Saturday, December 19, 2009
Avatar is An Ode to White Guilt or Avatar is Like a Beautiful Woman Who You Lose Interest in the Minute After You Sleep with Her
Avatar is a beautiful movie that is best suited as a premier display piece for home theater systems on the floor of Best Buy. It is an amazing technical accomplishment. Avatar's 3d effects are the stuff of imagination--truly redefining for the genre of action and sci-fi film. But as often is the failing of beautiful things, Avatar has nothing new to offer. In its synthetic story we have seen elements recycled--elements done far better elsewhere. Likewise, in reading the overly enthusiastic praise offered by professional critics, and observing how some in the audience cheered and looked wide eyed at Cameron's display of technical brilliance as though it were a thing never seen before, I smiled.
It was not a smile of condescension, what I like to call "geek contrariness" where folks just want to be "haters" as to appear smart and witty. No, I was thinking of Lloyd Bentsen, the 1992 Vice Presidential Democratic Candidate and his ownage of Dan Quayle in their debate. There Quayle alluded to JFK. Bentsen looked at the baby faced, dim witted candidate (a male Sara Palin before her reign of terror over the know-nothings and willfully ignorant Right-wing Populists) and smiled. He replied: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
In that spirit, I must proclaim the following: Avatar, I know Star Wars. I love Star Wars. Avatar, you are no Star Wars.
I will dispense with a more detailed review of the movie except to offer the following--read any review of the film Dances with Wolves and substitute Avatar for the latter. While Costner's epic is far more enjoyable (Wolves is an "A" film, Avatar is "C+" at best), the general review will read the same. As to avoid redundancy, I offer the following questions and observations:
1. How much white guilt and colonial fantasy is present in Avatar? White human guy can go and become an alien, return to his human body, expose the wickedness of his human brethren toward the noble savages, and then lead a revolt against the evil human corporate henchmen. Second thought: did anyone else catch the phrase "race traitor" flippantly thrown about in the film? Third thought: while I am ashamed to admit it, I love Colonel Quaritch's proclamation that, "We will blast a crater in their racial memory so deep they won't come within a thousand clicks of here ever again!" If I ever get into fisticuffs with an ign't again in my life, I am going to scream that phrase as I beat them into submission.
How many articles, critical essays, and reviews are going to be written just on that one element of the film--the colonial imagination--ten, twenty, thirty? How many are going to be worth reading? I am getting my outline ready as we speak.
2. Are the Na'Vi supposed to be Masai warriors? Tell me the resemblance is not uncanny. Easter egg: "Na'Vi" is "Native" minus "E.T." Cool move.
3. On the white guilt point, so the Na'Vi take into their community a representative of their enemies, who learns their culture in three months, mates with an heiress to the tribe's leadership, rises to lead all the Na'Vi peoples against the human invaders, and gives poor said aliens agency enough to fight back. Come on! Talk about the white man's burden redux.
4. I will concede that the Na'Vi got some soul with their fiber optic lovemaking and magic swaying to and fro under the mystical tree. In fact, the Na'Vi's music sounded like something off of a world music soundtrack one could buy at Starbucks. But for my dollar, I prefer the Ewok celebration at the end of Jedi:
5. Final music point: when will John Horner stop recycling music from Glory and Willow?
6. For a spot on deconstruction of white guilt in Avatar (she beat me to it) see Annalee Newitz's piece on the great site Io9.
7. How fitting is the following? The Marines have the following saying of which they are quite proud: "Join the Marines, Travel to Exotic Distant Lands, Meet Exotic People and Kill Them." Mate some Greenpeace ethos with the spirit of the above slogan and you have Avatar summed up quite nicely.
8. How many movies and classic sci-fi novels does Avatar unsuccessfully borrow from? I count the following: Forever War; Old Man War; Dune; District 9; Aliens; Dances with Wolves; A Man Called Horse; Final Fantasy; Last Samurai; Pocahontas; New World; Zulu; Tarzan; Ferngully; the Star Wars Trilogy. What did I miss, Captain Planet?
9. I am not hating on synthetic films--I love Tarantino for example. What is so troubling to me is how Cameron has such an eye for detail in this film and has created such a wondrous planet (the world of the Na'vi is so beautiful and well thought out, the lack of innovation in terms of narrative is made painfully obvious by comparison). Furthermore, the glowing errors of reasoning and exposition in other aspects of Avatar is a glaring oversight as well. This leads us to...
