. It held the truth hostage so as not to suffer the consequences of an inconvenient truth. It revealed a country in deep state of denial refusing to shatter the myths and the untruths it believed about itself. It pandered to the ugly fears and violent temperament of intolerant zealots that unleashed waves of hateful vindictiveness against the marginalized and most vulnerable. A lie in service to a myth creates and perpetuates a culture of delusion. It allows all citizens to hold tight to our national deceptions, celebrating broken ideals with the untruth of meaningless flags.

America took an important step this weekend with the repeal of DADT. The personal truth of who we are as individuals is now aligned with open and truthful institutions. This landmark legislation corrected a legislative injustice by addressing an institutional discrimination. America must be a place where civil rights for all citizens lies beyond compromise. That is the easy part. Now the hearts of American’s must change and learn to accept the justice that the repeal of DADT upholds.

God apportions equal amount of love to all his children. All are accepted, none denied the grace of light God asks us to walk into. All are fully enfranchised citizens in God Kingdom. The Perpetual Potentate governs over all in perfect justice. The People of the Way are called to be upright citizens in the City of Light. Citizenship requires the beloved “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

God is a radical affirmation of self, free to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit as we have been called. We are called to speak our truth to the power of earthy principalities as we are called to be the truth in the living power of God. Our freedom compels us to “Go Tell it on the Mountain”.

The earthly principalities may have lost the exquisite melodies of Tyler Clementi’s music; but the earthly silence is a resounding reminder to weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance. Tyler’s violin may now lie entombed in its case; but it continues to implore us to sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation, and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love. The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will forever resonate from the highest peaks of joyous affirmation to the lowest valleys of pedestrian dread. The melody of his life will always be with us. This Advent we sojourn to the mountain to sing the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life. We pray with expectant hope that those refusing to listen and those most needing to hear will open deaf ears and join the earthly chorus of all the beloved singing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

absolution is sweet
vindication better
affirmation divine

Selah

Peace and prayers to all the beloved,

You Tube Music Video: Mahalia Jackson, Go Tell It On The Mountain!

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December 20, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, culture, faith, gay rights, institutional, LGBT, politics, social justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triumph of the Willfulness

This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit,  Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture.  Seems  Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art.  Here’s the link:

Gay Portraiture Exhibit  at Smithsonian.

Smithsonian Hide and Seek Website.

Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction  that promotes censorship  in service to state sponsored propaganda.   From my perspective that is not  the issue at stake here; but  if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”.  Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.

Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.

Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous.  Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad.  The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of  Christian denominations.   Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels.  That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.

File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.

Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems

You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia

December 2, 2010 Posted by | art, Christianity, culture, democracy, LGBT, Muslim, photo, poetry, politics, psychology, secularism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Deserve Better (2): The Damnation of the Democrats

A few days after President Obama took office I remember him emerging from a meeting at the Pentagon.  The summit was arranged to brief the Commander In Chief on the progress of the wars and to assure the nation that the new president was in-sync with his generals and admirals charged with running the war.  Emerging from the highly publicized meeting America’s new war time president stated “as long as the generals take care of what they have to do, we’ll take care of what we have to do.”  I found the statement to be unsettling.  It implied that  the new administration would not alter the course set by the previous administration insuring that the inertia of Bush’s policies and strategies would continue unabated.  On another level Obama’s statement also seemed to suggest an abdication.  I get nervous to think that the Commander in Chief  has ceded civilian control of the greatest military force the world has ever known.  The decision to pursue war or enjoy peace is too delicate a matter to be left to the decisions of an entrenched military-industrial bureaucracy.  The abdication of assertive control, weather its born from the desire to get along, build consensus or a deep seated need for acceptance has been a disturbing custom of Obama’s presidency and the prevailing characteristic of the Democratic Party.

Obama’s easy surrender to established protocols, processes, precedents has been a hallmark of his presidency.  It exemplifies the failure of the Democratic Party’s oppositional legacy to Republican rule during the two previous Bush Administrations.  At every turn, the Democrats gave in to the Republican conservative legislative agenda with little or no dissent.  The Patriot Act, the blind march to  two unnecessary wars, the dismantling of government oversight and regulatory controls on business, the slavish submission to Republican led expenditures or tax cuts in service to corporate welfare and the tepid lip service to the struggle for social justice made the democrats complicit accomplices in America’s dramatic conservative swing.

