Sunday, December 28, 2008

They Wanted And Fought For Then What We Take For Granted And Don't Care About Now

At the writing of this edition of THE CRITICAL THINKER, I am traveling again. This time I have just left one of my favorite cities in the United States, Atlanta, Georgia; more specifically, The King Center. This was at least my fourth time touring the historical site and each time I was moved as I looked at the photos and exhibits appreciating the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others who would not be satisfied with the status quo of the time.

As I moved through the center, I noticed how many of the adults both young and old were moved to tears as they saw photos such as that of the anguished face of Martin Luther King, Sr. (Daddy King) at the funeral of his son Martin Luther King, Jr. I also noticed the disgruntled expressions and actions of too many of our teenagers who had been brought to the center by their parents in the hopes of educating them about their past and to diminish their attitudes of entitlement; to help them understand why they cannot take for granted the liberties they have in 2008 almost 2009; to help them understand what the big deal is about Barack Obama becoming president. I witnessed parents attempting to get their children to take the exhibits seriously as they made every attempt to blow them off as just another boring meaningless tidbit that mom and dad wanted them to know. I watched as too many of our teenagers acted as if they were being tortured by having to read about the experiences or look at photos of their fore bearers who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement. I viewed all kinds of frowned faces and body language with attitude. Body language that said, “Can we hurry up so I can get on my cell phone?” “I’m missing Chris Brown’s latest video.” “I wish I was anywhere but here right now.” Oh yes, it was as if I had become a mind reader.

What came to me was here I am looking at exhibits and pictures of people who wanted “it” but could not have “it” and I was surrounded by children who could have “it” but were acting as if they didn’t want “it.” The “it” I am referring to are the freedoms and way of life that we now enjoy that did not exist for African Americans; Black people; Negroes, or whatever we referred to ourselves a little over fifty years ago.

Our youth must gain an appreciation for what it took to get to this point where they can come and go as they please; purchase anything they want to purchase from any store they would like to purchase it from; go to any school that they are academically prepared; and work in any job for which they are qualified. The recent election of President Barack Obama essentially removes any excuses for achievement by anyone of any color.

This critical thinker is humbled and oh so grateful for the actions of those being memorialized in places like The King Center because if it were not for the efforts of the people appearing in the photos and exhibits, I would not be able to do the things that I do so easily today. I am grateful to God for the spirit he placed in the Dr. Martin Luther Kings and others who died by acts of violence while preaching and promoting non-violence. Our teenagers must realize that they can never take for granted the lives lost in order for them to move forward, become successful, and enjoy what was constitutionally promised to them.

Looking forward to January 15, 2009.

Marc

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Am Thankful For My Mango Juice



“I am thankful for my mango juice” Kerry Ann Hall

Last year while traveling on vacation in Jamaica, I listened to three cousins (two who are growing up in the United States and one who is growing up in Jamaica) having a conversation about gifts they had received for either their birthday or for Christmas. The two children from the United States were complaining about the number of (or lack thereof) gifts they had received and/or the cost of the gifts. When the two asked their cousin from Jamaica what she had received, she let them know that she had received very few items but she was thankful even for her mango juice. I was as touched and blown away by her sincerity and gratitude expressed for something such as a glass of mango juice as I was by her cousins’ quizzical almost ungrateful amusement at the thought of being thankful for just “mango juice.”

I start this edition of The Critical Thinker with that story because like that child, I am thankful for my mango juice. Of course I am now speaking metaphorically with mango juice representing the smallest of what some would consider worth being thankful for. I believe the economic conditions that we are now facing are causing many to rethink just what they truly are thankful for. I believe many are now really beginning to understand that life is just not about “things.” I believe this economy is causing many to re-look at the value that we place on materialism and see that we truly can be thankful for our mango juice. We truly can be thankful for life, health, and strength. We can be thankful for every breath that we take; a smile; a hug; a kind word; things that for many would seem as trivial as the mango juice appeared to be to the two cousins living in the U.S. What! No IPODs, XBOX, PlayStation, Laptop, MP3, cell phone, Jordans, Timberlands, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Infinity, two hundred room mansions? Thankful for mango juice? Are you kidding me?

I keep telling folks that the older I get, the shorter my Christmas gift giving list gets; however, for the couple of times that I did venture out into the stores this Christmas season, they were virtually empty. Many stores were offering products at discounts of fifty percent off and more and still very few people were buying. It was as if the stores could not give their wares away. Folks are spending their money on the bare necessities leaving a lot of room for the appreciation of things that do not cost in life. Things like the ones I mentioned above.

So as I close this edition of The Critical Thinker, I wish everyone reading this a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Let’s all be thankful for our mango juice.

Marc

Monday, December 1, 2008

There Isn't That Much To Shop For In The World

Can you imagine someone losing his life for foolishness? A Wal-Mart employee who was making an attempt to open the door on "Black Friday," lost his life to pure and utter non-sense. There has not been the product or gift yet created that would motivate me to arise in the wee hours of the morning, stand in a large crowd, and then bum rush a door to get in and make a purchase. There just is not that much shopping in the world. There just is not that much of a "deal" in the world. Once again, it proves my point that for the most part we have "sucker" written on our materialistic foreheads. Many of the folks in this crowd believe it or not aren't there to shop. They are in the crowd just to be able to say they were in the crowd on Black Friday morning.

