Tag Archives: Mormon

The Brohammas Guide to Music

When you are young your world is narrow. You think you know things despite the fact that you have never traveled independently past the corner or that fence around the school yard- but this is your world. And we all think our world is the world.olyNellyFurtado

In my world there were only four kinds of people: old people, Rockers, Wavers, and that mush in between who liked top 40. These were strict, and the only, categories that existed. Later in my youth a 5th wing emerged that we called “hicks” (we were not nice kids) but before Garth Brooks showed up in 1990’s, there was no such thing as country music, and we all knew he was really just top 40 in a cowboy hat.

I have recently learned that there are some of my generation, or maybe just a touch after mine, who somehow missed things musical and consequentially have no context with which to understand the world around them. They are adrift, left to silly things like books, the New York Times, and critical thinking with which they attempt to understand society and they are failing. It is sad, and bad, and it hurts my feelings, and it is well documented that I have all the feels. Not only do I have all the feels but I am a trained sociologist and musical anthropologist (in the same exact way Rachel Dolezal is a black person). This is me doing my part to give back. I am making the world better.

Prologue

Ska was a musical movement that began in the late 1950’s Jamaica with a signature fast paced backbeat.  It spawned both reggae (by slowing down and infusing Rastafarianism) and punk (by speeding up and infusing rock and roll). Punk made it into the atmosphere of my youth, but reggae did not. That is till one day (no joke) I found an unmarked dubbed cassette tape in the gutter while walking home from 6th grade. I took it home and listened to it and didn’t understand a word. I loved it. LOVED it. I listened to it alone in my room till I learned to decipher what was going on, and what was going on, was tearing down the corrupt Babylonian system and returning to Zion where racial oppression and materialism do not exist. It was exactly what I had been learning in Sunday School and sounded much better. It was Bob Marley’s Talkin’ Blues album and no else could stand it. I didn’t care, I still love it. It wasn’t till “high” school that everyone else discovered Buffalo Soldier and Three Little Birds. They thought Bob was all about peace and smoking weed. He was not. He was about fighting off oppression, religious devotion… and weed.

I have never smoked anything, not tobacco, cloves, nor weed.

The Specials, Rudy (1979)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbqiCxEIeEo

The Wailers, Small Axe (1976)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJJeLFvYsT0

Kinky Reggae- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNxTigI_qjw

Slave Driver (1973)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlfblmgOaYE

You Can’t Blame the Youth (1977)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3pi-6fInng

PUNK (ish)

Ramones, while they all gave themselves the last name Ramone, they were not related and it was none of their real names. They are considered THE founders of American punk rock music. They made these fast, loud, and pop sounding songs and they looked ugly and they liked it that way. Sedated (1978)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLlLtSG7xe4

The Clash, founded in 1976 in London, broke up in 1985 Along with the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. They are what punk is and will forever be. -should I stay or should I go (1982)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGIFublvDes

Blondie, Everyone knows Blondie. Their (it is a bond not a person) songs are on commercials now. They were part of the New York punk scene and, like the Talking Heads, are considered another bridge from punk to New Wave. Heart of Glass (1978)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU

One Way or Another (1978)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXewIR7Y7cc

Dead Kennedys, Were a San Francisco punk band that was more popular in England. Everyone else went the other direction. They were part of a big censorship law suit. Holiday in Cambodia (1978)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr6NOsluHYg

Talking Heads, while you would never think it by their sound, this is considered an essential punk band and the founders of New Wave. With this “founding” many consider punk to have died; with some following the Talking Heads into a new wave of music, and others sticking more with the loud chaos of thrash. Punk did -NOT- turn into heavy metal. Talking Heads were art school students. You can tell. Once in a Lifetime (1983)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1wg1DNHbNU

Suicidal Tendencies, from Venice California they were considered a Thrash Band. I don’t know who listened to them in CA, but in Utah all the new wave kids listened to them. The song Institutionalized is the best song ever to help “outsiders” understand the mindset of white middle class suburban teenage boys. Institutionalized (1983)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYItTxqTc38

NEW WAVE

Oingo Boingo formed in 1972, Lead singer Danny Elfman went on to write the scores for the first run of Batman movies, the Simpsons, Pee-Wees Big Adventure, Nightmare Before Christmas and pretty much any movie music that’s creepy. Most People Know the song Dead Man’s Party but to better illustrate the problematic creepiness of Oingo Boingo, try this song- Little Girls (1981)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2LQMElLoLs

Or Stay (1990)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwRnW89EsxI

U2 is from Dublin and started making records in 1980. It is hard to underestimate how big they were in both the 80s and 90s. Bono, the old guy who is always about some social cause, was/is the lead singer and he has been about causes since way back then. U2 was that magical kind of band that balanced singing about meaningful things without sacrificing the music. They could sing about MLK (which wasn’t the cool thing to do back in the 80’s) or just sing some introspective love song. I will admit that I stopped listening to them with the Achtung Baby album. They changed their sound and remained relevant. I did not. They have a million songs but I like this one. It displays the signature sound of 80’s U2 (not 90’s U2), along with the mainstream-rock-with-a-message that made them acceptable to the punk/New Wave crowd. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM4vblG6BVQ

Violent Femmes, formed in 1981 and were discovered while busking in Milwaukie. First Album released in 1983 and contained songs that have now been re-made like Blister in the Sun. They are the most sing-a-longable band ever. Gone Daddy Gone (1983)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekL7o8BQkZM

Midnight Oil, Australian band. Diesel and Dust album hit #1 in Australia in 1985 but it took a lil bit before the Americans got wind. This band is a great example of the singing about social causes from a position of privilege, toward others similarly situated. Which was very much an 80’s white people thing.Beds Are Burning (1985)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejorQVy3m8E

INXS, Another Australian band that was a top 40 hit both here and there, but “Wavers” still liked them. Devil Inside was their biggest. This one is better. More representative of their 80’s vibe. Need You Tonight (1987)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrZZfaDp02o

The Smiths, possibly the most New Wave band ever. Synthesized, artsy, and incredibly depressed. They formed in England in 1982 as a Post Punk band (the lead singer “Morrisey” wrote a book on the punk band New York Dolls before the Smiths formed). With songs like Girlfriend in a Coma and a very 80’s not quite androgynous but kind of androgynous look, they ARE New Wave., – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (1984)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjPhzgxe3L0

R.E.M. a New Wave staple out of Athens Georgia and the first album (cassette) I ever bought with my own money. “Stand” was their break out hit but the One I Love (1987) is a better representation of why their fans loved them. They were odd sounding… and depressed- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7oQEPfe-O8

