outsider.

i should probably be considered an outsider in my family. i’m different from them in so many ways.

i mean, that’s to be expected when you grow up in a very conservative family and vote for obama twice, register with the michigan democratic party and overall be fairly liberal. (though in my younger years i did vote for bush twice as well. we all make mistakes here and there.) oh and i’m black and most of my family is white. there’s that too. i should expect to be shunned right?

but that’s the beauty of this nation. we are not all the same. we can’t hide this fact. we don’t all look the same and believe the same things and that should be okay.

somehow the narrative has fallen off the rails. we’ve developed an “us vs. them” mentality.

the funny thing is, i’m probably a liberal thinker because of the values my parents instilled in me. they taught me to care for the people around me, not build walls to keep them away. though conservative, my parents are the most caring and loving two people i have ever known. still, i am very different from them in how i approach my thoughts and values. but should that separate me from them?

i worked at a church for five years (where i became a bush lover) and i heard more hate speech there than i ever have anywhere else. one of the colleges i considered going to after high school was liberty university. now their president wants to “end those Muslims”. this is just another example why i have such a difficult time identifying myself as a Christian these days. i just don’t believe this is how Jesus would approach the situation. it’s not us vs. them. at least it shouldn’t be.

we fight with each other. we fight against everyone else. we think it’s supposed to be an exclusive club and you can only get in with a special invitation. the only thing is, religion is not a country club.

we cannot follow a man like Jesus if we only want people we like and understand to be given a fair shot at life. we cannot follow a man like Jesus if we want to disturb the peaceful lives of millions of people because it serves our own fearful and selfish impulses. we certainly cannot follow a man like Jesus if we openly discuss murdering people the way the liberty university president did.

a few years ago, i wrote that the streets are on fire. that we are just sitting here fighting with each other about stupid and irrelevant things while the world around us went up in flames.

and now donald trump is trying to be president? and i read on facebook that someone i know (from the same church from earlier) would “vote for him in a heartbeat”?  the man who wants to kick out millions of peaceful, law-abiding people because of fear? and people agree with that? wow. the same man who wants to kick Mexicans out of the country and makes faulty claims about black people and crime? that guy?

we are the most violent country in the developed world when it comes to guns. we have a mass shooting nearly every day. yet there are people in this country who continue to look the other way. the NRA has these people so riled up, i’ve never seen anything like it. people cannot think straight because they have swallowed the poison pills the gun lobbyists have fed them. i’m not a hunter, but i cannot imagine the need for handguns to shoot deer and turkeys. no one is trying to take away your guns. unless you think you need military weapons to shoot pheasants.

children are getting killed in the streets, being lured into allies to be executed. the police are shooting those they have sworn to protect. companies have to update their policies on workplace violence and what to do in case of a mass shooting.

but still the crazies think there is no problem. even worse, they think the solution to the “no problem” is more guns. really.

talk about the streets being on fire.

it gets tiring. trying to fight with each other about all of this nonsense is getting us nowhere. we hate having discussions about it. we hate even more when we disagree. these days, having discussions with people we disagree with is a sign of weakness.

and honestly, some who will read this are people i love who don’t think the way i do. you might want to vote for donald trump, and while i couldn’t disagree with you more, it’s alright.

it’s alright because we are all different. but being different should not mean we continue this barrage of attacks against each other. we just need to start working harder at accepting our differences. we need to realize, that as a nation of immigrants from all over the world, different is inevitable and amazing. pushing fear towards the masses is a horrible and dysfunctional tactic.

wonder.

this world is a wonder.

and it makes me wonder.

i wonder about the past… it just seems to happen so fast. one day, two days turns into a week, a month. suddenly a few years have gone and i’m left remembering where we’ve been and wondering about where we’re going.

i wonder about today. i wonder how we got here.

social media blasts us with stories of ferguson, missouri in a blaze. an officer shoots an unarmed man in the head and doesn’t go to trial. i wonder about that. going to trial doesn’t mean guilt or innocence, it just means that more questions need to be asked. i wonder how the grand jury can decide that all necessary questions have been asked and answered.

the president puts forward an order regarding immigration.

the internet explodes.

i guess we have forgotten that almost all of us are not from here. we are the byproducts of immigration, some of us illegally. but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. why bother with the truth of history?