One of the reasons I majored in marketing/advertising during my undergraduate days, was my fascination with the influence that advertising/messaging had on people. I am still fascinated by how companies and corporations can actually create markets and needs that really aren't needs at all. What amazes me even more is that we fall for it. I can't emphasize enough my recommendation for folks to take the time to read the book Our Daily Meds to get a really good picture of how a market even in the health care industry can be created. Ailments that don't exist are created in order for people to buy drugs. I cite this example because the same phenomenon occurs every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The media hypes "Black Friday," and more folks than you would think; JUMP! Set their alarm clocks; get up; get dressed; wait in the cold; and then have the audacity to actually stampede (literally stampede) their way into a store. Shoppers gone wild!!! Not a whole lot of independent or critical thinking going on there.

What is it about this time of year that everyone has this need to express their love through giving that is so different from any other time of year? If you love someone, that love should be shown throughout the year and not just at Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever holiday you celebrate. If that were happening, there wouldn't be this great need to stampede a store to get someone a gift that he/she is probably going to return for one reason or another on December 26th (That's an entire Blog by itself that I will address in another edition). It's also interesting how there's all of this commotion over a holiday that many don't even want to celebrate for it's origin; the birth of Jesus Christ. Many choose to call it "XMAS." All of this stampeding to give a gift on a holiday that you want to "X" out. (Another Blog edition forthcoming).

Sadly, a man has lost his life and many of the shoppers gone wild were actually hurt. The question is; for what? You can rest assured you won't find this critical thinker stampeding any one's store, at Times Square for the ball drop on New Year's, or for that matter not even at the inauguration of the first African American President of the United States. I will witness history from home. One bit of advice that my parents always gave me was to "Think for yourself;" you can best believe that this critical thinker thinks for himself. My prayers go out to the family of the gentleman who lost his life doing his job at Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Forefront or Tail End?



If there are ever two areas that ought to be leading the way it is our religious organizations and educational institutions. In other words, church and school. Yet, if we really critically take a look at the way of the world today, you will find that church and school seems to lag behind the rest of the world. The school system is still working for the most part off of the agricultural model, hence the scheduling between 8:15 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. This schedule was done to accommodate farming. The fact that we have summers off is not so much for the heat as it was/is again to accommodate the farming schedule. We have gone through the agricultural age, industrial age, and on through the technological age into the informational age and we still run schools the same way we did over a century ago. Technologically we lag behind corporate and other sectors of society that school ought to be at the forefront.

Many churches are not much better. Still doing things the same old way because that's the way we've always done it; not realizing that the message does not change, however, the method of delivering the message may change. We still drive cars, just not Model T's. For some reason, we feel we can do any old thing any old kind of way in church. The rules that apply to other areas for some reason don't apply to church. In many instances we treat our jobs better than we treat our church responsibilities and our alledged love for God. In cities such as Newark, Paterson, and Jersey City, there are churches sometimes two doors away from each other, and certainly on each corner (Particularly in Newark) and yet our world does not seem to be changing. It certainly begs the question are we as serious about education and the souls of others as we say we are? Critically think about it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words


A picture is worth a thousand words. Not even this Critical Thinker have the thousand words that the above picture expresses.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

From Community Organizer to Country Organizer



During President-Elect Obama's presidential campaign he was oftentimes called "arrogant" and "elitist" because of the way he portrayed and carried himself from the time he set out to be President of The United States of America. (Gee, I wonder if the expectation was that he would be sagging, with his cap turned backwards or to the side and talking in Ebonics). This critical thinker finds these assertions interesting because in actuality Barack Obama was and is really about promoting excellence and it showed throughout his campaign. I even heard IMUS the shock jock known a couple of years ago for making disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, say that if Obama runs the country in anyway like he ran his campaign, that Obama and the country will be fine.

President Obama showed he was very familiar with the principal of "Act as if it were so" also known as "fake it until you make it," as he presidentially moved from venue to venue. He had his own seal; a seal that was displayed on his plane, his podium, his website, etc. etc. etc. He travelled abroad making speeches in places like Germany again looking and sounding very presidential. His acceptance speech for the nomination of the democratic nominee for president was in front of a setting that looked like the backdrop of the White House and his attire was always presidential as noted by Laura Ingram who said that Barack was always in a white shirt suit and a tie opposed to John McCain who was sometimes seen in a gray shirt or other interesting color combination.

Many of his pundits throughout the campaign touted how Obama was nothing more than a "community organizer," and what experience or know how did he have to run the country. They asked folks to name one achievement of Barack Obama and many played the stupid role and acted as if this man had accomplished nothing. O.K., let's go down that stupid road for a minute and say that Barack Obama had not accomplished anything; wouldn't it stand to reason that the fact that he had gotten as far as he did in a presidential race without accomplishing anything be an accomplishment in and of itself? Even the dullest critical thinker among us could figure out that Barack Obama is obviously an intelligent and qualified individual to be president of this country.

It's the skills dummy; the skills. The skills Barack Obama used to organize communities are transferable. As we were able to see him transfer these skills to run his campaign, he will undoubtedly transfer those same skills to run the country. So I am grateful to God that Barack Obama was a community organizer and I am even more grateful that God saw fit to elevate him from the "community organizer" to the "country organizer."

If I were President Obama, I would send a thank you card to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingram, Mark Levin, President George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and possibly even the milder Bob Grant for constantly putting his name into the energy field. They focused so much on what they did not want (Obama as president) that they did not do enough to place enough energy towards what they did want (a republican conservative candidate). Barack Obama received more advertising from these folks then he could have paid for with all of the funds he raised.

