Last week we're shooting in a health clinic, in small town Texas. It's a six part series on health care. Very interesting stories....cutting edge stuff. I'm interviewing the RN, who though 60, could pass for Helen Mirren any day. After shooting her, she looks at me and says, "Here's what gets me. We have old people who come to our clinic not because they are sick, but because they have no one to talk to. They hang in the waiting area, or talk to the Nurses because they are lonely. We ask some people, 'is there a family member you can bring with you to the next visit?' They are embarrsed to say they have no one. And what I"m telling you isn't isolated, it happens al the time." I was more stuck by that comment than any of the other cool things she said about health care. Weird thing that I noticed when I was in Asia --there, seniors are venerated--here in the U.S.. older people are seen as a burden--a drain on resources-- hmmmm, not sure what that says about our collective humanity.
His definitive book, A People's History of the United States systematically unravelled every item I was taught about U.S History, the westward expansion and unions. A child of Jewish immigrants and brilliant lecturer on civil rights...the world lost a great thinker and writer. "Every history is incomplete because it is 'HIS-story," not "THE-story." Howard, you will be missed by all who lust for truth. Thanks for all that you have done.
In the quiet and stillness of an empty gym, one can find peace. That, I know. Basketball, for years, was the only quiet place I knew-- it was my refuge amidst the fog. If you don’t understand basketball, you won’t get this piece.
Mr. Gilbert Arenas-- an NBA player-- has been suspended from the league. There’s no need for specifics--what’s happened to Arenas is reported incessantly on the 24 hour sports echo chamber.
I’ve always liked Arenas. We’re both from L.A. (well, he played in the valley-- Grant High School in Van Nuys) and I grew up in South L.A. Arenas was reared by a single father who left Florida for L.A. to pursue his personal elusive dream to act. Gilbert wanted to attend UCLA, but the Bruins weren’t remotely interested-- I”m sure that was one of the many disappointments in his life.
At Arizona, he was told to give up his NBA dreams-- his handles were too ‘suspect’ to play point guard and he couldn’t score enough to play ‘shooting guard.’ Drafted by Golden State in the second round, he sat the bench for 26 consecutive games. Finally, he got a chance to play in the Nation’s capital, emerging as a star for the Wizards.
I won’t delve into the list of disappointments that have stalked this young man. Naive fans look at athletes and opine: “They’ve got everything: fame, notoriety, wealth and an opportunity to earn a living playing a game...what else could they want?”
Here’s a note: Professional basketball players are often as unfulfilled as the guy who’s employed as the greeter at Costco or a welder at the plant. The context is different, but the essence remains. If, as a kid, you never knew whether you belonged--never felt you were good enough...just having $10M dollars doesn’t eradicate the stalking duality of unworthiness and helplessness. The difference is that if you’re working at Costco, there is no one following you with cameras and digital recorders waiting for you to do something incriminating.
We embrace guns and gun violence, don’t we? The descriptive language of war is the cultural lexicon of sports. It’s ironic that those who write most romantically about war and violence are those who’ve never seen it ‘up close and personal.’ And, those who’ve never known what a embedded refuge the ‘game’ can be, easily criticize those who seek its warmth in times of travail.
Stuff you should know about Arenas: This is a kid who used to sleep in the gym-- once he made it to the NBA, he would return to the playgrounds and give the young players $100 each--he would also donate $100.00 for every point he scored to schools in the D.C. area-- he personally bought clothes and personal items and delivered them to refugees from Katrina and Rita-- he embraced and took care of a young man named Andre McCallister whose parents were burned to death in a fire.
Gilbert Arenas is not a bad guy. He is a misunderstood and confused young man who got bad advice from his handlers.
When one steps back and examines the broader context of this event-- and Gilbert Arenas, there is a aura of sadness-- the playfulness transposes and makes an abiding pain of rejection--on so many levels.
Basketball is a game for loners-- it is a game for those who’ve had rejection served to them on flimsy paper plates. Whether the rejection is familial or societal, the scar remains. The salve of basketball helps things to not hurt as much.
I hope the league -- and the authorities-- take it easy on Agent Zero. I hope he isn’t the one ‘thrown to the fire-- vis-a-vis Michael Vick-- to satiate the cry of the mob.
If the NBA’s League Office and Player’s Association desire to make a broader cultural statement to society, there is a strategy to accomplish this: Invite players, coaches and team employees throughout the league to hand their guns over to local authorities. Film players, coaches and team employees doing this and making a statement...History reveal this trend: Gun+Athlete= Bad Outcome.
Is there a better strategy to send a message to kids who want to ‘be like Mike’ or “LeBron” than to have clips of NBA players, coaches and team employees handing over handguns and machine pistols.
“Yeah, but what about the second amendment,” my critics will say.
