Perception of Obama float worth conversation

 

The man in the above video, on The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, began by talking about the children immigrating into the United States from from Honduras and Guatemala. These are children who are being sent by their parents — on a trek through strange, often dangerous regions to a destination with no familiarity or level of comfort — in hopes of offering protection from the violence at home.

But as he continued talking, it was obvious his comments had nothing to do with these children. But that sentiment had to come from an island. Surely a vast majority of those involved in a protest in Murrieta, Calif., on July 4, had to understand that those being bussed in were children — scared, confused children who had no idea where they were or why they were there.

Well, maybe they’re simply misinformed. That sort of thing happens all the time, you know, with the liberal media twisting everything before we hear it.

Let’s give this guy a shot.

OK, three strikes. I’m done.

Perhaps racism does still exist. Perhaps people still ignorantly hate others based upon the difference of their skin color.

So, perhaps it’s not hard to understand why Glory Kathurima’s gut reaction to a float (below) in the 4th of July Parade in Norfolk, Neb., was that the float was rooted in racism.

Obama2

Wait, drop the perhaps. It’s not hard to understand at all.

I, myself, work in Norfolk. I’ve lived in the area my entire life.

Diversity isn’t exactly one of the selling points.

The 2010 census listed 88 percent of the city’s population as white, with just 1.6 percent of the population being African American.  And that 1.6 percent was up from the 1.16 percent as of the 2000 census.

Leave Norfolk, and diversity becomes even more hard to find.

For that white majority, it’s easy to say racism isn’t an issue. After all, when 990 of the people in a room look like you, there’s not much discomfort.

But if you’re one of the 10 who look a little different, eyes are likely to be drawn your way. That’s human nature, not racism.

But that’s not to say racism doesn’t exist in Northeast Nebraska.

Largely aimed at a growing Hispanic population while I was growing up, comments aimed at the growing minority weren’t uncommon among those my age. But they weren’t uncommon among the adults around us either. And it was certainly rare that an adult would put a stop to the comments being made, even if that adult didn’t agree with what was being said.

But the comments didn’t stop with Hispanics.

After all, when your entire audience is white, you’re not going to offend anyone.

But we should all be offended when skin color is looked at as the defining point of a person.

If someone starts a story with, “I was at Target this morning, and there were these two black ladies there,” stop them. Ask them why the ladies’ skin color is of any significance in the story.

Why?

Because it’s not. It never is.

Chances are, if that person would have been at Target an hour later, the same story that followed the race-dropping opening line could have begun  with, “I was at Target this morning, and there were these two white ladies there.”

Yeah, I know it’s subtle. It’s not telling a legal immigrant to go back to Mexico simply because we’ve heard others say the same. It’s not assuming the black man on the other side of the street has a gun because Tupac was shot.

But the comments — whether blatant or subtle — create perceptions, and those perceptions lead to tension — especially when the glances of perception aren’t coming from your eyes but are directed toward your presence.

Again, when you’re one of those 10 in a room of 1,000, whether your discomfort is real or perceived, it’s there.

That’s why the float in Saturday’s parade was easily perceived as a racial shot at President Obama, especially before the float’s creator — Dale Remmich — claimed three days later that the zombie-like figure attached to the outhouse was a depiction of himself rather than our president.

Like Kathurima, my initial reaction was that the figure on the float represented President Obama. The zombie-like figure on the float, when I saw it, reminded me of the old “cotton picker” caricatures.

And, even having read what Remmich said, it’s hard to deny the resemblance.

Having said that, Remmich should be taken at his word. After all, if a man makes a claim, it should be taken at face value until proven otherwise.

But the growing social-media sentiment that the float shouldn’t even have been perceived as racist is ridiculous — regardless of one’s political views.

The divisive political state of our country, which seems to expand on a daily basis, is impossible to deny. And while many of those who disagree with President Obama do so because of his political views and/or presidential record, a larger number than are willing to admit still haven’t come to terms with the idea of a black president with a Muslim-sounding name.

For example, the guy in the anti-America, anti-Christian, anti-white video above.

Like him or not, our American-born Christian president with a white mother and black father is none of those.

But the drum has been beaten long enough that perception, to some, has become reality.

So discounting a perception based on the initial reaction of another to a moment filled with the elements of the perception while simultaneously living in a reality based on a perception that has been factually discounted seems a bit insensitive.

And maybe that’s the point.

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Three #American Gs . . .

God. Guns. Gays.

The three Gs of modern-day America.

Hijacked by the pursuit of money — and somehow attached to each other — they’re three of the main components making equality non-existent in reality.

And convinced that God wants them to have guns and hate gays, the masses who have been brainwashed by a series of false prophets continually let a political party’s ability to hijack Christianity from God take food away from children.

Don’t believe me?

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Annually, that translates into a $15,000 pre-tax income.

It would be difficult for a person to support him or herself on $15,000 a year. Add a kid or two into the equation and you add the need for another job or a reduction in hours to qualify for more federal assistance.

Then comes the proverbial rock and hard place.

The rock says two full-time jobs would gross $30,000 per year, making it slightly less difficult to provide for those kids. The hard place says two full-time jobs would mean less involvement as  a parent, making it easier for those kids to fall through the cracks.

Of course, that minimum-wage job could simply be the bottom rung of a ladder. Work hard for 10 years, and there’s sure to be a shot at an assistant manager position and the $12 an hour that comes with it. Maybe, at least. Maybe not.

I don’t know.

But I do know those prophets have told me — and then reminded me — that taking a little federal help in order to be a more active parent simply means I’m lazy. All I want to do is sit in the recliner, eat food-stamp Doritos and flip through the 472 channels I get because I couldn’t possibly understand how to eliminate DirecTV from my government-funded budget.

I think I believe them, but I especially want the Big Ten Network. So I’ve got to get two jobs.

Yeah, these guys know what they’re talking about. Anyone not willing to work for BTN is a parasite. And that whole universal health care thing?

How could you possibly think it’s OK for your children to have the same access to health care mine have? I mean, I’ve got two full-time jobs and BTN. All you’ve got is a 27-hour-a-week shift at Denny’s and a Roku.

Think my kids have earned a bit more, don’t you?

And, God knows, after you have my insurance you’re going to go after my BTN. That’s simply crossing the line.

Besides, the work I do at both my jobs doesn’t do anything to pad the pockets of corporate executives. I couldn’t possibly imagine greed or corruption being issues for people who have climbed the ladder of the American dream by working hard, taking their vitamins and saying their prayers.

Aside from a few chance encounters at Hulkamania conventions, how do I know they’re saying their prayers?

Because those politicians receiving their donations are always talking about God. And they’re always telling us what God wants.

You know, stuff like wage inequality and an NRA gold card and discrimination because of sexual orientation.

Now, I’m not the most avid Bible reader in the world, but I think I remember something about where Jesus turned his back on everyone who didn’t follow him while promoting violence, asking us to put ourselves before others and encouraging us to avoid humility at all costs.

I’m not sure, but I think he did. Besides, we have honest, hard-working Christians like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson — none who have misled the public about their faith or really have anything to gain by doing spreading the message — telling us what God wants and why it’s important that we refuse to acknowledge the views or beliefs of those who are not like-minded.

And that’s what the Tea Party is all about, right? Just a bunch of God-fearing, unyielding folks who believe in the value of hard work and family.

Oh, and individual rights. They’re always talking about how the government is stripping us of our rights.

So I think the perceived hypocrisy of pushing for more government involvement within the walls of our homes while asking the government to do less to ensure that hard work is rewarded at every level is simply a misunderstanding. Perhaps even irony.

It’s not that these guys detest the idea of two men spending their lives together in a committed, loving relationship. They just feel that allowing people who aren’t like them to have the same rights as them is an infringement upon the rights of those who are like them.

Kind of like how protecting the freedom of religion for Muslims or Jews is an attack on Christianity. I think Jesus said something about that, too.

And I think he probably mentioned something about the importance of gun ownership and protecting the rights of gun owners. You know, so you could simply pull out your Oozy or AK-47 when facing death instead of being forced to proclaim him as your savior on the spot.

Guns give us time to figure out how that proclamation will go down. They also give us time to show our love for Jesus by denying rights to people whose genetics are slightly different than ours by hiding behind the mask of a 120-year old term loosely connected to 2,000-year-old text.

Besides, it’s that genetic difference that threatens the American family.

It’s definitely not guns.

And it absolutely can’t be the overworked single mom who is unable to spend time with her kids because of a pair of minimum-wage jobs that also serve to line the pockets of an extremely wealthy man who gives back by providing salaries for lobbyists who tell of the importance of gun ownership and the threat homosexuality poses to those who aren’t homosexual.

And then he reminds us how both are vital for the survival of Christianity (and, perhaps, yacht sales).

Yep, think that’s exactly how Jesus drew it up.

 

 

 

The greatest is love

imageI’m going to try something here. Good thing I told you that.

Had I not voiced my intent to attempt, the forthcoming effort would have gone unnoticed.

Or not.

Who knows?

Must . . . move . . . forward . . .

The Bible app on my phone includes a daily verse. Every day, I make a yeoman’s attempt to give the verse a look. I also try to incorporate that verse into my approach for the remainder of the day.

I’ve found I’m most successful when I read the verse immediately before bed.

Today — and perhaps in the future — I’m going to look at the verse in correlation with the past 24 hours. Chances are I’ll throw stones, point out planks and cast judgment without self-reflection.

Yep, I’ve fallen short of who I need to be even before I’ve become who I was.

Today’s verse: Deuteronomy 6: 6,7

“Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.”

Given the presence of God’s hand in every detail of the world, I shouldn’t claim any sort of irony in this verse. Then again, Ric Flair should never have called himself the Nature Boy.

But he did. So I will.

My son is a seventh-grader and is taking confirmation. At our church, parents attend confirmation class with their children.

It’s kind of a two-pronged approach — or at least that’s how I see it.

Attending confirmation with our kids gives us a firsthand look at the material they’re covering in class, which allows us to correlate the lessons they’ve learned with everyday life. It’s also a handy refresher for parents.

Call it confirmation for dummies.

Tonight’s topic was stewardship, which led to our responsibility as parents to lead our kids toward Jesus. Our responsibility to help them develop a relationship with Him, to grow in that relationship and to reflect the love of Christ through their actions.

Part of that stewardship is teaching our children God’s commandments. All ten of them.

Or, as the non-Christian world would argue, morality.

Because, let’s face it, that’s the heart of the commandments.

It doesn’t take a relationship with Christ to know the difference between right and wrong. And the choice to do right or wrong shouldn’t be based upon a selfish desire to claim an eternal spot in heaven.

Separating the two — right and wrong — gives a clear indication of why we should or shouldn’t choose something. And I certainly don’t know how much of a steward I’m being if I’m simply trying to tack on a few extra tally marks to the “Fulfilled Commandments list” that hangs on my fridge, hoping that I’ve done enough good to cancel out the bad.

Especially if my list is full of wins on Nos. 3, 6, 9 and 10 but void of any success on 1, 2, 4 or 8.

Fortunately for me, my list is empty. Every win I have is erased by 10 losses.

How is that fortunate?

Because I’ve fallen so far behind there’s no need to keep score. I’ll never do enough good to earn a spot in heaven.

I have to rely on my faith.

I have to do my best to reflect the love Jesus showed for me upon others. That’s all I can do.

Yeah, I fall short here too. But the greatness of a relationship with Christ is the understanding that my accomplishments and failures don’t define me.

The relationship does. He does.

And that’s what I want to teach my kids.

My wife and I have never emphasized that our children know the commandments word for word, in order, in multiple languages. Maybe we should.

But in teaching our kids the difference between right and wrong; and in teaching them the importance of loving and respecting others; teaching them the importance of accepting the ideas and beliefs of others without judgment; and teaching them how their actions impact others, they know them.

They hear them every day.

More importantly, though, they know the importance of kindness for the sake of kindness, empathy for the sake of empathy and goodness for the sake of goodness.

They know the importance of Christ’s life.

Jason Collins shouldn’t have been the first (reprise)

When Jason Collins publicly announced that he was gay, I posted my feelings on my company’s website. Those feelings — since removed from the site — haven’t changed today, a day after Collins officially became the first openly gay athlete to compete in any of the four major professional sports.
When the post was first questioned and then pulled, I was hurt. But I think, selfishly, that hurt was based on my pride rather than in the knowledge that words supporting a group of people fighting for equal rights were ignored; silenced.
Nearly a year later, I realize that my company had the right to remove the post. That’s part of the freedom of speech we all cherish — the part that allows us to disagree with the beliefs of others.
But I’ve agonized over the post’s removal — knowing that my words might have helped a struggling young man or woman coming to terms with a sexuality that may not be accepted by family and friends. Living in one of the most conservative states in the country, I think that’s especially true. Saying homosexuality is frowned upon here is a mild understatement. I couldn’t imagine agonizing over whether to be true to myself or do what it takes to gain acceptance by my peers, my family and my community.
I’ve never had to hide my eye color or my height or my shoe size. Never had to lie about my hair color or any other part of my genetic being, let alone my sexuality.
Yet, instead of standing for what I believed, I sat quietly and gave more power to those opposing voices. Those oppressing voices.
I did nothing to advance civil rights. And by civil rights, I’m not just referring to the rights of people who are attracted to the same gender, I’m referring to the rights of all Americans.
Because unless every one of us has access to those inalienable rights we’re promised, none of us do.
I know this is long overdue, but given Collins’ return to the court for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday following Michael Sam’s recent announcement — and the subsequent story of Eric Lueshen and his Nebraska football teammates — the timing couldn’t be more right.
So here’s what I had to say on April 30, 2013. Like I stated before, my feelings haven’t changed.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Let me preface this with an acknowledgment – an acknowledgment that my walk through life has been full of hiccups, falls, mistakes, poor decisions and epic failures.
But they’ve all made me stronger, and they’ve helped forge my relationship with God – a relationship that continues to evolve every second of every day.
And it’s because of that relationship that I’m completely dumbfounded by the contempt toward homosexuality.  Contempt is too mild a word.
It’s the hatred that dumbfounds me. The anger projected toward people whose day-to-day decisions have no bearing on the lives of those holding the projectors.
I stand behind Jason Collins’ decision to come out as the first openly gay athlete on the active roster of a major professional sports team. That’s who he is. There should be no reason to hide that.
And I, personally, see nothing wrong with a man (or woman) living in a committed, homosexual relationship.
Someone who is gay is no less gay than I am tall. It’s genetics, not a sin.
But that’s my faith. My faith.
By that, I simply mean that each of us owns our own faith. Our relationships with God, with Jesus, aren’t defined by the doctrine of a particular denomination or the beliefs of other men. They shouldn’t be.
And, just like anything else that is unique to a single person, we’re all going to disagree about interpretations, which is exactly what we’re reading in the modern Bible — interpretations of text written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
I’m not versed in any of those languages, and I figure the same can be said for most of us. We’ve relied on others to translate, interpret and modernize.
And we’ve concluded, right or wrong.
I believe the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was meant not to condemn homosexuality but to illustrate the perils of arrogance, lack of empathy, greed, apathy to the poor, etc.
Besides, casting judgment upon others for what I perceive to be a sinful lifestyle will do me no good as those who I’m judging won’t have to look too far to find my missteps.
But, seeing as how I’m not looking to start any sort of Biblical argument, I digress.
Sports, whether we like it or not, has always built bridges.
From Jackie Robinson to the post-911 New York Yankees, the simple act of swinging a baseball bat has gone a long way toward opening doors or healing scars.
Does that mean sports is always right?
Of course not.
But it has its moments.
And I believe that Collins’ decision is one of them.
But in a nation whose roots are as deep in escape from religious persecution as they are in the creation of fair taxation and equal opportunity, it’s sad that it has to be such a big deal.
And it should have happened long ago.
The United States – a melting pot – promises to be a beacon of light for people throughout the world who are looking to better their lives. Yet, within the confines of this nation, so many are unable to truly live their lives because of an attitude established in the mid-1800s that’s gained momentum ever since.
And that’s where the biggest problem is.
Civil rights should not be political. They should be accessible.
I should have no right beyond the right of another citizen, and that citizen should carry no more rights than I. It seems so simple.
So why isn’t it?
Ignorance? Fear?
Perhaps, but I truly don’t know. In the grand scheme, I know nothing.
But my presumption is that God, as our maker, has more of an understanding of human nature than any psychologist has had or will ever have. And my limited scope of psychological expertise tells me that nobody likes to have the beliefs of others thrown at them.
Nobody likes to be told what to do. The fact that we don’t have to is the basic beauty of our nation.
Aside from the obvious — you know, like murder — we are supposed to be free to do as we please. We are supposed to be free to love who we want to love or to work how we want to work.
To practice the faith we choose to practice.
And that’s not just our right as American citizens, it’s our God-given right as human beings.
And I believe our God-given duty as human beings isn’t to berate others’ behavior from the falsely claimed thrones we sit upon as Christians. Instead, I believe our God-given duty is to use the opportunities that present themselves to introduce others to a compassionate Christ.
To a man who taught his disciples to love their neighbors. A man who taught us that our actions toward the least of His brothers were actions aimed at Him.
I believe that history will remember Jason Collins as an integral part of the latest phase of the civil-rights movement. He’ll be remembered along with the likes of Jackie Robinson.
And sports will again have helped lay the foundation for an overdue societal change.