Archive | May 2006

The Weekly Dream: Appreciation of Mothers

“In the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.”
-Andy Warhol

Whenever I turn on the television, I am amazed at the proliferation of new reality TV shows. A lot of times, it is just stupid people doing frivolous things. Some are good, but the majority are bad-in my opinion. The human need for attention and recognition is as potent a drug as power or money. If you ever come across a person with an excessive need for validation, be careful because anything you have to offer will never be enough.

Mother knows best…

Yet, there is a group of people who really make a difference. They have made a far greater impact than anyone on TV today. I am talking about mothers. In the book of Proverbs, in the 31st chapter, it describes the perfect, godly woman. She is so great that her children call her blessed. She is known for her care and attention to her household, family, and business affairs. I believe that ideal remains.

To me, mothers are irrefutable evidence that God exists. For years, they give and expect nothing in return. They feed us, nurture us, know everything about us, yet are able to love us anyway.

It is something I do not think I will ever understand. There is nothing we can do to repay our mothers for the infinite sacrifices they have made. However, a thank you and a token of appreciation is a good start. Honor her while she is still in your midst.

And if your mother has journeyed beyond, remembering her and what she meant while she was here is a great way to keep her memory alive.

We should seek to incorporate the spirit, sacrifice and love our mothers showed us into our daily lives. Nurture life in your own little way. God bless all the women who have been maternal figures to myself and others. You truly are appreciated.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the week: What do you remember most about your mother?

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Undermining Universal Health Care

Here’s an interesting concept; given the bleak prospects of a national universal health coverage plan, let’s not have Congress undermine the efforts by states to provide universal health coverage for their citizens.

I have been keeping a close eye on Massachusetts ever since Gov. Mitt Romney signed landmark legislation designed to guarantee coverage for virtually all residents, including an estimated 550,000 now uninsured. The bill, while not perfect, provided a ray of hope for people across the political spectrum that can appreciate the vital need for universal health coverage.

After years of failed attempts, Massachusetts worked out this bill without creating a new tax to fund this initiative. But what they did to “ensure that the healthcare coverage is affordable for everyone, the Massachusetts plan [also] strictly limits the premiums that can be charged by insurance companies.” And to further ensure that the rights of the disenfranchised were protected, the Massachusetts bill also sees to it that certain benefits are guaranteed. What you talkin’ bout Willis? I’m talking about “treatment for alcoholism, mammography screenings, diabetes supplies, and mental health treatment.”

But I am so upset at our Republican-led Congress that decided during “Health Week,” they would craft legislation that “could undercut the new universal health insurance law in Massachusetts, by freeing insurers to brush aside state-required benefits and to charge older and sicker residents far higher premiums.” It is funny to me how Republicans always claim to wrap their arms around small businesses without regard for the millions of workers that make small businesses possible.

Republicans claim their goal with this legislation is to lower the cost of health care by “releasing insurance companies from state requirements to cover an expanded array of treatments and screenings. The bill would also permit insurers to boost premiums for groups of workers who are considered greater health risks.” So how does this affect the Massachusetts bill? It’s just a small part in the bill that states it ”‘shall supersede any and all state laws’ regarding mandated health coverage,” thereby giving a serious body blow to the Massachusetts bill and is an unusual encroachment on state’s rights.

I pray this bill does not pass because it really took the stars to be in alignment for Massachusetts to have had achieved their landmark legislation. And my fear is that if Congress passes this bill, then other states who have thought about following the Massachusetts model will look at the Congressional legislation and say, “What’s the worth in taking political risks to achieve universal health care if Congress is going to undermine our work?”

I know we as young people, sometimes it is hard to have intellectually stimulating conversation over health care. But we cannot wait to think about health care until you are taking care of your parents or struggling to provide for your own family if God forbid, your child has a disease that is expensive to treat. The time is now, get in the game.

Getting back to basics,

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Why Voting Matters Part II

This is an election year, a mid-term election year. This means that in November, people across the country will be voting not only in local elections, but also in gubernatorial and congressional races as well. There are some things we can do now to ensure that we as a people do not have avoidable drama at the poles on 7 November 2006.

The first thing we need to do is confirm that those of us that are old enough to vote are registered to do so. A good place to start is by visiting publius.org. Enter your name here, and if notating comes up, then you can click here to locate your local clerk, who you need to contact in order to register to vote.

Why are we talking about registering to vote? We’re talking about this because we need to get back to the basics and ensure that our fundamentals are solid. In my opinion, voting is one of the most important civic actions we can do. I tend to think that people agree with me that it’s important, since those in power work very hard to strip the right to vote away from people every day and night.

Here’s a secret: it is easier to take something away from an ignorant person than it is to take that same thing away from one who is informed/armed/prepared. Applying this concept to voting, it is much more difficult to take voting rights away from a person who never voted, stopped voting, or doesn’t value voting than it is to strip that right from one who understands its significance. We’ve talked about why voting matters before, and this point cannot be repeated enough.

Today, we take a slightly different approach to trying to quantify why voting matters, more specifically, why it’s important for everybody everywhere to vote. The Washington Post yesterday had a story that spoke to the effects of voter distribution in national elections.

This is important because it makes plain the fact there is power in collective action. One person doing one thing alone may or may not result in wide-reaching change. However, many people acting together with united purpose and determination have a better chance of effecting changes that impact society as a whole. We talked about working together just recently, and we can’t stress enough how important that is. One person may feel that their vote “doesn’t matter,” and therefore not vote. That, in isolation, will not cause the death of humanity. However, if that attitude were to catch on more broadly, which it has in large part, then you get people who are left with a government that they did not vote for and by definition does not represent them. Most people do not want that outcome, but instead of addressing the apathy at its source, we only react to it after the problem is obvious. If we concentrate on the basics, on helping people understand why they should care, maybe we wouldn’t have a representative democracy that did not represent so many people.