Depeche Mode, while I claim that the Smiths is the most New Wave band ever, Depeche mode is the most “iconic” new wave band. English, Gay but their videos had them playing straight, but we all knew they were an incredibly gay band. No one cared. And by no one I mean kids and adults weren’t speaking to us because we were kids and our parents were Boomers. Policy of Truth (1990)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2VBmHOYpV8

Everything Counts (1983)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t-gK-9EIq4

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, One hit wonder but kind of represents the “mood” that grew into Grunge. It wasn’t the noise. It was the mood. What I am (1988) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDl3bdE3YQA

Red Hot Chili Peppers. You need to understand how old these guys are. They put out their first album in 1984, had a top album in 1999, and released another album just last year. They won’t die. They are like my generations version of the Rolling Stones in that they just keep playing, live way too hard, and just won’t die. Forget their new stuff because-meh-. The RHCP used to be all about silliness (and nastiness) and Flea, the bassist, is a real musician. Catholic School Girls Rule is agreat example of what they were all about but there is a little bit of nudity and a whole bunch of stuff a young Mormon kid should have had nothing to do with… but I did. This is their first time on TV (1984) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZRdjZFffnQ

Under the bridge was their first break out top 40 hit, but what most people don’t know is that it was about the lead singers struggle with Heroin. The band one of its original members die from an overdose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLvohMXgcBo

The Breeders, was formed when the bassist of the punk band the Pixies wanted to be a lead singer. She formed the Breeders. They were in this weird space, that made sense to us then, as a post punk, sorta new wave but kinda becoming grungy right as grunge began to be a thing. Cannonball (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxvkI9MTQw4

GRUNGE

Pearl Jam was a bigger deal than Nirvana up until Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Nirvana sort of worked their way into the public sphere while Pearl Jam just kind of exploded on the scene with this song about a kid killing himself in front of his class. There were a lot of Seattle grunge bands on air around then and while Nirvana was grittier (I avoided saying grungier) than Nirvana, Alice in Chains was grittier than Nirvana. Eddie Vedder’s vocals had this certain sound, and could be understood… and he was trying to say at least a little something meaningful. Oddly enough, the drummer on this song is the same drummer from Eddie Brickell and the New Bohemians. New Wave kids liked Pearl Jam, and grunge, because it was depressing- Jeremy (1991)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS91knuzoOA

Sound Garden was a Seattle band that was around before Pearl Jam, but didn’t hit it big till they all exploded on the scene together.- Black Hole Sun (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mbBbFH9fAg

Alice in Chains, was around (in Seattle) long before grunge was a thing, but they didn’t get popular till grunge became a thing. Of all that crew they were maybe not the grungiest, but they were the grimiest and the rockiest. When the other guys were listening to ACDC to get ready for a football game, I was listening to Alice in Chains and Pantera. Rooster (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAE6Il6OTcs

Primus is the band that plays the Southpark theme song. They were a sort of bridge from punk/wave over into grunge. They were not depressed but they were loud and “quirky”. The Bassist is perhaps the greatest ever. Flea might give him a run for his money but they don’t exactly do the same thing, because no one does the same thing as the bassist for Primus (Les Claypool plays bass and is the lead singer). If you have not heard this song before, and loud screeching isn’t your thing, stick through it till it gets to the repeated chorus. This song is unlike anything or anyone else out there. Tommy the Cat (1989)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4OhIU-PmB8

Beck, Loser- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgSPaXgAdzE

Blind Mellon was not grunge but was there at the same time. Blind Mellon is what you get if Pearl Jam had lived in a sunnier place, like LA, which is where they are from. This song must be included more for the video and the fact that everyone from this time remembers the bumble bee girl. She changed our lives, or at least how we view bumble bee man on the Simpsons. -No Rain (1992) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qVPNONdF58

Smashing Pumpkins, Is what new wave kids listened to when they were worn out from listening to Grunge. It was kind of artsy, moody, and the lead singer was just creepy enough for a Cure fan to accept him. Today (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmUZ6nCFNoU

Weezer, is the band that took us back toward new wave after grunge died. New Wave could not be resuscitated so we got Indie instead. Sweater Song (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHQqqM5sr7g

POST PUNK-NEW WAVE-GRUNGE

Mighty Mighty Bosstones are kind of the band who took punk and ska and then created the thing that No Doubt later made popular. Ironically the Bosstones later became kind of popular with a watered down version of themselves and may have actually killed the genre they created. Someday I Suppose (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmOmAuhAQbE

No Doubt, IS early 90’s Orange County. They got, and then got more, pop success, but they were a punk-ska band. They, or really Gwen, is the precursor to the Spice Girls “girl power” bubble gum. Trapped in a box (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DccmKKnizFY

Green Day, Is the early 90’s punk band that those of us who liked the first version of punk, didn’t really believe were punk. It is like they wanted us to believe they didn’t care what you thought about them, but were kind of trying to be cute at the same time (cute like pretty). So in that way I sort of see them as the founders of what it means to be a hipster. Watch them, then go back and watch the Dead Kennedys. You will see what I mean. Basket Case (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUTGr5t3MoY

Sublime is the neo punk band that we actually believed were punk… in a California way not a NYC way. To hammer that point home, the lead singer suffered a drug induced death in 1996. What I Got (1996)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uc3ZrmhDN4

Sum 41 is included here just to help illustrate for those who might be a little young, the musical evolution of “punk”. This Canadian band might not be punk in a Ramones kind of way, they did pick up a little of Green Day’s gloss without appearing to take themselves quite as serious. Sum 41 is what happens when No Doubt and Green Day have a baby and the Clash are the grandparents sitting in a rocking chair complaining about kids not caring about real issues. In Too Deep (1999)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emGri7i8Y2Y

Rage Against the Machine, Is what happens when kids listen to both Metallica and Public Enemy. They are more metal than punk, but would probably smash a hair band with their guitars. They are loud because they are making a point and that point should piss you off…. Hence the Public Enemy part. People who loved loud music listened to them, as did the socially conscious people-and those aren’t always the same people. Killing in the Name (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWXazVhlyxQ

System of a Down. So it goes Chuck Berry>Led Zeppelin>Metallica+Rage Against the Machine=System of A Down. Chop Suey (2001)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSvFpBOe8eY

Heavy Metal

ACDC does not appear on the t-shirt of Beavis and Butthead by mistake. They are the grandfathers of what became heavy metal. They formed in 1973 and still tour. The Rolling Stones are representatives of an era, ACDC are representatives of a genre. Thunderstruck (1990) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2AC41dglnM

Twisted Sister could not have existed at any other time than the 80’s. The lead singer bears a striking resemblance to Sarah Jessica Parker. Also, who can pass up a young Gary Busey? We’re Not Gonna Take It (1984)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9AbeALNVkk

