Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thoughts from a White Man who Watched Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley Fail on#BlackLivesMatter

[Originally published on Medium - please give that version a rec and a share!]

You may have heard about the Sanders/O’Malley/Vargas presidential town hall last week that was interrupted by #BlackLivesMatter protestors. I was there, and now that I’m back on an actual computer instead of mobile, I’d like to share my thoughts.

[I had just finished writing this when a friend shared this article from Tia Oso, whose voice is far more important than mine here and you should read it first: “I Am the Black Woman Who Interrupted the Netroots Presidential Town Hall, and This Is Why.”]

On the one hand, one could definitely criticize the protestors’ tactics, as many have done. You can say that interrupting is rude and that discourse should be more respectful, that O’Malley and Sanders are allies of the movement and it’s counterproductive to embarrass them, or that they should have made their point and then sat down so that the audience could hear a rare event they were excited for.

All good points — and all incorrect, for three reasons.

1) I am a straight, cis, well-educated white man, as are many of the others who have criticized these protestors. I have more privilege than almost anyone in the history of the planet. That doesn’t mean my life is easy or that I don’t face real challenges and experience true pain — but it does mean that the system is stacked in my favor. I’m not 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police or twice as likely to be denied a mortgage; there will be generational transfer of wealth; I’m on the healthy side of the pay gap. So here’s the thing — who the hell am I to tell the oppressed, the families of people literally dying in the streets at the hands of the state, how they can and can’t speak out?  
Yes, their tactics could have been better, but to focus on that misses the point entirely. I don’t get to tell them how they can respond to their pain.

2) For voices on the outside, being loud is the only thing that works. People who lead movements with inside-voices rarely effect change. White politicians can demand that all activists, including the black and brown ones, speak to them quietly, but the few don’t get heard by the many if they don’t speak up over the din. That’s why we’ve seen only small progress over the past few decades, and if the oppressed don’t speak out, they’ll continue to suffer without the progress they need.

When we say “Don’t interrupt! Be civil!” We’re saying “Keep doing what you’ve always done,” which means keep getting the same results. No, sitting at a lunch counter and denying that small-business owner the revenue from a white customer, even though that’s illegal, is what gets noticed and starts to shift the culture.

3) Most importantly, the protest WORKED. People are still talking about this event days after the fact. Hillary Clinton put out a forceful statement on black lives matter, which she wouldn’t have otherwise had to do, and we learned things about O’Malley and Sanders that we wouldn’t have from a normal interview.

When asked about systemic racism and black, O’Malley’s reply included “white lives matter.” That told me more about him than answers to ten more questions from Vargas could have possibly done. The Sanders, when asked about an issue he doesn’t usually address, refused to deviate from a limited set of talking points about job creation and free tuition. He sounded like a Bush-era Republican screaming “TAX CUTS!” no matter what the question — never mind that without paying attention to systemic racism, new policies almost inevitably benefit the majority more.

Initially I thought O’Malley’s remarks were worse, but at least he did listen to the protestors while Sanders fumed at them. Then Sanders kept digging his hole deeper by cancelling all meetings for the rest of the day, while O’Malley kept his plans to go on a black radio show and sat through a dressing down, which is not easy to do, and later apologized. You can say he didn’t have a choice, but contrast it to Sanders who took his ball and went home, showing a thin skin, giant ego, and limited issue profile.

You can say the protestors failed in their tactics, but O’Malley and Sanders failed even more. Had the activists not stormed the proceedings, we would have heard Sanders continue to repeat the same talking points over and over no matter what he was asked, we would have continued to hear O’Malley drone on more about his record than his vision, and Clinton would have ignored the event. Oppressed voices were heard.

I don’t have a choice — no matter what I might otherwise think of the tactics, I have to support Tia Oso, Patrisse Cullors, and the voices of #BlackLivesMatter.

Three more articles worth reading about the town hall:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Episcopal Church Embraces Marriage Equality and ALL God's children!

