Social Media, Kaepernick, and You

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kapMillions of people are talking about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem. But what exactly does his protest prove?

On social media, two basic opinions abound. One opinion is that Kaepernick’s actions are justified; that his protest somehow helps people who are oppressed by systemic, institutional racism and white supremacy. The other dominant opinion is that it’s ridiculous for a professional athlete and millionaire to identify with either the actual or perceived oppression of blacks in America.

Regardless of your opinion, once you log off social media and return to actuality, (if you ever do) you’re left with yourself alone. And what does Kaepernick have to do with YOU?

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who follow sports religiously, you might feel justified in being outraged and  outspoken against the athlete. Whether you believe Kaepernick’s protest is outrageous or outstanding, you have something in common with the opposing side in this debate: You’re discussing the NFL.

You might say, “I’m discussing racism” or “entitlement”–not football. But a discussion about Kaepernick is a discussion about celebrity, wealth, popularity, and yes, football.

How many times, in your ACTUAL LIFE,  have you glanced around the room during the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance to see how many dissenters were present? And when you caught someone “protesting,” did you take a stand and publicly denounce his or her actions? Did you applaud the person and stand in unity and defiance against the corruption that is “AmeriKKKa”? Furthermore, when was the last time you saw or heard racism in an offline environment? Were you the victim or the perpetrator? A bystander? What did you do? Oh. That’s right: You vented about it on social media.

The average reader will be tempted to turn the discussion back to Kaepernick, but let’s focus on YOU for a moment. Do you use racial slurs in private? Do you secretly hate America for its history of colonialism? Do you wish black people would shut up about being “oppressed?” Do you wish white people would shut up about black people needing to shut up about being “oppressed?”

As people engage in virtual arguments about whether racism exists or not, the greater argument is internal and secretive: “Am I a racist? Am I a victim of racism? Am I both? Will racism ever end? Do I care? Should I care?”

Whether you believe Kaepernick’s protest is appropriate or ignorant, arguing with your friends and associates is “taking the easy way out.” (Posting memes supporting either opinion qualifies as arguing.) Very few people acknowledge that the most important argument is against the self: “Am I oppressed? Am I an oppressor? Am I good? Am I bad? Who am I?”

The nationwide outcry about Kaepernick’s protest proves that sports matter. Football matters. Celebrities matter. Whether or not black lives, blue lives, white lives, or “all” lives matter–and to what degree, and in what order, has yet to be determined. In the meantime, football continues to trend.

 

 

 

Write Away Reading Room

This blog, formerly known as The LORE, has a second name. It shall also be called the Write Away Reading Room. Here, you will find articles on current events as well as not-so -current events.

Feel free to share your own opinions in the comments and discuss these topics among yourselves. This is a re-launch of sorts, minus the fanfare. We shall pick up where we left off.

Since the most popular topics have been relationships and race relations, we will discuss those two topics frequently.

Thanks for your support.

Thank You: Eight Reasons to be Glad in a Bad Relationship

No one likes pain. Yet fearlessly, millions of people dabble in love and relationships without regard for the potential heartache that’s often just around the corner. Everyone wants their partner to live up to their romanticized ideals. Here’s a list of reasons to be grateful in the midst of heartache.

1. YOU ARE WIDE AWAKE

That’s right. Gone are the days when you could be called naive, green, gullible or foolish. You’ve abandoned your idealistic expectations and you’re fully aware of the truth; no one is perfect but most people pretend to be. Congratulations. You’re ahead of the curve. You’ve left the lofty land of idealized love; where teenagers and inexperienced adults dwell, believing that life and relationships are rosy and fluffy and oh-so-swell. You’ve grown up. And you’ll be damned if someone pulls the wool over your eyes ever again.

2. THE ABUSE IS OVER

Unless you have chosen to linger in a bad situation, you can finally say goodbye to whatever kind of abuse you’ve endured. You made it! Emotional abuse, physical abuse, manipulation, financial abuse, verbal abuse, crazy-making, arguing and accusing are in the past! In bad relationships, abuse can range from being deceived, used or ignored to being violently attacked. All abuse hurts. Even if you only endured lies, that’s enough to drive a person crazy. So be glad it’s over now.

