Thursday, June 29, 2006

DON'T PREACH ME A SERMON--LIVE ME ONE

BENEATH THE SPIN    ERIC L. WATTREE, SR.     

                    
DON’T PREACH ME A SERMON—
LIVE ME ONE

As I watch the war in Iraq and survey man’s inhumanity to man, an ironic reality reaches out to me.  That is, every drop of blood being spilled in Iraq is being spilled in the name of God—the very same God.  And what’s even more ironic is that both sides have so-called “men of God” praying that God help them to kill the sons and daughters of the people on the other side. Do they really believe that a loving God is going to help one of his children kill another?  I don’t think so. So their prayers shouldn’t be “God, please help our troops to persevere”, but rather, “God, please help our leaders to see past their ignorance and greed.”  That, is the only prayer that will help our troops.

The problem is, man has become so arrogant and self-centered that he’s used his religion to re-create God in the image of man, rather than in the reverse.  I learned that early in life, and for primarily that reason, I chose to worship God in my own way. So generally, I make it a point to keep man out of my religion.  What I believe is between me and God--but just this once, I’m going to make an exception.
 
I was raised to be a devote Christian, and I’m very proud to say that I still have many Christian values.  But as early as I can remember, I had a problem with my religion, because I was raised to be “God fearing”, rather than God loving.  I was taught to believe that God was a stern taskmaster, poised to chastise me severely for any transgression. But now I see him as a friend and a mentor--one who walks with me through life, and takes a father’s pride in revealing to me the wonders of his creation.  I also see him as a friend with a highly developed sense of humor—after all, he did create humor, didn’t he?  So I imagine him in Heaven saying, “Come here y’all.  You want to trip?  Check this out.”  Then he put me and my late wife together—a love affair between oil and water.  And when she passed, he said, “Well, you know she’s a real handful, but she should be all right—I called in both Johnnie Cochran and the Pope.”  Then I said, “But Lord, she’s not a Catholic.  She likes T.D. Jakes.”  And he responded, “Don’t push it, Homeboy—you’re gonna need a little help yourself.”
 
But when I was a kid I didn’t have that type of relationship with God, where I felt free to speak my mind.  I was so scared of God that I thought everything I did was a sin, and I was convinced that I was going to be condemned to Hell for all eternity.  I’d be walking around bumping into trees while I was praying for forgiveness over some “unpure” thought that I might have had toward one of my female schoolmates.  And if that was bad, going to church was agony, because I just couldn’t keep my eyes off the beautiful bodies of those pretty Black women sitting in the pews next to me. I felt that God had no tolerance for human nature.  So finally, I said a prayer, asking God to free me from this burden, and he did.  But he was much wiser than I.  He didn’t free me from loving the sight of a beautiful woman—unlike man, he didn’t see that as a burden (Thank you, Lord).  He freed me from the burden of worrying about it.  And while he was at it, he decided to make me truly free, by freeing me from the folly of buying into the belief that man could save my soul, rendering me completely immune to the game that George Bush is running on many conservative Christians across this land.

He helped me to understand that man has lost sight of the true meaning of religion.  And that man is so intent on controlling the minds of other men, that he dwells on the dogma of religion, rather than its essence--how we treat our fellow man.  He taught me that while the Bible, the Koran, and all of the other religious texts are a monument to his existence, he doesn’t need an intermediary—he speaks to every man, woman, and child directly. When he created man he provided his word as part of the package. One only needs to listen, to hear the voice of God, loud and clear.  I don’t need any text to tell me not to steal, or not to kill, or not to covet my neighbor’s wife.  Whenever I’ve leaned towards any of those transgressions—and I have—all I had to do was listen to my heart to hear his words: “Eric, what you’re about to do is not right.”  He also helped me to understand that pursuing what is right simply to save my own soul was, in itself, an ugly act of selfishness. I was missing the point—I should pursue what is right, simply because it is right.  In that way, I don’t have to wait to get to Heaven--I bring Heaven to me.  
 
