Thursday, January 29, 2009

wabi sabi: reclaiming the term "born again"

via a link on Twitter (thanks, shawna!) a cool (read: provocative) piece on reclaiming the term 'born again'.

"because we now tend to interpret "kingdom of G-d" to mean "heaven"
we have interpreted this passage to mean
"becoming born again is how you get to heaven".
because we put accepting the atonement of Jesus
at the absolute core of "becoming a Christian"
and we equate "becoming a Christian" with "going to heaven"
we have created a scenario whereby we assume
if A implies B and B implies C then A must imply C.
becoming born again must be synonymous with becoming a Christian
because both are described as the gateway to entrance to heaven.
thus "being born again" must be a catch phrase to mean
that we have accepted the atonement of Jesus.

i believe this is flawed logic..."

Monday, January 26, 2009


it's funny how, when you think you finally have life by the tail, things happen to muck it up.

i'm sure this is the feeling Gov. Blagojevich has as he begins his round of PR/reputation recuperation interviews with major outlets this week (look for him on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Larry King.) i know i said that i wouldn't malign those with genuine mental illnesses by calling him crazy but his behavior befuddles me.

when he's impeached (and there's no doubt that he will be impeached by the end of this week and Pat Quinn will be our new governor by the beginning of February) will he refuse to leave his office? will he force security to eject him from his cushy digs in Springfield? will we be entertained/mortified by a videotape of our impeached governor yelling and screaming while being forcibly ejected from the building? or will he accept his fate and entertain/mortify us with a final press conference which includes a dramatic reading of Whitman's elegy to Lincoln? (O, Captain, my Captain!)
spent Friday with LTF. i brought back a souvenir from the Inauguration for him (he's a huge Obama supporter) and as i was taking a cab up to his place i couldn't help but think how this was something Don Draper, from "Mad Men," would do: come back from a trip and bring his long-neglected mistress a little something to make things better.

i might as well accept it; this thing with LTF befuddles me, too.
on the work front, my mentor has taken a leadership position with another very large non profit here in the city. on one hand, i'm glad for her. on the other, i'm WTF!!

what does one do when one's mentor moves on? i recognize that i enjoyed a special kind of professional privilege because of her willingness to trust me and back me up. her departure leaves me vulnerable. when the new CEO comes, her strategic agenda could be very different and the structure of the agency could shift - and not necessarily to my advantage. needless to say, the impending need to navigate tricky office politics leaves me feeling...befuddled. the tea leaves with me.

this week, the interim will be chosen, it'll take at least 6 months for a new search for a competent CEO to conclude, so i'm estimating that it'll be absolutely crucial for me to have my next leap planned and in place by june - which is also the end of the fiscal year and whatever agency-saving cuts need to happen will probably take place around there, anyway.

(and since i'm all overhead, no matter my success with earmarks and appropriations this year or how generally kick ass i am, i'm on thin ice.)

looks like my New Year's resolution to Be Prepared will come in handy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

i'm back from the inauguration

a relief.
awe inspiring.
once in a lifetime.
hilarious. (road trips with friends are always the best.)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

cops!: some helpful tips

i don't think i'm the only one who gets a little bit more skeeved out when the cops are around. it could be the loaded gun, the knowledge that they could flip out/have a flashback at any moment, my natural suspicion of state authority, or just my natural aversion to cold eyed dudes in uniform.

but it's helpful to keep one's cool when in the presence of the law. one can't always rely on one's sweet looks or big vocabulary. folks will say that this just makes civilian/cop interaction needlessly adversarial. i say it's forcing them to do their jobs correctly.

they take shortcuts because we (the general public) allow them to take shortcuts.

via the ella baker center for human rights some advice (which i am going to snatch whole):

If the Police Stop You...
Stay in control of your emotions and words. Don’t physically resist.
Keep your hands visible.
Remain silent. They have guns, pepper spray and billy clubs. Your strongest weapon is your mind.
The less you say, the better. Silence is not a crime.
Ask, "Am I free to go?" If they keep you, you are being detained.
Ask, "Why are you detaining me?" To detain you, the police must have concrete reasons to suspect your involvement in a specific crime.
If you’re detained, show ID. If you don’t, they can hold you for three days to ID you.

