Dear 2016, Have a Seat!

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Thought for the Day:

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”

Ben Okri

Question For the Day:

Has 2016 worn you down?

If you’re anything like me, you’re counting down the days until 2016 makes its exit.  I have never in my life better understood the concept of dog years until 2016 rolled around because surely I’ve aged at least seven times the normal rate over the course of the last twelve months.  With each horrific news report and infuriating political headline, I found myself becoming more angry, confused and disillusioned.  By Thanksgiving, I had worked myself into such a frenzy that I was actually ready to scrap.  Yet 2016 showed no mercy like the 19 year old tenth grade bully who’s on the verge of expulsion and has nothing to lose. It seemed to stay one step ahead, ready to jump me the minute I dared let my guard down and relax.  This year disrespected me at every turn by putting its foot in my behind each time I turned on the news without so much as a courtesy timeout to remove my earrings or put my hair in a ponytail.  So needless to say, I feel like breaking out the confetti and singing a rousing rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” this New Years Eve because the bully that is 2016, is finally being expelled.  I know others will be reminiscing over all the good times and grieving the loss of another year of life, but all I have to say to 2016 at this point is “Kick rocks!”

Just in case you’re a person who enjoys racial injustice, death, political corruption and retro hate crimes circa 1950, I’ll explain the reason for my angst.  Here’s my personal countdown of the top ten reasons why 2016 needs to have several seats.

10) Gun Violence on Fleek

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This year has been absolutely ridiculous in terms of gun violence no matter what load of bull the NRA tries to sell us.  2016 saw the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL that claimed the lives of 49 people and injured 53 more.  It also can take credit for the bloodiest summer on record for the city of Chicago with 73 deaths by gun violence and the sniper shootings in Dallas that killed 5 police officers.  With all of this murder and mayhem, it would seem as if America has resigned itself to becoming a real life installment of the Hunger Games.  In my opinion, it’s the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument that needs to be shot because in the real world, INSANE people kill people ESPECIALLY when they have easy access to a pistol.  I am beyond aggravated with the incessant denial of gun advocates who first off, lie and act as if their “right to bear arms” is about deer hunting and second, refuse to admit that gun violence disproportionately impacts poor and minority communities.  In my opinion, the “hunting” defense is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that people who oppose gun control are often paranoid, hate-filled individuals who are intimidated by  said ‘poor and minority’ people and feel incapable of defending themselves any other way.  Therefore, if you make guns harder for people to get, they run the risk of being unable to defend themselves.  So in short, it’s fine for a club full of gays or a church full of Blacks to die as a result of loose gun laws so long as the good ole boys have the right to “stand their ground” when they get scared and don’t have to deal with any extra paperwork.

9) Hate Makes a Comeback

swastika-e1478808882890 Discrimination and hatred have made an impressive comeback in 2016.  First it was House Bill 1523, also known as the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act passed in the “great state” of Mississippi that basically allowed for the legal discrimination of LGBT folks. I’m not trying to make any statement here but I also don’t need to be for or against gay marriage to know that legalizing a business’ right to say “we don’t serve your kind here” is wrong.  Also in Mississippi, steps to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag were rejected by voters who apparently have no idea why a symbol that represents a desire to preserve slavery could possibly be offensive.  Then thanks to Donald Trump, the South apparently did rise again because rednecks and Klansman boldly stumbled out of the woodwork with a vengeance to eagerly relive their glory days down in the land of Dixie.  We saw a resurgence of nooses, blackface, swastikas spray painted on synagogues and even an old-school church bombing in Mississippi. It was like 2016 was one long episode of deja vu and we minorities kept scratching our heads asking each other “haven’t we been down this road already?”

8) America Didn’t Feel the Bern

img_20161231_000001I recognize that not everyone was a Bernie Sanders supporter but I was feeling the Bern.  I appreciated his overall opposition to the financial corruption of the political process and his push for a restoration of a true American democracy.  His platform advocated for equality in public education, easier access to college, a living wage for all Americans, fair immigration policies, affordable housing, and an expansion of Medicare that would benefit everyone.  As a social worker by profession, Bernie Sanders was the only candidate who seemed to honestly and thoughtfully consider the needs of the least of these.  He did not strike me as just another disingenuous politician spewing rhetoric and looking for the next impactful photo opp.  I thought he was real, but I should know by now that America doesn’t do real.  That’s probably part of the reason President Obama is so intolerable to some.  Anyone who dares respect the fact that America is not just here to serve the interests of the White and wealthy, apparently just doesn’t get it.

