Posts Tagged ‘commentary’

After my first two weeks as a freshman English teacher (I was brand new to teaching and my students were brand new to high school), I witnessed a disturbing trend by my students.  Homework, tests, quizzes and projects, as it turned out, were gay.  Any time my students wanted to share their complete disdain for any type of work, they would immediately proclaim or mumble, “this is gay.”

I took offense to the statement and not because I had a special place in my heart for gay rights.  I have a special place in my heart for the rights of people and when young kids on the precipice of adulthood used gay as the term to describe something displeasing or unfavorable, the visceral reaction I had to students surprised me.  “Find another way of saying you don’t like something, people!  If you want to be viewed as adults, it is time to start acting like educated adults.”

After a few weeks of working on the abolition of “that’s gay” in my classroom, the turning point came once I put it into perspective.  I only had a few black students but in one particular class, I used race to put “that’s gay” into perspective.  I remember asking my students, “would you say, “that’s black,” if you didn’t like something?”  Immediately the lone black student in my class turned his head quickly and violently around the room to see if anyone would agree to that particular usage.  All of the students avoided eye contact and either looked down at their desks or as if they had never heard the question.

Thankfully or coincidentally, the quick lesson worked and when students would use the term in class, they would often correct themselves and even ask for a pardon from the universe as they would say, “sorry, I meant to say…”

Ignorant speech and views starts when we are all pretty ignorant to the world around us.  Kids, especially, are rooting through this world trying to understand how life works and where and how they fit in.  Hell, a great many adults are still searching for themselves; I know I am.  All of this is anecdotal  and germane to one incredible experience that came to full fruition this past Saturday.

A friend of mine a few months back came to me, after finding out that I was ordained and could perform wedding ceremonies, and asked if I would officiate her wedding.  Her fiancee is a wonderful person too.  Together, they exude the kind of love and passion for each other that so many people pine for in their lives.  The way they look at each other and how in a crowded room, you can see them searching for each other in order to just share a smile.  They are sentimental, emotional, dedicated people that love each other in a profoundly inspiring way.  Oh, right, I almost forgot, they’re gay.10624776_879633068251_279711591266471520_n

Regretfully, when I was twelve years old, my friends and I would prank call a gay bar where I lived.  We would ask, “Is Phil there?  Phil MyButtUp!”  Things that, even though I was only twelve, still bother me that I ever existed in a place where that seemed comical.  Luckily, I had the kind of relationship with my Mom where I would tell her about all of the things I did: good, bad, sensitive, insensitive, and even outright ignorant.

In one of her many sage like moments, my Mom turned to me and asked, “would you want to be something where people would be ignorant towards you?  Would you choose to be something where others would make fun of you, act differently towards you, or discriminate you?”  She looked at me and immediately I understood her point.  “No, I wouldn’t,” I replied. “Then think about what you think is funny and then really think if it is funny or you’re trying to be funny at someone else’s expense.”  Damn, I thought.  Moms always have a way of putting things into perspective.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to act as the officiant in my first wedding ever.  I did not lament over what I was going to say, though I did fret over the words because I wanted my friends, Sarah and Katie, to have a ceremony that they would never forget.  Standing before her friends and family, I felt that lump begin to swell in my throat.  I was far from nervous; I was moved.

10685485_10100698714348029_3080044461057064068_nWhen Katie and Sarah finally made their way to where I was standing, I could see their eyes filled with palpable passion, love, and of course, tears.  They could finally do the one thing that this country, a country that prides itself on individual freedoms and liberties, fought so long and hard to keep from happening.  Passion beat policy and over a hundred people bore witness to the power of love and resilience.  As a heterosexual male, I do not and cannot imagine what it would be like to be told I could not love someone because others had an issue with whom I directed my affection and adoration.

