Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Two Americas

Bill Maher recently did a bit on the Eco-friendly packaging of Sun Chips. In its desire to get down with the Go Green marketing trend, Frito-Lay developed a biodegradable bag. It was hoped the new package would alleviate some of the toxic burden traditional polyethylene packaging places on landfills. It was a great idea and a small sign of forward progress in developing environmentally friendly waste management solutions for our conspicuously consumer centric throw away society. Seemed like a good idea until Frito-Lay started to get negative feedback from its customers on its packaging.  The crescendo of noise the crackling bags made was too much for the sensitive ears of Sun Chips consumers. In deference to their clients wishes Frito-Lay scrapped the Eco-friendly packaging and returned to the old polyethylene bags.

Its amazing how a small inconvenience compels us to to cede the pursuit of the better path.  The paths that affirms our better nature and sustains life is abandoned because it is burdensome or makes too much noise.  It pesters our ears, it hectors our comforts.  We prefer to down our cholesterol in the silence of compliant bags rather then suffer the annoyance of a deafening crinkle to protect the environment and save the planet. We take the easier path that confirms the adage “have it your way”.  In America the personal “my way” is the only way.  After all this is America and that is what freedom is all about.  My way or the highway.  Can I get an Amen?

During the holiday season the big stink was about the Transportation Security Authority (TSA).  The news was flush with reports of travelers outraged by how TSA personal were overly intrusive and overstepped the bounds of decency and deportment as they screened exasperated airline passengers trying to board planes. Travelers became angry and ornery complaining about the violation of their person and screamed violent threats at TSA personnel if they “touched their junk”.

I find it a bit curious that the response to this egregious violation of personal liberty fails to call for the repeal of laws that codify the erosion of  our freedoms.  In its stead we learn states are busy passing privilege and immunity laws that confer special rights to certain classes of citizens. The Arizona Immigration law that was enacted earlier in the year burdens Latinos with proving they belong  to be living amongst us.  Its a pathway to a softer kinder Apartheid that codifies a bifurcation of citizenship and the value and validity of a persons humanness.  In its wake the value of liberty and our humanity both plummet.

The notion of Two Americas is not new.  Its just that the glaring injustice  threatening our society is becoming too stark to ignore.  This pernicious sedition is the gravest threat undermining our democracy.  It is a greater threat then any attack Al Qaeda could ever mount on America. In 1962 Michael Harrington wrote “The Other America”.  It was instrumental in publicizing the pervasive poverty that existed in America.  In response to the growing  threat poverty and the cultural and economic fissure it created between the of “haves and have nots,”  the Johnson Administration initiated a war on poverty.  The Great Society legislation was enacted to insure that all citizens are enfranchised with the vote and that a social safety net would catch any citizen from being swallowed by the great divide.  Today such notions are condemned as socialistic and unAmerican.

While the richest 1% of American’s continue to amass great fortunes for themselves gobbling up a disproportionate amount of income the much greater proportion of our countrymen sees its standard of living erode as the Two Americas  drift further apart.  The well off cash their fat dividend checks from a roaring stock market that has less to do with the economic development of America then the self enrichment of capitalist speculators.  The greatest irony is that as they sit atop their piles of cash they remain convinced that their riches confirm the greatness of America and that their wealth is why America remains great.

When President Obama took office the country was in a terrible state.  Two wars were raging, unemployment was spiraling upward, foreclosures were throwing millions of Americans out of their homes and an epidemic of small business bankruptcies was a plague ravishing Main Street USA.   During times like these you would think patriotic minded citizens would come together to aid the country in its dire hour of need; but the GOP led a virulent opposition whose single goal was Obama’s failure.  Their obstructionism added distance to the divide and America suffers for it.  The ugliness of the debates concerning Health Care Reform spurred the creation of a political dialog that delegitimatized governing institutions.  It  made the ability to reach consensus impossible and prompted threats that Second Amendment solutions would be considered to remedy ill considered legislation.

In the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre, we dusted off the old debate about gun control and wheeled it on to center stage again.  Many believe that the mentally ill murderer should have not been allowed to purchase a semi-automatic Glock and the 30 round clip that served to enlarge the scope of Jared Loughner’s terrible carnage.

All are thankful for Gabrielle Gifford’s miraculous recovery from her head wound.  All hope for a speedy and full recovery of the thirteen wounded and offer condolences to the six citizens whose lives were senselessly ended.  But all don’t believe the availability of guns should be restricted.  In fact many believe that had more citizens been armed the death toll of innocents would not have been as great because it would have included Jared Loughner before he could finish his grim work.  I’m not so sure.  I believe it more likely that a widely armed citizenry encourages wanton barbarity then the well considered promotion of dispassionate civic discourse.

Differences of opinion are critical to a healthy society.  The ability to have dialog and assimilate differences in a shared consensus in service to country is what makes democracies the best form of government.

If we are a people who prize freedom we cannot be complicit accomplishes in ceding our liberties.   We must be vigilant missionaries seeking to enlarge the pallet of liberty for all  people.  Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” Affirming a respect for our shared humanity, equal rights of citizenship and sense of duty to one another in service to our country and democratic way of life is how we breech the walls that divide us and bridge the fissures that separate.  These are the characteristics of  a great nation and protecting them serves to maintain the greatness of its people.  It is how out of many becomes one.  It may require that you put up with the annoying noise of a loud obnoxious windbag but the savory delight of the bread of freedom is well worth it.