The coarse fibers in the fabric of our nation are made rough by our love of violence. Yet we, like Claude Rains in Casablanca, feign shock and outrage when we learn someone ‘brought guns’ into the workplace. How can anyone be shocked over this? Ninety percent of the people I know have at least two guns (granted, I live in Texas.) Recently, a friend sent me a treatise explaining why there is less violent crime in Switzerland (....because everyone has an automatic weapon.) His argument was simple: “It should be that way in the States.” Hell, it’s already that way in the States.
We are a violent, gun-loving, gun-toting society. We just don’t like it when we’re reminded of it.
Suspending GIlbert does nothing to assuage the problem of players/coaches with guns--nor, does it allow us to dialogue about the larger role that guns represent in our society. I hope Mr. Stern and the NBA leaders use this as a real opportunity to demonstrate the NBA’s leadership in professional sports. Can we take the message of the consequences of gun violence to Black and Latino youth--many of whom vigorously embrace the league-- and help them to ‘see.” What Gilbert Arenas has done can become a icon of change if we allow it be.
Gilbert Arenas, after leaving Florida for California as little boy, saw his Mom only one more time. It reminded me of something my Dad once said in church: “On judgement Day, those who knew not the love of a mother will be forgiven of much.”
athletes (Plaxico Burris, Adam Jones are recent examples, but there are more) often make bad choices. Although Michael Vick was dealt a bad hand (he
was, I think, tried in the media) I question his judgment on the whole ‘dog
electrocution thing.’For all the
bad behavior that startles me about young black athletes, I must say that on
yesterday I learned something far worse about young white nursing assistants.
old female nursing assistants, volunteering at the Good Samaritan Home in
Southern Minnesota, committed acts against vulnerable adults (Alzheimer’s
patients, stroke victims) so vile and humiliating that I cannot recount them
here. The actions of these young female nursing assistants —many of a sexual
nature, were instances of humiliation that makes one turn away. In many ways,
it is like reading the New Yorker magazine accounts of the Abu Gharib torture
scenario against detainees. What appears in the indictment seems like a
narrative recounting the Spanish Inquisition.
this happen? Two girls, looking more like homecoming
queens than crack whores, construct and execute torture and humiliation against vulnerable
adults…in small town America, no less…are you kidding me?
incident, perhaps, bespeaks a larger evil at work in the our culture:
The illusion of parenting. Many athletes—of both races—are reared in the
dreaded ‘single-parent’ home (advanced as a convenient false myth—for why boys
misbehave.) I coached basketball for 20 consecutive years and that journey
enlightened me to America’s ‘parenting crisis.’ Over time, I saw parents
presenting more and more latitude—in terms of decision-making-- to their young
athletes. Yes, I mean parents asking kids of 9 or 10 what sports they wished to
play and whether of not they wanted to continue in the sports and whether they
were happy with the coach.
mid-twenties, I was away from coaching, still trying to play competitively.
When I initially returned, I primarily worked with white kids. I looked at
their insolent behavior and thought: “Ok, this is a racial thing.” The next
season, I had black kids who, by and large, behaved similarly with their
parents. I thought: “This is a generational thing.” After my third season, I
concluded my bewildering observations were a microcosm of society.
nearly a ‘full-on’ abdication of decision-making from parents to children. I
can’t tell you the number of parents of 15 year olds who stared at me and said,
“I let little Mary make choices about where she wants to go to school.”There isn’t time in the post to present
all the psychological reasons why this is more than just poor parenting—it’s
eroding basic strands of society’s DNA which turn on ‘respect for adults and
leaders.’Thus, I’ll present a
physiological truth: A PhD friends— former Associate director of a top Medical
school -- opined that the area of the brain controlling decision-making and
choice isn’t fully formed until one reaches 24 years.
So, I ask:
What are parents doing?
My years in
the basketball coaching world showed me that today’s parents offer kids FAR too much latitude in
decision-making and choices. I’m still speechless at the kids who had expensive
mobile phones, MP3 players and a HD Television (in their rooms, mind you) but their
parents rarely came to watch them play.
seemed, replaced ‘investments of time,’ with ‘bestowing gifts of technology.’
They mistakenly deduced that by giving little Mary or little Devin a ‘choice
paradigm’ at a young age was akin to maturation development.Twenty years of being around teenagers
left me with an alternative viewpoint. The kids I met CRAVED someone to tell
them what to do. The soft veneer was, “I want to make my own decision.” The
internal plea was, “Someone please help me by telling me what I should do because
I'm a 14 year-old lost soul.”
It’s a rare
kid who at 15 can make good choices. After coaching and training hundreds of
kids I say this with certainty: 90% of them shouldn’t have been allowed a
driver’s license until they were 18, let alone make real life choices.
