Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See? Things The Black Church has Ignored...

"They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the Earth are out of course..."

- Psalms 82:5

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath annointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to set them at liberty that are bruised."

- Luke 4:18

"And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind"

- John 9:39

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ..."

- 2 Corinthians 4:6

This is a touch subject for some people....

And that's the problem....

Everyone is afraid to talk about the church...address its shortcomings....shed light on the things it ignores....

And THAT, my friends, is why I can say without reservation that the black church has failed in the 21st Century.

The Black Church, in grand fashion, has failed to address the needs of a dynamic, complex, and growing population of parishioners. The model used it old, outdated, and almost archaic. Yeah, we may put a remix on it here, add a little flair there; but I think its safe to say that the black church has not evolved in ideology and form in over 100 years.

Now, am I saying the ideals should change? She we reword the Bible? Should we interpret it differently? Should we start accepting acknowledged, bonafide sins?


Pay attention though...

The Black Church (notice the use of proper noun form) at one point was our backbone and our driving force. It was where we went for aid and correction, support and a reality check. It was where we hashed out our truths and confronted our collective problems.

Now...we go to see what one another is wearing...because its the "chic" church for the buppies in my city...or because the pastor is feeding our ego and desires rather than telling us the truth...

Don't get me wrong, church has always had a social element...but that was never the sole element of the church.

I'll quit stalling now and tell you a few things that are wrong with the Black Church...

1. The Pastor...

Yeah, I said it. There are some amazing pastor's out there. They are doing God's work on the daily. Living what they preach for the masses. They are fishers of men. These pastors tell the truth to their congregations even at the risk of being unpopular or disliked. Why? Because God's word isn't always Rosy...and they will give you the true and living word of God. They are the ones who give the clergy a good name...

Then there are the other ones. The ones that see their "calling" as a license to do as they please. They are concerned with self exaltation and offerings rather than leading their flock. Granted, there is a "business element" to the church. (You gotta, or want to rather, keep the lights on man) However, the business should not be the sole element of the pastors motivation. The pastor should be involved in fundraising and church business as an administrator, but begging for dollars from the pulpit or twisting the gospel to grab a few more bucks is wrong as hell. (No pun intended.)

2. The Members...

Ok people...most of us like to think that we're smart. If school or books haven't made us smart...I'm sure experience has...for most of us. So why is it that we can go to church, listen to a pastor give us interpretations of scripture that are not biblically or principally sound, and follow it like it came from the lips of YHWH himself. I understand that we should not question God...I understand that. I understand that we should "touch not thy annointed"...I get it...but what's wrong with seeking clarification? Asking for clearer guidance? Or, here's a novel idea, researching yourself?!?!?!

Come on people, lets be real about this...all of us have sat in a church and heard the pastor spit out something that didn't sit well in our spirit. Now was that our convictions, or the Holy Spirit, tugging on our heart telling us, "Hey homie....something ain't right..." Probably...did we listen? No. We stayed and eventually became desensitized to the blasphemies. Or, we were afraid to not come back because we didn't want to be left out of the "cool" church.

What the hell exactly IS the "cool" church too? I don't get that...are people attending the "chic" church in the city because they feel led there by Christ, or are they going for the same reason they go to the club? They wanna be seen...they want to be a part of something...

Evaluate yourself and search your heart next time you leave church...do you have that warm feeling because God really touched you and moved in your life, or do you have that warm feeling because its a conditioned response to the act of leaving church?

3. The Ministry...

If I see one more Singles Ministry in a church where talk of sex is taboo...I'm going to run up and kick over the altar.

Its 2010 people. Folks are having sex. You probably thought of sex as you just read the word "sex" in this blog post. If the church refuses to equip its parishoners by tackling the issue of sex, and by consequence Sexually Transmitted Diseases, then what is the church really there for. Lets be real, black women are the leading demographic of new AIDS cases. Teen pregnancy is still an issue in Black America. Yet the church turns a blind eye to sex on the daily...

AND ANOTHER TABOO TOPIC...homosexuality in the church...I find it highly amusing that pastors are so quick to condemn homosexuality and take a strong stance against all things gay...and then go hire a choir director that looks like a negro Elton John with a velvet manbag.

