Saturday, June 17, 2006

Open Thread

From Connie in the comments of the last thread, a Charlie-related update...

Here's the latest:

Suit alleges misconduct during Alachua election

Click the link above for the complete article in the Gainesville Sun.

Also, I've got a number of new posts up at Faithful Ohio, including the first part of Bishop Gene Robinson's sermon from last night.

And finally, here's a dose of adorableness from Cute Overload.

Alternate link for comments

Saturday Comics

And my favorite for today: Uncivil War

Alternate link to the comments

Friday, June 16, 2006

Alachua Amended Lawsuit Filed

News Flash: Alachua County, Florida

At around 1 pm EST today an amended complaint was filed at the Alachua County Courthouse in the lawsuit contesting the April 11th election in the City of Alachua.

A copy of the amended lawsuit is available at the Alachua Project website.

The lawsuit, brought by Charlie Grapski, State House Candidate (running in the Democratic primary), and other concerned citizens alleges serious and significant wrongdoing by the City's officials in conducting the election.

The City, which conducted its own elections, failed to follow Florida laws in the conduct of the election. Named in the lawsuit as defendants are City officials including the City's Mayor, Jean Calderwood, who despite being actively involved in supporting candidate James Lewis (elected to his 40th consecutive year on the City Commission), retained her position as one of the three member Canvassing Board. Calderwood's husband, Hugh, was furthermore the official Treasurer of the Lewis campaign and served effectively in the management of that campaign. Clovis Watson, who had Grapski arrested while inspecting the absentee ballots, also served on that board with Calderwood. Watson, along with Deputy Clerk Alan Henderson (who performed the functions of Supervisor of Elections), are futhermore alleged to have unduly influenced voters to cast ballots for James Lewis at City Hall while performing their duties as election and public officials.

The secrecy of the ballot, it is alleged, was denied to the voters. Numerous improprieties in the conduct of the election are spelled out. The implications of this for those City officials is immense - as many of these actions are declared to be felony offenses according to Chapter 104 of Florida Statutes.

Grapski, joined by Michael Canney and other concerned Alachua residents, held a press conference outside of City Hall today at 2 pm. Grapski stated:

There have been attempts to distract from the central issue here - and that is the serious improprieties by Alachua City officials in the conduct of the election. Improprieties that: Denied the secrecy of the ballot; violated the civil rights of citizens; denied the right to vote; and undermined the confidence of citizens in the legitimacy of their government.

Canney, on behalf of the Green Party, called upon the State Attorney's office "to drop all charges against Mr. Grapski and Mr. Canney, and to open an investigation into the allegations of misconduct by Alachua city officials, not only in the April 11 election, but also in the subsequent abuse of police powers as a means of intimidation and harassment against law abiding citizens attempting to exercise their inalienable rights under the Constitution."

This sentiment was echoed by Grapski who declared: "This is not an issue attacking one political party. This is not a racial issue. This is not an issue about recording public officials. It is an issue of the fairness of the election process and teh sanctity of the right to vote."

"All Americans, All Floridians, and All in Alachua County," Grapski stated, "should be extremely concerned by the allegations contained in this lawsuit."

They should demand that those in law enforcement, "starting with teh State Attorney's office and going up from there," should "take this matter seriously, investigate these allegations, and prosecute all public officials involved in these activities to the fullest extent of the law."

The press conference was held at 2 pm at City Hall because the Alachua County Republican Party, in conjunction with an unidentified member of the Democratic Black Caucus, announced they would have a rally to support the officials and polices of the City of Alachua.

In an email by former Republican Executive Committee (REC) chairperson, Mildred Russell, to "Fellow Conservative Volunteers," it was stated: "We have an opportunity to show our support as well and stand with the citizens of this forward moving community, and against the tactics of the left who want to send it backwards."

News of this "event" was obtained, along with this email, by the Alachua Project. They publicly posted the email on their website . This set off a flurry of accusations and activities at the Republican party. Included in the REC's email, which current Chairman Stafford Jones said he instructed to be sent out, is a statement that the "NAACP ... are going to speak up in support of the city of Alachua." This was news to the NAACP which had its monthly meeting yesterday evening. The NAACP passed a motion that they would have no involvement in this affair until more information was forthcoming. The chairman of the NAACP stated that he was asked to speak, by an unnamed member of the Democratic Black Caucus, on behalf of Bonnie Burgess (Alachua City Commissioner who is running in the same race as Grapski) and Clovis Watson. The details of the allegations against Watson and the other City officials (Burgess is not claimed to have had any role in the election improprieties) had not been presented to them at that time. The NAACP has taken actions to clarify the record that they had no involvement with any of the actions proposed to support the City of Alachua.

