To pay homage to my former site “Inside Andre’s Head” (which served me well over the years) I thought I’d add another page to my blog that gives this sites’ readers an insight into exactly what goes on in my head.
The initial motivation for this page came from peeping out an entry by the Angry Independent over at one of my favorite blogs Mirror on America. A.I. went to great lengths to share his views on various topics. I thought I’d do the same. *I should point out that I tend to have opinions on just about everything. But this section provides a general overview of my stance on certain issues*:
Religion: I’m a Christian; particularly a practicing Baptist. Though I’ve been raised to draw pretty clear lines on where to stand religiously, I usually find myself walking in the middle of the road. I don’t exclusive subscribe to the looseness of the Emergment Movement; but I also avoid the narrow and unchanging views of the traditional church. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ the Son who was sent to Earth to die for our sins. I believe in the Holy Spirit; sent as a Comforter after Christ ascended back to Heaven. But that’s about where my belief most closely matches the traditional church.
Where my belief starts to deviate is how I see the Biblical role in our daily walk. For instance, I believe the Bible is meant to be interpretative (specifically the New Testament; upon which Christianity was formed), our understanding of God is vastly limited, and that no single religion has cornered the market on knowing who God is. In essence, I don’t believe in one true religion. How God is revealed, worshipped, and served in one faith is not superior or “more correct” than another, IMO. I should further note that I don’t believe science and religion are mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that the wonders of science are actually used as physical manifestations of God’s power (e.g. I believe the “Big Bang” actually did happen; right after God said “Let there be light…”).
Homosexuality: This is a prime example of where I try to balance science and religion. When I hear gay people indicating how they were born gay, about how people can’t control who they’re attacted to, or the illogicality of deliberately being gay in an overwhelmingly homophobic world, I have my doubts on the “choice” of being homosexual. How could (or why would) a person choose to go against nature? So instead of saying that people choose to be gay, I believe that their only choice comes in choosing the lifestyle. I believe the “choice” comes into play when a homosexual person decides to actually engage in the behavior. For me, it’s not the thought that counts, it’s the action. In a nutshell, a person isn’t what they are until they do what they do.
Abortion: I’m not against abortion, per se. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m an advocate. Again, this topic speaks to my middle-of-the-road mentality. With all of the preventative technologies that are available, I think people need to exercise more caution instead of allowing abortion to be a get-out-of-responsibility card. But rather than giving birth to a child without adequate preparation, or setting the stage for innocent children to live a tough life of foster homes, shelters, and broken households, I’d rather see abortion used.
I also don’t believe that the government has the right to determine what a woman does with her body. The decision to abort is usually difficult enough. Dealing with imposing legislative issues only compounds the matter. Besides that, I suspect that legislation against abortion will have similar outcomes as the alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s. Outlawing abortion would only lead to a black market of the practice with hack job doctors who can do more harm than legitimate and licensed doctors.
I hate the notion of abortion. But I also recognize that sometimes it’s the best option for all involved.
The Death Penalty: I’m completely against the death penalty under any and all circumstances. I often take flack for being for abortion (though I like to see it more as anti-Anti-Abortion), while being against the death penalty. That’s fine. Likewise, some of the anti-death penalty crowd are nevertheless willing to apply the practice of under some of the more gruesome instances. Again, that’s fine. I can’t fault them for that. But I’ll always believe that the practice is archaic, disparate, and not always the most effective way to prevent future crimes.
That said, I am more supportive of lifetime incarceration for a person who deliberately takes another life. Now to be clear: when I talk about incarceration, I’m not talking about the criminal life of luxury that many taxpayers believe they are financing. While I don’t believe that a person taking a life constitutes that person losing their life, I do think they deserve to lose their life of luxury, freedom, and convenience. It is possible to punish killers and rapists without deadly retaliation. If that means sticking murders in a dark hole and literally only feeding them bread and water, so be it. I’ve always believed that some fates can be worse than death. When some killers turn the gun on themselves, they are clearly indicating their interest in circumventing the justice that awaits them.
Besides all that, when I consider how poor and marginalized people are far more likely to face death (for various socially and legally unjust reasons), I simply cannot support the death penalty. Without having adequate legal representation (public defenders are usually a joke), being absent of evidentiary support from doctors and geneticists (especially with the emergence of DNA), and – frankly – not being right color puts poor and marginalized people in a greater position to die. We’ve seen hundreds of innocent men senselessly lose their lives just because they were not in a position to get decent representation, their skin was the wrong color, and people were too blinded and swift with their retribution to think logically.
