Friday, March 31, 2017

"Disasterville": 70 Days And Counting

Self-fulfilling prophecies are a dime a dozen. When the leader of the free world issues one, it becomes a blight on the country's landscape.

For the entirety of the 2016 Presidential election, one word in Donald Trump's vocabulary loomed ubiquitous: DISASTER. Everything that occurred under 8 years of the Obama administration was a literal disaster.

The Affordable Care Act? Disaster. The Clean Power Plan? Disaster. Handling of illegal immigrants? Disaster. Crime in Chicago and other Black communities? Disaster. Obama's overall presidency? Disaster. And the list goes on.

On the surface, a person moderately uneducated in the ways of contemporary American politics and markedly uninformed of Donald Trump's patternistic communication and leadership style might conclude that he may be on to something. I mean, take a look around you. We don't live in a perfect America. Racism, sexism, elitism, socioeconomic problems, unemployment...and the list goes on.

So maybe Trump, to the untrained mind, might be what we need: a change from establishment politics. Except there's one problem: Trump may not be "establishment", but he is sho' 'nuff changing things.

How so, you ask? All one needs to do is look at the first 70 days of his Presidency and see that his administration is changing not only the face of politics (in a not-so-credible manner), but the blueprint of how not to build a successful Presidential legacy.

The same man who ran his campaign on America being such a mess that only he can fix it, the same man who claimed that the country needs him as a savior for our crumbling republic, the same man who couldn't keep the word "disaster" out of his mouth (and still can't), is creating a disaster with the Trump brand emblazoned across the marquis. This disaster of Trumpian proportions began well before he was even elected...and is reaching disastrous levels never before seen during the first 100 days of any Presidency (which is the bellwether for POTUS success).

Let's tally the evidence:
  • His 70th-day approval rating is 40.6% (and dropping), and his disapproval rating is 53.6% (and climbing) - easily the worst ratings, by a landslide, of any President in the last 70 years.
  • He chose a known "alt-right" (read: White nationalist) propagandist, Steve Bannon, as his most trusted chief adviser.
  • He chose among his Cabinet selections a National Security Adviser (fired), a special advisor, a campaign manager (fired halfway through the election), a Secretary of State, an Attorney General, a son-in-law-turned-senior-adviser, a Commerce Secretary, another longtime adviser, and some guy named Carter Page...most of whom have reported million-dollar incomes. I figure that his "draining the swamp" involved removing the piranhas and replacing them with alligators.
  • All of the above selections are purported to have some documentable association, affiliation, affection, adulation, or flirtation with Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, or Russian business interests. And I didn't even have to bring up his sons, or his own alleged business ties to Russia.
I would've put a photo of Kellyanne from Inauguration Day, but I actually want people to read this blog...
  • The same Attorney General pick, Senator Jeff Sessions, caused a major uproar during his confirmation process due to his nonexistent record and evidence of being a civil rights "champion". Somehow I'm feeling as though Dwight Howard might believe him.
  • He chose another campaign manager-turned-White House chief strategist, Kellyanne Conway, who gave us such hits as "alternative facts", the "Bowling Green Massacre", "Go buy Ivanka's stuff", and the whole kneeling-on-the-couch deal.
  • He chose Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. That's like choosing Clarence Thomas to be a columnist for The Root. Or choosing former Texas governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. Wait...that actually happened.
  • His first executive order - the infamous immigration travel ban-that-he-said-was-not-a-ban - barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, even though none of these countries ever harbored or facilitated terrorists, one of these countries (Iraq) is a US ally, and the order contained no country that actually funneled terrorists into America.  This first "ban" caused the detainment of hundreds of people in US airports, left other people stranded in these seven countries, and sparked a firestorm of protests, legal challenges, and global confusion...even though he said things were working out "very nicely". Federal judges shot down the "ban", which forced him to pull it, redraft it, and reissue it, only to be blocked at the rim again by another Federal judge.
  • He promised to "repeal and replace" Obamacare as his first order of business with Congress. Couldn't get the bill past the House. So what if it wasn't HIS bill. Happened on his watch. (More on this later.)
  • Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Enough said.
  • Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Vince McMahon are still in the picture as advisors or "friends", which should not give anyone a reason to cheer.
  • He has given his working "no vote of confidence" to the US (as well as British) intelligence agencies in regards to Russian ties, effectively suggesting that they are not credible because they concluded that Putin meddled in the Presidential election. I'm not sure how he can fight the battle against "radical Islamic terrorists" if he cannot trust the first line of defense - US spies.
  • His first budget seeks to drastically increase defense and military spending while cutting funding on almost all forms of social, humanitarian, and community effort. He actually wants to eliminate Meals on Wheels. He's doing this because our military it is again...a DISASTER. In terms of how locked and loaded our military is, not even close. In terms of military decisions made by the Commander-in-Chief and his administration, just Google "Yemen Raid"...
  • He has spoken and acted either undiplomatically or awkwardly towards the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Australia, the prime minister of Germany, the prime minister of Great Britain, and the United Nations. All allies. Not a good attempt at coming across as presidential.

