Category Archives: People

2016: The Year In Review

This has been my mantra for the year.

Well, beloved, we’ve come to the end of another year, which means we’re about to be inundated with “Year in Review” posts/articles/programs. And, yes, I’m doing one, too. “Year in Review” posts aren’t what you’d call a regular feature here. Unlike my annual Thanksgiving posts, I haven’t written one of these since 2012. I’m not exactly sure why, it’s not like the past four years have been uneventful or anything. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m writing this one. Probably because I figure a post about 2016 will get some views and, like all writers, I’m a bit of an attention whore.

The consensus view seems to be that 2016 has been a rather shitty year. After all, it’s seen:

  • An orange-hued shit demon take advantage of the pain and fear of a large swath of the country to become President of the United States,
  • A bunch of idiotic yahoos in my home state of North Carolina pass an obviously discriminatory law and then commit political suicide by standing behind it in the face of overwhelming opposition both in the state and abroad,
  • The most deadly mass shooting in U. S. history, in which 49 people were killed because of their sexual orientation and/or gender expression.
  • Unarmed black men shot down by the police, mostly for the crime of just being black (that’s not new, but it was a big part of this past year).
  • An election that may have hacked by the Russians. At the very least, they influenced the voting toward the candidate they preferred.
  • And the death of a beloved celebrity every time we turned around.

Not exactly the best year on record, huh?

Still, it hasn’t been all bad. 2016 has also seen:

  • Working class people find a new (unlikely) champion in a 78 year old Jewish socialist. Now, if the Democratic Party (who likes to think of itself as “the party of the people”) would just get on board.
  • An announcement that Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman would be replacing former president (and slaveholder) Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. This is good because not only was Jackson was a slave owner, he was an asshole.
  • Jabba the Hut stunt double, Roger Ailes, resign as chairman and CEO of FoxNews. Ailes did so amidst a hail of accusations that he has a proclivity for making lewd remarks and/or advances to his female employees. And, punishing them when they reject him.
  • Pat McCrory lose his job as Governor of North Carolina to Roy Cooper. The best part is that McCrory engineered his own downfall with the hated HB 2, which was actually supposed to hurt his opponent, Cooper. Ain’t karma a bitch?
  • Samantha Bee debut her most excellent show, Full Frontal, on TBS. Bee, smart woman that she is, blew off the industry standard  live interview portion of the news parody format and stuck with her strength, scathing, intelligent satire. And, the television world is better for it.
  • A new Star Wars movie come out. It’s called “Rogue  One” if you’ve been living under a rock. I’m going to see this weekend and I can’t think of a better way to ring out this year.

Do these things offset losing David Bowie and Carrie Fisher in the same year? Probably not, but you’ve got to accentuate the positive. Even when the positive is not all that great.

It’s been said that 2016 has been the worst year ever. But, the truth is, it hasn’t. Not by a long shot. We’re not engaged in a global conflagration, an entire race isn’t in the process of being exterminated, there isn’t a plague killing off a significant portion of humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s been fun and I’d like to do it again. Just that it’s not been that bad. Hey, most of us even survived it. I’m not giving odds on 2017, though. I have a feeling it’s going to be a motherfucker.

Who’s It Hurting?

Larry the Cable Guy
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had about all I can stand of Dan Whitney’s faux southern redneck pose.

On Dan Whitney, Political Correctness and Trans Issues

For reasons unbeknownst to me now, there was a time when I found Dan Whitney’s faux southern redneck pose (aka Larry The Cable Guy) funny. I shouldn’t have; even if you leave out all the racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQ crap he spews, it’s still offensive to southerners because it paints us as semi-literate bumpkins who glory in their ignorance. And, isn’t that a lovely stereotype?

Whitney defends his schtick by saying it gets laughs. Once, to illustrate this point, he told one of his jokes as Dan Whitney, sans accent and ignorance and it fell flat. Then, he told it again as “Larry” and the audience ate it up. Basically, he’s taking the easy way out. Instead of writing better material, he chooses to pander to his audience’s baser instincts. When you have the kind of voice Whitney does, using it this way is deplorable.

