Monday, June 29, 2015

Week of 06/29/2015

Rebel Hell
It must suck to be a Confederate supporter right about now.
I know some folks are scratching their heads and saying “What are you talking about, David?  The Confederate States?  As in the Civil War?  That war ended over a century ago!”
Yes, that’s true, but not in the minds of many here in the American Southeast.
I remember in the early 1990’s, just before the pre-Olympic migration, when I made my first trip to Atlanta.  I met a guy who thought I looked rather curious.  Here I was dressed somewhat professionally, wearing what he thought was cowboy boots (they were just shoes), and had a car with a Georgia tag on it.  After a quick introduction, he realized from my accent that I was from New England, which blew his mind because he thought from my shoes that I was from Texas.  He found out I was in the city for a job interview and was just killing some time before then by visiting the local mall.  So he told me to be careful about my “Yankee” accent because there were plenty of folk that were still pissed about what Sherman did to Atlanta all those years ago during the “War of Northern Aggression”.
Take note that he did not say “Civil War”.  He refused to say it was a “Civil War”.  It was all the fault of those “Damned Yankees”.  And he told me that was the prevailing thought of many in the area.
And having lived here in this part of America longer than I was in New England, I have to agree with him.  There are many here that refuse to accept their ancestors’ role in the Civil War, or that they lost that war.  They continue to adhere to old thinking and old mentalities and cling to old symbols.  They call these “heritage” and “tradition”.
How hard it must be for them to comprehend that what they see as “heritage”, others see as symbols of hatred and division.
Once upon a time, the Georgia flag was seen as a symbol so politically caustic, it would crush the career of any elected official who dared talk about changing it to remove its Confederate symbols.  Never mind that it was changed in the 1950’s to show “Southern solidarity” against the Civil Rights movement.  Never mind that it was used by groups like the Klu Klux Klan to show their hatred of other races.  For the vast majority of Georgians outside of Atlanta (or at least those that voted), that flag was “heritage”.  Touch it at your political peril.
Then Governor Roy Barnes did something unthinkable.  He had it changed.  And then his successor changed it again.  And even though the “heritage” crowd threw fits and screamed about recalls, their tantrums went nowhere.  Their political “influence” was gone.
How sad it is to know, then, that their real end would come with both a whimper and a bang.
A 21-year old loser, unemployed, seemingly living off of a steady stream of hatred, brought the “bang”, thanks to his attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina.  He killed nine people in cold blood, including the pastor of that church.
And when the question was asked of why he did it, people looked into his lonely little loser of a life and they saw all of the rhetoric and the symbols of hate.  All of those Confederate flags, along with the flag of pre-Apartheid South Africa.
Now the Confederate flag is an endangered object.  It’s being torn down off government buildings.  It’s being removed from government monuments.  It’s been pulled off the shelves at Wal-Mart.  You can’t buy it on eBay or Amazon anymore.  Even the General Lee, the car seen in the “Dukes of Hazard”, is having to hide its “Stars and Bars” roof.
It’s sad.  It’s really very sad to have to educate the stubborn that even after a hundred years, they still lost.  They lost then, and they’re still losing now.
Let’s get brutally honest here... this is what a century of selective ignorance will do to people.  A hundred years of delusional thinking, of failing to recognize that your ancestors and predecessors did lose that war, and of the continued denial that the flag you claim is “heritage” is being used to this day as a symbol of division and discrimination.
Here’s the truly insane part: this is the same faction of American people that will proudly display the Confederate flag, while at the same time demanding that we all worship and praise the American flag, even though the former was designed to oppose and overrule the latter.  Make up your minds, guys.  You can’t keep singing “God Bless America” while at the same time waiving a flag that screams “Screw You, America”!
Then again, that’s also a century’s worth of selective ignorance at work.
Look, I get that you want people to remember some of the other reasons why your ancestors and predecessors fought in the Civil War.  You want people to understand that it wasn’t entirely about slavery.  I get that, just like I understand that not everyone that fought in the American Revolution did it because of taxes, or that we went to Iraq because of supposed weapons of mass destruction.
But at some point, you have to accept the reality that, one, the Confederate States lost the Civil War, and that, two, the flag that you continue to waive to remember that period has been and continues to be used to promote hatred and division.  That is how the rest of the world sees that flag.  Whatever noble ideas you may have about that flag and what it means have long been perverted.
I’m not in the camp that says that everything connected to the Confederate States needs to be erased or obliterated.  I’m not saying we need to sand-blast Stone Mountain or dig up the Confederate graves.  I think that destroying those symbols, while briefly gratifying, is just as wrong as those that live in selective ignorance of history.  But I am saying that history needs to be recognized and placed in its proper perspective... in the past.