Spicer...the there a relationship??

  • In his mind, all news is "fake news"...even though he relies on the so-called purveyors of "fake news" to report his own news stream in his "I Have a Tweet" series. He apparently finds time to tweet at 3:00am when he probably could use that time more constructively. Like catching up on briefings that he purportedly has no time for. Or crafting a cheat sheet on which news outlets are not "fake"...which will be a short list. Either way, those not making the list will continue to be in business because his administration is the news stream, for "better" (whatever that is) or for worse.
  • Despite the selections he has made for his administration, there are almost 2,000 more that he has yet to fill, causing a bottleneck of Federal agency staffing and budgeting issues. And he STILL has not finished his Cabinet selections because confirmation is another unresolved bottleneck.
  • He has turned his Mar-a-Lago Resort as his personal 4-star Camp David, which now is being scrutinized for any financial conflict of interests. Not to mention his refusal to submit his tax returns, family involvement with his national business interests that question whether he has actually relinquished control, and international properties that raise eyebrows when one hears of where those properties are located.
  • When he said that he "inherited a mess" when he became President, you have to wonder if this should apply to his own political clan, the Republican Party. What is happening within their ranks seems like a mélange of soap-opera camps the likes of which the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has never seen. Nicodemus-like, stealth-of-night visits to the White House. Delayed congressional hearings. The rise of the House of Freedom Caucus putting a wrench in the works to get a majority vote on anything of significance. Flip-flopping of congressional figures from pro-Trump to anti-Trump, and vice versa. Inappropriately silencing Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, for name-dropping Coretta Scott King, which effectively censored two women at once...a move that backfired on the GOP (a little over two weeks after the Women's March. Perfect timing.) And the coup-de-grace: not one, but TWO Obamacare replacements in The Battle of the Pauls (Ryan and Rand), causing a potential party-wide Civil War-like tussle, prompting a threat from Trump to get it done or else, initiating an 11th-hour-and-59th-minute scramble to scrape up votes...only to fail...wait for it...DISASTROUSLY.

Repeal my way...
NO...repeal MY way...

And the list goes on...

Every attempt to call him or his supporters in their hot mess of lies and the Tweet du jour evolves into a master class in deflection. And...regardless of the various issues facing our nation, he manages to continue to blame, deflect, decry foul, complain, distort, accuse without evidence, tweet without vetting, and lie. Because, as Roland Martin puts it, Trump Lies Matter.

Of course he will lie about living in "Disasterville". Where he sits in DC, he sees no disaster in his immediate circle nor will he admit to one. He is running a "well-oiled machine". But one would think that the Master of Disaster himself during the 2016 campaign would know a disaster when he sees one. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly doubtful that he is aware of what an authentic disaster looks like, even though he continues to fancy himself an expert on the subject.  I'm sure some people would suggest that he look in the mirror if he wants to see an authentic disaster in living color.

Through it all, Black Lives still don't Matter, Central American illegal immigrants still look for asylum sanctuary, ISIS still terrorizes, the Democrats are still outnumbered, the Republican still plays Capitol Hill Family Feud, poor and working-class Americans still borrow from Peter to pay Dr. Luke, and Donald Trump and his cohorts still wage war against a familiar, eternal concept called the truth.

And we're only 70 days into this madness. Ironically, we're still in March.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

No Soul In "The Hole" happened.  I was neither shocked nor surprised by it. Nevertheless it appears to be close to a done deal...barring any snags, mishaps, or cost overruns.

The Oakland Raiders have been approved to move to Las Vegas.