Guns N Roses is THE quintessential (because that word has to be in a musicology somewhere) Heavy Metal hair band of the 80’s. There are bands that were more glam rock than them (Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Etc.) and others that were “heavier” (Metallica, Iron Maiden), but no one was more pure rock and roll, cigarette smoking, whiskey drinking, groupie groping excess than G&R and their guitarist “Slash” is one of the all-time great metal guitarists, or just plain guitarists (if that is the word for a guitar player) ever and the lead singer pulled off feminine tough guy better than all the rest. Sweet Child O Mine (1987)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w7OgIMMRc4

Welcome to the Jungle- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1tj2zJ2Wvg

Metallica might not be the grandfathers, but are the epitome, of heavy metal. They are loud, fast, tough, and are not trying to be sexy even a little bit. Lars the drummer is famous for having no sense of humor. Enter Sandman (1991)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD-E-LDc384

Def Leppard, This is glam rock. Pour Some Sugar on Me (1987)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ4xwmZ6zi4

Rap, Hip-Hop to Neo Soul

I am late to the game. I am so late to the game that I shouldn’t even be using that phrase. But I listen now (sort of) and I have listened back. That is not the story here, but what this is, is the place to explain that back when New Wave and Heavy Metal were going on, there were in fact such things as black people, and they weren’t all Michael Jackson. MTV, the radio, and genres were pretty separate back then… at least for suburban white kids in Salt Lake City. Which is what I was. So all I can do is explain how it was for me and some of us back then- and then draw a line back towards a bunch of stuff I missed. Which is a shame. Which is something that should be considered on a greater societal and historic level. I will be making some sweeping generalizations below knowing full well that some might read it and say, “nuh-uh, I knew about…”, but I am sticking to my guns because my point is still generally true. If you are the “nuh-uh” person, admit that you were a you back then, and not a we.

None the less-rap:

Beastie Boys start off this list not because they were the first or the best, but because they and heir music did, and in so many ways still do, occupy this odd space between social groups. Aletarnative and New Wave radio stations played the Beastie Boys. We thought they were “alternative”. They were white and they played instruments. In fact, they began as a thrash band in NYC being much more CBGB than  Run DMC. But none of us really knew that. We just knew they were wild and wanted to party and that was the extent of their songs. Little did we (we white suburban kids) know that the Beastis were part of a vanguard group that were pushing a dance club “thing” into a full-fledged genre. Their sound and demeanor endeared them to the punkish skate boarding Tony Hawk sorts (because Tony Hawk was young then) but they were solidly in –physically- the Rap scene. Their second album Paul’s Boutique (1989) was a pioneer in the sampling arena. But in the end we (we suburban white kids) just wanted to jump around being loud and obnoxious. So did the Beasties. Fight For Your Right (1986)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBShN8qT4lk&list=PLJdDgfq34Jz1sPQT7P4RUd7HvqXG29CIX

Hold It Now (1986)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB0NM6reiRE

 Salt-N-Peppa are solidly in the pantheon of Hip-Hop gods but we didn’t know that back then. All we knew is that this video some how found its way onto MTV, it was catchy enough that we all knew it, and it was obvious what they “meant” and that is a universal language. Push It (1986)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCadcBR95oU

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince is the very first rap artist I can remember hearing and the first one I can recall enjoying. Kids today might see/hear this song and think “Oh yeah, this is the Fresh Prince of Bell Air, aka Willow and Jayden’s Dad” but no- THIS was the Fresh Prince that allowed the TV show to happen later. Back in the 80’s this was just good time party rap. And regular white kids loved it. Parents Just Don’t Understand (1988)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW3PFC86UNI

Tone Loc and few others (MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Fesh Prince etc.) had a couple top 40 or “crossover” hits that made their way into our environment but they were all sort of single blips into the pop world rather than representatives of a movement or genre. Rap was maybe a kind of thing, but it was “over there” and we didn’t pay any real attention unless something looked fun. Then we the pop people would reach over there and grab some of the fun. Wavers and rockers would never do such a thing, but pop people dabbled. Wild Thing (1989)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=387ZDGSKVSg

Young MC– Refer to Ton Loc above. Bust a Move (1989)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy4FXhkm6Nw

Slick Rick tells stories. He wasn’t trying to be a clown or a gangster, yet he was funny without being soft. His songs have since been sampled by pretty much everyone and it is relatively well established that he is the grandfather of storytelling rap. We (we suburban white kids) had no idea he existed. Children’s Story (1988)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjNTu8jdukA

Public Enemy We (we white suburban white kids) knew Public Enemy existed in the same way we were aware of Spike Lee. In other words we knew they existed but were not for “us”. We were stupid. Kids who has seen the train wreck television show Flavor of Love Fight might not appreciate that Flava Flav was part of what was perhaps the most important protest or empowerment group of that time period. They were musically, or artistically gifted, they were cool, and they were not shy about having a message, yet unlike the New Wave artists Public Enemy was not speaking to the privileged while similarly situated but rather rallying those without privilege to push and shove against privilege- and power. Fight the Power (1990)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PaoLy7PHwk

Don’t Believe the Hype (1988)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vQaVIoEjOM

De La Soul. New Wave is to Rock and Roll what De La Soul is to Hip-Hop. Except for the part where a whole bunch of rock people hate, and hated New Wave. I haven’t met anyone who loves rap who even dislikes De La Soul. They were witty, had a great sound, and were just plain good. Me Myslef and I (1991)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEzEDMqXQQ

Tribe Called Quest has been described by some critics as the most intelligent and artistic rap group of the 90’s. The fact that the three foundational members remained artistically productive after the crew broke up in 1998. All that being said, the Tribe is great music and could, and should have been recognized as such by more than just the “rap community” (with everything that implies insinuated). But I completely missed them. I may have heard their name, but they got zero attention from me, or most people like me (white people), and were even ignored by the pop white people (who I don’t claim were “like” me). A big reason why they were ignored, and a whole problematic scenario (see what I did there?) will start with the next artist. In the mean time this classic song doesn’t just include the Tribe but a whole bunch of everyone including the head jester of hip-hop, Busta Ryhmes. Consider that a bonus. Scenario (1991)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6TLWqn82J4

