Archive | December 2006

Global warming alert

In a story that is more important than Saddam’s execution, scientists have discovered a major ice shelf that broke off an island in the Canadian Arctic in August of 2005. It is said to be the largest break in 25 years, casting an ice floe with an area of 66 sq km (25 square miles). The chunk of ice bigger than Manhattan could wreak havoc if it moves into oil drilling regions and shipping lanes next summer, scientists warned.

Global warming is real and if enough ice melts at the polar ice caps, the potential for disrupting ocean and wind currents dangerously increases, whose ripple effects you will feel immediately. This problem is surmountable, play your part.

Stay up fam,

Categories:
globalwarming
environment

Symbolism of Saddam’s execution

I knew it was just a matter of time before Saddam would be executed but the symbolism of his death means everything and nothing in very significant ways.

To the extent that it means nothing, the current violence and lawlessness plaguing Iraq is not dependent on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. Of course, there will probably be an up tick of violence in light of his execution, but we have seen nothing but increases in violence since we have been in Iraq. So to say pinpoint one reason for the violence is next to impossible. Nevertheless, Saddam’s death will not lead to sectarian fighters laying down their guns and calling a truce.

To the extent that it means something, Saddam was executed on Eid-al-Adha, one of the holiest events in the Muslim calendar, and regarded as a day of celebration. It is also the first day that the pilgrims perform the stoning of the devil ritual, where they throw pebbles at a pillar representing Satan.

So I get it, Saddam represents Satan and the Holy Americans figuratively and literally defeated Satan. Symbolism is everything, especially given the fact that Saddam was a secular dictator, not a Muslim extremist. But if you were to ask most people if Saddam was Muslim, they would most certainly say he was.

Now I am glad to see that Saddam is gone but it is truly distressing that his death cost nearly 3,000 American military deaths and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. On some realness, we could have sent 10 Navy Seals to take him out. And even though Saddam is dead, do you think our debacle in Iraq is going to get any better anytime in the realistic future?

Please pray for peace,

Stay up fam,

Categories:
iraq
saddamhussein

School aid not distributed evenly

This was the title of a CNN article describing the gist of a report by Education Trust, essentially saying that way we fund public education short changes low-income and minority students.

The following is an excerpt of the press release by Education Trust;

The report, Funding Gaps 2006, builds on the Education Trust’s annual studies of funding gaps among school districts within states. For the first time the report includes data and analysis on:

• How federal Title I funds widen rather than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states from poor states; and,
• How funding choices at the school district level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.

This should not serve as any new groundbreaking information but reports like this play a critical role in educating the public and alerting policy makers that our approach to education is failing our children. Please read this report, review their analsyis and proposed solutions.

Stay up fam,

Categories:
educationalfunding
educationpolicy

UN imposes sanctions against Iran

I am especially critical of the news during times of mass distraction. This is primarily because often times the government will use these times to do make controversial decisions, knowing that people will be too busy to make a big fuss about it. One example of this includes the resignation of now former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the day after the midterm election. Keeping true to form, on December 23, 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.

This is troubling on so many levels. The most important being that with this resolution in hand, U.S. now has the moral authority to claim the support of the “international community” in his saber rattling against Iran. It should be noted that the current resolution was watered down to satisfy concerns of China and Russia (both veto holding members of the United Nations Security Council) that the sanctions were too harsh. In effect, the resolution will not do any serious harm to the Iranian economy but this wasn’t the purpose of the resolution in the first place.

Nevertheless, Bush already used the support of the “international community” to help justify war against Iraq when there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. So the fact that Iran is actually developing a civilian nuclear program will make it that much easier for the Bush administration to make a case for military action against Iran. What’s worse is that previous attempts at resolving this standoff through diplomacy was made unrealistic by Bush’s precondition that Iran stop enriching uranium.

In the coming months, expect Bush to use this resolution as proof that Iran has something to hide for not agreeing to suspend their uranium enrichment. Moreover, expect Bush and mainstream media outlets to continue to blame Iraq’s problems due to Iran’s meddling. Couple this with Bush’s call for a “surge” in the size of the American military and his refusal to rule out using a nuclear strike against Iran; we are witnessing the priming of war with Iran. As a result, I encourage all of you to make your voice heard as it pertains to war policy. Wars cannot exist without public support but your silence will always be interpreted at best support and worst, indifference.

