Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pre emptive Strikes Against Domestic Hate/Terrorism

Over a year ago I posted a blog with the audacious idea that "Hate groups" should be outlawed in these United States of America.  Those who organize hate groups are able to spread their beliefs behind the protective umbrella of Freedom of Speech. They are shrewdly inspiring others to take acts of violence against those whom they hate.  The organizers of hate groups are inspiring many to despise those of different ethnicity and behaviors.  These organizers are brainwashing individuals to become walking time bombs who one day will carry out acts of violence against those whom they have been taught to hate.

Yes, the United States has outlawed hate crimes, but it has not outlawed the existence of hate groups. The United States agrees that criminal acts against others based on hatred deserves prosecution.  But, in the same breath the United States allows for proliferation of hatred under the umbrella of freedom of speech.  There is a disconnect there.

 Politicians understand that education leads to a specific course of action or behavior.  Hate groups serve as colleges of hate.  These hate groups are producing magna cum laude graduates of hate who are then sent out into the world to apply what they have been taught.  So, do not be surprised at events such as the murders in the church in Charleston, South Carolina.  It will happen again, and again, and again.  It will happen until people stop teaching hate and sending graduates of hate into the world.

Control of guns is only a follow up action to ensure that graduates of hate do not get the tools of death and destruction to apply what they have been taught.  Every time these events occur the call goes up for tighter gun control.  But there are other dimensions that need to be addressed.  Along with dealing with the hate groups, effective mental health care needs to exist.

There is no need to be more fearful of your safety after the events in Charleston.  We've been taught in the past 15 years that we are pretty much on our own in terms of protecting ourselves from terrorism.  We're taught to be vigilant, "see something, say something".  Report suspicious activity or devices.  Our schools now have doors locked to the outside public with cameras to screen visitors.  Armed guards may now patrol significant public events.  Note the security detail that surrounds those who run for major public offices such as President.  There are people walking around who are mentally ill and who are walking time bombs waiting for their moment.  If their hate cannot be turned around and quieted the violence and destruction of lives will continue.

I was glad to hear that one visible instrument that raises concerns of hate may become less visible.  The Confederate flag, a monument to a time when one region of this country fought to preserve slavery.  The state of South Carolina is once again considering changing the policy of displaying the Confederate flag.  A retail store has now stopped selling the Confederate flag.  It's unfortunate it takes the murder of people to inspire action.

The United States government appears to have a preemptive strike policy against terrorists in other countries.  Our government has and will take forceful action against those known to promote others to carry out hateful violent actions.  So why don't we have a preemptive strike policy against agents of hate within our own country?  If you attempt to inspire others to take violent actions against others why can't you be held accountable for their actions?

Now is the time for continual action.  Stop supporting agents of hate and the tools that advertise and promote hate.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Father's Day

Father’s Day.  I joke with my wife that on Father’s Day you can get a reservation easily at any restaurant in the city.  Even the restaurant that normally is sold out will be waving people in to fill empty seats.  So if you haven’t been able to get reservations at a special restaurant my tip is to call now and get your choice of times on Father’s Day.  The greeting card section for Father’s Day is miniscule compared to that for Mother’s Day.  If father’s play a role in creation of life, why does Father’s Day sometime feels as if it is the step child of all days?

Not to speak for all families, but for me recognition and honoring of fathers begins in each home.  The mother in the home will be the one who leads the attention given the father on Father’s Day.  If the relationship between husband and wife isn’t great or if the woman was never taught by her mother to do something special on Father’s Day, the learned behavior will be repeated in future generations.  If the mother does not tell her children to do something special for Father’s Day, then the odds are the child will not.  In some cases the relationship between the father and his children may be so positive that his children will want to recognize their dad in some way.  How many of you father’s self promote Father’s Day to ensure it’s a great event?

Besides our home lives, how are we taught about Father’s Day?  Sales in stores and commercials on television are the main reason we even know it exists.  Maybe it is mentioned at church services?  But if married women are attending church by themselves, the odds are the message is raining down to a non receptive audience that may respond only because the Pastor suggests they honor the father.  Father’s Day might be in the same category as Administrative Professional day.  It’s almost like a second tier holiday that exists because hardware and clothing stores need a reason to sell men more stuff.

Do I feel that on Father’s Day I have been recognized appropriately by my son’s or family for my positive   actions?  No, not really.  It got to a point in the past where I would reward myself on Father’s Day and go do something on my own.  Do I need the recognition?  No, not really.  My positive actions were voluntarily not so I would get nice gifts on Father’s Day.  Yes, it would be nice to see my son’s do something special for me on Father’s Day.

