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What would Jesus do?

Earlier this week, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law a bill that some have described as “the most intense anti-queer legislation” ever to pass in America.

Reuters described it like this: “The far-reaching law allows people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples. It also clears the way for employers to cite religion in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.”

And like North Carolina’s recent anti-LGBT law, this one is total bullshit, as well.

Fortunately, a non-profit organization named Planting Peace responded by purchasing billboard space and posting one of the best religiously-themed billboards I have ever seen. Check it out:

And that’s how it’s done! (Planting Peace)

That’s right, haters! Jesus was about love and understanding, not hate and discrimination—and even an agnostic like me knows this! Time to tighten up on your theology!

Freaky Friday

If you see a cat doing this, run like hell! (Matuzalems)

If you see a cat doing this, run like hell! (Matuzalems)

Once again, there is no shortage of interesting news in the world around us. Rather than boring you with some lengthy introduction about how freaky life on this wonderful Friday is, however, I’ll launch right into some of the stories that caught my attention. Some are sad, some are happy and some are bizarre, but I assure you they all have something that sets them apart. Don’t take my word for it, though. Check out the happenings from yet another Freaky Friday and judge for yourself, dear reader. I have no doubt you will agree by the time you reach the bottom of this post!

We begin in La Grande, Oregon, where 15-year-old Jadin Bell—a gay teen subjected to bullying because of his sexual preference—hanged himself last January. A passerby found him hanging from a play structure outside Central Elementary School and rescued him, but he died a few weeks later after being taken off of life support.

In honor of his son, Jadin’s father Joe Bell decided to walk cross-country in an effort to educate people about bullying and the tragedies it can cause among our youth. He spent much of his time in the Midwest, chronicled his journey on his Facebook page and planned to reach Wichita this November.

Unfortunately, this will never happen.

On Wednesday night, Joe was walking down Highway 40 near Kit Carson, Colorado when he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer. The driver—49-year-old Kenneth Raven—may have fallen asleep at the wheel, but it matters little since Bell was pronounced dead at the scene. And sadly, “Joe’s Walk for Change” has now come to an abrupt end.

Joe and Jadin Bell are both gone too soon (Fox-12 Oregon)

Joe and Jadin Bell are both gone too soon (Fox-12 Oregon)

This story is incredibly sad, to say the least, but it’s also ironic how one tragedy prompted Joe’s walk—namely the suicide of his teenage son—but it was this very walk that eventually resulted in his own tragic death. Some would call this an “act of God” and claim that everything happens for a reason, but I quote George Clooney’s character Seth from the Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk Till Dawn in response: “Yeah, those acts of God really stick it in and break it off, don’t they?”

Indeed they do, Seth. Indeed they do.

After that depressing story, I feel the need to switch gears to something a little more positive and uplifting. Enter 9-year-old Mridula Shanker, a fourth grader from Ann Arbor, Michigan who just made the news for a different reason: breaking the Guinness world record for hula-hooping.

“I like to hula hoop and break records,” the young lady told reporters recently. “It’s kind of easy.”

Mridula’s last point is arguable—I’ve never had much luck getting more than a few rotations out of any hula hoop I’ve tried—but it certainly must come easy to her. She just received confirmation from the Guinness people and, for now, her record of 166 rotations in one minute—while doing a gymnastic move known as the arabesque pose, no less—stands as the best in the world.

Mridula has mad hula hoop skills! (Shanker family photo)

Mridula has mad hula hoop skills! (Shanker family photo)

I can say this: if breaking the record were up to me, Mridula would never lose the title!

Story three shoots us south to Lubbock, Texas, where some billboards scattered throughout the “Hub City” have caused quite a stir. They show Jesus Christ with his arms extended and a thorny crown on his head, but there is one big difference that has people talking: this Jesus has ink.

Yes, a total of 56 billboards show J.C. with tattoos of words like outcast, fear and addicted running across his chest and down his arms. They were sponsored by a mysterious group known only by the name “Tattoo Jesus,” but on their website they describe themselves as “a small group of people humbled by the love of Jesus” and claim that this “is not an effort to raise money or support any specific organizations.”