What Whitney is doing is playing on working class white folks’ fear of change, and railing against “political correctness” is one of the best ways of doing so. Political correctness, of course, is the term certain people like to use when they demonize others for, basically, not being a dick. And, by “not being a dick”, I mean “not using language that offends others”. It never ceases to amaze me that some folks think this is a bad thing.

Unfortunately, being “politically incorrect” isn’t just a part of his “Larry, the Cable Guy” persona; it’s a part of being Dan Whitney. Last month, on his Sirius XM “Weekly Roundup” program, he went off on a political rant which included his disgust with people who are transgender, saying “Look, if you have a penis, you’re a boy. If you have a vagina, you’re a girl, That’s how it is.” Seriously? The fact that this guy gets standing ovations when he performs just makes me sad.

Now, I could list all sorts of valid research to counter Whitney’s claim; god knows there’s plenty of it out there. But, most likely, I would be wasting my breath because a lot of the people who agree with this sort of thing aren’t swayed by research or science, or pretty much anything else. So, instead, I’ll ask this question: Who’s it hurting?

The answer, of course, is no one. What is does is upset the straight, cisgender apple cart and some people have a problem with that. And, if I’m being honest, I can relate. As a straight, cisgender man, I have no problems whatsoever with people who are gay or bisexual and trans men and women don’t bother me in the least. But, effeminate men are a different story. Especially one who’s genderqueer and intentionally blurs the line between male and female. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but lipstick and a five o’clock shadow freak me the hell out.

But, but freaked out as I may be, I still don’t tell these guys to “BE A DAMN MAN!!!” I think it, sometimes, but I never say it. Why? Because I’ve seen what happens to someone when they’re not allowed to be the person they truly are and, believe me, it is deadly. So, if you’re one of those folks who agree with Whitney on this, I want you to remember what I just said the next time you want to spew some bullshit about your genitalia defining who you are. What they’re doing isn’t hurting you in the least, but what you’re doing? It’s killing them.

It’s Not That Easy

lighting candlesI had every intention of writing a humorous post about all the ridiculous shit that happened last week; things like Mike Huckabee getting bent out of shape over rainbow-colored Doritos, people losing their minds at finding out Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, the blood moon/rapture lunacy, etc. Then, Thursday happened and all that went out the window. As much as I would love to, I just can’t be my usual smart-ass self and ignore what happened in Oregon last week. After 54 years on this planet (23 of them spent dealing with the awful shit people inflict on each other), I’m always a little surprised when I turn out not to be a calloused asshole.

We all know what happened last Thursday, so I’m not going to rehash it. I’m also not going to mention the name of the person who perpetrated this heinous act; he was seeking attention and if he gets it, like his predecessors who inspired him, he will in turn inspire others. Granted, me not doing so on my piddly little blog isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on in the media. But, at least I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight, secure in the knowledge that I didn’t add to the cacophony.

What I am going to write about here is the clamor in the aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting event. On one side are the liberals/progressives who are of the opinion that the only way to stop mass shootings is more gun control. On the other are the conservatives who believe just the opposite, that the only remedy for the situation is more guns. Let me take a moment here to say that if these two diametrically opposed choices are all you have to offer, then please shut…the…fuck…up.