Snoop Dog. It boggles my mind that this guy has become such a joke, as in intentionally funny, doing cooking bits as the harmlessly high foil to Martha Stewart. Today he is best known for some sort of half baked Snoop specific shizzle fizzle styled slang but back when he first came out he had the whole white world terrified. In retrospect we should have been able to see the clown but we were too busy thinking he and every other gang banger (synonym for rapper) were at any given moment about to drive around the corner and kill every last innocent one of us. I’m not exaggerating.  Not only did we think Snoop Dog was about to kill all of us, but we were convinced that what he was doing was the very definition of rap. Somehow (side eye) we (the white people) completely forgot about DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ton Loc and the idea that a rapper might not be trying to kill- or rape- someone. I am not being melodramatic. If you ask almost any old white man, the kind that are old enough to be my parent, to name one rapper, odds are they will only be able to come up with “Snoopy Dog” and then will undoubtedly go on a rant about saggy pants, stupidity, and handbaskets. All of that is due in large part to the fact that Snoop and his California contemporaries did something magical that caught on and crossed over. All of the Rockers in the neighborhood took off their ACDC t shirts, but on an a Raiders puffy coat and tucked a blue bandan in their sagging pants pocket. This, this right here, is when hip hop started to take over become mainstream. That is not to say that “Gangster Rap” was ever really mainstream, but before this time rap was an occasional blip not a BOOM. MC Hammer blipped. These guys from Compton and Long Beach crossed over in numbers and sent old white people running for the hills. Gin & Juice (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI3yXg-sX5c

Dr. Dre was a founding member of NWA, one of the great architects of the West Coast sound, but NWA happened before downloads, streaming, or even CDs outpaced cassettes. So those of us who weren’t trying to know NWA had no clue. Even if we had known, and I argue even those near me who did know, didn’t really get it. But we knew Dre. I include this song, and Dre, because this video and song captures everything the people like me in that period, thought about rap. I didn’t get it. In large part I didn’t get it because nothing in my life resembled the world they were rapping about and the only context I had in which to place this G thing, whatever that meant, were some kids around the burbs who were trying a little extra hard to be hard. Nuthin but a G Thang (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F0CAEoF4XM

Cypress Hill is included here because it illustrates a point. Somehow (side eye) we (idiot new wave white kids like me) thought the Beastie boys were great but this song was somehow stupid… and a little bit scary. Yet a million years later I still know that hook and that beat, and overall sound really because it is so very infectious. Insane in the Brain (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RijB8wnJCN0

Diggable Planets was releasing music at the exact same time as the gangsters, yet people like me (white suburban kids) completely missed them. Had we heard them we would have tried to argue they weren’t really rap but something different. We were stupid. Digable Planets is great music. Rebirth of Slick (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM4kqL13jGM

Where I’m From (1993)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl-pjb7y3y0

Arrested Development. We could tell at the time that Arrested Development was talking about important things, especially when compared to the Beastie Boys, but we just thought they were quirky. We did not, and most of us still do not, know what Afrocentric is/was. Arrested Development was Afrocentric. But we thought rap was just Snoop Dog. Mr.Wendell (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyDjRd0Tjss

Tennessee (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VCdJyOAQYM

Pharcyde, because it is classic and we missed it (I didn’t say it. See what I did there?). Passin Me By (1992)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjsPG0Kspxo

Black Sheep, Again, because its classic. See above. The Choice is Yours (1991)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU

Craig Mack Have I made my point? Flava in Ya Ear (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNFqMx0gY7I

Tupac Shakur is one of two names people will bring up if you ask “who was the greatest of all time?” There are children who might say MR. Beyonce is in the running, and they might have a point, but the correct answer must include an argument about Tupac and Biggie. This argument may or may not end the way these two rappers ended, and it could also be argued that the reason they are considered is because of how they ended, but it is more than that. Tupac, possibly more than anyone else (that I know of but we have already established that I am not only not an expert but have historically been stupid) presented both ends of the angry gang banger who is going to shoot everyone and the conscious guy who loves his community and his mother. He came off as authentic on both fronts despite having previously been a back up dancer for the guys who brought us the Humpty Dance.

Brendas Got a Baby (1991) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRWUs0KtB- I

Dear Momma (1995) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb1ZvUDvLDY

California Love (1996)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wBTdfAkqGU

Notorius B.I.G is the NYC foil to the LA Tupac. He is also the reason any of us know who Puff Daddy is. While Tupak had a bazillion of his songs released after his death, Biggie had a zillion songs about him released after his death, all made by Puffy. Ready to die Big Poppa (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phaJXp_zMYM

Common, Recently won an Oscar for a song he did with John Legend but he is not new. He is a staple in the stable of those considered “conscious” rappers. I Used to Love Her (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C99iG4HoO1c

Fugees were the group that solidified rap’s place in the main stream without being gangsta and without being bubble gum. Fu-Gee-La (1996)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPlb9HoOCxs

Lauryn Hill was a Fugee, then she became a hip hop diva- in a good way. Most importantly, she is the mother of Bob Marley’s grandchildren. Do Wop (1998)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6QKqFPRZSA

Roots, go way back before the whole Jimmy Fallon hook up. Proceed (1995) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5TUqdxqHS0

You Got Me (1999)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJCHeEQV454

Erykah Badu is THE God mother of neo soul and is my favorite (of now not of all time *Bob*) ,

On & On (1997)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CPCs7vVz6s

Love of My Life (2002)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNk3R23Twgw

Tyrone (1997)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY2-mrsXgMM

Tracy Morgan, Simone (2007)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeSNt9YiUqo

India Arie, India Arie (2001)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq86e4Fhja0

 

If you lived in Philly when I did, and where I did, you should recognize all of these places:

Musiq Soulchild, Just Friends (2000)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7zsG3XFUd8

Jill Scott Long Walk (2000)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSYMKUtNuw8

Getting In the Way(2000) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiR6sU1igKM

When I first met the girl I would later marry I called my friend Riley and told her I met this girl who looked like a cross between Halle Berry and Left Eye from TLC. He laughed and called me stupid because that doesn’t exist, and if it did, she wouldn’t pay attention to me. When he finally met her he instantly apologized. Left Eye is the one in the red pajamas. We met in 1999. Had I still been the me from 1992 it would have never worked.

TLC, Creep (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZydtG3xqI

Having grown up when and where I did, I did not appreciate rap. Then, when I was 19, I found myself sleeping in an apartment on Bankhead Highway in Atlanta and everyone within a ten mile radius bought the Goodie M.O.B. album Soul Food and played it as loud as possible for at least a year. Hearing those songs, then, in that place, I began to “get it”. At least a little bit. Whether or not I did, or ever could, “get it”, I began to love it. Cee-lo was a member of Goodie M.O.B. before he was a member of Gnarls Barkley, and before he was a judge on the Voice. It was mostly him who converted me.