On a vote of 129-26, the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church has approved liturgies for same-sex marriage ceremonies! No blessings - MARRIAGE, the full-on sacrament.

This is WONDERFUL news and I am so proud to be an Episcopalian! The Archbishop of Canterbury in London, who is the titular head of the full Anglican Communion, released this statement:
"At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards."
I completely agree! Let's look out beyond the pews - to everyone the church has hurt in the past - and do what we can to apologize, heal the wounds, and fight for justice.

Wait, what? That's not what he meant?
"Archbishop Justin Welby said that [the Episcopal Church's decision to recognize marriage equality] will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole."
And what about the refusal to recognize the dignity of ALL God's children? The refusal to treat our brothers and sisters as equals? The bloody violence that leads to against LGBT people in Nigeria, Uganda, and yes, even here on a smaller scale in the United States? Does that all not cause distress for some with ramifications for all, as well?

When the ABC said this: "We continue to mourn with all those who are grieving loved ones and caring for the injured from the terrorist attacks in Sousse, Kuwait and Lyons, and from the racist attacks in Charleston." What about the 1,572 Americans who the FBI says were victims of sexual-orientation hate crimes in 2011? Or the fact that though transgendered people are just 1% of immigration detainees, they are 20% of that population's sexual assault victims? And what about the millions more who simply want - need - to be told they are human too? Should we not mourn, care for, and stand with them, too?

This is not the first time Justin Welby has said such things, and I'm starting to feel a little ashamed to have him as Archbishop of Canterbury. He proclaims the need for unity, yet takes sides in the process - and the side of injustice, at that. But I'm proud of my church. We welcome, include, and love ALL of God's children. God loves YOU!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Sermon on Father's Day, My White Privilege, Charleston, and Racism in America

Delivered at Christ Church Washington (Episcopal) Parish; Washington, DC; 06-21-15. Year B, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Job 38:1-11 • Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 • 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 • Mark 4:35-41. Audio coming soon to CCWP website.

Happy Father’s Day! Dads, I hope you’ve got a wonderful day planned with the kids, or better yet, that you’ll be rewarded with a rare day alone in your recliner with some of our Brew Crew beer.

It’s also a special day for those of us who are adult children. There can be something very meaningful in sharing old memories with Dad that he didn’t know we had – and it’s great to actually be able pick up the check for once. I like Father’s Day.

But just like Mother’s Day, it can also be hard for some: for those who don’t know their dads, or who might have complicated relationships with them. For those who are having their first Father’s Day without their father or grandfather. Or worst of all, for fathers who have lost their children.

That kind of pain is actually the place where this day has its roots. The very first Father’s Day was in 1908, four hours from here in Fairmont, West Virginia. A terrible coal-mine explosion killed 360 miners and left more than 1,000 children without fathers, so the local Methodist church held a service in honor of fatherhood.

If there is anyone here who feels a twinge of sadness today, you are not alone; this holiday is for you as much as it is for anyone. We all honor your loss and its meaning. I am very sorry.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few people experiencing a Father’s Day like that for the first time today in Charleston, SC.

Eliana and Malana Pinckney have lost their father, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Tywanza Sanders’ joyous reunion with his father and mother following his college graduation was cut tragically short, and they now mourn their baby.

And all over this country, black fathers and mothers have to explain to their children today why they don’t feel safe at church the way I feel safe here now, the way they already don’t feel safe on the playground like Tamir Rice, or walking home from the convenience store like Trayvon Martin.

I’m lucky. That is not the Father’s Day phone call John Empsall and I will have this afternoon. That is my privilege – everyone has troubles, grief, and challenges, but it cannot be denied that white families like mine and black families like the Pinckneys and Sanders face very different challenges, fears, and even realities in today’s America.

And we as Episcopalians who take Baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace and to persevere in resisting evil, we as Christians whose savior was a person of color executed by the state, must respond.

As a country - and as a church - we need to talk about the need for new gun laws and mental health options. But as we discuss those topics, we cannot let them distract us from this one horrible fact: Systemic racism is and has always been alive and well in the United States, and to this day, it has devastating consequences for millions of our brothers and sisters.