10. I am a gearhead, ghetto geek. In layman's terms this means I pay attention to military hardware, strategy, and tactics in my films. To point: did the mercs in Avatar graduate from a correspondence course? Why wouldn't they simply destroy the Na'Vi from orbit? Why would they bring in their capital ships within close range of their enemies? Thus, sacrificing all their advantages of firepower and technology? Some other thoughts. Why can't the military simply turn off what is basically an elaborate wi-fi connection between the operators and the avatars? Who would invest money in such a technology without including a kill switch?
Yes, it is a film. But, Cameron could give us a wink in the narrative to explain this error in reasoning. Was there something about the planet that demanded they come in close to fight it out with some dirty boxing?
11. Second gearhead point: so the humans can travel between stars, cover light years of distance, and master transferring human consciousness into a host body, but we can't make a type of transparent steel that can stop arrows and spears? Just thinking aloud...
12. I am not a hater. Colonel Quaritch is a badass. As proof of my allegiance to the Clan Quaritch, I will most certainly dress as our leader next Halloween.
13. Does Avatar take place in the same universe as Cameron's Aliens films?
14. On Quaritch again, the knife his mech pulled out was 10 kinds of awesome! Did anyone else notice the engraving on the blade? Was it a prize taken from a fallen Na'Vi warrior?
15. How great will Robotech be if shot using Cameron's 3d technology?
16. What did you love about the movie? What did you hate? Were you as disappointed as I was? Or have I lost the eyes and heart of my 12 year old self as demonstrated by my inability to appreciate the wondrous genius that is Avatar?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Barack Obama's Post-Racial America: "The Heckler," Georgetown University's Newspaper Jokes About Lynchings and KKK Violence Against Black People
Enter the joyous rites of passage for college students everywhere: the annual ritual where undergraduates hold "ghetto" parties in blackface/dress up like "Mexicans" for "crossing the border parties"/or more generally act like racially myopic asses. Of course, no "offense" is ever intended. And of course, any folk who complain are being "overly sensitive." Over the years, I have witnessed events such as these as a college student (and activist), administrator, and instructor. Interestingly, the repeated note in the controversy surrounding these tasteless episodes is denial--"we didn't know any better! we didn't know that dressing up in blackface was offensive. I/We/Me/Us have black/brown/yellow/red friends. We can't possibly be racists."
Because intention is THE qualifier for racism, none of these good wholesome American "kids" ever mean any harm. My thought: how did the bar get set so low? When should intentionality enter into the equation for personal responsibility and culpability in these cases? My second thought: how can other people's kids get this most generous benefit of the doubt? Where the best of their intentions is always the default rule for assigning responsibility for any error or shortcoming in behavior or decision-making?
Ultimately, episodes where racial terrorism becomes somehow made into harmless humor and satire speaks to a deep myopia and willful ignorance about this country's history. Ironically, the purveyors of this tasteless claptrap are reconfigured as the real "victims," victims of "political correctness," "overly sensitive minorities and liberals," and reverse racism.
And of course these good white college kids wouldn't dare make allusions such as the following:
"In addition to the cross lighting, The Hoya drove the idea home by hanging dark, human-shaped piñatas from Dahlgren’s trees, representing the demons of the past. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia was on hand to witness the ceremony, and his young son was allowed to take a bat to the piñatas, which eventually gave way to a stream of crimson confetti and candy."
Nah. Good, white, college kids would never joke about the murder, debasement, and evisceration of many thousands of black people (and sometimes Jews, as well as Catholics) as they hung like strange fruit from many a tree, in the center of fairgrounds, or off of public monuments. Good white college kids would never print a newspaper article where domestic terrorism was made light of as the stuff of good fun and sport. Moreover, these same good, white, college kids would have the good sense to not make light of the whiteness of terror evoked by the robes of the KKK as the harmless "ghosts of Christmas past."
It would never happen, especially in the Age of Obama. Most importantly, the KKK and Jim Crow was sooooo long ago they doesn't really matter anymore--except to those crazy liberals and racial ambulance chasers who care about such things.
Critiquing the sense of entitlement necessary to find joy in another group's suffering (and to ask these students to reflect upon how racial violence against people of color has also damaged the White Soul) is simply to high a standard to hold. Thus, to call the editors and staff of The Georgetown Heckler to the carpet is both self-righteous and unfair to these good white kids who really meant not harm. Right?
DAHLGREN QUAD—After a challenging year during which Georgetown’s main newspaper saw a last-minute revocation of its independence from the University and extended fallout over its annual April Fool’s issue, The Hoya came together this Friday for its annual cross lighting.
Since the 1930s, the Christmas cross has stood next to Georgetown’s official Christmas tree and is meant to be a reminder of the religious importance of the holiday that the newspaper felt was already slipping from the cultural consciousness during the Roosevelt administration. The Hoya still uses the original green and red light-bulb-studded metal frame of the cross from the first cross lighting, but its wood body has had to be replaced every year since 1941 because faulty electrical wiring causes the wood to catch fire.
