Confession: I love to travel. Above all else, my ass just likes to be somewhere else. Now, I have to be creative because while I travel like a rock star, I earn the salary of an organ grinder monkey.
So, thanks to a hook up, I’m sitting in the restaurant at the InterContinental in Rome in the midst of a bunch of folk who don’t have to be nearly as creative as me.
I can tell because they are smiling while downing several €15 espressos (yeah, that’s $21 in the US. No…not pesos…dollars) and choosing between the Dom P. and Moet as the sommelier walks around their table with a bottle of each in his hands. They don’t have the same pained expression as me. They didn’t ask the waiter, “Now…what now?” when they saw the price. A gentleman one table over just raised his hand at the waiter and said, “We’ll take three lobsters, please…and the menus!”
Sometimes, you gotta get into some shit to know the truth about it. To be in Italy, to have God’s record so closely juxtaposed to man’s opulence, I am finding, without fail, that material trappings truly lose the contest. Rich or poor, we all have the exact same access to this city’s heart. She woos us all equally. Yes, my friends, Rome is a bit of a tramp.
But this new experience is just one more on the ever-growing list of things that reset what I understand about life. Ten years ago, I always had to have the dope shit and be in the middle of shit and know the latest shit and be the hottest shit. Well, all that shit is exhausting and certainly has an expiration date. Slowly but surely, my old bucket list has morphed into my new f$#% it list…and I have a another opportunity to reshape what I value.
So, here’s what I confirmed about myself today in Italy. I am, at heart, a cheap date. Give me a nice breeze, a place to people watch (throw in a good zoo, if you’re tryna get lucky) and, maybe later, a sunset to remind me to return to Spirit and reflect. (Ok, full disclosure – I AM going to be wearing some hot ass shoes while I do all that…)
But today, I am easily walking past the best designer boutiques in the world, some exclusive to Italy even, in order to light a candle in a church, walk a local neighborhood or play with children at a fountain (as long as they don’t touch me…baby steps, y’all) This morning, I meditated in front of the Vatican. I’d rather pound this city by foot, exploring every public sculpture and historical landmark than experience upscale places whose price of entry (sometimes monetary, but more often not) would prohibit my contact with every day Romans. In other words, I’m certainly more interested in talking to the bartender than I am this well-heeled old-as-magma gentleman (using the term loosely here) who keeps staring over here, clearly titillated by the perceived prospect of working out some kinky slave girl fantasy.
Anyway, my point is — who knew I would have to cross an ocean to discover what I’ve carried inside of myself all along? Wait…that doesn’t make sense anymore…it started out as my point but these words took on a life of their own. Oops!
DISCLAIMER: For the record, none of this means my ass is flying coach on my return trip. I was a having a moment of growth, not insanity.
One story that my mom tells about my first years in Korea is the one where I meet my father for the first time when he returns to us at the end of his Army deployment in the U.S. As we three sat in the back of the taxicab, I snuck suspicious, sideways glances at my father before I leaned in to my mom and whispered (as well as any 2 year old can whisper) my official decision: I gave it some thought but I have decided that — no, thank you –I do NOT want the black man to be my daddy. Driver, kindly pull over and let his black ass out here, please.
(On a side note, if anyone doubts the power of children having images of themselves that they can relate to, please let this story be a lesson. Having lived the first few years of my life with no positive images of black people to relate to, not only did I not know I was black…but apparently, I didn’t want anything dark around me but a belt.)
So there I was surrounded by a sea of Koreans — mouth full of moxie, diaper full of shit, all topped off with a big kinky afro talking ‘bout “I don’t want no black daddy…” when it was clearly too late. You can imagine my shock when I learned that I, myself, am black as well. (Actually, you’re gonna have to imagine it cuz we don’t really remember how all that went down.) But daddies are daddies and we were besties in no time.
Cut to today and it is not without some anxiety that I prepare to head back to Korea for the first time in 35 years.
