Tag Archives: politcs

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An Open Letter to A Young Republican

(By the way, this isn’t just one of those generic open letters aimed at anyone who fits the description. There is an actual young Republican that I tried to engage recently in conversation surrounding these issues, but his lack of response to my questions and continued rhetoric on his blog afterward have caused me to believe that he is not interested in dealing seriously with these particular issues. This saddens me. Yet it is my hope that there are others who share some of his convictions who might wrestle with these questions, and in so doing, enrich the current wasteland of political commentary with honesty and sensitivity, two facets in short supply in the blogosphere.)

(Also, I realize that I’m going to throw around some generalizations. I’ll qualify them here and there, but my sentences are already long to begin with, so just bear with me. I try not to get too bogged down in politics, but I just couldn’t keep silent any longer. This post has been a long time coming.)



To A Young Republican,

Congratulations.

Your political party, left for dead by many pundits even before the primary season started because of its affiliation with our once-popular current President, has managed to get back into the game, big time.

The addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket has re-energized the red-state faithful, many of whom wouldn’t have ridden the bandwagon for John McCain alone. I’m quite sure that you, like me, have more than a few misgivings about the candidate you’re standing behind, but the competitive nature of politics has a way of causing us to suppress those misgivings for awhile. As the thinking goes, if my guy is going to be attacked left and right by the opposition anyway, there’s no point in me piling on and doing their work for them.

This, along with many other tenets of conventional political wisdom, scares me to no end.

Not because it means that more people have rallied under the banner of McCain/Palin and that means the GOP might win the race, though that would sadden me somewhat.

No, the thing that most distresses me about the current political landscape as I see it expressed by people in your shoes, is that I feel like I should hate your guts when the truth is that I hardly know you.

You might be wondering what I mean.

Allow me to explain.

Lately, I’ve seen a boldness come over you and your peers. It’s a boldness that borders on belligerance. It seems to come from a collective sigh of relief that finally you have a candidate (or co-candidate, as it were) that can steal some headlines from the celebrity of Obama, which is no small feat. And in one sense, I find this behavior to be mostly harmless. If more young people are getting excited and engaged in the political process, I generally see that as a net plus, regardless of which side they land on ideologically.

And even though I’ve seen several high-profile Republicans (including Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin herself) take some cheap shots, that doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, we are still talking about politics. And as any good Chicagoan will tell you, politics ain’t beanbag.

Most well-meaning baby boomers have already seen how divisive and ugly political races become, so it has become social custom for them to simply avoid talking about it in polite conversation. If you don’t bring it up, they won’t either. Not belonging to that generation, though, you and I tend to play by a different set of rules.

Generations X and Y tend to, according to my anecdotal evidence, wear their politics on their sleeves. In some cases, it’s a logical and systematic expression of their core beliefs about life and humanity. But for many of us, it’s more fundamental than that… on both the left and right, we younger adults often ride our respective political bandwagons as a statement of identity. More than just believing in certain ideals, we belong to groups of people who are passionate about the same things we’re passionate about.

So we dig into politics with the same zeal and passion that we give in other areas of our life, if not more so. It becomes a part of our identity, like the brands that we consume or the sports teams that we follow. (It’s no wonder the whole Democrats-are-Macs, Republicans-are-PCs meme is still popular.)

And realizing this helps me to understand why so many of you absolutely despise Barack Obama.

It’s because his political ascendance happened so quickly and so dramatically that even before he declared any official candidacy, his media coverage far exceeded the substance of his overall political achievement. Riding mostly on the strength of his ideas, his charismatic personality, and the cultural and historical significance of his biracial heritage, he managed to parlay a few lucky breaks into a seat in the U.S. Senate, and now he’s poised as the frontrunner to become President.

Is it jealousy? Yeah, there’s probably a little of that.

But I think it’s mostly disdain for the culture of celebrity that has surrounded his candidacy for so long. The Hollywood endorsements, the will.i.am tribute song, the endless parade of T-shirts and trinkets with his name plastered all over them. I’m sure by now someone somewhere is selling Barack Obama waffle irons, where you can pour your syrup over waffles stenciled with his high-wattage smile, and melt little pats of butter that spell out ‘YES WE CAN.’

It’s a little much, I agree.

So combining that with his stances on abortion and gay marriage, his opposition to the Iraq war, and other hot-button issues… it all equals a candidate that you love to hate, even more so than Hillary.

And like I said before, if this only had to do with politics, it wouldn’t bother me that much.

The problem is that many of you, dare I say, most of you, are Christians. And many of you are Bible-believing, sanctified, blood-bought evangelical Christians, which means you’re not shy about making your beliefs heard in the public square.

And those beliefs, specifically the theological ones that differentiate Christian faith from all the other faiths out there, are beliefs that I share. So I think it’s great that you want to advocate for a candidate that you interpret as representing Christianity as you know and understand it. In your mind, you’re doing your part to advance God’s kingdom.

And trust me, I’m all about advancing God’s kingdom.

But it seems to me that, in your zeal to elect the guy you want in office (McCain), it’s not enough to argue that your guy is better. No, you’ve got to tear down the other guy in the process.

Which, again, is not that big a deal if all we’re talking about is politics. Laker fans don’t care if I call Kobe Bryant a diva or a Jordan wannabe… they know that’s what opposing fans do. So I don’t mind that you want to tear Obama down in the public square. As American citizens, you have a right to do that.

As Christians, however, you have a responsibility to hold a higher standard of conduct. Name-calling, spreading false rumors, and fear mongering may be standard behavior for political strategists, but Jesus told us to, you know, love our enemies. Even our political enemies.

So the fact that you don’t seem to be doing that particularly well makes people take notice, especially people who don’t know God like you do. And no disrespect to all the Dallas Mavericks fans, but if even Mark Cuban thinks that politics have gotten a little out of control, then something is very wrong.

Now I know I’m risking looking like a hypocrite here, because many of you might be wondering why I never took the time to defend George W. for the merciless pounding he’s been taking from the left. Where was the call to civility then, you might be asking.

Well, you’re right. I’ve been guilty of the same offense. I’ve chosen to selectively follow God’s will and leading based on the convenience of my politics. And since Bush is easy to make fun of, I didn’t stand up for him at times when I could have. I chose to ignore that whole passage of Romans 13 that talks about how God has ordained certain authorities to be over us.

But… and no offense, fellow Democrats, but uh… it’s a little different when Republicans do it, because the GOP is supposed to be the party that upholds Christian values.

I mean, I know Barack said that whole bit about how “we serve an awesome God in the blue states” during his coming out party in 2004, but I don’t think most of America was really picking up what he was laying down. Liberal Democrats already have the reputation of being secular, immoral, and Godless.

And frankly, even though it saddens me to see liberal bloggers, pundits, and journalists engaging in the same name-calling and fear-mongering, it doesn’t surprise me that much. The prophet Jeremiah (no, not that Jeremiah) told us the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. So when you have a population of people that is, by and large, without the truth of God as we understand it, what should one expect?

But you, on the hand… you guys are supposed to know better.

And I think that if you really understood how much some of your actions help push people away from God instead of drawing them back to God, you would do things differently.

Now as we watch the rest of the drama unfold in this march toward November, I honestly don’t know who is going to win. At this point, I could see it going either way.

But do me a favor, okay?

Regardless of who wins, lets cut out all the vitriol. Lets do our best to keep it about policies and principles.

And lets agree to respect the office of the President, regardless of who actually occupies the Oval Office.

And lets not view the President simply as an extension of the party to which he (or she) belongs, but as a three-dimensional human being with flaws and hopes and bad hair days just like the rest of us. Because it’s a lot harder to demonize someone you can identify with.

And if we can all identify with a figure as polarizing and controversial as the President of the United States, then maybe we’re not as far apart as it seems.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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Links to make you think: Campaign Edition


I try not to let this blog get too political because I don’t want to be known as a stooge for either the left or right (masthead notwithstanding).

Mostly, I just like to get people thinking.

So here are a bunch of pieces I’ve read lately that have really got me thinking.

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Sarah Palin: The New Chuck Norris


For those of you, like me, who couldn’t get enough “investigative reporting” about the growing legend of Carlos Ray Norris, the phenomenon is repeating itself with the latest femme fatale, VP candidate (and McCain running mate) Sarah Palin. I give you: Sarah Palin Facts. My favorites:

  • Sarah Palin begins every day with a moment of silence for the political enemies buried in her yard.
  • Sarah Palin can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves
  • Sarah Palin is what Willis was talkin’ ’bout
  • Scientists discovered mysterious watermarks on Sarah Palin’s ultrasound images. Translated from Inuit, they read: “ALASKA GIRLS KICK @SS.”
  • Fox is starting a new reality show … “When Sarah Palin Attacks”
  • Death once had a near-Sarah-Palin experience
  • In the original version, He-Man had the power of Sarah Palin, but the writers felt this would make him way too powerful
  • Jesus has a bracelet that says “WWSPD”

By the way, one of those I made up just now. Astute Mixin’ It Up readers should be able to guess which one. enjoy.