The Economy: If there was one thing I wish I had a better handle on, it would be my understanding of the economy; a quantitative, dollars and cents understanding of the economy. But what I do know (and think) about the economy is not good. I don’t have to be a tenured professor in Economics to know that if you spend more money than what you generate, you are in trouble. I think that more economists should be directly involved with how our government acts fiscally. Leaving delicate matters like finance in the hands of interest driven politicians who know little – if anything – about economic affairs is a recipe for disaster.
Over the last decade as I have started following government activity more, I have seen all sorts of indiscretionary and unchecked spending commencing; which has taken its toll on the country. We are at the point where most of our debt is owned by other nations – leaving us exposed as a dependent child relying on other countries; many of whom have considerably less-than-favorable relationships with us. Day by day, we are falling behind other countries in manufacturing and innovative technology. I think this is reflective of the reality that our government only values education in certain areas and for certain people. Meanwhile, quality education abroad is offered as a basic service.
Education: Speaking of education and – at the risk of revealing my nerdiness – I love school. People who know me can attest to this. I’m a lazy person by nature, but I also commit myself to learning. My ultimate career goal is go into teaching. I love my job in administration; but I’d rather be teaching.
I don’t view education as a luxury or a privilege, but as a right. But it is up to us to take advantage of it when it presents itself. While I am forever mindful – and critical – of the growing inequities in the education system, I’ve seen people do far more with much less. Giving anything less than our best, regardless of the hand we have been dealt is an insult to people – past and present – who gave everything for some of the very opportunities that are right in front of us. Anything we accomplish or try to accomplish is in honor of them.
Further, I appreciate the blessings of education because of the opportunity to do things I may not have otherwise been able to do. I’ve presented in other countries, worked with researchers recognized all over the world, and met incredible people from all walks of life. It has been the perfect counter to growing up in a city defined predominately by one group and one culture.
It hurts me to see so many young people who have turned away from education. Even though I don’t think education absolutely has to come in the form of receiving a four-year degree at The University of so-and-so, learning should be an endless pursuit. There are TONS of success stories that are not directly attributable to what was learned in a classroom. In other cases, people actually started off in college, became bored or disenchanted with their collegiate experiences, dropped out, and still became ridiculously successful (Bill Gates and Kanye West immediately come to mind). But having the drive and discipline to learn the ins and outs of their crafts got them where they are. Is college for everybody? Maybe not. Can anybody learn? Absolutely!
Political affiliation: For the most part, I consider myself an Independent. For me, that is a perfect way of being progressive on some issues, moderate on others. I think most people tend to be this way as well. Politics has a distribution that falls in line with mostly everything else; about 5% of the population is made up of the extreme left; 5% of the extreme right; with the remainder of us somewhere in the middle. Admittedly, I tend to have liberal leanings; but mostly because I hate how the GOP has historically imposed their co-opted sense of right (hypocritically, at that) on the rest of us. Still, I don’t give Democrats an automatic pass. They can be – and often are – just as corrupt. Particularly, Democrats anger me when they play on minorities and women. Further, voters who feed this system of political ineptitude should also be brought to task. For most Americans, voting becomes less about issues and more about EVERYTHING ELSE. So while I would love to see the American voter receive referendum authority to vote on issues critical to our nation (i.e. whether or not we taxpayers can decide whether or not to pay for wars), I don’t trust the average voter to make a sound decison based more on facts than on emotions, fear, party loyalty, race, gender, and any number of non-pertinent factors.
My first taste in the political process took place in 1998; when I voted for the first time during the 1998 mid-term elections. Two years later during the 2000 Presidential, my faith in the Democratic and Electoral process was marred when an election was stolen without so much as a peep of opposition. But my hope was restored once again as I recently watched the first black person in the history of this country get elected as POTUS.
For the most part, I hate how our political system has been reduced to two major parties. This forces us to engage in the political process often against our interest. Rather than using our vote for the person who we truly think represents our interest (I’ll talk about that in a second), we vote for the lesser of the two evils.
I have little trust in our country’s political system. My frustration and distrust in the system does not prevent me from being involved and encouraging others to get involved. But I would be naïve to think that our pure interests in a democratic society are not trumped by the greed and corruption of the people we put in office. There is a serious lack of presence in American politics as the only legitimate players either have an (R) or a (D) by their names. While most other socially sophisticated countries have at least three viable political parties, we have been reduced to two. Yet, people continue to tout on the greatness of our democracy. Whatever!
