Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

Hadiya Pendleton performed for the president’s inauguration. A week later she was dead.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was an honor student who according to her father hated and avoided violence.

But violence is relentless in how it methodically seeks out and destroys even those who want no part of it.

A 15-year-old girl who performed at President Obama’s inauguration last week was shot dead Tuesday while hanging out with friends after school in bullet-scarred Chicago.

Hadiya Pendleton — described by family as a “walking angel” — was standing under a canopy in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park when a gunman ran down an alley, opened fire and fled in a white car, police said.

Pendleton was shot in the back but managed to run about a block before she collapsed, officer Laura Kubiak said. She died at the hospital.

 A 16-year-old boy was wounded in the 2:20 p.m. incident. Police said Pendleton, who had no criminal record, was probably not the intended target.

 “Never in a million years did I think I would get a call that my own baby had been gunned down,” Pendleton’s mother, Cleo Cowley, said through tears from her Chicago home.

“As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose,” the victim’s godfather, Damon Stewart, 36, who is a police officer, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I changed her diapers, I played with her growing up. My heart is broken.”

A sophomore at selective King College Prep High School, Pendleton had traveled to Washington to perform with the band at inaugural events.

“It was the highlight of her young 15-year-old life,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday at a Senate hearing on gun violence.

“Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney called the shooting a “terrible tragedy” and said the Obamas were praying for Pendleton’s family.

Cousin Shatira Wilks said the inauguration trip was the talk of a family gathering around New Year’s, but the young majorette was even more excited about something else: plans to travel to Europe this spring with the band.

“She was an honor student all her life,” Wilks said. “Honestly, she was a walking angel. She never once gave her mom any problems ever.”

Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

The day after Hadiya died, another gun victim, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords went before a Senate committee to ask Congress to actually make a tough call instead of talking a problem to death.

“Speaking is difficult,” Giffords said slowly and haltingly, “But I need to say something important. Violence is a problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something.”

Also speaking was NRA Executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre running his usual rap about how more laws and background checks won’t stop criminals and only impede the rights of law-abiding citizens. It’s subject to debate whether LaPierre was there to testify or check on how the NRA’s money is being spent. Eight of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have received campaign contributions from the NRA including all eight Republicans and Democratic chairman Patrick Leahy.

There is no reason to believe “something” will be done by anyone on Capitol Hill.  Stand up to the gun lobby?  Question the priorities of the NRA?  Not from a  Congress populated by dopes like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) who doesn’t believe the proliferation of guns is any sort of big deal.

“I’m going to wait and see on all of these bills,” Alexander said. “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people. But the First Amendment limits what we can do about video games, and the Second Amendment to the Constitution limits what we can do about guns.”  Alexander, who is up for reelection in 2014 owns a 92 percent lifetime rating from the NRA.

Politicians that aren’t moved to action by White children killed in an elementary school,  aren’t about to do anything for Black children killed on the streets of Chicago.

The day Hadiya died she was one of three to be gunned down in broad daylight in the Windy City.

In 2012, while crime fell in most major cities, over 500 people were murdered in Chicago.

Thus far in 2013, over 42 people have been killed, the most violent January since 2002. Seven people were slain on one bloody Saturday.   Chicago is so segregated if you avoid the battle zones and stay in the nice neighborhoods and the tourist areas, you probably wouldn’t even notice they’re pulling bodies off the pavement two or three at a time.   If this isn’t war in the streets, it sure is claiming a body count like one.

It’s one thing to live in a war zone in Syria or Afghanistan. It’s another to live and die in a war zone in a major American city.   “This guy, whoever he was, the gunman…you took the life of my life, Nathaniel Pendleton said of his daughter, ” Just look at yourself and just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a non-violent person.”

As young Black people are murdered by other young Black people, I wonder if there might be more of an outpouring of outrage if there were thousands of racist Klansmen behind the mass spilling of blood across the  streets of America.