the united states spends more on defense than the next twenty-six countries combined. somehow it’s justified. yet there are those who think cuts need to be made to education. as if we haven’t made life tough enough for kids. now the one place they are supposed to go specifically for learning, we cannot even sustain that? then we cannot figure out why kids are on the streets and crimes escalates. that makes me worry more than wonder.

i wonder about those who proclaim to know Jesus and celebrate his miracles and his life. many of these people are the ones who believe you must earn health care, that it’s not a right, that there then must be a premium on health and life. if being healthy and having access to health care is a privilege and not a right, i wonder how that works with your theology. what has any of us done to deserve Jesus? we christians like to say that Jesus is the ultimate healer right? yet the system in place for those who need it is only accessible for those who have earned it? i wonder how that can be possible to believe.

some headlines ask questions that we cannot possibly answer.

i hear that sex trafficking in this country is on the rise. why? how? who are the monsters that think this is okay?

 some questions have easy answers… at least in my mind…ISIS exists now because of an unnecessary war we started over a decade ago that ironically opened the floodgates for something we vowed to destroy.

this world is full of wonder. there is good in this world. i know too many good people who are doing so much good. there is also the opposite. people more concerned with bank accounts and power and image to worry about anything else. that is what concerns me.

it makes me wonder about the future.

here we are again.

so here we are again. it seems like this debate is never ending. are we really arguing about whether SANTA CLAUS is really white? is this truly the latest outrage? are we discussing the verifiable facts of the skin color of Jesus? Am I really even stooping to the level of a fox news anchor to address more outlandish commentary… AGAIN?

look, i realize that we all have our vices. we all have our short comings. i’m not going to call megyn kelly stupid, a moron… enough people have done that. she has to live with herself and her beliefs and if her biggest issue these days is the skin color of a mythical character, than so be it. she must truly live a charmed life.

i’m not really upset at her insistence upon the skin color of Jesus, or Kris Kringle or whoever she desires to be white. it happens. as a black man, i’ve been living in a white world most of my life. i’ve lived with the insistence of many white people that the white world is better than any other. it’s what people do. black people do it too. so do asians and greeks. we think that what we have, what we are, who we are… is better. it’s how we cope. we put on a facade. we try to fake it.

megyn kelly’s message to the children of the world that santa and Jesus are/were white as “verifiable fact” isn’t really the main issue to me. ignorance is as ignorance does. it’s not significant to me that someone without verifiable facts can go on the air in this country and speak their faulty opinions. i think we know that this has been done for decades now. most people can see through this type of stuff. the problem i have mainly with her statements is that we are still talking about skin color in the realm that we are. we are still talking about one skin color being better than another. really? if that isn’t the case than why was it brought up?

my hope has always been, if someday i am blessed enough to be a father, to be able to discuss with my children the beauty of their heritage. i want to be able to talk about their dutch heritage they will receive from their mother. i want them to who they are and where they came from. i want them to be proud of their african heritage. i want them to read about george washington carver and all the things he created out of peanuts. i want them to read about harriet tubman and the underground railroad. i want them to hear the old spirituals that slaves would sing to make it through the long and painful days in the sun. i want them to know about jackie robinson and bill russell and now i can legitimately express to them that they too can become president. hopefully if i have a daughter i will be able to tell her she can be president too, based on history. but what i have never looked forward to is discussing ignorance with my children someday.

i don’t look forward to the day where i have to discuss that sometimes people can be cruel and mean and that is never going to change like my mom and dad had to do more than once. i hope i never have to discuss with them how ugly humanity can be. i remember the tears i shed as a kid because of the names white kids would call me. i have always hoped that by the time i had kids, this type of discussion would bot be necessary. yet in 2013 we are engaged in a heated debate about the skin color of a fake person and how outrageous it would be for this fake person to be anything but white.

is this really still the world we live in? megyn kelly didn’t go on air and shock her producers, directors and the entire news department at fox. that isn’t possible. they had a panel to discuss this. meaning this was a planned effort on the part of the news division to discuss the skin color of a mythical character. they didn’t go on air to discuss poverty, crime, lack of quality education for children or the food deserts that cause so many of our citizens to live unhealthy lives. no, her platform was used to once again show how ignorant we can be. her platform was used once again to show the disconnect between reality and fantasy.