After the scheduled "event" was revealed, along with the Republican party email, the press conference originally set for 1 pm was moved to 2 pm. The "event," however, never materialized. You can view the Republican party memorandum at the Alachua Project site as well.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Charlie update

...which he posted over there, and listener asked me to front page. So I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart, 'cause I'm a swell human being (or at least try to be) and all that. And listener would have copied his post over here herself except that she was posting from an alien computer and couldn't. And I understand that Charlie's up to his eyebballs in stuff, so I understand him forgetting to crosspost here.

Basically, here it is, but I felt entitled to kvetch a bit first...

Hi everyone,

Just checking in (still free!) - but things are really starting to heat up in Alachua.

The Republican Executive Committee has been engaged in (its a national strategy) trying to bring the African American community into their fold. This is a key reason for the Gay Marriage issue by the way. And also for their Wal-Mart support (low wage jobs).

The other night I was informed that the Republican Executive Committee was "out to get me" - and indeed a friend came to me to tell me he had been approached by an REC member - seeking for him to assist getting "compromising information" on me.

Then yesterday the REC (the Chairman states publicly he instructed the former Chairwoman to do this) sent out an email to "all conservative volunteers" (you can see it on the Alachua Project site - click above - go to the blog there).

They want to have an "event" to stand behind the Republican Mayor of Alachua (once appointed to the commission directly by Jeb!). And they claim - but this was news to these two organizations - that they will be joining forces with the NAACP and the Democratic Black Caucus - to support the Republican Mayor and Clovis Watson - and to oppose my efforts.

I got a hold of a copy of that email (as there are many angry Republicans - and now angry Democrats - discovering that some among the leadership of their organizations are "behind" what is going on in Alachua). It was released publicly today. And all you know what has broken loose.

NEWS ALERT: Tomorrow at noon we will be filing our first AMENDED complaint on the lawsuit contesting the April 11th election. It will be posted - in full text - once that has been done. And it should send shock waves around the country as to what lengths certain individuals will go to ensure they win elections.


The Alachua Project
Grapski Defense
Kos diary: Raw Story covers Charlie Grapski's plight
The Dirty South (in L.A. City Beat)

Different topic, but I wanted to note that I just posted the second part of the sermon from the other night's "U2Charist" over at Faithful Ohio, for anyone who's interested. (As well as other Episcopal convention related links and news).

And finally, just 'cause I feel like it, this picture from Cute Overload.

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Support Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy

I mentioned over the weekend that I was going to be focussing most of my blogging time on the big Episcopalian shindig that's going on in Columbus this week. But when Donna mentioned Howard's DNC fundraising drive in the comments of the last thread, I realized that Howard-Empowered People *had* to have a post up about that. And, of course, a bat.

The following is from the DNC web site:

We're building an entirely new kind of political party -- one where every single person matters as much as the next, where each one of us has the power to take our future into our own hands. Some people don't understand it, and some people don't believe it will work. But we believe in the extraordinary potential of millions of Americans united in common cause to make our country better.

So for the next few weeks we will show that the 50-state strategy has the financial backing of ordinary Democrats across the country, and we're going to do it in a new way -- we're going to count the number of people donating on our web site, and reveal the amount at the end.

Show your support for our party Chair by donating to the DNC through our own Howard-Empowered bat

Click the graphic above if you'd like to donate to the DNC via the Howard-Empowered People bat.

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DSCC & Lieberman

Hotline On Call reported yesterday that Charles Schumer, chairman of the DSCC, not only said that the DSCC "fully supports" Joe Lieberman in his primary bid, he refused to rule out continuing that support if Lieberman were to run as an independent. According to Schumer, there are degrees of independence. (Pass the Dramamine, please. That was a bit too much spin.)

In the comments last night, Catreona asked a good question:

"Why on earth would the DEMOCRATIC Senatorial Campaign Committee support someone running as an Independent??? That's totally apart from the question of *why* they would not fully support the winner of the DEMOCRATIC primary, *whoever* that might turn out to be???"