These are the things that the Christian Right has lost sight of.  They’re not interested in promoting the word of God, they’re only interest is controlling our minds--and the only way that they can do that, is by forcing us to embrace their values.  Why shouldn’t gays be allowed to get married?  The Christian Right would say, because it violates the rules--but whose rules?  A newly released scientific study indicates that homosexuality is biological in nature, rather than simply behavioral.  So if God made gays to love one another, what right do a handful of flawed men have to make rules for either those who are gay, or, for God?  And the irony is, those very same men who are such sticklers for “the rules” when it comes to love, have absolutely no problem with, and indeed promote, the slaughter of thousands of men, women, and children in Iraq; and their progenitors were thumping that very same Bible that they themselves thump today, as they chained, beat, and lynched thousands of innocent Black people, and all but wiped out every true American across this land.  Now, that’s the kind of behavior that needs to be prevented with some kind of rule, but somehow, they missed that part of the Gospel.
 
So, whenever you hear Bush or one of his cohorts start talking about God, you can just standby, because they’re about to either charge you an arm and a leg for admission into Heaven, or ask you to help them kill somebody—and the horrible thing about that is, there are millions of people across this land who have been brainwashed into believing that these people are acting in the name of God.  Therefore, when any of these demagogues come to you and ask are you a believer, don’t be confused—they’re not asking you if you believe in God, they’re asking you if you believe in what they are telling you about God.  And in my case, the answer is always, absolutely not!
 
Now, I realize I sound very cynical here, but don’t get me wrong, I recognize there are many Godly people still left in this world. But you can never mistake the truly Godly, because they’re never mean-spirited, they’re always humble, and they won’t just preach you a sermon, they’ll live you one, as well.

Eric L. Wattree
Wattree.com

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A WAR ON TERROR IS LIKE A WAR ON IGNORANCE

BENEATH THE SPIN    ERIC L. WATTREE, SR.
     

A WAR ON TERROR IS LIKE A WAR ON IGNORANCE:
AS LONG AS THERE ARE PEOPLE, IT WILL NEVER BE WIPED OUT

On September 12, 2001, one day after Nine-Eleven, French writer, Jean-Marie Colombani said, “Today, we are all Americans.”  When he uttered those simple and endearing words, he seemed to speak for the entire world.  At no time in history had the United States seemed so loved and embraced by the people of this planet.  If Bush would have had the intelligence, common sense, or simple statesmanship to take advantage of that sentiment, not only would tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children be alive today, but, twenty-five hundred American families would still be enjoying the warm smiles of their now deceased loved ones. But instead, now less than five years later, a Pew poll has just been released that surveyed 17,000 people in 15 countries that cites the United States as the world’s biggest threat to world peace.  

That’s a sentiment that places you and your loved ones, indeed, the entire world, in serious danger. Now, due to the greed, ineptness, and colossal stupidity of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, as my fingers tremble against this keyboard, Iran is hard at work developing its nuclear capability.  And any day now, North Korea is about to test a missile with the capability of reaching American cities.  These are both countries filled with people who would consider it an act of glory to blowup this entire planet for what they believe.

This would be a grave situation under any circumstances, but what makes it particularly so in this case is that while we are rapidly moving toward another Cuban Missile Crisis, this time, instead of having the sound judgment and powerful intellect of a John Kennedy at the helm, we’re being led by a man who commands absolutely no respect in the world community, and has never confronted a problem that he didn’t make worse.  And further, his options are few—he’s stretched our military to the point of exhaustion in his pointless war in Iraq, and he’s allowed the nation’s treasury to be ravaged by his friends, cronies, and fellow war profiteers.  So now that we really need these resources, the cupboard is bare. Thus, the only options left to him is to either go to the United Nations with his hat in hand, or to bomb these countries—and he has serious obstacles to overcome with either option.