But I recall there is no law, no agency, no Constitutional right that can make someone respect human life. Self-hatred leads to self-destruction.   I could paper the walls of my house with all the editorials, essays and columns I’ve written about young people like Hadiya.   Apparently, I was writing those words for the wrong audience.

A petition has been created on the White House website requesting the president attend Hadiya’s funeral.   He really should.  She was there to commemorate his second term.    Obama should be there to commemorate her premature demise.   It’s not the most, but it’s certainly the least he can do.

I never knew you Hadiya, but I cried for you little sister.   I’m crying for you now.  Tears of pain.  Tears of anger.   Tears of bitterness.  Tears of rage.

“You know, it’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.”

~ James Baldwin

Look familiar?  It should.

Look familiar? It should.

Hillary On Top

"Look guys, you're boring the hell out of me."

“Look guys, you’re boring the hell out of me.”

Here are two good rules of thumb.   When a president starts to work the list of who he wants serving in the Cabinet, it’s important to get the Secretary of State selection right.   Choose a great or at least a pretty good Secretary of State, and it doesn’t matter if the Secretary of Transportation or the Interior Department is a stiff.   Nobody remembers who ran the Labor Department for Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush and nobody cares either.

The other rule of thumb is the earlier a career politician denies any interest in running for the presidency the sooner you know they’re lying through their teeth.

Hillary Clinton was a pretty good Secretary of State and yes, she’s running for president in 2016.  This falls under the category of a stone-cold lock.    Her prospects were boosted by the four years of image rehabilitation she underwent as the globe trotting face of President Obama’s foreign policy.

She wants to be president.  She’s got the best resume in American politics (First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State) and whomever challenges  her is starting as second best.

After losing the Democratic nomination to the upstart, first-term Senator from Illinois, the Clinton brand had taken a terrible hit.   Hillary had run a lousy campaign and Bill, the so-called “first Black president” was stunned to be called out as a bigot for some of his remarks critical of Obama.    The internecine warfare between two of the brightest lights the Democrats had to offer held a distinct possibility of fracturing the party into two camps, the Obama camp that needed to call a ceasefire in hostilities in order to focus on beating John McCain and the Clinton camp that was angered by Obama’s hardball tactics and the none-too-subtle implication they were the only thing standing between Bill’s third term.

Nobody felt sorry for Hillary and Bill. They came into the 2008 campaign with every advantages. Money, name recognition, endorsements, party organization and the whole nine yards. And they got out-hustled, out-messaged, out-campaigned and just plain outwitted by somebody who learned The Clinton playbook and beat them at their own game.

Then Obama did something as smart as it was unexpected.  He asked his bitter rival to accept his invitation and serve in the hardest and most important position in his Administration.  Say what you will about the job of vice-president.   The most important trait for Joe Biden to show is loyalty.   Hillary Clinton had to demonstrate efficiency.

“This way to 2016, honey.”

Looking at the 60 Minutes exit interview Obama and Clinton held and the genuine affection and mutual respect they seem to have built over his first term, all the bad blood may not have been entirely forgotten, but it does seem to have been largely forgiven.

Last week Clinton sat for over five hours of grilling by House and Senate Republicans purportedly looking for answers of what the outgoing Secretary of State knew about the security lapses and the mistakes that led to four dead American embassy personnel in Benghazi including Ambassador Chris Stevens.   But it wasn’t just an inquiry for elected officials as it was also a chance for a few likely GOP presidential candidates to take shots at the early odds-on leader in the Democratic clubhouse.

Marco Rubio couldn’t lay a glove on Clinton.   Senators Rand “needs a better wig” Paul and Ron Johnson alternatingly baffled and annoyed her with their line of questioning.  Johnson, a Tea Party twit  from Wisconsin was so in over his head, he was tweaked by The Washington Post for “having the worst week.”