The democrats failure as an oppositional force to counter the reactionary juggernaut of neo-conservatism has emboldened the reactionary impulses of the ruthless power elites.  Threatened by economic distress and disintegration of our political institutions, Americas ruling  plutocracy has spawned a malevolent Tea Party movement to crush any progressive populism that may arise to counteract their social position, economic power and political sovereignty. The democrats adamant refusal to stand firmly against the destructive impulses of xenophobia and virulent nationalism has allowed an ugly chorus of fear to become our new national anthem.  The resentful voices of suspicion, intolerance and  exclusion grows ever louder each day as emboldened Falangists and neo-fascists take center stage on a surreal  commercial production of American political theater.

In defense of President Obama his presidential campaign and his administration have expressed a deep desire to pursue a political consensus.  This sentiment is admirable and the ability to form a consensus is an absolute and critical virtue to the health of a democratic society.  The freedom to express differing opinions, voice dissent, air grievances, petition, ability to listen, interest to hear, converse, change opinions and assimilate these competing impulses to form a consensus to express the common will are what makes democracies imperfect yet the fairest expression of governance.  Mr. Obama has sought to pursue and build consensus with an opposition Republican Party that has been nothing short of obstructionist since the democrats assumed control of the Executive office.  Rush “Country Firster” Limbaugh said it best “I hope he fails” set the tone and sealed the intractability of Republicans and any possibility of bipartisan cooperation to deal with the critical issues confronting the nation.

Last summers spectacle of town meetings designed to initiate a national conversation on Health Care Reform devolved into a partisan shouting match and an opportunity for the formation of the Tea Party galvanized by propaganda about a socialist takeover of the economy, death panels, and the idea that President Obama was a fascist dictator.  At this point President Obama still took the opportunity to sit down with the leadership of the GOP in a televised discussion to initiate a dialog.  The Consensus Builder in Chief was rebuffed again.  The democrats responded by killing single-payer and backing down on universal health coverage.  The watered down health care reform bill accomplished an extension of coverage for more, but not all Americans and eliminated preexisting conditions as a disqualification for coverage while also extending the power of insurance companies by making it mandatory that all tax payers purchase health insurance.

This reform is not a significant ground breaking legislative event.  President Obama and the democrats should have recognized early on the inability to work a compromise with the obstructionists in the Republican Party.  As is the case with Cap and Trade legislation, rescinding  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the Iraq and Afghanistan war, financial services reform, TARP and the economic stimulus bill;  the GOP, “Party of No” has done everything in its power to derail the efforts of the democratic party to address the deep problems confronting America.  The Democratic Party should have leveraged its control of the legislative and executive branch of the Federal Government to push through a program for a new America.  The pressing circumstances of history required decisive leadership and bold ideas to address the complex problems confronting America.  FDR’s “New Deal” or Johnson’s “Great Society” were ideas accompanied by innovative legislation to solve systemic problems.  The democrats tepid response acquiesced to the conservative demands of the GOP.   The Blue Dog Democrats yelped and barked louder then any rabid GOP hound subverting a robust game changing legislative response to the problems confronting America.

The democrats would again demonstrate their timidity in how they responded to the Gulf Oil Spill.  If the free falling economy was the equivalent of economic Armageddon the Horizon Deep Water catastrophic oil spill was its environmental equivalent.  In each case President Obama fashioned piece meal responses designed not to offend “free market evangelists” for fear of being accused of over reaching.  Both instances provided opportunities to mobilize the nation and its significant resources in these titanic tests of national resolve.  In both instances the cojones challenged donkeys failed to seize the reins of state to wield its power.  I am still shocked by images of Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein pulling the strings on Timothy Geithner like a marionette to exact concessions during the banking crisis.  Or consider the high profile of BP CEO,  Tony “I want my life back” Hayward mounting a $50 million PR campaign to quell any concerns that the benevolence of corporate capitalism will eventually “set things right.”    The Republicans turned this into President Obama’s Katrina with Bobby “don’t spend no stim in Louisiana” Jindal taking the EPA to court for declaring a moratorium on deep water drilling.  And the fattest of fat cats Republican Mississippi Governor Haley “rebuild the casinos first” Barbour shaming Obama to spend a portion of his non- Martha Vineyard family vacation swimming in the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a PR disaster for President Obama because he failed to act with the resolve or manner of a strong decisive leader.