We all play a part in how effective love and kindness can be in this world.  Ultimately, there’s a lesson to be learned in how we treat those that do not follow the scripts that we follow in life.  Homophobia is not bred through one particular sect of thought.  Its genesis is in ignorance begetting ignorance.  It manifests when the company a person keeps continues to drive home a point of intolerance and the inability to differentiate between their life and someone else’s life.  When people decide that love provides not only a safe place for individuals to lay their hearts but a place where people can simply be themselves, we take steps in battling the provincial thoughts of those that appear to need more love in their life.

I will never change anyone’s views by saying what I believe.  I will change minds by living out my views.  Sarah and Katie asked me to be part of a moment that, as I said to those in attendance, could not be justified by any words that I spoke that day.  We needed only look at Sarah and Katie together and to witness the truth in what we believe.  While I often wish the world would stop long enough to admire each moment as unique and authentic, it may play a little part in what made Saturday so magical.  Outside of the Autumn oasis that Sarah and Katie created for their family and friends, was a world waiting to remind us of the long road so many people must travel.

However, tucked away in the Germantown section of Philadelphia are fifty five acres of endless memories.  We need only return there in our thoughts to have all of our senses brought back to life and to remind us of what perfect looks and feels like.  I will never forget my two friends; surrounded by bales of hay, loving family and friends, and an infinite supply of hope and victory to fuel us for a lifetime.  I may never change someone’s mind by what I’ve said or written, but if I lead through my experiences in life, September 20th, 2014 marks the day when I witnessed hope evolve into reality!

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“Holy S#!%, we WON,” I screamed while running around my apartment, nearly knocking over a lamp and coming dangerously close to crushing a bookcase.

That was the scene in my house this past Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Indianapolis Colts.  My excitement and love for my football team knows no bounds and Monday night provided another example of the lunacy that many Philadelphia Eagles fans experience on any given Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night.  Though some may call it cliched, football is my escape and has been for many years.

Just about a month ago, I lost my job as an Academic Coordinator due to budget cuts.  Like a recycled Hollywood movie plot, the scenario of losing a job and feeling petrified over making ends meet is a story that many people experience.  While I wish I could string together some flowery prose or develop a poignant metaphor to capture my feelings, the best way to sum it up is to come right out and say, “It Sucks!

Each morning I take to the computer and scour the classified websites, hoping that I will find a job that I love and will love me back.  Resume after resume, custom cover letter after custom cover letter, I continue to push forward.  I have to; failure is not an option because I have a family that depends on me and I refuse to fail.  I will, no matter what, do whatever it takes to take care of my family.  I cannot quit because my family depends on me.

That’s when it happened.  Literally moments before the second half kickoff, there I was saying, “I don’t know if I can handle this,” I had one of those epiphanies that I know will stay with me for a long time to come.

I’m not just a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am the Philadelphia Eagles.  I am in my own proverbial halftime and yes, I am without a doubt, down.  The score does not look pretty and while others may think I do not have a chance in hell of coming back, I still have another half of football to play.  I have to be my own Chip Kelly and adjust during the half.  I cannot be deterred because a play I drew up did not get me the results I wanted.  After all, I still have another half of my life to play.

That is precisely what bleeding green means.  It is the complete and total embodiment of throwing yourself into something that you live for each week.  We all know the labels associated with being a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  If the description of who we are as a fan base was left to outsiders, the painted picture would be eerily similar to the Germanic tribes fighting the Romans in the opening scene of “Gladiator.”

We may beat our chests and scream until we are hoarse, boo players that do not play to their fullest potential, and we are guilty of grandiloquent speech and theory, but damn it, we bleed green.  Our wounds are deep but the devotion to our team runs deeper.  We are football maniacs in the moment and football scholars-in-training after the game.  We clamber to our televisions and radios in order to hear the profound words of Ray Didinger, the Socrates of Philadelphia Football.  The presets on our car radios are set for sports talk radio.  The jerseys of players in our closets run like a timeline found in history books.  The stories we tell our children about that one game, that one play or that one season is a bond that should not, will not and cannot be taken lightly.

