Thursday, July 21, 2011

Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Set You Free

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

"IF YE WERE ABRAHAM'S CHILDREN, YE WOULD DO THE WORKS OF ABRAHAM"
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Every since I wrote the column "Crabs in a Barrel," the gross hypocrisy of South Carolina State Senator, Rev. Darrell Jackson, has lingered with me. In that column I describe how the Black, South Carolina State Senator, who was also the pastor of the 10,000 member, "Family Way Bible Life Center Church," came out against Senator Barack Obama afer selling his support to Senator Hillary Clinton for $10,000 a month--a dollar amount that corresponded exactly with the number of members he had in his church.
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Now, as I drive through the Black community and see the magnificent "houses of God" towering over the community in the midst of poverty, social need, and in some cases, squalor all around them, I can't help but wonder how many of them are really doing God's work.
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When I look at those resplendent edifices, it takes me back to a little storefront church on a 108th and Juniper in Watts, where my grandmother first sent me for religious instruction--she was ill at the time, so she couldn't take me to "the big church" in which she was a member.
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I'll never forget that little storefront church. It stood down the street and in the shadow of a huge and elaborately appointed Catholic church, seemingly, almost as an afterthought. It was so small and had so few members that the thought of attracting a true "ordained man of God" was out of the question, so we had to settle for a little, unassuming man that we used to refer to as Elder Hampton. That little church was the closest thing to worshiping in someone's living room as you could get, but to this day, whenever I begin to lose faith in the basic goodness of my fellow man, or even remotely begin to contemplate God, I think of that little storefront church.
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If I'd remained at that church, I don't know what I would have been doing today. My young instincts led me to become so close to Elder Hampton that I might have even become a preacher. He used to take me with him to visit the old, the poor, and the sickly in the neighbor. Black, Mexican, young, old, Baptist or Catholic, he didn't care what a person was—if they were sick or in need, they were all a part of his flock.
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Looking back on it, I don't know where he found the resources. He certainly didn't get it from our little collection plate—we were so poor and so few in number he couldn't have gotten more than ten dollars a Sunday out of us, max. But in spite of that, he was no Sunday preacher. He was a full-time man of God--if you were sick or in need, you could count on him seven days a week. But after my grandmother had an operation and finally got over her illness, they took me to the "big church," and I never saw Elder Hampton again, but his influence has remained constant in my life to this day—in fact, though I must admit that I'm rarely found in church these days, it is his lingering influence that's led me to write this article, and everything else that I write.
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The first time I went to the big church I was completely overwhelmed with the opulence of it all. Shortly before I arrived, the church had just imported in a new fireball of an ordained minister, direct from Dallas, Texas. He was nothing like the quiet and humble Elder Hampton. He had a big booming voice, wore shinny Florsheims, expensive suits, and a sense of importance just oozed from every pore of his body. When this man walked into a room it sucked all the oxygen out of the place--you just knew you were in the presence of someone significant.
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And God must have loved this magnificent church the minister headed--the choir alone in this ornate house of God was larger by a factor of three than the entire membership of the little church I'd grown accustomed to, and the choir pit was twice as large as the room where we held Sunday school. The parking lot of the church was filled with big, expensive cars, and a limousine was often parked next to the front entrance. In addition, City Councilmen and other politicians were counted among its membership, and a well known entertainer was the church organist. In a church like this you didn't have to wait to get to heaven--every Sunday you were right there. The only problem was, after services you had to return to reality, which was more often than not, a life of pure hell.
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I've often wondered what Elder Hampton would have done with all of those resources. But I couldn't imagine Elder Hampton heading a magnificent place like this. Since he wasn't ordained, he never would have even been considered to head a place like this in the first place. I don't care how Godly you were, stature took precedence there–if Moses wanted to head the church, they'd want to inspect his credentials. But even if Elder Hampton would have been ordained, he was much too humble a man to be embraced by the high-powered people in this membership. With his quiet, unassuming demeanor, even as a member, he would have been a back-bencher—politely tolerated, but scarcely noticed.
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And further, Elder Hampton wouldn't begin to know how to manage the resources of a huge church like that. While he was definitely a man of God, he wasn't a practical man. He probably would have squander all the church's resources on the no-account sinners in the surrounding community.
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He was just too impractical. He probably would have setup a soup kitchen and built a dormitory to house the homeless at night, and hired unemployed mothers to start a low-cost daycare center on the church grounds during the day. Then it wouldn't be no time at all before he'd dig up the church's beautiful grounds, trying to put up basketball courts and a recreation building to draw young people off the streets after school. And of course, between the kids during the day, the teenagers in the early evening, and the homeless at night, it would cost the church a fortune just to keep up the grounds and repair damages to the building.
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Much of the congregation would have been in an uproar over the chaos he'd create. And it would go far beyond simply chaos. He would have long since lost most of the influential politicians. Every Sunday he'd be hounding them at church, and calling them at home during the week, trying to get them to create Empowerment Zones, and Special Need Zones to establish low-cost loans to help the surrounding neighbors to purchase and fix-up the houses they were living in. It's no wonder he'd drive the politicians out of the church. How could he expect these busy men to worship God in peace with him buzzing around like a gadfly trying to get them to help the poor?
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No, Elder Hampton's heart was in the right place, but he'd have been much too impractical to run a big church like that. He was a God loving man, but he lacked common sense. He thought when God said Love thy neighbor, he meant it. What a fool.
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Yeah, Elder Hampton would have been a back-bencher at that church. He would have been the fool sitting way in the back--with Jesus.
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“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward . . ."
 