Barack Obama showed true focus and faith. He constantly acted and Felt As If The thing had already Happened (F.A.I.T.H.) Praise God for his works in this campaign.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Am Proud Of My Country Because It Feels Like Hope is Finally Making a Comeback

“People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and … for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” Michelle Obama

I join Mrs. Obama in being proud of my country as it elected its first African American president. People in this country indeed let it be known loudly and proudly that they were ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics. This presidential race was unprecedented in the excitement experienced by both young and not so young. President elect Obama was elevated to rock star status not of his choosing, however, he had the wherewithal to go with the flow and utilize it to his advantage. President Obama knows his marketing. He knows the first maxim of “Know your audience.”

President Obama used technology to his advantage and I would highly recommend that he continue to use technological vehicles such as email to stay in touch with the American people. The use of technology and communication played a vast role in his ability to become the 44th President of the United States. By all means he should use this vehicle or something similar to keep his finger on the pulse of what the American people are thinking. I found this to be a wonderful way to voice my support and concerns. Even if it was not read by anyone, at least it gave me an opportunity to express myself concerning the campaign. People need to feel as if they have a voice and whether they did or did not; at least they had the appearance or the feeling of being able to be heard. I don't know what it costs to keep an online tool such as the one President Obama used during his campaign up and running, but I highly recommend that people have an opportunity to be in touch with their government beyond the usual gov.org sites.

I have great expectations out of the Obama team. I intuitively believe that President Obama is going to do for the White House what Tiger Woods has done for golf, Reginald F. Lewis did for Business, Michael Jordan did for basketball and what Serena and Venus Williams has done for tennis. In all of these instances, when the barrier was broken, each of these individuals became champions extraordinaire in their own rights. I expect President Obama to do the same.

As I walked around town with my "Obama" cap on my head, it seemed African Americans in particular held their heads up higher, smiled a little brighter and had a little more pep in their step. Perhaps because the reality is setting in that from this point on when we tell our children they can be anything they want to be, we can tell them that and mean it. No more excuses. If President Obama can do, then I can do it too. Hey who knows, this critical thinker may be president of the United States one day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"Rah Rahs" Must Translate into Pulling The Lever or Pressing The Button on Election Day

We must make sure that all of the vocal support and excitement translates into people actually pulling the lever or pressing the button for Senator Obama. Unfortunately, we must keep it real and acknowledge that the fact that Senator Obama is an African American is a factor in this political campaign. I am speaking specifically of our European brothers and sisters who may on one level show outward and loud verbal support for Senator Obama and then when the rubber meets the road and it is time to actually cast the vote, they won't be able to bring themselves to actually vote for a black man. In other words, the reality and magnitude of what is happening kicks in.

I was watching Ted Koppel being interviewed by Charlie Rose and was happy to hear him bring up this same point. It could be the unseen surprise factor that could cause Senator Obama to lose the race even though on the surface it appears he is winning. I write this to bring this issue to the attention of Obama-Biden supporters around the country. We must do everything we can to ensure the authenticity of our supporters. Let's make sure we keep instilling in them that the lever or button being pressed or pulled for Senators Obama and Biden is what counts. Ted Koppel cited how Tom Bradley appeared to have had a large lead in his race for Governor of California and still not receive the necessary number of votes to win. Let's all be sure that does not happen to Senator Obama and Senator Biden.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Profits Over People

Senator John McCain says he will reform the tax code to offer more choices beyond employer-based health insurance coverage. Under Senator McCain's plan the option of employer-based coverage will remain and every family will receive a direct refundable tax credit - effectively cash - of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. His plan will allow families to be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider. Those obtaining innovative insurance that costs less than the credit can deposit the remainder in expanded Health Savings Accounts.

Senator Obama says he has a three part plan to build upon the strengths of the U.S. health care system, including innovative state efforts, and address its glaring weaknesses, such as affordability. Through partnerships among federal and state governments, employers, providers and individuals, Senator Obama believes his plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every year on medical expenditures by:

(1) Providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every
American
(2) Modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and
improve the quality of patient care
(3) Promoting prevention and strengthening public health, to prevent disease and
protect against natural and man-made disasters.

Senator Obama believes his plan will guarantee coverage for every American through partnerships among employers, private health plans, the federal government, and the states.

I provide an overview of both presidential candidate's health care plans to give us another possible alternative to critically think about (I am fully aware of that this question would require us to be in Utopia). What would happen if the entire medical industry had to roll back their pricing? (This question does not only apply to the medical industry by the way).

According to Senator Obama, health insurance premiums have risen 4 times
faster than wages in the past 6 years, and increasing co-pays and deductibles threaten
access to care. Many insurance plans cover only a limited number of doctors’ visits or
hospital days, exposing families to unlimited financial liability. Nearly 11 million
insured spent more than a quarter of their salary on health care last year. And over half
of all personal bankruptcies today are caused by medical bills. He goes on to report that one-quarter of all medical spending goes to administrative and overhead costs and reliance on antiquated paper based record and information systems needlessly increases these costs.