7) The Death of Muhammad Ali

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There are a few people that I consider spiritual role models and Muhammad Ali was one of them.  His death made me reflect on how few people truly stand for God and stand on principle the way that he did. The world lost something special when he passed and though I’m sure he’s floating like a butterfly now, his death still stung like a bee.

6) Straight Outta Options

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I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somehow the last two presidential candidates that America had to choose from, most people didn’t even like.  When the best the country can hope for is to elect the “lesser of two evils” then it’s pretty clear that righteousness at the highest levels of government will go out of style with Obama.  Then you have Gary Johnson’s simple behind running as the alternative but when he was questioned about the Syrian Civil War and the battles in Aleppo, he sounded like a confused Scooby Doo looking for Alpo instead of Aleppo.  How are you going to apply to be the leader of the free world and not even bother to read a newspaper?  I didn’t know how to feel about a country where Clinton, Trump and Johnson were essentially the best America had to offer.  At least Hillary could read, articulate, and spell, which if nothing else, made her the most qualified individual for the presidency.  But what does it say about the future of this nation if reading and spelling become the defining qualifications for the presidency?  No wonder Kanye thinks he’s got a shot.  Sadly, 2016 proved he just might.

5) Harambe Hoopla

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If y’all don’t get that camera out of my face…

I was so aggravated by the whole Harambe situation at the Cleveland Zoo.  If you don’t know the story, zoo officials had to make the unfortunate decision to put Harambe the gorilla down after a small (Black) child got away from his mother and wound up in his pit. I’m not happy that an animal lost its life but it was almost as if people had wished the child had died instead of the animal.  When I first saw the video, I was holding my breathe and the only thought I had was “Lord, please let that baby be okay.”  I was relieved to find out that he was safe and assumed that everyone else would feel the same.  But such was not the case.  Instead, folks were spewing some of the most vile hatred I’d ever come across on the internet.  The family was receiving death threats and folks were calling the entire family the “real monkeys.”  Fox News even felt it appropriate to look into the child’s father’s criminal history despite the fact that he is currently a gainfully employed and present father and WASN’T EVEN AT THE ZOO THAT DAY.  When people like me dared to question whether the child’s race was playing at all in the backlash, we were the racists.  People were super defensive when race entered the debate even though widespread speculation was that the mother was probably “too busy taking selfies on her Obama phone.”  Yeah…no racism over here.

4) Doves Cried 

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For those who may not know this, I am an avid music lover and somewhat of a connoisseur.  I am quite heavily motivated by the music in my life and believe it to be a gift from the Most High God to connect on a deeper level to Him and to each other.  Therefore, because music means so much to me, I am beyond salty with 2016 for stealing so many of the greats including David Bowie, Vanity, Natalie Cole, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), George Michael, Phife Dawg (Tribe Called Quest) and of course the one I “adore” most of all, His Purple Badness, Prince.  I’m not sure if doves were crying, but I was.

3) Black Lives Still Don’t Matter

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Philando Castile/Alton Sterling

I wrongfully assumed that 2015 would represent the modern day face of police brutality, but 2016 was not going down without a serious fight for the title. The unnecessary shooting deaths of Alton Sterling who was selling CDs outside a convenience store and Philando Castille, a licensed gun owner who was shot in his car in front of his girlfriend and her child, were two of the stories that made national headlines.  But Gregory Gunn was beaten and shot a few feet from his Montgomery, AL home because he “looked suspicious” and Derives Rogers was falsely accused of breaking into cars in Atlanta and subsequently chased and killed by police.  Charles Kinsey was at work trying to comfort a distressed mentally ill patient when he was shot by police even while laying on his back with his arms and hands up in full surrender. Terrance Crutcher was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, OK after his car stalled on the highway.  Keith Scott was killed in Charlotte by police who assumed he was holding a gun that turned out to be a book he was reading.  These represent just some of the cases that made the news this year all while the officer who illegally arrested Sandra Bland was only convicted of perjury and the case against the officer who killed Walter Scott ended in a mistrial.  None of this is justifiable already but it would surely help the Blue Lives Matter crowd prove that these shootings have nothing to do with race if people like Scott Michael Greene, a White man with a history of “racial confrontations” wasn’t brought in alive after the ambush-style killings of two Des Moine, Iowa police officers.  I can’t help but wonder where all the “minimum force” training goes when it’s a Black male suspect in question.  See: Blacks With The Blues.

