America Is Losing Its Soul

People often ask me why I appear to be so angry and cynical. The short answer is that I see things differently than others.

I was born in an era pre-internet, pre-compact disc, pre-cell phone. I was born in an era when the only lines people were willing to wait in was for food, unemployment checks and gas for their automobiles. I was born in an era where Americans built things. We drove around big cars. We drove around cars that were made of steal, not that plastic shit of today. I was born in an era where the grey smoke bellowed from the long stacks at the paper mills, the textile mills, the chemical companies. I was born in an era of some truly great television shows. My favorite show was “The Dukes Of Hazzard”, and my favorite part of the show (besides seeing Daisy in the red bikini), was the car. It was a 1969 Dodge Charger. It was named the General Lee, painted orange and had a rebel flag on the roof. I was too young to know who General lee was, or what the rebel flag stood for, but I knew what the Duke Boys stood for. “They were fighting the system like a two modern day Robin Hoods.” I was born in an era where the men would go to work dressed in a pair of slacks, a dress shirt, a fedora hat, overcoat and carrying a lunch pale. And it didn’t matter if the worker was an assembly man, truck driver, garbage man, or office worker. They took pride in the clothes they wore.

I was born in an era in which the neighborhood patrolman would take the time to know your name, and if you got in trouble your parents would know about it. I vividly recall my father waking up in the morning and heading out to the union hall in hopes of finding a trucking job to pay for living expenses. After a hard days work he would come home, eat, spend a couple hours with me and then go off to night school so he could learn how to speak English. I was born at a time when men were still walking on the Moon.

It was so easy to make friends. All you had to do was to go outside, and the neighborhood kids would come to you. They would ask you your name, where you lived, and if you wanted to play Cowboys and Indians. We would play until the street lights came on, then we would run home and wash up for dinner.

I remember my mother always wearing a dress to work. She used to make toys for The Hasbro Company, until the manufacturing plant shut down. Little by little, the grey smoke bellowing from the stacks slowly went away. In their place were erected fast food restaurants. My mother used to buy our shoes from Thom McCann, our clothes from Sears and they were all made in America. My father owned a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, and when he saved up enough money he traded it in and bought a new 1975 Chevrolet Chevelle. The Chevy wasn’t as nice as the Firebird, but it was big enough to fit his wife and three children.

Believe it or not, my dream job was to be a Butcher. And when I turned 18 I became one, at the grocery store that I spent two years working for. I learned how to do every job at that store. It was called IGA. Of all the jobs I ever had in my life, working at IGA was the best. However, it was bought out by Almacs Supermarkets. I was a butcher for 6 months until budget cuts. I was then bumped down to part-time status in the deli department, but when I was a butcher I was the best butcher.

It’s hard to see change happen when it happens, but when you see it–it can be painful. It can be discouraging. It could make a man or woman cry.

This past weekend, thousands–if not millions–of people witnessed Felix Baumgartner jump out of a capsule attached to a balloon from 24 miles up in the air. He managed to set a record for being the first person to break the sound barrier in a freefall skydive. It was a magnificent feat, because he wasn’t in an aircraft. When the excitement went down, it made me sad. I wished it was an American that did that mission. Sadly, it was an Austrian that did it on American soil.

A couple weeks ago I witnessed an unbelievable site. Here in Los Angeles, I drove around for miles to snap a shot of the Space Shuttle Endeavor riding piggyback on a NASA 747. I drove around for miles, but I managed to snap the perfect shot. I was so excited, but I didn’t have anyone in my life to share it with. I was reminded of my friend, Mary Webb Jones, on Twitter. Her husband worked for NASA in the Space Shuttle program. He had the greatest job in the World. He would seat the astronauts in the Shuttle, and he was the last face the astronauts saw before they were blasted off into outer-space. I tweeted her the picture, and I asked her to tell her husband how proud I am of the work he did in the Shuttle program. She replied back to me that she couldn’t talk to her husband about the program because it would make him sad. That made me cry. The last time I cried like that was seeing that Shuttle launch and land for the last time. This weekend, the same day that Felix made his historic jump, that same Shuttle was making a 12 mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles to its resting place at The California Science Museum. Thousands of people witnessed this historic event. Thousands of people, laughing, smiling and taking pictures. I was not one of them. I’m not much of attending funerals. The Space Shuttle was designed to perform missions in outer-space, not on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