The Charleston shooting was a racist hate crime and an act of terror. It brings to mind nothing so much as the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, and comes in a nation where both the media and the state treat white criminals, and white victims, very differently than black criminals and black victims.

I think most of us here already know the data – statistics like, black families are twice as likely to be denied a mortgage, and young white men like me are 21 times less likely to be shot by police than our black counterparts. So I won’t patronize anyone by laying out that case, but I would like to read an extended passage Joshua DuBois wrote this week. DuBois is a black man, a Pentecostal minister, and a former adviser to President Obama. He writes,
"One of [the next] steps [in combating the sickness of unacknowledged bias and white supremacy] has to be White Americans having an honest conversation about White culture. Yes, White culture.

"If that sounds shocking, think about this: how many times have we explicitly asked Black folks to address the ‘problems’ of Black culture, from fatherlessness to violent music to shootings in Chicago? African Americans engage in these conversations regularly. Now it’s time for my White brothers and sisters [to] lead their own conversations as well.
"We need dinner table conversations about how some White children grow up without a racist bone in their body, but others are predisposed to sing songs about [n-words] on a fraternity bus. How does that happen? What is the cause, and what is the solution? White Americans need to drive this dialogue."
This is not the sermon I was expecting to give even just yesterday morning. But DuBois is right – today, every predominately black church in the country is talking about Charleston and racism, every single one, and so every predominantly white church must do the same.

That is especially true for us as Episcopalians. Our denomination, though I love it dearly and it is my identity, has a very flawed racial history – for example, we never actually opposed slavery, and didn’t apologize for that until the 1990s. That makes it all the more imperative that we step up every single time this happens. We cannot claim to be filling our vow to strive for justice if we do not speak of injustice.

Today’s Gospel is an appropriate one for the occasion. All of us have storms in our individual lives – divorce, breakups, the death of a loved one, bad jobs, lay-offs, uncertainty. Collectively, we are also all going through the storm of racism. There is work for us to do – as a church, as individuals – but it begins by acknowledging God’s presence with us in the boat.

To that end, one of my favorite quotes is from a Mississippi theologian and preacher, Tex Sample: “Trouble is the infallible sign of God’s presence. Not because God loves trouble, but because God loves us. So where there is trouble, God comes to be present.”

So the question facing us is, how do we help others find God’s presence during their troubles? How can we be active Christian allies in the ongoing struggles against racism and violence?

I hate to bring up questions and not answers, so I will at least throw out three little ideas.

First, and most simply, go online to http://emanuelamechurch.org/, and if you can, hit the Donate button. $5, $200, whatever.

Second, make that solidarity visible. Find out when DC Ferguson or other organizations are protesting – and if you’re able, go. (In fact, there’s a silent march tonight at 6pm at the African American Civil War Memorial, by the U Street Metro.) And, whether it’s tonight’s march or a future event, if you’re a parent, happy Father’s Day, consider taking your child. I’ve been to a lot of these protests, and I can say that these are safe events – everything is out in public, justice is on everybody’s minds, and at least in downtown DC, the police are used to it. So I’m always happy to see small children there, holding mommy or daddy’s hand and learning. Please, come.

Finally, the most important thing we as mostly white Christians can do is to heed DuBois’ call - to have this conversation, and to have it in public. At coffee hour, at our grill and chills, at work, on Facebook. I know that a recent poll showed 57% of white Americans think we already talk too much about race – but only 18% of black Americans said that, and as the ones who bear the brunt of racism and prejudice, they’re the experts here. If most black Americans under fire say we don’t talk enough about race, I don’t GET to disagree.

That conversation begins by listening to those Black voices who have the lived experience. We must pay attention to faith leaders like Moral Mondays founder Rev. William Barber and Ferguson Pastor Traci Blackmon, and to activists like the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. And without tokenizing them or putting them on the spot, we should definitely listen to the people in our own lives whose days are different than ours when they choose to speak out.

Then, though it’s painful and it’s uncomfortable, we need to ask ourselves how we – I need to ask myself how I – might be advancing a culture of racism without even realizing it. I need to ask, what is white culture, and is the culture at work a mostly white culture? Am I, are we, open to those who are different, and what questions do I ask of which colleagues? What about the culture at church? This is a denomination that is 80% white in a country that certainly isn’t.

I don’t have answers to these questions, but asking them in and of itself is a powerful step we can all take.

More personally – and this is something I failed at just last night – we need to call out friends and loved ones if and when we hear them dehumanize the poor with language like “they’re lazy” or reflexively respond to news stories by calling unarmed victims of police violence “thugs.” Even if we can’t change our friends’ minds, it matters that observers see those words rebutted by Christians like us, especially white Christians who don’t have to speak out.

Pushing back against those sentiments isn’t being political – it is asserting an active, Godly love for the victims of racism by fighting just some of the prejudice they receive from people who look like me - and like most of us.

Like in the Gospel, there is a storm in our lives. We need to follow Christ and proclaim His presence, but that doesn’t mean we can throw up our hands and say He’ll do the hard work for us. It’s up to us to exercise our privilege, join Black Americans in their storm, and show the haters that Jesus is sitting in the storm too.

I probably haven’t said anything new or that you don’t already know, but we each need to be able to tell people that this is the conversation we had in our church had today. It starts with love and respect for those who tell us they are suffering, it continues with dialogue and with listening, and it must culminate with our Godly action.

My bishop in Spokane, my sponsoring bishop for seminary, asked all of us in that diocese to pray the words of St. Francis today, so I'll conclude by saying, let us pray:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we [and the nine in Charleston] are born to eternal life.   


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Marcus Borg on science and the modern worldview

I was incredibly saddened earlier this week to learn that Marcus Borg has passed away. I met Borg, a great theologian, as an eager high schooler years ago during a weekend of lectures in Spokane, and then his wife preached at my mother's ordination last year. I was more or less a fundamentalist in high school, but it was Borg that put me on a more progressive path after my mom introduced me to his work. That would have eventually happened anyways, but timing and style matter, and I will always be grateful to Marcus Borg. Prayers for his family. Rest in peace, sir, and thank you. You impacted and continue to impact my soul's relationship with the divine in deep and positive ways.
One of my own favorite things about Borg is the way he challenged everyone to expand their worldview. He is best known as a scholar of the historic Jesus, which is an approach that can undermine Christian fundamentalism. However, he also challenged those who rely ONLY on history and science. He did not want to detract from those approaches or their findings, only to point out that alone, they are insufficient. They may reveal more truths than any other methods we have, but some truths remain that they cannot reveal. None of us should limit our worldview, for when we do, we limit how much of our own existence we can truly experience or comprehend. Religious of all stripes and secular of a;; stripe, we would all do well to stay open-minded and hold our truths lightly. We need both science and spirituality.

Many of my friends have shared favorite Borg quotes this week; here’s one of mine. It's from one of his chapters in a book he co-wrote with the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright:

Modernity is dominated by a secular worldview [that] began to emerge…with the birth of modern science. … It sees what is real as the world of matter and energy, space and time; and it sees the universe as a closed system of cause and effect, operating in accord with natural laws. … It reduces truth to factuality, either scientifically verifiable or historically reliable facts. It raises serious doubts about anything that cannot be accommodated within its framework, including common religious phenomena such as prayer…

In my thirties, I became aware of how uncritically, unconsciously, and completely I had accepted the modern worldview. I saw that most cultures throughout human history have seen things differently. I realized that there are well-authenticated experiences that radically transcend what the modern worldview can accommodate. I became aware that the modern worldview is itself a relative cultural construction, the product of a particular era in human intellectual history. Though it is still dominant in Western culture, I am confident that the time is soon coming when it will seem as archaic and quaint… The change in my worldview has made it possible for me once again to take God seriously. I am convinced that the sacred is real. I see reality as far more mysterious than the modern worldview (or any worldview) affirms. I do not know the limits of what is possible with any precision. To be sure, I am reasonably confident that some things never happen, but I am convinced that the modern draws those limits far too narrowly.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Soccer is groing on me, but was kind of ruined for me at an early age

Well that sucked. But like a slow fungus, soccer is growing on me. Not a real fan, just sayin', I guess I can see the appeal.

Soccer was ruined for me at an early age. In first grade, my youth league coach was a former Greek national team player. And he tended to remember his glory days better than he remembered the fact that HE WAS COACHING FIRST GRADERS. Ball, nets, kids, shin guards, fun, aaaand YOU'RE DONE. But he would go ape**** whenever the refs didn't make the most minute, technical, esoteric calls - to the point that he stormed off the field during our second official game and never, ever came back. But what hit us first graders the hardest that day was that, because it was a forfeit, we didn't get our free post-game cokes at the concession stand.

Then a few years later, playing indoor soccer at YMCA day camp, everyone thought I was good at heading. But no, I was just good at getting my glasses smashed over and over again. Ouch.

I'm just sayin', that childhood stuff lasts. Ya gotta gimme time with this sport, that's all.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Justice isn't worth waiting for - it's worth fighting for.

The relatively new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, said in a recent interview that we mustn't be TOO hasty to respect the rights and spirituality of our LGBT brothers and sisters, because when we do, we risk putting African Christians in danger. That's an interesting suggestion I admit I haven't thought about much before - indeed, sometimes the sacrifices required by our actions are not our own. It's important to consider all perspectives and walks of life, so this is a valid point I should reflect upon more.

But the ABC may also need to do some more reflecting himself on a different valid point, and that is that when we DON'T stand up for the rights and spirituality of our LGBT brothers and sisters, then THEY can be similarly abused - especially in Africa

I respect what the ABC saw in South Sudan. It's not an experience I have had. Had he coupled this discussion with condemnation of Uganda's new anti-gay law, I would be somewhat less uncomfortable. 

I am proud to be a member of an Anglican province, the Episcopal Church in the United States, that doesn't wait for justice or love. Reader, I don't know who you are, but I know that Jesus loves you. That means I do too. Every single one of us already has God's grace, so what else matters? Just the love and justice that flow from that truth.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

My take on last night's D.C. election results

Last night's election results were a small step forward for D.C. - good, but not great. The crooked mayor is gone, but his replacement is mediocre at best. There were huge gains in Ward 1, though, and nothing went in reverse with Ward 6 electing another great councilmember. A small net positive overall.

I'm very proud of D.C. for kicking Mayor Gray out. We have no one to blame but ourselves when we re-elect crooks, and D.C. did the right thing by picking the anti-Gray. Unfortunately, the wrong candidate emerged as the anti-Gray. I do not believe Muriel Bowser will be a good mayor. There doesn't seem to be a lot of depth in her interviews or courage in her career. Though not corrupt like Gray, she only supported ethics reform after it was extremely watered down and accepted money from the same shady donors. She's an improvement, but not a big one.

The best news is in Ward 1, where we saw HUGE change. The ethically-challenged Councilmember Jim Graham was defeated. I thought this would happen, but by one point, not 17!!! Best of all, the winner, Brianne Nadeau, isn't just an anti-Graham. She knows the neighborhood, is committed to a progressive vision, and expands the Council's reformer bloc. I'm very excited by Ward 1 - that was a huge boost for the city.

The positive status quo was kept in Ward 6, my neighborhood, with Charles Allen replacing Tommy Wells on the Council. This is wonderful news and I'm very excited - Charles will make a GREAT councilmember. But, Tommy was outstanding, so when talking about reform and progress, this is holding ground, or I'd lead off with it. Still exciting though.

Unfortunately, the negative status quo was kept for the at-large seat with Anita Bonds being re-elected, but that was expected. And while it's disappointing, it's also the status quo, meaning at least it's not a step backwards.

So overall, a small step forward in a big race, a huge step forward in a small race, and status quo both good and bad elsewhere. But I am excited by the prospect of an expanding Grosso/McDuffie/Allen/Nadeau reform voting bloc on the Council.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

#DCision14: Who I'm Voting For

If you haven't heard yet -- today, Tuesday, April 1, is Election Day in D.C. This is our chance to clean up our city.

Nobody else will do it if we don't.

While I'm growing more and more cynical about national politics, I remain committed to our community. We live, work, and play here -- so this city's health and future are entirely up to us. If you're a registered Democrat or not yet a registered D.C. voter (you can register same day!), then I hope you'll turn out to vote for reform -- and above all, I just hope you'll vote. Some of the biggest change happens at the local level.

Depending on your ward, I encourage you to vote for:
Please let me tell you why, and then look up your polling place here.

Tommy Wells for Mayor

It's imperative that we vote out Mayor Gray. Although there are seven other candidates for mayor, there's only one whom I believe would do a good job, and that's Tommy Wells. He has more than earned my vote, and I hope yours.

Tommy is stellar when it comes to ethics, something we desperately need right now. He's walking the walk by not taking any corporate contributions, is the only councilmember running who didn't take any money from Jeffrey Thompson (the crook behind the mayor's illegal shadow campaign), and has a long track record of introducing solid ethics reforms. He attends my church and everyone there who's known him for years loves him.

But he's much more than just an honest guy. As a Councilmember, Tommy successfully passed decrim legislation and the bag tax, as Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary is pressing Police Chief Lanier on sexual harassment issues and the Fire Department on their bad equipment and ambulance response times, and improved bus service as transportation committee chair (until then-Council Chair now-convict Kwame Brown took away that chair in revenge for an ethics investigation).

His website features a vast array of detailed policy proposals to reorganize the city government. He has the endorsements of the National Organization of Women as well as both the police & fire unions, and in his previous career was a socialworker east of the river and a DC School Board member - so you know he's got the experience for ALL the issues.

You may have heard that this has become a two-person race. That's not true. Muriel Bowser does have the best shot at beating Gray, but I don't believe she'll make a good mayor -- and Wells isn't out yet. He's in a strong third place, and if every Bowser voter who prefers Wells but prioritizes beating Gray actually voted for Wells (and several have told me they ended up doing so in early voting), he could win.

This is still a close election where you can vote for your values, and my values tell me to vote for Tommy Wells.

Brianne Nadeau for Council, Ward 1

Brianne is running against 16-year incumbent Jim Graham. Graham has done a lot of good for the city, particularly the LGBT community, but there are just too many ethics questions to re-elect him again -- and Brianne would make a great Councilmember. The race is neck-and-neck, so turnout matters!

As Greater Greater Washington put it,
In this election, voters do not simply have a choice between Graham and not-Graham; they have the opportunity to select a very worthy councilmember for all of Ward 1...

Nadeau has been working to improve her neighborhood for many years, including a stint on the U Street Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B and then in the Ward 1 Democrats. She has advocated for smart growth and progressive policies such as reforming parking, adding new housing to welcome more neighbors, and providing affordable housing for less affluent residents... 
Brianne has picked up endorsements from Democracy for America, Jews United For Justice, Emily's List, the Washington Post, and even Councilmembers Wells and Grosso, reformers who still have to work with her opponent. Plus numerous good friends I trust are going all-in for her. She'll make a great Councilmember.

Kenyan McDuffie for Council, Ward 5

In Ward 5, still-new Council member Kenyan McDuffie is another strong choice for reform, but he doesn't have strong opposition, so I'm not going to go into great detail. You can read Greater Greater Washington's endorsement here.

Charles Allen for Council, Ward 6

I live in Ward 6 and have been active with Charles's race, and will cast an enthusiastic ballot for him today.

For years, Charles has been Tommy Wells's Council Chief of Staff, and is now running to replace him on the Council. He shares Tommy's commitment to ethics and integrity during a time of corruption -- as well as the credit for many of Tommy's legislative accomplishments. Talk to him about any local issue and you'll find that he knows them all, backwards and forwards.

Charles is basing his campaign around better middle schools, better housing for senior citizens, and growing small businesses. He's also the only candidate who's not taking any corporate donations, so we know that both his ethics and his commitment to the grassroots are for real. Greater Greater Washington's endorsement summed up perfectly why I support Charles -- as well as why I don't support his opponent this year.

Tommy won't be on the Council come January - it's up or out. That's why it's important that reformers keep this seat by electing Charles, who will do an excellent job in his own right.

Nate Bennett-Fleming for Council At Large

The incumbent, Anita Bonds, has been relatively ineffectual as a Councilmember, has ties to dubious developers, and is part of the old Marion Barry machine. Cleaning up city politics means voting in a new At-Large member to the Council.

John Settles has raised a lot of cash and performed impressively in debates, and Nate Bennett-Fleming has name recognition from his tireless stint as Shadow Rep and has an impressive list of endorsements (including Democracy for America, the Sierra Club, Jews United for Justice, the Washington Post, and more). Either candidate would be better than Bonds, but we should coalesce around one, and Bennett-Fleming seems to have the momentum.


I will also be voting for "The Rent is Too Darn High" slate for the DC Democratic State Committee Offices, but only because almost all of the locally active folks I trust are doing the same. The slate does include former Councilmember Sekou Biddle, whom I have supported for Council in the past. I can't really give you a good reason to support the slate other than that; just passing the information along.

Remember -- reform is up to us, because there's no one else. No matter how long you're planning on staying, this is our home for now, so let's do our part to make it a great place to live and work. You can register to vote same day if you're not registered already -- find your ward and look up your polling place here (it may have changed since the last election!).

Be sure to think through your plan to vote - when are you going to the polls? How will you get there? Can you bring a friend? It sounds cheesy, but if we don't think through these details, it can be 8 p.m. and the polls are closed just like that! I'll be walking to Stuart Hobson Middle School before work at 9:15 a.m.

See you at the polls!

Friday, March 28, 2014

In which I go on a rant about country music

Luke Bryan has a great voice, and he earned a lot of good will for the almost raw and very poignant "Drink a Beer" -- but he has squandered all of it on this monstrosity "This Is How We Roll." It's far, far worse than either "Country Girl" or "Drunk on You." He's not even pretending anymore; there's no even a pretense of country or content left! It's like he wanted to take that Zac Brown comment about "That's My Kind of Night" being the worst song ever and just rub everyone's nose in it. That quote seems quaint now. NONE of this crap is country. What the hell is Luke Bryan thinking?

It takes a lot of talent to do hip-hop well - to have the rhythm, to not trip over your tongue on the speed, to hit that balance of going beyond speaking without quite singing. I deeply respect that kind of talent and the vision that goes behind it -- but it ain't country, and let's not pretend it is. So what the hell have Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, or even Blake Shelton been thinking?

An auto-tuned voice can be a lot of fun -- but it ain't country either. Pouring American-grown whiskey, not tech-grown microchips, on your vocal chords -- THAT'S country. Willie Nelson is country. Life the way it is when it's just us the way we are is country. So what the hell was Jarrod Niemann thinking?

Thank the Lord for Zac Brown, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell. They almost make George Strait's retirement forgivable. Almost.

Last night, "This is How We Roll" and "Drink to that All Night" played back to back, and I thought someone had changed my presets. But let's set these artists aside - it doesn't have to be country to be art. WHAT THE HELL ARE THE PRODUCERS AND RADIO STATION EXECS THINKING?

A cross-genre collaboration or the occasional party song can be a great, great thing, but it's coming to define all of country, and that. ain't. right. Brad Paisley once sang "Too country? What's that?" but at least we now know what its polar opposite look like. When I turn to a country station in the car, it's because I want country music. If I wanted rap, I would have put on the rap station.