How have I recognized my father on Father’s Day?  I send the traditional card and in the past I may have sent cash or purchased an item.  Plus of course the all time popular phone call to wish him a happy Father’s Day.  When I was a child I don’t recall any big Father’s Day celebrations in our household. 

To all those fathers who sacrificed for your family, and who tried to do the best for your family, Happy Father’s Day.  Your reward is the memory of the smiles and joy you brought to your children’s lives over the years.  Your reward is seeing them lead a positive and productive life.  Maybe you were an influence to the lifestyle they now lead.  Really, we don’t need one official day of the year to recognize anyone.  We honor people at any time we want to.  Kids, honor both your parents at any opportunity you are given.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Black Man's Opinion on Attending Church Services

It’s the same every time.  The women outnumber the men.  The women greet other women with smiles and hugs of acknowledgement.  I give a courtesy “hello” and continue walking.  Or if the woman is a hugger/greeter, I return the church hug greeting.  As I take my seat I survey the audience again mentally noting how few men are in attendance.  Those who are fall into the category of security, ministers, or other male volunteers performing a service. 

I wonder why more men are not present?  Is it that some men do not feel comfortable with another man telling them how to run their household?  Is it that a man tires of hearing his wife talk about the pastor in glowing terms that the wife may seldom use about her spouse?  Is it just that the emotional nature of the church service does not appeal to an action based man?  I will let other men speak for themselves.  Me, I attend with my spouse.  It’s something to do with other people.   A communal worshiping of our Creator.  I figure if I can give 2 hours plus of my time attending a professional basketball game at a ridiculous price to watch grown men play with a ball, I can at least give an hour and a half in praise and listening to scriptures about our Creator.  I don’t have to give an offering.  It could be a free event if I chose to make it so.

I see the occasional male/female couple in church.  Sometimes their body language indicates at what stage their relationship is at.  If there is a gap between their place in the pew or little eye contact like two men in a restroom, the indication is they are working through a bump in their relationship.  If they are cuddled together, or the man has his arm around the lady, they are totally emotionally synchronized for the worship service.  It’s a positive to see a couple or a family in church together.

As the worship team starts singing and the worship leader exhorts the audience to actively participate, I attempt to focus on the reason why I am there.  The concept is that we are all there to praise our Creator and offer thanks in a community type event.  The worship leader exhorts us to clap, raise our hands, open our mouths, clap, and sing along.  The directions are fine, and I’m sure they serve a purpose.  But at times I really don’t want to be instructed on how I personally should worship.  We all may worship differently and at a time that fits our emotional connection with our Creator.  So most of the time I don’t follow the orders to raise my hands or sing.  I want to react and participate in the way I want to express myself when I feel and want to express myself.

After the cursory two songs designed it seems to allow time for the Pastor to arrive and get settled, then comes the message of the day.  I sometimes wonder what inspires the message of the day?  Or if there is no inspiration does the minister pull from one of his “greatest hits” sermons that have worked before?  Either way, the point seems to be that someone in the audience is reached by the message and hopefully inspired to do better.

Being in the 50 plus age bracket, most of the messages are things I have heard before.  So, I don’t get much original “wow” moments from the message of the pastor.  My thought is that at my age I know what is right and what is wrong.  Either you do right because you want to or you do wrong because you want to.  We have the ability to stop doing wrong at any time.  Ministers seem to help us remember that we have the ability to stop doing wrong and attempt to inspire us to get back onto the correct path in life.  The sermon therefore serves a purpose.  For me it is mainly a reminder.

I also believe that one reason for gathering together in church is to ensure that enough money is gathered to keep the church functioning.  But with the internet age upon us, and the age of video and streaming, it would seem that actually physically being in a church to worship and collect funds is not a requirement.  Who says you can’t  “have church” from your living room with the family gathered around you?  We can always give money electronically to a church.  Even now in my church some give electronically rather than writing a check or depositing money in an envelope on Sunday.

Church services do seem to allow women to emotionally vent and release.  The songs allow many women to release the emotions that have built up over a course of time.  Tears flow, tissues are passed to them and the women may even shout out to release the emotions they are feeling.  Not to say that the few men who attend never express themselves emotionally.  I often wonder what the women are going through in their lives that results in this emotional release.

What would a church service be if the attendees were all men?  Well, I’ve been to all male group sessions at churches.  There is little releasing of emotion at these sessions.  It’s basically a factual sharing by men of what they think and maybe why.