I posted a similar question to Hotline On Call last night but comments have to be approved and mine hasn't shown up. (Pardon me, while I adjust my tin foil chapeau.)

Naturally, the question of Vermont's Bernie Sanders arose. Sanders is running as an independent but can be counted on to caucus with the Democrats if elected. Does this mean that if the DSCC supports Sanders, it could also support an independent run by Lieberman--if he pledges to caucus with the Democrats and support Harry Reid for majority leader?

Last night, Hotline On Call followed up with a post that may resolve that question.

While we're trying to get some legal clarification on this, there is something "official" that a state Dem party has to do in order to allow the DSCC to transfer money to help a particular candidate. For instance, the DSCC made sure the VT Dem Party endorsed Bernie Sanders in VT SEN before the DSCC could publicly touted its support of the "independent" member of Congress.

In order to financially support an indie Lieberman, does the DSCC need to have the CT Dem Party officially endorse Lieberman's indie run? Can the state party do that if Ned Lamont wins the Dem primary? Of course, the DSCC could simply sit out, something they regularly do in senate races where they don't believe party outcome is in jeopardy. It's easy to see how the DSCC could look at the CT landscape and believe that the two most likely winners in November will be candidates who will support Reid as majority leader.
These are good questions to ask about how the DSCC functions. I've not been happy overall with either Schumer or Emanuel for their political boss-like behavior. And Schumer's attempt to leave himself plenty of wiggle room doesn't sit well, either.

I'll post an update if/when Hotline On Call posts one.

(Photo: Gen. JC Christian, Patriot)

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

H. Res. 861: Iraq War a Smashing Success!

Note: Howard will be on the Ed Shultz show today, around 3:30 p.m.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note observes that "Texas swagger is back."

It's been reported here and on other blogs today that House Majority Leader John Boehner has distributed a messaging memo to help Republicans talk up America's progress in Iraq.

According to Clemons, "Boehner's memo amplifies a "high-fear" drumbeat for the so-called war on terror and suggests that the death of Zarqawi, the completion of appointing Iraq's senior cabinet ministers, and Bush's personal meeting with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seal the deal for America achieving victory in its efforts there."

So what did Boehner leave out?

Zarqawi's team seems dedicated to worsening the violence and that Zarqawi's activities in their entirety were a very small percentage of the overall insurgency in Iraq (some commanders in the field were even trying to get the $25 million bounty on Zarqawi reduced because he was becoming proportionally less of the exploding problems in Iraq).

But wait--there's more, says Clemons:

Apparently, Boehner is going to push passage of House Resolution 861 tomorrow declaring the Iraq War as a smashing success and as synonymous with the overused and inappropriate metaphor, "war on terror".

It's a disturbing resolution that recognizes none of the setbacks that we are experiencing and again ratchets up the arrogance and hubris of America's position in Iraq.

This is a status quo resolution; it contains no recommendations for the president. H. Res. 861 declares that "it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq" and that "the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary."

There is an alternative resolution, H. Res. 543, headed by Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and and currently supported by 124 Members of the House, including 4 Republicans. H.Res. 543 needs 218 votes to pass.

I encourage you to read both. DC for Democracy is keeping a scorecard for H.Res. 543. If your congressperson hasn't signed on, call and ask why.

Alternate link to comment.

Flag Day

Crossposted at Disabled Americans for Democracy

On this day, we pause to consider the history and symbolism of our national flag.

Having lived abroad, I know that few sights are more stirring or emotional than that of the Stars and Stripes flying proudly against a foreign sky. To me, the Flag represents all that is best and noblest in human nature, the great experiment in democracy that is the United States.

In this time of war, political corruption and, for so many, economic uncertainty and hardship, please join me in praying and working for the restoration of the republic for which our flag stands to its guiding principles of equality, oppeertunity, liberty, and justice for all.

"The Star Spangled Banner"
"You're A Grand Old Flag"
"Stars and Stripes Forever"

Flag Rules and Regulations
History of Flag Day

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Snail mail" address for Grapski Defense

Putting up a new post to draw people's attention to the following long-awaited addition to the Grapski Defense web site:


Those interested in contributing via regular mail you can send a check to the following address. The Open Records Project is helping with the coordination of the Defense Fund and related efforts.

The Open Records Project
P.O. Box 611
Alachua, FL

Attn: Defense Fund

Checks may be made payable either to Charlie directly (Charles Grapski) or to The Open Records Project.