I am sick to death of people who don’t seem to have a god-damned clue as to how things work in the real world filling the internet with their preferred method for fixing what is obviously a very broken system. Especially when that fix doesn’t require them to make any kind of fucking change of their own. I hate to break it to you, but screaming for Australian style gun legislation on Facebook when you don’t own any guns doesn’t move the conversation forward, it just makes the other side dig in deeper. And, quoting uber-douche Wayne LaPierre about what stops bad people with guns when you have a safe full of weapons is no different; it just gives your opponents a reason to dismiss you as whack job gun nut. There are a lot of things at play here and focusing solely on guns (from either direction) is just fucking stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a lost cause. It’s obvious our society is broken, especially when it comes to violence, and we need to find a way to repair it. Doing that is going to require a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice on everyone’s part. Pro-gun people are going to have to accept some new, tougher gun laws. And, anti-gun people will have to deal with the fact that there will always be guns in America. Before we can get to that point, however, we’re going to have deal with that fact that there is no easy fix to this mess. It’s an issue that is fraught with nuance and fixing it is going to be a long, hard process filled with lots of soul-searching; something at which Americans do not excel. That has to change if we want this country to actually be the great nation we claim it is. Or, we can keep arguing over bullshit (and murdering innocent people while we do). Your choice, America.

What The Hell, People?

Today, more than ever, I want this shirt.
Today, more than ever, I want this shirt.

In the past 24 hours, it has come to my attention that:

  1. A majority of Republicans believe the President is actually a Muslim.
  2. That just as many think he wasn’t born in the U. S., while 40% of that same group believe that Ted Cruz was.
  3. More than 60% want to amend the Constitution to end birthright citizenship.

After seeing all this, I have to ask: What the hell, people?

Lest you think I’m making any of this up, allow me to cite my source. These items come from a report released yesterday by Public Policy Polling. According to PPP, 54% of the GOP electorate believes that Barak Obama is a Muslim. Now, I’m not really sure what difference that makes, since Article 6 of the U. S. Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”, but we’re so far down the fucking rabbit hole here that applying logic and reason doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So,  what the hell, let’s talk about this crazy-ass idea. The man has stated multiple times that he is a Christian, has told of his conversion experience and lives a life that I would consider very Christian. At a town hall meeting in 2010, he said he “came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.” Now, I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like he’s got a better grasp of what being a Christian is about than any of his detractors.

Next up is the idea the President was not born in the United States, but Ted Cruz was. This despite releasing both the short (in 2008) and long forms (in 2011) of his birth certificate which show his place of birth as Hawaii, the repeated debunking of multiple false claims about his citizenship and the fact that Cruz has never concealed the fact that he was born in Canada. In fact, last year Cruz renounced the Canadian citizenship that was his because, like the U. S., Canada automatically grants citizenship to anyone born there. Okay, then.

While we’re on the subject of citizenship, let’s talk about this 14th Amendment idea. Again, we look to the PPP report, which tells us that 63% of Republicans want to repeal at least a portion of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution; specifically, the part that grants birthright citizenship. That’s interesting coming from people who claim to revere the document so much that many of them carry a pocket-sized version of it everywhere they go. It appears, however, that reverence exists only so long as it doesn’t contradict their beliefs. But, what’s even more interesting is the list of politicians backing this change, a list that includes one Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio, both second-generation Americans who benefitted from that clause in the 14th Amendment. To quote George Takei:

What the fuck is in the water Republicans are drinking these days? You know, for a party that embraces Christianity the way the GOP does, most of their positions don’t seem to reflect a damn thing the man actually taught. Jesus, a Jew, included Samaritans and Gentiles in the Kingdom of Heaven that he spoke of on many occasions. And, Paul said in Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So, even from an overtly religious viewpoint, the President’s faith shouldn’t make difference. And, the Bible tells us in many places that we are to welcome immigrants and treat them with respect and kindness, not kick them out with extreme prejudice. So, what’s up with all the bullshit? Come on, Republicans, and join us in the real world. Sure, it’s a little scary, but it’s still better than that Fox News fantasy land you’re living in now.

I’m Still Not Ashamed Of My Heritage?

The Rieves family coat of arms. Until recently, I didn't know we had one.
Apparently, this is the Rives family coat of arms. Until recently, I didn’t know we had one.