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Don’t Just Complain, Be An Example. (Or: An Open Letter That You Can Write Too.)


(Please forgive my abundant use of Title Case. I just like the way it looks sometimes.)

So I was recently inspired by a post on my friend Erika’s blog, The Margins.

I had just finished laying down a pretty thorough (and snarky) post on why I think the phrase “playing the race card” needs to die a quick, painless death.

And I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself.

(Proverbs alert!)

But after re-reading it, I came to a conclusion — one that a lot of bloggers, if they were being honest with themselves, would come to.

For serving the purpose of Expressing How I Feel (And Having A Little Fun In the Process), this post is great.

For serving the purpose of Rallying Those Who Think Similarly To the Issue of My Choosing, it’s also pretty darn good.

However, for serving the purpose of Effectively Communicating To Those Who Might Disagree With Me, it is mediocre at best.

Because lets be honest — most people who disagree with me aren’t coming to my blog. They’re probably friends of mine, so they’re going to be more likely to see things from my perspective. And even if they disagree, they can do so in a friendly enough manner so as to engender a good amount of sympathy from me to their side, even if I think they’re wrong. Because they’re most likely friends of mine, they might still be out to lunch on the issue of question … but they’re my friend that’s out to lunch, and that’s a big difference.

Unfortunately, a lot of opinionated bloggers have been socialized by the blogosphere into believing that since the easiest way to attract attention is to be as over-the-top as possible, that’s the best way to communicate.

I respectfully disagree.

Especially when it comes to engaging people with whom I disagree.

The reason why I named this blog “Mixin’ It Up” is because I enjoy the sense of back-and-forth camaraderie, mutual respect, and intellectual stimulation that comes when people can debate with honesty and vigor. And I don’t even mind if it gets a little gutter now and again, as long as folks don’t take things too personal.

A little smack talk now and again can be fun. (Just ask fans of The Jim Rome Show.)

But if you actually want to try to change someone’s mind about an issue (as opposed to just loudly complaining that people aren’t open to your ideas) then a much better idea is to find someone who writes something in the spirit of something you disagree with, and then write them a succinct, yet respectful, response.

Which is what I did with a columnist from Townhall.com, a hotbed of conservative commentary.

After reading The Power of the Race Card by Jon Sanders, I sent this email to Mr. Sanders:

Mr. Sanders,

I read your column, and if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, I understand — and even agree.

The power of the social construct we know as race has been not only polarizing, but unifying, and while Senator Obama has experienced both intense support and intense backlash because of his ethnicity. The fact that such a relative political neophyte such as Obama could take down stalwarts such as Edwards and Clinton is impressive, no doubt.

But I take issue with your loaded language, particularly your use of the phrase “the race card.”

This phrase has nefarious origins (the O.J. Simpson trial) and it has almost always served to advance the interests of those who wish to disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist.

The idea that as a Black man, my racial identity can be reduced to a “card” that I can play at my convenience is both laughably ludicrous and morally repugnant.

If I could truly use this card (or keep it safely tucked inside my wallet) at my own discretion and prevent my ethnicity from becoming a problematic obstacle during inopportune situations like during job interviews or applications for bank loans… believe me — I would do so.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

But your use of the phrase “the race card” insinuates otherwise, and I strenuously object to your continuing to use it.

Please do yourself and your readers a service by abolishing this term from your arsenal of go-to phrases. It will elevate your writing beyond the stale and predictable, and honor the complexity and nuance of racial relations in America today.

Thanks for your consideration.

Now obviously this man has no ideological reason to respond to this email publicly. But I just might get him to stop. And at the very least, I’ve given him two options:

1. To choose to consider my proposal, or
2. To grudgingly (if only privately) admit that there are people who disagree with him who aren’t liberal moonbats, or whatever the epithet of the day happens to be.

I would hope for the former, but I would settle for the latter.

I realize that even this letter seems to violate part of the spirit of the St. Francis quote that Erika was reflecting on, particularly the idea that my personal conduct could serve as a rebuke to the wicked.

In this case, I’m hoping that my rebuke to the wicked would be a rebuke to the wicked.

Not that I’m saying he’s wicked, but you know what I mean.