Ok, I don't agree with homosexuality. I think its a sin. Does that make me love my gay friends any less? No. And they know how I feel about their lifestyle. Am I homophobic? Not in the least, but I have my convictions just like they have theirs. As far as I'm concerned, we just have different tastes in who we like to sleep with. Like that friend we all have that like morbidly obese women.

But I digress...

The church must confront the issue of homosexuality within the church; not with a broad stroke, not with rampant fire and brimstone condemnation, but with an honest look at it. If homosexuality is incompatible with the natural order of things according to your convictions, then that would put people who are gay in the same category as "lepers" in the bible. (Watch THAT ONE get taken out of context) "Lepers" were people who were not accepted by the general society. Neither are homosexual people. What did Jesus do though? HE loved them anyway! The prevailing thought amongst most Black Churchgoing Good Christian Folks (Can you smell the cynicism?) is that Homosexuality is a condition, an affliction even...so why do we love others who are "afflicted" but ignore those amongst us who need our love and support in their fight just to live their lives? Think about it with an open mind...and take it in context please.

Ok folks, I'm not perfect and I DEFINTELY don't have all the answers...ESPECIALLY when it comes to Jesus, Church, and Easter Programs...but I KNOW that the Church isn't supposed to be like this. The Black Church for so long was a vehicle for change...and now its a source of gossip, frustration, and social elevation.

I know this won't change most of your minds about your church, pastor, or the ministries at your church. Many of you will read this and be like, "Well, that's not my church" without another critical thought as to what your church is like. Some of you will say, "Damn, he kinda right." Then completely ignore the shortcomings of their church.

Me, when I get to the point where I can actually go to a church with the mindset of worshipping the Most High God with all my heart and soul and no reservations about being there...then, I'll try to change some things...maybe through ministry or other avenues...that's because the one Christlike quality that I can firmly say I have is a spirit of action...I'm not above flipping over the money tables in the temple courtyard. (That went over somebody's head...)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Black Celebrities and the Culture of Crucifixion...

"Controversy equalizes fools and wise men, and the fools know it..."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

"A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know..."

- Lord Byron

Bobby Brown, Chris Brown, and James Brown...what do they all have in common?

Besides the obvious...I already know that their last names are "Brown" and that they are singers...

Yes, they all share the stigma of being "abusive men"...

Give up yet?

They represent 3 different generations of celebrity within Black America...and the cross that black celebrities have to bare.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but...why is it that when black celebrities are in serious legal trouble, we tend to crucify them? Hear me out people...

So, we make jokes. I get it. I've many PLENTY of jokes about R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, and even Lawrence Fishburne's daughter. Why is it that, when black celebrities are in trouble, we demand an explanation and a firm repudiation of all charges? I don't understand that.

Granted, a 24 hour news cycle and the current trend/culture of "celebrity worship" has made anyone with an ounce of popularity a front page news story on occasion, but why is it that we demand accountability from black celebrities more than any other? I don't see Lindsey Lohan standing in front of a microphone bank saying, "Puffy is great, but Lohan are for the children!" (Ok, I know the Ol' Dirty Bastard reference right there just went over SOMEBODY'S head...)

So, lets look at this further...shall we?

James Brown

In 1988 I was 5 years old...but I actually remember watching the news when somebody mentioned James Brown. Now my grandfather Ransom LOVED James Brown and Ray Charles. Hearing one of Grandaddy's favorite singers on the news made me pay attention for a second. After that, I seem to remember a couple of jokes here and there about James Brown being mentioned. Looking back at old comedy videos by Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and others, I see more and more jokes regarding James Brown's 1988 arrest, high speed chase, and eventual conviction.

Talking to people who were more cognizant during that time period, it was a joke amongst the entire country. James Brown led police on a high speed chase down I-20. However, no one judged Brown. It was a sense that if movie and music stars of other cultures could overdose on drugs and get caught doing God knows what, then James can drive on...besides, they had Reaganomics and a Crack epidemic to deal with.

When Brown was released in 1991, I recall there being a sense of relief and enjoyment at his freedom. He was allowed back into our homes via music and, although still the butt of jokes, was allowed to make a comeback of sorts.

BTW, did they ever bury him? I know his casket was posted up somewhere for a minute while they were trying to figure out who was gonna pay for the hole to be dug or something..."

