Category Archives: The Politics

Election 2012: *points and snickers*

You get to make this face when you’ve trounced your opponent, and he never saw it coming.

Since President Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, Republicans’ reflections on their embarrassing loss, ironically, have been a reflection of the exact reasons why they lost. In the aftermath, the $400,000,000 question is this: Who lost the election? Conservamoderate Mitt Romney or the Party itself?

First, I feel compelled to disabuse the premise. Barack Obama won the Presidential election. His campaign reached out to the people it needed to reach, and The People (I use this term broadly because, literally, it was every group except white men) responded. And you have to appreciate that they didn’t have to. I learned Wednesday night that one of my good friends sat it out this election. “Just not feelin politics right now,” he said. So folks could have stayed home, could’ve checked out altogether, but they didn’t. In fact, in some states, voters showed up in even greater numbers than in 2008. Barack Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 48% (wouldn’t it have been poetic justice if that figure was 47%?). Make no mistake, President Obama wasn’t the winner by default. He got chose.

Toward the end of the campaign, amid sure signs of an improving economy and mounting evidence of the President’s consistently rational and well-intentioned leadership, GOP narratives about the President’s “failures” began to unravel. It took just under 4 years to expose the flaws in today’s Grand Old Party and about 3 weeks after the first debate to expose Mitt Romney as a fraud. In the end, I think it was clear that the Republican Party, embodied in the candidate it nominated for President, was out of touch and unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

So, who lost the election? Both Romney and Republicans did. On Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly sagely opined that the Tea Party backed Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, would have been the better candidate to defeat Barack Obama, proving that they don’t get it what had happened the night before. Republicans still think they can simply match minority for minority and no one will be the wiser. Run Rubio and Latinos won’t notice that DREAMers can pay in-state tuition for college but still won’t have access to affordable healthcare. Or, run Susana Martinez and women won’t notice that she represents a party who wishes to end their right to choose, but give equal protection rights to their unborn fetuses. Republicans have a policy problem, and trotting out token minorities to champion bad policies won’t make the policies themselves less bad.

Mitt Romney never convincingly stood up to his party’s nonsense. Instead he was opportunist about it, and reveled in misleading low information voters with base tactics. For Romney, if it meant he would win 50.1% of the electorate, the end would justify the means. Yet, social issues (which are also economic issues, for the record) alone didn’t spell Romney’s demise. President Obama also defeated conservative budgetary philosophy by winning the argument on taxes and “fairness*.” The writing on the wall read that “job creators” prospered in this environment, but they aint create no jobs. In terms of domestic economic policy, Mitt Romney’s economic plan offered more of the same. There was no bold new idea, and changing things back to the way they were before they caused calamity isn’t exactly “change” as I understand it.

Thing is, President Obama’s detractors have always underestimated him. They dismiss him as a novelty deliverer of pretty speeches with few real accomplishments. But in the end, it was they who were undone by the soft bigotry of low expectations. It was Republicans who were exposed as one-dimensional, race-baiting, and small-minded. And Americans soundly rejected that vision for our future. Republicans lost both on demographics and on policy. Their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ that never were engendered them to a view of the world that just isn’t real. Americans are not all Christian, and we’re not all straight, we don’t all have disposable income or access to good schools, and we don’t all live and die by the same traditions. But we all want the same thing: to be validated by our government, and visible to the people who represent us. If Republicans intend to be a relevent party going forward, they have to do more than practice the aesthetics of diversity. The People need substance too.

Finally, I don’t usually like to gloat because everybody with the courage to play, loses at some point. But there are times when winning really is the sweetest revenge. Indeed, revenge for the foul and failed campaign that Republicans ran this election year warrants a little irreverence for their discomfort at this trying time. I promise not to wallow in their misery. But I will share this hilarious tumblr posting, and delight in it.

This is for the John Sununus and the New Gingriches and the Donald Trumps of the campaign. Click here and enjoy, if you can: White People Mourning Romney**

*I guess Occupy Wall Street wasn’t just a gathering of pissed off hippies after all, eh?

**Seriously, there were, like, NO non-white people at that victory rally in Boston. It is what it is.

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“Eat Mor Chikin” – Nah, I’m good.

First, here’s the thing:  my immediate goal in life is to finish my dissertation.  This means everything that isn’t my dissertation is on the back burner.  Everything.  “Doing what I have to do so that I can do what I want to do” – I’m all about that life right now.

Over the next year, I suspect this is how things will go.  I’ll interrupt your regularly scheduled program with bits of social and/or political commentary, and I’ll slip back into seclusion.  My friend, who finished his Doctorate a couple of months ago, calls it “the bubble.”  The bubble is my reality from now until graduation day.

But before I go, here’s a nugget I’ll just leave here for your consumption.

My Beef with Chik-fil-A

Today is my early day.  Ideally, I’d go home to drop off my things, and head to the Chik-fil-A on Exit 13 – it’s my favorite location.  The nuggets there are always fresh, waffle fries are always crisp, and when I order a ‘half and half, more tea than lemonade,’ they make it perfectly every time.  The customer service is also great there – they respond to all of your ‘thank yous’ with ‘my pleasure,’ and they call you by name before bringing your tray over to your table.  And they’re always so well-stocked in those after dinner mints I love.

I don’t eat fast food often, but when I do, I eat Chik-fil-A.  It’s been my favorite fast food joint since I was in high school.  But I can’t go there anymore.  I can’t spend my money there.  And I’m not being petty about it; I don’t care that Truett Cathy doesn’t support marriage equality.  As long as the recipe for the nuggets and fries didn’t change, he and I could coexist at opposite ends of the spectrum just fine.  What eats me up is that Chik-fil-A has taken personal opinion into the political realm.  In politics, money contributed to campaigns translates into politicians who push policies that have real consequences for people’s’ quality of life.  As a general principle, lawmakers are supposed to create policies that expand opportunities for individuals, and ensure their liberty and dignity.  This idea is the most fundamental element of American citizenship and spirit.  We are free to disagree, but we don’t use religion disguised as tradition to impose our will.

Chik-fil-A and those who are misguided in their support of these supposed “traditional Christian values’ are doing exactly the opposite of what our Founders intended – blending church, state, and commerce to elevate their position.  I said in a Facebook status last week that  it’s important to remember when it comes to arbitrary moral designations, the pendulum swings both ways.  In other words,  one day someone’s arbitrary moral compass will devalue something or someone you care about and you’ll understand why claiming allegiance to ‘values’ which strip folks of their dignity just doesn’t square.

As it stands today, despite having the same qualifications and levels of experience, women in certain types of jobs are still paid less than their male counterparts.  For every $1 earned by their male colleagues, they make approximately $0.70.  If you support the logic of Truett Cathy, then support it all the way.  Technically, traditional Christian values affirms this inequality.  Eve is of Adam’s rib, right?  Thus, in all things, and for all time, She is His subordinate.  You’d be hard pressed to find a woman as qualified as her colleagues, who works as hard as her colleagues, who’d be willing to accept being compensated less than her colleagues, gender differences notwithstanding.

I’m sorry folks, the logic just doesn’t bear out for me.  Chik-fil-A’s political contributions equal outright discrimination that’s permissible only because it’s couched in the terms “traditional,” “Christian,” and “values”.  I don’t have the patience for this.  I’m sick of fighting these culture wars because progress wins, or society loses.  In that regard, I’ve lost the taste for the kind of chikin-shit Chik-fil-A serves.


Why care? Because if you don’t, you still lose.

“I work hard. Why do I have to pay for other people’s misfortunes? Why must my hard-earned tax dollars go to support lazy leaches who have only themselves to blame for their lot in life?”

“Why should I care?”

In last week’s Great Society post, I tried to answer this question. The reason you should care, in short, is because it’s the right thing to do. But for those who need a better reason, consider the incentive. Without social safety nets (like social security, medicare/Medicaid) that all of our tax dollars pay for, individuals fall further behind the socioeconomic curve and are wedged more deeply between the cracks. This is relevant because people left to their own devices to survive don’t simply disappear from society. You still have to deal with them.

Individuals who don’t have health coverage that show up to receive emergency care, will receive care and somebody still has to pay for it. People who don’t have enough money for adequate food and housing still gotta eat, and still need shelter. And someone will pay for it.  Through the normal channels or the alternative ones, someone has to pay for it. Self preservation is a universal value. Thus, if you choke off folks’ access to a better life, they’ll find another way to take opportunity. Both the French and American Revolutions proved that people won’t stand to be ruled indefinitely by aristocrats and elites who look out for their social class alone.  We can choose to participate on the front end, like civilized people who’ve learned the lessons of history, or we can wait for revolution to persuade us.

I know some Americans yearn for an existance that mirrors a 19th or 20th century one, where folks engage each other on Sunday at church or once a week at the general store. You could connect to your fellow Americans on your terms because it was likely that the patch of land you lived on was sufficient to your survival. Well, friends, that reality no longer exists. There are more than 300 million Americans; you can’t escape us.  And you can’t escape the fact that our fates are connected.

When face to face with the decision to save lives vs. teaching a lesson in personal responsibility, saving lives is more important. The lesson can wait.  Great societies prosper when they acknowledge the value in cooperation; the value in each other; the value in helping each other.  And you don’t stop helping folks because a few are ungrateful for it.  And you don’t stop helping folks because your method of dissemination is flawed.    You make it better, you make it work with what you’ve got.  This ‘me and mine’ only approach has been, on almost every occasion, disastrous. Remember that failing to heed the lessons of the past dooms us to repeating them.

So why should you care?  Because it’s in our best interest for you to.  Our best interest – yours and mine.  And because if you don’t, we all lose.  We all do, you included.


Great Society

After watching President Obama’s Ohio Speech on the Economy last week, I structured my Black Politics lecture around the contributions and obstructions of federalism – the union of state and federal power – to the “African-American quest for universal freedom.” In that context, we discussed four episodes in our nation’s history which speak to the expansion of federal power, and the utility of “Big Government.” They are: Reconstruction, The Great Depression and the Great Recession, and the Civil Rights Era.

Reconstruction was the first national effort at not only physical, structural renewal, it also was an attempt to redefine society – to no longer affirm the institution of slavery, and the indignity of human bondage. Whatever your feelings about Abraham Lincoln’s motives in supporting abolition, the decision to go to war over it required courage. Lincoln’s efforts stated firmly that the United States is, and not that the United States are. We were one nation committed to a singular destiny – namely, life, liberty, the pursuit of prosperity and happiness for all Americans.

The expansion of Federal power via FDR’s New Deal programs following The Great Depression signaled that government took seriously its social contract with the consented. It would indeed work for the people.

As in the Great Recession, which began somewhere around 2007, and from which the U.S. economy hasn’t completely emerged, the expansion of federal power after the Great Depression served to protect the people against thrill-seeking investors’ risky financial decisions. In the event that great risk did not result in great reward, and instead, exploded into calamitous, wide-ranging collateral damage, only the federal government had the economic fluidity and the moral imperative to lead the rescue.

The moral imperative to do what’s right for most people is what defines the role of government and distinguishes it from the private sector. Thus, during times of national economic crisis, “relief” from steadily rising unemployment and poverty is proffered by the only entity with the power and financial liquidity to do so – government. Social welfare programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the stimulus of 2009 (formally known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) helped save the nation’s economy not from calamity and disaster, but from deepening calamity and disaster. I know that nuance doesn’t play well politically, but sometimes the best answer to “are things better?” is, in all honesty, “things are better than they could have been.”

And then there’s the matter of reform. Neither the Great Depression nor the Great Recession happened as a result of private industry’s concern for common folks. Business – corporations – have as their primary aim increasing the proportion of profit to loss, by any means necessary. The banking industry, through subprime mortgage lending and credit derivatives, exploited the natural aspirations of the American people. The prevailing narrative purports that home ownership is a critical component of achieving the American dream. The industry capitalized on our inability to discern wants and real needs. And for that, we share partial responsibility in the global financial collapse. It’s like this: the haughty aspirations of the American peopled had poisoned the well. And the banks saw an opportunity to capitalize on that thirst – selling back to us water from the poisoned well, an American dream that had an expiration date on it.

It was no problem for banks to approve loans for folks with credit scores of 500 and below because when or if they defaulted on the loan, the bank had already made its share of profit from the fees associated with having scores more applicants and approvals. The industry knew the game was rigged against the consumer, so it insulated itself against the potential fallout. In other words, if the house of cards ever fell, those responsible for brokering the shitty deals would get away relatively unscathed. If the consumer defaulted, the bank had already split up the risk a hundred ways, all across the globe.

FDR’s New Deal programs and President Obama’s Wall Street Reforms were government answers to private industry’s on again /off again relationship with public exploitation. Government gives a shit about you because that’s its job. Corporations make money; that’s their job. Government-imposed regulations on business practices are used to remind business that people are more than just dollar signs. It’s the caveat to caveat emptor – buyer beware; seller be fair. (dope. I just made that up…)

Be fair. This brings me to the Civil Rights era and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Think, for two seconds, about what a “great society” looks like, how it functions, what it’s priorities are. The Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Head Start Program, among many others, made proclamations about who Americans are, and what we value. We decided we didn’t like the idea that minorities bore unequal treatment in our society, we weren’t comfortable with the idea that our elderly and underprivileged should simply limp away, out of sight and out of mind. And we understood that education – as early as possible and as much as possible, offered opportunity and advancement to the individual, to her community, and to society at large.

Great societies recognize the connection between the individual, the community, and society. And government’s role is to ensure that society’s rules of operation are reasonable and fair, such that the individual is able to flourish, and give back. That’s the positive feedback loop. It works the same in reverse. Now that we get to view President Obama and Governor Romney side by side, I see one candidate who understands that vision, and one who does not.

There’s a quote I love that goes: to the hammer, every problem’s a nail. For me, Governor Romney and the Tea Party Republican Party embody this perspective, constructing every solution from the position of privilege. Don’t raise taxes on millionaires who can afford it, and don’t dare regulate business, removing the hard-on it has for risk and exploitation given an opportunity. No, no. Instead, cut spending on services for people who need them most. Reduce or eliminate funding for programs in education, the arts, infrastructure, and science and research – all aspects of society that make it, well, great.

So I guess the question going forward isn’t who you’ll vote for in November. It’s bigger than that. It’s more like, what kind of society do you want to live in? Raise kids in? Grow old in? What values do you honor? Who advocates a “great” society for all of us, and whose position is summed up this way: “great society for me and my cohorts and we’ll make it great for you. Trust me.” Once you answer those questions, who to vote for in November becomes a no-brainer.


Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? Me, Kinda.

I’m teaching a Black Politics course this summer, and I’m using Toure’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What it Means to Be Black Now as the primary textbook. Initially, I planned to take the traditional route – lecturing from works by the usual suspects: Manning Marable, Michael Dawson, Cornel West. But I decided in the end that I wanted to discuss race in a contemporary way, and Toure’s work allows me that freedom.

My class starts like Toure’s book does, with questions about the nature of identity. What exactly is Blackness in 2012? 50 years ago, varying shades of brown skin were sufficient determinations. If you couldn’t pass a brown paper bag test, then you were Black enough to experience the struggle, and on some level, you probably knew it personally. It was that – the struggle, the trauma narrative – of the Black American experience that was the rallying cry of Black Americans.

In 2012, however, with a biracial President of the United States who has chosen to identify culturally as Black, what now is the rallying cry? What now is the reason to rally for the race? Toure’s book argues that Blackness is multifaceted. Struggle, trauma, oppression, and racism are no longer qualifying characteristics of living while Black in America. Scholar and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates explains it this way: if there are 40 million Black Americans, then there are 40 million ways to be Black. Thus, poor, oppressed, and powerless is but one reality of Blackness. There are 40 million other ways to “do” it.

Last week, I asked my class to write a short paper about the way(s) they express Blackness. I wondered if it was fair for me to have the same expectation of my non-Black students. But I figured, fuck it. Writing the paper required all of them to soul search. They’d have figure out for themselves what it means to be Black and how they, as individuals, fit into that narrative. It’s an opportunity to process through a different prism.

In the beginning of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, Touré lists his interview questions. There are some good ones designed to move the windmills of your mind and to jump-start dialogue. Touré asks: What does being Black mean to you? Does being Black mean something different today than it did 40 years ago? Would you feel comfortable eating fried chicken or watermelon around white people? My students and I talk about these questions, and we try to answer them too. I’ve noticed that the younger ones always respond in post-Black, individualistic ways. And the older students often answer from a collective perspective.

It always starts this way though. No one likes to admit that they still subscribe to a trauma narrative about the Black American experience. That they still wear “the struggle,” and are still caught up in it. Post-Blackness gives folks license to slough off that trauma, and move on. In a way, it’s like a second Emancipation Proclamation. This time though, Blacks are liberated from an imposed responsibility for advancing the race. You get to just “do you,” without worrying about whether it helps or hurts Us-at-large. “Us” is not your priority; you are. Post-Blackness allows Blackness to be embraced in a continuum, where Clarence Thomas-types can be at one end and Angela Davis-types can be at the other. And it’s all the same. Angela Davis hasn’t kept it real, and Clarence Thomas hasn’t sold out. Each of them performs Blackness in their own way, and each expression of Blackness is as legitimate, and as authentic as the other.

Post-Blackness represents the freedom to be an individual. To that end, it’s possible no one embodies the Post-Black pathology ideology quite like Dave Chappelle. “Chappelle Show” was absolutely fearless in the way it handled the social and cultural constructions of race in America. The third chapter of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness is titled “The Rise and Fall of a Post-Black King”. In it, Touré presents several of Chappelle’s most hilarious, most provocative, and most brilliant comedy sketches cum social commentaries on race. But they’re so much better in video. See for yourself.

The Niggar Family

Frontline – Clayton Bigsby, Black White Supremacist

These sketches worked because they made it seem like we could actually be evolved and mature in discussing race – so conscious, as it were, that we could even be irreverent about it.

Roots Outtakes

But alas, as I mentioned, Chapter 3 of ‘Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness’ is titled “The Rise and Fall of a Post-Black King.” Remember, Dave Chappelle walked away from “Chappelle’s Show” and away from his $50 million contract with Comedy Central because he felt like folks no longer laughed with him. Whereas initially, the point was to be funny and if somewhere along the way, a sentient message about race relations emerged, that was even better. But in the end, Chappelle felt more responsibility than that. In other words, the irreverence for Blackness that Post-Blackness encourages and excuses is cool until it’s not – that is, honestly, until white folks laugh a little too hard at depictions of slavery, or get too comfortable misunderstanding nigga/nigger. “You start to realize that these sketches, in the wrong hands, are dangerous.”

The history of race relations in America makes discussions of race slippery and uncomfortable. Being able to laugh about it certainly lightens things up, but the sore still festers if we really aren’t yet evolved and mature enough to also recognize the blues of it all.

The blues of the Black American experience are still palpable for a good number of folks because, although some of us have managed to exorcise ourselves from the charge of race consciousness by standing proudly as Post-Black, the world in which we live, unfortunately, isn’t so evolved.

Clever. Renege is spelled differently, but I’m sure they already knew that.

Post-Blackness, in the wrong hands, is also dangerous. And in the Trayvon Martin case, I think Touré saw that too.

The Romanticized South Redux: I’m Looking at You, North Carolina

Jennifer Cockrham, a nurse from Walkertown, N.C., holds her hand over her heart for the Pledge of Allegiance during a rally supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, April 20, 2012. Voters will decide May 8 whether North Carolina will remain the only state in the South without such a constitutional ban. (AP Photo/Allen Breed) *sigh*

Being a Southerner in a major city has made me acutely aware of what I appreciate about my heritage, and those qualities I loathe about it. When I moved to the DC metro area 5 years ago, folks knew immediately that I wasn’t from around here. I learned quickly that the ease of my smile was welcomed precisely because warmth is an unfamiliar character trait around these parts. Likewise, the first time I visited New York a few years ago, I thanked a man for information and he called me back over to where he was standing to ask where I was from. When I told him I hailed from the great state of Alabama, he said to his comrades, “Told ya she wasn’t from here.”

Moments like these provide great perspective. Because to Yankees, southern hospitality represents a kind of charm and grace that you just don’t get everywhere. We say “please” and “thank you” and “ma’am” because somebody along the way told us that’s how decent people treat people. Now that I’ve had the chance to experience being Southern from the outside looking in, I’ll shred my usual diplomacy for what my parents called “constructive criticism.” Dear Dixie, I’m only telling you what I see because I still love you.

And what I see most often is a purposeful acceptance of ignorance that flows as mightily as the Mississippi. Sure, there’s some up North too, but Yankee know-nothings are more frequently confronted with the manifestations of their ignorance. It’s more difficult to degrade a person or a group of persons when you have to interact with them on a basic level everyday. It’s difficult to assume that all Arab-looking people are terrorists when one has invited you to his family’s home to celebrate a special occasion. It’s more difficult to conclude that all Spanish-speaking people are “Mexican” when you work with a gang of Guatemalans.

On the other hand, it’s easy to be against something that you don’t already know or understand. It is both easy and cowardly to convince yourself that you’re protecting tradition by discriminating against people who practice life differently than you.

Yet, not understanding or not knowing is never the ultimate offense; life is an exercise in trial and error, and triumph. The true crime lies in the South’s prideful incredulity about change and progress. There’s an undercurrent of “this is how we do it down here; this is how we’ve always done it; this is how we’ll always do it.”

The former governor of Alabama echoed a similar refrain in 1963. George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the path of progress, both literally and figuratively, for Black Americans and for Southerners. I imagine that Wallace hoped to prevent Black students from integrating the University of Alabama, and White social psyches by proxy. Because it’s difficult to perpetuate the “lazy,” “stupid” narrative about Blacks when they sit right beside you in Chemistry class — when they have the same opportunity as you to succeed just as much as you. As soon as just one of “them” graduates with honors and just one of “y’all” doesn’t, then the superiority and entitlement you’ve grown so comfortable toting around, has holes in it. So does your superiority narrative.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-elitism — these are but one aspect of the issue. I mentioned decency earlier, and I believe that’s the common delusion about southern hospitality. It’s not unconditional; you get it unless and until who you are is something different from what they (the majority) have deemed “normal,” and therefore acceptable.

Yesterday, voters in North Carolina voted to amend their state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. And to be fair, North Carolina isn’t the first state to pass a constitutional amendment discriminating against ordinary Americans in this way. There are at least 30 others. But we expected more from the Tar Heels. From a state that boasts pillars of higher learning and advancement like Duke and Wake Forest Universities, the University of North Carolina, and from a state that grows increasingly culturally diverse with metropolitan areas like Charlotte, we expected better from North Carolina.

Amendment 1 is not only disrespectful of human difference, it is unconstitutional, make no mistake about it. Reverend William J. Barber II, a pastor in North Carolina and head of the local NAACP, laid it out beautifully. “However you feel about same-sex marriage, ” he says, “religiously or personally or morally; you can be for or against, you should always be against division and hatred and discrimination being written into the constitution.”

The intolerance for difference in the South is a tradition, as is the comfort with not knowing or caring about what an amorphous “they” do wherever “they” are. In my view, the South goes kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and to its own peril, as it lags in virtually every indicator of intellectual, social, and cultural upward mobility. There are pockets of progress, but Atlanta simply isn’t synonymous for Georgia, neither is Houston for Texas, nor Charlotte for North Carolina.

Honestly, how much more “organizing,” hand-holding, pandering, and there-thereing do we need in the south before we just say ‘you are wrong’? Your traditions, like marching a Confederate flag across the football field at halftime (which I experienced in high school), are wrong. Can you imagine how it feels, as a Black woman, to be immersed in a celebration of the Confederacy when your intention was to show up for a football game?

I can’t keep giving out passes for incredulity about growth and social maturity. The south consistently votes against its own interests. “They don’t know no better” doesn’t work as an excuse in this case; these are conscious choices. If you’ll drift with me down memory lane, you’ll remember that Eddie Long and T.D. Jakes sure did lead Black folks to the George W. Bush promised land in 2004 precisely because G.W. was an avowed opponent of marriage equality. Bush wasn’t saying much about the dwindling prospects for middle- and lower middle-income Americans, but that was neither here nor there. At least he would ensure that the gays couldn’t marry. Unclouded by the haze of religious rhetoric, folks might have seen that GDubs’ ideological perspective would also ensure that they couldn’t marry either — because they couldn’t afford to once the economy tanked while they marched in opposition to a matter that had absolutely no bearing on their own lives.

Since I left home, I’ve been asked many times if I would ever move back, and the answer has consistently been no. I can’t. I don’t want to. I can’t live in a place where my personhood, the way I love, and the relationship I’ve built isn’t protected; where discrimination is tolerated because the majority is comfortable with it. I don’t begrudge anyone who has the courage to go back and fix what’s wrong where we’re from. However, the first step – the most important one – is acknowledging that there is a problem.

The challenge and triumph of diversity allows to you to see objectively. You’re able to measure who you are and what you think against something different. And while you may not always agree, at least the experience of meeting someone who looks, speaks, or thinks differently than you has opened you up some. It makes clear that how you do it, and how it’s always been done isn’t the only way to do it, nor is it always the right way.


Brown Sugar

Today, countless will convene in celebration of her majesty, Lady Mary Jane.

For some, it is indeed a love relationship, a matter a matrimony – in good times and in bad, forsaking all other drugs, til death do they part, the stoner remains committed to his Mary Jane.

What is it about weed that engenders such fidelity? And also vexes society so?

I suspect Mary’s a good girl who hasn’t the haziest idea why her reputation is so maligned. Especially considering her comrades in vice.

In the same way, I find it absurd that a cat could be arrested for smoking a j in the park even whilst his bench mate guzzles swill from a brown paper bag unscathed.

**Before we go farther down this road, I’ll offer the disclaimer that, of course, clean livin’ is best. Exercise regularly; eat good food; drink water. Stay away from vices. However. If you must vice, then let us have this conversation. We can pick back up with the clean livin’ if ever raw kale snacks and runners’ highs are the subject at hand.**

In February, the Washingtonian ran a cover story titled “High Society: Washington’s Love Affair with Marijuana.” The article pokes at Washington’s weed subculture – a segment of the population that apparently includes high society regulars like political operatives and politicians, lawyers, millionaires, and stay-at-home moms like Ann Romney. Not to worry though, as one mother explains:

“Never in front of the kids … [they] will be with a babysitter and we’ll go to someone’s house, play Wii, and pass a bowl around. Or smoke while we’re at a barbecue, making dinner, or having margaritas.”

Imagine that. Ann Romney types puffin on whiteboys and passing ’em around the breakfast nook.

I understand personal experience shapes perception. But, you don’t gotta touch fat meat to know it’s greasy*.  You may not know weed, but we’re all familiar with the ills of more socially acceptable vices. So then, why privilege alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription pills – each, in excess, has proven more dangerous to the individual, physiologically, than weed ever has. The Washingtonian article I mentioned earlier also highlights a study conducted at Claremont Graduate University which tested the point at which various drugs – including marijuana, alcohol, prozac, ecstacy, and cocaine – become lethal. For alcohol, for example, 2 shots of vodka would likely be effective in getting you tipsy; 20 shots, however, would kill you.  So researchers divided a drug’s lethal dose by its effective dose, and that figure was the drug’s “safety margin.”

“For alcohol, the margin is 10, because ten times the effective dose will likely kill you.” For marijuana, the margin is 1,000. This means if one j gets you where you need to be, then you’d have to smoke 999 more before your life is effectively in jeopardy.

This brings me back to Mary Jane’s bad reputation.  So I asked some brilliant smokers I know to clear the air.

First, I asked each participant to self-identify – would they describe themselves as “professionals” (gainfully employed and making some contribution to job and/or society) or “slackers” (ain’t got no job, and primarily supported by someone else)? And then I asked the following:

  • What do you think is the general perception of marijuana smokers? Why do you think that is?
  • Why do you smoke?
  • Do folks judge you for smoking when they find out you do? If so, how do you defend yourself?
  • What are your feelings on marijuana as the “gateway drug”? Does smoking marijuana ever make you want a higher high from a more illicit drug?
  • Do you think smoking marijuana impairs your ability to be great? Has it kept you from accomplishing your goals?
  • How often do you smoke?

Everyone identified as professionals.  And everyone – each one of them – said they smoke daily – several times a day – or would if they had some left in the stash every day.

To question 1, the consensus was that the perception of pot smokers is largely negative. They are “unmotivated” “underachievers” who are “listless…bumping from one blunt to the next.” Most believe media perpetuates this stereotype because “it’s funny to rag the hapless stoner, who’s vice has become his identity rather than just something he does.”

On question 2, one might assume “professionals” would be loath to get down and dirty with Mary Jane because of how bad y’all talk about her. But they aint. One respondent began smoking purely out of rebellion. “I cannot stand being told what I can and cannot do,” she said. Moreover, folk treat smoking sessions like happy hours – toking “for recreation or to be social with friends.” For others, in addition to enjoyment as a general proposition, they also smoke to relax and alleviate pain, for “deep contemplation,” and spiritual connections – meditation and focus. “I enjoy being taken out of (or falling deeper into) my own head for an hour. Like I’m borrowing someone else’s senses.” I dig that.

For question 3, responses about what happens when/if people judge you ranged from “I don’t know because I don’t give a fuck what people think of me” to confronting the negative with “yea, but it’s ok to drink a pint of whiskey and smoke a pack of cigarettes everyday?” Touché, I say. Touché.

On question 4, my respondents unanimously agreed that, to them, marijuana was more like the “gateway” to enlightenment and relaxation than the threshold of bigger, badder drugs. The choice to go harder, it was assumed, was a mechanism for masking some deeper issue that hasn’t yet been unaddressed. One respondent called the gateway argument a “cop out, ” as she believes “folks who were going to smoke crack or shoot heroin were going to do it regardless of if they started with weed.” And another added, “I can smoke pot and feel totally … content with the feeling that it gives me…. I’ve been smoking for over 15 years and I haven’t had the urge or need to try anything else.”

On the last question, I asked whether anyone felt smoking marijuana obstructed their ability to accomplish great things. In each case, the answer was a resounding no.  But for flavor, here’s a gem:   “If anything, my greatness and ability has been improved and enhanced….Abstract thought and feeling is a big part of what I do, and the ability to explore different ideas is aided by being able to at least contemplate and think outside of the box, which smoking helps me do.”  And this one was my favorite:  “I will admit that I’ve thought of how much MORE awesome I could be if I didn’t smoke. Like could I have finished my PhD in 2 years instead of 3 if I wasn’t a smoker? Probably not but I’ve wondered….”  I love it.

Before today, you may not have realized that folks can have legitimate, respectable reasons for why they spark up from time to time, or even all the time.  You may not have realized that one can be both a stoner, and a scholar.  And you may not have known that desperate housewives in the swanky enclaves of suburbia host cyphers just to celebrate life.  But now you do.

Hey, I’m not your pusher.  I’m just here to provide a different perspective.

Happy 420, monkeys.

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