“I think we needed this tradition more than ever,” said Campus News Editor Marshall McKinley (SFS ’11). “Seeing our crappy little cross struggle to light up and then spark and catch on fire was the first time in a while we’ve been able to laugh.”
The event began Friday with the staff’s traditional procession under the dark of night from the Leavey Center, with everyone wearing the traditional costume of a flowing white robe, white hood, and white mask, portraying the “ghosts of Christmas past.”
“It’s a time to remember our great tradition, but it’s also a time to remember some of the darkness that hangs over our past,” Hoya Features Editor Emma Richards (COL ’12) said. “It feels cathartic to put on this white hood. It’s about us coming together as one and exterminating these dark figures of the past that seem to loom over us.”
Added Richards,” We’ve been slaving over this ceremony for weeks and it’s great to see it running so smoothly.”
In addition to the cross lighting, The Hoya drove the idea home by hanging dark, human-shaped piñatas from Dahlgren’s trees, representing the demons of the past.
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia was on hand to witness the ceremony, and his young son was allowed to take a bat to the piñatas, which eventually gave way to a stream of crimson confetti and candy.
One of the hooded figures, apparently new Editor-in-Chief Paul Buckley (COL ’11), gave a short speech to the crowd. “From now on we go forward free of the black marks on our past,” he said. “We stand here united in these pure white robes and realize we are now pure and whi—upright, standing on our feet as a newspaper once again.”
In one final act of symbolic ceremony, Buckley took off his robe and rubbed his face and arms in shoe polish. “I is the stupid dark demon that be hauntin’ you!” he yelled in a strange voice. “Be smart and independent and pure, young Hoya staffers!” He was clubbed to the ground with plastic bats.
Finally the huge burning cross was extinguished with a fire hose, but first the hose somehow malfunctioned and shot water at members of the Black Student Alliance who were walking back from a meeting, knocking them over and causing injuries.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
We are truly a society too sick to survive.
I may have desires to be an Internet celebrity. But to my credit, I have never cut a promo or commentary while in the bathtub. Why? Primarily, baths are disgusting and foul ventures. One sits in their own filth and is expected to somehow emerge cleansed. Yuck! the time for denial is over, baths are just nasty. As a corollary, I would rank the "romantic" bath with one's lover as only slightly more objectionable and disappointing than the hot lovemaking in the shower fantasy that so many of my lady friends have harbored--someone always ends up cold and I will be damned if it is going to be me. Given my hedonistic ways, if I would/have/will continue to reject sexing it up in the shower or bathtub--even with Sarita Choudhury, Bai Ling, Rihanna, or Rosario Dawson (although I would certainly watch these water nymphs bathe while reading poetry to them while perched on the commode as a precursor to an epic lovemaking session)--imagine how I feel about issuing edicts on the public happenings of the day while in the bathroom. Such deeds are simply uncivilized.
1. Is dude serious? Or is he an exhibitionist?
2. What's next? Blogging and podcasting while dropping a deuce?
3. Why is he from my adopted hometown of Chicago? Why?
4. Where is the shame Lord? Has shame simply left our society as a positive and moderating influence on human behavior?
5. Random geeky question: How would Jurgen Habermas or Walter Lippman analyze the above exercise in expanding the public sphere and communicative democracy?
Friday, December 11, 2009
Been absent the last few days on these planes, trains, and automobiles. The Woods debacle continues. And I have something special in store for Monday. For now:
From Adam in the bible to Tiger Woods--destroyed by feminist lies!
Sounds like a hook from R Kelly's new album.
Okay, the Mayor of Blacktown is preaching again. I am usually an unapologetic supporter of the Mayor. But, on this one I am having a hard time connecting the dots. Nevertheless, it does make me smile. Like flies to doo doo, Woods is bait for all Internet celebrities. Whose next? I wonder what Pastor Manning will have to say about Woods' use of his wood as he beats around the bushes. How can you not love Oscar Wilde world play such as that?
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tiger Woods is Addicted to White Women or People's Exhibit Number One in the 21st Century Post-Racial Museum of Racial Absurdities
“Out of the blackest part of my soul, across the zebra striping of my mind, surges this desire to be suddenly white. I wish to be acknowledged not as black but as white...who but a white woman can do this for me? By loving me she proves that I am worthy of white love. I am loved like a white man...I marry white culture, white beauty, white whiteness. When my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine.”
