2016 strikes again

Not a day goes by that I don’t have something on my mind that I want to discuss.  The problem nowadays is finding the time to sit long enough to draft something out.  Every now and then, you just have to make the time.

I’m tired of 2016 already.  If it wasn’t bad enough that my allergies got me so bad that I looked like I had been punched by Mike Tyson in a street fight (remember Mitch Green?), it seems like rarely does a week go by without hearing about the loss of a cultural icon.  April 20-21 was bad because I got hit by a one-two combination with WWE’s Chyna and then Prince.

Those who really know me can tell you that I am a huge wrestling fan.  I know it’s choreographed.  I can also tell you that it’s not fake as people like to say.  When you know people who have more metal in them than a Megadeath concert, those injuries don’t just pop out of thin air.

Chyna was a beast in the ring.  Branding herself as the 9th Wonder of the World wasn’t as much as hype as it was reality.  She was probably the strongest female wrestler I’ve ever seen perform, and she mixed it up with the guys as much as she did with the ladies.  At one time, she even held the Intercontinental Championship Belt which was no easy task to get.  I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, and I’m not really sure what she would have been like if I had.  Most wrestlers that I have known were pretty cool people who were just like the person next door minus the notoriety that comes with their jobs.

May she get the peace she deserves away from the demons that chased her after she quit wrestling.  I think she deserves that much.  Kinda like Farrah Fawcett, she’ll likely receive fewer tributes in death because of her death being overshadowed by someone else.  In Farrah’s case, it was Michael Jackson.  For Chyna, it’s Prince.

That album cover was my official introduction to Prince.  I had heard his songs but never knew who was on the other side of those speakers.  Controversy changed all that.

I didn’t want to be Prince, the artist.  I knew I couldn’t sing that high, and I didn’t have perfect pitch like him.  I wanted to be Prince, the musician.  Dude kicked ass on any instrument that he touched.  I bet he could have probably done the Star Spangled Banner on a kazoo and brought the crowd to its knees before it was finished.

I play the drums, taught myself how to peck away on the piano, and I took up the trumpet in my senior year of high school.  To this day, however, I can’t hold a candle to Prince’s guitar talent, even in my dreams.  It’s one of those things that I think I would need a Matrix-styled download right into the brain to even come close to being able to play like that.  I hate that I never got to see him perform in person live, even as his last performance was right up the interstate from me at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Gonna go and look at my Purple Rain album and cover.  Yes, I still have it in the house, and no I will not sell it.  That is, in my honest opinion, still a very high watermark for a movie soundtrack to hit, and very few will probably surpass that mark.

Rest in Peace Prince.  Your talent, drive, and music will continue to inspire others for generations to come.  I see no way that your footprints on this planet will ever disappear.

Update 4/22/2016 7:25pm

Going through storage in my crawlspace produced the following…

image

If you don’t have a physical copy of Prince, then you don’t have a legal copy as only his Tidal releases were available in digital download format. And, yes they are original vinyl.

Pro-Life = Pro-Criminalization?

Donald Trump did something that very few others have done this past week.  He actually told the truth about the repercussions of making abortion illegal in this country.

“There has to be some form of punishment.”

“For the woman?” Matthews pushed.

“Yeah,” Trump replied.

If you wish to make abortion illegal by legislative act, constitutional amendment, or any other legal method, you are criminalizing the act.  That doesn’t make you pro-life as much as it makes you pro-criminalization.

Anyone who commits or participates in a criminal act in this country gets some form of punishment.  Period.  If a person steals something, you can and will get arrested for receiving stolen goods if you end up with any of it in your possession.  If you buy drugs from a drug dealer and get caught with drugs in your possession, you will get arrested for drug possession even if it’s for personal use.

Therefore, there is no reason anyone with cursory knowledge of our legal system will deny that Trump spoke the truth.  If you make abortions illegal, you will turn women who have abortions into criminals for the mere fact they’re participating in a criminal act.  AND, they will face some form of punishment.  There is no way around it.

If you call yourself pro-life and prefer to cut down on abortions by educating people on contraception/pregnancy avoidance, advocating adoption, or any other method outside of the legal system, then you are probably not going to be labeled pro-criminalization.

Personally, I would be called pro-choice by today’s standards, but I prefer to call myself pro-freedom.  I understand the right to privacy, and I respect people making their life decisions within that right to privacy.  I wouldn’t personally consider abortion as an option for me, but I also know I have no right to interfere in the private affairs of my neighbor, my friends, or even a total stranger if they have not granted me the permission to get involved.

It takes serious chutzpah to think so highly of yourself that you know what’s better for someone else than they do for themselves.  There may be some exceptions where that is true, but if you’re not a legal guardian, parent, or otherwise legally obligated or designated to make choices for someone, what right do you have to get into their business without being asked?