I bleed green because the Philadelphia Eagles are my family.  While I certainly did not cry the same way I did when my Dad passed away, I felt equally as empty and directionless when Brian Dawkins left the Eagles and signed with the Denver Broncos.  I’ve given family second chances after they’ve done truly terrible things; reminiscent of accepting Michael Vick into our football family regardless of the strong opinions I had for him and his actions.  Family, unless they choose to walk away, are your family for life.

Undeniable are the collective wounds we wear on the very sleeves we wear our hearts; however, the Philadelphia Eagles are the wellspring of this city’s passion.  Passion is paramount to being a fan.  Some may question how being a Philadelphia Eagles fan is different than being a fan of any other team.  The answer is quite simple: ferocity.  If we fall behind, we will fight to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

I learned through my love for the Philadelphia Eagles that although I may be down at the half, I still have another half to come back and claim my victory.  Thank you, Philadelphia Eagles; not only have you given me something to cheer about, you’ve taught me that hope is a series of unrelenting pursuits driven by the idea that we can never give up.

Education in major cities is beyond the point of “fixing.”  There is a crisis that most do not want to know about because the thought of it all may be too much to bear or it may not matter to you.  Truthfully, there are more reasons to be informed than there are to remain ignorant.  Ironically, the duality of the word ignorance is essentially at the center of inner-city education.  Whether nestled peacefully in the suburbs or immersed in the inner city, the education of urban youth is paramount to the success of this country as a whole.

I have taught students that fight me when I try to expand their vocabularies.  They scoff at the thought of knowing four and five syllable words because education, at least in the inner city, does not provide for individuals and the family.  Of course there are those that have earned degrees from colleges and did so from some of the most destitute and downtrodden sections of America’s biggest cities.  However, we are more apt to recognize the starting forward of a popular basketball team or the hottest rapper in the game before we can rattle off the names of those individuals.  It is difficult to tell a sixteen year old child that although in his pocket is more money than some teachers make in a month, education is far superior to selling drugs on a street corner.  After all, a college degree has fed less families than the drug game has in many of these students’ lives.

In the city of Philadelphia today, the new numbers guru passed down a mandate that schools across the district must cut their energy consumption drastically.  The recommendation of turning out lights in classrooms and hallways is the number one solution to this problem.  Not only are we talking about schools that are drastically underfunded because of the decisions of a few that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands, the term technology once meant more computers, white boards, and projectors.  Sadly, it now means a teacher can claim that the technology used in his or her classroom is from the flickering lights above their heads.  Does this mean dress codes will now include a miner’s hat?

I referenced that the education of inner-city students did not effect just the neighborhoods that these students come from, it means that in the next fifteen years, our students will fall even further behind because the numbers game is essentially a proverbial hit squad that discounts the individual and looks only at the bottom line.  We ask, “how could this happen?”  As once superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, sits and collects unemployment after receiving nearly a million dollar buyout of her contract, the mortgaged futures of the students she claimed to work tirelessly for, are now literally sitting in the dark.

Those students that lack the basic skills of their suburban counterparts will find themselves in colleges and universities, admitted purely for financial reasons, and will fail these very students because they come far less prepared than their suburban peers.  Sadly, we accept these decisions and look befuddled at the government.  How can we as a Nation turn to a government that is hemorrhaging as we speak?  Before we turn to a government that makes it abundantly clear that a single test dictates funding, we must become pioneers and pave the way for success across all racial, political, cultural, and economic lines.

Before you are ready to point your finger at others, perhaps we should all stand in front of a mirror and ask the hard questions of what we as individuals and Americans can do to impact the lives of others.  “Joe the Plumber” gained national recognition for his every man’s perspective on America.  We work hard, we earn every dollar we make, and we refuse to let our money go to programs that appear to act solely as siphons for money.  Ask a child taken from an abusive home if your tax dollars are wasted.  Ask the inner city student that only eats when she is in school if your tax dollars are wasted on the likes of someone with whom you may have never held a conversation.  Imagine the elderly that cling to an existence that provides them with just enough to survive.  Quality of life is not predicated on whether your television projects in 3D, your central air system also purifies the air in your home, or the car you drive can park itself.  No one wants to admit that quality of life stems from brotherhood and equality.  If you say social programs are good, then you are against democracy.

