My Problematic Favorite In The Age Of Wokeness

I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

Today TMZ published a story about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Chris Long labeling John Lennon a bad person. Ostensibly because he physically abused women during his life. This led to a back and forth Twitter exchange between Long and a Lennon fan who insisted things were too complicated to label Lennon a bad guy. To which Chris Long replied “Shut the fuck up”.

We are experiencing a moment in American discourse where (especially among those of us who have opted in to social media) it is becoming easier to establish a baseline for acceptable behavior. We have almost all identified a common language that makes it easier to express ideas without fully understanding them. To know what “social justice” or “white privilege” is or to label yourself a feminist without truly doing the work besides tacking on a few hashtags at the end of your scorching hot tweets.

But rightly or wrongly those of us who consider ourselves on the right side of history have begun demanding better behavior than our predecessors. (I stress this doesn’t apply to anyone who wants to Make America Great Again). We’ve coalesced around a set of common values that doesn’t attempt to transcend race, religion, gender or sexual orientation but instead it attempts to include those considerations in our execution of these ideals. Witness the Parkland shooting survivors reaching out to include the urban youth of Chicago in their crusade against the gun lobby. Those who recognize their privilege and instead of jealously hoarding it like a precious commodity extend it to the marginalized are the manifestation of the slow incremental progress of a shared respect for human rights.

In other words as we evolve socially at a snail’s pace our standards for behavior evolve. The marginalized are no longer voiceless and at this point if you remain ignorant to their pleas for justice that is a willful ignorance that results either from a personal antipathy or an irresponsible apathy.

When Chris Long reached back through the annals of time to remind the worshippers of the vastly overrated Beatles that John Lennon himself (their Patron saint) was a confessed abuser of women I had a brief gloating smirk at the hypocrisy of that Lennon fan who rushed into the fray to defend his hero. Then I stopped myself because I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

All of these men have been accused of, proven to be, or admitted to physically abusing women. And yet I haven’t seen my behavior towards them change. I haven’t labeled any of them bad guys although a few of them most assuredly are. What standard should I hold them to? I see the hypocrisy within myself because when I hear about new rappers with whom I have no attachment being abusive towards women I instantly and reflexively reject them. You won’t hear me rocking too much with XXXtenacion and I’ve had my fill of Kodak Black. Neither of them will be getting any intentional spin in my rotation. But even that is inconsistent after all Kevin Gates kicked a female fan and although I don’t have a decades deep respect for him I check for his music.

You have to right to do what you want. In life you will most certainly make choices that contradict other choices. The only time this is truly problematic is when you to try to preach purity to others. Chris Long doesn’t want to hear any moral equivocation when it comes to John Lennon. Part of this is admittedly for him that he is no fan of the Beatles. The other part of this is that he’s not trying to convert John Lennon’s fans. You decide for yourself what can turn you off from an artist beyond their music. If abusing women in his youth automatically makes John Lennon a bad guy then I’m confident in his line of work Chris Long has embraced some bad guys as teammates.

I’m pretty sure most of us have some bad guys amongst our family and friends. This is not to excuse any one’s actions or provoke a circular debate. If you tell me Nas is a bad guy and I reply “It’s complicated” feel free to tell me to “Shut the fuck up”.

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Kevin Hart Probably Shouldn’t Be Married..But Neither Should Most Of You

Marriage is for you if you know that no matter what happens you’ll be the person your spouse needs you to be forever.

Kevin Hart is just the latest in a long string of celebrities that have been caught in compromised positions or otherwise had their extramarital dalliances exposed for the world to see. It seems the higher profile the celebrity the bigger and more salacious the story. There’s the messiness of T.I. and Tiny (They’re having another kid). The career re-defining incident between Beyonce and Jay-Z (which between Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Solange produced three albums) and most recently we have Kevin Hart.