Goodie M.O.B. Sesame Street. Skip to minute 2:58 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHGx7BstZg8

Common and Ceelo together- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CodmNmI7XSk

Outkast is older than kids realize. Git Up Git Out (1994)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CssC- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHGx7BstZg8DY4lO8

In due time (1997)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvMCA9jHFZ0

Considering how quickly and easily I dove down this rabbit hole I now realize that I was indeed paying attention to something when I was younger, just not the things that would have been productive for my professional development.

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Industrial Tools in a Digital World: or what good is money to a cave man

I once found myself sitting at my desk with a magic check book. I could scrawl out numbers large or small to anyone (except myself) and those checks would clear. I was under the general charge to use those checks to help those in need, and records were to be strictly kept, but other than that, it was all up to me. I was the genie, I could grant wishes, and I really wanted to help. I wanted to do good, to tackle the troubles facing those within my reach and now I had the ultimate tool; a magic checkbook.phillysky

This office was right on North Broad Street in the heart of one of Philadelphia’s most blighted neighborhoods. I was positioned perfectly. I was right where help was needed, with all the money I could imagine, possessing more will to do good than I knew what to do with, and I have never felt more useless and impotent then I did during that time.

I didn’t even make a dent.

This isn’t to say I wasn’t able to do some good or help some folks here and there, nor am I fishing for support with self-deprecating comments. No. I really wasn’t able to fix a thing. I have never felt so utterly thwarted.IMG_0423

I wrote a lot of checks, but not as many as you might have thought. We did our best to be financially responsible by not replicating services available elsewhere and thanks to WIC, food stamps, section 8 and a plethora of slum lords I paid out a lot less on rent mortgages and food than others I have seen with similar check books. I paid for a refrigerator, a water heater, paid tuition, bought subway tokens, patched a hole on someone’s roof, and funded a lot of plumbers and electricians. I also paid for some mental health services. Those ones were tricky, not because the money or service was funny, but because I discovered that those who needed these services most were hard to track down. They kept going homeless and getting arrested or admitted to hospitals. I did pay for some phones. Those were probably the most useful things I wrote checks for.

There was one woman I knew who was battling Cancer. She was unable to work and didn’t own a car that ran. We used to sit in her living room, her reeling from the effects of chemo, me reeling from the stacks of unpaid bills that she kept incredibly organized in a stack next to the couch. She knew who she owed, when things were due, and how much she had, but what she couldn’t get was a straight answer from anyone on the phone. She would be in the ratty recliner queuing up the bill, I would make the phone call and use my best respectable white man voice to try to get some clue as to what number to put on my magic check. Mostly I was put on hold or lectured about financial responsibility or sternly warned about service interruptions.

There was this other retired woman whose inherited house was reassessed and she magically owed back taxes. Old age and epilepsy made getting a job a non-starter so she borrowed money from friends and family to scrape together taxes. Scraping included not paying her water or electricity. She had previously been on a payment plan for both, and these plans included the stipulation that should you ever miss a payment you would be required to pay all the fees that would have accrued had you not been on said plan. I wrote a check for $2,000 to get the water turned on and $1,700 for the electricity. She was incredibly grateful and as we flipped the switch and there was light, she stared off into space and asked, “What am I supposed to do when the tax comes due again next year?” The house wasn’t particularly nice.copandfire

There was the truck driver who was on a rent-to-own program to gain full ownership of his rig. He was forced to forfeit with two payments left because someone rear ended him at a stop light. There was guy in the carpenters union who was laid off for over a year and then billed for two years of apprentice school when he finally took a menial job outside the union. There was even a stripper who didn’t want to dance but was struggling to find a way to pay her bills when she had no other marketable skills. There were all sorts of stories and I wrote all sorts of checks, but what I was mostly unable to do was change anyone’s long term situation.

My endless checkbook’s funds were insufficient in the face of greater contexts.

In some respects, and to some extent in retrospect, the failure was mine. I was afraid of going big and swinging for the fence. Every month I would meet with approximately five other men who had similar checkbooks but with different jurisdictions. They were mostly suburban and they almost always spent more money than me. They were also older than me and more experienced. We would meet and talk about solutions, and principles of work, and the overall theme would be in wondering how we could write fewer checks or get people to stop asking for money. There was much ado about responsibility and self-sufficiency, both of which I was on board with, but as we talked each month they would bring up a small redundant set of scenarios, or even repeat certain family names again and again, and here I was talking about everyone and everything. They would repeat to me some principle about work having it sown value and that rather than handouts we needed to encourage people to take control of their own situation. I would talk about the woman with cancer, or the new taxes, or the carpenter, I didn’t share the stripper because that would have seemed salacious, and they would just repeat those principles. I found it very dissatisfying and I was branded a passionate young firebrand. Whether it was the branding or the caution toward frugality, I never did what I really wanted to do which was to just pay off all of these people’ bills with some sort of trust moving forward, freeing them from the crushing weight of the unpaid bill shuffle or the impending doom of bills yet to come. I wanted to just write some big numbers that would give these people more than just some wiggle room but the solid footing needed to build a skill or chase an opportunity. But I didn’t. No one told me directly not to do it, yet I remained afraid knowing full well how the others interpreted those principles and my magic was rendered impotent.IMG_2057

I remember that check book any time I read policy debates about public school funding, government entitlements, or healthcare. Any time I hear the statement that problems cannot be solved by throwing money at them, I hear echoes of those monthly check writer’s meetings. They sound the same and that same feeling I had there rings and resonates inside me with the same feeling of helplessness and I know that this discussion will fall short. I know this because I am no longer a young firebrand but rather I am a little older and experienced. I know better now and were I to go back to my former self in those meetings and with that checkbook, and in the discussions of policy now, I would write those giant checks.

I would agree that the problems of a post-industrial world cannot be solved by just throwing money at them- then- I would add that any solution that doesn’t include throwing lots of money at it, is incomplete and wrong.

We live in a 1st world country with 1st world problems and those who have the means to become world traveled know this. They point out that the impoverished in America have so much more than almost everyone else in the world. I haven’t been to those places but I get it. I understand. I realize that in some countries people walk miles to get water from a well in bare feet and toil with seeds and soil to pull out rice or yams to eat in their tin roofed shacks with dirt floors. I am reminded of these things or these places when Americans look at our budget deficit or entitlements or failing public schools. We are rich and we are wasting it and we need to stop the bleeding and become more responsible. I get it.IMG_3343

But I cannot tell that retired woman that rather than asking for $2,000 to get her 1st world water turned back on, that she should get a bucket and walk to the well. Because there is no well.

I cannot tell the man from the carpenter’s union to stop wasting his money on rent and use his skills to build himself a tin roofed shack. We don’t allow that here.

I cannot tell that dancer to employ her health in planting and harvesting because she has no land, no seeds, and no time.

