Entries related to things political.

Stand Down

Yesterday was Stand Down in Connecticut. In a positive light, it is a yearly event to provide services to needy veterans in our state. Community, Health Center, Inc., where I work, is a regular participant at Stand Down, providing medical screenings and dental cleanings to our veterans. CTNewsJunkie has a great article about Stand Down being A Bittersweet Stand Down for Outgoing State Veterans Affairs Commissioner.

Schwartz, who for a decade has been commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, accepted a nomination last month from President Obama to serve as an assistant secretary within the federal VA.

CHC acknowledged Commissioner Schwartz' great work and I was honored to hear some of her story about making Stand Down the success it is.

Yet there is a different way to look at Stand Down, not quite as rosy, and much more challenging. Stand Down is the yearly reminder that every day, we do not do enough for our veterans, or for that matter, for the men and women currently serving in our Armed Services.

This morning, I found a blog post, My Name Is Jason, I’m A 35-Yr-Old White Male Combat Veteran…And I’m On Food Stamps.

I do apologize for burdening you on the checkout line with real-life images of American-style poverty. I know you probably believe the only true starving people in the world have flies buzzing around their eyes while they wallow away, near-lifeless in gutters….

I’ve known people recently - soldiers in the Army ... They were off fighting in Afghanistan while their wives were at home, buying food at the on-post commissary with food stamps.

And nobody bats an eye there, because it’s not uncommon in the military.

So if you run into a congressman or a political commentator who is calling for reducing food stamps, as them why they are cutting funding to veterans and servicemen.

If they give you some story about how people are using food stamps to support their addictions, whether it be tobacco, alcohol, or some other type of drug, ask they why they aren't addressing the underlying problem of addictions?

Jason has his take on what's going on. It isn't about stopping fraud. It is about being a bully.

I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America. I certainly didn’t risk it so *I* could come back and go hungry.

Anyone who genuinely supports cutting food stamps is not an intellectual or an ideologue – they’re a bully.

And nobody likes a bully. Except other bullies.

It’s time for regular Americans to stand up to these bullies. Not cower in the corner, ashamed of needing help. Because if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that you never know when you’ll be the one in need.

We need to stand up to bullies, not just because we, or someone we love may be the next to be bullied. We need to do it because it is the American thing to do, it is the moral thing to do.

Sojourners President Jim Wallis wrote,

"These same politicians are not willing to go to where the real money is: the Pentagon budget, which everyone knows to be the most wasteful in government spending, or the myriad subsidies to corporations, including agribusiness subsides to members of Congress who will be voting to cut SNAP for the poor. ... They are going after cuts to the poor and hungry people because they think it is politically safe to do so. So let’s call that what it is: moral hypocrisy."

I'm all for cutting fraud, waste, and abuse wherever it may be, whether it be in food stamps, or the Pentagon budget.

The Sheep and the Goats (with links)

Matthew 25:34-36

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Still, Dave Rises

The other night a solitary black man, trying to do his job was attacked by a group of drunk white college aged boys. He knew what he needed to do to finish his job. He faced them down from as safe a distance as he could. He smoked a cigarette, read a little bit from a book and bided his time.

As soon as his time was up, and the minimum requirements of his job was fulfilled, he beat a quick retreat.

The entertainment press went wild. Those who profit over the rude behavior of concert-goers wrote about his 'hissy fit' saying he had a melt down.

There is a great section in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Thompson talks about being chased by a highway cop for speeding. He goes into a great description of driving like hell when chased, and stopping with bravado. The cop won't like it, he may even pull his gun, but you'll know and he'll know who was in control.

Yeah, Dave Chappelle had a melt down, right! Just like Hunter S. Thompson speeding to L.A. If I smoked cigarettes right now, I'd take a drag and look contemptuously at the crowd.

No, the people who had the melt down were the privileged drunk white boys and the leaches in the entertainment industry that make a buck off of them.

Probably the same leaches that used a fabricated child star, gave her a raunchy ill conceived and ill performed rip off of part of black culture. It is probably the same leaches that got all upset when we talked about how bad the performance was and how it only adds to sexism, racism, and the degradation and objectification of certain groups of people, instead of focusing on some other drama we have control over, like Syria.

No, from what I'm reading, Dave Chappelle's performance in Hartford was a masterpiece, long over due. it was John Cage's 4'33" performed in a not-so-post-racial twenty-first century in a large venue. Listen to the sound of the audience today. It was Martin Luther King's speech reworked to be a commentary on discourse and hecklers in the age of social media. I have a dream that thinkers, both great and small will not be heckled off the stage in Hartford, or online, or in high schools because they look different and say challenging things. It was a eulogy for Bart, the 15 year old boy who was heckled and bullied to death in Greenwich Connecticut.

Yet Dave Chappelle's exit from the stage also echoed a hopeful note. Like Maya Angelou, still Dave Chappelle rises

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

The first reports I'm hearing online this evening is that Chappelle killed it in Pittsburgh this evening.

Syria, Cyrus, Bullying and Suicide

It is a popular meme, right now, to complain about everyone talking about Miley Cyrus and nobody talking about Syria. Let's look at this from a different perspective. We can argue into the wee hours of the morning the best course of action in a complicated geopolitical crisis. In fact, there are political leaders around the globe doing exactly that. Would a military strike be an unnecessary escalation of the conflict? Would failure to act be current day appeasement? What actions would have the most beneficial impact?

Yet the Miley Cyrus performance provides us with things we can do to make a difference. We can talk to the people around us, especially our children about social norms. What can we do, what are we doing, individually, each one of us, to fight racism, to fight sexism, to fight the objectification of people based on their gender, skin color, or sexual preferences?

Yes, by all accounts, it seems as if Bashar al-Assad is a bully, but what are we doing to address bullying in the lives of people around us? What can the Miley Cyrus performance tell us about how far people will go to be accepted? What can the suicide of the 15 year old boy in Greenwich, CT teach us about how to respond, or not respond, to bullies?

It is all well and good to be concerned about national and international events, but unless take these events and deal with them in our daily lives, it really doesn't seem to make a difference.

Martin, Nikki, Miley, Wayne, Antoinette, Bob, Maya and Shelley

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.

Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:

And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?

Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.

But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.

My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.

Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?

As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,

the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.

So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,

Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:

Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!

We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.

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