It was the Angry White Men on Capitol Hill vs. The Cooler Than Ice Clinton and she schooled them so badly all Angriest White Man of Them All, John McCain ran to Fox to whine over how the media was fawning over her performance.  Hey, Johnny, you do know there’s pills you can take when you have “performance issues.”   You need some Republican Viagra?

This is how you know how well-positioned Hillary is for 2016.  The GOP is already sharpening their blades trying to cut her down.

They’re going to need bigger and sharper knives.   You can’t buy the kind of positive p.r. Hillary Clinton is enjoying as she goes into a relatively brief political hibernation and she rests, recharges and begins to assemble the team and strategy she will need to follow the historic presidency of the nation’s first Black Chief Executive with the first woman to serve in that role.

The rehabilitation is over.  The reputation has been restored.    Clinton steps away from the spotlight knowing when she returns there isn’t another likely candidate with a resume of accomplishments or popularity to match her own.  Now she can take some time to write a book, make some money on the lecture circuit,  buy a whole new closet full of pantsuits and once she’s tanned, rested and ready, start laying the groundwork for achieving the dream she never quite gave up on.

Rivals turned allies?

Rivals turned allies?

Happy Birthday To The Lady of My Life

Our wedding was many years ago.  The celebration continues to this day.  ~Gene Perret

Happy Birthday, Vanessa.

Fumbling through my wallet today I realized I don’t have any pictures in it.  Not of my wife.  Not of my kids.  Not at all.    That struck me as being a bit unusual.    Wasn’t there a time before smart phones where we used to lug around pictures of the important people in our lives on the off chance we might meet someone interested in seeing what they look like?   That seems to be something from long ago and far away right next to going out Saturday night to a club and not having to pass through a metal detector first or watching a double feature at the drive-in.

A double feature of Lady Sings the Blues (good movie) and Mahogany (awful movie) is how I met the lady of the last 32  years of my life.    We were sitting in the front seat of the green Chevy station wagon I shared with my father while cooling in the back seat was Vanessa’s best friend, Sherry.   It seems odd I ended up with Vanessa because I was hot for Sherry.   However, Sherry had a rule.   She didn’t screw her friends and that’s what I was.   Vanessa seemed like she was going to be the back-up plan.

More fool me.   When this gorgeous, sexy, smart and sassy woman came into my life there was no question and no doubt I had found the one person I wanted to share the rest of my life with.

From that first date, we began a romance that spanned a five-year courtship followed by a marriage that has endured 32 years, produced two  children and me realize how meaningless our plans are when God has his own  plan for us.

I like to joke that 32 years of marriage is more time than some killers get.   At least I like to make Vanessa think I’m joking.   Truth is, I couldn’t have made a smarter decision than the one I made to marry this beautiful, incredible woman.     Can’t say I’ve never had any second thoughts because I have.   And third, fourth and fifth thoughts as well, but no matter what life is with her, life without her would be unthinkable.    Besides any woman who can put  up with all the twists and turns,  ups and downs and my mood swings deserves a shout-out.

And of course I put up with hers as well.   That’s what we’re supposed to do.   That’s what old, all grown-up married folks specialize in.  Putting up with each other’s crap.

Today is Vanessa’s birthday and of course I’m too much of a gentleman to say what number this one is.   Let’s just say it’s been a long time since she’s been “carded” when she’s ordered a drink and leave it at that.

Happy Birthday,  Vanessa, My Lady and My Love.   I couldn’t do it without you and I hope I never have to.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.  ~Mignon McLaughlin

Cornel West’s Counter-Insurgency Against Obama

A man thoroughly convinced of his own importance.

The other day  Tavis Smiley and Cornel West were bitching about President Obama.  What they were bitching about doesn’t rally matter because that’s what they do.  That’s all they do and they tear down Obama so much it makes me wonder are they angling for their own show on Fox News?   How did West and Smiley go from men of respect within Black culture to self-parody?

