Hero

We are in a precarious and unpredictable world.  We are asking ourselves if we can trust each other, trust ourselves and asking if we can trust that the world to which we are all contributing will ultimately be safe enough (politically, strategically and environmentally) for us to actually survive.  What do laws mean if no one follows them?  What does faith mean if no one has it?  If you think about it, a lot of these kinds of questions have been answered in the past by the basic human nature of having heroes.  Those people our societies have held aloft as the representatives of the ideals and concepts that we collectively hold to be most admirable: the ability to overcome adversity; strength of convictions; pure talent; the embodiment of beauty, etc.

What a week for heroes.  Lance Armstrong, like him or not, was one of our heroes.  He knowingly took those ideals of ours and consciously manipulated his world so that he appeared to be in that model of human nobility and perfection.  We can’t ask why.  We want to judge someone who takes our idea of hero and turns it into a self serving opportunity.  We want to have some kind of compensation for being duped.  But we must be better than that.  He has to answer to himself and that will be the challenge and shame he carries for the rest of his life.  No book deal, no future achievement of any kind can diminish the torture that he will carry to his grave and the torture carried by those directly affected by him.  It is its own punishment.  But it is a situation that leaves us wondering what was it that let us believe that he was a hero if he really wasn’t one?  With the multitude of people who surrounded him who knew what was going on (I had actually heard about his methods in sports circles and have heard for years through people who have known him that he is a dirty competitor), why did we let ourselves believe that he was more than the “emperor with new clothes?”

And then you have Barack Obama; sworn in for a 2nd term as the 44th President of the United States; galvanizing the country toward stricter gun laws, immigration reform and even the possibility of marriage equality.  Standing tall and proud as a man of color and the winner in a game that has been dominated by an elite white male establishment for more than 200 years.  Now, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I am a big Obama supporter, but I would claim that as a hero and on a certain level, Barack Obama in triumph is really no greater or less than Lance Armstrong in disgrace.  Obama is a politician.  He has played a system (American politics), and worked the process and used the resources available to him no less than any competitive cyclist from the Armstrong era, except the stadium in which Obama is playing expects you to use political transfusions and creative medicine marketing to get your outcome.  By all means, I do not want to call the legitimacy of Obama’s re-election into question and if that is your rebuttal to this blog, I ask you to refrain from comment…that is not the point of this discussion.  My point here is that we WANT heroes regardless of what form they present themselves.   We WANT to believe that there are just some people on this planet who “play the game” who are gifted; not just lucky, but gifted, whether that be in ability or opportunity or vision or divine inspiration.

Oddly enough, we have these heroes around us all the time.  And among those heroes are some Barack Obamas and some Lance Armstrongs.  There are some who are definitely playing a game, but it is a game in which we are willing to accept (for now) the twisted rhetoric and conflict between noble aspirations and back room deals.  And on the other hand, there are some who are creating their own playing field and using the good faith of those around them for their own opportunistic desires.  Yet, for that moment while we accept all of our heroes as the beacon in the distance, we find guidance and inspiration in who they show themselves to be with us.  We WANT heroes.

So what is this about?  We see heroes around us every day.  We are inspired and we inspire others.  I am always blown away by the e-mails I receive from total strangers who see the P90X videos and thank me…I am honored to have played the hero (even if it meant someone was cursing me under their breath)…but I certainly didn’t set out to be a hero.  I just did a job that was asked of me, to the best of my ability according to my upbringing, training and education.  We all have these opportunities to inspire.  I have received some of the most truly heroic encouragement in my journey toward ministry, toward physical self acceptance, toward love…and these heroes may not realize the strength of that lifeline they cast my way. I believe that the first place to look for our heroes must be within ourselves.  We can only be absolutely sure of the integrity that we bring ourselves.  We cannot hold anyone else to our standard, but rather we must set an example.  If we bring our best selves to every endeavor, we will fill the role of hero for someone.  Even if it is fleeting, and even if we are actually more Armstrong than Obama, we must first answer to ourselves and if we are spiritual, to our faith center.  From there, integrity, hope and aspiration to a higher ideal can spread to others.  THIS makes a better world.  Remember the real hero is within.

To all of my heroes, thank you.  You are with me every day and I love you all.

Dedicated to my mother, Edwina Weston-Dyer (1932-2012) 

Mendacity

In case you haven’t got it yet, I love old movies.  As an aside, if you are also an old movie fan and you haven’t checked out John DiLeo’s blog (http://screensaversmovies.com/), you must.  One of my favorite old movies is “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”  First of all, Elizabeth Taylor is stunning.  Second of all, so is Paul Newman.  And best of all, is a script by Tennessee Williams that despite its being rather liberally butchered for the Hollywood censors, still manages to convey a lot of the original plays awkwardness and distaste for one thing…mendacity.

mendacity (plural mendacities)

– The fact or condition of being untruthful; dishonesty.

– A lie, deceit or falsehood.