One last thing that perplexes me about the pro-life crowd.  Why not try to educate people to make “better decisions” as you see it instead of forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do?  Seems that making contraceptive readily available along with sex education to cover EVERYTHING and not just abstinence would do more to prevent unwanted pregnancies than anything else.  Instead of making abortions illegal, why not make sex education legal.  I’d bet you would get the results you’re looking for without having to yell or scream at people.  That would probably keep people from getting threatened or even killed for providing a safe, legal medical procedure that people do have the right to seek out in this country.

 

Religious expression: Freedom or Discrimination?

Within the past few days and/or weeks, there have been a number religious freedom bills in the news.  From North Carolina to Georgia and beyond, there have been bills passed under the umbrella of protecting the rights of Americans to freely express their religious beliefs.  Some were signed into law, and some were vetoed.  All were passed by Republican led or dominated legislatures.  The same Republican Party that often claims to be the defenders of the Constitution among other things.

In this rash of legislation from the Right, not one time have I heard the claims of “shredding the Constitution” which was thrown about any time Obama did something that was not liked by his opposition.  I guess you can’t really calling it shredding the Constitution when you basically pretend that it doesn’t exist in the first place.

Why does any state or local government feel that they have to legislate religious freedom in the first place?  Did our Founding Fathers not already accomplish that on a very broad basis with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Right there, in plain English, it states “…prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” in regards to Congress making laws on religion.  The Constitution itself guarantees the protection of religious freedom.  The need for state intervention on behalf of religion does not exist beyond the imagination of the “what if” crowd.  Now, let’s dig into WHY this legislation has been popping up like prairie dogs out of den holes.

Those who try to claim that it’s not about discrimination against the LGBTQ community need to be honest with themselves.  This isn’t the first time that religion or religious beliefs have been wielded like a baseball bad in a pod of baby seals, and I’m sure that it won’t be the last time.  I recall religion being prominently used by some/many to justify slavery as well as Jim Crow.  So, don’t act like people haven’t seen this particular theatrical production before.  If it were not about discrimination, then why is every example used to explain the need for this legislation involve some incident involving people from the LGBTQ community?

Has anyone seen a Republican that supports religious freedom legislation on TV openly advocating for Muslims to be able to use Sharia Law without undue government interference?  Islam is just as much a religion as Christianity.  I haven’t seen any Republicans standing behind Judaism, Hindusim, or Buddhism either.  What about their right to freely observe their religious freedoms?

See, if were truly about the free expression of religion, the whole issue wouldn’t be confined to protecting Christians.  We would see Rabbis, Imams, Monks, and others standing at the podium with these grandstanding politicians in support of this legislation.  However, we don’t see such a site, and I doubt we ever will.

I understand the sensitive nature of discussing religion, and please don’t get my words twisted.  I’m not bashing Christianity, and I am not bashing Christians.  I wake up every morning and pray, thanking God for what I’ve received and been blessed with.  I’ve never had anyone, government or private citizen, attempt to stop me from expressing my religious beliefs either.  I’m mature enough to understand that we live in a secular country, and not everyone will believe in the same things as I do.  I respect that, and I respect those who believe as I do as I respect those who do not.  I don’t discriminate.

Some Christians need to step back and assess themselves and their actions.  Jesus died on the cross between two thieves.  He did not segregate himself away from sinners and lepers, remember?  Who are we to think that we are doing his will by segregating ourselves and ostracizing others because they are sinners in the eyes of God?  Do these legislators think they know better than God himself?

Don’t play with religion and the Bible offers a warning about the repercussions of of doing so.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Just because you claim to be doing the work of the Lord does not actually mean you are doing it.   The Bible does make mention of what you do “for the least of these” and something about doing “unto others”.  Remember that in your daily life, if you believe in those words.  I remember that always, and I treat everyone the same no matter what.  It’s not my right or my job to judge them, and that’s why I would never support any of the religious freedom bills as they are presented as they explicitly judge and openly discriminate.  That’s not what the Bible teaches us to do.

The revolution has been televised

I’m not referring to the revolution that Gil Scott Heron warned us about.  I’m talking about a more recent revolution that has been taking place on American soil.  From the looks of it, we may be heading into the final stages of that revolution where things start to get messy.

The revolution that I’m referring to has been called the Reagan Revolution, but I see it more as an attempt to push this country far right, and it’s been quite successful so far.  Starting in 1980, Reagan started the movement right with the defection of the “Reagan Democrats” from the Democratic Party.  This pulled a lot of working class Whites from the Left and gave the Right more support.  In the South, you had party realignment going on where Southern Democrats were either shifting to the GOP or getting out of politics.  As a result, you end up with a second rightward lurch with the Gingrich Revolution.