Race is a funny thing in the South. Most of the time, it’s confusing and hard to navigate. If you’re a (sort of) progressive, white man, even more so. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been digging into my family history and found that I was a little off base about my background (and by “a little off base”, I mean “not even in the fucking ballpark”). I’m still sorting out what these revelations mean to me.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, “I Am Not Ashamed Of My Heritage…, Maybe” in which I said:

“I’m not exactly what you’d call “proud” of my family’s history. But I don’t walk around with my head hung low, beating myself up because my ancestors owned other people. The truth is, there was only one of them (my great-great-grandfather) who could even have had the means. Whether he owned anyone or not, he wasn’t exactly a pleasant fellow (known as “the laziest man in Chatham County”, he somehow found the energy to cross the street and beat up a black man for speaking to a white woman). By and large, however, the men of my family in those days were yeoman farmers and tradesmen, just like the majority of the men who made up the Confederate Army. In other words, my family were rednecks and, for them, the war wasn’t about slavery.”

As it turns out, that’s not exactly true

I have spent most of my adult life, believing that my ancestors were part of something called the “yeomanry”.  That social class occupied a level between the gentry and the poor. They could be farmers who owned the land they worked, tradesmen and craftsmen, artisans, etc. In other words, middle/working class. But, digging into my family history has shown that not only were my ancestors members of the gentry, they were one of the prominent farming families in Chatham County.

This little jaunt through the ages began several years ago when my brother found an old book in the Siler City library called “Reliques of Rives“. It was a reference copy and he couldn’t check it out, so he made copies of the relevant sections (well, what he considered relevant, anyway). I read it, but the information didn’t stick; probably because it’s not that well-written and really hard to follow. Then, about a month ago, Jeff sent me a link to another book he’d found that mentioned our family, titled “History of North Carolina: North Carolina biography, by special staff of writers” that said our great-grandfather was born on a plantation. And, then it got interesting, because it also said my great-great-great grandfather was a “planter”. Now, if the word “planter” (in all it’s forms) had occurred only once, I could’ve chalked it up to differences in the language that develop over the course of almost 100 years (it was published in 1919). But twice? I couldn’t see that being a coincidence. It wasn’t.

Digging through all the piles of crap in my office, I found that copy of “Reliques” my dear brother had made. Settling down on the porch with it and a cup of coffee one morning, I reread it and it was an eye-opening experience. That grandfather (times 3) that was mentioned in “History of North Carolina”? Well, it turns out he inherited a plantation called “The Barrax” from his father, along with “one negro man named Anthony”. In all, Thomas (grandfather X4) parceled out around 24 slaves in his will, seeming to give them about as much thought as the land, livestock and furniture mentioned in the document. Going back even further, I found that my family was part of the gentry in England, with impressive titles and holdings in that county. The first Rives (the only spelling of the family name back then) came here in the Cavalier migration of the mid-to-late 1600’s. There’s not much to be found about him in the records, which are pretty scarce (destroyed by fire, etc.), but his descendants did pretty well for themselves, as is evidenced by Thomas’ will.

Saying all this was quite a revelation for me is an understatement. But, don’t worry, I haven’t become filled with white liberal angst over the fact that my ancestors probably weren’t the most progressive people of their day. The truth is, I came to grips with the idea that they were probably assholes a long time ago (see story about great-great grandfather a few paragraphs earlier). As for the fact that they owned slaves, well, all I can say is that ended 150 years ago and there are plenty of other, more recent things in my family history to feel all angst-ey about.

In the post previous to this one, I said that I wasn’t ashamed of my heritage “because it is a history of good people doing the best they could with what they had; which, most of the time, wasn’t very much.” And, I’m still not because they were doing the best they could with what they had. It just turns out that what they lacked wasn’t material goods. A working moral compass, though? That may be a different story.

I Am Not Ashamed Of My Heritage…, Maybe

Protesters display Confederate flags United States flags from the bed of a pickup truck May 6 on a highway about 15 miles south of Miami in what organizers said was a protest to show support for Attorney General Janet Reno and respect for the flag. Organizers said they wanted to counteract demonstrations held by members of the Cuban-American community that followed the April 22 seizure of Cuban rafter Elian Gonzalez by government agents from the home of his Miami relatives. BC/CLH/
For the record, I am ashamed of crap like this.