I had no comment to offer on Tiger Woods' indiscretions until I rediscovered the above quote. Fanon so perfectly describes Woods' sickness that it demanded I proceed. So Tiger, I guess you ain't had it right 'till you had it white, no?
I am a huge fan of the "swirl"--the intermingling of bodies differently hued in the midst of hot, sweaty, lovemaking. Moreover, I have never understood so much energy expended over one's choice of who to bed and for what reasons. That qualifier being known, Tiger Woods is a special case.
If Tiger were worthy of blackness I would label him a "tragic negro." But, for all of his gifts, he walked away from his ancestry and history. To boot, Woods is self-hating (see this article in Esquire magazine where he revels in telling white folks racist jokes about black people). Predictably, Woods does not have the blues sensibility that comes from a sense of belonging to the Black Atlantic. Tiger does not hear the drum--nor does he ever want to.
I am accommodating. If Woods had said "hey, my mom is Asian, my dad is Black, and I honor both," I could respect him, rather, against the force of history and commonsense, Tiger in the height of arrogance, invents his own race. Now a "Cablinasian," Woods is his own man, not standing on the shoulders of those athletes of color who struggled to open doors that he now freely walks through. Tiger is now/was an island onto himself.
During his ascension, I was tempted to let Woods stay in self-imposed racial exile as the multicultural marketing machine that is 21st century corporate America, of which he was one of its greatest examples, used him--and he used it. Like OJ Simpson before him (Hertz jumping, airport running, Nicole Simpson white prize possessing negro that he is) Woods was given a pass into nominal whiteness. Just like soccer legend Pele in the "racial democracy" that is Brazil--who ironically was the butt of the joke that only in Brazil could Pele (a dark skinned black man) be "white"--Woods has so much money that some would allow him this latitude of racial self-invention.
But like so many of wealth and prestige, Tiger Woods could not resist drinking deeply from the fountain of self-indulgence. Whiteness, or to be more specific, White women, were his ambrosia. Like a mere mortal at a feast of Dionysus hosted by Pan, Woods drank too deeply to only awaken drunken on a neighbor's lawn in the midst of a maelstrom of his own making.
Who knows what will come of Tiger. Financially, he will be fine. Rich before. Rich now. Rich later. To his credit, Woods is consistent. If one looks at the rogues gallery that are his mistresses and dalliances he does have a particular taste: white of any hue, station, habitus, beauty, or way. Pity then, that this appetite would be his destruction (Even more sad given Tiger's resources. I must ask the obvious: Could he not have found women that were on average more attractive? At least possessing the class and beauty of his wife as opposed to some Jersey shore castoffs or a woman picked up at Dave and Busters or Hooters?).
The DSM-IV, the bible for psychotherapists, has a pithy diagnosis for Woods' behavior: he is addicted to white women.
Please do not misunderstand me. It is not the fact that Woods likes white women that is so troubling. I could care less. What is troubling, is that Tiger so needs a certain type of woman as a means of immunizing himself--or so he thought--from his own blackness. This is a mode of racial fetishizing and obsession that is dishonorable to Woods' family. It is also, at least in my opinion, doubly insulting to the women that Woods bedded for he did not want them because they happened to be White. No, he wanted these women precisely because they were White. This is a subtle but very important distinction.
Pray tell, who better than Tiger Woods exemplifies the following description of the sickness that is "addiction?"
From Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee's What Are the Drums Sayer Booker Part 2? or How Cornel West Spits Game at the Ladies
Brother Cornel is one of my favorite people.
Cornel West is a true renaissance man. If he succeeds or fails, West is always daring to reach--to attempt the act of (re)invention. A laudable trait in my humble opinion. I also admire Dr. West's ability to parlay his not insignificant abilities as a public intellectual for a quite comfortable living. How can one hate on a Rolls-Royce socialist? Tell me. How?
As a great example of the hold Brother Cornel has on some of the youngsters, I will never forget standing in line to see him give a talk at a university that will forever remain nameless. In front of me were some snowflakes (the "affectionate" name given by faculty to undergraduates) who exclaimed, "Cornel West is a god! Did you know he was in the Matrix movies! He is so cool!" I simply smiled.
Yes, like many of you, I too am still waiting for Brother Cornel's return to "serious" academic work. Nevertheless, on a pound for pound basis Cornel is a national asset. Predictably, he is also a great magnet for the haters. That having been said, the following ownage/getting sonned by/taken to the woodshed/Ric Flair cutting of promo by Scott McLemee on Cornel West is the most scathing attack on a Black public intellectual since Adolph Reed's classic essay “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker? The Current Crisis of the Black Intellectual" in the Village Voice circa 1995:
While Scott McLemee clearly disagrees, for my dollar, Cornel's explanation of his sexual appetites and the visions of sensual pragmatism that await the ladies who find themselves in the latter's boudoir easily makes his new book a must own.