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DemocracyFest Update

The 3rd Annual DemocracyFest will take place on July 14-16, 2006 in San Diego, CA.


The deadline for childcare registration is approaching, so be sure to register your little (and not so little) ones for quality care, complete with nutritious snacks just a few blocks away. A free shuttle handles the transportation to and from DemocracyFest, leaving you free to take in all the great activities on campus.

Information on DemocracyFest Childcare

Registration Form for DemocracyFest Childcare

Don't forget to buy your DemocracyFest Tickets!

Events, meals and lodging for children 12 and under are free, when accompanied by a paying adult.

Weekend ticket to DemocracyFest workshops/panels/discussions = $55.00 Click Here

Sat Dinner - DEMSTOCK featuring The Flying Other Bros w/ either the Mexican Fiesta meal ($20) or the Barn Buster BBQ ($30) Click Here

Saturday Night Beach Party Blowout = $25.00 Click Here

Darrell's Famous Blogger's Breakfast (Sunday morning) = $15.00 Click Here

On-Campus Lodging = As low as $55 per night Click Here

The Whole Enchilada - includes Lodging for Friday and Saturday nights, Friday Saturday and Sunday trainings panels and speakers, Saturday night BBQ, Saturday Night Blowout, and Sunday Blogger's Breakfast = $245 Click Here

The Enchilada Grande - includes Lodging for Thursday Friday Saturday and Sunday nights, Friday Saturday and Sunday trainings panels and speakers, Saturday night BBQ, Saturday Night Blowout, and Sunday Blogger's Breakfast = $365 Click Here

For more information on the Program, Speakers & Panelists for DemocracyFest Click Here

The DemocracyFest Incorporated Team
Charlene, Jessica, Liane, Pam, Quintus, and Ralph

Alt Comment Link"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday Night Open Thread

For anyone who's not aware of it yet, the Raw Story article about Charlie Grapski (diaried at My Left Wing, and Daily Kos) has been picked up by Truthout.

From the comments of the last thread:

Hi folks, I work at Raw Story. Just wanted to let you know that we get roughly 500k readership daily and that includes national and international media outlets and journalists. I also sent Miriam's piece (am her editor)to my friend Marc Ash, editor at TruthOut and he ran it. They too have a huge readership also read by other journalists. And finally, I asked my PR person to send on my behalf to her entire list of contacts. If this does not help, I don't know what will. Keep up the great work and let's hope this story can be followed up on by media outlets with more resources than we have.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Larisa Alexandrovna
Thanks, Larisa!

We never pulled together a list of potential radio shows for people who feel so inclined to call into and share Charlie's story, so I'll post the ones I know of here, and people can add others if they think of any.
Jerry Springer 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST 1-877-34-jerry
Randi Rhodes LIVE (3-7pm ET) 1.866.303.2270
Thom Hartmann 12 to 3 p.m. (866) 440-THOM (440-8466).
Guy James 3 to 5 p.m. (866) 546-5254
Ed Schultz 3 to 6 p.m. 1-877-934-6833

I'm still posting about the General Convention over at Faithful Ohio. I thought some people might enjoy one of the links I posted there, to an exhibit of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts.

The image you see above is Sacred Space by Barbara Derosiers, from the gallery, For She Is the Breadth of the Power of God...

Saint Mary Magdalene became "The Apostle to the Apostles" when she was selected by God to witness and proclaim the resurrection of Christ.

One thousand, nine-hundred and forty-four years later ECUSA admitted women to orders of ministry and governance of the church when, at the 1976 General Convention in Philadelphia, a resolution passed declaring that no one shall be denied access to ordination as a deacon, priest or bishop on the basis of gender. Another resolution declared that no one would be barred from participating in the life and governance of the church, either because of their gender, or because of their theological beliefs concerning the ordination of women.
Things change. They sometimes change more slowly than we'd like, but they do change.

...and all God's children said, AMEN!

Update: Happy Birthday, mprov! (Don't be a stranger!)

Alternate link for comments

Raw Story does in-depth article on Charlie's charges/candidacy

This is what bloggers can do when we work together. In response to the post Helping Charlie--this story needs "legs"!, Rayne commented that a major media outlet was interested in Charlie's story, and that she had given them my e-mail address. Later that day, I received an e-mail from a reporter at Raw Story, and I gave her Charlie's address and the latest update on his situation.