It’s a tough time to be a somewhat-progressive white southerner with a history fetish. On one side are all your liberal friends insisting that the War Between The States (which is the polite name and southerners are nothing if not polite) was all about slavery. On the other side are your conservative friends who maintain that the war was fought over states rights. The truth is, both sides are right…, sort of. Yes, the war was actually fought over states rights. But, chief among the rights they were fighting for was the right to own other people. Granted, as distinction’s go, it’s not much of one. But, I’m trying build a bridge here, so cut me a little slack.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that whatever the Confederate flag might mean to me or any other white person, it’s offensive to our neighbors of color. Hospitality (which we southerners claim to be so good at) demands that we respect their wishes and remove it from spaces that are supposed to be open to everyone. Claiming that doing so is “caving in to political correctness” or that taking down flags in states you’ve never even visited  (much less lived in) is somehow a violation of your rights is, well, a little douchey. And, y’all need to stop that shit right now.

Okay, disclaimer issued, so let’s get on with it. Since this flag flap started, I’ve read several articles by southern people who have told us they’re ashamed of their heritage. They speak with great angst about how their ancestors owned other people or fought to divide this county. But, I can’t agree with these folks because I’m not ashamed of my heritage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly what you’d call “proud” of my family’s history. But I don’t walk around with my head hung low, beating myself up because my ancestors owned other people. The truth is, there was only one of them (my great-great-grandfather) who could even have had the means. Whether he owned anyone or not, he wasn’t exactly a pleasant fellow (known as “the laziest man in Chatham County”, he somehow found the energy to cross the street and beat up a black man for speaking to a white woman). By and large, however, the men of my family in those days were yeoman farmers and tradesmen, just like the majority of the men who made up the Confederate Army. In other words, my family were rednecks and, for them, the war wasn’t about slavery.

So, why did men who didn’t own any slaves go to war in order to preserve the “peculiar institution“? They were duped. By who, you ask? By the planter class who sold them a bill of goods, telling them the Yankees wanted to trample their rights  so they’d fight a war that would preserve a system that was stacked against them. Of course, when that war was over, they found themselves left to their own devices. Until, that is, the master once again had need of his loyal servant. And so, they told them that smart ass Yankees and “uppity niggers” were conspiring to destroy their country, take their land and violate their women. And, just as they had in the War, they swallowed the lie, hook, line and sinker. In fact, whenever a threat to the gentry rears its head, that old chestnut is trotted out again and again. The wording is different, of course, but the message remains the same.

The Tea Party claims to be the descendents of the Founding Fathers, but in reality, they are the cultural descendents of those yeoman farmers and tradesmen who were tricked into serving the interests of people who have played them for fools since the earliest days of this country. And, today’s poor and working class people have learned their lessons well. Hell, the gentry doesn’t even have to say anything anymore, we jump on our black brothers and sisters without being asked, kicking them back down all on our own and waving a Confederate flag the whole time. Shit, I’ll bet even Pavlov would be impressed with that kind of conditioning

Educationally, financially and pretty much every way you can think of, the working people of the South, both black and white, have been (and continue to be) shit on by their “betters”. Sometimes, those “betters” owned vast plantations worked by slaves. Other times, they’re wealthy industrialists who own politicians. And, lately, those “betters” are their own sons and daughters who write condescending articles about how ashamed they are of their backward/racist/treasonous families. It’s so fucking sad that, sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep from crying.

So, no, I am not ashamed of my heritage. I’m not ashamed because it is a history of good people doing the best they could with what they had; which, most of the time, wasn’t very much. I’ll be damned if I’m ashamed of that.

Being A Southerner

While this is classic southern scene, it's not one I remember growing up in Piedmont N.C.
While this is classic southern scene, it’s not really one I remember growing up in piedmont NC.