Elder Hampton, God knew of the good works that you did in secret . . . And unbeknownst to you, he sent a child to record them. 
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DEDICATED TO ELDER HAMPTON - A MAN OF GOD

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Eric L. Wattree
http://wattree.blogspot.com/
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
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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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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dr. Cornel West and Intellectual Rice Cake.

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
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Dr. Cornel West and Intellectual Rice Cake
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I thought I was done discussing the illustrious Dr. Cornel West, but he just won’t seem to go away. But that’s ok, because he’s serving a useful purpose. The Cornel West saga has served to open the eyes of many in the Black community to the petty, self-serving agenda of many of the so-called Black intellectuals, and none too soon. The time is way past due for the Black community to wake up to the fact that the only intellect that they can truly depend on is their own.
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But once again Dr. Boyce Watkins and many other Black scholars are running to the defense of Cornel West, trying their best to defend the indefensible. The question is why? Is it really a matter of principle or are they actually trying to defend their stature in the Black community? Are their efforts actually an attempt to cover up the fact that many within their ranks are absolute idiots? If the latter is the case, they might as well give up because, thanks to Cornel West, the cat is out of the bag, and I'm loving it.
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Yes, Boyce Watkins has written yet another article in defense of Cornel West for Your Black World - “Dr. Boyce: Tom Joyner’s Tasteless Assault on Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.” As the title suggests, Watkins still doesn’t seem to understand that there is no difference between an ad hominem attack on the character of President Obama, and the same kind of attack on Cornel West. He seems to take the position that an attack on the character of the president is a “critique,” while an attack on the character of Cornel West is grossly unconscionable.  Go figure it.
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As a columnist I’ve become accustomed to seeing that kind of convoluted thinking, so I simply use it as grist for my mill, but what concerns me are those who rely on the efficient thought of the scholars who engage in it. After all, if you look up to those who constantly engage in inefficient thinking, you’re going to become a flawed thinker yourself, and that’s a big problem, not only in the Black community, but in America as a whole.
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Here’s an example. One responder to Dr. Watkins’ article said the following:
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“Dr. Cornel West is easily twice as intelligent as Tom Joiner (sic). In fact Dr. West is a genius and Mr. Joiner realizes this.”
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What evidence does the writer have to substantiate that statement? Absolutely none. Like many of us, the writer is confusing literacy with intellect.  Intelligence is the capacity to assess and creatively manipulate information that literates merely regurgitate.  Thus, all the writer could possibly know with respect to the relative intelligence of West and Joyner is West's propensity to regurgitate.  He knows absolutely nothing regarding Joyner's ability to assess and process that information. So the writer's thinking is flawed, just like the people he apparently relies upon for his information.
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The writer's simply another victim of Cornel West’s corporate sponsors. As I’ve mentioned before, Cornel West is a Harvard-anointed preacher - period. So the writer is only assuming that Cornel West is more intelligent than Tom Joyner because West has been given the accoutrements of alleged knowledge, wisdom, and intellect that the puppeteers confer upon the people they handpick for us to listen to.
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Even as Cornel West runs around ranting about the corporate “oligarchs and plutocrats” he’s wallowing in the benefits and privilege that those very same people have bestowed upon him. Clear evidence of that is West’s outrage at not being given preferential treatment for inaugural tickets over the guy who “carried my bags.” In spite of all of West's many claims of being a man of the people, he clearly betrayed an arrogant sense of entitlement and superiority over the working class.
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His defenders try to fluff that off as an inappropriate slip of the tongue, but it’s much more than that. What they’re characterizing as a slip of the tongue actually represents a rare, if not unprecedented, opportunity to see the innermost thoughts of a demagogue. West's remarks clearly revealed that he thinks he’s above the average working-class American - Black or White.
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The reason that West feels so entitled is because he plays his role so well. The corporate manipulators need people like West. All of his rantings give the people a sense that help is just over the horizon. That “keeps hope alive,” and thus, the people from rebelling in the street. So people like Tavis, West, and a lot of others who we think we can depend upon play an indispensable role in our subjugation.