3. Your “Job” Here is Done

Relationships take work. Surely your lifestyle included more duties, tasks, responsibilities, worries, and concerns when you were committed to someone else. Now you can relax! Take a look at your life and examine how much time, money, energy, brain space and thought power you will conserve and redirect toward yourself or other loved ones. Be glad there’s no extra person to consider when eating, sleeping, cleaning, etc. Haven’t you lightened your workload? If you have children, aren’t they glad that you’re more “available” to them? Ending a bad relationship feels like you just got rid of a part time job that probably didn’t pay at all. Without a mate, there’s no one to “serve.” Be glad to be free. No? Then call one of your married friends one weeknight and see if he or she even “has time” to talk, let alone hang out or relax. You’re free!

4. YOU WON

In most bad relationships, one party gives and the other party gains. Have you been giving, giving, giving and receiving nothing or not much in return? Has your parter taken advantage of you? Did your partner expect you to sit idly by while he or she lived a great life with lots of fun and flirtation? If you caught your partner taking advantage of you and ended the relationship, you won! Your partner planned to use you up until there was nothing left! But you caught on. You stopped it. As much as you cared for him/her, you foiled their plan to keep you as his or her pet dummy; a charade that could have lasted forever. The joke’s on him or her because now they have to find a new fool. Although, it will be hard to find a fool as great as you.

5. YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO HEAL

How can you heal what you don’t know is broken? Most people in bad relationships never stop to realize that their choice of partner is a reflection of subconscious pain. Although it sounds mystical, psychology is not a myth. Are you the girl who chose a man like her father or mother? Are you the guy who keeps “attracting” the same “type” of mate? The reason is psychological. What does this mean in terms of gladness? Suppose your mate is an alcoholic, and so was your parent. As the alcoholism destroys your relationship, think back to your childhood traumas involving alcoholism. Resolve to never choose alcoholism or alcoholic people to occupy your space again. Failed relationships reveal childhood trauma, which can be healed if you choose to remove yourself from trauma in your adult life. As your relationship ends, now is the time to conduct a therapy session with yourself. Your relationship was a mirror to indicate the areas in which you should take care to heal and protect yourself. How many people take the time to perform this kind of introspective work on themselves? Not many. So be glad the heartbreak led you to this particular set of insights.

6. YOU CAN FINALLY BE FRIENDS WITH YOUR EX (SOMEDAY)

Maybe you can’t see it today, but one day you and your former mate will be friends. In many romantic relationships, people wear masks. They want their partner to see only the best in them. Therefore they temper their attitudes and behaviors accordingly. They conceal their flaws and exaggerate their positive attributes. They hide their dark sides. Some people are in “happy” relationships with people that they don’t even know. For example, George isn’t going to tell you about the time he and so-and-so did such-and-such and almost ended doing whatever the hell. He will only tell that story to a friend; a person with whom he can be his true self without having to present a desirable character. One day, you might find yourself being that kind of friend to George. But only if you break up. If you force George to “stick it out” he will become an expert at deceiving you. So if it’s over, and you truly care for George, be glad that one day, after he’s sure you aren’t trying to trap him in your commitment cage, he may very well end up being your best friend. He will see you as a pal. You’ll take pleasure in his stories of deception and debauchery after he finds a poor idealistic soul to marry. Be glad the show’s over and the two of you can remove your masks.

7. YOU KNOW YOURSELF BETTER

Chances are that you’ve learned some very valuable information about YOU during the course of a failed partnership. Maybe you never knew how much you hated the smell of nail polish or hair spray. Did you know you can’t sleep if someone snores? Maybe you learned you hate to share a bed. Whatever the lesson, you wouldn’t have learned it without the relationship. Did your child really like your partner, or did the kid tolerate said person, at your insistence? What did you learn about your money? Did you depend on your partner? Did your partner depend on you? Did the two of you function like roommates? Like spouses? How did that feel? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of white picket fences with a wife, two kids and a dog, but you realize you don’t really want that at all? Whether you tried a serious relationship and loved it, or decided that the relationship shoe just doesn’t fit, be glad to have learned something new about yourself. And don’t forget what you learned!

8. YOU CAN NOW GIVE GOOD ADVICE

We’ve all heard the cynical statement, “All men/women are the same.” Although blanket statements like this are never completely true, there’s a certain wisdom that comes with having survived a failed relationship. Even though every person is unique, the warning flags of heartache are often the same. After learning your love lessons, you can give sound advice to the man whose wife has a male “best friend” and the woman whose boyfriend “just won’t answer the phone at night.” You can rightfully tell the young lady in love to take caution; even though she “was invited to meet his parents.” You’re wiser now. And although you’re not bitter, you have a realistic take on life and love. You can warn the young couple that wants to marry after having known each other for two weeks. Likewise, you can advise people who genuinely want to be together and need tips on making it work. You’ve learned. Be glad, because now you can teach. Take pride in helping people avoid making the mistakes you’ve made.