i don’t really get why it makes a difference to a news anchor (and i use that term loosely in this case) whether santa is black, white, asian or cuban? what if i present santa too my kids as a penguin or a lion or if i, get this, never introduce them to santa at all? that santa or jesus is “verifiable fact” is just not true, but we know that. what we don’t really know is why it matters.

i don’t really enjoy writing about these types of issues. writing about ignorance can’t be enjoyable. i don’t think reading about it is either. i just hope someday we can really begin to focus on what matters. i hope someday that we can really look past the surface of matters. someday.

pointed toward the sun.

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

 

-Nelson Mandela-

The world lost a great man today, but his legacy will live on forever. 

the freedom of our equality.

June 12, 2013 will mark the 46th anniversary of the supreme court ruling that struck down a ban on interracial marriage.

that means 46 years ago, in some states, i could have been charged with a crime for marrying my wife. actually i wouldn’t have been able to call her my wife because a marriage would have been illegal. i would not have been able to marry her. to love her completely. to live with her. to start a family with her. to share dreams with her. it would have been forbidden.

it was actually a law in many states that a black man could not marry a white woman.

people actually believed it was wrong.

why is that? because the shade of our skin doesn’t match? was it a moral issue? fear? religion? what basis was there?

why would anyone try to stand in the way of my personal business when it comes to who i love, who i want to be with? why would there have been a law permitting only people of the same skin color to marry, to live with each other? why would my marriage affect anyone else?

i cannot fathom living in a time where i could not marry the woman i loved because the law said so. i cannot imagine being told that living with her was unconstitutional.

it’s an outrage isn’t it? hopefully it’s an outrage.

today, i have gay and lesbian friends who are amazing people. they actually eat just like other human beings. they put their pants on the same way i do. one leg at a time. they have friends and relatives and moms and dads. the point is, they are just like the rest of humanity.

i understand that we all have different opinions and views. i actually believe that’s what makes america beautiful. i am proud to live in a nation where we can be free to worship as we please, or to not worship if we don’t want to, to believe as we wish and to be whoever it is that we want to be. we have the opportunity to dream, even if we never reach our goals, we have the ability to imagine them. not everyone in this world has these freedoms, and i refuse to take them lightly.

but here we are with gay marriage on the agenda. and it’s back to determining the laws governing people’s rights. i see gun control owners stampeding to buy more guns to protect themselves. i hear their boisterous cry to never let anyone take away the second amendment, as if that is even on the table. we all want our freedoms as protected by the constitution. i am not a gun owner, and probably never will be. i have vastly different opinions on the use of guns and for their necessity in our society. however, i would never try to change someones mind about gun ownership. some people believe that they are absolutely needed and if that is what you believe, so be it. that’s the beauty of america.

but what is ugly about america is when we try to stampede others. when we attempt to push others down with our beliefs. when we take our individual moral beliefs and use the legal system to back us up. when we say we want less government but cry that we will take our beliefs to the courts. how can this be?  the legal system is in place to protect our freedoms, that was the vision of our forefathers. it is not meant to be set up to take away the rights of our fellow citizens who have not committed a crime.  loving someone of the same-sex is not a crime. we might have differing beliefs as to the morality of it, but that is our individual right. in america we have the freedom to believe whatever it is that we want to believe, but it is not okay to use the government to force others into oppression because of our individual morality. precisely what the separation of church and state was meant to protect was the morality of the people. the right to have our morals and beliefs and ideas and opinions without suffering governmental persecution. the same applies today.

we might agree or disagree with the morality of same-sex marriage, but for us to use our beliefs to alter the rights of others is far from morality. the church may have it’s own opinion and view of what is moral in regards to gay marriage. churches in america have the freedom in this country to decide for themselves what will be permissible for them.  that is the beauty of america.

i am not using this blog to state my personal beliefs one way or another about gay marriage, though i have the right to do so. my goal in this post is to state that our protections that we enjoy, are in place because freedom is what we seek,what we have always sought in america. freedom for women voters, freedom for interracial marriage, freedom from tyranny from oppressive rulers in england that forced their religion upon the people. this is america and the freedom for individuals, where all men are created equal, still stands today.