And the Raiders as we know it are no longer the Raiders.

Hear me out on this. This is not sour grapes or petulant whining about losing a team after getting them back after losing them. This is also not a referendum on what should or should not have occurred with the team of which I've been a fan for the majority of my life. This is actually a commentary of the qualitative state of this team and the National Football League as a whole. A league in which the owners of the other teams approved their move to the desert by a 31-1 margin.

So this vote initiates what projects to be an unprecedented, unfamiliar, and awkwardly unpredictable time for this team and its rabidly loyal fan base, a fan base forged in the furnace of The Town. Oakland is unlike any other city in America (and that includes New York City): a city that is just as blue-collar as Detroit, as ethnically influenced as Atlanta, as unapologetically authentic as Houston, as "grit-and-grind" as Memphis, and can garner respect from South Central L.A. and Compton as being hardcore...which is very difficult to do. 

In short, if you can make it in Oakland, you can make it anywhere. The Oakland Raiders were seamlessly symbolic of that identity. But whenever you subtract "Oakland" from Raiders, it becomes just another team in the sea of NFLness. Despite any future Super Bowl runs, it just becomes a run-of-the-mill franchise...not the glorious Team of the Decades, the Silver and Black, the Autumn Wind, etc.

The move to the L.A. Coliseum is Exhibit A. Yeah, they won a Super Bowl and could have made a run for a second, but they were a shell of themselves because they left their soul 400 miles north. Ice Cube can say that the Raiders will always belong to L.A. all he wants. The fact is what made the Raiders who they were could not be replicated in another location. You cannot buy loyalty, and you most certainly cannot buy a soul.

From the moment that Mark Davis established a running tag line about wanting to stay in Oakland, most of us from Oakland had some reservations about what that meant. Now we all know. Staying in Oakland was only as good as the public money available. And when there was a pot of gold offered by another city waiting to be pilfered, Mark and the other 30 owners save one could not resist the bling and lusted after it like the Pirates of the Caribbean. (No pun intended.)

This whole experience revealed a glaring misunderstanding at the epicenter of Raider Nation. For a massive segment of the lifelong Raider fan contingent, there has been a failure to separate the Oakland Raiders As A Team from the Oakland Raiders As A Business. These two realities are sometimes viewed as synonymous, but in fact are mutually exclusive on their faces: usually sold as a unit, yet ever competing with each other to see which has the upper hand. The fan contingent often finds itself as the only pawn in this game of Silver and Black chess.

If this is the Oakland Raiders As A Business, I guess he's smirking for a new reason now...

A fine example of this was set within this menagerie of a pretend city-versus-city tug-o'-war.  The Oakland Raiders As A Business said that it doesn't really matter where the team plays because Raider Nation is a worldwide brand. The Nation will follow the Oakland Raiders As A Business as it masquerades as the Oakland Raiders As A Team, regardless of where the home games are played. What most multimillion dollar businesses tend to misunderstand is that you can project but never guarantee. Over-promising often leads to under-delivering.

And with Las Vegas not being the major market that Oakland is and is increasingly becoming, all that glitters is not gold. This could be the one time that the NFL is putting big bucks before basic economics. And any dominologist will tell you that all money ain't good money. This could potentially blow up in the Raiders' and NFL's faces like a defective science kit.  Let me show you how...

Oakland natives have ways of exposing fakeness, especially when they feel that they have been played like a sit-down Pac-Man game in Target. When they support you, they are all in; but when you do wrong by them, they make you feel their pain. And Raider Nation has some options to drive home the point home that the Oakland Raiders As A Business made a huge miscalculation. The Nation could conceivably cancel their personal seat licenses out of spite. Or they could just not show up to the games that the Oakland Raiders As A Business will play in the Oakland Coliseum for the next 2 years...which will not be a good look market-wise. Or they could just wait around for when the Oakland Raiders As A Business cannot sell out their PSLs in Vegas, or has waves of empty seats on national broadcasts, or bumps heads with UNLV, and then silently gloat at their misfortunes as if to say, "Mmm hmm..." 

Or they can just use this experience as leverage to create a reasonable facsimile of the Oakland Raiders As A Team, using another disgruntled NFL franchise as a stunt double. Or they can just continue to be Oakland: forever misunderstood yet finding a way to overcome loss and maintain its soulful integrity as a city. And there are still other options.