I have many
flight attendants friends—they are quirky and pragmatic observers of
society.My friend Richetta—who
flies out of New York’s Kennedy Airport-- says that the most ill-behaved,
disrespectful, acrimonious children are U.S kids. Many of them, she says, speak
to the parents in brutal , hostile language and are overtly rebellious. She
further said: “…rarely, if ever, do kids from Latin American or Caribbean
countries misbehave or show rudeness on flights or in the departure lounge. She told me
one story—a Mom was traveling to Port-au-Prince with four kids under 10 years.
The kids sat quietly, boarded orderly, took their seats and obeyed their Mom.
think the Mom of these Haitian kids will ever get a call saying her daughters
have been charged with spitting into the mouth of 80 year old Alzheimer’s
patient and recording the experiences for posterity on a new 2.0 mega pixel
cell phone camera. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
Nothing like an election to bring out the best and
worst in people. I was shocked when Senator Obama was elected President of the
United States. I never thought it possible that just 150 years after a
declaration that people who looked like me were only ‘three-fifths’ of a human
being, a person of color would become President. It seems, well,
I’m almost as shocked at what happened in
California. A ballot initiative—Proposition 8—was placed before the voters with
the purpose of overturning Proposition 22 (which recognized same-gender
unions.) California voters, en masse, voted to declare that marriage is
only ‘between a man and a woman.’
Pastors—of which many were African-American—told
parishioners it was their moral responsibility to overturn Proposition 22.
The question, of course, is why?
Divorce is still legal; remarriage is
prohibited: Yikes, is that a new ballot proposal!
Can one make a solid New Testament Biblical
argument that those of the same gender shouldn’t be allowed to marry?
Regardless of one’s leanings, a strict interpretation of New Testament teaching
doesn’t support a Biblically-based argument to deny this. I’ve found no
record of Jesus alluding to ‘same-gender’ unions. Conversely, Jesus’ teaching
on marriage is also limited—one could make an argument that there is more
teaching against divorce (actually, remarriage) than against’ ‘same-gender’
unions. Jesus, actually, condemns all divorce except in a narrow swath of
circumstances. I wonder how the same African-American church leaders would view
a proposition banning remarriage?
But the N.T. is more than the gospels…we have, of
course, the letters from Paul, Peter and rest of Jesus’ posse. Paul writes
about homosexual behavior as part of a list of 21 (or 23, depending on which
version of the Book of Romans) conditions describing mankind without God (none
are given more or less weight than others). The remaining references, as I
uncover them, have to do with sexual practices (heterosexual/homosexual)
relating to prostitution and temple worship of the goddess Diana (at Ephesus
A Biblical Injunction Against Outsourcing of Jobs… and Lynching?
So, why are so many African-American
evangelical leaders fighting against this? What about a ballot initiative that declaring it illegal to 'outsource' jobs to India. One can easily connect Biblical
scriptures and create a framework to support this argument. Would African-American evangelical
leaders support such a ban?
When lynching was prevalent in our country—let’s
call it 19th century acts of domestic terrorism— the only non-Black church
group to take a public stance against lynching were the Quakers. And, finally, after bloody race riots in Tulsa, East St. Louis, Springfield, Dennison and other
places, the Nazarene Church (in 1922) issued a statement condemning
the practice. They were the first denomination in the 20th century to stand with blacks and publically decry these amoral acts against humanity.
Why didn’t predominantly white denominations take a stand in support of African-Americans churches and the men and
woman who were lynched – often by members of those same white churches?
The Biblical evidence against lynching--abrogation of the rule of law-- is stronger than the teaching against
Why isn’t Pastor ‘so-and-so’ returning my phone call? I’ve
left several messages?
African-American evangelicals are quick to lend
their pulpits in support of social conservatives on matters of abortion and
same-sex unions. I wonder how quickly others evangelicals would open their pulpits in
support of legislation that authoizing midnight basketball leagues 'to keep
African-American kids off the street,’ ‘free breakfast and headstart programs
for rural and inner city kids and ‘reading programs' for black males in junior
high who were behind the national average.
The same African-American evangelical pastors who
carried the torch in support of Proposition 8 wouldn’t be able to find a single
congregation to stand with them in support of federal/state legislation on any
of the above ballot propositions.
So, who has a right to judge?
Politics, by nature, is divisive. Christianity, by
nature, is inclusive. I know many who believe that one can’t be a gay and have
a relationship with God. Are you kidding me? What gives anyone the right
to judge another’s lifestyle and make a value assessment on his or her
potential for a relationship with God? One could advance a Biblical
argument that the person ‘judging’ is in greater danger of losing an
opportunity for salvation than the person whom they are ‘judging.’
If an African-American pastor doesn’t support
same-gender unions as a personal choice, then so be it. Let’s just not make it
a tenet of the Christian faith. If two people are of the same gender and they
both love God, then who are we to say that the Bible prevents church