I’d sum it up in two words: Barack Obama. From Tavis’ perspective it’s straight up envy. He used to host a yearly gathering called “The State of the Black Union” where he would invite prominent people to discuss issues of importance to African-Americans. It was interesting to see people who were often overlooked by the White mainstream media gather to discuss and debate, but a funny thing happened with “The State of the Black Union.” Talking was all it was about. There was no action plan. There was no “Black agenda” that sprung from  these lengthy talk-a-thons.   It was equally clear if you weren’t part of the  Tavis Smiley clique of Favorite Black Folks ,   you probably weren’t going to be invited to speak. Then there’s  the issue of the gathering of Black thinkers  being underwritten by Smiley’s corporate pals,  Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo.

The defining moment came in 2008 when Smiley invited Sen. Obama to appear at the yearly gathering.   The eventual nominee was still in the middle of  primary battle with Hillary Clinton  and instead of coming off the campaign trail, he wrote Smiley a letter offering to send Michelle Obama in his stead.  Smiley flatly rejected Obama’s wife as his representative and got really ugly about it. Smiley, a Clinton supporter, invited her to appear instead and she accepted.

Smiley continued to attack Obama for not appearing.   Suddenly, even Smiley’s supporters started looking sideways at this raging egotist and wondering who was he to demand Obama appear personally to kiss his ring?

This led to Smiley eventually quitting the Tom Joyner radio show, the program that initially raised his national profile and a bitter falling out with Joyner himself. Smiley wrote a book after Obama won the presidency called “Accountable” where he pompously asserted how it was up to Black people like him to hold Obama accountable if he didn’t deliver the goods to the Black community once he took office.

The book tanked hard and Smiley griped Obama supporters had turned on him and caused the book to flop. He’s been a little pebble in a big can rattling around ever since about how Obama ain’t shit.

Cornel West…now that’s an entirely different and much sadder story. It’s also downright pathetic at points.  A frustrated supporter in 2008,  West despises Obama so much he can’t abide anyone that doesn’t share his negative opinion of the president.

“I love Brother Mike Dyson, but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale,” West said in a Huffington Post story. “Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother (Al) Sharpton and Sister Melissa (Harris-Perry) and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.”

Who needs Cornel West’s kind of “love.”  If everybody is up for sale, where’s West hiding his price tag?

“Sister Melissa” hasn’t been reluctant to call out West for his single-minded mission to demean and defame Obama at every turn as her 2011 column in The Nation stripped West’s hypocrisy down to the bone with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.

Harris-Perry has gone from West’s colleague to his nemesis

“As tenured professors Cornel West and I are not meaningfully accountable, no matter what our love, commitment, or self-delusions tell us. President Obama, as an elected official, can, in fact, be voted out of his job. We can’t. That is a difference that matters. As West derides the President’s economic policies he remains silent on his friend Tavis Smiley’s relationship with Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and McDonald’s–all corporations whose invasive and predatory actions in poor and black communities have been the target of progressive organizing for decades. I have never heard him take Tavis Smiley to task for helping convince black Americans to enter into predatory mortgages. I’ve never heard him ask whether Tavis’ decision to publish R. Kelley’s memoirs might be a less than progressive decision. He doesn’t hold Tavis accountable because Tavis is his friend and he is loyal. I respect that, but I also know that if he were in elected office the could not get off so easily. Opposition research would point out the hypocrisy in his public positions in a way that would make him vulnerable come election time. As a media personality and professor he is safely ensconced in a system that can never vote him off the island. I think an honest critique of Obama has to begin by acknowledging his own privileges.”

The days when Black Americans had  “leaders” is over and done.  We have organization heads, self-appointed experts and spokespersons on race and some celebrities who have a podium to express their beliefs. But as far as “leaders” goes, that went bye-bye when Martin and Malcolm and others left the scene, often violently and always prematurely. What we have now is a group of Second Wave Wannabees who would like to considered as picking up where King, Malcolm, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and so many others left off.