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In order for the manipulators to control our minds and behavior they create symbols that tell us who’s been certified for us to listen to. Then, in order for us to clearly identify who’s been anointed, they give them robes, uniforms, badges, and titles that either look or sound impressive. If it weren’t for those symbols we wouldn’t know the "anointed ones" from any other fool running off at the mouth. My son is a federal agent, and I'm sure that when he walks up to people and pulls out his credentials it scares them to death. But to me he's still that little boy who used to come cuddle up next to me at night because he was afraid of the dark.  Think about it. How much reverence would you bestow upon a judge who was sitting behind the bench in a jogging suite?
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So I suggest that people really start listening to Cornel West. I’ve been doing it every since he betrayed his ignorance by allowing Tavis Smiley to stick his hand in his back and sit him on his knee. A truly intelligent man wouldn’t allow that to happen, because he’d understand the value of integrity and independent thought - and he especially wouldn’t allow someone like Tavis Smiley to control him, because from what I see, Tavis is far from an intellectual giant.
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I specialize in the use of words myself, so I have a pretty good understanding of their power, meaning, and the way they can be manipulated to mislead. So when I started listening to Cornel West intently, it immediately became clear to me that he specializes in stringing a lot of impressive sounding phrases together that don’t mean a thing. It takes West twenty minutes to say what any reasonably intelligent person can say in one short sentence.
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The reason for that is, West’s primary intent is not to inform but to mislead less than critical thinkers into thinking that he’s saying something significant. He uses a lot of convoluted phrases and multisyllabic terms that never resolve into a cogent thought. He uses that technique so people who are unsophisticated in the use of words are so impressed by the sound of the words that they don’t realize that he’s using them to camouflage the fact that he’s not saying anything.
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When I listen to Cornel West, he reminds me of when I was a young musician. We all loved John Coltrane because his mind was so quick. He strung so many musical ideas together so fast that his music was extremely busy. That’s why so many of us used to try to emulate him. I got to be very good at it, so the guys on the block who loved jazz, but had little or no formal musical training, thought I was a young genius. But what they didn’t understand was there was a huge difference between me and John Coltrane - Trane was actually saying something, while I was just making a lot of noise.
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That’s Cornel West - the wooly hair, the shaggy beard, the over-the-top, super-cool demeanor - it’s all affectation. He wants us to think that he’s so deeply avant-garde in his thinking that he’s hard to understand - that he’s the Ornette Colman of academia. But the fact is, he’s just a brother who makes a lot of noise and takes a very long time to say very little.
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Listening to West is like eating rice cake – you can feel it in your mouth so you know you’re chewing something, but it has absolutely no taste or substance. You might as well eat the box that it came in.  And the fact that so many other so-called intellectuals can’t seem to see that renders them equally suspect.
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So I strongly suggest that before people go running headlong into this corporate-sponsored mind control that they stop and ask themselves one very simple question: Can I think of any memorable concept or phrase of any significance that originated with Cornel West in his more than thirty-five or so years of public exposure?
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Take your time and give it some thought.
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Pseudo-intellectual: One who imparts common knowledge like he's telling you something new.
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ONCE AGAIN NADER AND WEST TEAM TO ELECT A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT
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Eric L. Wattree
http://wattree.blogspot.com/
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
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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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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

MILES

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree


 

MILES

We knew him as Miles,
the Black Prince of style;
His nature fit jazz to a tee.
Laid back and cool,
a low threshold for fools,
he set the tone
of what a jazzman
should be.

Short on words,
and unperturbed, about
what the people thought;
frozen in time, drenched
in the sublime,
of the passion
his sweet horn
had wrought.

Solemn to the bone,
distant and torn,
even Trane could
scarcely get in;
I can still hear the tone
of that genius who mourned,
that precious note
that he couldn't
quite bend.
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Eric L. Wattree

http://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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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

THE MAN

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree



THE MAN

Young and curious, crusin' the street, my partner and I, with life at our feet. Beautiful days of summer's ilk, and beautiful ladies with legs of silk. Miles on the box with Thelonious in tow, playin’ "Round Midnite", with nothin' but soul. Miles was moanin', Thelonious was Monk, our senses were spinnin' - our top in the trunk.

Down Century Boulevard, past Sportsman Park, North on Crenshaw, Can't wait til it's dark. Crenshaw was jammin', not like today, with cognitive people, who went their own way. Cadillacs gleamin', prosperity galore, Ladies a struttin', that gait I adore. The hood left behind, no denial or shame, among my kind of people, who'd mastered the game.