For more on this topic, please read this article

Stay up fam,

Categories:
iran
war
internationalrelations
bushadministration

Boy, 14, is slain; 2d youth wounded

I read the news from coast to coast and around the world everyday. In every paper based in major cities, I constantly scan stories that have headlines that read something like, “Young man shot dead, 22 years old.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have quickly read these headlines and continued to scroll down the page. But when I see headlines related to the Iraq war, economy, international relations, etc., I click on these items automatically. Not that these topics are not important, but I find it troubling that I overlook the articles that would otherwise put a damper on my day.

But today while I was reading the Boston Globe, on of the smaller headlines read Boy, 14, is slain; 2d youth wounded. Instantly, I knew they were Black and I saw the faces of boys I know around that age and how precious life is. Questions abounded. Where they did go wrong? How did they get access to a gun? Were they in school? Are people afraid of snitching? I got mad at myself because I found myself addressing all the “structural factors” that made this accident possible. These boys’ parents just lost their children. Feel the pain of the families before you turn on the computer to google “structural, factors, contributing, young, Black, men.” The structural factors are always important but this knee-jerk reaction to analyze situations in these terms serves to distance ourselves from the pain that statistics cannot capture.

Even the articles we read don’t do it. The Boston Globe article starts off,

A 14-year-old boy was killed and another youth was wounded by gunfire last night in Roslindale, with Boston police scouring the neighborhood for suspects.

The unidentified teenager was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The second victim, an unidentified male, was taken to the pediatric unit of Boston Medical Center, where he was treated for injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

Now I know that news articles should not be woefully emotional but that is where you the reader have to dig deep, avoid instant structural analysis, make it personal, and read for understanding, not for fact overviews.

So last night, while I was at a party with people I graduated with from the University of Michigan, a young Black kid was killed. “But Brandon, you can’t save them all, live your life.” How about no? Instead, how about I refuse to be selective on what I consider to be Black History.

I know I am all over the place but this issue hits home to me in a visceral way. My childhood friend, Shade was gunned down by an off-duty cop after a failed robbery attempt. This happened when I was in high school and I spoke at his funeral and was one of the pallbearers. The story made the news and would you guess what happened when I googled the article? Error: Invalid story key. I know newspapers cannot afford to keep digital archives of every article but Shade’s story is not invalid and lives with me.

So I urge you to not just scan over the negative headlines but read them, learn their names before the cable news networks tell you what is really newsworthy. Anybody getting shot, (especially Black youth who just years before their being shot were probably riding bikes and playing basketball) is worth your attention. We are the only people that can validate our stories.

Stay up fam,

Categories:
blackissues

The Weekly Dream: The Forgotten

Question of the Week: What Do You Give the Guy Who Has Everything?

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

The Saga Continues. Christmas is only four days away. And as always, I have waited until the last minute to get my shopping done Whether it is poor planning or because I am an adrenaline junkie, I never could start shopping in November.

However, when I do get started, I inevitably run into the problem of getting gifts for my family members who have everything. Like my grandmother and grandfather, they get gifts from everyone, so you never know what to get them. Or my godfather, who just has everything. So, Christmas in my family is really informal, more of a means to an end.

But when I was at Barnes and Nobles yesterday, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a book to foster children this season. The request caught me off guard, but I automatically made the donation. Yet, it got me to thinking about the forgotten at Christmas.

The Forgotten

The Forgotten. Those who are marginalized in a society of excess. Those who cannot run up credit card debt for consumer goods. The homeless, the poor, the orphaned, the mentally retarded, the prisoner. Those people who make you uncomfortable by their very presence. Where is their Christmas? Are they on your Christmas list?

I could talk about these groups forever, but there is someone I bet you forgot this Christmas, I know I did. The Birthday Boy Himself, The Reason for the Season, Jesus Christ. I looked down at my list and next to my grandmother, aunts, uncles, Jesus was nowhere on the list. How can you not get Jesus a gift on his own birthday?

Immediately I felt terrible, especially after I thought about how much He gave me this year and always. Then I tried to remember had Jesus ever been on my Christmas list? And sadly, I could not remember. Now I knew how Peter felt when the cock crowed thrice.

What Do You Get The Guy Who Has Everything

Jesus also was forgotten at His birth. Forced to be born in a barn because there was no room for Him. He was with the sheep and the shepherds. Talk about a demotion. However, He was obedient to the will of the Father and squeezed Himself into a human body. So I figured, perhaps we can give him obedience.