My Bicycle Thief

Not all neighborhoods are the same. Rock Island Illinois is not what it seems. Such is life. Deep in the backwoods of rural Georgia as you ride your bike you can smell pine trees; you can smell smoked neckbones and fresh baked pies as you approach your grand-aunt’s house, lug your bicycle up the steps and park it on the back porch.

You can knock, so as not to startle her, and then walk right in and take a seat. Her door is never locked. You can safely bet that both lemonade and sweet tea are on hand. You can fall asleep after “supper” and the cicadas will make sure you awaken just in time to pedal home as darkness settles.

But in the Quad Cities of western Illinois, the cicadas signify a different type of curfew. They start singing when it seems darkness is still hours away. They sing of caution. Looking at the evening landscape, there’s a glorious view of Iowa in the distance. The sun sets slowly and the sky is still bright with a myriad of colors from purple to pink and grey.

You can see increased foot traffic each evening if you watch. At dusk you can smell dog food from Davenport’s Nestle Purina factory. You can hear sirens. You can hear the pop popping of pistols. And each night; whether it’s a domestic dispute, a shooting or a killing, it’s something. Until it’s you.

Your bicycle, parked on your porch just a second ago, is gone. A thief has climbed 13 steep steps, then four more to get to your porch, walked past your unlocked front door, grabbed your bike, lugged it off the porch and back down the first four steps and presumably ridden it down a steep, grassy hill and into the night. The audacity! You grasp your neck and thank God that all he wanted was the bike.

When darkness rises in Rock Island, you had better bring your bike; and more so your children and your self, inside. Although Chicago is a three-hour drive away, the Quad Cities have the same turbulence: The same wind. The gang culture, poverty, drug infestation and violence that typifies Chicago is mirrored here. Killings, shootings, police chases, fights and other violent phenomena persist, a mere five blocks away from police headquarters. It’s as if the neighborhood is an experiment to ascertain the dynamics of poverty and violence; a project made up of roughly five square miles of beautiful architecture interspersed with shacks.

And if you can’t accept the fact that someone robbed you, you can contact the police. You don’t even have to call them because they ride by often enough that you can flag them down. They will give you a report for your records and promise to contact you if someone drops a bike with said serial number in their laps.

Once you check the pawnshops to no avail, you figure the thief still has your bike, so you sit on your porch and wait. You drink your “pop.” You smell the dog food. You watch and listen as kids on your sidewalk talk the grittiest, most gutter talk you’ve ever heard. You are flabbergasted. They don’t care if you hear.

You watch the neighborhood and you can’t understand how so many volatile people happen to live in the same ten-block area. You wonder why they don’t move. You will move, you decide, if you are still alive at the end of your lease.

You sit on the porch and observe. You enjoy the sun and scrutinize every bicycle that comes within a mile of your house. You jump in your car and give chase to get a closer look at bicyclists who seem to be “avoiding” your street. No luck. Then, you search for your missing bicycle on Craigslist because it’s been a week and still; no sign of your bike.

You watch as a speeding car whizzes by, followed by a police cruiser, followed by three detective cars, followed by a K-9 unit–again.

You marvel at the quaint look of the neighborhood. It isn’t an inner-city. It’s a town. And it’s out of control. You look to your left and see a massive church built in 1912. You see the official look of its campus; the lavender and burnt oranges and crimsons in its lush and intricate landscaping, and marvel at its huge, brassy bell tower. It’s gorgeous! Stained glass windows; expensive cars parked in front. What a nice street this is!

You look to the right and see your daughter’s elementary school; built in 1858. It has two stories. It’s a nice school. Then you see teenagers in its parking lot; twerking and consequently drawing a crowd that includes adult males. You decide that your kids should come inside. You hear the cicadas. You turn on your porch light, sit back down in your rocker and resume your watch. You glare at anyone who makes eye contact without speaking. You wonder why everyone looks like a thief, drug addict or some other class of suspect. You wonder where the friendly people are. You are an Englishman in New York. You watch each and every walker and rider until one day, you see a bike in the distance and you get chills. It’s yours.