I also hate how our political system operates off of a sham of a “representative bureacracy” system. In theory, the demographic composition of the bureaucratic structure should reflect the demographic composition of the public. That way, the preferences of a heterogeneous population will be represented in bureaucratic decision making. I get that. But I believe it is impossible for a person or a group of people to represent the interest of thousands…millions…of people. I hate the Electoral College system for similar reasons.
Race Relations: As I’ve said a thousand times before, race is one of my most notable interests. I think I love following race so much because it’s a complex issue to understand, but it can often be made easy. I believe in that white privilege exists; even if it is not always applied. To sum up that idea, Chris Rock put it best when he said white people wouldn’t want to trade places with him…and he’s RICH. There are simply certain benefits (sometimes hidden; sometimes more open) to being white in America. Racial reconciliation (should that ever happen; which it won’t) is based – in part – on whites admitting that.
Simultaneously, I tend to shy away from black victimization in favor of personal responsibility. The conservative part of me sees many, many black people (some are well known, but most are not) who have achieved success and earned social prominence despite living during some of the most shameful, destructive, and frightening times in our nation’s history. With opportunity after opportunity being presented, using racism and social ”unfairness” as a crutch is insulting to the progress of the past, damaging to progress of the current, and paralyzing for progress of the future. I don’t deny that individual and institutional racism still exist in great number. But equally as noteworthy are the increasing opportunities that rise above the stings of racism. Racism can no longer be used as a red herring for some of the destructive behavior in which minorities engage.
My tendency to be critical of my own people (black folks) doesn’t blind me to the fact that racism is alove and well. While most new-aged racism is often reflected in personal or intimate settings (i.e. in the privacy of a voting booth, amongst friends and families, or behind closed doors), merely navigating through literature, websites, and even listening to people shows that overt racism is just as prevalent in many circles as it once was.
Gender and sexism: When it comes to subscribing to particular gender roles, I’m often an anomaly; one of the things I love most about myself. I’ve cheered while watching Kill Bill and cried while watching Million Dollar Baby. When watching TV, it’s not unheard of for me to switch back and forth from Monday Night Football to Trading Spaces. I cook and clean; I play sports (I have one of the best jumpers to be found). I don’t believe that certain actions can only be attributable to a particular gender (or race, for that matter).
Though I’m in the socially unenviable position of being black, I am also a man. As such, I know that I enjoy certain unearned privileges. Though I tend not to be forgiving of women who put themselves in compromising positions, I realize that I often look at their situations from a jaded perspective. The first step is admitting, right?
Affirmative Action: When I was in high school and in my wannabe-Republican stage, I was vehemently opposed to Affirmative Action. I heard the “I should be accepted by my own merit” argument one time too many, and I adopted it as my mantra. But when I went to college, I started hearing the “Racism usually trumps merit” argument; helping me to quickly change my position. But after being a University of Michigan student smack dab in the middle of a heated nationwide case, it caused me to take an even closer look at my views on the program.
More than anything, I hate when I hear white people use the “less qualified minority” argument in opposition to Affirmative Action. (1) They only cite examples of “less qualified” minorities. They never criticize “less qualified” whites. For example, if a 4.0 student didn’t get into the University of so-and-so, they never bring the university to task for accepting the 3.2 white student who scored in the lower 50 percentile on the ACT. For that matter, they don’t focus on the white C+ student who got in because of legacy. No. They want to focus their frustration on the 3.4 black student who got in with the assistance of Affirmative Action. (2) I think that whites (perhaps fueled by their white privilege) assume that minorities who acheive certain feats (getting accepted to the school, getting the scholarship, getting the job) did so because of some assistance; and not because the minority actually earned their opportunity by actually meeting the requirements of that institution. That blantantly bigotry makes programs like Affirmative Action necessary in the first place.
Where I see Affirmative Action flawed is in its application. I don’t believe that whites should be excluded from certain opportunities just because of their skin color. I don’t believe in quotas. I don’t believe in “preferential treatment.” Using merit as a determinant is important. Likewise, economic need should be considered. The role of race, sex, or other physical attributes should be limited; except when trying to ”balance the playing field” by allowing more minorities the chance to legitimately compete with everyone else. There are cases where the role of minorities has been virtually non-existent, even if the institution is ostensibly committed to representing a diverse group of people. Until recently, the exclusive fraternity of (white) United States presidents was the shining example of this.