Some of us are “Indian Givers” when it comes to God. We will start down the path and then get lax. I know I am guilty of it. I will start being obedient in something, and then start doing my own thing. So, Jesus still ends up without a gift for Christmas. This is not right. Once we give something, we must keep giving it. You do not give love once, you have to keep giving it. Gifts from the heart are repeat transactions.

Now obedience is far different than love. We love our parents, but growing up, we were not always obedient to them. But obedience has more to do with awe, respect and appreciation. It becomes sincere when we add love to the equation. And when we are obedient, Jesus gave us His wish list. He said, love the Lord with your all and then love your neighbor as yourself. If you cannot love your brother or sister you can see, then how can you truly love God who you cannot see?

This can be a challenge. Because sometimes, people can be difficult to deal with. But we must strive to see the God within them. So, how can we remember the Forgotten and make sure the Christ stays in Christmas? See the Christ within yourself and within others and act accordingly. Be more obedient, which can be a challenge, and treat even those who are disadvantaged with the respect and consideration God did when He made them.

In Closing

It takes effort to remember to see the God in people, because as humans, we look at the outward appearance. But there are a lot of people who are alone, depressed, insecure, and unhappy in a season that should be full of joy. In all the hustle and bustle, invite someone who may be alone to sit at your table, get a child a gift that they can really use or an elderly person who could use a visit. I am not saying try to save the world and end world poverty, but you know someone who needs something and it would not cost you too much to help them out. Yet, that is only the beginning of a life of obedience and service. Let’s not be “Indian Givers” with God and each other. Give the gift that keeps on giving-YOU.

Happy Birthday Jesus. The Card is in the mail ;).

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Categories:
The Weekly Dream
Christmas

Masturbation…what I know for sure

The inspiration for this post comes from a book I am reading entitled, every man’s battle. It is a Christian-based book that talks about sexual temptation in ways that are very direct and honest. But first I guess a good question would be to ask if people think masturbation is wrong.

For me, and I think many other men, I felt that masturbation was merely a way of releasing pent up energy. In practice, this meant that while I was younger and a virgin, I thought that masturbation was the best way to stay pure without actually “doing” it. And as I got older, this meant that if enough time elapsed, I was entitled to a session. However, there is a verse in the Bible, Matthew 5:28 that states,

But I (Jesus) tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


For a long time, I rejected the logic of this scripture. I couldn’t understand how looking at someone with my eyes provided a direct connection to my heart. And why did looking lustfully become synonymous with adultery? That always seemed a little harsh to me. What’s worse is that my sessions didn’t involve me using my eyes to lust after a woman. For me that meant if I was intimate with someone, I had the mental video in my mind ready to go. Essentially, I tried to split hairs thinking that if I was not looking at porn or something and just recalling intimate memories, I was ok for the most part.

But if we revisit the scripture, it is clear how dangerous this thought process really is. I am sure most of you know of the concept of the mind’s eye, which is hard to explain but it is one’s ability to see things with your mind. Therefore, lusting after a woman you see on a pornographic website is no different from lusting after a woman you were intimate with from last month. Either way, we are committing adultery with that woman, which is wrong. And masturbation is really nothing more than using our eyes or our mind’s eye to lust after another woman.

And the beauty is that God created sex to be relational. What masturbation does is corrupt God’s ideal for love by making it secretive, selfish, and done in isolation. But I digress.

My original question was whether or not you think masturbation is wrong. I am really interested in this question because for me, this was an area of sin that I could tolerate. Now the Bible does not say, “Do not masturbate,” but I think the verse regarding adultery is proof enough. But if it is not, I point your direction to any of the following scriptures,
Galatians 5:16-19
Colossians 3:5-6
Acts 15:29
I Corinthians 6:13

There was an even more powerful example in the book that I think really frames it in the proper context. The authors state that we don’t have the “right” to look lustfully on another woman. Which makes sense because in the kingdom, we have the choice to do wrong, but this is very different from a right. The authors put it this way, “When we’re thieves with our eyes, we’re embezzling sexual gratification from areas that don’t belong to us, from women who aren’t connected to us.” Does this framework make sense to you?