The problem with going to the U.N. Security Council has to do with the arrogance in which he dealt with the U.N. during the run up to the war in Iraq.  During that time he dealt with member countries of the Security Council, friend and foe alike, as though they were insignificant. So now, recognizing the weakness of the United State’s position, many of those same countries would love to see Bush, at least for a time, just twist in the wind.  But the problem with that is, as his “Bring it on” statement demonstrates, Bush is both intellectually shallow and emotionally immature, therefore, unpredictable.  Trying to figure out what Bush might do at any given moment is like trying to mount a chess strategy against an opponent who doesn’t know how to play chess—you can’t anticipate him, because his thinking is erratic.

China is also a wild card.  North Korea is a part of China’s sphere of influence, so bombing North Korea would be a slap in China’s face. It would be the same as if China decided to bomb England—the United States couldn’t allow that to happen.  Another thing that makes China a wild card is that China may feel that they will never see the United States this vulnerable, and with such inept leadership again, so now’s the time to assert itself.

This “War on Terror” was a foolhardy pursuit from its very conception.  It was never meant to either make America more safe, pursue Osama Bin Laden, or to wipeout terrorism—it was meant to justify Bush’s plan to place America in a perpetual, and never ending, state of war. That allowed Bush the freedom to corrupt the Constitution, circumvent the Bill of Rights, invade sovereign nations with impunity, and to pursue any policy that would keep Republicans in power, and enrich war profiteers like Halliburton, Bechtel, and their subcontractors.  After all, you cannot wage war against a frame of mind.

A war on terror is like a war on ignorance—as long as you have people, it can never be wiped out.  Bush was depending on that, and America followed blindly.  Now we must all pay the price of his corruption, since Gross Negligence is also a crime.

Eric L. Wattree, Sr.
eric@wattree.com

                                                                      

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

DO WE REALLY WANT TO KEEP IT REAL?

BENEATH THE SPIN    ERIC L. WATTREE, SR.     

                    
DO WE REALLY WANT TO KEEP IT REAL?
I DON'T THINK SO

I often here our people talking about "keeping it real."  If we were really serious about that many of our problems would be solved.  But just like many of our other sayings, the statement reflects much more style than substance. Truly keeping it real entails taking a hard and objective look at ourselves, but many of us find that much too painful-and others find it, much too inconvenient. You see, one of the first issues we must confront in keeping it real involves facing up to the contradiction that while many of us claim that "We're Black and we're proud", we still tend to look to the White man for our well being. The fact is, many of us relate to the White man like we’re children and he’s our daddy.  Now, that’s real.  Are we ready to face up to that?  I don’t think so.

I've heard, for example, brothers say things like, "I was always good in school--and I could have made it, but that White man 'wouldn't let me'."  Now, let's take that statement and look at it from the perspective of the street.  If I took that very same statement and replaced the words "White man" with the name "Willie”, it clearly demonstrates what a weak argument and pitiful admission that really is:  “I could have made it, but Willie wouldn’t let me.” Brother, please!  if you're a real man, and truly proud, you're not going to allow another man to prevent you from making it, or feeding your family.  But I'll never get that brother to accept that, because that lie helps to sustain him--it helps him to justify his failure in life.  So that’s his story and he’s sticking to it—keeping things real notwithstanding.

And of course, the brother is well practiced in his fantasy.  He would argue that there's a difference between the White man and Willie--Willie is just one individual, while the White man controls the system. But that's also a fallacious argument, since if the White man was indeed standing there guarding the gates of success, and intent on holding Black people back,  places like Beverly Hills, Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, and many other prosperous locations wouldn't be filled with so many Black people--they'd all be there on the block making excuses, right there with my good brother.  Now, that's real.

Now, don't get me wrong, I recognize the legitimacy of the brother's contention that some White folks have made it a point to put obstacles in place that make it, at the very least,  exceedingly difficult for Black people to move forward in this society, but it is up to us to develop the capacity to navigate those obstacles--and as a result, we'll become a much stronger people in the process.

All physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth is directly proportionate to the obstacles that we have to overcome.  If it hadn't been for the fact that we had a desire to get from point "A" to point "B", we never would have learned to walk as babies-and as a direct result, our legs would have become useless. And if it hadn't been for the obstacle of not being able to communicate our needs, we never would have learned to talk--in which case, our vocal cords would have atrophied.  Even involuntary growth, the size of our bodies, is in direct response to nature's anticipation of obstacles that we'd have to overcome. Use it, or loose it--that is a fundamental law of nature.  It is for that very reason, therefore, that I have a problem with many of our self-appointed Black spokespeople attributing all of our problems to the White man. These people are sending the wrong message to our youth.  

As Black people, we've got to understand that if we are the ones who are affected by a problem, it is our problem to resolve, and no one else's.  Then once the problem has been resolved, we're rewarded with wisdom, growth, and pride.  But on the other hand, when we look to others to resolve our problems for us, we open ourselves up to manipulation, a lack of respect (from inside and outside of the culture), and we receive very little satisfaction in the end---the Affirmative Action Program is a case in point.  Many of us swore by Affirmative Action--we saw it as a panacea. But the clarity of hindsight demonstrates that it did much more to us than for us.  

During the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties we held the moral high ground.  Our ability to stick together and demand our rights, along with the eloquence in which Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and many other Black poets, scholars, and musicians managed to articulate our position, captured the imagination of the entire world.  Many White folks who had never stood up for anything in their lives saw fit to march, write books, and even write their representatives on behalf of Black people.  Some White folks were so caught-up in the movement that they even tried to get their hair to kink-up or wore braids so they could look like us. But what we didn't stop to notice at the time, was that Richard Nixon was watching all of this as well--and it was he who signed Affirmative Action into law.

If we would have stopped celebrating long enough to think, someone might have said, whoa!  Wait a minute-when was the last time Richard Nixon wanted to do anything to benefit Black people?  It's a pity that someone didn't, because I'm sure that when Nixon signed that Bill, he had tongue firmly in cheek.  I can hear him now--"Ok, these White fools want to march and demand rights for these Black people, let's see how they feel when Blacks start taking their jobs, and bumping their kids out of the universities."  At the same time we began to loose the moral high ground.  White people began to say, wait a minute, they don't seem to be all that big on Civil Rights when it comes to their getting preferential treatment--they ain't no better than we are.  That's when the movement began to unravel.  

We allowed Richard Nixon to out maneuver us, and we've been paying for it every since. If it weren’t for the anger generated against Black people as a direct result of Affirmative Action, Ronald Reagan, nor either Bush would have ever been elected to office.  It was a gross waste of political capital, and the only ones to benefit from it were upwardly mobile Blacks, who probably would have been successful anyway, and White women.

If we'd been thinking at the time, we would have insisted that Affirmative Action be based on economic need rather than race. We would have also modified our cultural mindset to reward Black youth on the acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of excellence rather than on how hearty they could party.  If we'd done that, we wouldn't have lost a generation of Black youth when Reagan flooded our streets with crack cocaine to support his war in Nicaragua during the eighties.  And as a result of that, we wouldn't have spawned a generation of the fools, raised by the fools, during the nineties. Now, out of the 4,852 freshman admitted into UCLA for the coming year, only 96 are Black--and 20 of those were recruited as athletes. That's a damn shame, and a clear indictment against the Black community.

Now, that's keeping it real.

Eric L. Wattree, Sr.
Wattree.com

     