We used to stand for something. We used to export stuff. We used to make stuff, and we used to consume the stuff we made. We are slowly and surely losing our souls. We are living in a Country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The American dream is not simply buying a house and a decent car. The American dream is waiting in line for a new iPhone or pair of Nike Air Jordans. The American dream is buying Chinese shit. We are losing our souls. We don’t stand for anything, and we fall for anything. I was born in an era where drinking from the garden house was a good thing. I was born in an era that punished the liars and rewarded the hard workers. Today, liars get their own television show and get to run for The Office of The Presidency. America is losing its soul. America is losing its soul to the corporations and low-information voter.

I spent the weekend watching 40 years worth of presidential debates. Many of the candidates were debating much of the topics that the current candidates are still debating. For example, they debated education, healthcare, medicare, social security, high-speed rail as well as finding a way to end war. However, in 2008 we were debating on whether or not we should torture people. America is losing its soul.

Many things in my life have changed, but some things have remained the same. I have spent my whole life living in a Country at war. The war in Vietnam. The war on drugs. The war in Iraq. The war in Panama. The war in the Falkland Islands. The war in Somalia. The war on terror. The war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq (again). The war on the middle-class. The war on women. The only war that we said we were going to wage, but we never did–was the war on poverty.

People say that I’m angry. People say that I’m too cynical. And when they say that I tell them that I’m a dreamer. I dream of the day that the middle-class gets restored. I dream of the day that the American dream will mean something. I dream of a day when Americans are building stuff again. I dream of the day when I can buy a shirt, jeans and shoes that have the “Made in America” tag. I dream of the day when the federal budget is running surpluses again. I dream of the day when education is affordable for all who wish to seek it. I dream of the day when people will be smart enough to re-elect the best person for the job. I dream that President Barack Obama gets re-elected to a second term, and if he doesn’t I dream of what it would be like to live in Canada until Americans get some sense.

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Seriously. Liberals. Stop it.

Stop saying that Obama was horrible in his debate while Paul Ryan did a good job. Paul Ryan sucked, and you know that shit. Stop saying that Biden didn’t say the word “women” more. Stop saying that his laughing and smiling were irritating. You ever wonder why democrats can’t govern as liberals? It’s because there is no satisfying you pricks. Just STFU and vote.

I refuse to apologize for my political rhetoric. This is the most important election of our lives. If democrats feel it’s more important to hit the bars and nightclubs, or attend a keg party rather than vote for their interests–we’re fucked. The young fucking morons in this Country don’t have a clue at what it means to fight. Every generation before them had to fight for their rights, and a vote for Romney/Ryan will roll back every right we have. Don’t believe me? I dare you to vote for them.

Blacks had to fight for their right just to be a fucking whole person. They had to face fire hoses and German Shepard’s when fighting for their right to sit in front of the bus. They had to fight for their right to vote. They had to fight for their right to marry a person who is of a different color. They had to fight for their right to get a level playing field to just get considered for a job or have access to higher education–affirmative action. They even had to fight for their right to own land!

Women had to fight too. Women fought for their right to vote. Women fought for their right to equal pay. Women even fought for having to decide what to do with their bodies regarding reproductive rights. Women had to fight–and are still fighting– against sexism and discrimination. Gentleman, they are not sex objects. They are our moms, sisters and aunts. Stop checking out their tits.