And if you think that the South will somehow “rise again”, then you need to accept that the only way it can do so is after you accept and learn from the lessons of history.  Because as long as you are fixated on the mindsets of the past, then you will continue to be mired in its failures.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week of 06/22/2015

The Unspoken Word Is “Fraud”
It’s somewhat frustrating for me as an online commentator when one news story eclipses another.
Like syndicated print columnists, I have one week to come up with something to talk about, and while sometimes I have to struggle to come up with a subject, there are other times when I have the perfect subject to talk about when all of a sudden another subject pops up that demands attention like a spoiled child.
Having said that, I think Rachel Dolezal lucked out, albeit at the demise of nine people.
Prior to the events of June 17th, Ms. Dolezal was spiraling towards media ruin.  People were talking about her, and not in a good way.  They weren’t talking about the things that she did or the positions of prominence she was able to get in her adult life.  They were talking about who she really is versus who she claims to be. 
People were talking about the fact that, despite her claims of being “black”, her parents point out that she grew up very blond and Euro-Caucasian.
And she was losing everything in the process.  She lost her various positions of prominence.  She lost her various jobs.  Worse yet, she was only digging herself deeper and deeper in the mess when she tried to explain herself.
Then, suddenly, one racist killer bursts into the scene in South Carolina and steals the attention from the subject in a very violent way.
Well, I’m not here to talk about Dylann Roof or about the nine people he callously murdered in Charleston in his demented hopes of starting a race war.  That is a subject for another time, and, more likely than not, that time will be soon.
Rather, I want to talk about Ms. Dolezal, because there is something that seems to have been absent in the big media discussion about who she is versus who she claims to be.
The media and pundits and personalities all have their take on her and what she’s done and whether or not she should have to “prove” that she’s really “black” (as opposed to being “African-American”).  Too many people think that she’s being unfairly punished because she’s a messed-up woman who “identifies” herself as being “black”, and that, supposedly, makes it okay.
And, personally, it doesn’t matter to me if she “identifies” herself as being “black”.  We just got done with the prefabricated hype over Bruce Jenner now “identifying” herself as “Caitlyn Jenner”.
What bothers me is that she doesn’t just “identify” herself as being “black”, she has claimed to actually “be black”.
That’s what she put down in application forms for some of those prominent positions.  She claimed to be “white”, “black”, and “Native American”.   And while the singer Meat Loaf would say “two out of three ain’t bad”, her own parents say that “one out of three” is, especially since she now denounces the one that is true.
Worse yet, she now questions her parents being her actual parents.  Strange that while her parents were Christian missionaries, the whole “honor thy mother and thy father” part of the Ten Commandments seems to have been lost on her.  On the plus side, she can rest assured there are legions of “Truthers” with plenty of experience trying to pass off fabricated birth certificates of President Barack Obama that can help her complete that particular delusion.
But that brings us back to the word that has so far been unspoken.  The one word that sums up the whole issue and why we should care about this subject.
That word is “fraud”.
Here’s the legal definition: A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.
In other words, you misrepresent something or someone (such as yourself) for personal gain.
When Traci Lords got into the world of X-rated movies in the mid-1980’s, she didn’t tell anyone that she was underage until authorities found out in 1986.  She lied about her age to gain employment in an occupation that required she be a legal adult.  That is fraud, and people were wrongly persecuted and prosecuted because of her fraudulent actions.
When Stephen Glass made up parts of his stories for The New Republic, he committed fraud.  He lied about certain elements of his stories in order to continue his employment.  That is fraud, and the disgusting part is that he was far from the only one who was caught doing that.
Most recently, NBC’s Brian Williams was caught fabricating an experience he was never a part of in order to make himself look credible when it comes to war experiences.  That is fraud, and he is still paying the price for it, as well as for the network that recently decided to keep him, albeit in a diminished capacity.
And let’s get brutally honest here... what Rachel Dolezal did is also, essentially, fraud.  She misrepresented herself in order to gain positions of prominence.
Granted, it really shouldn’t matter.  And in an ideal world, racial identity wouldn’t really be an issue.  That’s the eventual goal, right?  Unfortunately, we live in a reality where a certain racial identity can still provide an advantage over others.  Where we all have to sign our names on a piece of government paper under penalty of perjury that says we’re telling the truth about who we are and what gender we are and what race we are.  Not what we “identify” with, but what we are.  As long as these things still exist, then fraud is still a subject that needs to be dealt with.