or Try to Search You...
Never consent to a search.
Say loud and clear (especially if there are any witnesses present): "I do not consent to a search."
Don’t resist physically.
Don’t open your bag for them. It will count as consent to the search.
Police may 'pat down' your clothing if they suspect weapons or drugs.

or Try to Enter Your Home...
Never consent to a search.
Step outside. Lock the door behind you.
Ask to see a warrant. Make sure it has the right information (e.g., address) and a judge’s signature.
They can do only what the warrant allows them to. Warrants often limit the search to one room, one day, etc. Make sure they are complying with the warrant.

or Stop You in Your Car...
Stay calm. Again, you do not have to answer any questions.
When they ask you, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Tell the officer, "I do not consent to a search."
Don’t open your trunk or car door. It will count as consent to a search of you and your property.
If they give you a ticket, sign it. Otherwise you can be arrested. Fight the ticket in court later.
If the police suspect you of drunk driving and you refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your license can be suspended.

If the Police Arrest You...
Do not answer any questions until a lawyer arrives to represent you.
Say only, "I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney."
The police may handcuff, search, photograph and fingerprint you.
Do not talk about your case to anyone except your attorney.

If You See or Experience Police Brutality
Remain calm.
Write down the details of the incident, badge numbers, and names of witnesses immediately.
Get a medical report immediately, as well as photographs documenting any injuries or property damaged.

Always Be a Witness
Always be a witness for a friend, relative or stranger.
Stop and watch.
Record the officer’s name, badge number, and car number. Write down the time, the place, who said what, and who did what.
If the officer tells you to leave, say, "I have the right to observe from a safe distance."
Assure them, "I’m not trying to interfere."

Don’t talk to the police.
If arrested, say, "I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney."
Never consent to a search of your person, vehicle, home or property. If the police search you, state loudly, “I do not consent to a search.”
Document and report police misconduct.

are these tips going to stop a bullet? no.
but rights are rights and we have to start exercising them some time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

who's oscar grant? we are.

for that matter, we are Dymond Milburn and Michael Cho.

sometimes a person gets tired of saying all the things that need to be said.
it's horrific.
it's sad.
it's enraging.
it's awful.
something should be done about it.

yes, something should.

what I wrote to a Facebook friend who was trying to make sense of this shooting in the context of Obama's presidency and the upcoming inaugural celebrations:

Race is part of [this shooting] but the larger picture is the relationship of the State (as represented by the pseudo-militarized arm of the law) to the Individual. Although people of color are most likely to experience violence by armed authorities, there's a particular mindset, or value system, from the State that authorizes control over the individual, in the interest of the state, that affects all of us, regardless of color. In other words, the violence of this episode is just a small part of the other types of violence enacted against populations the State deems undesirable - based on class, race,sexuality, gender, nationality or religion. The State is about asserting authority by maintaining its power; Power is about control over individuals to cow the populace into submission. And that shooting is about Power run amok.

you're not short-sighted and these two things don't have to be diametrically opposed at all. which comes first the chicken (State) or the egg (Racism)? in my view, they each are signs of the other, both supporting the ends of the other. racism (and all the other associated -isms that go along with it: colonialism, imperialism,nationalism, jingoism) has been used like a handy tool by the State/Nation-State to justify genocide, mass murder, mass displacement, land theft, asset theft, slavery, etc. but on the micro-level, individual racists have hidden behind the symbols of the state to commit acts of personal hatred, in the name of the state. so i'd say it's a matter of both/and, not either/or.

in a conversation with my father before i flew back to chicago after christmas we were talking about a family friend's son, his close call with the sherriff's department in Porter Ranch, and what's at play when police are caught abusing their power.

two older men, clearly ex-law enforcement, sat next to us while we ate breakfast. (in LA, you can always tell who's been a cop. white or of color, they all have that no bullshit, soldier face, and give off a sense that they can jump off at any moment. they were not pleased at my conversation.)

my father is an ex-LAPD chaplain and very much on the side of law & order, but lately there have been too many incidents of young black men he knows barely escaping bullshit arrest and beat downs at the hands of police - escaping because of my father's intervention. he was of the mind that race is the primary motivator.