I’m not sure how I will be received when I return to that sea of endless Koreans. Will I be accepted by these people, my people, in all my curious half blackness, or will I have to jump into that sea and push a few racist Koreans down? (Y’all know I can’t fight!) All of my anxiety has been boiled down to one question — should I straighten my hair before I go or should I continue wearing it in the big frightening shock of runaway curls and coiled shenanigans that I’ve resorted to in my forties? I’m already going to be a full two feet taller than everyone in the country, do I really need to top it off with hair that resembles fireworks?
I mean, really, how far have race relations truly come in such a monolithic country as Korea in the last 35 years?
So, I asked that question of an old ajumma at Han-A-Rheum Market, a local Korean grocery and with a straight face this is what she said in her heavily accented English:
“You no worry black. You worry too old to get marry.”
Just like that. On her mind and out her mouth. I waited for this little pint-sized heffa to crack a smile or something. But nope, she was dead serious. Direct eye contact and all…
The Korean ajumma. Many cultures have ‘em…pushy older broads who place no appreciable value on personal boundaries or socially acceptable things to say. We all understand the concept….our aunties, by blood or by love. But the Korean ajumma is special. You may have seen one and if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all. They have curly perms, called pammas, and appear to have purchased all of their clothing moments after suffering a series of mini-strokes. Usually, they are not more than 3 apples tall but they ain’t scared of shit. They have lived their lives and have, in their minds, earned the right to apply their wisdom and experience to yours with or without your consent. And there is not one aspect of your life, my life and life in general that they don’t have an opinion about. There’s nothing that they won’t do for their families about whom they will complain endlessly to anyone who will listen. They have many gifts and talents but if volume modulation is one of ‘em, there is no known evidence of it. They are an entire well-respected subculture in and of themselves.
And in Korean culture, they are feared. You do nothing to incite the wrath of your ajummas cuz you’ll mess around and get your ass cussed out and maybe hit with a spoon. So, I smiled and bowed my goodbyes to the mouthy little broad while cussing her out under my breath and rolled out.
Some time later, I was at family function with some younger Korean cousins. One of the kids was talking to me about school when his mama called him into the other room to bring me some tea. The tea was hot so he walked slowly across the room. By the time he got to me, I was engrossed in somebody else’s conversation about to get all in their business. I could hear him saying something in the background but it didn’t immediately sound relevant. Then, it hit me…(and I shoulda hit him.)
“Here’s your tea, ajumma.”
Apparently, I worried for nothing. I’ll fit right in Korea…curly pamma and all.
World leaders and common believers in democracy both have offered many sage words as a show of solidarity with the great people of Egypt. I share their vision as long as the view is the back of Mubarak’s ass. To the soon-to-be-displaced Mubarak, I offer these words of advice: Get yo’ hat, yo’ shit…and GIT!!!!
Now that I got that off my chest…I have to ask. Where do 1 million poor Egyptians get their hands on the resources necessary to organize multiple protests, garner the support of the armed forces and take down a corrupt government? I mean, I ain’t got nothing against Egyptian folk but coming from someone who plans stuff for a living, this ain’t no easy task. I mean, sure, they built the pyramids but as I’m looking through the crowd of protestors, I’m hard pressed to find any Hebrew slave labor. Who is doing the work of coordinating and executing this massive effort? Even just transporting this number of Egyptians in and around and between two heavily swollen Egyptian cities is a logistical nightmare. How the hell did they get all those camels into the big city? Particularly since Egyptians can’t walk closely in a single file since they have to move both of their arms like serpents in front and behind. Ever try walking like an Egyptian…all up on another Egyptian. That shit ain’t possible.
And speaking of things that ain’t possible…
How does a country that is buckling under the weight of its own poverty, where 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day come up with the bang-bang to launch protest after protest after protest within a six day period – and effectively so at that? That’s not an accident; that’s a deployment. Particularly since we’re seeing the rise of a modern day, poor man’s Moses emerging to lead the opposition. Did the Egyptians hold an underground election to choose him? Call me a conspiracy theorist but this level of organization requires funding and resources. Lots. The kind that comes from state coffers. And that’s a problem.