But now as the midterms approach the democrats must answer to a crumbling alliance of constituencies that they have taken for granted and failed to help.  They are unable to see  constituents as anything other then a demographic voting block devoid of a face, personality or soul.  The democrats see stereotypes not people.  Labor unions are blue collar voters that now approximate 7% of registered voters.  This year the democratic controlled legislature failed to act on Card Check legislation that would protect the right of labor unions to vote and organize non-union companies.  Another important constituency of the Democratic Party is the LGBT community.  The military said it would comply with the decision of a California District Court  that overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Incredibly, President Obama’s Attorney General appealed the decision and asked the court to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Teacher unions are also big supporters of the Democratic Party, but many democrats support school vouchers and Charter Schools and seem unconcerned that financial and institutional support of public schools continues to erode.  Working class families and woman  are under severe distress as unemployment rates approach 10%, home foreclosures rise , spiraling cost of living increases spike, the cost of sending kids to college slip out of reach and a marked erosion in quality of life and expectations for a secure future and comfortable retirement evaporate.    The democrats did little to solve these pressing problems save the offer of cheap lip service that they understand their pain.  Charlie Rangel secure in the refuge of his four rent controlled apartments will not feel the cold experienced by a homeless mother and her children this winter;  nor will Hillary Clinton lose any sleep worrying about  deploying Chelsea to fight an incomprehensible war in Afghanistan.

This mid term election democratic candidates are running away from their unpopular president.  They will run on a platform of tax cuts and appear as local election district manifestations of gun toting patriotic Christophanies.  The poverty of a party with no conviction of principle is made plain.  Having no principles, Democrats have not offered a true alternative to reactionary Republicanism.  Nearsightedness has robbed them of a vision for a new republic.  They offer no demarcation with the broken policies that preceded their rule.  The hallmark of their governance has been the complete compromise with an recalcitrant opposition; content to administer a broken and corrupt apparatus rather then chart a new path.  The democrats remain shining examples of self serving politicians retuning to office  on mythical inertia to secure rent controlled apartments while public housing remains an endangered and dear want for many.  They believe themselves to be righteously led by the presiding shame of a president made possible by an epic civil rights struggle who cannot muster the fortitude or conviction to extend the equal right of marriage for one of his liberal constituencies.

We deserve better.

You tube Music Video: Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Compared to What

Risk: democracy, two party political system, liberalism

 

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Bush, conservatism, culture, democracy, democrats, environment, labor, LGBT, Obama, politics, recession, republicans, social justice, TARP, taxation, Tea Party, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We Deserve Better (Part 1): Tea Party Fundamentalism

You hear it all the time.  All the candidates running for office are horrible.  The democrats and republicans both stink.  But this guy ain’t as bad as the other guy.  “He is the lesser of two evils”.  So we make our choice based on two evils.  We deserve more then the lesser of two evils.

When you think about it, a lesser evil is still an evil.  Even if its a lesser evil, the essence of its nature will soon enough turn on us as it seeks to actualize the essence of its nature.  It brings to mind Aesop’s Fable of the scorpion and frog.  The scorpion comes to a river that it can’t cross and calls on a passing frog to let it ride on its back to the other side of the river.  The frog was suspicious because it knew of the scorpions venomous nature but finally relented and let the scorpion mount its back for the ride across the river.  When they were halfway across the river scorpion delivered a fatal sting to the frog, dooming them both.   As the deadly venom took its hold, the frog asked the scorpion why it delivered its sting that would destroy them both?  The scorpion answered “it is my nature to sting.”  In a nutshell that is the nature of evil.  It will eventually deliver its sting.  So if we want to be safe we must avoid evil whenever we can.  This is most true when we are considering political candidates.

In many respects The Tea Party has done this country a favor.  They have energized the country by reigniting passion back into the political process.  Their raucous demonstrations and appeal to populist sentiments has served to remind America of its activist heritage and the many protest movements that have been central to the creation of our republic.  America, the great democratic experiment,  is the result of a history of struggle to claim and extend democratic rights and privileges to all citizens.  The great social justice struggles that fought for universal suffrage, women rights, living wages and labor laws, civil rights, environmental protection and antiwar movements are important chapters in America’s story that are often neglected and too often forgotten.  The Frederick Douglas admonition that “power concedes nothing without demand” is a keen wisdom that Tea Party activists have taken to heart.

The Tea Party has adamantly asserted that the elite class of professional politicians is beyond reformation.  The political elites cannot change their nature.  The Democrats and Republicans are well beyond redemption.   A more astute truism has never been spoken.  Here the Tea Party rhetoric diverges from their practice because they advocate support for GOP candidates.  So the first lesson we can learn from the Tea Party is to do what the Tea Party says “don’t trust either party,” not what they do, support the GOP.