Personal note: how can you not like that Oscar Wilde-like wordplay?
Second personal note: I am going to use Brother Cornel's explanation of his love philosophy as my new justification for the virtues of a poly-amorous lifestyle.
Question: Is Scott McLemee fighting out of his weight class? Is Scott going to get knocked out if Cornel responds to his being called out? Will this fight be a TKO?
Enjoy the following excerpts courtesy of Inside Higher ed:
The problem, to be clear, is not that this is meant to be is a popular book, or even that West himself could not be bothered to write it. Brother West offers much evidence that amour propre and self-knowledge are not the same thing. One tends to be in conflict with the other. A memoir will often show traces of the struggle between them.
Not so here. That battle is plainly over. Self-knowledge has been taken hostage, and amour propre curdled into self-infatuation.
If sketchy in other regards, Brother West is never anything but expansive on how Cornel West feels about Cornel West. He is deeply committed to his committed-ness, and passionately passionate about being full of passion. Various works of art, literature, music, and philosophy remind West of himself. He finds Augustinian humility to be deeply meaningful. This is mentioned in one sentence. His taste for three-piece suits is full of subtle implications that require a couple of substantial paragraphs to elucidate.
As mentioned, his romantic life sounds complicated. Brother West is a reminder of Samuel Johnson’s description of remarriage as the triumph of hope over experience. One paragraph of musings following his third divorce obliged me to put the book down and think about things for a long while. Here it is:
“The basic problem with my love relationships with women is that my standards are so high -- and they apply equally to both of us. I seek full-blast mutual intensity, fully fledged mutual acceptance, full-blown mutual flourishing, and fully felt peace and joy with each other. This requires a level of physical attraction, personal adoration, and moral admiration that is hard to find. And it shares a depth of trust and openness for a genuine soul-sharing with a mutual respect for a calling to each other and to others. Does such a woman exist for me? Only God knows and I eagerly await this divine unfolding. Like Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship in Emily Bronte’s remarkable novel Wuthering Heights or Franz Schubert’s tempestuous piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat (D.960) I will not let life or death stand in the way of this sublime and funky love that I crave!”
No doubt this is meant to be inspirational. It is at any rate exemplary. Rendered more or less speechless, I pointed the passage out to my wife.
She looked it over and said, “Any woman who reads this needs to run in the opposite direction when she sees him coming.”
Returning to the book, I found, just a few pages later, that West was getting divorced for a fourth time. Seldom does reader response yield results that prove so empirically verifiable.
Friday, December 4, 2009
What If? Confessions of a Young Conservative: Glenn Beck's High School History Class Exam Revealed for All to Read
During the next few weeks we will be featuring a series of "what if's?" Accordingly, you, our erstwhile friends and allies ask: Brother Chauncey, please clarify what exactly you mean by a "what if" scenario?
Remember when you were a kid and Marvel and DC comics teamed up and told a story where Superman fought the Hulk? Well, this is our version of what smart folks call either "counter-factuals" and/or "exercises in creative decision-making and imagination." You know that our friend Werner Herzog's Bear, resident expert on Glenn Beck and his twisted machinations had to get the first shot. In the following piece, Werner, historian par excellence, puts forth what Glenn Beck (circa frustrated senior year know it all in high school) would have written in response to a prompt in history or civics class. Enjoy!
Question: What factors led to the constitutional convention, what ideas influenced the Constitution’s framers, what principles of government did it express, and how has it changed over time?
Ever since God created human beings, they have wanted freedom. No country truly had freedom until the United States. The Founding Fathers got together in Philadelphia because they wanted more freedom, which they weren’t getting from the Articles of Confederation. The Articles taxed to much. They were like a Communist government. This is why liberals don’t like the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers were obviously following the Ten Commandments with the Constitution, since there are ten amendments. Part of it says that men are “endowed by their Creator” with rights. This means that the Constitution did not believe in separation of church and state. The liberals who want that obviously never read Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the Constitution, not them.
The Founders also hated taxes’, which is why they threw tea into the harbor. The Constitution does not believe in taxes. That’s why progressive fascists added the income tax amendment. Since the Founders’ were inspired by God, the Constitution is a perfect document, and not a living document. You can’t improve on what God inspired.
The Constitution is all about real Americans. That’s why it protects the right to bare arms and have militias. The Founders had some good ideas about this that we should follow. People who aren’t real Americans should only have 3/5’s of a vote. Why is this so controversial? I guess that’s because today’s liberals hate the Constitution.