Isn't amazing how wages/salaries pretty much have flat lined while EVERYTHING ELSE has risen? Which brings me to my topic today. This culture of profit over people is what has gotten us into this economic mess that we are experiencing. Earlier this year, Exxon Mobil made history by reporting the highest quarterly and annual profits ever for a U.S. company. Similar to the health care industry, people are forced to choose between a necessity and a necessity. We have moved beyond choosing between a "want" and a "need," to having to choose between a "need" and a "need. Profit over people. Long story short; People are quickly finding themselves unable to keep these industries afloat. In another report earlier this year, New Yorkers unable to cope with rising prices are falling behind on their utility bills, and a rising number are seeing their service shut off. This is not an exclusive issue to New York.

Someone please explain the math to this critical thinker. How can wages flat line while EVERYTHING ELSE increases? For a real interesting look at one possible reason that the cost of pharmaceuticals are so expensive, I recommend reading the book OUR DAILY MEDS by Melody Peterson.

Shall we talk about pork programs in government? Even in the recent bailout; an additional 150 Billion dollars in pork.!!!! Nah... We'll save that for a future submission.

Maybe the situation that we are in economically is God having His version of a Boston Tea Party. Something to critically think about.


Marc

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's Experience Got To Do With It?

Superstar songstress Tina Turner asked the question, "What's Love Got to Do With It," and throughout this presidential campaign we keep hearing a similar question concerning leadership experience. What's experience got to do with it or in Senator Obama and Governor Palin's case, what does the lack of experience got to do with it?

Critical thinkers, think about it; we have had so called experience in the White House now for eight years and I don't see where it (experience) has gotten us much. I cannot do justice to the George W. Bush resumes as the following websites do, so I will just share them within this blog and allow you to go to them and check them out yourself. They are as follows: (Please be sure to take a look; you'll get the point.)

www.buzzflash.com/contributors/03/04/23_resume.html

www.snopes.com/politics/bush/resume.asp

www.cronus.com/bushresume

www.lookingglassnews.org/viewstory.php?storyid=6494

I will end this blog with the lyrics from You Haven't Done Nothin' written by none other than the maestro Stevie Wonder. I'm sure you'll agree that after reading this edition of THE CRITICAL THINKER, that experience does not mean a whole hill of beans. Ask yourself, can we get any worse with little to no experience than what we have gotten with experience? In short, given what we have had WITH EXPERIENCE, it really is a non-issue. Enjoy vintage Stevie Wonder sans the Jackson 5 doo wops.

We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
cause if you really want to hear our views You haven't done nothing!
It's not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else
And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nothing!
We would not care to wake up to the nightmare
That's becoming real life
But when mislead who knows a persons mind
Can turn as cold as ice
Why do you keep on making us hear your song
Telling us how you are changing right from wrong
cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nothing!
Thinking Critically once again,
Marc

Friday, August 29, 2008

Why Is The Process Only Questioned When Anyone Other Than a Caucasian Benefits?

I found it very interesting the other day when talk show host Mark Levin questioned the electoral process that would allow Barack Obama to get this far. I found it interesting because Barack Obama has followed the same electoral process that every other candidate has followed since its inception.

When I heard Mr. Levin's commentary questioning the electoral process, I had an immediate flashback to the O.J. Simpson trial when Mr. Simpson was found to be "not guilty," and the jury selection process was questioned. The funny thing about this questioning is that it never seems to occur until the process favors someone other than a Caucasian. Mr. Obama like Mr. Simpson followed the same rules as their Caucasian counterparts and advanced within the rules and when they did, the process was then questioned. It's funny how the process is never questioned when our Caucasian brothers and sisters are advancing. The same process that allowed George W. Bush to become president is the same process that has allowed Barak Obama to come has far as he has. The same process that allowed countless Caucasian men off the hook for murders that the jury knew the person had committed (particularly against an African Americans) is the same process that allowed O.J. Simpson to go free.

It seems that as long as the rules are benefiting Caucasians, the rules can remain the same, however, anytime the same rules begin to benefit others, than the rules have to be changed. I guess that's the great white American way.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Would Have "Thunk" It?

HOUSTON - Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation.

Is there anything left to say? DUH? Gee? Golly Gee Wow!!! In the words of the little boy on the television program The Little Rascals, "REMARKABLE." Yes, I welcome your remarks as a critical thinker.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Aren't These Discussions Being Held at a Higher Level?

On last Saturday while attending a funeral repast I sat around a table with at least six other astute, articulate, intelligent African American young men. Their titles included a former school board president, pastor, supervisory special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement, corporate manager, and a teacher. Along with being the author of The Critical Thinker, and radio talk show host of The Reading Circle, I am a school administrator. I am sharing all of this to help you the readers understand that the learned discussion taking place was being discussed by an impressive panel. A part of the discussion included the fact that African Americans in general consume far more than they own. We discussed how our dollars fail to circulate within our community or to our African American owned businesses. We discussed several reasons for this occurring and in that discussion developed the thoughts for this edition of The Critical Thinker.

Something that has always mystified me is the fact that this type of discussion is not being held at a round table comprised of leaders of major African American organizations such as the National Baptist Convention, the heads of the “Big Eight,” fraternities and sororities, Masonic orders, Beauticians Associations, and so forth and so on (http://www.aawc.com/Zaao.html). It seems to me that the leaders of these organizations would get together and come up with a strategy to leverage their collective membership numbers. One idea that has always crossed my mind was the building of convention centers for all of the groups to use by pooling monetary resources from each organization. Every year each group holds a 3-5 day convention usually rotating cities around the country. The conventions are usually held at a major hotel convention center. My idea would work like this. Each organization would suspend holding their respective conventions for a 5 year period; however, the same convention fees that would normally be collected from the members would still be assessed. The money would be placed in an escrow account and would be ultimately used to build the first convention center. It could be in the middle of the country; Kansas City, Missouri. Once the first site is completed, each group would then hold their conventions at that site making it self supporting. The profits generated from the first site would then fund the second site on the east or west coast. As the second center is completed, conventions would now be held at both and so on and so on and so on, until we have convention centers for our use all around the country.