And lest you read this and think, “I will take care of this myself,” Proverbs 28:26 says, He who trusts in himself is a fool. I pray that you are not a fool and for encouragement, the Bible also says in James 5:16, Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. It is funny to me how when it comes to things like physical abuse, anger management, or financial mismanagement, we as Christians are quick to call for group interventions and seek assistance from those we trust. But when it comes to masturbation, too many of us think we can do it alone. Ask for help from someone that you trust, it will do wonders, I promise.

Nevertheless, I haven’t finished the book yet but as I learn more I will share with you. I hope that through this post, you find some encouragement in this area of your life. And though I didn’t address women specifically, I know that women deal with this issue as much as men do. So let’s have a frank discussion about this issue and ways to master it. I don’t want to see you having the strength of Samson only to sacrifice all of your potential due to lack of self-control due to sexual temptation. But let us follow men like Job who made a covenant with his eyes. Read about how that worked out for him in Job 31:9. With love,

Stay up fam,

Categories:
spirituality
sexuality

Affirmative Action aftermath…

In the aftermath of Proposal 2, (Michigan voters recently voted to ban affirmative action programs in higher education admissions, public employment, and contracting) the universities were in the middle of an admissions cycle and opponents of affirmative action wanted the admissions standards to change immediately upon passage of the proposal. This was profoundly absurd and should show how you much good would be achieved if the energy used to keep Black kids out of college were used to improve public K-12 education..

Fortunately however, “U.S. District Judge David Lawson…said it would be too disruptive to do away with affirmative action immediately because they have already begun accepting students for next fall.” The judge went on to say that the schools have until July 1st to come up with new admissions policies for the next round of admissions. That’s great, but here’s the thing, too many people sat on the sidelines waiting for Proposal 2 to pass and then say “I told you so.”

Therefore, if you are in school right now or know people that are, this is a critical time in our history for students to help formulate policies that can do effective and meaningful outreach while surviving the legal rigor of a political climate affirmative action as a free pass for Black folks. So for all my people who were involved in this fight in Michigan and across the nation, the true ugliness of this fight is after affirmative action is banned. Now is the time to make sure mechanisms and programs are in place to make sure that universities can to the best of their ability still reach out to students that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

So now you have two choices, you can 1) talk about how screwed up this country is and refrain from getting involved or you can 2) stand up and fight for justice while pulling up kids behind you that need an example of success and hope. So whether it is tutoring, mentoring, or doing recreational programs, get in the game. The other side wants us to waste all of our efforts on the nuances of policy but our kids futures are in the balance. This fight isn’t really about race; it is about who can and who cannot get access to quality education. And Black people as a whole are on the outside looking in. So stop staring at your degree and provide the spark that kids need to believe in their potential and seize the power of education by the bullhorns!

Stay up fam,

Categories:
affirmativeaction
education

When in doubt…

The President announced plans today that he wants to increase the size of the army to fight the global war on terrorism. This is wrong on so many levels. For starters, the American military presence alone serves as a galvanizing mechanism for encouraging would be civilians into “insurgents.” It is tantamount to throwing gas on a fire and expecting the fire to be extinguished. Right now we have brave soldiers looking for IED’s (improvised explosive device) and having to question if a young man they gave candy to at 8am will not be shooting at them at 8pm.

What’s sad is that we all knew that for all of the recommendations by all of these blue-ribbon commissions, Bush was interested in only one; send in more troops. But let’s pay attention to the context because while the war is the big elephant in the room, we are cutting domestic programs, having China essentially hold us economically hostage, pushing for school re-segregation, and how could we forget our precious tax cuts?

We are at a turning point in our body politic. Most people will say in private that they don’t like where this war is taking America, but this is not enough. Wars can not be sustained without public support. So don’t sit up at home and wait on the activists to do your dirty work. Speak out and speak loud. YOU made the TIME magazine person of the year, so take your power and use your voice to let your government officials know that unless drastic things happen for the better, the consequences will be grave. We are on the precipice of seeing an America where the government is afraid of the people and the people are not afraid of the government. Seize this moment.

In solidarity,

Stay up fam,

Categories:
waronterror
politics
bushadministration

Update: The SuperSpade’s 12 Days of Christmas

We have had 6 new subscribers thus far. Thank you all for participating.

The money will be donated to the Detroit Youth Foundation‘s Youthville Project.

Please encourage others to join us in our contributing to this worthy initiative.

One Love. One II.

Categories:
SuperSpade
Christmas
Charity

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