Overall I’m not that invested in the gossipy aspects of this story but here it is just so you know what I’m talking about: Kevin Hart got married to his first wife Torrei before he blew up. He cheated on Torrei and got divorced. He then married Eniko whom he cheated on his first wife with. Eniko is currently pregnant. Now there is a sex tape with a Vegas stripper named Montia and someone tried to extort him for the ludicrous amount of 10 million dollars. The potential extorter obviously knows nothing about marriage as I don’t think there’s a wife in America who would be more upset about you cheating than they would be about losing 10 million dollars.

When trying to deconstruct Hart’s predicament we have to examine the institution of marriage and what it means to most of us. Marriage for people of a certain age is largely an aspiration. But most people don’t see it for what it truly is. Strip any pretext of romance from the idea and marriage is a financial agreement. (And of course I’m speaking of legitimate government recognized marriage not when two hipsters get tattoos on their ring finger and move into a studio apartment together.) You sign paperwork and your fates are tied together in a way that will bond your fortunes in this world for eternity. That’s the practical aspect.

Now for the emotional aspects. First and foremost we have this concept of romantic love. That became intertwined with marriage somehow, someway and now it’s supposedly the most important thing. If you don’t love someone then you probably won’t marry them. Built on top of that romantic love there is the familiarity. The establishing of a sort of order between you and your partner. What roles do you fulfill for each other? To paraphrase Jerry Maguire how does that person “complete you” and vice versa. This is the most complicated part of marriage. Because broadly speaking men and women do different things for each other. We have different instincts and different expectations. Everyone is unique of course and there are situations that require divergence with gender norms. What do women want from a man that they can’t get for themselves? They want someone to think of them for a change because they’ve been socialized to think of others sometimes to their detriment.

Most men start out aloof and not proactive when thinking of their partners. We will not inquire about your health, wealth and career prospects when we are just dating for instance (that usually comes later if at all). I’m speaking very generically here and I know you reading this will probably have a 1000 examples of where this is not true but when it comes to relationships one thing women do better than men is care. I’m not quantifying it. I’m not saying they care “more”. I’m qualifying it, I’m saying they care “better”. A man meets a woman and sees her for what she is and doesn’t consciously participate in making her better. Unless it’s for selfish reasons. A man will encourage you to do the things that make him happy and then afterwards will look at that and see “growth”. That is not to say that men don’t validate women’s emotional needs because we definitely do but that’s mostly up to the women if they tolerate anything less, then we’ll give less.

What do women get out of this arrangement? Well besides the obvious I would say they are hoping to get back a small fraction of the effort they put into it. A man’s ability to restrain his indulgences and modify his behavior in some way is usually part of the deal. If you like to drink a lot, she wants you to drink less. If you like to smoke a lot, she probably wants you to smoke less. If you spend money frivolously, she probably wants you to spend less. Think about the fact that at the point of marriage the man chose this woman to commit to (forever!!) so on some level he knows he needs to do these things and she believes that he can do it. Another thing women want from men is some semblance of ambition. And above all women want to be secure in the knowledge that they have a partner. If exclusivity is a condition of that partnership they want a man who will honor that.

When it comes to fidelity again this is where the situation is as simple or complicated as the people in the relationship. If both parties have agreed tacitly that the nature of their commitment is to be in exclusive monogamy usually that has been established well before the point of marriage. In that case a partner would have to refrain from any outside sexual relations or otherwise conceal them for the relationship to progress. (Although there is a sad “all men cheat” acceptance of infidelity that some women subscribe to in order to extend a privilege to men that no man would ever extend to a woman). When you get married you stand up in some sort of official ceremony whether it be just the two of you at City Hall or in a lavish ceremony surrounded by extended family and friends (or any sized group in between) and you promise to commit to the standards you have set for each other forever, no matter what. You promise that no matter what happens you will remain committed to each other and honor the conditions of your marriage for the rest of your lives….NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. But who knows what’s going to happen? All you know for certain is that some things will happen. Because even if you just sit there on the couch life continues to happen.