Can you imagine the combined leveraging power and profit potential of groups which include the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. the nation’s oldest and largest African American religious convention with an estimated membership of 7.5 million, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. with its 175,000 initiated members, along with the membership numbers of all of the other African American organizations? Currently each group does their own thing making the Marriott’s, the Hilton's and others even more prosperous. With our collective numbers, why don’t we have our own? If the Marriott’s and the Hilton’s refused to host our conventions, where would we go? Do you think Ford, Honda, Nissan or General Motors would listen to the combined leadership of these organizations concerning doing business with their membership body? If CEO’s of these companies are smart (and they are) they would.

I end this edition, by asking the question, why are not the heads of these major African American organizations having the type of conversation that me and my six buddies were having around the table at a funeral repast? Think about it. While you are thinking, visit www.rushmoredrive.com; I will be sharing more about this site in my next edition of The Critical Thinker.

I welcome your comments and debate.

Marc

Friday, July 11, 2008

God Takes Care of Babies and Fools

"See, Barack [has] been talking down to black people . . . I wanna cut his nuts out" Reverend Jessie Jackson



It has been said that God takes care of babies and fools. As Reverend Jessie Jackson is not a baby, as a critical thinker, I'm sure you can figure out the rest. His remarks on a "hot mike" are even too much for this critical thinker to grasp. Once again we have evidence of what I shared with you in a previous edition of THE CRITICAL THINKER (see What Is It About The Truth http://thereadingcircleblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-is-it-about-truth.html) concerning hard truth being spoken by an African American man about the plight of African Americans and the need for us to take responsibility for ourselves and another African American man standing around blaming the "white man" for all of our ills. Now don't get me wrong, this piece is not in defense of "da man," it is in defense of African Americans who have awakened and become conscious enough to understand and speak out concerning what is needed for African Americans (or any race for that matter) to move ahead. Just as when Bill Cosby offered his views and was criticized and ostracized, here goes Jessie Jackson of all people looking to castrate a brother for telling it like it is for us (African Americans) to move forward.

Obama speaks the truth with his urging greater emphasis on fatherhood, and his telling of students to stick with school and forget about careers as rap stars or pro basketball players. The drop out rate statistics that Senator Obama quoted were correct. The single family home statistics were correct. The call for African American men and women to be responsible for their choices and actions was also correct. It is for these reasons that I cannot understand what in the world Reverend Jessie Jackson was referring to when he says Barack is talking down to black people. What black people is he referring too? I have heard Senator Obama on several occasions and have yet to feel that I was talked down to. If anything, I am inspired by his eloquence, word mastery and public speaking skills.

The problem is, Jessie Jackson thinks it's all about him. He really needs to realize that it is not about Jessie and it has never been about Jessie. Reverends Jackson and Abernathy were always jealous in my view of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and both thought they were heir apparent to the throne of the civil rights movement. Both wanted the limelight and spotlight given to Dr. King. Neither were able to become a Martin Luther King, Jr. Reverend Jackson is all about photo opportunities. If you'd like to test my theory, pick up a copy of any issue of Jet or Ebony magazines without his picture in it. I dare you to find one. For some reason he appears in nearly every issue. The green eyed monster of envy within Jessie has reared its ugly head again now as Senator Obama is in the spotlight.

I am having trouble even thinking of the descriptive words to call Jessie's comments. In fact words like ridiculous, ludicrous, absurd, stupid, crazy, insensitive, outlandish, etc. etc. etc.. just won't do. Jessie of all people knows the power of words and symbolism. He knows of the words that contain a negative history and are racially charged for African Americans such as lynching and castrating and he has the audacity to sit there and say, "I wanna cut his nuts out." Although Reverend Jackson has done some good despite being motivated by fame and fortune, I have never been a big Jessie Jackson fan because I always thought he was a Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wannabee.

While I felt he lost some credibility with the revelation of his child outside of his marriage, I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this last episode of Reverend Jackson gone Wild is too far across the Mason-Dixon line. I heard a radio show host joke the other day that Mason said to Dixon, "We have to draw the line somewhere." Well this is where this critical thinker draws the line. I have had it with Reverend Jessie Jackson. He needs to wake up and understand that we all must take responsibility for our choices in life. The white man did not force him to make those comments about Senator Obama; Jessie made a choice to make them. Since Reverend Jackson is not a baby and it appears that he is taken care of by God.............Have you figured it out yet?

Welcoming your response and debate,

Marc

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What Does It Matter To You?