If Democracy means casting off the unwanted, then I must be a dirty socialist.  If caring for the well being of those that sprung from the loins of those ill equipped, ill educated, and ill funded is a socialist mentality, then tell me where the secret meetings are held.  Do not get me wrong; I love THINGS.  I want to give to my children in the same fashion that celebrities with children named after mountains, fruit, and fictional characters provide for their families.  However, when my seven year old says she does not like the News because it scares her, then I have given her more than I would have ever given her if I bought an iTouch, a Big Wheel, or a vacation.

The notion that our government will somehow save itself from its own blinding greed is laughable.  If you want change, then make change.  Stand in line at the polls in November, but before you lull yourself into believing that the government cares for the best interests of ALL of its citizens, ask yourself if your vote will make the final decision in an election.  I promise you that your vote will never become the makings of a Kevin Costner movie.  If you want to strengthen your country, it will not be through the use of one finger pressing the name of a candidate in an election.  Change will occur when you decide to become part of the solution. Rather than allow the political aspirations of someone else to motivate your work, remember that your motivation to make change will ultimately come when you decide to make a change in the life of another.

Less government, more government, somewhere-in-between government. Regardless of your politics, I prefer the term “peopletics.” Republicans should be referred to as “F’em Alls” and Democrats should be referred to as “Hug Em Alls.” Find me a selfless politician and the pessimist in me will make a wager in my head that they’ve tickled the undercarriage of a minor, have tapped twice on the bathroom floor in a public bathroom, or they are waiting to tickle the undercarriage or tap the bathroom floor twice. Politics has turned me angry, more misanthropic than I once admitted, and sadly, politics has made me apathetic.

Did you hear Rick Perry dropped out? I was more interested when Rick James dropped dead. Newt Gingrich has some great ideas; too bad he reminds me of EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN. That is why I followed Barack for a bit. Now, he has shown that politics is only as productive as the ding-dongs, derelicts, and degenerates that the American public votes into office. I have debated about politics, gotten riled up by those that see it only one way, and found myself agitated by the thought of having to endure another election.

How much money goes into these campaigns? Enough to take care of a host of individuals that have lost their jobs. When people lose their jobs, the public rips their hands from their shoulders and starts wagging its fingers violently towards Washington D.C. If you need a scapegoat, start turning to those lobbyists that act on the behalf of those that pay them the most. What happened to Lincoln’s quote that he more or less borrowed from abolitionist, Theodore Parker? “A government of the people, by the people, for the people” is a pretty decent representation of what democracy SHOULD be. That brings us to the question of whether America is better explained as a democracy or a capitalist institution.

I know that I would rather be represented by a guy that has two mortgages, three kids, and a business he is trying to keep afloat than a lawyer that practices bullshit slinging and word twisting. We are all anxiously awaiting a vote by Congress that could ultimately stifle the Internet. The moment our government begins to govern the internet, I will quickly read up on the history of Rome so as to anticipate precisely what is going to happen next.

I want a peopletician that does not consider the bottom line no matter the decision. I want him to be cognitive of the bottom line, but I hardly want to rely on the knowledge and lack of knowledge that individuals elected into government bring to the job everyday. Isn’t it enough proof that our government is ineffective that the rich vote one way and the poor vote another? A peopletician would show audacity at redundant questions, would scoff at the idea of letting some ONE decide for some MILLIONS. The next time you find yourself trying to be the next James Carville, take a step back and remember that even though you may be the next John Stuart Mill, the only way people will pay attention is if you do so under the auspice as a devout Christian, Critic, or Charlatan. Rather than Occupy city squares and smell like hygienic abstinence or patchouli, occupy the offices of your local government. Demand the leaders perched behind cherry and mahogany desks come out to see exactly what their constituents must endure.

I am Chris Smith and I am a peopletician!