See it for yourself HERE.

What would Jesus tattoo... I mean, do? (KCBD)

What would Jesus tattoo… I mean, do? (KCBD)

What you will also find is a video that shows Jesus changing the tattoos of people who come in with these same words on them. It’s actually a pretty unique idea, especially to hear Jesus Tattoo volunteer Jay Corner explain it.

“People find out that they have scars and they have things in their past that they haven’t let go of,” Corner told local reporters recently. “Christ says that he’ll take that from us and so through tattoos… we use imagery to show that.”

I hope this doesn’t come off as hypocritical or sarcastic coming from an agnostic, but amen, brother. Any strange or unusual approach to getting people’s attention—in a society so determined to distract us—is A-OK in my book. I can also appreciate the fact that there’s an underlying theme some may not pick up on: acceptance. I have tons of friends with ink, piercings and other physical features deemed socially unacceptable by many—and yes, they always draw stares no matter where they go—but you know what they say about judging a book by its cover, right? These friends may have unusual “covers,” but what lies within is solid gold. And nothing they do to their physical appearance will ever make me love them any less.

That’s what Jesus would do, after all.

And so we arrive at the final story of this Freaky Friday, which comes to us from the East Coast—more specifically from Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

Scot Haney is a meteorologist at WFSB who enjoys eating Grape-Nuts cereal for breakfast every morning before heading to work. This past Wednesday, he followed the same routine, drove to the studio and assumed his usual position in front of the camera. As he was delivering his weather forecast, however, he suddenly noticed what he thought were some leftover pieces of cereal on the floor.

I have one question for Haney: How are Grape-Nuts and cat barf any different? (WFSB)

I have one question for Haney: How are Grape-Nuts and cat barf any different? (WFSB)

And brace yourselves, people, because what comes next is pretty nasty… not to mention completely unexplainable.

Right in front of his co-anchors and all of his WFSB viewers, Haney scooped up the cereal and ate it live on television.

“I can’t believe you just ate that,” WFSB Anchor Irene O’Connor told her colleague. Morning traffic reporter Olessa Stepanova echoed O’Connor’s sentiment and added, “You can’t.”

Oh yes he can, ladies. And he did, but it gets worse.

Haney swallowed the cereal and confessed that it was “a little soggy,” following up a moment later with “they taste like shoes.” Still, he continued with his forecast and the news went on as planned… at least until the Trending Now segment of the program began. That’s when Haney realized a horrible truth: it wasn’t cereal he ate before, it was cat vomit!

You read that right. Cat vomit. Felinus Barfanus, if you want to get technical.

As it turns out, Haney’s cat had been sick that morning and on his way out the door, the unsuspecting weatherman stepped in it and eventually tracked it into the studio—a fact he shared on the air, by the way.

“And that’s what I ate,” he told the world, or at least that small slice of the world that subscribes to WFSB. “I thought it was Grape-Nuts. I ate cat vomit right here on television. It’s disgusting.”

True enough, my friend. It is disgusting, but it’s also a great way to end the freakiness of yet another Friday. Thanks for reading and enjoy what I hope will be a fun, relaxing and safe weekend for us all.

Peace out and be good to each other.

Does Insurance Cover Ghetto Booty?

You think Sir Mix-a-Lot likes ghetto booties? (courtesy of KBXX)

A complaint against Dr. Timothy Sweo of Jackson, Tennessee has just been filed by 55-year-old Terry Ragland, a patient who claims that the diagnosis he gave her for back pain was both insulting and demeaning—not to mention racist and sexist.

Ragland suffers from lumbar lordosis—commonly known as swayback—a condition that occurs when extra weight or stress on the lower back causes it to arch, which in turn can cause great pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, there is no real cure for it—aside from losing weight and strengthening abdominal muscles, which many people don’t like to do—but medication can help alleviate the pain.