"I think any woman who's questioned about her interest in celebrity should turn and ask her husband, 'Why do you want to watch the Yankees-Red Sox baseball game? What does it matter to you? It is man chasing a ball around a field. It is of zero consequence to you,'" she said. "And that's sort of the same as wondering, you know, if Jessica Simpson is dating Tony Romo." Janice Min, Editor-in-Chief, Us Weekly magazine


"IS Z OR ISN'T Z?"; "THE ROCKET'S LOVER SPEAKS OUT"; "CLEMENS' SECRET AFFAIR" are just three headlines gracing the front of the DAILY NEWS over the past few weeks. The first being the caption under a picture of rapper/businessman Jay Z. The caption read, "The story was that Jay-Z and Beyonce tied the knot this weekend. So where's the ring? Not on his finger in midtown yesterday. (Jay-Z's ring finger on his left hand was actually in an inset circular enlarged photograph). The other two trailblazing news headlines speaks for themselves. The question is, why do we care? Who gives a hoot if Jay-Z and Beyonce were really married or not other than them?


Editor Min's response above is about the closest thing I've come across to a somewhat logical answer, and then again, I might ask the same question she asked concerning why are we so fascinated by watching grown men chasing balls around on a field? I once had a professor that made the statement (I'm paraphrasing) that only a crazy person would sit and watch a baseball game or any game for that matter. At the time I thought he was the crazy one and said to him, how dare you make such a statement and asked him what did he mean? He went on to explain that he had nothing against the sports or games, however it made more sense to him for people to actually go out and play the games (and get some exercise)as opposed to just sitting around mindlessly watching someone else play (not to mention the salaries the players are making to be watched, that's an entirely different CRITICAL THINKER edition.) I now understand what my professor was talking about and Ms. Min's comments above brought his comments back to me. My father being the practical man that he was (yes, a critical thinker too) would always say if they stopped playing baseball tomorrow, would it make a difference to the world? Probably not. Something to think about.


ABC NIGHTLINE did a segment on our fascination with celebrities http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=4884806&page=1 where Ms. Min was interviewed concerning the popularity of US Weekly magazine and our having to know what is going on in the lives of "celebrities." Even after watching the well done piece, I am still left questioning, WHY DO WE CARE? Are our lives that horrible that we have to live vicariously through someone else or is it misery loves company and we are happy that horrible things are happening to the rich and famous? Do we have nothing else to do other than to watch stupid reality television shows (mindless activity again....hey it's my blog) and fawn over who is doing who or who left who or who is back with who? Must we know who wore what color underwear (or if they were wearing underwear) to what awards show. My God, how long was Jennifer Aniston on every cover of every magazine because of her divorce from Brad Pitt?


If you really look at this critically, one must come to the conclusion that the amount of energy wasted on what someone else (who we don't even know personally) is or is not doing just does not make sense. I must say that I agree with Ms. Min when she tells the women to ask their husbands, "what does it matter to you," and that's my point exactly. What Does It Matter?


Critically yours,

"Isms" vs. Issues

As a talk radio show host, I tend to listen to a lot of talk radio to hear various host styles, listener commentary and of course the latest topics of discussion. One day last week I was listening to one of a selection of talk radio shows that I listen to and heard the host talking about how women were calling into the show and stating that Senator Hillary Clinton lost the presidential nomination due to "sexism." He like I, found this to be extremely interesting and even commented that Senator Clinton had made some major blunders especially where her credibility was concerned concerning her deplaning under sniper fire when the video tape showed her and Chelsea deboarding the plane smiling and waving. He also mentioned some other campaign mishaps and factors that were more likely to have contributed to her losing the race other than the fact that she was a woman.


I wondered as I listened to the women lamenting about the pervasiveness of sexism, if we have indeed reached a time in our history where "racism" actually placed second to "sexism." A black man was chosen over a white woman. Historically, this has not been the case. In general, a white woman tended to always be selected prior to a black man. One example of this was a white woman being sent into space before a black man. I don't recall hearing anything about sexism or racism at that time. When Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the running mate of Walter Mondale over Jessie Jackson, who had garnered a vast number of votes during that period as a presidential candidate, I don't recall hearing anything about sexism at that time. Think about it, was America any more ready for a woman vice president at that time than it was for a black vice president? Yet, Mr. Mondale took the chance on an unknown Ferraro vs. a known Jackson.


This issue of THE CRITICAL THINKER is in no way an attempt to make light of sexism or racism. They are both "isms" we can do without. It is however, a chance for us to critically think about where we have been, where we are and where we are going. In this race we had both "isms" at play. A black man running against a white woman to be President of The United States. Potentially the first time in the history of this country for either. Which again shows how behind the times we here in the United States are; other countries have had women and black leaders and it's not an issue. I've always advocated for women to have the same opportunity as men with the only distinguishing factor being the most qualified person for the job. When women were "burning their bras" in the 70's, I was in support of that, thinking even then why shouldn't a woman be able to climb telephone poles, drive trucks or run companies just a a man does if she is qualified? It's the same position I take in terms of a person's race becoming confused with his or her qualifications. Neither race or gender ought to be considered as a qualification and yet in this country for many years it has. So it was interesting indeed to see racism square off against sexism.



Now that Senator Obama has become the democratic nominee, the proverbial rubber meets the road. Throughout this general election process we will truly see our "true colors" shining through. Will women who switched to the democratic party to vote for Hillary switch back to the republican party? Will the same folks who voted for Obama during the race for democratic nomination vote for him now that he is the nominee? Will women vote for McCain out of spite because they feel their candidate lost due to sexism? For me, these questions make me wonder if the electoral process is nothing more than an entertaining popularity contest. Women only voted for Hillary because she is a woman; blacks only voted for Obama because he is black. Perhaps, even men only voted for Obama because he is a man and lastly, white men voted for McCain because he is a white man. Where do the issues come into play here? With all of the nonsense about sexism and racism, I ask, what about the issues? The issues stupid, the issues.