Martin didn’t have corporate sponsorship. Malcolm didn’t demand huge speaking fees. Rosa  didn’t have a talk show.  Nobody went looking for Smiley or  West to “lead” Black people.  We had REAL leaders.  Why settle for phony ones?

Pointing out West’s hypocrisy  is almost its own news desk.  Journalist and blogger Eric Wattree has long documented West and Smiley’s shameless self-promotion, “West is never short on words when it comes to denigrating high-profile Black people. He’s publicly criticized Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jay Z, and of course, his favorite target, President Barack Obama. But when it comes to his good friend and associate, Tavis Smiley’s, involvement in Wells Fargo’s victimization of the Black community, he’s been curiously silent.”

The silence is being interrupted by the loudness of the Black community waking up to Smiley’s coziness with Corporate America and how he’s played the role of Judas goat leading African-Americans into financial ruin while profiting from their misery.  Following their second so-called “poverty tour” that West and Smiley claimed was supposed to spotlight the poor, but was confined to key states in the last presidential election, the due were called out by Najee Ali, a Los Angeles based activist, for Smiley’s cozy relationship with rabidly anti-union Wal-Mart.

“Wal-Mart is a billion dollar corporation. They should be able to offer a better medical package for their associates and a living wage. The involvement of corporations like Wal-Mart in Tavis Smiley’s own PBS show is troublesome,” says Ali. “Wal-Mart is one of the major sponsors of his show. Therefore, Wal-Mart plays a major role in sustaining Smiley’s popularity. If Smiley and West want to address poverty shouldn’t they involve Wal-Mart in the conversation and hold them  accountable as well?”

Pete and Repeat are back in black.

Pete and Repeat are back in black.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Dear Brother Cornel to answer that.

West is a joke. There’s a rock song entitled, “I Am What I Hated When I Was Young” and that sorry state where West is at now.  A vain, prideful man with a slight Messiah Complex,  whenever West opens his mouth he sounds more irrational, more deranged, more self-righteous and more butt hurt than ever.   There is nothing remotely intellectual in the vicious and highly personal ways West scorns the president.

What do you get when you match a vain, egotistical academic with delusions of divinity with a vain, egotistical hustler searching for a way to stay relevant?  Nothing good.  Just two clowns without a circus fighting to stay in the spotlight.   If it wasn’t so damn annoying it would be sad.

King’s Dream and Obama’s Reality.

obama_inauguration

Four years ago, when Inauguration Day fell and Barack Hussein Obama raised his right hand to take the Oath of Office it was a moment frozen in history.  My heart swelled with pride for my country and all that it had accomplished by electing the first African-American as President of the United States.   Four years ago it was all about Hope and Change.

Four years later, here we are at another Inauguration Day and once again it’s Obama raising his right hand, but while it is history, it’s history writ a little smaller than 2008.  Hope and Change has been superseded by Reality and Possibility.   Both Obama and the rest of the country have learned how hard it is to change the status quo of politics when it doesn’t want to be changed and while most of us are not yet cynical, we’re a bit less hopeful.

There is a powerful symmetry between the coincidence of Obama’s inauguration falling on the same day the nation observes the birthday of one of its greatest citizens, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   It is an error of rushing to premature judgment to say the election of Obama is the culmination of King’s Dream.  King was King and Obama is not King.  He is Obama and he is a politician, one of the best politicians of our age on par with his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton.  Whether he rises to the level of King remains to be seen.

The president makes it plain in his second inaugural address.

The president makes it plain in his second inaugural address.

King moved America forward, but it took his untimely death and decades of unworthy, would be successors trying and failing to pick up where King left off for his vision and wisdom to be fully appreciated.

Obama has another four years to build upon what he began four years ago.  Now he knows how wide the opposition is from the Republicans in Washington and deeply entrenched the desire of the Right wing everywhere else is for him to fail.