Under the Gingrich era, the GOP moved even further to the right.  Trying to keep up, the Democratic Party moved rightward as well, especially under the presidency of Bill Clinton.  The continued movement to the right led to those farthest on the right gaining even more power and clout which led to them demanding more and wanting more control of the party direction.  As a result, it was full steam ahead to the right.

Under GWB, we saw people voluntarily giving up constitutionally protected rights for “freedom” with the Patriot Act.  It was explained away as the price to fight terrorism to keep us safe.  I’m not going to say whether that’s correct or not because I really don’t know.  However, it’s telling that people who support the “Party of Freedom”, or the GOP, are willing to give up their rights under the Constitution and demagogue the left for trying to protect those rights.

Under President Obama, we’ve seen further rightward movement by the Dems attempting to keep pace with the GOP.  Several times, Obama threw his own party, especially the liberal wing, under the bus while attempting to get agreement and acceptance from the GOP.  Never mind the fact that the GOP wouldn’t agree to anything that Obama suggested or even hinted that he liked.  I think that opposition was so complete that some Republicans would have probably stopped breathing* if Obama came out in favor of breathing oxygen.  All Obama ended up doing was push the Democratic Party further to the left just as President Clinton had done before him.

Ultimately, we’ve entered the final stage, otherwise known as the Age of Trump.  We have a candidate for president openly suggesting that people should be beaten up, and nobody blinks an eye.  He says that he will cover the costs of anyone arrested, and then backtracks and the media gives him a pass for lying through his teeth.  What other candidate has ever said the following and was still in the running to lead this country?

  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,”
  • “I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing many, many millions of people.”
  • “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”

I can’t answer for anyone else, but my idea of the leader of the US is someone who wouldn’t openly condone violence, bigotry, or discrimination.  Regardless of our race, religion, or sex, ALL Americans have rights that are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution.

I say the Revolution was televised because we’ve all seen this play out before our very eyes whether we were aware of it or not.  The media has been a great sidekick in helping this happen.  Under the guise of being impartial, they have abdicated the responsibility of truthful reporting.  Those who try to call out the extremism get accused of being biased, yet nobody calls out the bias of those who are complicit in actively pushing this country to the right.

Where is the media when we have politicians openly and purposefully passing legislation to discriminate against people?  Where is the media when citizens are openly having their protected rights trampled?  They’re all circling around in the feeding frenzy of the one that has started the last and messy phase of the revolution.  If you don’t believe me, notice that whatever happens locally or worldwide will be reported but not given any coverage when compared to the Daily Trump Report.

I honestly don’t know if this was the plan all along or if it’s just something that came to pass.  I do feel that the GOP brought this on themselves by constantly feeding red meat to the fringe of their party, promising them more and more without ever being honest or truthful with them.  With great power comes great responsibility, and the GOP used their power while completely ignoring their responsibility.

If you think I place this all on the GOP, then you’re wrong.  It takes two to tango, and the Dems have danced the dance all along the way.  At no point did they have to lurch to the right, but there were those who chose to do so.  Instead of cowering to the right-wing media machine, the Dems could have stayed true to their base and called the rightward movement for what it was.  So many ifs and buts, but none of that can be changed at this point.  All we can do is see the impending train wreck coming and try to slam on the brakes to avoid catastrophe.

See what I see or something different?  Let me know your view…

*Stopped breathing only until they would have literally had to gasp for air.

Oscar Diversity

For the first time in I don’t know how long, I sat up and watched the Oscars.  In case you didn’t know, there’s this whole ruckus about diversity going on and how no actors of color were nominated for the major awards.  I’ll say that after watching the show last night, the Oscars and the Academy have a much larger issue with diversity.  That, or I just don’t understand what the awards show is all about.

Beyond the whole issue of race, why is it that only about 6-8 movies dominate the nominations each year?  Given the number of awards for different technical aspects of the movie making process, I find it hard to believe that those 6-8 movies encompass the best of the best work for any given year.

Why does the best screenplay adaptation have to come from the movies up for the best movie award?  Could it be possible that a movie had a phenomenal screenplay that was poorly executed by an equally poor acting cast?  Could some sound mixer done a hell of a job in a movie that didn’t make millions?

When you can convince me that those 6-8 movies are the best of all the best parts of a movie, then you can discuss the actors and personnel doing the work.  Racial makeup is the least of the issue with the Oscars as far as I’m concerned.  I have no desire to watch The English Patient or The Danish Girl, but I have seen The Martian and Unforgiven.  Not all movies appeal to all people, and the awards should reflect that.  Then again, the Oscars is nothing more than Hollywood patting itself on the back.  I don’t think the public really has as much input with it as we think we do.