Dreamin' and crusin', yet, chained to the hood, but into an element we both understood. Jazz was the thing that had lured our route, and no chain of poverty was keepin' us out! Cause THE MAN was in town, with his mighty ax, and he was jammin' that night at Dynamite Jack's.

So anxious to worship THE MAN in the flesh, the first thing that mornin' we started to dress. In our youthful exuberance we saw nothin' wrong, with the hours to kill before HE would go on. Hence, there we were with nothin' to do, THE MAN'S first note at nine, and it was now only two.

So we went to a park on Rodeo Road and proceeded to get in our Mack-daddy mode. We needed two women with presence and class, who were progressive, and sexy, and dug modern jazz.

We lucked-out, no doubt, with Debra and Gwen, two sisters on cruse in their step-father's Benz. These women were ladies we soon recognized, not only quite lovely but exceedingly wise. We spoke of Dizzy, Dexter, Thelonious and Bird, and all of the monsters of jazz that we'd heard. Then just as our session was starting to end, Gwen mentioned Dolphy, and we were at it again.

We partook of the bush, and we had a few beers.  By eight it was like we'd been partyin' for years. But now it was time to hit Dynamite Jack's, to hear THE MAN blow, sip Scotch and relax.

So we followed the ladies up into the hills, to a fabulous pad, must've cost a few bills. We dropped off my car, then got in the wind. We split to see HIM, and my journey began.

Dynamite Jack's was the place to be, there seemed to be thousands of new things to see. Doctors, lawyers, pimps and whoes, dope fiends with their nostrils froze; Perverts, politicians (one and the same), everyone seemed to have some kind of game.

At 16 years old I was really impressed, with this flash, this glitz, this flamboyant success. I knew before long, that my turn would come, I'd shoot for the stars - at least, out of the slum.

Then HE came on stage to a mighty roar, as bustling humanity hung all out the door. A quiet MAN, of knowledge and taste, yet HIS presence sent a chill through the place!

Then flash became silence, and glitz bled to awe. Pure greatness just glistened from THIS MAN we saw. No posturing, no swagger, no hipster-like Mack, Just unfettered greatness, the essence, in fact....

On that one precious moment, as I gaped at the stand, my young reckless mind would take hold as a man. That moment estranged from the kid that I'd been. Life’s door was flung wide, and a new man would step in.

Now, many years later, assessing my life, after raising two kids and three dogs with a wife. THE MAN is long gone from this earthly plain, but HIS unflaunting manhood stays etched in my brain.

A kid on that night gave birth to a plan, that night when he looked up in awe at THE MAN. Revealed was a path that would color his life, that shunned the flamboyance and glitz of the night. To shoot for the stars! That was his plan - for the stardom that's found in just being A MAN!

He's taken two souls, and molded their lives, away from the flash, and the glitz of the night. Two college age kids now view him with awe. He now see in their eyes what that night HE saw.

Greatness is relative, he learned from THE MAN, through HIS confident eyes and demeanor on stand. You don’t have to be famous to be someone grand, just pull up your trousers and stand tall like a man.

It was KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM that night the kid saw; the EXCELLENCE of DISCIPLINE that had put in awe, of one humble spirit, so sweet and sublime, but a spirit that'll speak to all man for all time!

So a droplet of beauty, from the "kid" to mankind; a pearl of wisdom, a wistful rhyme; some insight he gained as he bat away tears; might his essence endure through the unfolding years?

A journey began, on that faithful night, that moment a young set of eyes saw "First Light."  When HE tapped out the rhythm to Africa Brass . . .

and my dream to see COLTRANE had come true at last.



Eric L. Wattree
http://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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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bluebird

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Bluebird


In perfect ecstacy, all alone,
in my inner sanctum
of paper, pen, and saxophone;
A perfect bubble of perfect bliss,
then the telephone rings
and it goes all amiss.

A bluebird called with a siren song,
so blue, so sweet, and clear;
My blissful bubble became empty space
without her dulcet tones to caress my ear.

But soon her tune began to change -
her feathers flared when I was least remiss;
What started as nirvanic revelry
is now poised to become
a blister on my bliss.

Nevertheless I cannot rest
without her sweet song within my ear;
So as she wastes her time
flaring her feathers,
I’m building a "cage" to keep her near.

In perfect ecstacy, all alone,
in my inner sanctum
of paper, pen, and saxophone . . .
Featuring Bluebird.


Rickey Woodard on Saxophone

To my sweet, but ornery buddy, Rita - who lives to put blisters on my bliss.
Love ya, Baby.

Eric L. Wattree
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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