The most important part of the Constitution is the tenth amendment. That says that the states can’t be forced to do anything they don’t want. The Founders thought the federal government was tyranny. This is why the fourteenth amendment is wrong a change, since it takes away states’ rights. I don’t understand why people have a problem with states’ rights, they have always helped real Americans from tyranny. Only Communists and Nazi’s are people who like centralized government.
Today we have disrespected the Constitution. Schools can’t force students to pray. The goverment taxes all the time. The Commander-in-Chief doesn’t like real Americans, which is very dangerous. Pretty soon the liberals put us all in death camps! They hate America! They want to drive the ship into the iceberg!
Even tho the Constitution was perfect, new issues are here now. So we need new amendments. We have to make sure only real Americans become president. The Nazi liberals want to destroy America! We need to stop the gays from marrying. If we allow that society will die! Maybe we’ll have another revolution by real Americans to get the Constitution back. Like the Founders said, sometimes the tree of liberty needs to get water from patriots blood. I wish I could use the chalkboard in the front to show you this.
(Note to professor: sorry about the tear stains on the test. Sometimes I get so carried away when I talk about our great country.)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. As a fan of Robert E. Howard's legendary character Conan the Barbarian, I am sure that President Obama will appreciate the allusion.
President Obama's speech on the war in Afghanistan reveals a man whose presidency is eerily reminiscent of that of the Johnson administration--men of bold vision domestically, yet tarnished by a failed war abroad. I have watched with great concern and relative silence over these last few months as Obama has committed misstep after misstep in the formulation of his Afghanistan policy. As a strong supporter of President Obama, I stood mute. I convinced myself that Obama is playing such a deep game that success awaits us if we only stay the course.
I watched Obama's speech on Tuesday with a raised eyebrow and an attentive ear. Ultimately, there is no way to elegantly parse the conclusion which I reached: We are in one hell of a mess. Sadly, I no longer believe that success, either domestically or internationally, is a Fait accompli under Obama's leadership.
Economically, we are an empire in decline. In many ways, America is the British Empire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We believe that we are too big to fail, an indispensable power in the world, while we simultaneously maintain a bloated empire that we cannot extradite ourselves from. Like the Brits in their twilight, we no longer have a manufacturing base as we have chosen to build wealth on the shadows and mirrors of finance, speculation, and credit.
Ironically, the world itself has signaled that they too are unprepared for a world where America does not lead--yet, our peers and friends seem either unwilling or unable to take up the slack. Domestically, Obama has been too much a centrist, too willing to compromise. He needed to put on the brass knuckles many months ago. Instead, Obama chose to proceed with a conciliatory way, extending his hand to his foes while wearing a silk glove. Predictably, the Republicans and right wing populists saw compromise as weakness and chose to play the role of obstructionists.
Perhaps unavoidably, there have been many missteps in the formulation of Obama's Afghanistan policy. He has let himself be bullied by the military. Obama has been contemplative and patient while gathering the necessary information for making what is a life and death decision both for his administration (and its legacy), for this country (and our future), and for the young men and women who are the tip of the sword in Afghanistan (and who will live and die as a function of Obama's continuation of Bush era policies). Not surprisingly, Commander-in-Chief Obama was greeted by a military establishment that publicly lobbied for their own agenda and disagreed with the president's policies. Simply put, if Truman found the courage to fire Douglas MacArthur, the American Caesar, surely, Obama could have dismissed General McChrystal and those others who went public, thus revealing that they did not respect the chain of command.
While America is rightfully focused on terrorism and Al-Qaeda as threats to our safety and security, realpolitik tells us that Bin Laden and his terror franchise are not a threat to the existence of this country. At present, our greatest foe is a radically diminished standard of living caused by capitalism and finance run amok, where a politics of greed that traded long term prosperity for short term gain has been the dagger in our heart.
It is not a suicide bomber operating out of the hinterlands of Pakistan or Afghanistan that will undo us. No, it is the economic terror of the Great Recession. If we do not act rightly, with more expediency and more vigor, it will not be homicide bombers, dirty bombs, shoe bombs, asymmetrical warfare, or a failed counter-insurgency strategy--a new language, a panoply of buzz words and phrases that have recently infiltrated our 21st century lexicon--that will be listed as agent number one on our national epitaph. Rather, it will be the Great Recession that placed the last nail in America's proverbial coffin. As a qualifier, I would reiterate that like most empires, our decline will be be both long and slow. This fall will not be immediately attributable to any one factor. Nevertheless, we stand at a crossroads in our own history. I fear that Obama has taken the wrong fork--one that will lead us to inevitable ruin.
