Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

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

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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

Toward A New Iconoclasm

Its good to be the King.  When King James ruled England at the dawn of the 17th Century he authored a doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.  He likened his position as “little Gods on Earth”, who were chosen by Divine Providence to rule and to make the rules.

The current incarnation of King James, in the form of Lebron James also assumes the form of a Little God.  Since the announcement of his free agency status, His Highness has captured the imagination of sports fans, entertainment moguls, broadcast network executives, local businessmen, political leaders and product marketing pros keen to see how the hottest entertainment property in sports maximizes its value by casting his bread upon the waters of free market capitalism.

This marketing juggernaut held the hopes of major metropolitan areas hostage to the idea that King James may anoint their humble cities by moving his throne to one of  their majestic sports palaces.  The hope is that King James and supporting cast will bring an NBA crown to the impoverished masses starved to eat the championship crumbs that fall from His Highness’s banquet table.  It is believed that the Court of King James will establish a home court dynasty, erecting the preeminent Kingdom that will rule over all the lesser fiefdoms of the NBA.

Five cities planned coronation ceremonies for King James but only one city would be able to taste the bread of champions his rule would surely bring to his new kingdom.  That would leave four other cities wanting; condemning them to suffer the hunger of unfulfilled championship dreams they believe only King James can bring to their metropolis.  King James commanded an hour of air time on ESPN to make his royal decree that he would accept Miami’s urgent petition and join The Heat.   King James’ former kingdom, Cleveland suffered the worst of it.  The abdication of their beloved King has shocked this secondary market hamlet into a deep examination of self worth, prompting the fear of deepening economic malaise and a self loathing brought to the surface by the painful rejection by their home town deity.

In a broader sense we should all learn from Cleveland’s experience.  The connection between a human commodity and its consumer is always a tenuous and short lived relationship.  If the consumer can afford the price,  a human commodity will bestow its attention with fealty and reciprocated affection.  America is a highly developed market of  culture consumers.  We invest a great amount of economic and  psychological capital into relationships with media stars, entertainment products and sports heroes.  We confer a royal status upon them.  Our veneration is measured in dollars spent and emotional capital invested.  We believe them to be sacred icons.  Our gleeful consumption of these identity product brands contort and warp our souls.  We begin to believe that they are part of us and construct an existential fantasy that these product brands are actually connected to us.  The sex appeal of Lady GaGa’s consumer fetishism, the nobility of  Sarah Palin’s political opportunism and the dominating machismo of LeBron James supra athleticism are powerful branding conventions.   This radical branding, the brainchild of  handlers and marketing professionals is solely employed to maximize brand value and to move the goods of Me Inc. into the heads and hands of frenzied consumers desperate for an existential connection with something greater then themselves.  The fickleness of consumer capitalism is wholly agnostic.  It never really loves you back.  As a matter of fact it doesn’t love you at all.  Its a cold calculated manufactured creature designed to suggest that its sore purpose in life is to return the love that its user abundantly confers to it. Yet it lasts only until the money runs out.  Its pimp requires these deft street walkers to move on to a new corner where the tricks are more plentiful and bucks much greener.  Ironically free agency begets another type of slavery.  The free agent is shackled to the ball and chain of transactional capitalism.  The soul of the person becomes indistinguishable from that of a soulless corporate entity.  This coalesces perfectly with the Supreme Courts decision to confer the same rights and privileges to corporate entities to finance political candidates.  More and more creeping corporatism is rationalized throughout the body politic as the real bodies and persona’s of persons morph into corporate entities.

The disease is growing too.  In the 3D digital age we deepen these faux connections to our heroes with homey Tweets, real time TMZ coverage, and a befriended status on Facebook.  We get full access to the royal court.  A total submersion within the gone viral digital version of our hero’s carefully constructed virtual world.  We are knighted by the King’s courtesans and receive special discount coupons redeemable at our icon of choice company store.   This special befriended status is good as gold as long as the balance on our credit card doesn’t exceed it limit.

