American Wedding

If you’ve arrived here hoping to find some extended treatise on the American Pie sequel, well, sorry, friend. You’re out of luck. I’ve never even seen it. But stick around anyway.

I recently had the honor of standing up with my friend Derrick as he married another one of my very best friends, Amber. I’d watched those two grow together through many trials and tribulations into a power couple. They’re truly two of the best humans on this planet, so it was exciting to see them combine forces. And as their wedding date drew near…

The world seemed to go to shit.

Two well-publicized police killings, right after another. Were the killings racially motivated? It seemed entirely possible. Were they straight-up assassinations? Less likely, but that didn’t prevent people from drawing virtual battle lines on social media, on horrible cable talk shows, and even more repugnant blogs. And then, the most despicable (and yet, sadly, not completely unexpected) reaction occurred. Officers gunned down in cold blood during a peaceful protest in Dallas. Our nation seemed headed to the brink of disaster at breakneck speed.

And once again, idiots and fools raised their ignorant voices in an attempt to fan the flames of hate. The one that filled me with rage and despair was the since-deleted Tweet from former Congressman (A GODDAM CONGRESSMAN!) Joe Walsh (not the guy from the Eagles. The other one.)

Check it out:

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It was a punch in the gut, perfectly encapsulating the point of view shared by so many of my backwards-thinking white brothers and sisters. It was as if they all breathed a sigh of relief and said “Finally! Now we can be open and direct with our hate and violence! At last, war!”

Of course, some of my black brothers and sisters played right into their hands, Tweeting support for the gunmen and praising the murders of men that had done nothing wrong except wear a badge.

Things looked bleak, to put it mildly. Depression set in and seemed determined to hang around indefinitely.

Derrick and Amber to the rescue. Again.

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See, that Friday night, the 8th of July, members of both wedding parties and families and friends all gathered for the wedding rehearsal. That’s when hope showed up again. Hope in the form a stunningly beautiful, petite, blue-eyed, blonde bride and the imposing, handsome, tall, black man she’d fallen in love with. A man who had already demonstrated compassion, patience, and love with her two wonderful daughters…and incredible patience with the fiercely independent Amber. I mean, seeing them stand there together, Derrick towering over her, neither one of them concerned about anything other than being excited to begin the rest of their lives together…how could you not be inspired? But it got even better.

The kids.

Yeah. The kids. A colorful mix of punk-rock haircuts and shades of pink and green, of glasses and suspenders, and skin tones ranging from pale white to rich mocha. And they didn’t give a good goddam about looks or religion or skin or social expectations. They had no idea that they were avatars for the literal future of our country. They were kids. They wanted to play. They wanted to dance. They wanted to take their shoes off in the church. They were hungry and wanted pizza. Kids.

And the groomsmen! Black and white. Tall and short. Ukrainian and Liberian. The bridesmaids were just as impressive: servicewomen, teachers, writers…tattoos and smiles and confident female sexiness in all its sizes and shapes and colors and ages.

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“Where you from, Paul?” “My mom.”

So on Saturday, after the ceremony, after the pictures and the uncomfortable clothes and the waiting and the standing, came the reception. Dancing, drinking, hugging, laughing. Joy. Bliss. Hope. Everywhere. And it was good. And I felt so happy.

So thanks, D & A. You guys rock, and this huge clan of ours, these wonderful misfits…they restore my hope. Constantly. I’m so very proud to be part of that. Take a look..

I threw that video together, not just for Derrick and Amber or their guests and friends, and not just to try and inspire anyone who needs a pick-me-up. I did it for myself. I cobbled it together over the last few evenings so that in days to come, if and when I feel hopeless and sad, I can watch it and remember how great this world truly is. I can remind myself that hope is very real, and Real America is still the best place in the world.

 

Enough is Enough.

Okay, this shit has got to stop.  As most of you know, February is Black History Month.  Yes, the shortest freaking month on the calendar, even in a leap year for crissakes.  Black folks get one freakin’ month to shine and educate people about the greatness (and yes, sometimes the sorrow) of black history in these great United States of America.  On one hand, it’s sad that in the 21st Century, we still have to divide people between black, white, asian, hispanic, and all other manner of skin-tone-based descriptions.  It would be great if people were just “humans.”  But I know that, like it or not, we DO see the differences between people, and I guess that’s fine as long as we’re not associating stereotypes with those descriptions.  After all, isn’t skin color difference just as important as height, facial hair, weight, etc. when describing a robbery suspect or an actor whose name you can’t remember?