Any way you slice it, Oakland has every opportunity to come out ahead (financially and otherwise) and the Raiders/NFL alliance has every potential to come from ahead to lose big on the largest craps table in Lost Wages. Kudos to Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, who refused to repeat history and chose to stand her ground against the Oakland Raiders As A Business...hoping to summon the derelict soul of the Oakland Raiders As A Team, albeit unsuccessfully. I guess the "Black Hole" into which the soulful essence of the Raiders has fallen is a bottomless one, and no amount of financial largesse is able to flood the chasm enough to allow that soul to see the light of day again.

One might argue that Al Davis at least had some modicum of principle when he moved the team south. But he was an owner, and owners have needs. Loyalty to a fan base will not trump their needs.  The truth is if the fans do not have financial equity in the team and a seat at the table - say like the Green Bay Packers - no team is safe. And every NFL owner is only as beholden to the public trust as the depth of the fans' pockets to keep them skinnin' and grinnin'.

With Mark being comparatively as broke as the other NFL owners and probably as financially strapped as Oakland, he is going for the fast money and now probably feels like he picked the right suitcase on Deal or No Deal. Only that he failed to remember where he came from, which is always an unwise judgmental error in a city like Oakland. 

Whenever he proposes to leave behind the team's half-century roots, halt the team's legacy in their city of birth, forfeit the team's identity, and pretends to believe that he can have what he and his father had in Oakland, sleeping on a bed of money may only bring a body full of paper cuts in the morning. And to expect that the soul of the team will happen to awake out of its wanderlust and find itself on Russell Road is akin to asking for God Almighty to intervene. But God don't like ugly. And when it comes to the Oakland Raiders As A Business, neither does the city of Oakland. Not this time.

No more selling of the city's soul to a team that builds monuments to itself (read: Mount Davis) and departs to build another monument on the backs of a soulless city with free money to dispense and a bloody finger with which to willingly sign its life away...all because the NFL told them that they got their back. Heard it all before.

Maybe Mark should've spent more time doing some soul-checking. Maybe in doing so he would've been reminded or learned this very important phrase native to northern California: "Game recognize game in the Bay, main..."

And you certainly can't afford to run game on the one soul you have. Because once it gets lost in a Black Hole, it ain't coming back.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

School Daze (The Abilene Christian Version)

Sewell Auditorium, on the campus of ACU.
Back in November of last year, I stumbled across this news report that unfortunately mirrors a disturbing occurrence en vogue on college campuses nationwide and indirectly stirs up past (and in some cases, present) racial bugaboos in the Church of Christ.

Abilene Christian University was forced to deal with an incident involving some of their White students and blackface that regrettably made its way onto social media. Instead of rehashing the whole story, you can read it here for yourselves.

I will however highlight the response of ACU President, Phil Schubert:
"This has offended me and I am deeply sorry for how it has offended others, and left an inaccurate representation of who we are and what we believe as a Christian university. We must and can do better as we work together to build an inclusive, diverse campus community in which each person is respected and loved."
Now I fully understand how church circles run, and I know that there could be ripple-effect ramifications when one attempts to be critical of long-standing, professedly-sacred Christian institutions and those individuals affiliated with them.  So I will choose my words strategically to insure that I do not unintentionally offend anyone while at the same time not be concerned about predilections that attempt to supersede the truth about the matter.

So here I go...

It's a sad state of affairs when Christians are influenced by choice pages out of society's handbook of cultural mores without ripping them out. It would be easy to criticize those on the political right (read: Evangelicals) for not having a godly backbone when it comes to racial matters involving African-Americans. But when it hits the Lord's church, there is a somewhat chilling effect that reminds us that nothing and nowhere on this earth is sacred. 

The Restoration Movement, which introduced the Kingdom of God to the North American continent, has a checkered past when it comes to race.  Most members of the Church of Christ may have heard the name of David Lipscomb (a White brother - co-founder of Nashville Bible School, renamed Lipscomb University after his death).  Very few except in certain African-American church circles have heard of G.P. Bowser, a Black brother and founder of Southwestern Christian College. Bowser had established Christian schools for Blacks before becoming the principal of Southern Practical Institute in 1920. SPI was a Christian school in Nashville established for Blacks by a White brother. It sounds altogether very magnanimous except for the stipulation that the students, all of whom were Black, were not allowed to enter into a Christian school for Blacks through the front door because the school superintendent, who was White, insisted on it. Bowser bravely refused to go through the back door, a move that eventually sealed the school's doom. Bowser eventually opened another school, Bowser Christian Institute in Arkansas, 18 years later. 