A few years ago Bishop Mark Beckwith delivered a homily on the meaning of icons.   Bishop Beckwith stated that icons were intended to be a prayer aid.  A type of tool constructed of transparent materials so light can filter through them.  This light would reveal an immutable truth  conveyed by the icons subject.  It would remind the prayerful person to emulate the qualities of the figure depicted in the icon.   But that purpose changed and icons came to be understood as objects of  veneration that are endowed with special powers.  Kings and Czars commissioned their finest artisans to create beautiful iconic objects depicting the monarch in communion with saints or apostles to reinforce the idea that divine providence has anointed them to rule the realm.  The common folk and the peasantry would prostrate themselves before the venerated object as the very real presence of a divine sovereign and dutifully pray to it.  A radical transformation occurred and we venerated the object and not the meaning the object was meant to convey.

Thirteen Hundred years ago in Byzantine Constantinople, iconoclasts rose up to smash the graven images of icons within their places of worship.  The icons became venerated objects of debilitating dogma used to control and manipulate people.  We  need to destroy the icons that manipulate and control us.  We must claim back our lives and begin to live more richly and freely by understanding ourselves not as a consumer of things but as a participating person fully engaged in a life that affirms self and service to others.

You Tube Music: Def Jam Icon : Redman vs. Ludacris

Risk; consumer capitalism, alienation, hero worship

 

 

July 11, 2010 Posted by | branding, commodities, culture, marketing, product, psychology, reputation, sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Il Duce’s Ghost

duceIl Duce’s ghost is restless. Summoned by the phantasmagorical fear of a people suffering from the multiple illnesses of a very sick nation, Il Duce’s ghost stalks the land. Raised from the grave by the craven babble of Talk Radio shills, pernicious corporate interests and a ruthless ruling oligarchy aided and abetted by complicit politicians bought on the cheap to act as their bagmen, Il Duce’s corpse twitters back to life.

As we count down to Harold Camping’s rapture date of 5/21/11, the frenetic fear of a collapsing world increasingly terrifies the masses. Religious fundamentalists of all stripes cry that modernity’s embrace of science and a culture of relativism is an abomination to the sight of God. The “Children of God” pine away about the erosion of the old values of the Old Time Religions; while the “Children of Enlightenment” fear that reason is quickly disappearing into a broken Hadron supercollider’s black hole of ignorance. One side is busy arming themselves in preparation for the coming battle of Armageddon while the other side lays up assets in their bank accounts to ride out the coming Day of Judgment. Il Duce is truly one of God’s favored. Anointed by fundamentalist TV preachers, he honors their creed and receives funding by Bible thumping wealth gospel believing businessmen because he promises to protects their God given fatted coffers. Only Il Duce can bring both sides together to sing praises in a divinely inspired choir.

The Federal Treasury paid a rich ransom to bankers to free our imaginations from the dread of the collapse of free market capitalism. Lately we hear murmurs that the nuke button still remains painfully close to the twitching fingers of fidgeting bankers. They threaten to shut down our tired and poor ATM networks and revoke our credit limits yearning for more debt. A strong dose of TARP II is the only known medicinal cure. Frenzied Tea Baggers scream their anger at a government intent on taxing the life blood out of its citizens so fat cat bankers can cash stupid money bonus checks. This insures that the syncopated beats of our capitalist heart continues to rock on. Il Duce is a skilled and gifted physician. He knows how to conduct the delicate procedures necessary to prevent coronary arrest. Il Duce alone knows the recipe to concoct a special brew of herbal teas. Its a powerful elixir that alleviates the caffeine induced head aches of Tea Bagger’s while keeping the circulation of our cholesterol challenged free markets flowing.

At town meetings, people in junk food fueled schizophrenic rants rave at impotent senators going through the motions of participatory democracy. The constituents insistent diatribes profess a love of country while they eagerly profane and condemn its democratic institutions. They say they are concerned about all the money being spent by the Feds. As deficit spending spirals into the trillions they shout “Who will pay for this?” and “Its unconscionable to saddle my kids and my grandchildren with this burden.” Perhaps. But we should also ask what are we doing to increase peace in a world rife with conflicts. Its just as unfair to ask our grandchildren to fight wars for which they had no grievance. Its also equally unjust to ask them to breathe air we polluted with chemicals or to drink water we spat in. I believe it is just to ask them to pay for our country’s infrastructure that all future generations will benefit from. They’ll need roads, water, hospitals and schools. I still cross bridges and traverse high ways and attend schools that were built by earlier generations. I drink water from aquifers and water systems that were built 100 years ago. New Yorkers ride in subways that were built by our great great grand parents.