Celebrities are a different breed of course. They live in some of the most extreme conditions that human beings endeavor on. With both fame and wealth the preponderance of willing and able sexual partners increases. Yes they are still human beings and they still have the same basic needs of love and security that the rest of us have. But when the volume of temptations increases so does the opportunity to act on them. Whenever one of these famous men gets caught out here cheating I hear two different types of criticism. The first is the base moral judgement. Cheating is wrong, famous man A cheated therefore he’s wrong his wife should leave him and take a gazillion dollars a month in alimony. The second type of criticism is “damn you dumb how you get caught”. The people with the least to say about it though tend to be married people because we know two things. A younger version of yourself promised to do the right thing forever no matter what happens and also things that you can’t possibly account for happen.

Maybe Kevin Hart (or Jay-Z or T.I.) didn’t realize that traditional marital concepts such as fidelity weren’t necessarily compatible with their vision of success. But that’s highly unlikely. The way our culture treats women has to be reconciled for anyone on a career track that will make them wealthy. Women are objectified and treated as accoutrements to success. You get more money you get a bigger house, you get a nicer car, and you get “women”. In Kevin Hart’s case his success is the manifestation of everything he worked for. He feels entitled to these benefits. It is for this reason why his apology rings false. What Kevin Hart is sorry about is the public embarrassment. The cheating in and of itself isn’t the problem to him. He has female fans though. The majority of his films are solid date movies. Could he withstand the scorn of his female fanbase? I don’t know if enough of them subscribe to the “all men cheat” philosophy. I don’t know how many care that a comedian/actor treats his wife like trash.

When judging Kevin Hart though maybe we should check ourselves first. If you are unmarried try to imagine making the most intense commitment you’ll ever make with nothing to stop you from violating it but your own principles. If you are married try to imagine a world where beautiful women are aware that you’re rich and part of your job is being out in the world alone without your wife for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Marriage is for you if you know that no matter what happens you’ll be the person your spouse needs you to be forever.

In Defense Of Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill is right but we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”. 

I realize that not everyone wants to blog or tweet. I realize that not everyone is articulate or social. I recognize that there are many people who simply want to go to work, pay their bills, and send their kids to college. They don’t understand the compulsion to share their innermost thoughts and opinions on these interwebs. Some people feel as though they have the privilege or as they would say the “right” to ignore politics. It doesn’t matter to them. They want to watch the game, drink a beer and..wait.. what’s this? Why isn’t that guy standing for the national anthem? That’s disrespectful to our military! That ungrateful ni- uh errr that spoiled anti-American athlete.

A lot of people don’t seem to connect their aversion to political engagement with the stance our black athletes are taking. By exercising the privilege to ignore the metastasizing racial divide in America you have ceded enough power to White Supremacy to allow black men to be summarily executed routinely by law enforcement with little to no repercussions. Your unstated détente with the “real racists” has allowed them to elect the most temperamentally unfit person on Planet Earth to the highest office in the land. To be fair I’m not calling you a racist. You are actually much worse than a racist. You are a person who hears a woman screaming outside your window and just assumes someone else will call the police. You are the person who sees a lost child in a public place and reasons with yourself that their parent is nearby. You are the person who thinks affirmative action probably isn’t necessary anymore because anyone can make it if they try hard enough I mean look at all the successful black people.  Not necessarily racist but a racial bystander someone who has resigned the fight because it’s not personal enough.  You are the type of person most likely to tell a commentator to stick to sports and you are the people that ESPN apologized to yesterday after Jemele Hill stated an essential fact about Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is in fact a white supremacist. He appeals pretty nakedly to white supremacist orthodoxy. He retweets white supremacist memes on Twitter. He popularized the White Supremacist birther theory that President Barack Obama was not born in America. He evoked talk of 2nd Amendment solutions last year in regards to the prospect of Hilary Clinton winning the election. He has made a crackdown on nonwhite immigration a pillar of his agenda. His presidency thus far has been unnaturally obsessed with erasing the accomplishments of the nation’s first black president. Talks of border walls and muslim bans are still the fundamental proposals on his agenda. And all this is before his weak response to the incident in Charlottesville, VA last month. Maybe America is afraid to reckon with the fact that Donald Trump is a white supremacist because it’s an indictment about what it means to be an American in 2017.