We are in one of the worst economic times in a long time and all we can concern ourselves with is whether or not the president will be a black man, white woman or business as usual white man. We have more issues than we can shake a stick at and we are quibbling over race and gender. When are we going to wake up and hold our politicians accountable for addressing issues? Issues that matter to us all and not just a few. We cannot afford to waste our votes based on gender or race. We must choose the best person for the job; period. As we go to the polls throughout the remainder of the year, let's be sure to give some critical thought to our decisions as we pull those levers.

Critically yours,

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do More With Less! Pay More; Get Less!

"And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore? Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task." In other words "Do More With Less! Pay More; Get Less!

I started with this story from the Bible (Exodus 5:6-19) to illustrate our current state of affairs concerning two words that begin with the letter "E;" Expectations and Economy. Expectation because like in the biblical story above, and in this economy, we are expected to do more with less. We are expected to pay more and receive less. While Accounting was not one of my better subjects, I do know a little about the balance sheet and neither of these adages of do more with less or pay more and get less make sense. As a critical thinker, MORE and LESS are polarities......opposites. The sad reality is, in this economy we are paying a lot more and receiving a lot less. Have you done the math on the amount of gas you receive for the same amount of money you handed the attendant last week? How about the reduced services or product quality you received lately for an additional amount of money? Something has got to give. Everything with the exception of the paycheck/salary can't keep increasing at this rate without the bottom falling out. This is already being seen in many markets; housing; banking; utilities; auto, etc. etc. etc.

At some point, U.S. businesses and economists are going to have to figure out a way to significantly roll back prices across EVERY industry simultaneously if the largest class, which is the middle class, is going to survive. Of course this would mean less profits for the companies and less bonuses for the chief executives, so the likelihood of this voluntarily happening is slim to none. However, things are reaching a point where it won't have to be voluntary; it will be forced as a result of very few people having enough money to pay for anything. A devalued dollar will only go so far. As a critical thinker, stand back and watch the ripples. See how everything is connected and how what impacts one directly impacts us all indirectly. Note the number of job losses because products are not being purchased therefore doing away with the need for production (ripple). The more job losses, the more people without money (ripple). The more people without money, the less money spent (ripple) and the vicious circle continues on and on and on.

I was watching my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) a few weeks ago and the commentator made the comment that the United States is on it's way to becoming the "richest third world country" on the planet. Based on what I am seeing and hearing, I couldn't agree more. Reread the biblical story at the top of this blog and see if you'll agree. Give it some critical thought and then write your elected officials to do something about it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Signs Of The Times: Does This Make Sense To You?





Everyone has seen the two signs above at one point or another. The critical thinking question is, has anyone thought about how we arrived at a point where such signs are necessary? Like for UnderDog (Some of you are old enough to remember UnderDog) alas, this sounds like a job for The Critical Thinker. Think about it. We actually need signs to tell supposedly rational and intelligent human beings to wash their hands after using the bathroom or turn off their cell phone when coming into a movie, church or classroom. Wouldn't you think this would happen naturally or out of common courtesy?

When you go to many movie theaters now, there is at least a thirty to sixty second spot during the previews asking moviegoers to silence their cell phones. As far as these cell phones go, no one can make me believe that we have to be accessible to everyone at all times. The inevitable question; "What did we do before cell phones?" Doesn't it seem strange that common sense doesn't "kick-in" and instruct one to turn off his or her cell phone in church? Then again, common sense is not too common these days. If I'm at church, or at a movie, or in class, I don't want to be bothered by the phone. (I don't want to be bothered with it half of the time when I'm not somewhere that requires my attention.) Not to mention, those close to me, know the hours that I would be at church or in school and ought to have sense enough not to call me during those times.

To prepare for the writing of this blog, it was amazing to me the number of sites that was available offering these signs for sale to businesses. I was in a large stationary chain store the other day and at the top of their removable adhesive plaques selection was............ you guessed it; the two signs above. It got me to "critically thinking," hence the creation of this blog you are reading right now. I'm sure many of you will read this and think it is a trivial matter, however, really give these two signs and what they mean some thought. We don't have sense enough to wash our hands after using the bathroom (especially employees at restaurants no less) nor turn off our cell phones at appropriate times. Not doing either would suggest to me that we are either stupid, stubborn, or both. Or could it be that we just don't give a damn? Things have gotten so bad that there are entire businesses created to make signs that remind us of what we ought to do naturally. (I know. I know. That's why this blog is called The Critical Thinker.)


So the next time you are dining sufficiently at your favorite restaurant, just think that some employee might have just used the lavatory and might not have washed his or her hands if it were not for that little sign placed above the sink......hmmmm, some thought. Or had it not been for the foresight of the movie industry, at the climax of that movie you were dying to see, someones personally selected ring tone would be ringing forever (because no one can ever find their phone when it is ringing disruptively) causing you to miss the moment. Yes, friends that's where we are. We must idiot proof everything.



As always, I welcome your comments.


Marc

Friday, March 21, 2008

Burned Up With the Overuse of the word "Outrage"

Is everyone "Outraged?" You would think so if you listened to the news. Not being a betting man, I'll bet anyone reading this blog that if you watch the news today or tonight you'll hear one or more of the anchors report that some community or someone is "outraged." Outraged at this.... Outraged at that.... See www.google.com/trends and type in "outrage." You'll see a graph showing how often the word appeared in the news.

