Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Debt Ceiling: Manufactured Chaos

Ideology:  a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture; c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.  In other words, one’s personal and/or political ideology is defined by her beliefs about what she thinks will allow society to function better.

In recent years, politicians and pundits have cautioned us against reverting to our respective ideological corners, and refusing to engage in compromise.  They say that no one wins when we are incapable of working together for the collective good, and I tend to agree with this assertion.  Where these same people err, however, is in affirming the idea that the ends of each ideological spectrum are equally detrimental to the continued prosperity of “the American people.”

The debt ceiling “crisis” which looms over the American economy like a dark and foreboding cloud represents clearly the ideological divide that has the American political system stuck in neutral, and slipping steadily into reverse.  But this chasm isn’t “new.”  It started roughly 30 yeas ago with  the Reagan administration (which raised the debt ceiling, by the way, more than a dozen times without having to check its conservatism at the door).  Reagan and his neoconservative progeny relentlessly imposed on the populace the idea that government was big and bad and pretty unnecessary.  Inevitably, government would drain you of your freedoms — all of them.   In their view, the government and those who were of the government would raise your taxes year after year and you would have nothing to show for it.  Government would destroy your ability to achieve the American dream.

Indeed, with expansive government control, you’d be unfairly subjected to a public school system, a national postal service, an ambulance or fire truck should you ever have the need, an agency that ensures your burgers don’t routinely come with lettuce, tomatoes, and e.coli.  It provides for an environmental protection agency which ensures that Business X can’t dump its toxic waste where you fish, and a national infrastructure that isn’t bursting at the seems, or crumbling beneath the surface…actually, scratch that one.  But, you understand the point.  Obviously, this is merely a minor difference in perspective.

Except that it isn’t minor at all.  As the Pew Racial Wealth Gap Study recently pointed out, the economic policies largely championed by anti-government lawmakers in the last 25 years have severely affected the livelihoods of Americans who have been well-served by the “intrusive” hand of government.  Because without it, persons of those groups remained both separate and perpetually unequal.  And here is where the current ideological divide got its start:  it was in the audacity of minorities to want to be equal, to want access to opportunity.

But for folks, granting access to the outsiders resulted in their own loss.  They misinterpreted Civil Rights as minority rights or Black rights or poor rights or women’s rights — namely, everyone’s rights except for theirs.  It was terrifying for the powers-that-be to acquiesce to the persistent erosion of their own power — driven by “big government.”

Enter 2011 party politics, and the debt ceiling debate.  There is no real debate, no real crisis of which to speak.  Congressional Republicans are holding up a routine practice for the sole purpose of political posturing — so that they can finally cut government spending (which is a legitimate issue) by gutting programs designed to aid the nation’s most vulnerable, and its middle class alike.  Indeed, one side of the aisle still believes in expanding the opportunity to achieve the American dream; on the other side, if you don’t already have it, or plan to inherit it, then you shit outta luck.

And sadly, poor or middle class people concerned with “runaway government passing on debt to their children and grandchildren” have bought into a narrative that serves no one’s interests, unless they are wealthy ones.  Make no mistake about it, this is class warfare.  The problem is that many Americans unfortunately are disillusioned about which class they actually are in.

In the last few days, I learned about the current Governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue.  North Carolina has traditionally been a politically divided state, sometimes led by a Democratic Governor, but legislatively controlled by Republicans.  In this ruinous Tea Party era, Governor Perdue has vetoed Republican bills that seek to roll back protections on abortion, off-shore oil drilling, jury awards in medical malpractice suits, environmental restrictions, and bills which give businesses more freedom to deny benefits to unemployed workers.  Now, because her state legislature is Republican, nearly all Governor Perdue’s vetoes have been overturned.  But her purpose in vetoing these bills hasn’t been to win.  No, Governor Perdue wants to go on record having made a clear distinction about where she stood when North Carolina made a U-turn on progress.

I suspect that if no deal is reached in the debt ceiling debacle, and the country’s economy plummets into default, at least I’ll know where my President stood.  And who stood against him.

Pay.  Attention.


So You Were Born This Way…

These lil cats do make a compelling case though...

It doesn’t make you special — no more special than anyone else who was born their “way”. I was born a baby, and that’s about all I can reasonably cop to.  I’m not splitting hairs or creating a distinction where there needn’t be one just cause I can. Instead, I’m scratching at the surface of sexuality here, imagining how basic attraction is sans its cultural and religious filters.