I had originally thought about titling this post “Living In The Southland”, but, I have another piece in the works that already carries that name, so… Besides, one can live in the Southland their entire life and never truly be a “southerner”; it’s as much a state of mind as it a locale. So, I thought I’d tell you what I think it means to be a southerner.

Being a southerner means you have an overpowering awareness of history. Specifically, the history of The War Between The States (aka, “the recent unpleasantness”). As Mark Twain once said, “In the South the war is what A.D. is elsewhere; they date from it.” Maybe that’s because we are descended from the only Americans to ever lose a war and live with an occupying army. It makes a difference, y’all.

Being a southerner means suffering the slings and arrows of your neighbors from more “enlightened” regions. This is especially true if you’re anything other than a dyed-in-the-wool, red state Republican. As my boyhood friend and idol, Hugh Hollowell (a great American) said recently: “Being in and of the South while being a progressive white straight male means your liberal educated friends from North of here will watch how your state votes and will call your friends back home “inbred” and ‘hillbillies” and “white trash” and ask you how you stay there.”

Being a southerner means not just putting up with eccentricities, but embracing them.  Every community in the south has its “characters”; the ones who, when outsiders comment on their odd behavior, folks respond, “Oh, that’s just (insert appropriate name). He/she’s fine. Just a little off.” In other areas of the country, these people might wind up in an institution of some sort. In the South, we make them chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Being a southerner means having a rebellious spirit. If Thomas Jefferson was right and “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”, then southerners are drowning in “good things”. Unfortunately, we often choose to rebel against things we should accept. But, that’s a post of its own.

Being a southerner means that religion is immensely important in your life. That holds true whether you’re an atheist or a fundamentalist. The thing is, we don’t do religion all that well. As Flannery O’Connor said “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” In other words, we are drenched in religion and spend our lives either embracing it or running from it.

Being a Southerner means that race is in everything, from the food you eat, to books you read, to the music you listen to. Two uniquely southern foods are black-eyed peas and okra. Both originated in West Africa and were brought to this country by slaves from that region. And, just try reading a book by a southern author where race doesn’t come into play, somehow. As for music? The majority of music we listen to (Blues, jazz, rock and roll, country) has its roots in the music of southern African-Americans. And, many of the most beloved practitioners of that music are black Southerners. Unfortunately, like religion, we don’t always get it right when it comes to race. But, now and then, we’re ahead of the rest of the nation on this issue. Why is that? Maybe because we’re the only region of the country that’s been forced to deal with our racism in any significant way.

Being a Southerner means you understand the importance of hospitality. Even when it means being pleasant to people you can’t stand. Income inequality is nothing new around here and most Southerners are working-class folks who knew the only way to make it was to take care of each other. If that means helping someone you don’t like, well, that’s what the phrase “Bless your heart” is for.

Being a Southerner means having a sense of place. Clyde Edgerton put it best when he said, “Because I was born in the South, I’m a Southerner. If I had been born in the North, the West or the Central Plains, I would be just a human being.”

Finally, being a Southerner means you love your homeland, warts and all, and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. That’s not a bad thing, no matter what your smart-ass Yankee friends might think.

Of Chia Pets And Used Underwear

satire defToday, I want to share an article I found this morning in The Old North State Beacon (“All the fake news that’s fit to print since I made the site up this morning”):

Woman Stunned To Find Poor And Homeless Don’t Want Her Leftovers

         A Greensboro woman was bewildered when a local ministry for the poor and homeless turned down her donations recently. Last month, Frankie Whitesteen’s family held a yard sale in preparation for moving to their just finished home in New Irving Park, an upscale subdivision in the city of Greensboro. There were quite a few items left over, so last week, she decided to donate them to “Love Conquers All Ministries”, a non-denominational ministry that serves downtown Greensboro’s at-risk population. But, she says they wouldn’t take her offering.