pay attention.

so i’ve been away from writing for a bit. not because i was underwhelmed with thoughts. that rarely happens.

i’ve been thinking a lot. probably too much.

there has just been so much going on, i haven’t figured out a way to get my brain to slow down enough to let me write some thoughts down. i’ll just call it a writing sabbatical.

since the last time i really wrote anything:

the president has been re-inaugurated and the ugly politics in washington has continued in its usual ugly fashion. the politicians who we elect through our beliefs and morals and consciences and then pay through our own paychecks have continued to thoroughly ignore the same people they took an oath to protect and serve. however, i’m at a point with this where i don’t know who to blame more, the politicians or the people who vote but turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to politics in america. we are the ones who let this sort of chaos rise up when we, in typical american style, pass off the sincere responsibility due to all voting citizens to pay attention, to care, to simply not be apathetic. it is not difficult for us to form an opinion on who the bachelor should give his roses too or what “kimye” should name their baby. yet when our nation faces a crisis, all we can muster seemingly is this dispassionate eye roll and say ‘dumb idiot politicians’ and flip the channel to duck dynasty.

now i can easily get sucked into a sunday evening marathon of ‘keeping up with the kardashians’ as quickly as anyone. that isn’t hard to admit, yet i know that our country functions at its peak when people from both sides of the aisle speak intelligently about their passionate belief systems. i’m not really talking about the gun control debate or whether we should nuke north korea. i will say that while i was raised to not really like guns, i have to hand it to the NRA. somehow they found a way to scare a whole bunch of people into buying a whole lot of guns and memberships to their club in a very short amount of time. it’s actually pretty impressive. but anyway, the point i’m trying to make here is this: pay attention.

for too long i’ve heard this “i don’t care” ideology from too many americans. “as long as it doesn’t affect me!” that’s another gem i hear from among others, good solid christian people. you mean to tell me that it doesn’t matter what happens to the little guy as long as you get yours? interesting theory.

in this country we have let the rich (corporate america) get richer, while the poor (middle-class and lower-class america) get poorer. we have done this by not caring enough about the politicians we elect. we haven’t done our homework. we do this by fighting any reform that allows for the crumbs of our tables to fall to the dogs of the streets. ( as long as i get mine!) sometimes we barely even notice the dogs. i’m not talking about the people who stand outside in the rain shivering while holding a “help me i’m a poor college student” sign while their buddy takes his break in the SUV around the corner drinking starbucks. i’m talking about the single mother who is working double shifts just to buy formula for her baby. the famous line i always hear from compassionate christians is “well she shouldn’t have gotten herself knocked up!”makes me think of the verse where Jesus draws the line in the sand. i’m talking about teachers who are saddled with crowded classrooms and lowered funding because well, “we don’t have the money for it”. i’m talking about the laid-off worker who just had his unemployment cut because, “he needs to stop being so darn lazy!” meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has never been larger. CEOs on wall street are bringing home more money than ever before. for some reason however, instead of finding solutions, all we want to do is blame the other guy.

america was built on a premise that, here we can enjoy freedoms unattainable anywhere else. sure, that does allow for anyone to have the freedom to not care about a single thing. how prosperous will that get us if that becomes the prevailing opinion? our great country, has awarded us the ability to think freely and share openly a discourse not enjoyed in many parts of the world. yet we are more focused on finger-pointing and issuing blame. it’s never our fault. it’s always the other side who doesn’t get it. we teach our children to take responsibility for our actions and then when talking about taxes we nearly break a finger pointing so hard at the other party.

it’s about time now for us to start caring more, but in a way that cultivates a better relationship with those who have differing views. it’s time to actually care. to care about what the other side has to say. it’s time we start working toward a solution one issue at a time. some say that the problems facing america are too big to really care enough because well “we’re screwed anyway”. it’s like that saying: how do you eat a whale? one bite at a time. we won’t solve everything just by simply having an opinion or being more passionate. but it ‘s a start. it’s a way to begin our journey from here to there.

coming clean.

okay here it is. it is time for me to come clean.

  if you don’t know much about me, i’m a people watcher. and i’m a thinker. those two ideals run concurrent to what i’m about to say.