Mr. President, I understand that you are in a lose-lose position. If you choose to withdraw from Afghanistan you will be lambasted from the right and the center. If you escalate, as you have chosen to, you will lose progressives as you pursue a policy that is in many ways juxtaposed to the theme of "change" which you campaigned upon. I do not envy the decisions that have been forced upon you--or more rightfully put--a set of burdens that you chose to hoist upon your own shoulders when you made the decision to run for President.
President Obama, like so many, I have and continue to support you because of your dignity and intelligence. The critical and reflective manner that typifies your decision making process is a breath of fresh air when compared to your predecessor.
For this, you are a credit to us all.
With that having been said, I appeal to your intellect and intelligence. Ask yourself again, as I am sure you have, can America really and truly reconcile the history of Afghanistan--a country affectionately known as the graveyard of empires--with our policy goals? In a time of economic crisis can America afford the 1 million dollars a year per soldier, the expense of keeping one soldier in Afghanistan, when we are bleeding money at home? President Obama, I implore you to review Dwight D. Eisenhower's prescient speech on the military industrial complex. Ask yourself, "how many homes could 1 million dollars save?" "How many children could be fed?" "How many people could be employed?" "How many schools could be built?"
Mr. President, as a student of history you most certainly know that America will be in Afghanistan longer than the time period that you have suggested. This is unavoidable. All that I ask for is honesty, a fair deal, and a transparent conversation with the American people where you ask them the following questions: Are they prepared for the steady stream of coffins that will slowly trickle back to Dover in order to follow through with an unsustainable policy of nation building in Afghanistan? Is it worth it?
President Obama, Afghanistan is your personal tar baby now. How will you free yourself, and this country, from its sticky grasp?
Friday, November 27, 2009
See, there is in fact a career path for aging, aged, and well past their prime "hip hop" artists.
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving Day. My meal was spot on. It was a bit uppity and high class for this working class Negro's pallet, but Lord was it scrumptious.
To point, apparently Coolio will be releasing a cookbook based on his Internet cooking show. Can anyone say welcome to diabetesville?
Second thought, so there is something called "ghettalian" bread? What's next? With incarceration as a new right of passage for the ign't classes, will prison cuisine infiltrate mainstream American fare? Are we going to see cookbooks that merge the best of the food preparation techniques from inside the prison system with the delicate ingredients that are the centerpieces of the slow food movement?
I wonder how Martha Stewart and Alice Waters are positioning themselves to profit off of this potential trend. Who knows, maybe Trader Joe's has a new addition to their line of Two Buck Chuck in the offering. Coming soon to a strip mall or a suburban exurb near you, Pruno. I can just imagine all of the wannabe cosmopolitan types raving about the subtle notes and flavors of prison hooch on NPR's All Things Considered: "Pruno is so aromatic and deceptively sophisticated...the introduction of this wondrous beverage speaks to the zeitgeist of the Great Recession...Prison culture has become American culture, first hip hop, now Pruno." Inevitably, faux wine experts will soon be imploring their friends to drink pruno out of a plastic jug lest the wine not hit the proper part of the tongue, and its flavor be diminished.
Enjoy and bon appetit! Truth be told, count me among the converted as I am going to cook me some of these soul rolls for Christmas dinner.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
And ladies you do deserve the best...
Yucky. Nasty. Cooties. When I was growing up I swore to always play it safe in the sexing it up department. I didn't take this oath because the anti-sex films in health class scared the hell out of me--which they did by the way. No, it was a personal encounter with a survivor of the clap that put me on the straight and narrow. Trust me, hearing your friend's little brother explain that he missed three days of school (in the seventh grade mind you) because he couldn't pee after sticking "it" into a girl was a horror story made real to my virgin ears. The visual was enough. A young man with a broken penis doubled over in pain, crippled on his mom's bathroom floor made it clear: never go raw young man, cause raw dog can, and will, burn you up.
In the immortal words of The Cleveland Show:
MONDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- As many as one in four U.S. teenage girls have had a sexually transmitted disease (STD), many infected soon after their first sexual encounter, a new government report shows.
"The high burden of STDs among teen girls reminds us that we can't ignore this," said study author Dr. Sami L. Gottlieb, from the division of sexually transmitted disease prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention.
"Sexual health is an important part of the overall health and well-being of teenagers," Gottlieb added. "For too long, we as a nation have been far too squeamish about sexual health issues for teens, but we owe it to our kids to get over it."
The report is published online Nov. 23 and in the December print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
For the study, Gottlieb's team collected data on 838 teen girls aged 14 to 19. Using samples provided by the teens, the researchers looked for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, , Trichomonas vaginalis, herpes simplex virus type 2 and human papillomavirus (HPV).