          “They were kind of rude about it, too” she said. “When the man saw what I had, he said ‘Jesus, lady! What am I supposed to do with this crap? If you couldn’t sell it at a yard sale, what makes you think my people want it?’ And, he claims to be a preacher, talking like that?” Whitesteen said she was so disheartened by the reaction, she took the items to the dump rather than trying to find another agency who might find a use for them.

          When contacted for a statement, “Love Conquers All” director Aaron Hallowell said “I guess I was a little hard on her, but you should’ve seen what she brought. Torn clothes that smelled like moth balls, lingerie and used underwear, some expired cans, a Chia Pet and a bag of used diapers. What the hell am I supposed to do with a bag of used diapers?” Hallowell says it’s not the first time people have tried to “donate” such items and the agency has gotten things like half used spices, a box of corn starch, expired medication, used toiletries (half empty bottles of shampoo, for example). “I’m really sorry I blew up like that, but her “donation” was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

When told what Hallowell had to say, Whitesteen was shocked. “I just don’t get it”, she replied, shaking her head. “I had all that great stuff and he wasn’t the least bit interested.” As for the diapers, she said “Well, I figured poor people might have babies and babies need diapers. It’s not like I sent ones that had poop in them. It was just the pee diapers. Besides, using soiled diapers might motivate them to go out and get a job so they can buy fresh ones.”  Whitesteen admitted that she’s never actually met anyone was homeless and/or poor  and has no idea what their needs might be. She said she didn’t understand what difference that could make. And, when it was pointed out that people in those situations might not care for her cast offs and leftovers, Whitesteen was flabbergasted. “But…, they’re poor. Shouldn’t they take whatever they can get and be grateful for it?”

I’m Going To Hell

From a biblical perspective, of course.
From a biblical perspective, of course.

I’ve been in the blogging game for a few years now and, if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that every now and then, the internet gives you a present. Wednesday afternoon, I got just such a gift in the form of a video from Olugbenga Oladejo, a Nigerian preacher (calling this cat a pastor is a stretch as I’m not exactly getting a pastoral vibe here) from the UK about a “vision” he had. In this fever dream “vision”, God showed him “hellfire”. Specifically, he says “The Lord told me (that’s always a good sign), he said ‘Luke, when I asked my children to get married and they’re married’, he said ‘My children on their matrimonial bed, they commit a lot of immorality’. He said I should tell them that they are not going to come to heaven.”

Now, you may be wondering what sort of immorality one could commit “on their matrimonial bed”. Well, let’s start with a little cowgirl action. According Oladejo, God frowns on women riding the baloney pony: “Couples who practice the woman on top… I want to repeat this, because this is the warning he gave me….When you are with your wife, the lord has made man to be the head. Not the woman. So those men who enjoy their wife coming on top of them in the matrimonial bed, the lord says they are not coming to heaven at all...” The only acceptable position is, of course, missionary: The man should lie on top of the woman. The natural style, the one way god has given us as man and wife.” And, once again, it’s sucks to be a girl. In Oladejo’s world, anyway.

Then, there’s doggy-style. According to the good minister, doing the dog is evil because Romans 1 says so. Not only that,  “The lord did not to create you to behave like a dog on your matrimonial bed. Or like a cow. Or like a chicken.” A chicken?!? And, I thought I could dream up some weird shit.

It’s a safe bet that “Pastor” Oladejo won’t be going to see 50 Shades of Grey because he’s definitely not down with kink. Here’s his take on the subject: “If you are practicing hanging with your wife [bondage], you are inventing different styles… Don’t go and be hanging your wife. Don’t go and be hanging your husband. Do not try different styles: they do sex in different styles that are contrary to God.” Hanging? I’m not sure if he put it that way because English isn’t his first language (dude has a heavy accent) or on account of some fucked up ideas about sex. I’m feeling magnanimous (and grateful for this amazing opportunity), so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, we have masturbation. It seems that rubbing one out (or “in” depending on your plumbing) is also sinful. Especially so, if you’re married. I’m not exactly sure why, though. Whatever. Oladejo says wankers will be set upon by demons who will laugh while the souls of  those who “google themselves” will cry out in pain because the demons will cut them “in the most painful place”. I have no idea where that would be, but it can’t be good.