The difference for the 2013 version of Barack Obama is he understands he is the president and he is to whom the American people turn to for leadership and a unifying plan for the future.   The president seems ready to step up in his second term to offer that leadership:

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.  We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.  For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience.  A decade of war is now ending.   An economic recovery has begun.  America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands:  youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.  My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.  

The Dream and The Hope.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.  We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.  We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.  We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

I think King would have smiled broadly at the president’s speech.

What both King and Obama believe is government can be a tool for good, for social uplift, to provide for the general welfare, economic fairness and equality, and facilitate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all America, not just 53 percent of it.

This isn’t King’s Dream because King’s Dream was never a one size fits all aspiration.  My dreams are not your dreams and Obama’s dreams are not King’s.   President Obama is the continuation, not the culmination of Martin Luther King’s dream.

The second time around for Obama and Roberts.

The second time around for Obama and Roberts.

 

Got the Hope, Looking For the Glory

Tebowing is so 2012. “Kaepernicking” is the rage.

The NFL’s  32 teams open their training camps in the heat of summer and finish the endurance test that is the regular season in the cold of winter with one team being declared the best as it hoists the Lombardi trophy for winning the Super Bowl.

All any faithful follower of a football franchise can ask for is if their team makes it to the league’s version of the Final Four.   Only one team can be declared the best of the best, but it’s a successful season if your team is involved in the conversation.

My team is, and no matter the outcome when the San Francisco 49ers meet the Atlanta Falcons for the right to challenge the Patriots or the Ravens for the ultimate in bragging rights, it has been a very successful season for the Niners.

For the 49ers to come this close to breaking the 18-year drought of Super Bowl appearances leaves me with both anticipation and dread.   Anticipation that the Niners will beat the Falcons and advance.   Dread that they will lose and fall short (again).    It’s cool to get to the NFC championship round, but it’s better to actually win it.

I always run scared when it comes to predicting how the 49ers will fare in a meaningful game, but between Jim Harbaugh’s coaching prowess, their nasty smash-you-in-your-mouth-and-step-on-your-throat defense, and now the wild card of Colin Kapernick at quarterback, I feel confident the Niners will show up and acquit themselves admirably.

Or I could say I really believe the Niners are going to put their foot up the ass of the Falcons, but playing on the road in a dome against a team looking for the respect they feel nobody’s given them all season is a recipe for possible disaster, so I’m not going to say anything like that.  But you can’t kill me for thinking it.

Win or lose (please win),  unless he plays like shit, Kaepernick will solidify his hold on the starting QB job as he provides a degree of leadership meshed with talent not seen in the Bay Area since (dare I say it?) the glory days of Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Down.  Out.  Finished.  Bye-bye.

Down. Out. Finished. Bye-bye.

Is that being a wee bit premature?   Not really, because after last week’s ridiculous  offensive explosion against the Green Bay Packers  where he accounted for 444 yards of offensive and four touchdowns (five, if  you count the interception he threw early in the game), the word is out.   This kid is not a fluke and not a one-trick pony.   Colin Kaepernick is good.  He is Real Good.  C.K. is money.   Runs like a gazelle.  Flings the ball around like it’s rocket-propelled.  Can make a mistake and not let it screw up his entire day.   These are qualities one rarely sees in a single player and Kaepernick (so far) has demonstrated all of them.

A little hyperbole isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Young was forced into early retirement by a concussion from a vicious hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams (I was never mad at Williams for his hard, but legal hit on Young.  I’m not quite so ready to forgive Lawrence Phillips, the woman-beating, law-breaking asshole who missed the block on Williams).  What came next was nearly 20 seasons of has beens, warm bodies, and busted picks such as Jeff Garcia, Steve Stenstrom, Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett,  Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J. T. Sullivan, Troy Smith and finally Alex Smith, the overall Number One draft pick the Niners chose instead of Aaron “Discount Double Reality Check” Rodgers.