I am convinced that both parties are totally bought and controlled by big money channeled through K Street lobbyists doing the bidding of large corporate interests. The final nail in the coffin was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  This decision has altered the democratic scales of our Republic.  They have been dis proportionally tipped against the individual citizen.  The law of the land  has codified this inequity by protecting the right of deep pocketed corporate institutions to purchase the favor of political elites that rule America.  This will further strengthen the entrenched class of the two party monopoly.  This leaves the citizen to content themselves in the illusion that America is still a participatory democracy.  Dressing up in Minuteman costumes to pretend we are racing off to meet the dreaded enemies of our republic; and proclaiming an intention to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants makes for amusing political theater in a land where  the value of one man one vote is severely distressed.

Here the mendacity of the Tea Party’s populism is made clear.  Tea Party candidates are the principal recipients of corporate money.  This money finances expensive media campaigns that flood the airways of critical electoral districts with advocacy ads  in support of Tea Party sponsored candidates.  This money is also used to attack liberal Democratic Party opponents.  The populist claims of the Tea Party are bankrupted by the heaps of corporate gold flowing into their campaign war chests.  This prompts conservatives to parrot “global warming is a liberal fiction” and “God placed oil on this earth for our use and its our divine right to extract it.”  They condemn government regulations as an assault on the economic liberties expressly protected in the Constitution.  It is as if they believed the  natural resource of the land was theirs and not the property of a faceless global corporate entity.

We can also be thankful to the Tea Party for revealing how the core values of conservatism are put into practice.  Property rights trump all rights.  Militarism and nationalism is our salvation.  Tolerance is the hallmark of ignorance.  Compromise and negotiation is a sign of weakness and consensus born from a democratic process must be repressed.   The stridency of their pronouncements seep with homophobia, Islamophobia and insistence on closing the southern border and eradicating illegals within our midst expresses deep cultural and racial fears born from an eroding cultural supremacy.

The geopolitical reality of the changing demographics of America’s ethnic and cultural landscape fuels a desire to arrest the democratic political process.  The populism of  the Tea Party is based on summoning the support of the declining population of Caucasian America.   They give voice to the anger of  the ebbing dominance of a demographic group;  screaming, crying and cursing its economic, political and cultural pain.  Barack Obama manifests the threat in a stark contrast of black and white.  He fuels the fear that gives pointed political focus to the racial aspects of Tea Party politics.  The nations first Afro-American President conveniently offers cover to an undercurrent of racial animus prevalent in Tea Party slogans and images.

The Tea Party’s professed love of the Constitution is disingenuous.  I ask where was their righteous outrage as Bush and the Republicans violated some of the basic tenants of the Constitution.  Most were out front cheering him and his fellow Republicans on.  Their support of positions that deny the basic civil rights to the LGBT community; the clamoring silence concerning violations of privacy rights under the Patriot Act; the failure to recognize religious freedom and the right of Muslims to build mosques; their practice of advocating the selection of circuit judges on the basis of ideological commitment to the GOP and the endorsement of torture and unlimited imprisonment without due process for enemy combatants in the war on terror are examples of their disdain for constitutional protections and basic human rights.

Fundamentalism is a strain of thought that is psychologically appealing in a complex world with no easy answers.  With fundamentalism the cosmology is all figured out.  There is no need to ask any questions because the answers are self evident truths that confirm the ideology before the question is asked.  The Tea Party raises the US Constitution with a fervor that rivals any Bible thumping Born Again Christian or Quran fueled Taliban operative.  I heard a Tea Party member once advance the idea that no new legislation can exceed 30 some odd pages in length because that was the length of the original US Constitution.  This thinking fetishizes the Constitution.  It believes the original document to be a holy tablet that the Founding Fathers brought down from the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains.  It fails to take into account that the United States of 2010 is a vastly different place then it was when it emerged on the world scene as the first democratic republic in the late 18th Century.  This fundamentalism fails to remember that some of the original framers of the Constitution were slave holders, considered people property, disenfranchised women and perceived Native Americans as savages and worthy targets of genocide to annex their lands for the new and growing republic.   No the reality of the 21st century nation state and the rights and responsibilities of its citizens in an interconnected global ecosystem has evolved and is vastly different from the time when the Constitution was authored.  The foresighted crafters of our Constitution sat through a sweltering Philadelphia summer and sweated out this hollowed document  through intelligent compromise and a respect for consensus and the democratic process.  It is a vital lesson lost on Tea Party zealots content to wave copies of the document as some righteous proof of their love of country while they profane the spirit and enduring truths of the Constitutions essence.