And the woman with cancer. Were she in one of those places the answer would be somewhat more direct. She would go untreated and die. Because that is what happens there.

Truth is that in America people need money. If someone has some money, they must spend their time in accruing more in order to keep up with the clock because in America time has a cost. If you happen to have an abundance of money you can buy time, and spend it as you choose. But if you start out with no money you will at some point need to borrow or beg because you cannot afford the cost of living that time demands while you are spending your time in the act of accumulation. And that initial cost of time is the rub.

Time is the rub because it is so much more expensive than we realize and our 1st world has completely adjusted to those who can already afford it. It has taken us quite some time to get here, but we have arrived and if we just deal with now, acknowledging how we got here but willing to deal with the present, we have a lot of work to do and it is going to be more expensive than we realize.

For instance, schools are not only expensive to run, but opening up charter schools and options for parents, is mostly only open to those who can already afford the costs of changing schools, including the cost of time in researching and applying. Retraining those displaced from industrial jobs due to mechanization is not just expensive as it relates to tuition or instruction, but the time it takes to learn and get re-hired. Who pays the bills in the meantime? It is as if any one who finds themselves at zero is being fooled by the goose egg. There is no such thing just as time never stands still. Zero lasts only a moment before it becomes a negative and as soon as you realize you have hit the bottom you are in negative numbers.

So as I remember back to those days where I had the magic check book but was too afraid to write a tectonic check I also remember that one of the reasons I did not, one of the reasons why I felt so helpless, a foundational contributing factor to my in effectiveness, was that money wasn’t and would never be, enough. I knew it then. I couldn’t stop time. I didn’t have enough extra hands, enough hours, enough extra bodies or opportunities, to throw at these people’s problems in addition to throwing money. Because it was instantly obvious that this is what was, and still is needed.

We cannot solve the problems of poverty by simply throwing money at them. Reality is that it takes money and then it takes more. Throwing money and throwing time.

Developed society has left behind the sweat of our brow and replaced it with allowances either purchased or granted. Because of this we cannot expect any progress within the lower half of society unless there is some sort of concession granted by those who control, or own resources. We will never solve poverty in the 1st world till more of those who can afford time, start spending it on helping those who can’t.

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Marginalization

I am a Mormon. You cannot tell that just by looking at me, but it is very much a part of who I am. I could even argue that it is everything that I am. But you cannot really see it.img_5762

There are plenty of Mormons who like to think their Mormonism is visible, that we glow, but this is simply self-affirmation. You can’t see it. It isn’t like Orthodox Judaism or some forms of Islam with proscribed hair and clothing. We don’t even have any actual symbols to announce our faith. No crosses, no Star of David, no half moon and star. Some of us have created symbols, like Angel Moroni lapel pins, but these came “from the streets” not from God. But we know our own. We know who we are because we are obsessed with ourselves.

This is arguably why many people do not like us. We do not sit quietly in a corner, we let you know who we are. We knock on your door and ask you to join us. Odds are, if you want to be left alone, we still won’t leave you alone. This is one reason why, even if I am personally leaving people alone, they still might throw beer bottles at me, swerve their motorcycle to run me off the road, mock my faith loudly during board meetings, accusingly tell me what I believe in job interviews, misrepresent me in classrooms, sing songs mocking me in bars, spit chewed food at me, or the ever hard to really pin down- deeply ignore me. I have experienced all of these things personally.

Sometimes it happens without the other person knowing my faith. They say something negative with no intent to upset me because they don’t know. But most people I know, know what I am, and when the digs come they are intentional. It will not happen, but theoretically, I could always choose to simply not be Mormon. People leave the faith all the time. It isn’t like my last name ties me to an ethnicity like say, Lifshitz or Austerlitz, though I should say that names are how I know Ammon Bundy and Manti Teo were born Mormon. I could hide if I really wanted too, but odds are if I ever became somebody I would get outed. We out our own all the time.

For instance Derek and Julianne Hough, Aaron Eckhart, Ryan Gosling, all born Mormon. Roseanne Barr’s family joined when she was a kid and thanks to my favorite Pop-up Video bubble, the singer Jewel was Mormon till the age of 8. This was my favorite insider Mormon joke because we all know you cannot officially be Mormon until you turn 8, but the point is we are self-obsessed enough that even if you leave us, we will find and claim you. Just the other week I got a text while sitting in church informing me that the real life Rudy, the guy the movie portrayed, had just been baptized a Mormon.

There are some good explanations for this obsession; both historically and due to what it is like to live as a Mormon day-to-day. For example the governor of Missouri signed an extermination order in 1838 authorizing the use of deadly force to remove all Mormons from the state. During much of those years Mormons lived as refugees fleeing from place to place relying on each other for survival. Identifying and sticking with our own was critical. Then we went and founded a city. Then we went and founded a whole bunch more. Salt Lake, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, all Mormon. But manifest destiny couldn’t be stopped and in 1857 the United States declared war on the Mormons in Utah and occupied Salt Lake. As a kid my family regularly drove past the army base originally established by federal forces to keep us Mormons in line.

But that was forever ago, everyone who lived in those days is long gone. Yet this era is such a part of the Mormon cultural legacy that to this day every congregation across the United States send their youth on small summer “treks” where they dress in 19th century clothing and pull rickety human powered wagons called “hand carts” for a week in the woods to ingrain in these kid’s minds what their predecessors endured. If you visit Utah in July you will learn that July 24th, “Pioneer Day” commemorating the arrival of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley is celebrated bigger and louder than the 4th. We refuse to forget.

But it isn’t just history, being Mormon today does draw some attention. While you cannot see my Mormonism, the fact that I have never tasted coffee, or alcohol, or that I was willfully a virgin at my wedding, have put me in some serious spotlights over the years, especially in high school and college. I weathered that storm, but even in the professional world I have had bosses question whether or not I could be an adequate host to important accounts if I was unwilling to drink at the bar with them or share a good glass of wine. I was of course willing to host clients at a bar, but I have learned through repeated experience, I repeat-much experience, that most people are uncomfortable drinking with a person who isn’t doing the same. Yet this one little thing which is such a miniscule part of my faith and an even smaller aspect of who I am as a person, has become my defining characteristic to a huge portion of my associates; clients, rugby teammates, neighbors, colleagues. It becomes rather annoying having that same conversation time and time again, “No not even a little bit. Nope never have. No it isn’t really that hard. Yes hats off to me and yes I still like karaoke.” My religious views on sexual expression influence what I watch in movies, television and online. I love movies and television, and the internet, but every Oscar season there is a large swath of nominated productions that I have not, nor will ever see. This makes me different than other cinephiles and makes me almost unable to meaningfully communicate in those circles.

Faithful Mormons are largely expected to marry other Mormons.