Today, there is an in-depth article about Charlie's plight featured at Raw Story...

Florida House candidate to face litany of criminal charges after alleging vote fraud

In an exclusive interview with Florida House of Representatives candidate Charlie Grapski - arrested after he filed a lawsuit alleging voting fraud against Alachua County City Manager Clovis Watson, RAW STORY learns of corruption allegations that can only be described as not seen since the days of Boss Tweed.

Charlie Grapski, a Democrat running for the Florida House of Representatives, was arrested in April after filing a lawsuit alleging that City officials abused power and influenced the outcome of an election by manipulating the absentee voting process. The story, however, does not start or end with election fraud allegations. What Grapski tells is a tale that one cannot imagine occurring in a law abiding country, one of false arrest, intimidation, and a crony-business system all centered around money interests.
Click here for the rest.

Clearly, this calls for a celebration!

That was fun. Okay--back to work!

Help protect democracy in Alachua, Florida. Donate to the Charlie Grapski defense fund.

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Five-Star Book and Movie Review

I do not want to push either Charlie or Oscar aside, but this is something I definitely must share. A few days ago I finished reading Richard Gott's book about Hugo Chavez, and I have just seen the documentary about the attempt to force him out of office in a coup, probably enabled by BushCo. Either by itself rates three or perhaps four stars; the two combined are five stars without doubt. IF YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT PEOPLE POWER, HONESTY AND HUMAN DECENCY CAN DO YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK AND SEE THIS MOVIE. IF YOU WANT TO SEE HOW CORRUPTION AND DISHONESTY ARE ULTIMATELY SELF-DEFEATING, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK AND SEE THIS MOVIE. I can only hope that our country need not be reduced to the straits of Venezuela before we restore our constitution.

Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution
by Richard Gott
ISBN: 1844675335
Mr. Gott is a newspaper correspondent, and his book is both researched and clear, not ponderous or arcane. An easy, informative read. Buy it online at Powell's or

Here's the movie:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (documentary)
Wikipedia entry

On Google Video

On DVD (paid, other related DVD's avaliable)

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Grapski Defense Update

Originally posted in the comments at Blog for America

We still need to raise another $2,500 minimum by tomorrow AM to pay for the current legal expenses to date.

We raised about that much between Friday evening and Saturday morning. I have to give the defense lawyers another $5,000 Monday morning before they will take any further actions - to cover existing expenses.

As for those who come here claiming that they have seen "no proof" of anything - its funny how much that mirrors the official line of the Alachua County Republican Party. But who lays out their strategy to the opposition BEFORE the game? Its like giving the opponents your game plan in advance. Not exactly the wisest move.

As for the allegations of wrongdoing in the election - we have filed a legal action (this with another lawyer who is doing this pro bono - Joe Little, a law professor who I have worked with on cases in the past - he is amazing and a true local hero in Alachua County - the only thing we have to come up with on this front is the costs of pursuing the litigation (filing fees, deposition costs, etc.)).

We have a formal complaint filed with the Courts. It lays out certain allegations as we are required to do by law. It does not lay out ALL of our evidence yet - as this is not the forum for that - the trial and discovery phase will be for that.

However, as soon as Tuesday, we will be filing an AMENDED complaint - alleging far more detail (again not every detail - but more allegations of serious wrongdoing) of what took place. I'll post it once it is filed.

All I can say is that I have evidence that this election was:

1) Improperly conducted in such a way as to call into question the validity of the election.

At minimum - the City officials did not follow any of the laws they are required to follow - and thus compromised the election (even if you allege no intentional wrongdoing - there is ample evidence of misfeasance).

Indeed the SECRECY of the ballot was denied to all who cast "absentee" ballots. And this election was decided by absentee ballots.

But that is not all we are alleging:

2) City Officials CONNECTED WITH the campaign of the commissioner "elected" by absentee ballots to his 40th consecutive year - improperly influenced residents to cast absentee ballots specifically FOR this candidate.

The City officials committed numerous acts which constitute criminal actions - including numerous felony acts and certainly the violation of civil/voting rights.

The simple question should be - IF I had no case - WHY would there be such an OVER-reaction by these officials.