And we have the gays–the homosexuals–the transgendered. This is their moment now. They are fighting for their fundamental right to get married. They are fighting for their fundamental right for equality that the other minorities before them have fought and won. This is their moment now, and for a member of another minority group to not support them is absolutely fucking ridiculous. There is no other greater friend to the black community than the gays–second only to the Jewish.

Conservatives, however, never had to fight. The voters just have to give them the keys to the Government and they legislate all the things that take liberals generations to overturn. The 2012 presidential election is a big fucking deal. Every thing that people and liberals fought and died for over the past 100 years is on the line. We live our lives totally fucking clueless at all the goods things that Government contributes to make our lives better. We drink safe water. We breathe fairly clean air. The air would be cleaner if we elected more democrats, and that’s the problem. Democrats are not enthused to vote. Conservatives hate to fight for rights, but they love to vote. They love to vote so you don’t have to.

All I have to say to liberals is this. Shut the fuck up and vote. If you don’t vote, all that talk about how the economy isn’t growing fast enough won’t amount to a hill of shit when we’re in a depression twice as bad as the one in 1929. Oh, by the way, we will be living under policies created in 1929.

The Arguments Against The Voter ID Laws Are Really Pissing Me Off

Over the past year, the republicans are doing whatever they can to hold on to power. However, instead of trying to appeal to the vast diversity of the electorate they are suppressing the right of the electorate to vote. The right of minorities to vote, because–let’s face it–republicans don’t support issues that are important to minorities. They don’t believe in same-sex marriage. They don’t believe in equal opportunity legislation to help minorities get a fair shot at employment. They don’t believe in a safety net for the poor and working poor in the form of welfare and food stamps. They don’t believe in upward social mobility that is immigration. They like to wage war, but have a problem with providing the veterans coming home with benefits. They don’t even believe in the right for women to chose what actions would be best for their own bodies. So, who can blame them for trying to discourage minorities from voting.

Republicans have passed strict voter ID laws in 37 States in this Country. They argue that presenting an ID to vote will preserve the sanctity of the voting process by eliminating voter fraud. However, when asked to cite any cases of voter fraud over the last year, ten years or thirty years–they can’t.

The other side of the argument (that the democrats are launching) is that these voter ID laws disenfranchise African-Americans and Hispanics. They go on further to say that Blacks, Hispanics, the poor can’t afford the $30 for identification. And many of the older African-Americans don’t have the documentation required to obtain identification. Oh really?

As a black man living in America I have spent my whole life trying to fight against the typical stereotype that has been painted on my race. You’re lazy. You don’t like to work. You deal drugs. You like to steal cars. You listen to rap music. You like to beat women. You raise pit bulls. You have a bad credit score. You rent your furniture at Rent-A-Center. You like to engage in gang violence. You like to turn out women for tricks. You like to live off of welfare. You sponge off of Government. You call people racists, because they don’t hire you. And now I’m being told that I’m not responsible enough to carry identification to vote.

Well, I have news for you America…

I have had identification for over 25 years of my life. Growing up as a black man living in a white neighborhood it was a necessity. It was also the law. I was made aware of this law, one day, by a police officer that pulled me over while I was walking to work one day. “Where are you coming from?”, he asked. “I’m coming from my house” “Let me see your ID”, he said with a stern face. “I don’t have any ID. I’m 15”, I replied with nervousness. “Not possessing ID on your person is against the law and can carry up to a $100 fine. Are you aware of that?”, the officer stated with authority. “No, I’m not aware of that. I’m only 15 years old, and you’re making me late for work”. I had my father help me get an ID the very next day.

See, I learned–at an early age–that possessing an ID was not only within the law it was powerful. The next time a police officer asked me for my ID I gave it to them, and I let them know that what they were doing was wrong. As a black person, I refuse to believe that I am lazy. So, I spend my whole work day working smarter, faster and harder than any other person in my company. As a black person, I refuse to let people think that I have a bad credit score. I worked my ass off to repair my credit and maintain the 800 credit score I have today. You think I listen to gang-banging rap? I am a Jimi Hendrix fan, and I’m fucking proud of it! You think that just because I’m black I’m too lazy to go into work? I show up to work every single day–every single fucking day.