It’s a problem and a downfall. Why? Because when are countries going to learn that democracy only works when it’s left alone to take root and grow organically. These manipulations, even those designed to falsely overthrow a corrupt dictator, often yield unwieldy and unpredictable outcomes that come back to bite us on the ass. A system, even a flawed one…hell, ESPECIALLY a flawed one, cannot be yanked out without effective Plan B leadership. An intentionally decisive cut is always better, heals faster than a hapless tear. Just ask the woman who gave birth to Tyra Banks or any other pun’kin-head baby.
My prayers are with the Egyptian people tonight. I hope they find what they are seeking: democracy, freedom, justice. And that they get to enjoy it for at least a short period of time before we all get our asses owned by China.
I, like many other Americans, continue to consider national security a matter of, well, national security. I expect our country’s leadership to take whatever measures necessary to keep my fellow countrymen and me safe from the scurrilous attack of the evil forces who are threatened by American ideals and values…even if they have to be catty little bitches in order to get it done.
Lately, I’ve grown weary of constant reports of conflict in our own nation as well as throughout the world. I’ve found it a challenge to continue to add my opinion to the legion of other opinions that, while entertaining, really offered nothing by way of resolution. So, admittedly I glanced at headlines about Wikileaks without ever once clicking to see for myself the extent of the damage caused by what is arguably the most powerful publicity engine in the world. I expected to read of world leaders using expletives and racial epithets in their descriptions of one another. Perhaps an illicit dalliance between one diplomat and another’s tranny spouse. Quite possibly we’d read evidence of wars fought on behalf of bruised egos and lost bets rather than disturbed boundaries. Surely there would be a “Yo mama!” or two strategically placed in the global dialogue revealed by these documents.
Nope. None o’ dat.
Instead what I actually read are simply allegations, maybe evidence, that our world leaders are human and as such prone to all of the same human emotions and frustrations that the rest of succumb to every day. So, someone said Angela Merkel is, to paraphrase, risk averse and rarely creative. She runs Germany, for crying out loud. When’s the last time you attended Carnival in Munich or earned a beaded necklace at Oktoberfest? So, her sphincter is wound tight. It’s a trait of her countrymen. This shouldn’t be shocking stuff, people. We should have heard worse stuff in our lives by now.
And if the world leaders get their junk in a wad about this, then I’d suggest that they don’t have the emotional fortitude required to make the tough decisions to get this global economy back on track. When we were kids, ribbing each other was a way of blowing off a little steam, a pressure valve, if you will. Unlike today’s kids with asses made of candy, we developed thick skin and learned that they’re just words at best and opinions at worst. We learned early that when you interact with folks, you not always gonna think they’re pixies and rainbows. Sometimes you’re gonna think they’re douche bags and assholes. And sometimes, somebody gon‘ call it. If I had a dollar for every time someone called me a retard or a half-breed or a know-it-all, I’d be driving a better car. The cold hard truth is that our world leaders are going to say and do stupid things. I guess George W. Bush started a trend.
So, after yet another distraction blows over – and it will blow over – I hope we can get back to the business of fixing our economy. Because while we’re worried that the world will find out that Moammar Gadhafi likes blondes and big tits, the unemployment rate that started a downward trend in April is now stuck on a 3-month plateau because our focus and resources are being applied everywhere else. On the bright side, new opportunities will be opening at Wikileaks due to current market demand.
I’d appreciate it if everybody took a step back and got off the President’s nuts for like two seconds. That should be enough time for us to really look at the issue of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque and fully realize that awfully handsome man is just doing his job, DAMN! Upholding the Constitution…that IS why we pay him the big bucks, right? This country was founded on freedom of religion. Period. Not just the religions we like. All of ‘em, even the altogether absence of ‘em. The most dangerous precedent we can set is to withhold the rights of an entire group of people for the behavior of a few. And I’m not just saying that to dissociate myself from Flavor Flav. (Although, in all honesty, it is also a desired outcome.)