So you can understand if Niner fans go into tomorrow’s game with a hope in one hand and apprehension in the other.   We’ve been here before and last January it was the Giants and Kyle Williams’ bad luck that ended a great season one game too soon.

Fans tend to exaggerate their importance in how their team does in a big game.  We have no importance,   but all the same I’ll gear up, ready proper and necessary amounts of food to nourish and drink to steady myself during the particularly tense moments when fortune favors the other team as I yell like hell when something good happens and sit there sullenly as something bad follows.

Against the Saints last year,  Alex Smith played about as good as any elite QB in the league.   He shook the title of “game manager.”   He won’t be back with the 49ers next season, but he’ll be playing and starting for someone else.  With Smith you had a quarterback who made good and solid plays if not quite exceptional.   With Kapernick, how high his ceiling is remains to be seen.   He seems to be on the cusp of greatness, but he has to win two more games to achieve it.

The hope is there.   Whether the glory is as well remains to be seen.

A young man in a hurry to be great.

 

Jodie Foster Stops Playing the Straight Role

Yep, she’s gay. Hooray and ho-hum.

Jodie Foster turning the Golden Globes into her coming out party was hailed by many as as a brave admission and by others as a self-indulgent, narcissistic, ego trip by a pampered Hollywood prima donna.  In a scathing  essay,  “Jodie Foster Stops Lying,” columnist Andrew Sullivan ripped Foster a new one for her remarks:

I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, co-workers, and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now, apparently, I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show.

“What unadulterated bullshit. She never came out until, very obliquely, in 2007,” a snarky Sullivan sneered.  “And virtually every coming out these days is low-key, simple and no-drama. I do not remember Anderson Cooper’s press conference, fragrance or reality show.”

Hey, Andrew?  You’re being an asshole.

Coming out is a personal,private decision and no one should ever feel they have to do so to meet someone’s political agenda.

If  Foster were some hypocritical politician who rails against lesbians by day while fiendin’ after them by night, that would make her worthy of scorn. But she’s a private individual who chose to keep her sexual orientation her private business and so what?

Foster merely confirmed what the world knew years ago. Clarice Starling is a lesbian??? Who knew? Oh, that’s right…EVERYONE knew!!!

I can’t remember how many years ago it was I was in NYC and there were handbills stuck on walls of Jodie Foster with “Absolutely Queer” plastered under her picture. Foster being part of the sisterhood has been one of the worst-kept “secrets” in Hollywood for a long time.

Trying just a bit too hard to play the straight role.

This is a country where we pay an inordinate amount of attention to celebrities. Whether we should is a different question. But to the extent that someone famous and accomplished reveals their sexual orientation and it makes it easier for someone else to do likewise, that does make it worthy of our attention.

I have a friend who headed the LGBT Student Services at Ohio State University and he told me, “Coming out is the bravest thing someone can do.” I believe Jodie Foster just proved him right.

However, I’d be more impressed if it were Queen Latifah up there coming out to play. Or Raven-Symone. Or Shemar Moore. Or Missy Elliott Or Tyler Perry. Or Oprah. Or any of the many other Black folks who may be gay but are trying  hard to be something they are not because they’re afraid of what it might do to their careers.

Anyone who watched Set It Off where she lip-locked another woman knew Latifah was a little too convincing just to pass it off as Method acting.    Latifah has tried too hard and too often to fake where she’s coming with lame rom-coms like Just Wright where she failed to convince she was hot and bothered for Common and not Paula Patton. I call bullshit on taking the down low to those sort of extremes.

Perhaps in a clumsy way, Jodie Foster stumbled out of the closet and doesn’t deserve the round of applause she’s getting.    You can’t blame anyone in the gay community for rolling their eyes and sighing in response to Foster making a show of her admission by saying,  Wow, that’s great, Jodi. Anything else you want to tell us while you’re monopolizing the microphone?

But in my community, what Foster did (and is being dinged for) rarely happens in the same way and I sort of wish it would.