Brewer Bell Tower at Lipscomb University
Why is this so important? Nashville Bible School/Lipscomb University, established in 1891, barred Black students from admission until the mid-1960's. SPI was founded by Whites 21 years after NBS to create a so-called Plessy v. Ferguson Christian education for Blacks. ACU, meanwhile, opened its doors in 1906 and also barred Black students for decades until Dr. Billy Curl and Larry Bonner broke the color barrier in 1963. Sounds eerily similar to the state of collegiate affairs in the deep South during the Civil Rights movement. Curl's and Bonner's experiences in the halls of Whites-only Christian higher education parallel those of James Meredith, Vivian Malone, and James A. Hood. But THIS is supposed to be the church...right?

Absolutely. But this is not news. It's only news to the following groups of people:
- Those who are unaware of the deep racial divide within Churches of Christ that still exists;
- Those who consciously or unconsciously perpetuate and widen the chasm;
- Those who choose to be ignorant to the point of relying on lightweight-Pollyanna slogans (One Church!) or proof-texting from the pulpit to the pew, hoping somehow to anesthetize or pacify the silent or vocal groundswell of Black members still looking for one Kingdom under God.  Or should I say "the one true church"...

Note to Spike: PLEASE don't get any ideas from this blog for a remake...
Which brings me to the blackface incident of 2016.

I don't know anything about these former (and maybe current) ACUers, their religious backgrounds (because we all know that these schools do not only enroll Church of Christ undergrads), or their societal views. What I do know is that they felt comfortable enough at this Christian school to Snapchat their transmogrified view of a "strong Black woman" from their dorm room for all to see. I do know that they had some exposure to this archaic yet offensive racial stereotype to accurately caricaturize it for the masses. I do know that this is learned behavior, irrespective of whether they were influenced by it before or after being accepted to ACU. And I do know that this is not the first time that a university with Restoration roots has had racism rear its ugly head to make campus life and academic excellence more psychologically daunting, spiritually trying, and socially insufferable for the African-American student body...not to mention make race relations in the Church of Christ more strained. It most certainly is not ACU's first, or second, or third go-'round.

James Meredith was breaking the color barrier at Ole Miss at the very same time Dr. Curl and Bonner were breaking it at ACU.

Vivian Malone did her thing a year later at the University of Alabama...
What would be fair and noteworthy to mention is the wave of efforts by these Christian universities to reunite their spirits with the Holy Spirit, reconcile their world with the Word, and strive to repair the breaches with their Black brethren caused by systemic and systematic racism on Christian campuses of higher learning. Men such as Schubert and L. Randolph Lowry III (president of Lipscomb) should and must be applauded for their desire to right the ostensible wrongs of an era gone by and act swiftly than other institutions in stamping out any reappearance of racism. Nevertheless racism still exists. In these schools. And in the church of my Lord.

Say what you want about the strides by Blacks in America made through legal decisions, protests, civil disobedience, academia, affluence, and notoriety. Those strides are what the enemy, Satan, is trying to steal, kill, and destroy through lawless hands. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Racism is unfortunately embedded in the DNA of this country. Put it on the list of pastimes with baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Ironically, each one of these - if you drill down at least a couple of decades...or maybe not that far - has the unmistakable undercurrent of racism, the granddaddy pastime of them all...since it had a good 200-year head start over three of them. (Evidently racism and apple pie are American contemporaries.)

And it most assuredly existed a decade and a half before the Springfield Presbytery was formed and Declaration and Address was penned. And it will take high-level genetic engineering of divine, supernatural proportions to "kill it dead". All the while, the enemy still wreaks havoc, the Eternally Self-Existent One still watches from on high, and the church still wants harmony despite our tendency to find ourselves singing antiphonally dissonant with the society at-large. Except the church seems satisfied with society giving the call, not the response.

Somehow I wish that ACU would have Ethnic Notions and Black Like Me automatically downloaded onto the students' iPads during fall registration for required viewing. While they're at it, they can gift the students a copy of Undying Dedication in Kindle for leisure reading.