As for the alleged crime I am being charged with - this is absurd. I did not "secretly" record anyone. Everything I did was in plain sight. Indeed the officials openly acknowledged I was recording - and continued to talk on record. Plus in Florida these are PUBLIC officials - and under Florida's law - they are required to act SOLELY as PUBLIC officials when in that capacity. The public has a RIGHT TO KNOW what they do as public officials.

And here is a good example of how absurd this is:

Michael Canney, who is now the co-chair of the Florida Green party, is also being threatened to be arrested. Michael is a good friend and an Alachua resident who has long been fighting the corruption in Alachua.

For what? Well - he videotaped me engaged in discussions with the public officials. OK - this was while I was openly recording them and they chose to speak on record.

But what else is missing from this story? Well - the local ABC affiliate, TV20, was there as well at the same time. What were they doing? They were videotaping the very same thing!

Indeed when I contacted them Friday night - and they put the story out - they used THAT footage!

So, if what I did was a felony in audio taping that conversation (openly) and what Michael did in videotaping that conversation (openly - kind of hard to "miss" the fact that someone is three feet from you with a video camera rolling) is a felony - then why is what the TV station did not a felony?

They have not had any action filed against them? Why not?

By the way - if you want to know one "good" reason why the establishment here is so concerned about this case - beyond merely the Alachua officials and their election wrongdoing - think about it this way.

Florida has VERY open government laws (its called the Sunshine Law - composed of FLorida's Ethics Law (112), Public Records Law (119), and Open Meetings Law (286) - you can follow links to these statutes to read them for yourself at the Alachua Project site (
The legislature and courts, however, have been ERODING these laws rapidly in the past few years. Very consciously. But the laws are still there - they are Constitutionally enacted by the people (in the 1970s) - but those in public office do not like them. They are the tools (indeed weapons) that the people have to hold their public officials to account. And those public officials, by and large, see this as harassment - and don't think they should be as such.

But if my case were deemed to be a felony - it would mean that if a citizen saw Rodney King being beaten by cops in Florida and videotaped it:

1) The Citizen could be arrested for a felony (incentive to NOT tape such activities);
2) The Video could not be used against the police in a Court of Law (good incentive for the authorities to take this position).

The same goes for corrupt politicians - and Florida is notorious for this - who have been caught by investigative journalists taking MONEY while being secretly videotaped.

Now those who EXPOSE public corruption - have the tables turned on them by the officials - who can then criminalize the activities of the citizens who merely CATCH the public officials in wrongdoing.

That is a truly frightening prospect.


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Being A Black Man: A Tangible Target

Note: I am beginning a week-long series exploring the subject that the Washington Post has raised - What does it mean to be a Black Man? - on another blog, PARRISH, The Thoughts. I've posted today's entry here since I usually post a Sunday thread, but I understnd that it may not be germaine to this blog and some may want to skip right to the comments.

The Washington Post has launched a year-long series on Being A Black Man that seeks to explore what it means to be a Black Man in the United States of America. On one level it is commendable that they would engage in such a discussion - they don't have to take an interest in the affairs of Black Men - but on another level, the level where I live on a daily basis, it is much akin to a pack of wolves exploring what it means to be a sheep. Inevitably, their answer is going to have something to do with mutton. I object to Whites defining what it means to be a Black Man. I have serious problems with Whites framing the questions that try to discern what it means to be a Black Man. I categorically reject the idea that Whites have any say in what it means to be a Black Man, much like Americans would and should reject the Chinese or the Russians or the French having any say in what it means to be an American. If I have said it once I have said it a million times - Black folk have got to do for self. We have to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves - it is the essence of the second principle of Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia (pronounced Koo-jee-choc-ah-LEE-ah).


Because the Black Man in America is a tangible target. The United States of America has been described as a melting pot but that description is erroneous - it's more like a soup, and ideally it should be a stew. In a stew the meat is flavored by the carrots, the carrots are flavored by the potatoes, the potatoes are flavored by the beef, all the while the beef never loses its essential beefiness, the carrots are still carrots, and the potatoes are still potatoes. They have the broth in common, and that broth blends their flavors into a tasty mixture, but it does not destroy the essential nature of the components of the stew.

That doesn't sit well with a lot of potatoes.