The Tea Party’s political fundamentalism is mirrored in many respects by the religious fundamentalism held by many of its members.  If the Constitution anoints true believers with political righteousness, religious fundamentalism provides theological justification for a social agenda advanced with nasty intolerance, celebratory bigotry and cultural exclusion.  Religious fundamentalism has long been the cornerstone of the conservative movement.  They attack secularism as an obscene manifestation of the liberal welfare state.  It threatens civil liberties for everyone as it seeks to exclude the full rights citizenship  for all citizens.   It is a dangerous foil aimed at the heart of public education.  It is a tool employed by education reformers to underfund school programs, transfer monies to charter and private schools and transform humanities based curricula. It seeks to replace science in our public schools with stories from the Bible.  Evolution, natural selection, and big bang theories are replaced with creationism and  a 6,000 year old world that was created in 6 days.  Civil law and cultural mores will be guided and enforced by a moral code of prohibitions written 3,000 years ago to bring order to a nomadic tribal people assembling the nation of Israel.

The future competency of our nation and its ability to compete in a complex world is at stake.  America cannot hope to maintain its leadership in the world economy if it allows science to be politicized, its schools to crumble and a segment of its people not fully enfranchised with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  The greatest danger is the installation of a bifurcated society where well to do Judeo-Christian Caucasians are in a position to purchase the best education, access health care services and enjoy a full pallet of rights and freedoms not available to the growing stable of “others” lawfully excluded from their rightful inheritance of citizenship.

The Tea Party has crystallized the choice in the coming election.  Beware of the Bible thumper.  Beware of the Constitution waver.  The stridency of  Tea Party proponent’s and their religio-political fundamentalism may stand like “Old Hickory” on a timely quote from their sacred tomes but  resorting to such a defense reveals an inherent weakness in their argument.  No dialog, no consensus, no possibility of arriving at a democratic resolution to problems.  Tea Partyer’s may offer factual recitations from the books but no understanding and less truth can be found in pronouncement of their words.

You Tube Music Video: Art Tatum, Tea for Two

Risk: Constitution, secular democracy, education, civil rights

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, class, culture, democracy, elections, government, labor, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion, republicans, social justice, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tea Party Serves Up Witches Brew

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
MacBeth,  William Shakespeare

Shakespeare could have written these words to describe America’s deteriorating political culture. Spoken by three witches as they wait to deliver a message to Macbeth, it accurately captures the foul stink of ideas espoused and tactics employed by Tea Party candidates and the tacit acceptance of their supporters as fair rules of engagement. The repugnant swill served up by the Tea Party and the alarming rise of a growing citizenry eagerly lapping it up at the Party’s public demonstrations and civic events is a disturbing indication of America’s radical rightest shift. The concoction offered at the filthy troughs by Tea Party candidates is a mixture of demagoguery, character assassination, blatant lies, bigotry, intolerance and xenophobia. They shout Anti-Federalist slogans, denounce Obamacare and the “socialist president” living at the White House as a fascist dictator. Hoisting Don’t Tred on Me flags, while tramping about in costumes dressed like Minutemen, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross and Hitlerian likenesses of Obama they would make for amusing political theater if it were not for the seriousness of the threat to democracy these misguided people pose.

The Tea Party articulates a steady stream of fear, loathing and mistrust. It effectively creates a fog of obfuscation to cloak the identity of its well financed backers allowing them to hide behind layers of opaque corporate structures. As of September 1, over $200 million was raised by Conservative groups to purchase issue oriented ads that attack liberals and support positions of conservative candidates. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, has raised approximately $65 million from anonymous backers and he is strategically deploying it in districts and campaigns to fuel the conservative juggernaut and regain the House and Senate for the GOP.   This is the genie the Supreme Court unleashed with its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Its a genie that Karl Rove knows how to tame and use to do the bidding of his corporate masters. These funds do not include the amount of direct funds raised by candidates. In hotly contested campaigns like Nevada Senate election, Tea Party endorsed Sharron Angle has raised over $14 million during the third quarter alone. In Delaware Christine O’Donnell raised close to $3 million in the two and half weeks since winning the Republican primary. Big money from well financed backers are flowing into the political coffers of Tea Party candidates. Following the money trail will more likely then not lead to a well carpeted corporate headquarters belying the purported “populist” agenda of the Tea Party movement.

Teabaggers are the shock troops, the populist covers for powerful global institutions that are salivating to carve up and consume the distressed assets of America that are up for sale and available to the highest bidder. America has hospitals, shopping malls, auto manufacturers, bridges, water pipelines, toll roads, shipping ports, offshore oil leases, minerals begging to be liberated from National Park dungeons, vast public school networks, community banks, military contracts, natural gas waiting to be fracted loose, toll roads, lots of distressed mortgages and millions of foreclosed homes weighing like a lead sinker on banks balance sheet yearning to be turned into a liquid asset. These are the real prizes at stake in America’s election. The Tea Party’s professed love of liberty and the constitution is useful only in so far as its expressed in their unquestioned commitment to laissez-faire democracy. Get government out of the way, no regulations, no taxes, no protections, no minimum wages and no unions. This is the cornerstone and common mantra of conservatives that opens the door to monied interests to snap up unencumbered assets on the cheap without any restrictions.  It is the continued plundering of America.