You Tube Music Video:  Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Freedom Now Suite, We Insist

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, culture, consensus

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January 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, democracy, homelessness, MLK, Obama, poverty, recession, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is a component of Chaos Theory.  A butterfly flaps its wings in a far away place creating tiny ripples that begin a flow of cause and effect energy that eventually creates a hurricane force wind.  These tiny ripples, seemingly irrelevant can precipitate and contribute to a major event. The right set of factors comes together and a major event takes place.  Can the humble service of an single person create a butterfly effect?

Last year President Obama designated Martin Luther King Day as a day of service.  It seems a fitting designation for a day dedicated to a man who lived a life in service to others and willingly gave that life to realize his ideals.  MLK, Jr. offered his life to the struggle for civil rights to protect the human dignity of all people.  There is no higher calling for citizens of a democratic republic.  Civil rights and the protection of human dignity is the foundation of a democratic society.  Equal protection under the law for all citizens and unfettered access to all its rights and privileges are the surest safeguard of a peoples security and liberty.  MLK, Jr. perished in the struggle to enlarge and protect that liberty for all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, creed or color.  It is the responsibility of all citizens to place themselves in service to protect and enlarge the dream of liberty and freedom.  A failure to assume this responsibility risks failure of our democratic culture and the relinquishment of personal liberty.

As individuals,  we are overwhelmed by the massive problems that confront us.  We freeze in place as we witness an avalanche of cataclysmic world events.  The endless duration of incomprehensible wars, the vicious repression employed by intractable power elites, the posturing and threats of great nations intent on projecting their power, global economic calamity and disenfranchisement brought on by institutional excess and governance failure, cultural intolerance spawning sectarian violence and the massive natural disaster calamities intent on assaulting  our humanity by delivering devastation to the most vulnerable among us; conspire to immobilize us.   As a people we are left to stand mute unable to comprehend and unwilling to act out of fear of wasting good efforts to no effect.  Ambivalence of conviction, vacillation of intent, cynicism in thought are subversive elements that are more powerful then 1,000 Al-Qeada cells because the subversion of terror nests securely in the minds of seemingly free people.  These subversives incessantly whisper “distrust liberty for all and learn to loathe the responsibility that freedom requires of free people.”

This weeks Haitian earthquake is an event that startles, humbles and hopefully shakes us from our torpor and ignites a desire to serve.  The massive destruction and sweeping misery of its aftermath is a clarion call for a humane response to address this assault on our shared humanity.   Yet in its wake, leading televangelist Pat Robertson opines that the earthquake was God’s way of delivering retribution on the people of Haiti.  Mr. Robertson believes the old Haitian superstitious folklore that Haiti made a pact with the devil to free themselves from the colonial domination of France.  Mr. Robertson’s theology proves Thomas Paine’s wise maxim that “a belief in a cruel God makes for a cruel man.”    Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of President Obama’s immediate call to marshal aid to the stricken country prompted the Ditto-head and Chief to state that the President’s call to aid Haiti was a political ploy designed to gain favor with the light and darker shades of people of color.

We recoil in horror at Pat Robertson’s vision of a God that keeps score.  A God whose patience spans generations,  eagerly waiting to notch another victim into the wooden handle of his deadly cosmic six shooter.  Such spiritual poverty and moral bankruptcy is a self evident truth.  We are equally appalled though hardly surprised at Mr. Limbaugh’s deep cynicism and his gleeful celebration of racism and partisan vindictiveness.  What both pronouncements share is an offer of absolution for moral ambivalence to their constituents and a warning to remain politically suspicious of institutional  response to this massive human tragedy.

God weeps at the peril of his children and the Beneficent One is moving nations and people to serve and respond to the pressing need of the Haitian people.  Individuals from all over the world are giving time, treasure and prayers in response to this tragedy.  People of good will everywhere are placing themselves in service to the people of Haiti out of compassion to relieve suffering and a compulsion to protect the sacredness of our shared humanity.  The world goes up in a collective cheer each time a search and rescue team extract another small soul from the hell of a mountain of rubble.  Refusing to walk away from the plight, refusing to avert our eyes from the pressing need of a people in need is a desperate rescue mission of a most fragile respect for our shared humanity.

Small people everywhere are flapping tiny butterfly wings, creating a gale force wind to knock down the walls that divide us.  It is the only way to solve the massively complex  global problems that work to undermine us.  The collective desire to change overcomes the sense of our powerlessness to change.  Just like a Baptist Minister from Montgomery, or a tiny woman who refused to go to the back of the bus, big things emanate from the smallest places.  All one must do is begin to spread the wings and flap.  Today is a very good day to flap our wings and offer prayers that our small individual actions taken together will blow down the barriers that divide and address the problems that vex humanity.

You Tube Music Video: Mavis Staples, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Risk: ambivalence, paralysis, cynicism,

 

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, culture, democracy, faith, government, holiday, LGBT, MLK, politics, seasons, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Remembering the Passing of MLK Jr.

Today we pause to honor the memory and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With great reverence we mark the passing of this great man.

Our American Moses went to the mountaintop.

MLK Jr. was a courageous risk taker.

He was a major force in transforming the American political and social landscape.

He was a man of vision and strong conviction and was a steadfast advocate and fighter for social justice and peace.

He advocated the road of peaceful means and non-violence to effect social change.

He truly embodied and exemplified the teachings of his savior Jesus Christ.

He was a prophet and a great American.

I am honored to be his countrymen and blessed that I lived to know and witness his life and work.

“But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. ” Mark 6:4

God bless you Reverend King.

You Tube Video: Marian Anderson, Lincoln Memorial Recital

April 5, 2008 Posted by | Civil Rights, MLK | Leave a comment