Birthers are eager to de-legitimize the institutions of a democratic republic. They scream at congressmen that their actions are UnAmerican. They advise their representatives that they should read the constitution. Undoubtedly the culture of corruption consuming our politicians is a systemic disease badly in need of eradication. But emotional outbursts of Birthers shouting down representatives as they wave facsimiles of birth certificates, crying out “I want my country back” weakens the legitimacy of our government. The vehemence seems driven more by the fear of a person of color as president and the cultural transformation radically altering the ethnic landscape of America. Il Duce understands this anguish. It grieves him to see real Americans in such pain. He knows an ethnicity other then his own is unworthy to hold supreme office. The image of Il Duce is a venerated prism that must reflect the complexion of true Americans.

Federalism is not based on a two party system. It is based on a constitution complete with a Bill of Rights. It includes three independent branches of government that serve to check and balance the power of each branch. It is a system in dire need of reform but it has through our country’s history demonstrated its resilience and value as the best model to assure the semblance of a participatory democracy. It is the worthy expression of a free democratic peoples and it is certainly worthy of preservation. Federalism is not the problem. The problem lies in a compromised political process that elects entrapped representatives to office. Il Duce prefers obfuscation. Tyrants need to hold all the cards of power to smooth over the messy and uncomfortable edges of democratic republics. Its better and more expedient for a benevolent philosopher King to make the hard decisions that need to made.

The wisdom of Il Duce would be immediately put to use to make the hard choices to solve the health care problem vexing our country. The debate has stoked the howling yodelers of Talk Radio to turn up the volume of their vitriol. They have energized a nation of Valium saturated minds. They have woken millions from the torpor of ambivalence induced by the pharmaceutical industrial complex. This industry suspected of playing a role in the pharmacide of such cultural icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson buys spots that run in continuous loop on the grim reality TV shows. The ads hammer home the lesson that instant relief from the nausea of daily life is just a shot away. Mothers little helper dispensed en masse is as close and quick as the drive-in window at Walmart.  All for a small deductible of $5.00.

There is something in the water. America’s rivers are polluted with bio active elements people discharge from their bodies due to the use of products from the pharmaceutical industrial complex. It pollutes our aquifers. Il Duce takes a long cool drink, as he marvels at the wonder of our industry and invites more to freely imbibe.

The twittering nonsense and bold Facebook lies Sarahcuda’s minions are willing to swallow so as not to be out of goose stepping rhythm with other Dittoheads clearly comforts Il Duce. The Confederacy is rising again. This confederacy transcends the easy boundaries of geographic definition. This confederacy consists of state militiamen, libertarians and ad hoc communities springing up and thriving along the fracture lines of the urban and rural divide. They are seeking an ideology that is palatable enough to coexist with armed militias, Tea Baggers, Christian Falangists, nationalists and other malcontents. Throw in an assortment of skinheads, Nazis, White Supremacists and other national socialists and you have the semblance of a profile of the new confederacy for a new millennium. They worship force and the right of the stronger, believing that militarism is the supreme arbiter of all things. They are eager to project that power.

Il Duce’s ghost is awake and walking across the land like Goya’s Colossus. Summoned by the sycophants of right wing Talk Radio, encouraged by the Bush administrations use of the constitution as toilet paper, risen by the growing militarism and nationalist sentiment and fed by the militant anger of a people that can no longer suffer the abuse of power by the ruling oligarchs, Il Duce’s ghost has awakened, complete with freshly pressed Blackshirt.   It is ever listening, waiting for the right moment to fully materialize amidst the savagery of a savage nation.

You Tube Video: Benito Mussolini

Risk: fascism, Federalism, democracy

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments