After the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut where 18 six and seven year-olds were shot and killed by a single armed individual, President Barack Obama took to the airwaves and we all heard his emotional condolences to other affected. Back in 2008, when Candidate Obama was being honest he said that cultural changes will make people “cling to their guns and religion”, he couldn’t have been righter. In fact some would say that the gun is a religion. The United States of America has more guns than any other ‘civilized” country in the world. We have more people in prison than any other civilized country, prison is supposed to be a deterrent–obviously what we have been doing isn’t working. It can even be argued that the violence we do abroad is merely an extension of the violence in our hearts that sometimes spills out at home…

You will hear the terms “Kids killing Kids”, “Boys will be Boys”, “Guns don’t kill people”, these are paid for slogans that turn shooting tragedies, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School into nothing more than nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes right along side other rhymes like “babies having babies”, “Just say no”. Slogans that make you feel better, as if someone has a handle on it enough to craft a catchy slogan for it, while another avoidable shooting becomes nothing more than a parade of faces and a footnote in history. Disregarding the warnings from these events, the media and political framework from these events have become common. They pick sides, cloud the issues only to keep the same ways of thinking in place, year after year, incident after incident, half-measure after half-measure. Why half-measure and promises, because this is the culture of violence that we have created…all of us.

You will also hear words like “troubled”, “problems” and if no on is troubled or has problems. These media slick personalities will cloud the issue by making it a mental health debate. If the individual “snapped” how an examination beforehand reveals that is beyond any psychologist. They will also turn any remedy it into a privacy issues, or a rights issue. One as arbitrary as, at 18 one can smoke and at 21 one can drink alcohol, how is that working out?  They aren’t working, they don’t work. We as a society have not revisited those issues either, but it makes us feel better that we did something, maybe not the right thing, but we did something. “But it’s our right” they’ll scream, but since 9/11 the same screamers have allowed their right to be taken and twisted and their privacy to be intruded upon, without so much as a whimper—why? Because it was for the “Greater Good”. In the case of guns, finger pointing usually follows a shooting like this, but taking money out of the pockets of elected officials can save lives.

This tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut will be tied to false arguments and false conclusions, just as all the tragedies before it were. You hear the questions being asked: What happened to the shooter to make him act in this manner? This can’t be normal, he’s a monster, a monster really–so is America raising monster? This is all done to prevent us from squaring look ourselves in the face. Looking at the society we have created for ourselves and for our children to grow up in. Arbitrarily putting people on a ‘not eligible’ list, stopping the poor for getting guns, preventing minorities from getting guns, ect… none of it will work. We all know it that’s why we pray, we hold vigils, and we debate.

A week after the Sandy Hook shooting the NRA held a national press conference that blamed 1980 and 1990 era video games Splatterhouse, Bulletstorm and Mortal Kombat, and sports for America’s violent culture. The NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre urged congress to create a national database for the mentally ill, he also blamed the media for being complicity in misinforming people and President Barack Obama for cutting funds. The NRA proposes that every school in America has a police officer. The press conference was so out of touch and so sickening the only thing missing was the Wayne LaPierre brandishing a gun, and metaphorically he was. However, the NRA’s proposal seems like a great solution until the armed protector is the shooter. Make it tougher to get a gun won’t work, because the capitalist will find something else deadly to market and sell to the violence hungry masses. Scenes like the ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School have become as common as law enforcement police shooting unarmed people,and  as normal as the violence from our unmanned drone strikes in other countries. We the so-called educated masses, have lost the clarity and the fortitude to do the right thing.

How many guns does a person need? One for upstairs, one for downstairs, one for the car and one for the white tail deer. I know hunting is a way of life. Yes hunting defenseless animals with high powered weaponry for sport, is a way of life that desensitizes us to the value of life as a whole. We as a society hold the power to take life as our absolute right if someone, anyone offends us, unfortunately the taking of life is in direct conflict with the constitution the evangelist praise so highly, but just as so many religious do with their text, the constitution is left largely unread. Thinking that one right can take another right has to be a mental condition.

Here is what you won’t hear.

There have been 28 mass shootings since Columbine and 19 mass shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, 30,000 gun deaths yearly, 100,000 people get shot yearly, 18,000 people commit  gun suicides each year, yet there has been no meaningful change in the gun laws or the gun debate. Unfortunately, American citizens will fork over trillions of dollars and  the wherewith all for wars, but they no longer have the guts to do the right thing here at home. Any of these numbers should have indicated that our culture is in crisis, has been in crisis and every decision we make stems from the bad ones before it. This time, this incident in Connecticut, involved so many children and females in particular involved that the assault weapons ban might get a national tweak, might.  What if the next mass shooter’s are girls would that be enough to make us think? Probably not.

“The issue is not just violence in the media but the construction of violent masculinity as a cultural norm. From rock and rap music and videos, Hollywood action films, professional and college sports, the culture produces a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood.”

For one segment of American society the gun itself is a symbol of honor, human mastery over nature, authority, individual self-sufficiency and history. To that segment by opposing gun control affirm the value of those symbolic meanings and the vision of the good society that the gun helped to construct. However, to the other segment of  society guns perpetuate illicit social hierarchies, the elevation of force over reason, the expression of collective indifference to the well-being of strangers, and the only way the the fearful can sleep at night. To this segment supporting gun control means repudiation these things, meanwhile one sides interest’s are realized at the detriment to the other side. The truth is that injecting partisan cultural values into this debate are inappropriate. People have a tendency to adopt views shared by others of their cultural orientation, this is self-reinforcing. We need a new vocabulary, we need new voices on the matter and no compromise, or middle ground solution will remedy this. We must change our thinking completely.

What would the forefathers think? Where is congress on the matter? Who is paying who? It’s too much for the busy citizenry to deal with, right? So lets put it to a vote, and watch every year as the numbers for a ban grow, but that’s when the real violence will happen. The shooter could have used an SUV and ran down just as many young victims crossing the street to school. Why didn’t he? Because guns and ammunition are far cheaper and more effective ways to kill, when you are killing for power. So why not make guns more costly, but then only the wealthy would have them. We could make it into War on Guns, but how have the wars on Terror, Drugs and Gangs turned out? Why not just ban the firearm and keep the 2nd amendment, which is doable, but the capitalist would never allow that.

The numbers and our actions just don’t add up, what would happen if we as a society were to take firearms out of the equation?

MG Hardie

 

Standing at a checkpoint in Israel with his assault rifle pointed over the heads of Palestinian Arabs, Marcus Hardie has to constantly remind himself, I am the good guy. Hardie was born and raised by his grandmother in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a black youth stuck in the urban ghetto. He survived the ghetto and graduated from college, Marcus Hardie seemed destined for a future far from the violent surroundings of his childhood, an upbringing filled with urban gang warfare. He appointed to the Governor’s office. No one would have imagined, though, that he would soon become an elite anti-terror operative in one of the most violent places in the world: The Middle East.

 

From a gang life, to political future to being the 1st African American in the Israeli military, Black and Bulletproof is a journey of faith. This life of redemption is further proof that the bridge between worlds are not as far apart as we might think.  

 

 

A Memoir

Now Available

 New Horizon Press

 ISBN-13:978-0882823461

 

 

 

 

Kanye West recently released his new video “Power” from his album ‘Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Some have called it a Video, others have called it Art, at 90 seconds long many are saying that they are waiting on the rest of it. In this video you see a huge gold chain, naked women, violence acts and various vices, but does it push boundaries, does it raise the bar, is the video sexist; as some have suggested. As always the public will search for meaning in the Marco Brambilla produced “Power”.  In this new video, or portrait if you will, Kanye is portrayed as “Damocles”, as the legendary sword hangs above is head.  The video is scattered with ancient and modern day visual representations of the many perils that come with Power. Filled with sharp light and dark visual contrast all the way down the the white and black individuals wielding swords to strike each other down. To fully understand this video, we need to take a look at Kanye West the artist. I didn’t call him a rapper, I said the Artist, but more on that later.

I was just wondering if the MTV staff and security didn’t see Kanye wandering around below the stage before hand

While we are on Mr. West, does anyone still care if Kanye took a mic from Taylor Swift? Especially since she is really not a country artist add to that the fact that MTV was trying to steal the country youth audience by giving her a “throw away” award, (MTV also threw away and award in 2011 to Tyler the Creator, likely due to Kanye not wanting his ex-girlfriend’s (Amber Rose) husband (Wiz Khalifa) to be on stage) Kanye the artist called MTV on the throw away award. President Barack Obama, rightly called Kanye a “jackass” for his actions that night. But then again the President went to an elementary school and told the youth there that they can’t all be the next Lil Wayne…Lil Wayne.  At a Hurricane Katrina telethon, Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, while it is hard to argue with him on that, but he said it so matter-of-factly, so openly and in front of so many people that his comments from that night still haunt President George W. Bush. Kanye’s words haunted ex-President George W. Bush so much that in his memior “Decision Points” that moment is listed as the lowest of his presidency? Not the Hurricane Katrina response, not 9/11, not the Mission Accomplished statement, not the Vice President’s heart attack, not illegal wire taps, or a mis-guided wars, but Kanye West saying that you don’t care about Black People was your lowest point. When asked about Kanye West’s comments that night the ex-president said “I didn’t appreciate it then, I don’t appreciate it now.”  This is a testament to the power and affect that entertainers could have and use but so very often don’t. In a 4-year period Kanye effectively tied himself to two Presidents and a rising young country star, without rhyming a single lyric.

Factions from all sides have taken swipes at Kanye West ever since he released his debut album “The College Dropout” in 2004.  The Hip Hop community poked fun at Kanye’s “808 & Heartbreak” album. An album which was dedicated to emotions and the heat break of love, but isn’t that what music, dare I say Hip Hop needs? A black man rapping about power shows how hip hop is evolving. Kanye’s power breaks down the paradox of those in the industry that say he can only talk about the hood, what it’s like to be in jail and, what it’s like to get free government cheese.  Kanye isn’t supposed to be rapping about power and he definitely isn’t supposed to be sophisticated enough to use images of Renaissance artwork  to get his point across.

Was posing on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a crown of thorns a bad idea?

Only if you don’t remember it.

Kanye has even went so far as to suggest that his race is a major factor in why he gets a lot of media flak and is overlooked for some awards, in the words of Kanye “Give a black man a chance…Maybe my skin’s not right”. Does Kanye say things that you don’t agree with? Does he speak ingrandiose term of himself? Does he really need to say “Black”, or “I’ve got the” in order for us to see and hear it?

Hip Hop today is not focused on the Art, but the production. So much so that even the average listener is conditioned to only be concerned with catchy phrases and the formulaic dance-ability of a song. Corporations are riding the music gravy train and squeezing every drop of money out of each stop. Does anyone care that Pop singers can’t sing, or that R & B has become a soulless mosh pit of rap and pop or that Hip Hop is often little more than bad lyrics and violent rhymes? There is no doubt that corporations are pushing explicit wording, overt sexuality and trying to front the genre with White Acceptable rappers. The fact is that Hip Hop has permeated our American lives. Politicians try to relate to our youth by rhyming lines, brushing imaginary dirt off their shoulders or by throwing out a rappers name. Does controversy sell? Does sex sell? They sure do, and when the media trots out people to point fingers at they sell even more.

What do you think?

Kanye’s  lack of humility is the main reason people will always find a reason to not like him, but people also do not like his politics, race or  his grammar, yet he does seem to enjoy his share of critics. When “Dark Twisted Fantasy” was released, many that live on the music industry’s outskirts mistakenly called it a comeback. Even the most respected critics quickly deride the intellectual, or message filled rap, while at time they same time speak in glowing terms of rappers with Dr. Seuss lyrics, or an imaginary violent acumen reminiscent of Al Capone. At the same time radio and television browbeat the populace with this subpar music until they like it. Unknown to many is that the best music every created will never be heard, except for a few select people.

By incorporating spoken word poetry and narration, rappers have made their products more accessible to “the mainstream”. Some rappers have adapted by embedding knowledge into their bars, a few have extended that to their videos. Here is where Kanye West comes into play, he has now branched off into Fine Art. How many times have you or your child went to a museum to appreciate the art? Art is not just sculpture, dance, music and paintings, it also includes wood and metal shop, and he cut that from schools too. Aside from questioning the subversive qualities of power, celebrity, sexuality decadence; what Kanye does is bring the Art to you on your television, powered by images and bass lines.

Jay Z did it in his  video “On to the Next One“, but he did that more so to make fun of the pettiness of people.

Lady GaGa tried it, albeit it in a less artistic fashion with “Telephone“, but that was only to spark controversy and solidify her brand.

These entertainers are creating their own kind of power

Showing that he is a true hip hop student, Kanye’s song nods to Snap’s 1990 hit “The Power”. The hook may not be quite as catchy as “I’ve got the power”, but Kanye’s “Power” shows the power, hope and promise of Hip Hop, especially when you study your craft. The song “Power”, aside from powerful social commentary, is addressed to his many haters. Everyone should seriously take the time and really listen to his lyrics in “Power”, especially the remix. In the remix Kanye West raps in Arabic, I wonder if 20% of Americans will believe that he is a Muslim, like they do President Barack Obama.  You can love Kanye’s vocal samples and instruments or not, he has been a lightening rod for the media and consumers alike and now he is trying to spark an interest in Art, how dare he. So while you are watching Kanye West, recognize that he is so out of touch that he is and has been trying to touch each one of us. There are many followers, and those that play them for that. There are people who will say or do something just because someone else did it, and there is a growing market for that too. Maybe this type of thinking can be traced back to early childhood Art Education, I’m just sayin’.

There will still be those that think that Kanye is ignorant. However, I beg to differ, Kanye seems to know the power of Art. He is aware of the boost in creativity, the focused concentration, the increased eye-hand coordination, the sense of completion you get from it. He also knows that Art promotes thinking outside of the box because that is exactly where he is.