No one, absolutely no one in the film is telling the truth.  It is gorgeous and tragic.  But it only works because it is fiction and not real life.  It is Edith Head and Richard Brooks and Louella Parsons and 1958 Hollywood, nothing more.

Unfortunately, we seem to be in an age that is quickly embracing mendacity as the rule instead of the exception.  I could launch into a lengthy expose on the recent Republican National Convention and how my P90X workout buddy, Paul Ryan, seems to have major issues with the fact check button on his computer (maybe he’s a little high from all of that Shakeology ™?)  I could also dive into “the Mittster” himself’ by pointing out how he left out one important phrase at the beginning of his speech, “Once upon a time…”, but I will resist.  I know that next week the Democrats will also engage in their fair share of mendacious salaciousness feigning perspicaciousness while resulting only in audaciousness…in short, we’ll hear them lying too.  I have no plea or bargain to strike with either party.  I would however like to speak directly to a group that I not only identify with, but a group for whom I have always had great hopes: black folks.

Word on the street is that black folks (aka, African Americans) are in a quandary.  As first fired, last hired,  we have seen little if no change at all in our economic status during the Obama administration.  There are no more of us starting businesses, or owning homes or affording college or sailing our yachts or showing our dressage horses than before Obama was elected.  So if we (black people) then listen to the rhetoric being spouted by the Republicans, it would make sense that we would agree with them that Obama has been a “do nothing” president.  But then, the Democrats point most specifically to the benefits that come with “Obamacare” and the administrations effort to rebuild the American international reputation after the Bush bulldozer, and they say, the world is a safer, healthier place for us.  Not to mention that Obama is black (well half…but that’s a totally different blog concerning how we truly embrace people who are mixed race) and he therefore represents a kind of “hope” that a Romney or a Ryan could never represent for us.

Right now there is a concerted effort to make the issue of marriage equality (aka gay marriage) a divisive issue in the black church and black communities in general.  We don’t talk about it.  We don’t make a point of standing up and making a show by marching with posters that say “I love my gay son” or any of that.  In most black communities, centered around the church, blacks don’t talk about anything LGBT even if they know its there.  I’ve often gotten the feeling that many of a certain type in the black community regard LGBT rights as a frivolous pursuit by entitled white people and therefore it is not something that involves “us.”  Blacks who deny the LGBTQI communities in their midst are sadly deluded.  They are missing out on true relationships with their sons and daughters, brothers, aunts, sisters, uncles and even sometimes parents, because of a desire to remain ignorant to the truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, black people have sex.  And yes sometimes its not always with someone of the opposite gender. And get this, whether it is M/F, M/M, F/F or whatever, its not always “Mandingo/Foxy Luv” sex.  Sometimes, its as boring and mundane as the sex you might imagine Mitt and Ann having.  The important thing is to own the fact that we have it and it ain’t no big deal.

Black church leaders are calling for a boycott on the election because of Obama’s stance on same sex marriage.  They claim that embracing this practice is anti-Christian and goes against God and nature.  They believe it is important to make a statement to Obama that he has “betrayed” the black people by embracing something they see as a white evil.

Mendacity.

I have a growing number of black LGBTQI friends who have all left the church because of the hostile environment they have encountered.  From my view, the only people who have perpetrated betrayal are the church leaders who go against the teachings of the very Christ they espouse by turning away people who are already marginalized.  We are met with the claim that we “weaken” the cause for validity in a white dominated culture; that we are over sexualized and that we are a shameful representation of sexuality.  I know they are wrong, but I will put aside how sickened I am by their stance to make a plea for a temporary truce.  Right now, we have an opportunity to elect the first black (mixed) president in the history of the United States to a second term.  He has been battled and un-cooperated with and challenged from day one, because he genuinely does think differently than all of the old white dudes who came before him.  Yes, he is just as much a slimy politician as the rest of them, but he does speak our language and he is a symbol of something much more important than making sure Warren Buffett gets another tax break.  He’s a symbol that the face…the literal face of America has changed permanently.

Black church leaders of America, I ask you to put aside your differences with me and the rest of my LGBTQI cronies and we will do the same.  Our battle for reconciliation will go on much longer than either this election season or the next administration regardless of who wins because human sexuality is as old as the human race.  And I say to the black community, do not disgrace the work of all of the Civil Rights warriors by withholding your vote…there are enough people trying to cheat you out of it as it is.  I say, if you really don’t want all that Obama stands for as a leader for this country, then vote against him, but don’t be a coward; don’t let the men who want to play a false God with my sexuality, women’s bodies or your rights to have assistance from a biased system that continues to oppress you…don’t let them have their day.   And if you are willing to continue to meet the LGBTQI community face to face through our common faiths and shared spirituality, then put that vote in the blue column and we’ll meet you at church where we can really discuss the validity of my existence before the eyes of God and find a way to embrace each other with the true love He designed and hopefully without any mendacity at all.