The word outrage can definitely be added to the list of overused words. It's to the point that I cringe every time I hear it used on the news. It seems as if everyone is in an outrage about something.

Let's take a look at some other words we can use in the place of the infamous "outrage": abuse, affront, atrocity, barbarism, damage, desecration, enormity, evildoing, harm, hurt, indignity, inhumanity, injury, insult, mischief, misdoing, offense, profanation, rape, rapine, ravishing, ruin, shock, violation, violence, wrongdoing, blowup, boiling point, cat fit, conniption, conniption fit, flare-up, fury, huff, hurt, indignation, mad, resentment, ruckus, shock, stew, storm, wrath, abuse, affront, aggrieve, boil over, burn up, defile, deflower, desecrate, fire up, force, ill-treat, incense, infuriate, injure, insult, jar, madden, maltreat, mistreat, misuse, oppress, persecute, raise cain, raise hell, rape, ravage, ravish, scandalize, shock, spoil, violate, whip up, wrong

Now, of course you will have to select the correct word for the situation, however, I'm sure many of these words can be used in the place of "outrage."

More importantly though, when will we as a people not have to be in outrage? When will we do away with the things that are causing all of this outrage? Racial strife, economic concerns, miseducation, thuggery and thievery, ignorance, sexual misconduct, underemployment, etc. etc. etc. That question won't be answered in this blog. For now though, would someone please clue our news writers and anchors in on their overuse of the word "outrage."

Critically thinking in Andy Rooney style; I welcome your thoughts.

What is it about the "Truth?"

Pronunciation: \ˈtrüth\Function: nounInflected Form(s): plural truths \ˈtrüthz, ˈtrüths\Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English trēowth fidelity; akin to Old English trēowe faithful — more at trueDate: before 12th century1 aarchaic : fidelity, constancy b: sincerity in action, character, and utterance2 a (1): the state of being the case : fact (2): the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3)often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b: a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c: the body of true statements and propositions3 a: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality bchiefly British : true 2 c: fidelity to an original or to a standard4capitalized Christian Science : god— in truth : in accordance with fact : actually

Needless to say, I went to the source for the definition of the word “Truth,” and that is none other than Merriam-Webster. The one source we look to when we are attempting to define a word used in our language. I decided to look up the word truth because so many of us have such difficulty dealing with or hearing it. This occurred to me as I listened to African Americans cry out against Bill Cosby because of the “truth” he spoke concerning the plight of black folks. As he eloquently described a prescription for our pathway to a clean bill of health, we became angry, choosing to stay in denial rather than admit that he was correct in his diagnosis. Many of us have even gone so far as to say that Mr. Cosby is not black enough to be writing a prescription. He speaks of this in the introduction in his latest book COME ON PEOPLE: ON THE PATH FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS co-authored by Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. (Great book by the way).

It amazes me how we become angry with the messenger rather than take the corrective action needed to make things better. It doesn’t matter if the messenger is within the same racial group or not. In fact, we get even more angry when our own tell us the truth. Mr. Cosby is not the first and unfortunately won’t be the last. Whether you agree with Minister Louis Farrakhan or not, he too in many of his messages attempt to help African Americans understand what we must do to become self sufficient. Again we balk.

So as I write this, another messenger by the name of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is being villified for telling the truth. While my aforementioned examples dealt with how the truth is taken from within ones own race, this is an example of how folks of other racial groups take the truth about them and their actions. There is nothing said by Rev. Wright that can be considered inaccurate. At one time or another the things that he so fervently speaks about or has spoken about did occur and in many instances still occur. Once again, the truth hurts.

Sadly, the truth spoken by Dr. Wright is now being used in an attempt to derail Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Incredibly, alleged pundits grasping at straws are using Senator Obama’s church membership and his pastor’s sermons as a reason for him to not be considered for the presidency. How many times have I heard this weekend that Senator Obama was a member of this church for over 20 years? How he sat in the pews and didn’t walk out during Rev. Wright’s explosive sermons. That his not walking out signified his agreement with what was said. When you think about this, it is ridiculous on many fronts. I can not even take the time within this blog to address the numerous idiotic aspects. Are we saying that preachers and ministers have to censor what they say for the fear that everyone in their congregation will agree with EVERYTHING they say? Are we saying that Senator Obama doesn’t have a mind for himself and can decipher what he chooses to agree or disagree with? Must congregants who sit under pastors week after week become concerned that one day they will be kept from a position because of what their pastor preached? If I choose to run for president one day, will I be held accountable for what my dynamic pastor says?

Many are saying that Senator Obama is misleading the public by calling for racial unity while at the same time looking to Rev. Wright as his mentor. That is utter nonsense. Senator Obama is well capable of thinking for himself. Think about this….if we apply the model we are using for Senator Obama and his association with his pastor, the members of the Senate and Congress have been sitting in the pews under the leadership of President Bush for eight years…… My point exactly; now you see the silliness of the current assertion.

It would be a shame if Senator Obama loses support over such a non-issue; a politcial subterfuge. He is no more under the influence of Rev. Wright when it comes to decision making about the United States than John F. Kennedy was under the Pope. I close quoting my pastor when he says “The truth hurts, but it helps.”

I welcome your thoughts.