Don’t get me wrong, I see the challenge. In this country, we’ve always suffered from a cognitive dissonance between the America our Constitution says we are and the America we actually live and believe. Somebody betta tell the mama that the baby is ugly. The great foundation that our forefathers built for us would be rocked to the core by the premise that we would prevent someone from exercising their rights because of their religion, if emotions run high enough or if someone’s religion is scary enough. The moment we cross that line, we cease to be true Americans. I don’t know about you but I’m not willing to give that up. I live, die and bleed red, white and blue. I believe that America is the greatest country on earth and the Constitution the greatest written work ever thought of by man. My strange allegiance to Liechtenstein and Right On! magazine notwithstanding.
So, instead of crossing that line, let’s deal with the real issue. It’s ugly but somebody needs to say it…we, as Americans, are still struggling to forgive Muslims, all Muslims for 9/11 and for the numerous acts of terrorism that followed, whether they were perpetrated by radicals or by states. We also overlook or forget or simply don’t know what it means that many Muslims are also Americans. That’s right, many of our fellow countrymen – patriotic, loyal and sincere – are Muslims. Denial is a bitch – a big, hairy, nekkid bitch with morning breath. Because while we talk a good game about embracing Muslims, we’ve been talking that game out of both sides of our mouths. In other words, we been talkin’ shit, folks.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims are no more responsible for 9/11 than the overwhelming majority of Americans are for all of the warmongering that has taken place since. Yet they’ve become a pariah for polite company. In hushed tones, we exchange knowing glances and phrases like, “one of them…you know what I mean.” Somehow, it’s become okay to “know what folk mean” when they cross the lines of respect and equality for Muslims. Americans get all behind equality when you mean that an Irishman is no better than a German. But throw some colored folk in the mix and all of a sudden them tones become hushed and them glances become knowing. There’s still a good deal of healing and tolerance that needs to take place so that we can even begin to seek real reconciliation with the Muslim world.
At the end of the day, the person who we should be saving all our sass and moxie for is the damn Imam who’s kicking America straight in our nuts by trying to put the mosque at Ground Zero in the first place. He claims to be seeking reconciliation and perhaps his strategy is to rip the bandaid off aggressively but really what he’s doing is shining a very uncomfortable light on America’s intolerance while blatantly slapping the victims of 9/11 in the face. I’m all for rights but I believe that, in America, one way we respect one another is by collectively honoring those events and places that are historically painful for constituent groups. A mosque at Ground Zero is perfectly legal, may even still be ethical, but not at all sensitive to the loss of life and safety that Americans suffered that day. It offends my sensibilities as an American and I am wholly and entirely against it. Not because it’s wrong but because it hurts.
Wherever the boundaries of sensibilities lie in this situation, the positive note is that we can use this lack of judgement of one leader’s part to catapult us toward the reconciliation between the Muslim and western worlds that eluded Bush and continues to be beyond Obama’s reach as well. I pray to my God, just as I’m certain that both devout and moderate Muslims pray to theirs, for an end to the violence and the warfare that has plagued this world since our brotherly progenitors parted ways centuries ago. Surely, if Jermaine and Tito can work out their differences, we, the children of Isaac and Ishmael can work out ours.
Today, I read two very different articles about the very same Africa and I continue to be amazed that despite it’s long, storied history and the progenitorial impact on civilization, Africa still can’t shake it’s bad rep. I understand Mase is going through the same thing.
In a strange reversal of fortune, a small African country stopped the advance of the world’s last remaining superpower (well, except for China who owns us and India who’s getting a sitcom on NBC this fall – dude! I SO cannot wait.) But instead of congratulations for a well-earned victory, the press and the US players seem to be talkin’ slick about the team that wore their asses out. (click here) Hmmm, I’m no expert but I saw a US team, that was no more tired than any of the other teams, get their asses handed to them. Here ya’ go! It was just a good match. Period. Sure, there was some tomfoolery in there but whatevs…Ghana’s not the best team to ever do it but apparently they played well enough to beat us. (Although my fierce loyalty will not allow me to accept a 3rd loss in 2014. We not going out like that. In fact, didn’t I see some evidence of WMDs in Ghana last time I was there? One quick call to Dick Cheyney, Ghana won’t be a prob in 2014.)