The study authors found that 24.1 percent of the girls had one of these STDs and among girls who were sexually experienced, 37.7 percent had an STD.was the most common infection (18.3 percent), followed by chlamydia (3.9 percent).
Moreover, in the year after having their first sexual experience and with only one sex partner, 19.2 percent of the teens developed an STD, Gottlieb's group found.
To counter these problems, teens need to have early sex education, Gottlieb noted. "The vast majority of people have sex for the first time during their teenage years, so we need them to be prepared," she said.
In addition, Gottlieb believes that 11- and 12-year-old girls should get the HPV vaccine. "We have an effective and safe vaccine that can prevent most of the bad consequences of HPV infection -- cervical cancer," she stated.
Teen girls and young women should also have a yearly test for chlamydia, Gottlieb said. "This can prevent some of the adverse consequences of chlamydia, such a and infertility," she stressed.
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "the authors make a convincing case that rates of both sexual activity and sexually transmitted infections are high in adolescent females in the U.S."
These are the facts of epidemiology, not ideology, and should be the basis for public health policy, he said.
"Adolescent girls need early access to comprehensive sex education, and barrier contraceptives," Katz said. "This will not increase sexual activity, but it will attenuate the resultant harms."
This study also makes a strong case for routine vaccination against HPV, as it is the most common sexually transmitted infection, Katz said. "Since HPV is often acquired so soon after the initiation of sexual activity, early vaccination is the way to go. I speak on this as the father of two young teenage daughters, both of whom have received the," he added.
Another report released by thelast week provided more statistics.
Teen girls aged 15 to 19 accounted for the largest number (409,531) of the 1.5 million reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in the United States in 2008, followed by women aged 20 to 24, according to the annual federal report.
The researchers also found that black females continue to have a higher rate ofthan any other racial or ethnic group.
Last year, there were about 1.2 million reported cases of chlamydia and nearly 337,000 reported cases of gonorrhea in the United States, according to the report.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I have been searching for this clip a long time. In fact, this interview with the King of All Blacks of Howard Stern fame is one of the impetuses for this blog. A few years ago, I was watching Stern on Comcast and yelled at the TV, "this is the greatest thing ever!" Guessing the race of a family by the garbage they put on the curb is perfect, efficient, and revealing. There is an anthropology dissertation here: Trash Studies, Disposable Culture, and the Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Class.
At the time, "naked garbage" was/is one of my new favorite words. I used it for weeks after seeing this show. Everywhere I would go I would point out "naked garbage!" I would see ignt's throwing garbage on their own stoops, and I would yell "naked garbage!" Random factoid: humans, along with owls, are the only animals that soil their own nests. Disgusting.
Zora was not amused by my fixation on naked garbage and demanded that I cease and desist this new found habit. Interestingly though, she goes into a near fit whenever she sees someone spitting on the sidewalk. Go figure.
As the son of a maintenance man, and yes I am reifying race and class, race matters in the garbage game. Class matters too--trust me, there is a binary distribution here where in my experience the ghetto underclass have either A) the cleanest home and neatest garbage one will ever see or B) the most utterly disgusting mess one can imagine. Funny thing, rich folks fall into a similar distribution.
Is there a correlation between race and refuse? Is this more a story of class than either race and ethnicity? Does region play into this? Is southern garbage heavier than northern garbage? Or is this a story of neighborhood norms? Thus, the tensions when neighborhoods are in "transition" and the new arrivals are loathe to conform to existing middle class norms?
I have to ask, what does Asian garbage look like? Or Native American garbage? Pray tell.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I am a man! Yes I am!
We need more teachers like Brother Charlie.
For a moment, I thought Charlie was going to tell this young ign't he was all balls and no shaft (extra credit to those of you who get the reference). Seriously, listen to the boy's response to Mr. Charlie, and how said teen conceptualizes being a "man." Is it any surprise that our communities are in disarray? Provocative question: Who is more to blame? The absent fathers or the mothers who raise these baby boy, cornerboy, soon to be fodder for the prison industrial complex, pants sagging, cum droppers?
What precipitated this mentoring session you may ask? Said man-child was texting in class and thus distracted from the lesson at hand. I know Charlie--in real life, not Internet life--and he is cool people who is hustling hard for the people here in Chicago. I have had drinks with him, argued over the merits of Cornel West's turn as public intellectual, and how best to reach the young Lost Ones. I was also present at a wedding where Mr. Charlie served as the justice of the peace. Trust me, his words were priceless.
Should we do a featured interview with Brother Charlie? What do you my respectable negro friends and allies think of his approach to the mentoring of young negro boys?