Many potatoes believe that America is a chowder, that it is all about the potatoes, the main ingredient in a chowder. They expect the other ingredients to walk like a potato, talk like a potato, think like a potato, and eventually look like a potato. They expect the other ingredients to speak the preferred language of these specific potatoes (as opposed to those Iberian potatoes). They expect the other ingredients to conform to the social norms of potatoes, to affirm potato values, and to submit to potato supremacy, and since the potatoes own all of the means of production and reign supreme over everything within the bowl their expectations rule. That's all well and good if you're an Irish potato or a German potato or Italian potato - within a generation you can lose your accent and give up your previous culture to become functionally identical with an Idaho potato. The same is true if you are a Chilean or Argentinean potato.

However, if you're Angus steak then there is no way that you will ever become a potato, no matter how hard you try. You can give up your culture, you can sell out your people, you can buck dance, skin and grin, but at the end of the day you're still not a potato - you're beef - and in a chowder that makes you a tangible target. Everything in a chowder is white and creamy, soft to the palate and relatively homogenous. Beef doesn't fit that paradigm - it may be in the chowder but the chowder never penetrates it, never transforms it, never changes it from its essential beefiness.

Beef stands out in a crowded chowder, and that which stands out makes for an easy target.

It is much like the title character in the 6th chapter of the book of Daniel. Daniel was minding his own business when the king of Persia put him in charge of 120 municipalities. Daniel wasn't bothering anyone when the king of Persia prepared to elevate him to Prime Minister over all of the kingdom. Daniel didn't have a cross word to say about or to anyone, but because Daniel was one of those people, one of those foreigners, one of those funny-talking immigrants from some back-water country, the Persians and the Medes - the potatoes of Persia - were not about to submit to the leadership of such a man.

Daniel was a tangible target.

The various governors and constables of Persia conspired to bring false charges against Daniel, looking into his every action, spying his every word and deed. It is much like a Black man walking into a department store and discovering "extra" attention being paid to him - I experience that on the regular - just to see Mrs. Potatohead walking out the front door with an arm-load of unpaid merchandise. Surely, Daniel could relate to being a Black Man in America, for Daniel was a tangible target. Living as a tangible target means that we have to have everything in perfect order or we have to deal with inquiries about what's wrong with the Black man. Living as a tangible target means that we can't just be ourselves but we have to speak on behalf of all Black men, answering the question, "What does it mean to be a Black Man?" Living as a tangible target means that if I screw up then all Black men are screw ups, if I fail then all Black men are failures, but if I succeed then I'm the exception according to potato perception. Surely Daniel knew what it meant to be a tangible target.

The Susa bureaucrats couldn't find anything wrong with Daniel's work - Daniel dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" - so they had to find another way to get rid of that Daniel. They knew that Daniel was faithful to God, that Daniel would not waver from serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so they got the king to sign a temporary ban on praying to anyone other than the king - knowing that Daniel would not conform. There are many traps that have been set for Black men - some physical, some mental, all spiritual - but in all things, we who are tangible targets must persevere and walk in all that God has called us to be, in spite of the traps, in spite of being targeted, in spite of what other people think, wish or desire of us. We can not submit to the pressure of the struggle, we have to overcome it and press through it.

Daniel's fidelity to God got him thrown into the lion's den, a form of capital punishment in 5th Century BC Persia. But Daniel was not injured by the lions - God turned the daunting predators into Daniel's pillows for the night - and Daniel escaped the trap that was set by his enemies and reluctantly sealed by his friend, the king. Now we are not promised to always get a Daniel-esque deliverance - there were a whole lot of Christians who encountered lions in Rome's coliseum and became part of a feline value meal - but we are called to persevere through times of trouble, even those of us who are tangible targets, and know that God is with us and that God will be glorified through us. Daniel's problems were not without purpose - after witnessing Daniel's miraculous deliverance the king of Persia became a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, such that the king decreed that all within Persia should worship God.

But the story doesn't end there.

Here's the part that I like, the part with which I take comfort - those who set the trap for Daniel were themselves thrown into the lion's den and immediately devoured, them and their entire households. It is said many ways but the principle is the same - as you do unto others it shall be done unto you. Payback's Ann Coulter. Many people reject the concept of vengeance, the concept of retribution, but it is as Biblical a concept as love - as surely as we are called to love everyone God will also bring retribution upon the unrepentant. The same verse that commands us not to take revenge ourselves also says to leave room for God's own wrath: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." When it comes to the American chowder I, as a tangible target traversing this trail of tears, long for Amos' pronouncement to come to fruition:
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god - which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.
Let justice roll.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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