2) So Hard to Say Goodbye

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Like my parents and grandparents, I never imagined that I would see an African American man elected to the presidency.  So to actually witness it will go down as one of my generation’s greatest blessings whether most of us realize it or not.  Not only was there a Black man, his beautiful Black wife, and their two intelligent and poised Black daughters residing in the White House, but together they are a family that makes it easier for the rest of us to hold our heads a bit higher .  I personally believe President Obama has done a good job as President but because he is African American, he will likely never get the credit he is due.  Most African Americans were raised to understand that we need to be twice as good as our White counterparts to get half the credit.  Only an African American President could provide affordable health care for millions of Americans, restore diplomacy with Cuba, kill the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorists attacks, raise the minimum wage, revitalize the automobile industries, and put and end to the worst recession since the Great Depression and still be considered a bad President. Yet despite all the hatred and congressional resistance he’s faced, he and Michelle have remained the epitome of dignity, class, and grace under pressure all while being a shining example of healthy Black love.  It will truly be hard to say goodbye, especially in light of the number one reason 2016 has pissed me off…

1)Donald Trump and the “Rigged System”

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At first, it was obnoxious but kind of funny that Donald Trump believed he could be President.  To me, his candidacy announcement was nothing more than an awkward Kanye-style publicity stunt that would blow over by the primaries.  But the power of hate was not to be denied as his verbal lashing of Mexicans, women, Muslims and “the Blacks” seemed to speak directly to the hidden insecurities of the fear-filled bigots mentioned in reason ten and it wasn’t long before all of their pent up Obama rage reached a fever pitch.  They would subsequently unleash an unprecedented “whitelash” against Obama, Democrats, and America’s increasing diversity (with a little help from Trump’s Russian homeboy Putin, of course).  Ironically, Trump whined about the “rigged system” for months when he thought it would work against him.  Yet now here he sits, the winner of a Presidential election despite the total absence of any qualifying experience, poor grammar, questionable judgement, recorded evidence of sexual assault against women, a history of unscrupulous business practices, pending lawsuits including a child rape case, multiple bankruptcies, a former nude model for a wife, and a loss of the popular vote my nearly 3 million ballots.  If anyone doubts that White privilege is at play here, please take a moment to imagine how far Barak Obama would have gotten in his campaign if he had the same history. Still don’t believe White privilege is a thing?  Yeah, okay…. (See: God Don’t Like Ugly: Trump and the Christian Vote)

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s felt pushed to the edge by 2016. Lately I’ve been walking through life like Grandmaster Flash talkin’ about “I’m tryin’ not to lose my head.”  The daily grind of work, marriage, kids, finances, and other stressors in our personal lives is pressure enough on its own.  Yet when you look outward to a broader society that is riddled with hatred, injustice, intolerance, pain, and flat-out evil, it gets really hard to hold your peace and keep the faith.  I can personally testify to feeling quite low at several points this year, with November 9th being the lowest.  My anger and disappointment in my country should have driven me to my knees, but instead it drove me to a lot of cussing and fussing and several scathing Facebook rants.  I found myself to be more short-tempered with clients at work and a whole lot more impatient in general. I was less gracious, easily offended, and woe to the person who dared tell me they voted for Trump because they would live to regret it!

Yet, as a child of God, it wasn’t long before I felt convicted about my attitude. If it’s intolerance and hate that has me so vexed, I basically forfeit my righteousness when I become the very thing that I despise.   Therefore, I’ve had to make the conscious decision to take all my frustrations to the Most High and leave them at his feet.  I will not let the world change me but instead remain committed to being used of God to change the world.  I have to remember that I am in this world, but not of it.  I cannot allow anything, even a Trump presidency, to steal my joy and I hope everyone reading will resolve to do the same.  I wish you all much peace and blessings in 2017.  I hope it proves to be a better year for us all.  But just so we’re clear…

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Lol!  Happy New Year!

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trail, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

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