It isn’t required for gay people to come out it can be an act of courage and a source of pride and inspiration to others when they do.

Everyone needs heroes and sheroes.   Maybe Foster telling everyone what they knew was already true isn’t all that much of a big deal and isn’t deserving of a standing ovation.   Yet, even if it comes late, isn’t being honest about who you are and who you love still more of a good thing than bad?

Tough crowd around here these days…

And I get an award for coming out?  Cool!

And I get an award for coming out? Cool!

A Reasonable Man In an Increasingly Unreasonable Party

Want to make a Republican mad?  Tell them there’s a strong strain of racial intolerance in their party.

Want to make a Republican even madder.  Let the person telling them be another Republican and one with unimpeachable credentials.   Someone like Colin Powell.

While the pundits in Washington gripe about the lack of racial diversity in Obama’s new Cabinet (so far) they have forgotten the Republicans have a far greater problem with racial diversity. They don’t want any according to Powell.

“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What do I mean by that?  What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.”

Without naming them, Powell went after the swinish John Sununu, the Mitt Romney supporter for describing President Obama as “lazy” and America’s favorite ditz, Sarah Palin for referring to the president’s explanations about the embassy attack in Libya as “shuck and jive.'”    It probably hadn’t slipped Powell’s mind how Sununu had dismissed his second endorsement of Obama as being racially based and didn’t mince words about the casual way the Republicans have infused race-baiting of the president in their criticisms of the president.

There is also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that? When I see a former governor say that the President is “shuckin’ and jivin’,” that’s a racial-era slave term. When I see another former governor after the president’s first debate where he didn’t do very well say that the president was lazy. He didn’t say he was slow. He was tired. He didn’t do well. He said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is shiftless and then there’s a third word that goes along with that. The birther, the whole birther movement. Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?

The pushback to Powell was swift and predictably, attacked the former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff personally instead of addressing the issue.

“Powell’s behavior is petulant. Attacking Republicans makes him a liberal media darling and provides more fuel to Bush-haters. Yet Powell is no saint. He is just a disgruntled ex-employee who dislikes the boss who fired him,” growled Eric Golub in the Washington Times.

“I think the case that he makes is weak, and it is an odd thing for a man who declares himself to be a Republican—and has done so well under Republican presidents—to say,” snorted Brit Hume to Bill O’Reilly who dismissed Powell saying “used to be a Republican and I don’t think he is any longer.”

The yapping of the attack dogs of the conservative media won’t deter Powell from telling hard truths to the more reasonable members of the Republican Party.   The GOP has been on the sick end of two straight losing national elections and as it moves further to the extreme Right, it has left Blacks, Asians and most importantly, Latinos, behind for the Democrats.   Powell has been consistent in explaining why this has happened, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears to his fellow Republicans.

“I think the Republican Party is having an identity problem,” Powell said, “If it’s just going to represent the far right wing of the political spectrum, I think the party is in difficulty.”  The former Bush Cabinet member said he voted for a GOP presidential candidate seven times in a row before voting for President Obama twice. “I’m a moderate, but I’m still a Republican.”  The general is absolutely right about the dire state of the Republican Party but saying that out loud will get you denounced as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by the factions who specialize in that kind of thing.

They would be better served to shut up and listen to one of the few Republicans left with widespread crossover appeal.   The moderation of Powell’s voice may irritate the likes of O’Reilly, Hume and Golub but what irritates them more is Powell’s criticisms have the sting of harsh truth to them and he remains one of the most admired men in this country.

When Powell speaks, it carries much weight and Americans respond to his words.   That’s what his critics fear the most.  They might have to actually start working on fixing what’s wrong with the Republican brand and would sooner cut off their right nut than give up their Obama Hate-A-Thon.

And they really are mad at Powell for calling them out for it and spoiling their fun.

Sorry, Colin. I promised Joe I’d keep him around for my second term.