The correct argument against the voter ID laws should be that voting is not only a right afforded to us under The United States Constitution–it is also one of the most secretive things that we do as Americans. When I vote I go to my polling station, get my ballot, go into a booth, close the curtain and I’m all by myself. I have the freedom to vote for anyone I want. I even have the right to vote for myself as a write-in candidate, and I don’t have to tell a single person how I voted. In fact, once a person feeds their ballot into the machine there is no way to prove who you voted for.

The people defending the voter ID laws say that it is no big deal to present identification, because we do it in so many aspects of our daily lives. We show ID when using a credit card. We show ID when making a withdrawal at the bank. We show ID when flying on a commercial aircraft. However, in all those cases we get an actual benefit. I get a product or service that comes with a receipt. If I’m not satisfied with the product or service I can receive a refund. When we vote; we can’t take back our vote. In fact, we can’t say with certainty that our vote was even counted.

Living in California, I take advantage of the mail-in ballot. I vote in the privacy of my home. I fill out the ballot, stuff it in an envelope and mail it in hoping that someone on the other end feeds it into a machine. However, I have faith in our democracy that my vote counts. And if my candidate doesn’t win I have to live with the consequences. We all have to live with the consequences.

As I stated earlier; possessing an identification is a powerful thing. When someone wants to preserve their power by coming up with a law that they think will disenfranchise the voters that won’t vote for them, then I think it’s time for all of us to play by their rules. Go out, get an an ID and vote. If all of us vote against them–the better off we will be as a nation. 2012, in my opinion, is the most important election year in my generation. It is time to act. It is time to get your ID, and it is time to send a strong message. The republican party is insane. The republican party hates minorities, and us minorities need to make them the minority party.

It’s all in our hands. Do you want to be a victim? Do you want to be lazy? Do you want to be silenced? Do you want to fall into that typical stereotype that they have painted for us. The same stereotype that so many of us fight everyday–or do you want to have the power to wipe the republican party and the fringe majority of that party to oblivion. It’s all up to you. Don’t you think that waiting a few hours in line for ID is worth the power?

It’s all up to you

Big Government Versus Small Government

Do you see the elephant in the room? You have to see the elephant in the room, right? I mean, if you can’t see it you have to be able to at least feel it. The republican party prides itself in telling their constituency that “big Government” is wrong. However, they are the biggest advocates of big Government, and that is the elephant in the room.

The republicans have been attacking the president for not doing enough to maximize employment. They have been attaching the slow economic growth around his neck. They have also been obstructing him, every step of the way, so he wouldn’t get reelected. They argue that Mitt Romney would better serve the people and the economy. They argue that Mitt Romney would create more jobs, even though he outsourced thousands of jobs in his capacity as head of Bain Capital. With that said, what is the role of the private sector?

In 2008, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, said that Government has never created a single job. Four years later they are espousing the complete opposite. They believe that it is the job of the president to create jobs. Even though President Obama’s stimulus plan created 4.5 million jobs, that is not good enough for them. Following the logic, that means that republicans believe in big Government. But what about the private sector?

What is the role of the private sector? The republicans brag that the private sector is the engine of job creation. Once again, following the logic, who is to blame for the dismal employment numbers? President Obama? Shouldn’t the dismal numbers be attributed to the private sector? The private sector is the engine of job creation, right?

And that is the elephant in the room…

The republicans can’t attack the private sector for the dismal economy, because they are owned by the private sector. So, they have to attack the president. The president can’t attack the private sector, because he will lose their money (in the form of campaign contributions and votes). So it’s left to the job of the media. Any half-intelligent “journalist” should be able to bring this fact to the politicians that attack the president for the economy. The easiest question that should be asked is, “Why is it fair to attack the president and leaders in Congress for the lack of jobs when you believe the private sector is responsible for jobs? Isn’t the private sector to blame?”