Our revulsion to the repugnant statements of Tea Party candidates makes one wonder if they are engaged in a deliberate attempt to heighten our antipathy to the political process. Christine O’Donnell now well known coy TV ad of “I’m not a witch.”; Tea Party congressional candidate from Ohio Rich Iott’s bumbled pronouncement, “I am not a Nazi”; New York Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s statement “I don’t want homosexuality taught in schools”; and Sharron Angle’s assertion that “We must oppose the Sharia Governments of Dearborn Michigan and Frankfort Texas” seem to be comedic inanities spoken by political demagogues playing to the lowest common denominator of their low information voting constituents. Unfortunately, I don’t find humor in a thug espousing his homophobia, a dimwitted shill advancing religious bigotry clothed as “righteous intolerance”, a US congressional candidate aggrandizing Nazism or a Sarah Palin wannabe obfuscating critical issues confronting this nation with the affectations of her ego. One must pause and ask why are these ideals emanating from the Tea Party movement. It clearly expresses an ideology that is antithetical to the constitution and represents a virulent political strain that threatens civil rights and personal liberty. Teabaggers supporting Paladino’s homophobia, smiling at O’Donnell’s witchery and winking at Iott’s Nazi fantasies detract attention from serious candidates offering political alternatives.  A disturbing example is Laura Wells, the Green Party Gubernatorial candidate for California who was barred from participating in the political debate and was later arrested for trespassing at a post debate party. This is a hair on fire moment for America.

It is a huge mistake to dismiss these comedic political pawns as the current election cycle’s candidate du jour. Big money is laying big sums on the line to support and control these candidates. The Tea Party and the big hidden money of the GOP is casting a bewitching spell on the electorate. MacBeth’s regicide is small change compared to Karl Rove’s intent to deliver a deathblow to democracy. Rove is mixing a special Tea Party elixir just for the occasion.

“Double, double toil and trouble,”
Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

 

You Tube Music Video: The Stangelings, Season of the Witch

Risk: democracy, constitution, elections

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Civil Rights, culture, democracy, Federalism, LGBT, Obama, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elevated Terror Threat for LGBT Community

The Department of Homeland Security needs to raise the terror threat level to Severe Bloody Red.   The escalation of attacks, intimidation and threats against the LGBT community is on the rise and taking a bloody toll.  The most recent consequence of escalating harassment have resulted in the tragic suicides of two young teenagers and the curiously deranged and dangerous social media stalking of a gay university student leader by an assistant attorney general from the State of Michigan.    These attacks pose a clear and present danger to the physical safety and emotional wellness of the LGBT community.  It exemplifies the prevailing climate of intolerance and bigoted hatred exponentially spawning in the polluted vitriol of America’s political culture.  It is clothed in the righteous banality of religious fundamentalism.  Justified with the certainty of theological platitudes  and enforced with the zealous sword  of biblical scripture.  It presents an extreme risk to the civil liberties of all citizens.  It assails our right to freely associate, compels behavior and demands conformity of thought and adoption of a common belief system.  It is a grave and  looming threat to our democratic way of life.

Tyler Clementi was a college freshman at Rutgers University.  Tyler, a gifted musician, diligent student, good friend and loving son jumped off the George Washington Bridge after Dahrun Ravi, his roommate of three weeks, surreptitiously videoed a sexual encounter Tyler had with another male and broadcast it on a social media site. To ensure the video attracted wide exposure, Mr. Ravi Tweeted to his followers that they should log on to the live stream.  The horror and shame of being victimized by a vicious hate crime and personally violated in such a manner was too much to bear.  Mr. Clementi chose to end his pain by taking his own life.

Understanding this event as the result of a misguided college prank gone wrong or an unfortunate consequence enabled by the misuse of powerful social media technologies misses the point.  To do so would absolve Mr. Ravi’s distorted and heinously warped value system.  His punitive glee in perpetrating the offense.  His demonstrative lack of capacity to feel empathy or acceptance of his roommates sexuality.  His failure to recognize his right to privacy.  His lack of any sense of compassion.  Mr. Ravi’s prurient pursuit of degradation and defamation of his hate crime victim and his intent to do extreme harm to Mr. Clementi is evidence of his deep rooted and socially acceptable homophobia that is shared with many people.