For those of you who vote, can you tell us why?
For those of you who do not vote, can you tell us why not?

A Little on the Top, or A Lot on the Bottom

We have talked about the pros and cons of Black faces in high places on this site before. This is a concept worth revisiting in light of a survey by the Washington Post that says the G. W. Bush has brought on less females and minorities in his administration than Bill Clinton.

Conservative reaction to this story is not surprising (an example is here), but it does raise an interesting question. To quote conservative columnist Michelle Malkin:

“In other words, Bush is an enemy of progress and civil rights because he has appointed too many minorities and women to top Cabinet positions–and not enough to lower, less important jobs!”

This is a matter of quantity versus quality. I think you can have both here, but maybe you can’t. Which would you rather see: a few Black folks in prominent leadership positions or lots of Black people working in lower positions?

Iran’s 18-page letter

So if you haven’t heard yet, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an 18-page letter to Bush outlining contradictions in the international arena. And if President Ahmadinejad is nothing else, he is not stupid. He made some points that are so clear that they can’t be denied. I encourage all of you to read the text for yourself rather than having someone tell you what it meant. Unfortunately, the link I have is only 8 pages but that is better than nothing.

And what really disturbs me is that not in any world could I see Bush writing an 18-page letter on ANYTHING, yet alone engaging President Ahmadinejad in a meeting of the minds. Now was Ahmadinejad’s letter purely political, probably so, but what isn’t in international affairs. And more importantly, why does Bush insist that all options are on the table when he keeps ducking opportunities to talk. It may be because all the options only include sanctions or military strikes because diplomacy doesn’t seem to exist with this administration. And just what may I ask is wrong with talking or writing letters?

Isn’t communicating the most productive feature of human civilization? And that is what one of the traits I disdain in Bush, he seems to relish the point at which talking is no more feasible rather than take advantage of the time when it is.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Slavery Remembrance Day in France

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today is France’s Slavery Remembrance Day. I wrote about this topic earlier when President Jacques Chirac first announced it. Most of this day is about symbolism, not structural change. But my hope is that this day is not an exercise is exploiting “white guilt,” but for Black people to “understand who we are and understand that we can overcome victimizations of the past and use the strength built from those experiences to be triumphant in the present and the future.”

So I wondered how much would be gained from having a Slavery Remembrance Day here in America. And you know what makes me upset? It’s my fear that Black people would probably be the most outspoken opponents of honoring such an event. We already have folks like Morgan Freeman talk about the lack of a need to have Black History Month. I don’t think we have enough Black History if for nothing else because of the asterisks that represent the often hushed sacrifices that Black people have made to make this country great. Thomas Jefferson*, George Washington*, The Missouri Compromise*, Three/Fifths Clause*. And the list goes on and on and on.

And I think Black people are afraid to embrace this list just as much, if not more than White people. We as Black people can’t be afraid to embrace our history, which unfortunately includes slavery. Sometimes I get the notion that some Blacks think that our ancestors swam over the Atlantic just dying to be enslaved. And the one I love the most is, “Why didn’t the Africans just fight back or run away?” I will wait to address that ignorance in another full post. So just take a second to check out what they are doing in France and think about our ancestors today, and every day for that matter. Our generation has not had to truly fight for anything in terms of protecting our rights as a people. So if nothing else, we need to fight to save and preserve our history.

Avancer France!!!!

Stay up fam,

Brandon

White Guilt, Black Victimization

Shelby Steele talked with Ed Gordon on NPR about his book, “White Guilt” a couple days ago. The subject is interesting because it talks about Black folks playing on this “White Guilt” concept to gain concessions from white people. This is in many parts true. But it falls short in some explaining some things.

I had a mentor describe the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1900s as being built on a “moral argument.” It said, “I am a man the same as you. Therefore, we are equal and should be treated as such.” Those with Steele’s viewpoint would argue that this argument worked pretty well, and caused our white brethren to feel “guilty” about the wrongs they’d done. That feeling, where “guilt” is actually felt, is legitimate.

The problem is that we as Black people at times abuse this idea of white guilt. It is flawed because embraces a definition of Black people as victims in all areas of life. What we need to do is understand who we are and understand that we can overcome victimizations of the past and use the strength built from those experiences to be triumphant in the present and the future. Embracing this triumphant nature may cause us to be a bit less quick to “play the race card” in many situations, as Steele suggests in the interview.

Where Steele’s theory falls short, in my opinion, is in the fact even if a person, a white person, feels “guilty,” that feeling is often not trusted or respected by Black folks. Unfortunately, perception is reality for most people, so the person might as well have no guilt/remorse for their actions or the actions of their ancestors since we won’t acknowledge it anyway.

So what do we do? Do we now blindly trust anyone who is apologetic or guilty about the events that led to the condition of Black people in America? No, that would be naive. What we need to do is not embrace the fact that others may/may not “feel bad” about what happened or what’s happening. We should instead focus on our own self esteem as a people and question why we feel the need to act on or take advantage of the “guilt” of others. Could that need be the offspring of our own guilt that has built up over the last 1.5 generations who perhaps may not have done as much as they could to raise our collective knowledge of self, instead focusing on selfish personal gain?

Family, let’s get back to the basics here. Understanding our selves on a personal level and as a community is key to our success. Upon that foundation, we can overcome our situation without the need to exploit things such as “white guilt.”