Yes White Supremacy is popular enough in the present day to win a major party nomination. Yes White Supremacy is popular enough to win a Presidential Election. Trump’s political appeal has always been rooted in white resentment. Sadly while this makes him a poor human being it makes him an excellent Republican. Deal with it America. Now you have these quislings calling for Jemele Hill to be fired from ESPN. If you are more offended by someone pointing out that the President is a White Supremacist than you are by the fact that the President is a White Supremacist than you are exactly the kind of mediocre senseless moron that’s destroying America with your passive “lets all just get along” rhetoric.

You so-called “moderates”, you people who want your public figures to sacrifice existential truth at the altar of politeness get to act fake outraged every time Trump says something impolitic but won’t concede to accurate descriptions of his behavior. You people are worse than offensive you are increasingly irrelevant. You can’t be neutral on a moving train. I’m not saying you all have to hold up banners and march in the streets for equality because if we’ve learned anything about your ilk it’s that you’ll never ever do anything to upset the status quo of America’s racial hierarchy. (Hell, most of you would proudly claim to not recognize race). But at the very least you have to have an accurate description of White Supremacy.

Donald Trump isn’t catering to White Supremacist as part of some shrewd political machination. He’s one of them and to state that fact should not be controversial. Jemele Hill by virtue of her honesty has transcended corporate sports media for the same reasons that Colin Kaepernick has transcended the NFL. For those on the right side of racial justice walking around the offices of ESPN must be akin to the astronauts walking around the original  Planet Of The Apes. For Kaepernick would signing with an NFL team even be a win? Would any one of consequence be willing to work on the hard problem of police brutality in the black community? Certainly not Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. And that’s what we’re dealing with in America a bunch of grown adults who have the same understanding of racism that third graders have. “Things were bad but then MLK came along and now black people can drink from the same water fountain, The End.”

What Jemele Hill does on her immensely popular twitter feed is to respond to trolls with the truth. There just so happens to be a huge overlap with the people trolling her and those that support Donald Trump and this in itself is not a coincidence. Is there any better starting point for trolling than White Supremacy? It pisses off all the right people. The whiny liberals that trolls hate. The minorities, the immigrants, the Muslims, the gays, the Jews. Trolling is the next best thing to violence. It’s a non-prosecutable hate crime and Trump himself has mastered it. Jemele tweets “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” And that should be as non controversial as saying “Toyota Prius’s get excellent gas mileage”. But we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”.

What I find absurd beyond the point of irony is that White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called for Jemele Hill’s firing from ESPN. So we are holding ESPN anchors Twitter feeds to a higher standard than we hold the President of The United States? The reckless vitriol and untruths unleashed by Trump on a regular basis are just fine. He can call Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, he can threaten North Korea with Nuclear War, he can retweet an account called “White Genocide TM” with  an explicitly false racist meme. He can verbally insinuate that a Mexican-American judge is inherently biased against him. He can advise law enforcement to rough up suspects at the point of arrest. All of this speech is fine. But to call someone a racist is beyond the pale? I think if conservatives got any more hypocritical my head would explode.

Jemele Hill is right of course. Trump has had numerous occasions to just outright disavow white supremacy. Every single time he prevaricates, hesitates, obfuscates, and then if he manages to say anything mildly challenging to the forces of evil he bends over backward to undercut it and let the KKK and Nazis know that he stands with them. The sad truth is a lot of people stand with them. You might have passed one at Walmart. You might see one at a Red Sox game. They came out in droves to put their guy in the White House and he knows he owes his baseline 40 percent approval rating to them. He stands with them. He is them. Jeff Sessions is one of them. Stephen Miller is one of them. Sebastian Gorka is one of them. Steve Bannon is one of them. Michael Flynn is one of them. So let’s review for the slow kids : Trump is in fact a White Supremacist, and he has surrounded himself with White Supremacists. America is lousy with white supremacists it turns out. It’s never been easier to advocate hate in America. Let’s not start making it harder to state that essential fact.