There goes that elephant again.

It serves as an important reminder that the media is corporate. They generate revenue, in the form of advertising, from the private sector. God forbid that they actually do their job; private sector companies will pull their ads, and the media outlet sees a shrink in revenue. And you wonder why highly informed people turn to outlets such as NPR or CSPAN? For the most of us, we are left with Dogma.

I am just completely amazed that people don’t get this simple fact. I am completely amazed that liberals don’t get this fact. Every time a conservative pins the “big Government” label on a liberal–they run away. Liberals retreat to the “sensible Government” idea. Pussies!!

What is wrong with big Government? Why must we run away from that idea? The republicans are practically embracing the idea without the people even knowing it. We live in a post 9/11 America. All of the policies in effect right now are very big Government policies. These policies were enacted by President George W. Bush as a direct result of the failure of small Government principles pre 9/11. The policies in place were designed to keep the people in this nation safer. We can disagree on many of the key pieces, but the fact is that it’s the republicans that increased Government by 40%. The fact is that the democrat, Barack Obama, is continuing those very same policies. Also a fact is that we haven’t been attacked in 11 years. That is big Government at work.

Small Government is a myth, and The United States of America was not created on a premise of a myth. We are a nation of laws that are argued, legislated, drafted, signed into law, adopted and enforced by officials in the Government. We all hate speed limits, but we value life. Imagine a Country without speed limits. Imagine a Country without traffic lights. Imagine a Country that accepted lawlessness on behalf of the most truly vile, despicable, creatures of society. We build prisons to house those people, and we even are allowed to execute the ones who commit the ultimate sin–murder. We also provide education to people in the hopes that it will lead to a productive society. What is wrong with that? That doesn’t sound like small Government to me? In fact, we provide access to education to the criminals serving time in prison. We also provide three meals, provided by the taxpayer.

And you have a problem with welfare and food stamp recipients? Bitch please

I was inspired to write this piece when I heard of the death of Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was the direct result of John F. Kennedy’s big Government dream. It was a dream to go to the moon and back safely. Although President Kennedy wasn’t alive at the time of the moon landing, it was mission accomplished, Mr. President. Neil Armstrong didn’t seek the limelight. All of the heroes of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs never railed against the Government for creating this massive experiment. They were working hard to make sure we beat the Soviets. At one point, we were number one. They didn’t seek a spot on a Wheaties box. They didn’t try to get a sneaker endorsement. They served the Government and they left. Many of these heroes were republicans, and I’m sure that they wouldn’t knock down the big Government dream of interstellar space travel. People of Neil Armstrong’s age are referred to as “the silent generation”. I consider them to be members of the greatest generation. What is the generation that we have now?

The Low Information Voter

I almost have to laugh at the people who brag about how America’s democratic system is the best thing since Jack Daniels sour mash whiskey. Alexander Hamilton, arguably one of the greatest founding fathers, used to get into heated fights with Thomas Jefferson over the direction in which the Country should go. Thomas Jefferson had an agrarian vision for society. A society that involved farming as a means to economic prosperity. A society that would rely on individualism versus the role of Government. Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, had an industrial vision. Hamilton believed that manufacturing would lead to economic prosperity for this nations citizens, because not everyone has the ability to be a farmer. Jefferson didn’t like the pollution that the manufacturing environment created. I don’t have to tell you who won that argument…but not so fast. Alexander Hamilton also was a heavy believer in education. He had a fundamental believe in an educated electorate. Did he still win the argument?

I believe, one of the single-most important things in life is to vote, and it is not the right of anyone to influence how we vote. That decision is left to us, but how do we arrive at that decision?

Basically, elections work like this; It’s like voting for that person you really like on American Idol.

I wish it was that simple, but it’s not.

Elections should matter. Elections do matter…to me.