Bobby Brown

Robert Barisford Brown was my absolute favorite singer as a child. Up until about 2006 I knew every word to "Don't Be Cruel" and I still know all the words to the "Ghostbusters 2" theme song that he did.

I thought Bobby Brown was THE COOLEST mothafunka on the planet. Throughout the 90's Bobby Brown was the butt of more than a few jokes about his substance abuse problems. He could, for all intents and purposes, be the poster child for the "Generation X" of Black America. He was the quintessential bad boy. Although he was the butt of jokes, Black America still gave him a chance. When he married America's Dark Sweetheart, Whitney Houston, Black America cringed, made more jokes, and said a collective, "Well hell....if that's what she wanna do..."

When Bobby Brown was arrested for Domestic Violence in 2003 and a parole violation in 2004, there seemed to be a renewed interest in Brown...NOT because he'd made a fairly popular song with Ja Rule the year before (I'll admit it, I was hoping for a comeback album after I heard him on that track and saw the video...It did freak me out that half of his face wouldn't move when he sang though....)

He was vilified, dogged out, judged beyond judgment, and treated like a leper...then we saw that Whitney Houston was a certified lunatic on the show Being Bobby Brown. After we realized that Whitney was more than likely the crackhead as opposed to Bobby, we went back to ignoring him...

Chris Brown

You all know the story. Chris beat the crap out of Rihanna in a sports car. Rihanna allegedly gave him an STD. Either way, Chris was wrong for kicking the crap out of her. I think him beating her ass is unequivocally wrong. Across the board. The question I have is, why did we demand SO much accountability from Chris?

I mean, the dude had to shut down his life, his career still hasn't fully rebounded, and he was coerced into wearing that awful ensemble on Larry King Live that produced a crapload of bow tie jokes from me...the avid bowtie wearer.

It produced a national discussion between black men and women about domestic violence. The questions were all pretty much like this:
"Why did he whoop her ass?"
"Did she at least pinch him?"
"Did she really give him the herp?"
"Is there ever an ok time to hit a woman?"
"Should Chris Brown be allowed forgiveness?"
"Why the hell is Rihanna using this to garner sympathy and album sales?"

Ok, I got so sick of the Chris Brown/Rihanna stuff that I wanted to kick both of their asses for unleashing all that dumb assedness on my twitter feed....

The bigger question is why did we demand so much from Chris Brown? Why has Black America evolved to the point where celebrities are cannibalized so quickly when they prove not to be beyond reproach. Why is it that we've gone from the dignified responses that we once had en masse to lambasting them with twitter diatribes, facebook statuses/groups, soft news pieces, and the occasional documentary. Well, for 2 reasons...one obvious, one not so obvious...

"The Rub"

The obvious answer is that twitter, facebook, and the millions of other social networking venues didn't exist during the James Brown generation and half of the Bobby Brown Generation's lives. Peoples judgments were largely kept "in house", so to speak. The 24 hour news cycle focused on real news (i.e.- Iran Contra, the crack epidemic, reaganomics, the war on terror, increasing violence in our inner cities) as opposed to manufactured news pieces glorifying our culture of celebrity. Lastly, Black America's agenda was more focused on the uplifting of the entire community (which James Brown even played a role in, "Say It Loud...") rather than personal gain.

Here's the no so obvious answer. I call it the "Chris Rock Theory". With integration, came the chance for many blacks to join white counterparts in a variety of institutions, tax brackets, and social spectra that were previously unfathomable or unattainable. With that upward mobility came a sense of accomplishment, as it should. However, it also bred a certain amount of contempt for those who weren't as lucky, fortunate, or, in some cases, propped up. It began a war against "Black People" vs. "Niggas"...yeah, I said it. When celebrities make a certain amount of money, gain a certain amount of influence, or garner a certain amount of attention they are seen as talented "black people"...our shining hope....our "Young, Gifted, and Black" that Donnie Hathaway sang about. They are speaking for us and to us collectively. While they're allowed a little bit of slack to cut up (See: Kanye) they're not allowed to make egregious errors or commit crimes of moral terpitude. (See: OJ)

The Problem

It makes us a community of hypocrites. We demand that our HUMAN celebrities be beyond reproach, but we often don't demand the same from ourselves. Look at ANY statistic regarding education, health, and economics and see where blacks stand...get my point?

What happened to "It Takes A Village To Raise A Child" in Black America...has it been replaced by "It Takes BET to Raise My Child?"

Also, lets take a look at our current celebrities...

We've gone from the gifted (Sidney Poitier), talented (Billie Holiday), innovative (Spike Lee), and downright driven (Oprah)...to the "cliched" (Tyler Perry), marginally talented (50 Cent), underperforming (Nikki Minaj...sidenote: I weep for what her talent COULD accomplish), and people that I'm still trying to wonder why the hell they get so much attention (Wendy Williams).

We celebrate these people's lives and "talent"; then ask them to be accountable to us, and for what? How does them justifying their actions make our lives any fuller? How does it improve our situation either personally or collectively? How does it honestly affect Black America? I'll tell you how...

It distracts us...

We've gotten less focused and dumber as a people...and it would be way too easy to blame it on the media, technology, or the evolution of the 24 hour news cycle.

*Starts playing Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror"*

A quote from Philly Def Poet Black Ice says it better than I can:

Ignorance is bliss and/
Niggas love this so/
Niggas take pride in not knowin'
We not growin'/
I don't give a f*** how slick you flowin/
If you ain't showin' these kids nothin/
Or addin' nothin' positive to the Earth/
See I was born to touch this world the day I was born/
To be honest.../
F*** a deal/
God gives me what I'm worth....

Do we still believe the same thing?

Ask yourself...


The Curious Case of Bishop Eddie Long...

"The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite itself is hypocrisy."

- William Hazlitt

"No man for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which might be the true."

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

(And for you good Christian folks...)

"...He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone..."

-Yeshua (a.k.a. - Jesus the Christ)

Time to get my hands dirty here...

Ok, I've made just as many jokes as the next man about Bishop Eddie Long and his troubles with the courts...both of law and public opinion.

Even though I've expressed a wee bit of disdain for Bishop Eddie Long, Creflo Dollar, and other pastors that I consider "Christrepreneurs," I still think they have a divine purpose to serve. This post will not be about that though...

This post WILL be about the debacle that is facing New Birth though...and I will do it without the slightest air of judgement.

Now, unless you've been completely oblivious as to what happens in the news, are deployed somewhere without consistent news service, or have been under a rock for the past week or so, you should know at least a little bit about what's happened with Bishop Long. If not, here's a recap link. http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/24/georgia.pastor.lawsuit/index.html

1. The Court of Public Opinion

He's been convicted...point blank. Period. If my twitter timeline is ANY indication of how the masses feel about Bishop Eddie Long's alleged improprieties, then he's guilty. It begins with jokes, then it goes on to a discussion on how he should be embarrassed and what he should do, then back to jokes, then they talk negatively about him using his influence, then back to jokes, then finally (when somebody says something) they go on the defensive. These people are quick to pass their "observations" off as "Keeping It Real" or "Opinion" rather than judgment. Its laughable primarily because when your observations/opinions fall under the realm of dictating his "guilt" or "innocence" with regards to the improprieties...its JUDGMENT.

Have I made jokes? Hell yeah!

Do I think he's guilty or innocent? The better question would probably be, "Bleek, do you care about his guilt or innocence?" The answer to that one is simply, "No."

2. Bishop Eddie Long's Alleged "Avoidance" of the Issue of His Guilt or Innocence.

Everyone is upset about Bishop Eddie Long not standing in the pulpit and saying, "F*** Ya'll! I didn't touch them lil' dudes! Kiss my A**!"

Ok...maybe they're not upset that he didn't say that.

Either way, people are upset that there was not a vehement denial of the allegations from the pulpit. They are COMPLETELY disregarding the fact that the purpose of the pulpit is NOT to be a stage for such actions. It is a place for the true and living word of God to be professed. Did Bishop Long do that? Hell, probably not. But completely indulging in a vain and irreverent display of personal defense from the pulpit would be disrespectful to his position and calling.

Also, his "non-denial" is not true. Here's a quote from the Huffington Post Article containing the denial:

Here's another article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding the denial:

" I am anxious to respond directly to these false allegations and I will do so," he said in a statement released by his spokesman. " However, my lawyers have counseled patience at this time. But let me be clear; the charges against me and New Birth are false. I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply. "

I guess now that I've given a blog site and a legitimate news organization as citations, my statement is validated eh?

Anyway, lets move on...

3. Bishop Eddie Long is an Easy Target Here

Ok, so...Bishop Eddie Long....allegedly "coerced" these 17 and 18 year old men into having a homosexual relationship by giving them cars, clothes, jewelry, and trips overseas?

Let me say this again...

Bishop Eddie Long allegedly "coerced" these 17 and 18 year old men into having a homosexual relationship by giving them cars, clothes, jewelry, and trips overseas.

Are you kidding me?

At 17 years old, I was a college freshman chasing women left and right. Now I can understand about the pastor being "allegedly" gay causing an uproar. But I will be DAMNED if at 17 or 18 years old as a grown assed man you can be "coerced" into having sex with a man. That crap! Nobody is talking about that though...

Also, if you were in a homosexual relationship with somebody giving you money, cars, clothes, and trips overseas (That IMO you HAD to have wanted to be in) how were you coerced? That's like saying a stripper is "coerced" into taking off her clothes for dollar bills. Maybe the prostitute is coerced into having sex after she takes the money.

There's a hole here...big time. No pun intended. Really...no pun intended. Ok, I'm laughing though.

4. Parting Shot...

This is not a defense of Bishop Eddie Long. I'm not a Bishop Eddie Long fan by any stretch of the imagination....that should be evident by the fact that I labeled him a "Christrepreneur" in the beginning of the post. However, I am a student of the media. Even more so since I joined the Army in the Public Affairs field.

Its simply come to my attention that more often than not, the things we (Yes, me included) consider to be true (in opinion or judgment), aren't backed up by fact. We rush to judge people and automatically determine their guilt or innocence without regards to the facts or the skepticism with which we should investigate certain things. So, while I laugh and joke about a lot of stuff...I'm kind of careful about statements I make in actual discussion regarding actual situations...because I would rather be ignored or disliked for being honest, than loved for being a liar and a hypocrite. Harsh words I know, but I couldn't think of any nicer adjectives to use in their place...


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

"There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey; This is called hobbling the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army; This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers."

-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

I never thought in a million years that I would EVER agree with John McCain...

A year ago, had you told me I would be on the same side of an issue with John McCain, I probably would've looked at you crazy and walked away.

2 years ago, had you told me I'd be in agreement with John McCain on a major POLITICAL issue with John McCain, I probably would've cursed you out and drove away playing Young Jeezy's "My President Is Black"

I've learned to never say never though...

Today in beautiful Baghdad I awoke to the news that the Republicans successfully filibustered the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"...and I actually felt relieved. Strange, I know...

I was not happy...
I was not overjoyed...
I did not do a "Tiger Woods Fist Pump" and reach over and give the pic of my daughter a "Terrorist Fist Bump" while saying "YESSSSSSSS"...

I simply breathed a sigh of relief...


Well, its a rather simple explanation...wrapped up in a series of personal experiences and universal military truths. (Come on now, if I really thought it was that simple do you think I'd be blogging about it?)

The military isn't the place for social experimentation, social change, or social causes to be fought. Let's be honest, Gay Rights is an issue of Civil Rights and is a Social Cause. (Notice the use of capitalization)

DADT along with the rest of the Universal Code of Military Justice is based on generally accepted civilian federal and state laws. The UCMJ changes based on changes in federal and state statutes, codes, and laws. Its like this for a reason. The military cannot (and should not have to) sustain a fluid regulatory system to create policy. Seeing as how we serve at the will and request of U.S. citizens we should be a reactionary SERVICE with regards to the will of the people, as opposed to an agent of change to use as leverage upon the people.

The sole purpose of our military is to defend our nation and protect its inhabitants and interests. Our mission is NOT to create social policy change...

NOTICE I said, "the military should be a reactionary service with regards to the will of the people." That does not mean that the military should be the initial battleground with regard to social change. I am all for activism. Anyone who know me, knows this. I am all for equality. I am all for the unalienable right of every American to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How do I feel about gay marriage or gay relationships? Well, I say go for it. I don't plan on marrying a man and if another man decides to, how does that affect me? It doesn't, so by all means...live your life! Advocate for your cause! Just DON'T make the military a pawn in the game. ESPECIALLY while we're at war with one country and providing a large scaled "Advise and Assist" function in another.

Another problem I have with the way the DADT is being attacked is the blatant LIES that are being told regarding the policy. The policy IN NO WAY PROHIBITS PEOPLE FROM SERVING THEIR COUNTRY BASED ON THEIR SEXUAL PREFERENCE! I repeat, the policy IN NO WAY PROHIBITS PEOPLE FROM SERVING THEIR COUNTRY BASED ON THEIR SEXUAL PREFERENCE! To say otherwise is a lie...

Lets be real again folks. Our military is probably the most diverse entity in the country. I can look around my office right now and see individuals from 10 different states. I'm working with a civilian who's an Iraqi born American citizen. There's another civilian who's an Egyptian born American citizen. One of the officers in my unit is a native of Puerto Rico. The military is a veritable cornucopia of diversity. That includes people of various SEXUAL PREFERENCES. I've known a number of gay soldiers in the short period of time that I've been in the military (further proof that DADT doesn't prohibit homosexual Americans from serving) and truth be told...NOBODY cares.

No really...no one cares.

Truth be told, if you're getting kicked out for violating DADT there had to be a couple of things present to get you to that point...

If you're enlisted:
a) shitty NCOs

b) you pissed off a couple of high ranking people

c) your agenda was to be a "martyr" for gay rights

d) you probably pressed the issue and CHOSE to violate a DA regulation and the UCMJ

e) you were set up and no one chose to protect your right to privacy (*This has happened, but there are ways to fix it*)

If you're an officer:
a) you had shitty leadership

b) you pissed off a couple of higher ranking people

c) your agenda was to be a "martyr" for gay rights

d) The UCMJ doesn't apply to you and so you CHOSE to violate the the directive thereby pushing you into category "c"

e) you were set up and left to hang out to dry by other officers because they wanted to "throw you under the bus" for personal gain (*That's happened in a few occasions, but primarily after "b")

Either way, the 13,500 soldiers that have been put out of the military in the past 17 years as a result of violating DADT had some messed up circumstances for them. 3rd party outings have happened and, WAAAAAY more often than not, are dismissed.

There have been individuals who have "come out of the closet" in an attempt to keep from deploying. Most of the time, they get a verbal reprimand and still end up packing their stuff and heading to the sandbox.

I could go on for days about this, but I'll stop here.

The bottom line is that Social Activism has no place within the rank-and-file of the military. Everyone that VOLUNTEERED to serve knew when they came in that there were certain things that they could not do in the military that would be perfectly fine (or at least have negligible repercussions by comparison) in the civilian world.

Also, I sincerely wish the DADT activists would stop making untrue statements about the regulation and our Armed Services. To do such disrespects soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines, and coasties who are homosexual and those who serve with homosexual service members daily. You're painting us as an archaic bunch of chest beating idiots who beat up on the first person that's different. It's wrong, unfair, and should stop. (**Glaring at Lady Gaga**)

That's about it...


The Price...

"Many of us crucify ourselves between two theives - regret for the past and fear of the future..."

- Fulton Oursler

"There is no substitute for hard work, 23 or 24 hours a day. And there is no substitute for patience and acceptance."

- Cesar Chavez

"One already wet does not feel the rain..."

-Turkish Proverb

"A true man never frets about his place in the world, but just slides into it by the gravitation of his nature, and swings there as easily as a star."

-Edwin Hubbel Chapin

That's more than a few quotes...I know...

They're all pertinent though...well, at least to what's on my mind right now.

Being in Iraq gives you alot of time to think...ALOT of time to think. You contemplate everything from your own mortality, to the meaning of life, to the eternal question "What are Peeps ACTUALLY made of?"

Anyway, my thinking today took me back to a much less comfortable place than I was ready or, at least initially, willing to face.

I've always been told that I've been perceived as a loner. There's a reason for that. Even though I'm an occasional social butterfly and a very friendly guy, I don't allow myself to get close to too many people. The people I do let in close have been tried by fire...more often than not unintentionally.

None the less, as an adolescent I wanted to be accepted. That's not abnormal, most kids wanted to be accepted. In retrospect, I did a lot of dumb shit to be accepted. I mean a LOT of dumb shit. It was something I had to go through, like a lot of people.

It helped shape me in a number of ways. My search for acceptance made me see exactly how "different" I was from the vast majority of people around me. I've always been "different." Its not something I can necessarily put my finger on, I just know I'm not like most of my peers.

That was the first half of what I was thinking regarding my "uncomfortable" moment of retrospection... I was uncomfortable with who I was at that time, which in turn, made me uncomfortable with who I was for a period of time afterward.

The second half was an observation of sorts...I observed people around me...

I have an eclectic set of true friends. We all stand on our own. We all have our own independent thought processes. We all know who we are and are comfortable in our skin. I'm sure it took us all a while to reach that destination, but we all made it there...

My observation took me from my pre-pubescent years to the present day...

As honest as I am with myself and the people around me...

As loyal as I am to my friends...

As strong as I've had to be for myself and other people...

I've lived a great deal of my life around people striving for acceptance by the masses and found themselves willing to do anything to gain that acceptance...

Does that make them "fake"?

Does that make me a hypocrite for despising all things "fake" and still finding myself surrounded by sycophants?

Or is it just a fact of life?

I'd like to think its simply a fact of life...

I've seen people sell their souls to be accepted by people who normally wouldn't give a damn about them...

I've seen people change their personality, views, allegiances, and even style of dress to be accepted by people who shunned them...

I've seen people turn their backs on family all because they felt the need to be accepted...


Lily Fairchild once said, "Deep down, even the most hardened criminal is starving for the same thing that motivates the innocent baby: Love and Acceptance..."

At what point though is the price of acceptance too high? Especially when you already have the love of your real friends and are accepted by people who actually matter in your life?

I'm sure at some point and time I've done it...or something similar. I'm sure in a moment of low self esteem or covetousness, I may have done something completely out of character. My friends know that it was that, and I probably apologized for it...in fact, I can think of one time that I did apologize for it.

I guess it goes back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid...far too often, people get stuck in the middle of the pyramid and never make it too the top...(Google it if you don't understand what I'm talking about...)

So, now that I'm done rambling, I guess my question to myself, and by proxy to whoever is reading, is: "What is the price of acceptance?"

Your happiness?

Your peace?

Your friends?

Your family?

Your life?

Your soul?

What are you willing to give up?

I'm not willing to pay for something I already have...


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons Learned in Leadership...

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man. "

-Bertrand Russell

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way..."

-John C. Maxwell

"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership..."

-Colin Powell

If you know me, then you know where I am...
If you don't know me, first of all let me say, "Its nice to meet you." Secondly, I'm in Iraq. I'm deployed right now as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

Now, on to the meat of the subject...leadership...

At various times in my life I've been a leader. I've been elected, selected, and occassionally took the initiative to be a leader. With that being said, at times I've been a bad leader. Actually, in retrospect, I can say most of the time I was a bad leader. I'll tell you why...

As a younger man, I was under the impression that it was my job to have a vision and make sure everyone else was working towards what MY vision was. It was a selfish and misguided endeavor most of the time, and I'll admit that wholeheartedly. It wasn't until probably two years that I realized that much of my leadership experience was based on how I felt, I thought, and what I believed. Well...as a leader...that's waaaaaay too much "I" and not enough "we"...as a result, I squandered many a leadership opportunity.

Also, thre's another character trait that I possessed that didn't quite work well with me as a leader. I was very confrontational. All throughout my adolescent years and in my early 20s, I fought. Why? It was because I was under the impression that using my fists or harsh words would breed a sort of unspoken respect. I was under the impression that those who spoke subversively of me, those who espoused opposing viewpoints, and sometimes those who just had a different point of view, were my enemy. Well, thinking like that made me way more enemies than friends.

Am I sorry for it? No. I will not apologize for who I was, because it helped me become who I am. I will say I was wrong though. None the less, I can't change the past so I won't dwell on it.

Now, on to the present and the future.

As I stated earlier, about two years ago I had the epiphany that I was a bad leader. I took a "No Bull" assessment of myself and saw that I was probably intellectually and intellectually qualified for the leadership positions I had undertaken. I was more than likely charismatically qualified too. The fact of the matter is, I was taking a "Me Against the World" attitude. So, I looked at my set of circumstances at that time and said to myself, "That this is not how my life is supposed to be...this is not where I imagined myself. This will not be who or what I am. I must do something different. I must be humbled, I must be disciplined, and I must learn to follow." Sounds like garbage or something you may read in some sort of bad novel that you read in line at the grocery store, right? Well...that's pretty much the reason I joined the Army...