i shook my head. 'it is and it isn't. it's really about the State controlling the individual. race is a convenient narrative for the victim, the media, even the police department to sell but if we're at all honest about how power works and in whose interest, we're all under the boot. white folks think they're safe because they're not black or brown or they live in good neighborhoods and the cops don't shoot them in the street like dogs. bullshit.

you think the police couldn't - wouldn't - lock down LA now the way they did in '92 during the riots? whose interests are protected by all these acts of police brutality? they're hate crimes, created to cow the populace into submission - and it works! we allow them to videotape us, enter our homes without cause, search our cars, surveil our neighborhoods - and we say ok to all of it because they carry a gun and a baton. sure, it's race, but it's about class, sexuality, politics and mostly about suppressing resistance, suppressing criticism. and we let them do it.'

my dad had a funny look on his face. 'girl, where do your ideas come from?'
i rolled my eyes. 'you!'

next to us, the two ex-cops paid their bill, looked hard at me and left.

read more:
the video of Grant's death
Feministe on his execution
BART security are not merely security guards.
M. Dot at Racialicious on how Gran'ts killing haunts them
the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and their PoliceWatch initiative, on what can be done about police brutality
Jack&Jill on an incident of being profiled
Ryan Takemiya on Asian solidarity with the black community in the wake of the Grant murder
RaceWire has a few 'take action' recommendations.
Did you know Mukasey moved to strip immigrants of their rights to due process and access to counsel? (this crap is all connected, people)
Womanist Musings on teaching her sons to distrust the police
Richard, at, connects various dots (including the Greek riots in response to a police shooting) and puts this event in the larger context of international police action against civilians (including what's happening in Gaza.)

what a way to open the year.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

the janus face of homophobia

(Note: Jesus' General is satire. It's like if Stephen Colbert's right-wing persona had a blog. Just had to clear that up before anyone gets all weird. But the church it links to? So not satire. And, Dad, if you know anyone from this congregation, please don't tell me. I'd be sorely, and angrily, disappointed.)

homophobia has a janus face.

on one side its face is affable, smiling and with only a hint of the steely intolerance within showing through the eyes. (see rick warren or your average straight homophobe who doesn't care who folks sleep with, but just don't 'agree' with the 'lifestyle' and would rather the gays stop whining about being special.) but the other face is less likable - it's twisted in anger, spittle flying while hurling words like 'faggot.' (see bro. stucky.)

i believe this is homophobia's true face.

let's go back to the link on Jesus' General site; on one hand, bro. stucky's ideas are ridiculous (rudolph the red nosed reindeer is an allegory of heterosexual oppression? really??) but on the other hand, they are dangerously problematic ("The death penalty should be enacted for the queers.") it's useful to take such ideas seriously because it forces us to follow the religious argument against civil rights for gays and lesbians to its bitter, violent end.

it forces their own terrible fears and tendencies out of their religous closets, into the glaring light of day.

but it also shows us the limited scope of their hatred. homophobes have nothing new to say, ever. they never progress, never move forward, never innovate even in their hatred. theirs is a retarded (as in stunted) sensibility.

and they are, and will always be, wrong.

i watched the movie "Milk" with a couple of friends last week; vaguely, i recalled seeing the fight for gay rights and anita bryant's fight against on the news when i was a kid. but what struck me most was hearing the argument for discriminating against gays 20-30 years ago is pretty much the same as the arguments against gay rights now: they'll ruin the family, they'll force churches into collapse, they'll corrupt children, they'll kill my faith - and in all this time hence, gay people have never been the cause of any of these things, nor will they ever.

families implode under the weight of their own dysfunction; churches collapse mostly because of pastoral misconduct or scandal; children are corrupted because of neglect and apathy. one's faith dies perhaps because one never had it in the first place.

to the brother stuckeys and the rick warrens, a word (or several):
civil rights for all - gay and straight. this is our chance to fully embrace the promise of our national heritage - all men (and women) are created equal, regardless of skin color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. it's time for all of us to share the benefits of being a citizen of this country. you don't have to like the gays but you must recognize that they are equal participants in this country just like you and are due the same legal protections and recognition as you.

those purges will never happen, brother matthew stucky. no matter what face you put on it.

asshat: ann coulter tries to bring it

A fight liberals are dying to have - Ta-Nehisi Coates

this is what i love about ann coulter: she's such a coward.