And I’m trying to do it with love and respect, which is still a lot more than what you’ll find in many corners of the internet.

I guess its my own tribute to the concept of satyagraha, the firmness of truth that undergirds nonviolent protest.

So if you feel the way I do about “the race card” then feel free to copy my letter, edit out the parts that don’t apply to you, and send it to anyone else who chooses to use the term in print or over the internet. Or if you don’t care so much about this issue, then you can find another that chaps your hide, and take the time to defend your position with grace and humility.

But what’s more important is that you take whatever issue that burns in your heart, and do your best to be the example that the world needs so desperately to see.

And if you track back to this post, so much the better.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and I’m hoping to see you mix it up with me.

UPDATE: Jon wrote me back an equally thoughtful, nuanced response. I will send him a follow-up email, during which I’ll ask if I can post the exchange on my blog.

(Which is always a good policy, by the way, for those bloggers just starting out. Never assume an email is fair game for posting. You wouldn’t automatically broadcast someone’s voicemail on the radio.)

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A Little Advice, From One Jelani to Another


(Editor’s note: This letter probably won’t mean much to its recipient — seated on the right in this picture — at the moment. Right now he’s probably too young to full appreciate the truth of what I’m about to tell him. Chances are he might not ever get to read it. But if he’s anything like me (or many other Americans) he’ll google himself and maybe run across this piece in an internet archive.)

An Open Letter to Jelani Kilpatrick

You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I know that I’m almost your dad’s age, so you might be tempted to think that I don’t know anything about you. But I probably know more about you than you think.

I imagine that the level of scrutiny you and your family are walking in right now borders on the insufferable, especially since it’s become public that your dad was having an affair with a woman that he worked with. Right now you’re, what, twelve years old? So if you’re anything like I was when I was twelve, a lot of the drama is going right over your head. You know that your father messed up and I’m sure you know that your mom and many other people are angry and disappointed with him. But the enormity of what he did and why it was so bad… it’s probably not going to hit you until you get older.

And when that happens, you might have some people around you who will encourage you to completely disassociate yourself from your father. They’ll want to use you to get at him. They’ll try to get you to pull an Absalom and throw your dad under the bus.

Don’t do it. Don’t go there. Don’t believe the hype about your dad.

Not because he doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment, but because you are in a unique position to learn from your father’s mistakes.

As another Jelani who grew up with a fairly high-profile father in a family known in my community for a certain field of ministry, I understand what it’s like to always have to bear your father’s legacy. Sometimes that can be a great privilege. Sometimes it can feel like a millstone around your neck.

But it is what it is.

Don’t let it define you, but don’t run away from it either. Learn to evaluate all of the hows, whens and whys of all the ways that your dad messed up. If your dad is anything like my dad, there will come a time when he’ll open up and answer any questions you have about his decisions. Hopefully that process will show you that it wasn’t just one bad choice he made that led to all of the controversy — but a series.

Remember the words of The Big Aristotle, who said that excellence is not a singular act, but a habit.

Don’t be afraid to forge your own identity, regardless of your pursuit in life.

Even if you end up becoming, say, a pediatrician, there will always be those around you who will tell you how much like your dad you’ve become. And there will always be good things about that. Your father wouldn’t have ascended to the heights from whence he fell if he didn’t have some incredible attributes. But still, you’re going to have to live your own life. At some point, you’ll have to learn how to take the good parts that you inherited from him and build on it so that you will be able to achieve things that he did not.

Alas, it might become a temptation for you to use your father’s shortcomings as an excuse. For what, I don’t know. But your disappointment with your dad could easily turn to resentment, and if it does you’ll wish that he was better at certain things. You might even wish that you were born into a different family.

But don’t. God does all things for a reason. And using the excuse of your dad’s failures — or any excuse, really — as a way to not try your best, or as a pre-emptive justification for future failure, is just dumb. It’s self-sabotaging. And speaking as a recovering perfectionist, I know all about self-sabotage. It’s just not worth it.

One other thing. I know this goes without saying, but please, please PLEASE don’t repeat your father’s mistakes. Not just so that you don’t ruin your life, but because you’re not just representing the Kilpatrick family name. You’re also representing my name. And I’m quite proud of my first name right now, but all it takes is one really bad scandal to taint a name that is associated with it. And if you think I’m wrong, ask anyone named O.J., Monica or Katrina.

By the way, if your brother Jalil wants to know, all these things apply to him too. But I thought I’d tell you first, since, well… we’ve got a few things in common.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.