This can make things a little tricky if you don’t live around a critical mass of other Mormons. This is one of many reasons why so many Mormons want to live in Utah, or send their kids to BYU. They want some options, they want to fit in, and they want to be part of their people. Some of us feel this desire to be among our own very strongly, some of us are annoyed by the idea, but we all understand it. I am an American to the core, but having grown up in Utah, I have felt very much the expatriate living in other states. Looking back, at both my youth and my home state, I am a bit amused at how much I, and we, felt like ex pats even when we were living in Utah.

This is why the local Deseret News regularly prints lists of every identifiable Mormon playing in the NFL, the NBA, NCAA, Olympics, or on TV, or in congress. We take a special pride whenever one of our own does anything. I never watched the old MTV show Real World, till a Mormon named Julie went on the show and embarrassed me. I watched every episode of that season. There is a website, www.famousmormons.org that attempts to list every Mormon doing anything, the church puts out an official portfolio of monthly magazines (Ensign, Liahona, New Era, the Friend) yet you can find all sorts of extra Mormon themed magazines not published by the church, but more just published for Mormons by Mormons (LDS Living Magazine). We have created our own books, book stores, television stations, network of blogs (the bloggernacle), music, schools (SVU), all above and beyond what our hyper organized church produces and we cling to such even when we are already living amongst our own. We are self-obsessed.

But I get it. Sometimes I get tired being different and just want to relax with a group of my “brothers and sisters”. Sometimes I want to watch something like Napoleon Dynamite with hard to explain inside jokes. Sometimes I would like to see a doctor who understands why I might be a couch potato yet have this health nut styled prohibition on tobacco and alcohol, yet won’t drink green tea. I would love a dance company for my daughter to join that understands why she won’t train on Sunday. But I also want to live in New York.

So I get it.

Because I get it, I refuse to listen to any white Mormon who makes the complaint that black people think too much about race. I reject any critique coming from people like me regarding black colleges, black television, a congressional black caucus, or a black history month. It is hard being an “other” in America. I know this because I am one. And as one who has experienced how “hard” it is to be Mormon in current society, yet only glimpsed what it might be like to be black, I testify that America is harder on black people than it is on Mormons.

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Because We Vote Next Week and I Cannot Stop

I saw recently that Ammon Bundy and his cohorts were all acquitted, found innocent, of any crimes related to their armed takeover of a federal facility. There was no question as to whether or not it happened, they held press conferences, it was just a matter of whether a jury was willing to vote that they should suffer some consequences for doing so. The jury, a representation of us- we the people- let them go (not completely as two of the acquitted have other charges in a different state). I respect the idea that laws, due process and common consensus should rule society; it is part of our “American-ness”, but this instance highlights some things I find deeply troubling.Processed with Snapseed.

Ammon Bundy was set free. Brock Turner got a slap on the wrist. Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president. These three may not truly be related and we could dissect the notion of fairness related to any and everything related to each instance or individual. We could do that. But I want to just stand back and take in the view for a minute. Because when I stand back I see other things too.

I see Officer Johannes Mehserle found not guilty of murder when he shot a hand cuffed Oscar Grant on camera at a subway station. I see George Zimmerman being found not guilty of chasing down an unarmed Treyvon Martin and shooting him dead. I see no charges filed at all when Officer Timothy Loehmann shoots and kills a 12 year old Tamir Rice who was carrying a toy gun. I see no one charged with anything when 2 officers shot and killed John Crawford as he carried a BB-gun he picked up off the shelf in Wal-Mart. I see a jury fail to agree that Michael Dunn had committed murder when he fired his gun 10 times at Jordan Davis, killing him, for playing his car stereo too loud. I see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon, shooting police officers, and being brought to court alive. I see juries fail to convict six officers of anything when they put a live Freddie Gray into a van, only to have him emerge from the vehicle in an injury induced coma.

When I stand back and look at the big picture I do not see an America where black and white people are treated the same. I should mention, or make clear, that when I say “America” I mean two things: we the people as a day to day society and the official systems through which individuals interact with government and laws. Both of which are America and it appears that on the whole, something is off. I feel a lot of things are off, but when it comes to race, this offness, no matter the situation or subject in which it begins, bleeds over into and onto everything. Take murder for instance. Murder cases are inherently troubling without regard to anyone’s racial identity, it is hard to prove who did what and why, and due to potential severity of the legal consequences, convictions and punishments get tricky. But it really does appear that when a black person is involved, the tricks normally go against them. Then there is rape. Our deeply sexualized culture and country make accusations of rape a bit tricky. He-said she-said, facts and intentions, all things any individual- let alone system, could easily get wrong. Yet when black people are involved in any way, it appears that more often than not, they are thought of or treated as if they are wrong. Politics and partisanship is full of all sorts of wrong. It would be so if everyone and anyone involved were exclusively white- yet when anyone is black, there is something special in the attack.

Barack Obama won. He would surely have been hated no matter his skin, just like Bush before him. But remember back when his pastor was questioned? Called a racist? Accused of hating America? In that ugly campaign the candidate’s love for country was questioned because he attended a church where the pastor questioned America’s love for black people. Standing back looking at the big picture I wonder the same thing and share that pastor’s question. Back then, those who cared about churches were offended at Jeremiah Wright. In isolation, perhaps the offense would be fair. But I am not isolated and today I see those same church caring people excusing a candidate whose whole premise is that America is currently bad. Trump’s America loses everything is bad at everything is currently failing and those who accused Barack Obama of hating America, currently fail to accuse Trump of the same. But that is not race that is politics. Right? But then there was also Skip Gates and Treyvon and Michelle’s convocation speeches and  shootings in Charleston and then Obama talks about race and is sub sequentially accused of seeking to divide America, we the people and our system, along racial lines. So much so that Glenn Beck goes on national television and declares that Obama hates white people. Kanye did that to Bush so Glenn had a precedent, but where Kanye was referring to a cataclysmic disaster where black people were left to die without resources, Mr. Beck was referring to the President criticizing the police for arresting a black Harvard professor with a cane who was trying to break in to his own home. Kanye also snatched the mic from a harmless little blonde girl on stage at an awards show so I suppose it’s the same thing right? But you see, Kanye, and folks like Kanye, have been saying what Kanye says for decades, centuries really. But people like Beck weren’t going on television and saying things like Glen said so openly, till Obama.

No. That isn’t true. People like Beck have said that stuff all along but now people who say it are nominated for president. Now, today, someone who has questioned the sitting president’s nationality, his religion, his dedication to America, and who has himself been sued-as in federal court- for racial discrimination, and bragged on tape that he sexually assaults women, and publicly mocks those who are protected by Title IX (an act of congress), is not only excused, but nominated for president.