I read my bible on my own.  That is my way of staying connected with the principles of Jesus Christ and our Creator.  In terms of knowledge gained, I really don’t get much out of the sermons I have heard in church.  They are a regurgitation of what I’ve heard before.  So for me I’m looking for something new and revealing that I haven’t heard before.  Otherwise I don’t need someone to repeat something that I can read on my own.   That is where I am at in my life’s journey.  For me turning on my computer, or a television to connect to a church service would be fine.  I used to assist with intake of new members into the church.  That is the point in the service where the pastor offers people the chance to give their lives to Christ or to join the church.  At that point having someone physically available to connect with you is important.  But, if conditions ever exist where people cannot get out of their homes to go to a church building, the internet age can suffice as a medium to connect people to a community church service.

For me the church service is a community event that is just one option of communicating with our Creator.  If it works for you that is great.  But for me it doesn’t provide any advantage that would come from reading my bible, or watching a service on television or streamed on my computer.  It is our actions that indicate our relationship to our Creator.  I’d rather perform actions during the week that show my relationship.  The Sunday or even midweek services don’t provide me with any inspiration that I already don’t have.  But, if you need to be in church, then continue to be there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lebron Going to Mars!

Lebron James wasn’t bashful when he said recently that he was the greatest player in the world.  Well just today NASA said that they have discovered life on Mars!  So Lebron is back in the news again.  Here’s an excerpt from his news conference.

"I just heard they discovered life on Mars.  So I’m here to announce that I am paying to take a spaceship to Mars.  I want to be the best player on Mars.  I think my game can transcend the cosmos so I’m going to Mars to play whatever competition is there.  I don’t care if the competition has 3, 4, 5, or 6 arms.  I think my game is ready for the challenge.  My confidence remains high.  When I come back I think I'll be able to come back here and tell you all, I'm the greatest player in the universe."

Friday, June 12, 2015

NBC Today Show Childish "news" item - Lebron James Adjusts His Uniform?

This morning while in an exercise room, I turned on the television that watches people exercise, and was met by the scene of the NBC Today morning news program.  Or it's what some people call news.  The reporter eagerly with a big smile on his face, was mentioning a scene from last night's NBA playoffs where while adjusting his clothes, a private part of Lebron's body was exposed to the camera.  Of course I was shocked that this was found worthy of a "news" item.  But, we're dealing with commercial/entertainment/news programs in the United States that are pretty much becoming of little redeeming value, let alone of any news value.

The male reporter was getting pretty giggly over the story.  It was almost as if he were having flashbacks to his childhood days where such things would get an "ooh!" from a 9 or 10 year old.  The clip of Lebron adjusting his clothes was shown maybe 2-3 times.  As the clip airs I'm thinking to myself, American news programs has stooped to a lower level than even I could have expected.  The producer/director or whomever approved adding that clip to the morning news should be shown the way to the front door along with all of their belongings and told not to come back.

If that is the best that NBC can do, then they should get out of the morning news business and divert their efforts into developing a show that can compete with Sesame Street on PBS.  You could tell by the reaction of the weather man listening to the reporter gush over the story, that even he was surprised and maybe a little embarrassed that his show was airing the "news/entertainment" clip.

I'm now thinking that some networks expanding their coverage of "news" is not doing us any favors.  If such news stories as this are the best they can do, don't bother showing us this type dribble.  It's insulting to the audience and you are embarrassing your network and yourselves.

I'm now thinking that all we need is a 15 minute daily news program that covers key national items, a major local item, any true sports/entertainment news and then close out with the weather.  That'll take all of what 15 minutes?  That leaves us with time to talk to each other, read a book, or some other intellectual activity other than being bombarded with repetitive nonsensical trivia from the media.  Exercise your power and turn your TV off if you keep getting bombarded with media non sense.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Vapor Cigarettes - What Gives?

I'm trying to figure out the appeal of vapor cigarettes.  Is there something about sticking something in our mouths that we think makes us look more appealing?  Is the ability to produce smoke out of our mouth a human need that we just can't get away from?  Somehow the media taught people years ago that smoking was the thing to do.  Somehow smoking made you stand out among the crowd.  It made you someone who was admired.

Now many years later we also know that while being admired you were also setting up yourself for an introduction to your new lifetime friend, cancer.  Except that cancer was going to ensure that the friendship would be a relatively short one.  So, advertisements for smoking were banned from many public medium and smoking as an accepted practice has pretty much been banned from the planet Earth.