I was interviewed once in late December 2008 about my feelings surrounding then President-elect Obama tapping Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration. At the time, the Pastor’s views on homosexuality and his support of California’s Proposition 8, which effectively banned gay marriage, made him seem an uncomfortable compromise for such a highly public and political event. You might think all presidential elections are political, and they are, but not like this. The election of Barack Obama was a watershed moment, and the day he selected an anti gay rights evangelical to give his invocation, tempered it a bit. How did I feel, Cheers asked, about the simultaneous election of a Black president, and the passage of Proposition 8? Bittersweet like a mutha fucka, I answered.  A tish more eloquently though, of course.

I didn’t get how voters in California didn’t get what it meant that, as a nation, we’d elected a formerly maligned minority to the highest office in the world. While the American empire might be in decline, it is an empire nonetheless — and for the next four years, it would have a brotha at the helm, and there wasn’t shit you could do about it. Given the history of Black Americans in America, the election of Barack Hussein Obama was definitely cause for celebration. Likewise, the passage of Proposition 8 in Califorinia — presumably the bluest state in the country — spearheaded by minorities and religious officials was cause for the absolute opposite of celebration. It stung. In fact, it still stings.  You could expect that gay marriage would hang in the balance in certain states, but not in California.  Naw, not you, baby.

Whenever the subject of gay rights comes up, supporters levy their most effective argument — I was born this way — against what, in essence, amounts to homophobia. But homophobia isn’t a tangible excuse for acting like an asshole, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing, for example, to “fear” from a gay person. Of course, “a gay” may harbor some fucked up traits, like everyone does. But it makes no sense that the mere quality of being gay should arouse “fear” like it does. Gays aren’t naturally given to shanking fools, or going upside heads.  I’d argue that, stripped of our various social and cultural/traditional indoctrinations, what we fear instead is that which is unknown or unfamiliar to us.

Which brings me closer to my point. So, during the course of the interview, Cheers asked why I shunned the “lesbian” label. I’ve had similar conversations with a few of my friends over the years, who seem insistent on placing sexuality, and me for that matter, into a neatly compartmentalized box. “So you like girls? Don’t that make you gay? So you must be bi then? Oh, you’re so ambiguous. Or you’re just greedy.” Nope, it’s simpler than that.  I like what I like.

In previous blogs, I don’t really address the ambivalence I feel about the term “gay.” I understand that people need something they can latch onto, so I use the label indiscriminately without much personal offense. However, eventually I like to bring folks a little closer to discomfort with what they think they “know.” In my own adventures, I take the Kinsey Scale approach to human sexuality, defining sexuality within a range of 0-6 — with 0 being exclusively “straight,” and 6 being exclusively “gay.” In my experience, I’ve found that more people than I would’ve suspected fall somewhere within that spectrum at various points in their lives. At the same time, I know that most folks would argue me to the death proclaiming their ZEE-ROH status. And I’d appreciate their position, but I’d definitely have my doubts.  I live this life, remember?  I know well how gay y’all are when you think no one’s looking.

Before you commence to protesting too much, insisting that you loooooove your opposite-gender-sex part-pejorative, understand that I’m not suggesting that you can’t love peen and punanny as much as you claim to. But that given a unique circumstance, and a unique individual, your human sexuality might be more fluid than fixed. You ever hold conversations with gay people? Or does what you “had heard about them” substitute for what you know about them? I suspect that if you found yourself engaged in a few gay fireside chats, you’d be made aware that many gay men weren’t actually born in a cloud of pixie dust, nor were the world’s great lezzies born wearing lil plaid diapers and sweater vests. In fact, for many, the taste of gay was an acquired one — which, upon further investigation, turned out to be just as natural as if you’d been tasting it since day one.

Was the pun too much? It’s ok. You’ll feel better about it soon enough.

So then gay rights aren’t “special” rights, per se, because being gay aint nothin special. No matter what “way” you or I was born, we were born human beings.  That alone is “special,” and guarantees us the right to be treated just like everyone else — no more, no less.  I also think it necessary to disabuse this notion of gay and straight, and how we arrived at our particular station.  There is no doubt that many a muhfukka don’t dabble in same-sex attractions, not even hypothetically.  In other cases, however, cats be mad straight until they aint — until they find themselves catching feelings they aint even supposed to be susceptible to.

I read or heard or saw something that said, “if everyone who was gay would just come out….” I don’t remember the rest because it doesn’t matter.  If cats just “came out” as whoever they were or are, then that which we don’t know becomes far less sinister, less scary, less odd, less “unnatural.”  If instead of beating yourself up about your biological process, you could embrace it.  You didn’t have to be “gay,” you could just follow your heart or your loins because there is no judgement here , then what would that look like?  For you personally?  For society at large?  Would it then matter how you were born?  If everybody who gets to be born has a shot at being someone or doing something remarkable, wouldn’t you rather be judged by what you did with the life you got?  Instead of being hamstrung for life before yours even began?

Either way, being born gay or straight is a ridiculous argument to attempt.  It allows room for lazy socialization and judgement.  People aren’t cardboard cutouts of each other; each of us brings something unique to the table.  Thus, the quality of being gay is no different from the quality of being left-handed.  In time, lefties got around the dumbed-down explanations of their anomaly, and started lobbying for scissors and desks and shit that fit them.  They didn’t whine that they were born this way; they insisted that the right-handed world make room for them, regardless of how they were born.  Or their degree of “queerness.”

See what I did there?

A Bit of Commentary, If I May

What follows is a little of what I’ve seen and heard over the last few days, and a little of what I thought about it.  Enjoy; opine; delight in my words.

Beyonce, 4

If you follow my facebook page, you know I stumbled upon Beyonce’s Party last Thursday.  Upon further investigation, I found out that I was just mad late.  The song had been leaked weeks before I discovered it.  However, when I found it matters not.  Since I found it, there is no longer country for y’alls lofty critiques of Bey’s efforts.  Sure, the album doesn’t hit nearly as hard as B’Day or whatever the last one was called.  But who the fuck cares?  All I know is that I am a slave to the groove, and very little of what I’ve heard in the last several months has come close to what she does there.  Yes, I know Jill Scott’s and Ledisi’s albums were also recently released.  And no, I don’t take it back.   That 80s slow jam, synthesizer, harmony thing, coupled with “I told my girls you can GETIT!” on Party is indeed greater than absolutely everything.  It’s one of those songs you tip your fedora to, and raise your glass to, leaving aside everything else that isn’t the pure, unadulterated boogie!

Also, it’s always a treat to get some fresh Andre 3000 in your system.  That brotha may be argyle and buster brown’s out this mug, but he’s also Atlanta, Gawjuh all day long.  He muses in defiance of convention, “I ain’t stuttin the beat… talkin ta me?  girl, why you fuckin with me?  move on, aint nuttin ta see!”  Oh, 3 Stacks.  Thou art the lovely holy grail of i’mma do this my way.  

And finally, I don’t think folk would argue that this is Beyonce’s “best” work, but it’ll definitely do until something else comes along.  And by something else, I mean until she thrusts her hips again this way and that, sayin something country and femininity-affirming backed by a solid bass and a catchy chorus.  Mind you, I’m not an artist apologist, nor am I a  Beyonce “stan,” but in Bey’s defense, I do feel like I get more of a sense of  her in 4 as opposed to what we think or wish or want her to be.  That notwithstanding, Party is my summer jam.  And I don’t mind one bit if y’all sit this one out; your absence on the dance floor leaves more room for my drink and two-step.   Here’s the song if you haven’t heard it.

Look at her. Just, look at her.

In The Club:  “I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair – ew – and cover it up with a backwards cap and we’re supposed to swoon?”

On Saturday night, we celebrated a good friend’s birthday, and her forthcoming voyage to the Republic of Zambia, where she will do the people’s work with the Peace Corps for the next twenty-seven months.   I shudder to think of the comforts she is giving up over the next two years, but I know she is uniquely qualified to do it.  I wish Miss Nia well, and I am incredibly proud and awed by the work she’s about to do.  I am positive that she will leave her mark Zambia, and that the people she will serve will be better having met her.  Good luck, babygirl!  We love you!

Now that that’s out of the way… there was some shit I saw Saturday that I’ve seen for years but never really had the platform to discuss.  Lucky for you, I has that now.  Here we go:

Ladies, y’all are way too thirsty for the less than minimal effort these dudes put into wooing you.  From attire to attitude, reciprocity is virtually invisible.  Ladies get dressed up to go out, dudes just get dressed.  I mean, cats aren’t even wearing their flyest fitted cap anymore, or their cleanest white tee!  They don’t even dance with you!  You drop it like it’s hot in 6 inch pumps, and he stands there with his feet planted and his shirt untucked.  Mouth open and shit.

Y’all chase these cats all over the club for them to just  stand there.  And look atcha.  Which, I admit, wouldn’t be so bad —  I’m given to voyeurism on occasion.  But fuck your roaming eyes if your mouth doesn’t close, and you look like and smell like eighth grade.  Sistas, raise your fucking standards.  Brothas, step your fucking game up.

True Blood

I am 3 seasons late on this joint.  But in my view, it is a completely absurd, debauched, and delicious way to spend your Sunday evenings.

That is all.  As you were.