but first, an anecdote:
i remember a little rich girl in 9th grade who was, no holds barred, a stone cold bitch in training. she was mean, cruel and liked to see the 7th graders (like me) miserable.

one day during lunch she turned her eye on me. we were sitting at the edge of the quad reserved for 9th graders and she sauntered over with a couple of her friends and drawled out something about how i needed to leave because i was polluting the quad and then called me bus trash (since i was bussed in, along with most of the other kids of color.) my big friend cynthia (who looked like she was 18) stood up, put down her sandwich and asked little rich girl to repeat what she just said. little rich girl backed off.

and this brings me back to coulter. she brings her vindictive, bullying, racist shit to folks who indulge it: white dudes - either liberal dudes who are scared of her or conservative dudes who wanna date her. (unfortunately, this is the only way i have of explaining why she keeps going back to them.)

who does she avoid? smart, down black women.

let's see her up against someone like bell hooks or angela davis and see how she does then.

(for that matter, let's see her against any of the awesome women of color blogging now, of whom i am familiar with just a few: Angry Black Bitch, Jill from Jack & Jill, La Chola, the women on Racialicious, or Post-Bourgie - all are in my sidebar. feel free to share any of your dream-match ups!)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

coates on michelle obama

American Girl - The Atlantic (January/February 2009)

it will be be fascinating to watch how our popular culture relates to michelle obama - and how she reacts to it. (or reacts against it or plays complicitly with it.)

expecting our First Ladies to radically step away from their stubbornly retro image (an image we impose on them, btw) is too much but there is something worth watching as we observe how this First Lady inhabits her new role.

from that first Schakowsky Power lunch in chicago two years or so ago, i've always admired michelle obama. i've liked her style, her smarts, and i've liked how she forced our media to confront what an accomplished black woman looked like.

(hear that, Real Housewives of Atlanta? sorry if some of y'all like the show but they are tacky as hell. that whole franchise makes me cringe.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

just when you've seen it all:
remember when Spider Man and Planned Parenthood gave you the straight dope about teen pregnancy?


neither do i, but this guy's found it:

andrewfarago: The Lost Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and Planned Parenthood!

guess who got nominated for best large blog?

no, not ChurchGal. (sigh. we're not big enough to be small, even.)

the other blog i write for: Bitch Ph.D.

go here and vote for us. (BitchPhD, remember!)
then tell your friends, and your mama, too. and so on.

forget that 'it's an honor just to be nominated' crap - we gotta win!
(that's an appropriately american sensibility, right?)

Friday, January 02, 2009

yay. 2009.

happy new year, folks.

this year-end was odd, wasn't it? it felt weird to me.
maybe it was because coming back home from LA took some adjusting; maybe because the news in illinois is so very often bizarre and off putting. for whatever reason, wrapping up this year just felt a little anti-climactic.

like, if the year had ended when we elected Obama, that would have been ok. you know, end on an up note.

in fact, an Obama administration is the only bright spot i can think of, though my optimism is tempered by the realities of 2009: worsening economy, foreign conflict, cleaning up the Shrub's missteps and mistakes.

i think 2009 is going to be a year of reacting to circumstances instead of getting ahead of anything. in my personal life, there are potential blind spots lurking out there. some gray spots, cloudy areas, that aren't clear to me, yet. my professional direction, my new place (once i find one), my relationships - these are all up in the air. this kind of uncertainty makes me uncomfortable.

so maybe a good resolution (to echo past resolutions like Make an Effort) would be Be Prepared.

exciting, isn't it? absolutely thrilling.

like Make an Effort (which was actually effective), Be Prepared works on both a professional and personal level.
Be Prepared to be downsized, if this economy tightens further.
Be Prepared to do some covert interviewing.
Be Prepared to tighten one's belt.
Be Prepared to drop the hammer on LTF. Or not. Who knows?
Be Prepared for some sacrifices.

but also,
Be Prepared to be open for positive changes.
Be Prepared to change my mind about some things.
Be Prepared to shift direction, if a shift presents itself.

wow. i sound positively oprah-like (except i'd have a much better way of fact-checking than she has. clearly, her new mantra needs to be Avoid All Creative Non-Fiction Memoirs!)