Immigration: As far as I’m concerned, the country as we know it was founded by immigrants. Opponents of immigration like to use the one criminal as an archetype for everyone else. They tend to forget the millions of honest, hard working people who came to this country looking for opportunities while placing more emphasis on the smaller subset engaged in terrifying activities (”terrorism” is up next. I haven’t forgotten about that…)
I don’t deny that it is important to guard “your” land. Who among us would leave our car keys in the ignition, the doors unlocked, and your car out in the open? So any steps the government takes on securing the border and monitoring those who do enter the country is OK with me. In fact, more preventative oversight is needed, IMO. I don’t mind waiting in airport lines a little longer if that ensures that a weapon won’t make it onto my flight. I don’t mind having my pointless phone conversations wiretapped if the next call that is intercepted is about blowing up the Sears Tower. I don’t mind an immigrant being required to go through several levels of certification before they are granted entrance into the country. To me, immigration is a fear-perpetuated issue brought about mostly because the attacks of Sept. 11 left people looking for bad guys. To an extent, I can accept that. There are some nasty characters who are (or could be) walking among us without a reasonable level of border patrol. But the majority of immigrants are decent, hard-working people looking for a better life. They should be rewarded with fairness, not punished with bigotry and exploitation (especially from corporations). As long as there are fair and equitable practices for ensuring streamlined immigration and a significant level of oversight, I don’t see the harm in opening up the borders for people to enter.
Health care: Our national health care system is a joke. In a nation that spends hundreds of billions of dollars in destroying life with our military might, it makes zero sense to me that we don’t invest as much in preserving and protecting life. Costs for prescription medicine are off the charts while the value/quality of hospitals and facilities are on the decline. For all the negative association attached to a nationalized health care system, it’s not necessarily a bad idea in the long run. I also think our nation should invest in quality hospitals, up-to-date equipment, disaster prevention/relief, and information technology.
Military: I am pro-military to be sure. But I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. I give it up to our soldiers as I think everyone should. But I think Americans should reexamine how we see our own military in comparison to our enemies. We refer to our troops as “heroes” and the enemy’s as “cowards”. We’re the good guys. They’re the bad guys. Sentiments like that only fuel anti-American opposition more, especially when it is not true. While we talk about the bravery our own troops, it takes just as much courage for a young man with his entire life ahead of him to strap a bomb on himself in support of an ideology. But as long as we disrespect the ideology of our enemy, they will hate us.
As it relates to building our military, I would personally never like to see the draft reinstated. But I feel like a draft – especially where no one is exempt – would decrease the hawkish behavior of many warmonger types. If the responsibility for fighting and dying in conflicts was shared by everybody (particularly those who are the main instigators), I think people would be less likely to promote war. After all, the military is often used to fight for and protect the interests of the wealthy. They should have a personal stake in the matter by putting on a pair of boots themselves.
I also believe there’s nothing wrong with relying on the occasional diplomacy to remedy situations. Unlike Cowboy Dubya who likes to shoot first (or better yet, have other people shoot for him), the odds of war, death, and destruction are too great without considering other less aggressive approaches first. Being the authority is not always about strength in arms. Morality and compassion are equally strong. Providing relief for battered nations is an option. Promoting fairness and national sovereignty are options. Every world disagreement doesn’t have to end in thousands of destroyed lives, hundreds of worldwide military bases, and billions of wasted dollars.
Wars on [fill in the blank]
Drugs: This has always been nonsencial to me. Though I’m not a drug user myself (I rarely even take presciption meds), I never supported the government’s attempt to regulate illicit drug use. Like alcohol and smoking cigarettes, I see drug usage as a self-destructive activity. But also like alcohol and smoking, I don’t think legislation should prevent a person from deciding what to do with their own bodies. The only instance where the government should get involved with illicit drugs is when taking them alters a person’s state of mind so much that they inflict harm on others. Besides that, prescription drugs provided by pharmaceutical companies are just as dangerous as anything you can get off the street.
Terrorism: Yet another example of failed federally-led efforts to quell certain undesirable enterprises. For one, terrorism is an ideology. It can not be defeated with tanks, bombs, and missles. In fact, I simply don’t believe that a “war on terror” is a conflict that can ever be won. Who among us would be brave enough to declare to the world that we have won the war on terror? Not me. Rest assured, the minute somebody declares victory over terrorism, another building will blow up. So instead of trying to use fear to keep Americans in check or labeling everyone and everything contrary to American ideologies as “terrorist threats,” we should looking to more innovative methods to pacifying one of the world’s most troubling issues.
This list of issues and topics is by no means exhaustive. As I suspect is the case with most people, I tend to have thoughts about an assortment of things; thoughts which are bound to find their way onto the pages of this blog at one point or another. This section is merely a snapshot.