i’ve been observing a lot the last few months, if not years. i’ve had many conversations with people like-minded or not and have overheard even more. i’ve read facebook posts and read online articles regarding different individual’s opinions. i’ve discussed political issues with close friends, my wife and even some family members. though usually politics and family don’t mix well. especially when you have different ideals. and mainly, on this blog i have been quiet. a little too quiet.

 over dinner, i was discussing this conundrum with my wife: how do i keep my thoughts private and still be a writer? especially a blogger where most of my writings are personal thoughts? the answer is that i cannot. it’s that simple. no matter that i am sure that i have much different views than the rest of my family, i’m at some point not being true to myself if i do not write about what i believe. especially if what i write about is supposed to be based on what i believe. make sense?

so that’s the background for this. i almost have butterflies as i write this, for some reason. i guess maybe because i’m taking that venture that i knew at some point i’d have to. which is talking specifically about my political beliefs.

so here it is.

i’ve tried to maintain a strong independent position when it comes to politics for a long time. truth be told, i’m really not that independent. and i think that’s okay. the beauty of this country is that we are allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions and we have the right to choose. so yes, i am much more democrat than republican. it’s really not that close actually.

i’m going to vote for president obama.

living in west michigan for the past 20 years has taught me a few things, mainly that if you have an opinion that is different from the mainstream, you better keep it to yourself. which i’ve abided by for far too long. especially as a writer. being a christian in west michigan with different ideals makes it even harder to follow the rules. which i never intended on doing anyway. at some point i think i just got tired of keeping my voice down, keeping my thoughts to myself. my close friends understand how hard that is for me to accomplish.

why president obama? for me it is more of a, why wouldn’t i vote for him? if the last four years have taught me anything politically and even spiritually, it is to follow what you believe closely and don’t let others filter your own thoughts and beliefs. and if you are a writer, my goodness, don’t censure yourself for fear of others opinions. anyway, why obama? because i am proud of him. i am proud of his leadership in some of the darkest times we have faced in my adult life. i believe in the premise that if you work together, you can achieve anything. one of things that i began to believe were unachievable was being part of coalition with our allies again. but we have done that under the leadership of the president. when he came into office, we had lost our good standing around the world. we were becoming proud of being mavericks, both domestically and globally. we didn’t care whether we had any friends around the world. we would just say “to hell with it” and continue on. but now we have a president that is willing to work with our allies. when we go overseas as civilians we can be proud again yet not in that arrogant, “ugly american” way that we had become known. i’m proud of this.

in the past few years, my dad has had heart surgery, two brothers have had cancer, my niece has undergone treatment for thyroid issues, my sister-in-law has been hospitalized with health issues and my brother-in-law has undergone emergency surgery. this is just a sampling of family members and friends with health issues and i’m not even mentioning my own.  i cannot imagine if we had all been turned away from medical care due to lack of insurance, or worse, the lack of ability to obtain health care. i’m sorry but it isn’t a privilege for health care. saying that means that some people deserve it based upon their economic conditions and some people don’t based on their lack of an economic advantage. we are all normal people. middle class. if my dad couldn’t have his quintuple-bypass surgery that was available because he either had a pre-existing condition or just couldn’t afford it, that would not have been okay to me. so i am voting for president obama because i believe that everyone should have the right to health care. not just the chosen few who have the blessing of working for a good company that offers it.

what about abortion? i think it is funny that republicans run on an anti-government platform. i think it is even worse that people fall for it. and i think it is downright sad that people only wish to use the government to push their moral agendas. i am very pro-life on a personal level. as someone who was adopted by two loving parents when i was only 8 months old, i am more aware of the fact that there are simply other options besides abortion. i hate abortion. on a personal level, i don’t think it is okay to undergo an abortion for any reason. we don’t have the ability to be God and i don’t think we should try to play him either. and that extends to the government. i do not believe in using the government to push my moral agendas. i do not think it is right for me to use the government to tell other women what to do with their bodies. i simply do not think that is right. i absolutely believe that abortion is wrong. i also believe that until the church and other faith-based organizations are ready to truly welcome single mothers and those struggling with this decision with open and unconditional arms, then we are not ready as a society to abolish abortion anyway.