The difference, of course, is that in this country people have not been subjugated to hundreds of years of subjugation, slavery, and discrimination based on whether or not they have a beard.  (As much as I’d like to see hipsters subjugated, it’s an unrealistic dream at best.)  So, that being the case, the black community is alone in the long struggle to make a place for themselves in our society.  The only ethnic group that comes close is the Native American population, and like it or not, the European American has pretty much taken everything possible from that group, starting with the land they fucking lived on.  Not getting into that.  There’s just so much bad there.

Anyway, I saw this link recently and it just made my blood boil.  Take a good look at this, people, and I’ll give my calm, reasonable rebuttal. Okay. When I see this sort of thing, the only reaction I can come up with is “YOU HAVE THE ENTIRE FUCKING CALENDAR, YOU BACKWARDS-ASS CRACKER!”  I mean, really?  Really? White people are still 63% of the total population. And when you think “rich people” you usually picture white folks.  Yes, black athletes and entertainers make mad cash.  That is, the very small percentage of the total population that is in the NBA or works with Sean Combs.   Against this, you have the fact that only 11 black executives have ever made it to the Chairman or CEO position of a “Fortune 500” listed company. Of these 11 executives, only 6 remained as of April 1, 2011. (http://www.blackentrepreneurprofile.com/fortune-500-ceos/) That’s eleven…EVER. Dude, it’s a list of the top 500 companies every year. Starting in 1955.  That’s a total of 28,500 companies not including, obviously, repeats.  Example: Wal Mart has been there at least eight times in the last ten years.  So, let’s take a guess and just halve that number…let’s say there have been 14,250 companies listed.  Of those, 11 have had a black CEO/chairperson.  Including repeats.  If we’re gonna play the “repeat” game, you’ve gotta figure that means, what?  About eight?  Yep.

Anyway. A friend once asked me why I don’t like the word “nigger.”  His rationale, as misguided as it was, consisted of his black friends using it and so on and so forth. My response is that “you haven’t earned the right.”  Unless you’ve been born black, especially in a mostly-white community (like, you know, all of Indiana) you just simply cannot know what it’s like. I don’t.  He didn’t.  We’ve never had people eye us suspiciously when we entered the store, never learned about how our people came over to this country in chains (in fucking CHAINS, people!) and we’ve never had to work harder and think faster than an equally-qualified job applicant just to get a look at promotion. We haven’t.  And as such, we haven’t earned the right. I know a few older black dudes that dislike the way “nigga” gets used by modern black youths.  They find it distasteful.  The counter argument that I’ve heard is that by using that word amongst one another, black kids have taken the power out of it. They’ve neutralized the sting, much like “Yankee” used to be sort of a derogatory term slung at American Colonists.  Now we take pride in that term.  Either way, this discussion is one that the white man needs to butt out of.  It’s not up to us.  That’s not a word for us to use.  Period. And yes, I’ll concede that words are just words.  Some of them just carry more weight: Nazi, cancer, hipster…these words are a little bigger than a collection of vowels and consonants.  It is, after all, the intent behind the word that gives it menace.

“It’s just a word” is a mantra I hear a lot.  I think the best argument for this sort of thing is from the late, great George Carlin:

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word “Nigger” in and of itself. It’s the racist asshole who’s using it that you ought to be concerned about. We don’t mind when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it. Why? Because we know they’re not racist. They’re Niggers! Context. Context. We don’t mind their context because we know they’re black. Hey, I know I’m whitey, the blue-eyed devil, paddy-o, fay gray boy, honkey, mother-fucker myself. Don’t bother my ass. They’re only words. You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there’s a bigot and a racist in every living room on every street corner in this country.”

He’s right, of course.  And I’m not a big enough hypocrite to admit that I’ve never told a racist joke.  I always justify it by saying “I make fun of everyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexual preference.”  I return to Carlin’s belief that it’s the intent behind the joke/racial epithet/what-have-you.  Maybe.  But I still feel really guilty, and frankly, a little dirty when I stoop to that kind of humor.

So, just…I don’t know.  Stop being assholes.  Let the back community have one stinkin’ month.  Jesus, if that’s the best we can do as a nation to apologize or at least try and somewhat rectify the ninety or so years that we put this group of people through hell, so be it.  Imagine how mad some people are going to be in fifty years when “Gay Pride Month” or “Latino Culture Month” roll around.  And I, for one, have no problem with that sort of thing coming to pass.  (Sidebar worthy of another entire blog: if you discriminate/hate on gay people because of some stupid line of religious text, you are an ignorant bigot.  So stop that shit.)  We’re Americans.  More importantly, we’re Humans.  Let’s get over this cultural and racist divide and accept each other.  It’s okay.  When the comet slams into Earth, it’s not gonna care a damn what color you are at the time of impact.  Because we’re all gonna be equally screwed in a fiery conflagration.

We’ll all be reduced to a smouldering pile of bones.  Charred, black bones.  How ironic.