The strangest thing, though – even as Africa enters the world stage in a new way with these games – the G8 met and talked slick ’bout ’em like the same old dysfunctional red-haired (er, kinky-haired?) stepchild who simply cannot get its act together. (click here) Despite the failure of the G8 to keep its promise to provide a $25 billion annual aid (but really, restitution – tell the truth and shame the devil!) package, Africa still made strides in stabilizing it’s governments and economies…without yo’ damn money, thank you very much. It’s just sucks to me that no matter what Africa has the potential to become in the future, the world will always be reluctant to view them as anything more than spear-chucking savages in a land filled with flies, disease and really good dancers. True to patriarchal, imperialist form, the G8 are now callin’ out conditions for their involvement in Africa’s future – reducing conflict, strengthening legal systems and educating/protecting mothers and children. Those conditions sound really good – what idiot wouldn’t want those things?
But ain’t it just a bit hypocritical for so-called First World countries to impose standards on Africa that we are indeed unable to reach ourselves? At present, there is no greater conflict in the world than that between conservatives and liberals in the western world. Think our conflict is nominal and safer because folk ain’t dying? Think again! Ask the families of the 6,000 coalition troops who’ve given their lives for civilized nations. Ask the US mothers whose lost children contribute to the embarrassingly high infant mortality rate. Ask the communities whose rates of HIV/AIDS infection rival those in Africa. All because the funding and policies to combat these conditions are trapped in bipartisan gridlock while wealthy politicians debate the picayune details of this and that. Meanwhile the ticks of the body counter creep steadily upward. Think our legal system is without flaw? Think again! Ask the families of the disproportionately high number of ethnic minorities that waste away in overcrowded prisons for minor, non-violent offenses while the criminals who’ve stolen billions upon billions from the coffers of the American people remain untouched and free to offend again. Ask the billions of world citizens whose governments force us to pay for wars that we don’t want and can’t win. Think our women and children are educated and protected? Ask the millions of women who are injured or killed at the hands of their intimate partner each year. Ask all them dumb teenagers roaming the streets and committing crimes because their stupid asses can’t read after 16 plus years in a public school system that failed to educate them. Ask the countless children who are abused and sexually molested by the clergy, teachers and parents they trust. If our track record was as impressive as our condescension and righteous indignation, we wouldn’t be goin’ through half the shit we’re going through now!
So, if Africa’s success, if anyone’s success, depends on these factors, then God save us all. Africa will be successful when all of the imperialist rapists ravaged then plundered her put back what they took out. Sure, the methods have gotten more sophisticated, but the world continues to sit by while folk raze this continent and then judge the victims. We mistakenly feel that Africa’s problems are Africa’s. But today, we are in the throes of our first truly global crisis – the meltdown of major economic systems. (Thanks, GTChristie, for this great link) There’s no way we can just kick out one of the legs and then walk away from the table. The whole thing topples, peoples. We are truly now one community, for better or worse. To quote the great Shug Avery, “We’s married now!”
You know the funniest part is when Ghanian players were interviewed they, without fail, said that they were thankful for the opportunity to represent not just Ghana but all of Africa. They all claimed the victory in the name of every African country especially those that did not make it. Do you think our asses would of thanked Canada if we had won? If the World Cup is any indicator, Africa seems better poised for this global village thing then we do. It seems that we’re the ones who’d better get it together.
So, from now to the end of the games, I’m totally Team Ghana. I want to see this team win. Not just for Ghana. Not just for Africans. But for all people of African descent all throughout the entire diaspora who share a common ancestry with this resilient people in this beautiful, damaged homeland. I stand with the motherland…as long as nobody tries to make me go back. It’s just too effin’ hot and my bangs WILL go back. But, power to the people, though. [Right fist in the air] I’m wit’ cha in spirit.
OK, enough of this soapbox crap…quick! someone say somethin’ funny!