If Sweo had explained Ragland’s condition this way, it is likely a complaint would never have been filed. Instead, he made an attempt at humor and tried to “make a technical conversation… less technical.”

“I know what the problem is,” Sweo told his patient after examining her thoroughly. “It’s ghetto booty.

Needless to say, Ragland was not amused.

“I think I blacked out after he said ghetto booty,” she said when asked about the offensive diagnosis. “I think my mind was just stuck on the phrase because I couldn’t believe he said that.”

Ragland informed the office manager of what happened and received a letter of apology from Sweo a short time later, but this didn’t stop her from filing a formal complaint against him with the Board of Medical Examiners. They will review her claim to determine if it is warranted and if any disciplinary action should be taken against Sweo. To date, his record is unblemished.

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, Ragland is a black woman and Sweo is a white man, which makes his comment both misguided and insensitive. Granted, I also found it kind of humorous, but it was inappropriate nonetheless. Doctors simply need to be more professional.

Of course, I’m confident that Sweo said this in jest and did not intend to insult Ragland, even though that was the effect of his comment. I certainly won’t try to excuse his behavior, but I do feel something should be said in an effort to better understand his offensive diagnosis.

Could you pick a ghetto booty out of a line up? (courtesy of Koja Stilez)

Like Sweo, I am also a white person… Caucasian, pale face, honkey… whatever label you prefer is fine. And like a lot of white folks—especially white guys—I have always heard how much black men love ladies with large bottoms.

Hell, Sir Mix-a-Lot had a huge hit in 1992 with “Baby Got Back,” the video of which included women with sizeable rumps, as well as big orange hills that were either gigantic peaches or the rear ends of some tremendous, upturned Oompa Loompas. Either way, there were butts everywhere.

So to me, it’s not the booty comment that caused problems for Sweo; it’s the ghetto qualifier he put in front of it. This word has been connected to African-Americans for a long time and, in every respect (as far as I know), it always carries a negative connotation.

Have you ever been to a good ghetto, after all?

Personally, I have been known to use the word ghetto from time to time, but never as a negative reflection on a person or race of people. It’s just become a popular slang term and, like many others, I find myself using these kinds of terms often. It’s an unfortunate consequence of working with young college students, I’m afraid. Of course, I am always very careful about when I use this word and who is around when I do.

Because of this, I sympathize with Sweo to some extent, but I also feel he should have kept this comment to himself given his patient and the professional nature of her visit. Is ghetto booty as bad as dropping an N-bomb? Of course not, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark. And since both terms are derogatory to a race of people—in this case black people—avoiding them is, to me, more representative of respect than trying to joke with someone based on cultural stereotypes.

You would think a doctor of medicine would understand that, wouldn’t you?

The French fuel the anti-Muslim fire

Charlie Hebdo makes things worse

UPDATE 5-Cartoons in French weekly fuel Mohammad furore | Reuters.

The satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo just published a number of cartoons that poke fun at the Prophet Mohammad. One even depicted the Muslim religious figure bending over to show his butt and genitals.

This comes only a week after the low-budget film “The Innocence of Muslims” sparked international protests and violence against the United States, most notably in the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya.

Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby of the Arab League was not pleased with the cartoons, but asked offended Muslims to “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection.”

In Tunisia, the ruling Islamist party urged Muslims not to overreact to the cartoons because it might “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West.”

All of this leads me to one very important question: Why weren’t Muslims instructed to “be cool” when that ridiculous film came to light last week?

The obvious answer is that the film came from America while the cartoons came from France. Of course, the USA never endorsed “The Innocence of Muslims” and actually spoke out against it. But the fact that free speech allowed something like this to be produced and distributed didn’t fly with some Muslims, who immediately started protesting, attacking our embassies and even killing our diplomats.

I haven’t heard of the French receiving the same treatment, even though their government closed schools and embassies in twenty countries just to be safe.