Now along comes vapor cigarettes.  Quietly strolling through our life and popping up in movie theaters, malls and where ever people congregate.  Little chimneys of white smoke suddenly appearing out of nowhere.  Maybe I'll stop the next person I see with one and ask them what do they get from "smoking" vapor?  Now that I think of it, there used to be a cartoon on television maybe in the late 1960s or early 1970s that featured a character who would pull out cigarette like devices and after inhaling on one would have "super" type powers.  So is that what vapor cigarettes do for you?  Are those who are "vaporing up" getting ready to display some super hero act?

If so, maybe I'd better keep my smartphone camera ready for when I next encounter Vapor Man or Vapor Woman.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Decide for Yourself What Is Important

A sports organization recently decided to give one of their awards to a former male Olympic champion who recently completed a sex change to become a woman.  The award was for courage.  Immediately there was feedback that others were more deserving of the reward.  One person mentioned as more deserving was a female college basketball player who died in the past few months after achieving her goal of playing college basketball.

Of course just because one organization decides to "honor" one person does not make that organization correct.  Organizations give out rewards/awards for various reasons.  Some may be self serving reasons and some reasons may be to just make a point.  Regardless of the award, each of us does not have to accept that award as being the ultimate truth.  Just because a "fact" is put in front of our face does not mean we have to accept it.  We all need to decide what is our truth and what do we individually believe.

We have been taught that people who get awards are those who deserve them or have earned them.  But that is not always true.   We've been taught to categorize many things in life.  Excellence, most valuable, and yes "courage" are just a few of the things we categorized.  We develop categories simply because we can and maybe because we are truly bored.  We don't have enough to worry about so let's create some mundane award that legitimizes us as an organization or as an individual.

As with many things in life, we need to start ignoring those aspects of life that tend to deliver subjective labels on the human condition.  Awards, contests, and results of games fall into that category.  Celebrate whomever you want to celebrate.  Reward/award anyone you feel is deserving.  It doesn't require an organization to send someone or the family of someone a note or a token to reward them for something you value.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Alone In the Crowd - The Isolated Black Man

In my journeys I often find myself being either the only black male, or one of few black males at an event or at a location.  It may be the type of events I attend.  Baseball games, tennis matches, eating in a restaurant, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, museums, etc.  At those events or locations I often was the only black male present (except for workers).  I assume one of the reasons is the events/locations themselves did not generally interest most black males.

I'm not sure of the exact percentage of black males in these United States of America, but I would have assumed there would be more black male representation at these evens/locations. I admire the other groups of people engaged in social bonding activities.  When I do see black men socializing together, for example at a Cracker Barrel or Perkins restaurant on a Saturday morning I tell myself "there is hope for us!"  I notice in my travels that women do quite well bonding and socializing together.  Us black men?  That type of socializing seems rare.  Of course some of us socialize whether it's through fishing or hunting trips, or by attending basketball games together.

I recall making attempts to organize social gatherings.  Ideas for trips to baseball games, auto shows, basketball games as a group outing.  Just the "brothers" hanging together to talk man stuff.  It was a noble idea but in most cases it did not come to fruition.  The typical responses were lukewarm.  Some involved not having money to attend.  Some was just a general non-interest in attending. So, rather than not go to an event I went alone to enjoy what life offers.  I have rarely received invites to attend male social gatherings.  Maybe we just have not been taught how to socialize?

So last week that is what I encountered on a trip to attend a major league baseball game.  Before the game I stopped at a bar/restaurant near the baseball stadium.  Entering the establishment a quick scan made it clear that I was the only black person there.  Later I saw another black male enter and sit at a table by himself.  I thought to myself jokingly, maybe I should go over and sit with him?  Later on he was joined by several other Caucasian males and they socialized together as a group.

I've attempted to join groups that have people with interests such as mine.  Church groups, mentoring groups.  But, the result is the same.  No real opening for establishing true friendships that lead to on going socializing.  Television and the entertainment world have shows featuring black males, but their audience typically is women.  Nothing for a black man to seek camaraderie through.  We're surrounded by a world that reports on others like us being killed by policemen or arrested for various acts of misbehavior.  Constant reports on the athleticism of various black athletes and the exploits of black male athletes.  Those athletes and entertainers become representative of what you think others think of your value as a black man.  As a black male who is not an athlete or entertainer you know that your value is just as equal to them, but do others recognize your value?

But there is hope.  I convinced a friend to venture out to catch a professional baseball game next week.  I'm sure we will be the only two black males in our section!