Sunday, July 25, 2010

The N Word

This has nothing to do with firefighting, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the “N word” lately.

Forced to, actually.

A twenty-something kid moved in with his aunt across the street recently, and he likes to park his BMW on the front driveway, car doors swung wide open with the stereo playing at deafening volume, the thrumming bass subwoofers neatly rearranging tchotchke on every living room end table. Gangsta rap, replete with violent imagery, obscene lyrics, and yes—the “N word.”

Have to admit—I don’t get it. I thought that word was offensive. Why is it off-limits to the main of our society but ok for a certain subculture? For the former, the word was once a tool of oppression and marginalization. But for the latter, it has been co-opted to become the language of defiance. It now carries with it the implied threat of violence. Through these lyrics, the kid is, in effect, issuing a challenge to the rest of the neighborhood: Whatdya gonna do about it? The entire street is cowed into tacit submission.

Some might argue that by adopting this once denigrating word, it is somehow empowering for this subculture. But that’s disingenuous. It has become the language of intimidation, of revenge.

When I hear the familiar rhythmic thump, I close the windows, close the blinds, and keep the kids inside. Rap music in the front yard may seem like a benign example. But when in public, if I hear a group of young men throwing around this word, I move off. It’s no mystery who is the ultimate focus of their simmering, self-righteous anger.

The great Dr. Martin Luther King (whose birthday is commemorated with a national holiday) envisioned a word of colorblindness and equality—equal access and equal opportunity—not generations of retribution. He did not advocate merely turning the tables.

I’m not na├»ve; I fully acknowledge that racism still exists in this country. But it exists virtually everywhere, among every culture. It is not particular to any one group. Racism is no more pronounced here than elsewhere, and it is certainly not this country’s most pressing problem.

And an offensive word is an offensive word.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poker Face


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010


“…superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia.”

—from the Latin, 14th century

Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

—Proverbs 16:189

* * *

What is pride, if not some sort of self-delusion? Convincing oneself that he possesses a certain trait when he, in fact, does not? And if and when that lie is ever unmasked, the truth is a very long fall indeed. On the way down, he has all of eternity to regret his error, replay his mistake over and over...

Hell is not an abyss; it is the fall itself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Feel Alright

"Careful what you wish for, friend
'Cause I've been to hell and now I'm back again"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learning to Fall...Eric Lowen

I've had to run
I've had to crawl
Been rich as a king
Had nothin' at all
Still raising hell
And tearing down walls
I know where I stand
Learning to fall

Me I've tasted true glory
Had a long sweet time on the stage
I laughed til I cried
I lived what I played
Never had to act my age
And it’s beautiful how
New blessings unfold
In ways I could never have known
And I’ve still got some time on my hands

I've had to run
I've had to crawl
Been rich as a king
Had nothin' at all
Still raising hell
And tearing down walls
I know where I stand
Learning to fall