Sadly, though, this issue really won’t be discussed in the way that it deserves to.  Because on June 17th, a 21-year old white loser decided to slaughter nine people in a predominantly African-American church.  His bigoted hate has pretty much ended any serious discussion on the subject as we turn our eyes to him and his manifesto and his archaic view of how things should be.  Because of him, the discussion of racial identity and honesty gets shelved.
Maybe next time around we can actually have that talk about identity and fraud.  After all, there will be others like Ms. Dolezal.  It’s just a matter of time, and hopefully better timing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week of 06/15/2015

Why We Continue To Fail In Iraq
We just can’t seem to get a break when it comes to Iraq.
Once upon a time we thought that the problem was simply their thug leader, Saddam Hussein.  A tin-plated dictator with delusions of grandeur who carried himself like something straight out of the comic books or professional wrestling.  In fact, professional wrestlers playing “heels” patterned themselves after him.
We used to have a script that he was eager to play out.  Saddam would act up, we’d make noise, he’d rattle some sabers, we’d bomb him, he’d scream bloody murder, then he’d shut up and we would declare victory.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
Then we decided we weren’t going to play around any longer.  We found him, we caught him, we let him face justice for his crimes, and we supposedly “helped” the Iraqi people rebuild their government and let them decide how they want to run it.  That should be it.  We had a Texas doofus unfurl his “Mission Accomplished” banner, make a big speech in his flight suit onboard an aircraft carrier, and even start talks about bringing our soldiers home.
So why are we still there?  Why is that same doofus still talking about needing “boots on the ground”?  Why are we still hearing about that country needing help?
Simple... because we failed to learn.
Let’s start with the basics.  We, the United States, helped put Saddam in charge.  We helped keep him in charge.  And everything was “stable” back then because they were united in their hatred of Saddam.  Our damned politicians and their god-dammed Cold War games did this.
We also got sold on some delusional fantasies.  We get rid of Saddam and we’d supposedly be “hailed as liberators”.  We get rid of Saddam and freedom would just rain down on that country like manna from the heavens.  We get rid of Saddam and the oil crunch would be over with.
Delusional, delusional, delusional.
You know what?  We here in America didn’t really know what freedom was either when we got started.  We had to be sold on the idea of freedom by people who didn’t even have the courage to sign their own names at first.  And even then we didn’t know what “freedom” really meant.  It would take almost a hundred years before we realized that “all men are created equal” meant just that, no matter the race.  And even then we still couldn’t accept it completely.
So how can we believe that a part of the world that has never really known freedom would suddenly embrace it when we get rid of their dictator?
You have a country divided three ways that were previously united by one thing: their hatred of Saddam.  Get rid of that, and each of those groups want to be the next Saddam.  And the faction that was in power and got all of the perks because of Saddam are suddenly without power.  Do you think they have a favorable idea of what “freedom” means?
Remember what Germany was like after World War I?  The people there didn’t like being told that they lost, never mind being forced to repay other countries for reparations.  That’s what the Sunnis in Iraq feel like after Saddam was removed from power.  Do you really think that they would be willing to rebuild Iraq and embrace something that for them has so far meant humiliation and failure?
Then we have the Iraqi soldiers that we’ve been trying to train.  We spend time and money and resources to train them, to show them how to keep the peace, and then we hear reports of them simply abandoning those weapons and running away.
Yes, it’s frustrating.  But consider this: what happens when we hear that?  We tell ourselves that we have to go back over here and take care of things for them.
So why should we continue to spend time and money and weapons on them when they don’t want to actually work on defending their own country?  They have no reason to dedicate themselves to the job if they know that we will come back and give them money and weapons and training.
Tell you what, friends of the Doofus... if you’re so hell-bent on “boots on the ground”, why don’t you go there yourselves?  Then you won’t have any excuse when – not if – those people you help suddenly drop their rifles and run all over again.
That brings us to the latest threat... the Islamic State.
We supposedly “don’t know” how to deal with this new threat that makes Cobra... oops, I mean al Qaeda... downright impotent.  But here’s the thing: I.S. manages to seduce people who feel poor, aimless, and powerless to their cause by giving them a false sense of power and purpose.
So how do you counter that?  And how can you do that when it’s your own mechanizations that caused the problem in the first place?
Let’s get brutally honest here... we continue to fail in Iraq because we refuse to accept the realities of that part of the world.  It’s really not about Islam.  It’s about society and economics.  It’s about messes that we refuse to accept responsibility for, and stupidly think that all we need to do is to send more soldiers.  And as long as we continue to stick our heads in the sands of cable news ignorance, we will refuse to learn from those mistakes, and we will continue to waste blood and money for those mistakes.