When you see your bicycle, you approach the subject as stealthily and swiftly as possible, and also as aggressively as you can, and you take it. You say, “Hey! That’s my [insert a comfortable expletive] bike!” And you reach out and grab it by the handlebars. At this point the rider jumps off; knowing he’s been caught. You get on your bike. You ask the subject, “Where the [insert appropriate second expletive] did YOU get MY bike. When he admits someone “gave it to him,” you act as you see fit.

You ride your bike home. You hope the thief is neither willing to kill nor be killed over the whole matter. You don’t park your bike outside again. Not even for a second. You wait for your heart rate to normalize. You hope it’s over. You think of how much you appreciate the good things about the Quad Cities, and you devise a master plan to purchase real estate on “Top of the Hill” where wealthier and wiser Rock Islanders dwell. You wonder if it’s possible to write your way to the top of the hill.

 

 

Use What You Already Have

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As I sit on my front porch watching for the impending downpour, I’m inspired by one of my neighbors. Determined to keep his head dry during the coming storm, he has invented a bicycle tarp, obviously using old items he had on had or could easily procure.

People complain about their lack of resources; time, materials, money, energy, ideas. But if you want something badly enough, you start where you are; with what you have; doing everything you can!

Passion is simply energy and determination. What have you decided to achieve? Get started. Don’t worry about the people who say you can’t. Don’t worry if they laugh at your plan, your materials, or even your finished product! Sure; people are laughing at the man pictured above. He doesn’t care. He’s a successful engineer who’s got a product complete! What have YOU done today?20140622-145059-53459771.jpg

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“I Would Like to Thank the Academy”: Lupita and Black Self Esteem

In the weeks prior to the 2014 Academy Awards, Lupita Nyong’o floated down red carpets to the absolute delight of fashion designers and critics. Svelte, statuesque and sophisticated; skin the color of black coffee. Lupita enchanted Hollywood with her Afrocentric goddess qualities as black America looked on with awe.

No longer the despised and destitute slave girl she portrayed in Twelve Years a Slave, Lupita emerged into the Hollywood scene as a startlingly gorgeous and unapologetically African beauty; a standard.

Although Lupita’s beauty, talent and achievement inspire legions of fellow humans beyond the community of black women, nowhere else is her reign more celebrated. As she joins the ranks of the six other black women who have won coveted Oscar Awards, she gives billions of Africans, African Americans and dark people permission to be and feel beautiful without the chemicals and artificial enhancements that have caused physical and emotional damage to so many celebrities and pedestrians of color. Bravo!

Five Great Things About Being Single

What makes people search desperately for a romantic partner? Sometimes movies, television shows and music depict romantic love as the absolute best part of life. Fairy tale stories lead young women to believe that there’s a “Prince Charming” for every “princess.” Friends, parents and even religious leaders encourage everyone to find their perfect match, soul mate, husband or wife. Some people encourage grade-school children to pair up and engage in a toned-down version of adult romantic relationships. Even preschool children develop “crushes,” showing focused interest in one particular boy of girl who is popular, attractive, talented or otherwise desirable.

By the time an adolescent becomes a teen, he or she has likely “dated” some other cute kid at school and has consequently had their relationship activity positively or negatively reinforced. Healthy? Children and teens have always placed great emphasis on “dating” or becoming couples, and by the time adulthood approaches, most people spend the majority of their time envisioning their future family; wife or husband and kids. Yet relationships are extremely complex. The following list highlights a few benefits of singleness that the majority of unattached people take for granted.

1. Single people have more money. Marriage is great for the economy because families spend more money than singles. Taking on a companion sounds beautiful in theory, but once you make the decision to couple up, immediately your expenses increase.

Dates, drinks, dinners and transportation are only the beginning. Gifts, trips, cash and most importantly, time, are all optional expenses that single people manage to avoid by practicing a lifestyle of singleness. Instead of wishing generically for “a relationship” or “a special someone,” calculate the money you have saved by skipping the mandatory gift-giving holidays like Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and etc.

Some people enjoy gift-giving, which is perfectly normal. But most people complain about loneliness and long to spend their money on an imaginary, ideal love interest whom they have never met. Instead of wishing for a companion on whom you can spend your money ; yearning to show off your generosity and kindness, treat yourself and be glad for the savings.

2. You Come First. Have you ever made a decision based on someone else’s desires? Kate wanted to perform on a Disney Cruise Ship as part of her burgeoning career as a professional vocalist. She was so excited about the new gig until her fiancé Todd rejected the possibility. Todd and his mother had just opened a new restaurant and in his mind, Kate would make the perfect manager. He literally cried and begged Kate not to go.

Putting her relationship first, Kate decided to stay close to home; working with the “family business.” How could she have put herself first? She had to consider Todd and in doing so, she rejected an opportunity that she would have immediately seized had she been single.

When you’re single, you only need approval from one person; yourself. Relationships have a way of taking on lives of their own. The next time you catch yourself wishing for a relationship, imagine the inevitable disagreements, differing goals, clashing philosophies and general incompatibility that people in relationships face.

A single person is a committee of one; free to make his or her own rules and plans without having to explain, justify or convince anyone else to support their decision. Joseph and Jonathan are twins who both dance professionally. But Jonathan gave up private parties, where he made the bulk of his money and had the bulk of his fun, at the demand of his new girlfriend.

Sure it feels great to have someone claim ownership of you; proving your value as a person, but when the love interest becomes even mildly possessive, therein lies the evidence that you are no longer your own. The next time you are tempted to feel lonely, think about how grateful you should be; that no one is pulling your strings but you. It’s your life: Why should someone else tell you how to live it? Single people have the luxury of controlling their own lives.

3. Singles (should) enjoy variety.New things can be more exciting than older things and relationships are no exception. New relationships infuse both partners with optimism, joy, pleasure, inspiration an magic! Chance encounters, shared glances, flirtation and desire mark the beginning of any new relationship endeavor. In many ways, the beginning of a relationship is the best part. Single people have the option to enjoy newness as often as they like.

Lots of people fantasize about growing old with a special someone. But what happens when a partner leaves the relationship via choices or even death? The lover they left behind is often paralyzed with grief, vowing to never love again. This kind of devotion makes good romance novel material but in reality, newness is what people enjoy and remember most. And when you’re single, newness is always available.

Dating has been simplified to meeting a person, enjoying their company, then trying to manipulate circumstances to produce the desired result of a long-term commitment. The next time you schedule a date, don’t set your sights on roping the person in. Don’t immediately envision a “happily ever after.” Enjoy the newness! Indulge in the attention, affection and interest that is never higher than in the beginning.

It’s normal to want a companion. But companionship can be found from many people. It’s never a good idea to be sexually promiscuous, but if you’re single, make a pointed dating several different people. Enjoy their company, learn about different personality types and enjoy the moments.

Don’t stress over not having a valentine. Instead, round up a few prospects from whom you can choose and be glad that you could potentially receive several gifts if you organize your dating life in the appropriate way. See several people. Have lunch, dinner, a movie, a walk in the park, a stimulating conversation; enjoy getting to know people as you revel in the attention you thought only one person could provide. Enjoy the variety of potential friends or love interests in your circle.

4. Single people have more fun! While romantic partners search each other’s computers and phones for signs of “infidelity,” single people are looking through their own phones remembering the great spontaneous adventures they’ve had and planning future rendezvous. Sure, there are happy couples. If you’re part of a happy couple, congratulations. This advice is for the rest of the readers, who’ve experienced enough frustration, disappointment, smothering, abandonment, manipulation, lies or heartbreak to know that relationships can be hard work.

Everyone wants to spend time with the person they enjoy, like or love, but when a relationship causes regular stress, why continue?

Singleness gives you the opportunity to manage your own interests, activities, moods, habits, hobbies and even entertainment. How many times do men have to decline women’s invitations to see chick flicks before women realize that not every activity they enjoy should be imposed upon the brave man who decided to be “hers.”

Of course it’s fun to watch chick flicks. So do it without having to have a date. Single people have the best opportunity to be themselves, enjoy their lives and live it up. Don’t be in a hurry to take that away from yourself. And if you already have, it’s never too late to break free from the confines of a miserable relationship and have fun as your own independent self.

5. Single people can FOCUS! What do you want most from life? If it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, you might want to prioritize at least your financial, health or career above romantic involvement. Think carefully about this. Has romance taken away your focus?

Sometimes people put their goals on the back burner to pursue relationships. Smart singles have the opportunity to focus all of their attention on themselves. what could you achieve if you took the liberty of focusing only on YOU?

Amelia wanted to open her own hair salon. She also wanted to get married and have children. She’s lost several potential “mates” by being too committed to her goals; she doesn’t want the responsibilities of marriage, kids and maintaining a household with multiple people.

Most single people aren’t lonely! They’re focused, busy, determined, and they have lots of fun in their spare time. They enjoy the company of many friends while sparing themselves heartache and extra responsibilities that they can always add to their lives AFTER they’ve had all the fun, focus and freedom they can stand.