It is curious that one would expect that as a person of color, Mr. Ravi would have a heightened sensitivity to the poison of prejudice and the destructive capacity of  hate crimes.  Trying to understand Mr. Ravi’s motives for his action is an impossibility for anyone to fathom save himself; but one can surmise that as a person of color Mr. Ravi may have experienced a situation where he was cast as “the other”.  The other is always an uncomfortable and dangerous geography to inhabit.  The alien outsider, one who stands apart and is different from the dominate ethnic, racial, creed or sexual orientation is usually cast in shrouds of suspicion, fear and ridicule.  Perhaps Mr. Ravi’s attempt to revile an LGBT person because of their sexuality was an attempt to gain acceptance with his classmates by victimizing Mr. Clementi in league with other straits?   Mr. Ravi gets a pass and is welcomed into the inner circle as one of the good ole boys whose prejudices, fears and bigotries mirror the dominant culture.  The price of admission for Mr. Ravi was the death of his roommate.

The other disturbing factor in Mr. Ravi’s assault was the use of social media technologies.   Many youths enabled with powerful communication platforms like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter have a difficult time perceiving the boundaries of private and public life.  The domain of the public persona and private life has become obscured and confused by the ethical vagaries and accessibility of a multichannel digital life.  Since the time of their birth, today’s youth have been totally saturated, empowered and enraptured in the world of digital technologies and media.  It has become the necessary open source to project your ego, display your passion and live out your angst as a real time avatar.   The reality of interpersonal connections and human skills erodes in a universe of self seeking holograms guided by a radical social ethos to project power through the aggressive pursuit of self will with the ultimate objective to seek aggrandizement and demand  instant gratification.  Mr. Ravi used that power to devastating effect.

Mr. Ravi may believe that his technical prowess provided him license to pursue the character assassination of his victim.  Questions will arise about the harm these social media technologies can cause.  Many believe the power of the technology is to vast and dangerous for teens and children and provides tools for stalkers, predators and criminals to aid their enterprise to exploit others to do harm.  A great example being the recent clamor about Craig’s List and its promotion and support of child prostitution and sexual slavery.  The proliferation of online bullying, sexting and other pernicious uses of social media technologies are problems with no easy solutions.  No doubt these are real concerns but it is not the inherent nature of the technology that is at fault it is the values and intent of the users of technology that are cause for concern.

The problem is not about having too much freedom, or having access to enabling technologies we don’t yet  know how to tame.  Twitter,  Facebook, and blogging sites empower the user.  Like the Luddites of old who believed machines were enslaving them the crux of the matter lied in the intent, use, control and deployment of the technology.  These technologies are powerful tools to enlighten, cultivate, uplift and empower individuals but it can also  just as easily be used as tools to harm, denigrate, enslave and oppress.  Its all about human values.  The values of a society that believes it has the license and the moral conviction to defame and destroy the lives of others because they have the means and tacit consent to do so is terrorism.   The fact that one can quote Leviticus, or find the appropriate passage from the Quran or  St. Paul does not justify nor confer the right to “righteously” expose, denounce or shame a perceived moral depravity in a secular society.

That brings us to the other tragic suicide, 13 year old Asher Brown, returned home from school last week, walked into his closet and used a handgun to end his life as a result of being terrorized by his Middle School classmates in Houston.  Classmates of Asher bullied him and taunted him about his perceived homosexuality.  On the day Asher took his own life, he admitted to his parents that he was gay.  It is startling and comforting to learn that Asher felt safe enough in his own home to admit his sexual orientation to his parents.  Asher’s mother and father accepted their son’s sexuality and did not scorn or condemn him.  They continued to unconditionally love and embrace their son as all good parents do.

It is unfortunate that the boy’s  tormentors did not share the same understanding and practice the acceptance of Asher’s parents.  Children live and emulate what they learn from their parents and communities they participate and live in.  If children are prisms of the families and communities that create them the bullying behavior and bigoted hated must have been a keystone of Asher’s tormentors homes.  Public education is under sever pressure.  Homophobia and bullying is not on the curricula of the public school system.  Tolerance, diversity and secularism are values that  public schools try to promote and are often the ideals that are derided by indidivuals and institutions that condemn public schools as propagators of these “liberal values”.   In response to their abhorrence to these unsavory ideals they choose to home school their children and teach them to fear Ungodly secularism, be wary those who are different and condemn the sinfulness and moral depravity of same sex relations.  Demonizing homosexuals and preaching distrust for people and persons who may not look or think like you do is fertile ground for a violent reaction to express the pent up fear and resentment of the alien and reprobate other.

Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the public school system has been directed to be a “value neutral” institution.  It is pressured to reform its curricula to better reflect the prevailing conservative culture that demands creationism be taught as a science, Darwinism is dangerous and unionized teachers are fonts of liberal ideology that needs to be silenced.  The learning  experience in the public school system has devolved  into a mundane exercise of  preparatory drills  to take commercially developed state examinations.  Teachers and institutional  effectiveness is quantitatively  measured by a students ability to retain a series of specious facts.  The quality of the educational experience, love of discovery, pursuit and exchange of ideas, respect for diversity and different points of view are lost in the “value free”  world of pedestrian test taking and fact retainment.  Had these children been schooled in the value of tolerance and the reality of diversity or had time and opportunity to interact with other children unlike themselves, the fear and resentment of Asher may have been lessened and the young boy may still be with us.

The crowning jewel in this trinity of hate has to be the State of Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell.  Mr. Shirvell has engaged in a cyber bullying of University of Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong.  Mr. Armstrong is openly gay and was elected by the university’s student body to represent them.  This has not sat well with Mr. Shirvell a University of Michigan alumnus and a fundamentalist Christian.  Mr. Shirvell has started a website, Chris Armstrong Watch where he unleashes a consistent homophobic fueled diatribe against Mr. Armstrong’s alleged “radical homosexual agenda”.

As a private citizen, Mr. Shirvell closely peruses Mr. Armstrong’s Facebook page to pick out posts and photo’s that raise his ire and uses the material as grist for his Chris Armstrong Watch website.  The accompanying comments and altered reproductions of Mr. Armstrong photo’s scream about his elitism, sexual degeneracy and Nazi like political tactics Mr. Armstrong employs in service to the advancement of a radical homosexual agenda.

This is truly frightening stuff.  A state Assistant Attorney General scouring Facebook pages and setting up a blog site dedicated to attacking and undermining a student leader because of his sexual identity is sickening and comes dangerously close to the abuse of office which I understand Mr. Shirvell was relieved of today.  Mr. Shirvell defends his actions on the grounds that he is exercising his rights of free speech as a private citizen.  Driven by his Christian fundamentalist faith and a reactionary political ideology,  Mr. Shirvell’s political fixation and strident personal vilification of  Mr. Armstrong are classic Rovian attack politics.  Mr. Shirvell stands shoulder to shoulder with James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart.  All three have shown a disdain for the truth, law and private rights of their targets in pursuit of a radical right wing agenda.

The values of a society that believes it has the right and the moral conviction to defame and destroy the lives of others because they have the ideological conviction, means and tacit consent to do so is the definition of tyranny and its pursuit is terrorism.  The US Constitution protects all citizens from zealots emboldened by personal truths derived from their holy scrolls.  A secular democracy protects the civil rights of its citizens and frees them from the righteous tyranny of others.  The Constitution stipulates that there is a single law of the land and it is a  violation of civil rights and a crime to expose, denounce or shame a person based on a theological interpretation of moral depravity.  The Constitution is the final arbiter and surest protection of individual liberty for all; damning the psychological culture of extreme political egoism advanced by Shirvell, Breitbart and O’Keefe.

Character assassination and appeal to the baser instincts of fear and loathing help propagandists to demarcate the lines that separate groups, reinforce prejudice and make dialog and the formation of consensus all but impossible.  Consider if you will a government administration populated with individuals with the temperament of Shrivell, O’Keefe and Breitbart.  America would be ruled by a government that edits reality to conform to their ideology.  It would propagate a political narrative that blindly  pursues ideology by running rough shod over the personal life of citizens while resorting to character annihilation and entrapment tactics.  It would truly be an embodiment of an Orwellian nightmare

The terror threat must be raised.  Terrorists are harming our citizens.  The world will miss the gracious presence of Asher’s beautiful smile.  Asher will never anoint another with the promise of renewal again.  The dear gift of youthful transformation is now lost to a world deeply in need of a rebirth.  The precious resource of Asher is squandered and silenced by those clinging to the old ways of ugly bigotry.   Asher’s spirit will remain with all who loved him and venerated by all who respect individual liberty.

We have also lost the exquisite melodies of  Tyler Clementi’s music.  Tyler’s silence will never weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance.  Tyler’s violin now entombed in its case will never sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love.  The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will never be heard again.  Tragic that the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life was quieted by the deaf ears of those refusing to listen and most needing to hear it.

Rest in peace beloved.

Youtube Music Video: Janine Jansen, Lark Ascending

Risk: LGBT, civil rights, constitution, free speech

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, culture, democracy, education, gay rights, government, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion, social justice, teaching, terrorism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment