The (Not-So) Greatest Show on Earth

Thurston the Great Magician - Strobridge Litho. Co..jpg

Life is a three ring circus
All of the ups and downs of a carousel
That I know so well
Life is a three ring circus
Just one little ride on a merry-go-round
Goin’ ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round
Blue Magic – “Three Ring Circus”

Last week in Cleveland, the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump and Gov. Mike Pence (IN) as their Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates.  This week, the Democratic National Convention is in Philadelphia, and on the ticket are Hilary Clinton for President and Sen. Tim Kaine (VA) as their Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates.

Last week’s Republican National Convention was reminiscent of A Night To Remember-the book by Walter Lord that dealt with the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.  We had the party bail out from the sinking of the SS Republican Party whilst Captain Trump stayed at the helm.  This week, the Democratic Convention is more likened to a star-studded event including First Lady Michelle Obama; Meryl Streep; and Former President Bill Clinton.

You just can’t just make this shit up!

However-despite my earlier thoughts-this whole Presidential campaign is like a three-ring circus.  We have plenty of clowns to entertain us.  We have all kinds of magician’s tricks so slick they’d make Howard Thurston and Harry Houdini cry.  We have the elephants and donkeys doing all kinds of dog and pony shows for the masses.  There are even thrilling death-defying acts!  It’s even a traveling show so you don’t have to leave home!

I felt that the lyrics from the 1970s R&B group, Blue Magic would be my text for tonight.  Even though the singers were talking about life, their words can apply to the Campaign.  We’re being taken on a merry-go-round ride that seems not to stop.  We’re going nowhere in this Presidential Campaign as we have candidates that try to razzle and dazzle us with big-sounding hollow promises that could do more harm than good.  We being entertained with “A-list” speakers at conventions to wow us and tug at our heartstrings.  We see candidates that promise to be the fearless lion-tamers against the lions-domestic and international-that threaten us.

Why don’t we shut down the circus?  Why don’t we put these parties and their candidates on notice and tell them that We The People are not impressed with their showmanship.  Let’s put them to task on real issues: global economic woes that can impact the US and how to get ourselves on track; de-militarizing the police and make them accountable for their actions; cease all this prosecuting wars and instead open up free trade; the seldom-read list is endless…

Tonight, think on Blue Magic’s words.  In fact, why don’t you go on YouTube and play the song?

Peace.

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A Much Needed Break

20160710_150542And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while:  Mark 6:31a (King James Version)

This past weekend, in response to a Facebook activity, I took a 24-hour “break” from all social media: Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter.  It was strange at first, however I managed to persevere through the weekend.  In the end, I found it to be quite the needed break.  Plus, I had no withdrawal symptoms!

For a blissful 24-hours, I didn’t look at: someone’s travel selfie taken somewhere on Earth; a quasi-inspirational/churchy piece; the latest Trump/Clinton rant; bad news; another historical piece on someone’s oppression; the “Type ‘Like’ if…” segment; droll humor; a too-long video explaining little; the “I love my spouse/kid/pet/parent/etc” piece; etc…   For twenty four hours I felt truly detached.  I read. I relaxed.  I tuned into life.

This break changed my way of “hooking in” to the world.  Today, we are always “on” some social media: Facebook, Instagram, EyeEm, Buzz, Twitter, Linkedin, you name it.  We constantly read posts, ogle at pictures, read and tweet tweets, see who’s in our networks; made to feel as if we “lose” out on something if we’re not connected.  However, too much connection causes us to lose our “Me time” (to quote my Pastor).  We begin to live vicariously whilst letting other people into our personal space.  Our unique God-given “Me” is subsumed into a digital mass-consumed “We”.  Plus, our individual thoughts get into lock-step with others to the place where dissent is discouraged.  If taken to the ultimate extreme, we will lose touch with our environments: restaurant; social event; church; etc.

Jesus saw this in his disciples in the above verse.  They were so going about the work that they didn’t have time to eat.  Jesus obviously knew the approaching danger: without rest, his disciples would go hungry, break down physically (and quite possibly mentally), and become bitter.  Jesus had his posse break away from the environment so they could be alone and recharge.  And these cats didn’t have social media.  And speaking of cats, those are my two in the above photo enjoying a break!

I’m not demonizing social media; it has its good parts and has helped me as a photographer.  However, one must find balance and take time from social media so to rest themselves.  Whether if it’s mini-breaks for a specified time (like I did), limiting use to once or twice a day for 15 minutes each time, or a indefinite hiatus from social media.  Some have dropped social media altogether.  Whatever you do, make sure you detach for some time so you can reconnect with the you God created you to be…

…You’ll find it a much needed break!

Peace!

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#ALL Lives Matter-A Revisit

I did a post back on January 19, 2015 called, “#ALL Lives Matter” commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday.  This was in response to the #BlackLivesMatter statement being put out into the world.  At that time I felt that all lives matter.

However, as a Black male in America-the Number One target of many a racist cop-#AllLivesMatter is a moot point.  You see as long as Black lives don’t matter, than in the end, other lives don’t matter; therefore nullifying the statement.  I think this statement is born out of naiveté in those who do not grasp the full picture of #BlackLivesMatter.  I feel that those who use it smack of the late Rodney King’s statement, “Can’t we all just get along?”

For many outside the Black/African-American community; this is an outside-looking in situation.  For other races-especially Whites-there is not that “Could it happen to me?” question that haunts Blacks: be it police brutality; attacks by racists; or systematic racism.  The statement #AllLivesMatter-although good in intention-can be tacked onto a serious issue in America and trivialize it.  Plus, such a statement can be used by some (who really don’t give a fuck about Blacks) as a kind of countermeasure against any legitimate Black grievances.

And it’s not just Black lives that don’t matter in America.  As we saw recently, GLTBQ lives still don’t matter.  The poor-especially poor children-lives don’t matter.  So again, the point #AllLivesMatter is a moot statement.

I know there are those who will say, “C’mon Vic, don’t feel that way!”  or “You’re a Christian, shouldn’t you feel different?”  Please understand, this is not being mean but being real.  As the Black father of a Black son who is concerned for both our lives, I see things in a different light.

#ALLlivesmatter?  Sounds nice.  However, until Black lives matter (and the lives of those I mentioned), it’s a moot point.  That’s my revisit.

Peace.

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Drones and Due Process

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Emphasis mine)

This is kind of a “follow up” to my last post, “If Not Now, When?”.

In Dallas, after a standoff with the shooter that killed five police officers and wounded seven others, Dallas Police employed a rather unusual method to stop the shooter.  A bomb robot with bomb was sent inside to where the suspect-Micah Xavier Johnson, an Army vet-was holed up and detonated the bomb-killing the suspect.

Now you may read this and say Johnson got what he deserved.  However, there are those within and without the police profession that are questioning the use of the robot to terminate Johnson; there are plenty of article on line.  However, I want to add my thoughts.  This is what I posted in Facebook today:

When a drone/robot is used as was in Dallas, it puts distance between law enforcement and the suspect. Now, law enforcement becomes desensitized as the suspect becomes objectified.

In the Dallas case, the right of due process gets tossed out the window. The suspect still had the legal right (under the Constitution) to due process and trial by his peers. Even if trial resulted in the death penalty, it would have been done legally.

This removes the court’s involvement in the process altogether; allowing police to be judge, jury and executioner. The saddest part of all is that it was Black suspects who received this, whilst White suspects received due process.

Many will argue that the suspects deserved this, however let’s see what happens when White suspects get this treatment.

As you see there is a dangerous precedent that could come about in law enforcement.  We already decry the militarization of law enforcement with equipment more suited for the battlefield than in the local community.  Bomb robots were first used in battle and later adopted by local police.   As I stated above, we now see the removal of due process when this comes about.  Plus, with the increasing affordability of drones-both ground and aerial-it would be all too easy for law enforcement to pick up a few of those babies to use against dangerous suspects.

As I said above, police can become judge, jury and executioner thanks to the drone’s potential elimination of due process.  Also, this desensitizes police to the humanity of the accused and turns him/her into an object.

Another factor was that the suspect was Black.  This incident smacked of the 1985 bombing of the Black organization MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia by Philadelphia police.  Here a Philadelphia PD helicopter dropped an incendiary bomb onto the buildings housing MOVE-killing 11, including five children.  If you want to take it even further, racist Whites in Tulsa, Oklahoma used planes to drop incendiaries-and fire upon-Blacks in the Greenwood District-the wealthiest Black community in the city-in 1921 (with law enforcement’s full knowledge).  This reinforces the idea of dehumanizing Blacks-suspect and otherwise-whilst their attackers can distance themselves, be desensitized and still come out in the right.

Save for the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and the Weaver family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho we never seen this treatment on White suspects.  Even those who have killed Blacks still make it to jail alive and get due process.  And for any White out there who would read this and tell me to “deal with it,” remember that you too can be next.  Just as a drone could be used in Dallas, one can be used in Palm Springs or Scarsdale, NY against White suspects.

As we adapt robots, computers, and other forms of “artificial intelligence” into our daily lives we run the risk of becoming more desensitized.  Drones delivering packages could desensitize us to the fact that a human courier could lose their job.  Computers in ATMs (automatic teller machines) are being programmed with algorithms that allow them to dor more of your human tellers jobs 24-7, desensitizing us to potential layoffs of tellers.  Social media can desensitize us to human-to-human contact and put virtual distance between us.  Now with bomb robots (and possibly drones) being used to execute suspects, we desensitize ourselves to the right of due process for the accused.

While we still have the capacity to think for ourselves, lets be sure to keep this in the forefront of our collective mind.  We need to stand up and bring this to our elected officials’ and police’s attention. For if we don’t we run the risk of ceding our Constitutional rights to computers and robots, and not just here in America; but anywhere in the world.

As we focus on drones and due process: let’s be careful not to have it become drones over due process or we’re screwed.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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If Not Now, When?

behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation – 2 Corinthians 6:2(b) (King James Version)

This is America’s wake-up call.  After two Black men – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile near St. Paul, MN – were fatally shot by their respective police; and the shooting death of five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest by a Black sniper.  This is the newest link in an ugly chain of anti-Black violence (usually at law enforcement’s hands) that reaches back for many years in America.  In the aftermath, we seen protests in major cities across the country, police officers speaking out on both sides of the issue, and even Rep. Joe Walsh (TX) speaking against the Dallas protestors and President Obama.  Even the Bahamas has issued a travel advisory for its citizens visiting the US to use “extreme caution” around police.

For years, this nation has had the racial “Sword of Damocles” hanging over its head.  This sword’s lone hair that’s holding it up is slowly unraveling.  Every time Blacks and others of color are attacked (by the Ku Klux Klan, cops, or institutional racism), the sword’s hair is unraveling even more.  If we keep going at the present rate of police attacks on Blacks and the subsequent reactions, that hair’s going to snap and America’s going to get sliced.

Now, more than ever, we need to get to the table and bring the race issue out into the open.  Blacks need to be able to express their frustrations about a hobbled existence in America without retaliation.  Whites need to listen and realize that “White privilege” is no longer cutting it in our world.  Other races need to come and hear truths, not media-fed stereotypes. Leaders need to come together of all stripes: political; religious; and social to start the healing and reconciliation process now.

Like the verse above, this is the day of our “salvation.”  Although this verse is usually read for “call to discipleship” moments; America needs a serious Day of Salvation.  We also need to recognize this need fast, for time is running out.  God is watching us, and we better act now.

For if not now, when?

Peace in America.

(Above image copyrighted The Huffington Post)

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Just Maybe

I’m writing this at an outdoor concert in Newark. It’s a lovely night in the “Brick City” and the music is flowing.

There’s a diverse crowd here enjoying the music and fellowship. As I listen to the music and see the people, I wonder if we could come together as God’s children. Just maybe we could put aside our petty differences and be the family God desires us to be.

Is it too much to ask for?

Just maybe…

Peace.

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Fourth of July Thoughts-or-Day Is Dying in the West

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
Jeremiah 18:6-8 (King James Version)

When I was younger, my old church used to have youth retreats that were usually held during the Fourth of July Holiday. Each evening we had vesper or an end of day service-to close out our day. When I reviewed the hymnal, I scanned the evening hymns sung on such occasions. One hymn I noticed was, “Day is Dying in the West,”which spoke about our devotion to God as the day came to a close.

As we celebrate Independence Day/Fourth of July, I wonder if the above title is more of a prediction than the title of a hymn. With the recent “Brexit”vote with England choosing to exit the European Union (and other nations thinking the same), the recent terrorist attack in Istanbul, and the current farce of a Presidential election in the United States are we seeing the West slowly destabilizing?

We see the Religious Right trying to shore up its brand of X-tianity in an attempt to gain political power  (a growing effort in futility). Europe is having a refugee crisis that’s eating away at European politics and society. Fears of a new financial crisis flood the Internet, and you wonder if there’s any validity to such fears.

Plus, if you factor in the evils done by the West: slavery, racism, genocide, wars under false flag, the destruction of African and Asian resources, and Xtian “missionary work”, the prognosis points in the “dying” direction.

Today’s Scripture was God’s reminder through the prophet Jeremiah that He/She determines the fate of nations by the way their people act.  I believe with the West, God is getting tired of the West’s nonsense. And like with Israel of old, God is trying to give the West a chance with these “warning shots” we see in the news.  If the West truly gets it act together, good.  If not, God could shut the whole thing down in a heartbeat.

Could we say that, “day is dying in the West”? Are we seeing the precursors to the decline of Western Civilization? As we celebrate the Fourth of July here in the US, and ponder the events of our day, this is a question to think about.

I hope this is not the case, and this is just my thoughts.  However, when we have seen past civilizations come and go, it makes you think.

Peace.

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