Friday, June 15, 2018

America's "Real" Christian Values

"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for His purposes."

 Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Taking scripture out of context, like this beauty from Jeff Sessions, is a cornerstone of repressive evangelical ideology. If we were to draw this misreading of scripture to it's most logical conclusion then the crucifixion was just, Paul's four trips to prison for emulating the life of Jesus and spreading the Gospel were just, and yes America's enslavement of Africans was just. This is the kind of regressive Christianity that continues to poison people against the church.

Religion and patriotism have always been good disguises for bigotry. There are very real issues to be resolved with our immigration system, but snatching babies off of their mother's breast and detaining kids in makeshift prisons isn't the answer. It's painfully obvious, to anyone who isn't emotionally invested in the myth of America, that this kind of treatment has always been reserved for racial minorities. This is an empirical fact. America has always mistreated those with "problematic" identities. This is just another version of that.

In 25 years the people who are supporting this foolishness will have to pretend they were always against it. They are, coincidentally, the same people angry about nonviolent protests against police brutality. These are the descendants of the people who defended southern police departments when they were spraying protesters with hoses and beating unarmed people with nightsticks. It takes some of our fellow citizens a generation or two to see the humanity in people who don't look like them.

Here's some free advice: be very careful around people using the Bible to justify vicious and cruel behavior. The same people using scripture to dehumanize the "other" will use the same Bible to find a verse to legitimize your mistreatment.

There's a rich history of Christians who have been martyred for disobeying unjust laws. I wish Jeff Sessions was as well versed in what Jesus was doing when he was calling out Pharisees and running money changers out of the temple. Maybe if Mr. Sessions had paid more attention to what Black people were rebelling against when he was a young man he would know the state isn't always doing things in accordance with the principle of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Honoring Woody Pettus

On Saturday, June 2nd, a group of almost a 100 people gathered on The Casino Lawn at The Omni Homestead. The Casino, built in 1895, will be the home of the Omni Homestead’s newest restaurant “Woody's”. A restaurant dedicated to the memory of Woodrow Pettus.

Woody Pettus started working at the Homestead as a caddy when he was a teenager. He moved from the golf course into the stables where he worked with his father. His final move was into The Main Dining Room. He was a busboy, waiter, wine steward, captain, assistant head waiter, headwaiter, and then Maître d.

In 2003, Golf Styles Magazine recognized Mr. Pettus as Maître d’ of the Year. Last September, (2017) The Historic Hotels of America honored him as Ambassador of the Year.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, managing director of The Omni Homestead, Brett Schoenfeld, had this to say about Mr. Pettus:

From the time I learned of Woody’s illness we spent a lot of time on the phone. We talked about his legacy here at the hotel. Trying to honor a man like that is a very difficult thing. We, as a team, thought a lot about how we wanted to do that and how we wanted to make that happen. We are pleased to announce today that the restaurant here at The Casino starting June 8th, will be named Woody’s.

The ribbon cutting event was part of a larger weekend dedicated to the life of Woody Pettus. Later that night, The Omni Homestead’s main dining room was transformed into a celebration hall for the life of Mr. Pettus. Proclamations from The Historic Hotels of America were read by William Foudy. A letter from The American Hotel and Lodging Association was read by Henry “Hank” Spire. A letter from the Virginia State Golf Association was read by Don Ryder, and resolution from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s board of directors was read by Miss Jane Sewell.

The Pettus family received numerous awards, presentations, and plaques throughout the night. State Senator Creigh Deeds Introduced Senate Resolution number 534 honoring Mr. Pettus. In an extension of remarks for the Congressional Record Robert William Goodlatte United States House of Representatives presented the family with a certificate of recognition. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also sent a recognition to the family.

Bob Goodlatte Chairman of the House Judiciary 
Woody's daughter Lisa Aguilar gave remarks to the crowd on behalf of her family:

What an honor it is to stand here tonight and honor my daddy. He loved this place. To his friends and coworkers, he loved you. He truly loved the Homestead. He loved everything about it. There are guests who have known my dad and told me my kids know your dad, my grandkids know your dad. What an honor.

In a promotional video presented to the family coworker longtime friend Arthur Bryan summed up Woody’s impact on the resort this way:

Many times, guest would call the Homestead and ask, “Is Woody at the Homestead?” If they were planning to come and Woody wasn’t here, 9 out of 10 times they would wait until Woody came back to work before they would even check in.

This story is also published on the Allegheny Mountain Radio website

Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Were The "Good Ole Days"?

Contrary to popular belief, American society hasn't devolved. This doesn't mean we should ignore or compartmentalize the barbarism we've witnessed, but we shouldn't pretend like today's evils are inherently different than the evils of yesteryear. America has a 240+ year run of carnage under her belt. The only thing separating today from yesterday is our vantage point.

The idea that American society has devolved is rooted in the false belief that we achieved some utopian state of bliss and then lost it. This collective fetishization- with a period no one can point to on a calendar- is a form of scapegoating that hinders​ our ability to address the very real issues we face.

There are millions of Americans so in love with the past that they fear the future. They have romanticized a history that never existed. Some have been so tricked by their youth, incomplete memories, and the false narratives woven into our cultural identity that they believe the America from country and western songs actually existed. I have some bad news for the adherents of this false doctrine. The "good old days" never existed. They aren't a real period in time. They are a fantasy land where nothing bad ever happened and everything was pure. 

This is a painful realization, so painful, that some choose to avoid it. Instead of engaging and critically examining the myths and lies that underpin this fantasy they repeat them. Anything that challenges​ the narratives​ people believe about America is viewed as a personal attack. People aren't upset that a piece of cloth isn't being recognized, they are upset that people aren't embracing their version of reality. This makes telling the truth about​ America a risky and controversial proposition.

America didn't devolve; Americans just quit pretending to be civilized towards each other. Meaningful discourse was murdered by ego. Our society is so preoccupied with making sure people are respectful to symbols and relics that we've stopped working towards an inclusive future. There are people so invested in their tribes, dogmas, and ideologies that they have become blind to the ways those beliefs harm other people. They are prisoners to the myths they were indoctrinated with.

This is who we are and where we are. We are in this bed together and we have to fix it. There's a better chance of white people returning this land to the ancestors of those it was stolen from than a mass exodus of Black and Brown people. We will learn how to live together or we will be witnesses to the kind of uprisings we see in black and white photos and videos. The choice is ours.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wynton Wasn't Wrong!

“I don’t think we should have a music talking about ni**ers and b*tches and h*es... I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Wynton Marsalis

That quote from Wynton Marsalis on Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast “Cape Up” put him squarely in the sights of #BlackTwitter. He was absolutely obliterated. His criticisms of rap were dismissed as the rantings of a cane waving old man. The following day Marsalis wrote a 1,074-word Facebook post clarifying his position. This recurring conversation about rap has deeper social consequences than many of the folks attacking him seem willing to admit.

Criticisms of rap, no matter how reasonable, have a way of pitting people from different age groups, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds against each other. Many of Marsalis’s critics chose to attack him instead of the arguments he used to support his position. This is sad. His use of Robert E. Lee and Confederate statues was provocative, but his logic was sound. We should be morally and intellectually honest enough to admit that misogyny, homophobia, drug use, drug distribution, and soft genocide are constitutive themes in a lot of the music produced today. This doesn’t mean all rap.

I say this as a 43-year-old ordained member of clergy who listens to rap every day. I will always love rap: even though I can't stand a majority of the kids making it these days. For me, rap has always been about the beats. Good songs always have great beats, and great songs have great beats and great lyrical content. It’s possible to love a problematic genre of music and tell the truth about it. Rap is awesome, but there are artists and songs I don’t play in front of kids and polite company. This is true for movies as well.

There are so many negative artistic and literary representations of Black people that they seep into the consciousness of a society. This is damaging. Many of today’s rappers have more in common with actors and reality stars than the image they portray. Sadly, many of the kids listening don't always know this. Imitation is a form of flattery, but when Black children mimic the actions of their favorite rappers the consequences can be deadly.

Marsalis’s words parallel those of bell hooks and others who have critiqued rap from inside the Black community. No one has to agree or disagree with these criticisms but ridiculing them doesn’t make them go away. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I respect him for the way he explained his feelings. He didn’t go the Fox news route and try to diminish the community while distancing himself from Blackness. He didn’t coon or sellout.

What we are seeing in rap is the logical conclusion to the evolutionary path the genre has been on. I had a mixtape in the 90’s titled: Music To Do Drive-Bys To. It was as cd of freestyles over some of the hardest beats down south producers were making back then. I look back on that album and realize the problems with it. This doesn’t make me better than a kid listening to Lil Pump or Migos. A lot of the kids making music today were raised by people who exposed them to the same music I was listening to. As a community it behooves us to come to grips with the impact rap has had on too many kids. This is an important conversation that more parents and kids need to have.

I love a problematic genre of music. Our society is never giving up materialism or vanity, so those themes will always be reflected in art. Rap isn’t all bad. There have always been people rapping about systemic racism, poverty and the existential angst that comes with living in America. Kendrick Lamar and Future are the progeny of a genre that produced KRS1 and 2 Live Crew. As consumers of the art form and people concerned with our community, we have to he honest about this reality. Wynton Marsalis isn’t our enemy. He’s more of an ally than the record labels benefitting from Black pain and suffering.

Friday, May 25, 2018

America Needs More Steve Kerr!

"I'm proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech. It's about peacefully protesting...They're weren't disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit and pandered to their fan base by creating this hysteria."

Steve Kerr showed some of "allies" how easy it is to tell the truth.

"Allies" love sharing their obligatory MLK quotes and pictures, but very few have ever wrestled with his words. Dr. King's message was the antithesis of  peacefully suffering injustice. Anyone who believes he would side with Donald Trump and the NFL over the people he was murdered advocating for needs to turn of Fox News and pick up a book.

Here are some Dr. King quotes to get you started:

1. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

2. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. 

3. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

4. There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.

If you can't tell the truth about peaceful protests and the Black bodies that caused them, keep Dr. King's name out of your mouth. Your silence allows the status quo to continue. We have a legal system that kills more unarmed people of color than armed school shooters. Let me say that again: white mass shooters are treated better than unarmed people of color. In 25 years your grandkids will be ashamed.

If we hadn't put a moratorium on inviting folks to the cookout Steve Kerr would have already received a lifetime achievement award.