the economy? sure it is not where it used to be. but to me that is precisely the point. going back to the 1980’s under president reagan, our government began de-regulating agencies responsible for our financial mess. yes, i would love for our government to step aside and not have its hand in our banks and what not, but that is unrealistic and we have seen what happens without regulation. think about it. when you were little, and your mom left you alone in the kitchen with a jar full of cookies, how many would you eat? that’s right… all of them. why? because she wasn’t watching and you knew you could withstand the punishment later. that’s what happened here. so i support more regulation, not because i like it, but because it is necessary.

taxes? all i will say is that in this great nation we have been given a great deal. we have also worked very hard for it. the premise that allowing the wealthy  tax breaks will result in re-investment in the industries is laughable. millionaires become billionaires by NOT spending money. believe that. too much is given, much is expected. and yes i include myself in that statement.

i don’t profess to be right about everything. i don’t profess to be right about anything. but keeping silent on my opinions this close to the election, well i couldn’t do it. not when people are all too eager to tell me why governor romney is the right choice. not when i see friends and others refer to the president as a  “moron” or “idiot” or “deceiver” or “retard”. you can think whatever you would like. i will never use this platform to tell you what to think. that is just not me. however, if people have a right to voice their opinion, than i guess i do too. i’m not asking you to vote as i do. in fact, all i wish is that you would simply vote. vote for someone, even if it is the other guy.

so there it is. these are just some of the reasons why i will vote for president obama in 2012.

The Facts, please.

“it’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts. Whenever you hear something said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is ‘wait a minute, is that true?’”

Noam Chomsky

ahh, the power of a word spoken confidently. it’s true isn’t it? you can hear the absolute truth in the meekest of ways and find it hard to believe, yet when an outright lie is spoken boldly, it is difficult to argue. it is important, especially during this debate season that we analyze the words, not the tone. it is essential that we pay special attention to the truth in the sentence, not simply how strongly the sentence was delivered. you will hear it from both sides. just because it was spoken with absolute confidence and gusto, does not make it absolute truth. 

un-hinged.

these are fascinating times aren’t they? the world just seems a little un-hinged. just a little bit.

we want to be connected, but really only digitally. that’s what is so nice about facebook and twitter and linkedin, we don’t actually have to “talk” to people, we don’t have time for that, or the desire.

we want to fight for justice and freedom, but mainly from our macbooks and ipads. we criticize the good for pointing out the bad. we tear down jason russell as if he is the bigger threat to children than joseph kony.

we mock tim tebow for… praying. nevermind the hundreds of players we’ve seen “tebow-ing” through the years. just don’t tell me anymore that america loves a feel-good story. as soon as we can find a reason to cut into a person, trust me… it will happen.

the other day i was watching fox news and of course they were complaining about the “liberal media” controlling who wins the white house, that is to be expected from them. however, unbelievably, they attempted to make a connection tying obama using the outrage from the trayvon martin case to springboard his re-election campaign. really? a bit of a reach i’d say. even for fox news. it is sad how a young man walking the street at night, and against geraldo rivera’s wishes is wearing a hoodie, with his skittles and ice tea could suddenly become a danger not only to a community but to the conservative base of america. 

which leads me to this. how proud are we of our treatment of our leaders in office? it’s humorous how often people think they know better than the man in charge. this goes back decades if not centuries, we always think we know best until we have to do it ourselves. it is amusing to watch senators and congressman and mayors and… rush limbaugh or sean hannity… criticize someone for the job they themselves have never done nor have the desire or even ability to do. what is the term our mother’s taught us? if you don’t have a solution to the problem you are complaining about, just shut up? i think it goes something like that.

we are in a strange world these days. unlike any other. we fight active apathy with facebook campaigns. in america we wonder “how would that ever work?” yet it did in egypt, didn’t it? goodness, they are naming their children facebook in egypt because of how much it worked. it is a scary world these days too. we don’t really know what is next anymore. it isn’t the cookie cutter world we are used to. and it’s not just because of 9/11. it is because we have become engulfed against each other. our focus is becoming more about hearing ourselves being right instead of doing what is right. our moral obligations to each other have been thrown out the window.

our world has become un-hinged just a bit.