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

JACKIE McLEAN: A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

JACKIE McLEAN: A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD
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On March 31, 2006 the great Jackie McLean quietly slipped into the annals of American history. Born on May 17, 1932, Jackie was destined to become one of the greatest innovators on the alto saxophone, and in jazz, that the world has ever known. He was a direct musical descendant of the illustrious Charles “Yardbird” Parker, Bebopper-in-chief. In fact, Bird was there to witness his young protégé’s first recording date with yet another jazz giant, Miles Dewey Davis. Jackie, at the tender age of 19, was quite nervous during that session, but Bird took the time to give him the same advice that he’d given Miles in his youth, “Just calm down and do what you do.” Well, just like Miles before him, Jackie did calm down, and a new era in jazz had begun.
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History will someday look back upon all these men with at least as much reverence as we now look upon Beethoven, Mozart and the like. But while these men stand as towering monuments to the creative genius within our culture, the death of Jackie McLean passed without so much as a whimper within the Black community. There was no urgency in the Black community to hand down the legacy of this great musician to our now culturally deprived younger generation. But fortunately, jazz is also a part of American culture, so ironically, it was primarily the White community that both recognized and noted the significance of Jackie’s death. So allow me to take a moment to swallow my pride and say . . . Thank God for the White man!
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Failure to acknowledge the best in ourselves is a serious problem within the Black community, and I attribute it directly to our failure to assess the impact of integration on Black culture. During the civil rights movement we became so caught up with trying to fit into the larger society that we lost ourselves in the process. And while we were busy running away from our identity, White scholars were furiously setting up Ph.D. Programs at universities all over the world studying every facet of the very cultural geniuses that we began to ignore. We’ve become so intent on chasing the frivolous, that we’re oblivious to everything of real value within our culture.
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There’s an old saying that rings particularly true in our current condition--“Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” Well, We’ve got it. There was a time when we had our values in tact, solid communities, and knew who we were as a people, but we had one glaring weakness--we yearned to live large like White folks. True, we didn’t have much, but what we did have was rich in culture. Now many of us have achieved the dream of living large, but at what cost—our values have been destroyed, we have no sense of community, and we’re now getting over by imitating the world’s imitation of who we use to be. At the same time, White kids, and kids of other nationalities are sitting in universities around the world learning more about the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, and Black culture in general, than most Black people will ever know.
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Now, this is not an indictment against the White man, after all, it’s not his fault that we don’t have the insight to recognize and pass down our own cultural legacy--in fact, we owe him a debt of gratitude, because it now falls on him to preserve for posterity that which is best in us. The fact is, we’re fortunate he’s around, but it’s a damn shame that we have to rely on someone else to do what we should be doing for ourselves.
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Yes, many of us now have more and are living better than we’ve ever lived before, but again, at what price? Ask yourself, where are the Charlie Parkers, and Miles Davis’, and Marvin Gays of today? Where is the next Aretha, or Al Green? The fact is, they no longer exist, because we no longer exist—at least, as we once were. We’ve lost that urge to say, I’m going to study these scales, chords, and progressions, and demonstrate to the world that I can be one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. Now, instead of seeking excellence, we settle for the dollar and scratchin’ a turntable, saying “yo, yo, yo.” We no longer have the time to learn, because “we’ve got to keep it real”—which is to say, ignorant. And we no longer seek to express the essence of who we are as a people, because we no longer know who we are as a people. As a result, we no longer have heroes, or a story to tell. But here’s a story about when we did have heroes, and how the excellence of one such hero managed to capture the imagination of an impressionable Black child:
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When Jackie McLean first appeared on the scene he swung it like nobody else;
He stood all alone, with that bittersweet tone, owing nobody, only himself.
With his furious attack he could take you back to the beauty of Yardbird’s song,
but that solemn moan made it all his own, as burning passion flowed
lush from his horn. Hearing “Love and Hate” made Jazz my fate, joyous anguish
dripped blue from his song. He both smiled and cried and dug deep-down inside,
until the innocence of my childhood was gone.
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He took me to a place that had no face, I was so young when I heard his sweet call,
but he parted the fog and in no time at all, a child of bebop sprung fully enthralled.
As I heard this new sound, and embraced the profound, childish eyes now saw as a man; I stood totally perplexed, but I couldn’t step back, from the hunger of my mind to expand.
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I saw Charlie and Lester, and a smiling young Dexter, as I peered into Jackie’s sweet horn; it was a place that I knew, though I’d never been to, but a place that I now call my home.
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Rest well, Jackie
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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