When are people going to realize that just because a film comes from America doesn’t mean it is representative of all Americans or even our government? By this logic, you could also say that Americans support piracy because we allowed three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films to be released, with a fourth already in the works.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not asking for violence to be directed at the French for some offensive cartoons simply because Americans were targeted for an offensive film.

What I am asking for is an end to the violence. People have the right to share their opinions even if others find them offensive. And while pot-shots at religions like Islam are tasteless, they should also be taken with a grain of salt. What matters is that Muslims believe in Islam and know the “truth” based on these beliefs. So what if someone jokes about Mohammed? Does that make him any less important to Muslims?

I can say this, and I apologize in advance if I offend any of my Muslim readers: Islam’s image is far less affected by satirical films and cartoons than it is by all the violence that erupts when people overreact to them. I urge Muslims everywhere to stop the violence and to instead focus on what really matters, like increasing awareness of Islam and finding positive ways to connect with people in other cultures.

Hate will only take you so far in this world.

The Issue of Race: A White Perspective

Kill Racism (H. Michael Karshis)

For some reason, the issue of racism popped into my head today and I felt obliged to share my views in this forum. Please know that I normally try to avoid such touchy subjects, but I certainly do not want to shy away from them, either. And although nothing here is earth-shattering or groundbreaking, I feel like sharing nonetheless.

My racial profile

I am a Caucasian man, the product of an Argentinian father—most of his family having immigrated from Italy and Sicily to South America in the early 20th century—and an American mother with ties to Scotland and Ireland. I even remember my great grandmother being almost fresh off the boat from Scotland, accent and all.

Like many of you—even those who deny it—I possess a streak of racial prejudice that occasionally presents itself. Face it. We are all the result of our culture and upbringing. And the general rule has always been that we feel closer to people who are just like us; those unlike us seem strange, at least until we learn more about them. It’s only natural.

My racism might take the form of an expletive mumbled in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or maybe the expectation that every African-American have some skill with a basketball. However, the deep-seeded racism that causes so many problems in the world finds no home in my heart. And I’ll tell you why.

In my life, logic always rules, so I generally consider race from a strictly scientific or anthropological perspective. I believe people are equal because of the one characteristic they all share: humanity. Race is nothing more than a geographical side effect. Where our people originated on the planet and their proximity to the equator determined their skin color, and thus their race.

When I meet someone, I strive to understand them as an individual, but I also understand that stereotypes exist, some of them for a reason. It’s obvious that people of different races occasionally perpetuate these stereotypes. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist at all. Native Americans sometimes struggle with alcoholism. White folks occasionally embarrass themselves on the dance floor. And some black men do have big… well, you catch my drift. It happens.

We are making things worse

The problem is that humans are quick to notice the negative and less apt to focus on the positive. If you don’t believe me, then turn on your local news and see for yourself. Sure, there are sometimes human interest pieces that provide at least a glimmer of hope, but they are often eclipsed by the “big stories”: crime, war, death and destruction.

And the news is regularly tinged with racial stereotypes, too. How many times must a white man hear of crimes committed by black men before he grows wary of every black person he encounters? And when he passes a young black man on the street, making no effort to consider or even acknowledge him, how must the young man feel? Would he be more or less apt to interact with whites in the future, I wonder?

The white man’s avoidance of blacks poses an even larger problem than mere racism itself; it prevents him from experiencing life in all its glory because he will now omit at least one group of people from his day-to-day existence. Whites who are afraid of blacks deny themselves potential friendships because of something as ridiculous as skin color. Do you know who suffers when this happens?

One love… is that Bob Marley? (antwerpenr)

Everyone.

Racism is a disease that stalls human evolution by perpetuating hatred, violence and disunity. But there is a cure. It involves tolerance, understanding, humanity and what the great prophet Bob Marley so eloquently called “One Love”.  The next time you find yourself cursing a bad driver or judging someone simply because their race differs from your own, please catch yourself and remember: We are all in this together. And if nothing else, we will all face the same fate someday.

Until then, be good to each other.

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