After all this, Oladejo woke up and realized God wanted him tell people all this because they were “not aware of these things”. I can see that, since they seem to have come from some rather scary and warped places about sex, biology and God knows what else.

In this video, Oladejo talks about “changing the Lord’s ordinances” a lot; like every couple of sentences. And, to be fair, we have thwarted God’s intent in many ways. But, the “ancient covenant” Isaiah referred to was about taking care of one’s neighbors, not what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

Now, I’m no Bible scholar, but I do know enough about it to feel pretty safe in saying that it doesn’t specify what positions are good and which are a one-way ticket to H-E-Double-hockeysticks (If I’m wrong, please point me to that passage). And, while the Bible does talk about masturbation (i.e. “the sin of Onan“), the problems were less about the act itself than Onan’s motivation for firing off some knuckle-children.

While Oladejo’s take on sex is certainly…, let’s say “colorful”, it’s far from unique. Not the specifics, of course, (that chicken thing still has me messed up) but the idea behind it. I don’t really get the point. Unless it’s that focusing on how others are fucking up allows you to keep the spotlight off of your own transgressions. It doesn’t really work all that well, but damned if it doesn’t provide some very interesting reading now and then.

Let’s Get Ashy!

Image courtesy David Henson

Today is Ash Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing: Lent is here! Ah, yes, that most wonderful time in the liturgical calendar all about prayer, penance and preparation for Easter. And, what better way to kick things off than by  getting your ash on?

Yes, friends, today is the day when hipsters and yuppies, soccer moms and Jesus hippies, walk around all day with black shit smudged on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. But, what if you can’t take time out of your busy schedule to attend an Ash Wednesday service (or don’t want to spend the day looking like a weirdo)? Well, friends, Episcopal priest David Henson has your answer: #AshTagWednesday.

That’s right, instead of going to church and listening to some boring ass crap about sacrifice and being guilted into giving up something  for Lent, followed by having someone you may or may not know rub those icky ashes on your forehead, you can simply share the image above on your favorite social media platform. Isn’t that great? Finally, I can satisfy may religious, attention-whore impulses without all that pesky worship and prayer!

Of course, there are some drawbacks to #AshTagWednesday. Like, how do I post a selfie with my ashes prominently displayed? And, how am I supposed to feel superior to those dim-bulb evangelicals who don’t even know what Ash Wednesday is, much less why I’m walking around with a dirty face? Perhaps worst of all, it doesn’t even begin to address how to deal with the whole “giving up ______ for Lent” situation.

What’s that all about, anyway? Why do I have to give up something for Lent? To bring myself closer to God? Crap, there’s no way I can weasel out of this and not look like an asshole. Okay, fine, you win. So, what do I give up? Coffee? Not happening. And, that’s a public service, as no one wants to see me caffeine-free. Soda? That would work except for one thing: I’m a diabetic and I don’t drink much soda. I’m not sure how “giving up” something I almost never do anyway is going to bring me closer to God. How about a social media fast? No. That is not happening. How would I post my Ash Wednesday selfie (or my #AshTag) and brag about tell you how great my Lenten observance is going?

Does all this trivialize what Henson refers to as “the holy call for self-examination”? Of course, it does. But, isn’t that the American way? We turned a national day of Thanksgiving into an orgy of materialism and the birth of Christ into a bacchanal of greed and gluttony. All Hallow’s Eve is nothing more than a good reason for a party and St. Valentine’s Day has become an excuse for buying your significant other more shit they don’t need. Do you actually think Lent and Easter are any different? Please. Trivializing the holy is what we do best.

So, run right out and get your ashes. And, when you do, be sure to post your selfie, you might get something out of it. Besides all that spiritual crap, I mean.