Now Trump is not a nominee without trouble. Many in his party are against him. Yet from back here with this big picture view, it still feels odd that the Republican Party sticks with him through mockery of the handicap, refusal to disclose tax records, accusing Mexican immigrants in general of rape and murder, encouraging violence against protesters, insinuating the need for violence to protect against alleged minority voter fraud, and all of that is tolerated for this man? He is touted for speaking his mind and pushed to the front? The President makes mention of racism and he is dismissed as racist?

I find it troubling that the election of a black man, with an almost spotless pre-election personal record, has apparently led us directly to the nomination of the most scandal ridden candidate in history to succeed him. Those who support this candidate would consider Trump an improvement. He is their hope and change. I am taking time, while back here looking for perspective, to look inside myself as well. Am I too much an apologist? Am I blind to the dark side of those with dark skin? Blind to Barack’s faults?

I understand those incensed by Obamacare. Insurance continues to be largely unaffordable. I get those who are disgusted that under his watch the Wall St. disaster went largely, or completely, un-punished. Those in power were “bailed out” while average people continued losing homes and jobs. I appreciate those who are enraged at the record number of immigrants President Obama has deported. I even understand those who look to his failed leadership or abilities in regards to our legislative grid-lock. I accept those critiques. I get that anger. But those are in large part, excepting the Obamacare complaint, not the issue I hear being shouted. No. I hear of his hate for this nation, his weakness abroad, his complete lack of character. He is called Muslim, or evil, or socialist, same diff and he must be replaced. Perhaps I could find this trajectory more palatable if Trump was less repugnant. But he isn’t. He isn’t and this shouting against him in this vein is not coming from the obscurity but from the party of Lincoln. It looks and sound like a lascivious white lunatic is preferred to black man.

But then “they” prefer him to Hillary as well. She is most definitely white. So I must be seeing this wrong.

And then Bundy gets off.

After one lonely New Black Panther at a polling place with a stick goes to court, is prosecuted for two years and major political players step down. After all of that, the new candidate encourages vote patrolling and a militia of white men with machine guns invade federal property and a jury acquits! In this current mass shooting climate they are acquitted? No one doubts they were there and they did it but the jury simply says its okay? I wish I was confused but sadly I’m not. I think I see something. Right in front of us. Why do so many who look like me not see it too?

And here is what hurts me even more.

So many don’t know that Ammon is a Mormon name. Distinctly so. I am one too. The thing that I am most, above all others, is Mormon. I suspect someone named after such a prominent character in our faith’s foundational scripture sees himself that way too. I see Bundy over there, and me over here, and I sometimes wonder where the rest of “our people” stand. I am no prophet so I understand myself not being completely surrounded. I have not intentionally, though I am open to the possibility, that I have drifted somewhere off kilter, setting myself aside. Maybe it is me. But then there is him, and while he is definitely not in the center, he appears to have much more of a posse. Ammon Bundy, Glenn Beck, Donald Trump, Republicans, Libertarians, all appear to have more of my people than not only Obama, but they have more of my people than me. Not me as a person but me where I stand. Seeing what I see. Not in this party or that but looking at the same view. My perspective. I cannot help but imagine that if our current election was Trump vs. Obama, my people would still pick McMullin. They, we, would vote for a third-party-nobody because he is one of us, and still complain that Obama is preferred by blacks because of race. They would understand why Ammon would take up arms, but then not have sympathy for Treyvon being pursued by an armed vigilante.

 

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Philly Skyline: a new addition

It felt like going home. I didn’t grow up there, I don’t live there now, but it still feels like my home.

Philadelphia has a new spire in its skyline and the weekend I spent there recently was one of the more “Philly” sorts of weekends I could have imagined.

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It was full old friends, old buildings, new buildings, and new restaurants. But mostly it was that one new building.

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What once required a lot of car pooling and a three hour drive to DC is now a subway trip for them… and an all day flight for me.img_7283

it was worth the trip.

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Missionary Misadventures: Olympics

The ’96 Olympics in Atlanta brought out crowds like we had never seen and we had to capitalize. We called our display “Big True”, an 8 foot tall display of Arnold Friberg’s illustrations of the Book of Mormon. We set up this wall of images and used it to strike up conversations with the crowds of revelers. We thought it a great tool.IMG_5937

A Black man wearing a tunic and kufi walked by, paused, and then began looking closely at each individual image. He stood back a moment, then turned and looked me in the eyes.

“Excuse me, but where are all the Black people? How do you have images of hundreds of biblical people and not one Black person?”

Every one of the other missionaries took a big step backwards. They all looked down at their feet. No one was prepared, nor wanted, to field this question or deal with this man. A crowd of Judases.

He was looking right at me. He wasn’t smiling. Why me? Judases.IMG_6011

“Um… Well… You see these are images from the book of Mormon which happened thousands of years ago in the ancient Americas. It’s the story of two groups of people, one brown and one white. The two groups found it hard to get along. Eventually the brown folks killed off all the white ones, because the white people were wicked, leaving only the ancestors of the American Indians. The Black people didn’t show up till a couple thousand years later when the Europeans brought them over against their will.”

My companions looked at me in terror. The man looked at me, back at the images, then smiled and asked, “How much to buy one of those books?”

The other missionaries told me it was the worst answer they had ever heard.
I’m not convinced it wasn’t the best answer I had ever given.

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For Christmas I Want More Christ-like Behavior: from everyone

I like stuff, especially nice stuff. Sometimes I focus on “stuff” or things, because inanimate objects can be subjected to scrutiny without rebuffing the scrutinizer. People, or society, do no such thing and not only despise scrutiny, but too often dish it out in inhumane ways. I may be guilty of this myself, but for today’s Christmas wish I’m ignoring my own faults and look at others.IMG_1647

For Christmas I wish people with money would stop complaining about those with less.

Even those of us, especially those of us, who work hard yet still struggle to almost hold on to middle class, should stop complaining or worse yet blaming poor people for the problems of the world.passed out subway

I wish we, all of us, would stop that. It isn’t Christ like. This is Christmas.

Those in poverty are not without their faults, nor are the middle or the rich. What the poor are without is comfort and power. Why would those of us with something, no matter how little, resent those with less? The idea that the poor are the source of modern American troubles is not only false, but in my mind, a morally indefensible idea. WE, the collective we, including the rich and the middle are all guilty of moral corruption and I am tired of the demonization of those who inhabit the bottom rung of society.couchontheblock

I can think of nothing crueler, nothing as polar opposite of charity and kindness, than to abuse (in any way) those who suffer in poverty. For Christmas I wish we as a nation would be more Christ-like.

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