Since I've been in the Army, my life has taken a much different direction. As I expected it to. I've become a lot more humble. I've become a lot more disciplined and realistic in terms of who and what I am. Lastly, I've learned that I CAN follow and am good at it. Another thing I've learned is that there are certain KEY qualities and characteristics that make a good leader.

One of my Drill Sgts., a Staff Sergeant Edward Cummings, told me something that I've kept in my toolbag ever since. He said, "You can learn from EVERY NCO. The good ones and the bad ones..." I can definitely say that I've learned.

I've been fortunate enough to have some outstanding leadership since I've been in the Army. I've also been unlucky enough to witness some not so good leadership as well...

Here are five things that I've learned about leadership since I've been in the Army and from my own personal experience...

It is absolutely impossible to lead people that resent you for one reason or another. If those who's job it is to follow you don't trust you, find you morally reprehensible, and an example of what not to do, your leadership will constantly be questioned and not respected. It is a matter of image and personality traits most times. A large percentage of being a leader is looking the part and leading the elements to the collective vision, all the way down to the basest level. This vision is ultimately directed by the leader, but it is shaped by the entity. It does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is a dynamic organism. The vision and the leader must share certain qualities. The vision and leader should be firm, but flexible; strong, but not overbearing; clear, but not so simplistic that it is crude. The leader should be a protector and guide of the followers. If you nurture the body, they will follow and love you. If you expose them to all sorts of ills, inconsistencies, threats, and problems while seeking personal gratification of wants in relation to the vision, they will resent you and will rebel.

A Leader is only as good as his word. If direction or guidance is given, the leader must stand on it. Now, that does not make the entity a dictatorship. A good leader must be smart enough to take in different viewpoints and ideologies when shaping policy and guidance. If a directive is found to be ineffective or faulty, the leader must be strong enough to stand up and admit to the flaw and correct it confidently. If the leader is weak and malleable, the body will not respect him. If a subversive element should arise within the body, the leader must stand up to it and protect the bulk of the body and impart the need for urgent steadfastness among the body. By doing such, the leader will gain respect and loyalty. If the leader falters or wavers in the face of subversive elements, he has crippled his leadership and will be seen as a "paper tiger", so to speak.

A Leader CAN NOT show signs of pettiness or a fondness for triviality. Such things detract from the vision and mission of the body. That does not mean a leader does not pay attention to detail. In fact, details themselves should be a good leaders strong point in addition to him being able to see the greater objective. There are steps and phases to get to a goal. These steps and phases have their own benchmarks of progress. These benchmarks of progress all have their own subtle details. The details need to be addressed. The trivialities do not.

Any healthy team, organization, or (the term I've consistently used) body is made up of a variety of types of people. These people all have different interests, personalities, family lives, backgrounds, etc. That is a strong point. A good leader knows a little bit about his subordinates. He can relate to the body on its basest level without pandering. The leader makes sure they are ok. The body feels comfortable bringing their problems to the leader, because they are sure that the leader can aid them, comfort them, and the leader is trustworthy. A good leader is not a judge, but a confidant. A disciplinarian, and a friend. A good leader is willing to walk through the fire with the body and its members to prove that they can come out better and stronger on the other side. Such a leader breeds loyalty. A leader who judges, disciplines without merit, busies themselves in the affairs of others that are of no consequence to them, and gossips, breeds mistrust, hostility, and resentment. They cannot be trusted and will be handicapped in their ability to lead so long as there is an element that has been affected by their actions. In short, the body must be allowed to live their lives and follow the body simultaneously.

Every human being is motivated by something. Money, love, and respect are prime examples of peoples motivations. A leader must be able to tap into the things that motivate everyone. Leaders are keepers and caretakers of the collective vision. They are the ones that believe in the vision and support the vision when it seems improbable and at times impossible. A leader must guide and provide a beacon for the body to follow in dark times. As the body is growing and marchiung towards the collective vision, the beacon must shine in the dark times and provide relief when the body is weary. The leader must be a steadfast example so that the body can be a steadfast entity. When the leader and the body are both steadfast, the vision will be as well.

Ok...enough of my ramblings...



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Beneath the Underdog
I'm a black music aficionado with a lot of opinions...nothing more, nothing less...