Since we live in a polarized Country–the electorate is split. However, it’s not a 50/50 split. It’s more like a 47/47 split. The electorate consists of 30-36% self-identified republicans. Add another 30-40% self-identified democrats. That will leave 18% of voters that are independents. 9% of the independents tend to lean republican, and the other 9% tend to lean democrat. Elections aren’t won by 47% of the vote, unless there is a third party candidate in the mix. For the most part, there’s one leader of both political parties that run. In order to win, one of them needs 50% of the vote. That is where the low-information voter comes in to play.

The low-information voter has a sense and duty to vote, but they don’t follow the day-to-day politics. They usually check in once every three and a half years. They are referred as the low-information voter because they tend to vote with their gut, and that is why politicians lie.

If you happen to be one of the low-information voters that tuned in to the Republican National Convention this week–you probably would have been impressed. You probably would have had a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney and many of the other speakers. They all told some pretty compelling stories, but they were just stories. And that is why you are a low-information voter.

All of the stories told during the convention were lies. In addition to spewing lies they also expressed this very selfish dialogue. If you were paying attention all they were saying was “I, I. I. Me, Myself”. There is no “I” in a family, the family that they believe are central to their values.

During the first day of the convention the party developed a platform. A platform is simply a list of values that the party believes in. Their first value is to not believe in abortion even in the case of rape and incest. You wouldn’t believe it with all the women speakers on stage professing their love for women. Loving members of their own sex is definitely NOT on their platform. If you were one of the low-information voters that bought this act then you would be the one that would by a Sham-Wow or that Flex Seal super rubber sealant.

Elections should matter. Elections do matter.

We live in an age where the average consumer spends more time researching what type of car to buy, what kind of television to buy, what kind of refrigerator to buy, what kind of computer to buy, what kind of designer suit to buy, where to go to school, what kind of neighborhood to live, what kind of friends we have, where to work and the low-information voter can’t even put in the same amount of time in choosing the leader of the free world. Gimme a fucking break.

Complain all you want about the economy, high gas prices, the high rate of unemployment. It’s all your fault.

Hail Mary Full of Grace

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I almost have to laugh at all the political talking heads on television that don’t have a clue. The president has just thrown the longest Hail Mary pass regarding this whole fight regarding birth control and the Catholic Church. The talking heads believe that this was a miscalculation on the part of the president. They are wrong. This was an intentional act. He deliberately threw the football to the other team, but they are running the wrong way with the ball. And, if the republicans are not careful they will score a re-election goal for Mr. Obama.

One of the biggest problems President Obama had (and still has) is explaining The Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare). The republicans are running around saying that that will be the first thing they would repeal when elected. President Obama is letting them get away with it, because the longer they use that rhetoric the longer the rope hangs on their necks. All that Americans know is that there is a mandate for coverage. However, they don’t know what’s in the bill. President Obama just told the white working-class women independents what is in it. This will be the first time in history in which they don’t have to pay for birth control. This will be the first time that the employer will be responsible.

So, why come out with this with the Catholic Church attached? The answer is simple….”It’s the economy stupid.” Don’t you think that advisers close to the president knew that the religious right would jump on this and run? Of course they did, and so did the president. Shift the discussion from the anchor of the sluggish economy around President Obama’s neck and make this about the fundamental right of a woman. How many families of 17 kids do you know of? In my time, it was common to see women having three children before they turned thirty. However, with women entering roles of higher prominence in the workplace there has been a focus shift–couple that with the high divorce rate and the volatility in employment–people just chose to wait to have kids. So, what does this mean? It means that over 90% of women are on some form of birth control, and it can cost as much as $600 a year. Also, a woman on birth control will translate to fewer abortions.

As this debate unfolds. As the republican candidates try to make this an “Obama war on religion” women are saying one thing, “You mean I don’t have to pay for birth control under Obamacare?” Now with the compromise that was reached with the Catholic Church making insurance companies pay for birth control proves that this was a calculated campaign strategy that will translate to a win for Mr. Obama. What year are we in anyway?