Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stick to Your Guns or Stand by Your Friends?

On Monday night, I was out with friends when my pal Outlaw told me about another person there who'd made some less than flattering comments about him. Here's the thing: Outlaw is my friend. This random guy running his mouth is not. So from there I went on to joke about the stranger, making assessments about his overall character and so forth. Then Outlaw laughed and said, "We can't really speculate on who he is based on this one comment he made about me. You're just saying all that stuff because you're my friend."

I replied, "Of course I am, duh! That's what friends do."

And I mean it. I believe that's what friends are for; to love you unconditionally and support you when you need it. When your friend gets cheated on and calls you, your job is to pick their side and provide comfort. Now, I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that pesky thing called accountability. When you're wrong, your friends should tell you and hold you accountable. But when you're in a fight --particularly physical ones--you expect your friends to jump in and sort out the details later. Right?

Well, it seems the mayor of Newark, New Jersey Cory Booker was in a bit of a quandary. In case you haven't heard of him, Mayor Booker is a progressive young mayor who enjoys immense popularity in his hometown and across the country. Many believe he has the potential to hold an even higher position; maybe even president! While he's managed to appease liberals and conservatives alike in his home city, he primarily moves rank and file with the President and has been an outspoken and helpful backer of the Obama administration. When the President voiced his support of same sex marriage, Cory Booker took his to Twitter feed (as he often does) to applaud and agree. One could say that Mayor Booker and President Obama are pretty chummy. 

Until Mr. Booker was interviewed on Meet the Press last week. Mayor Booker called the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's private equity firm, Bain Capital, "ridiculous" and "nauseating". When I saw Mayor Booker's comments flicker across my timeline, I thought that I was surely misreading it. I mean, it's one thing for lil ol me to disagree with President Obama. (I do so pretty often actually). Meet the Press hasn't returned my calls even though I graciously volunteered to be on their show, I'm not the President's pal; I'm not an elected official; I'm not a leading voice in the Democratic party; and I don't have anything close to Cory Booker's 1,150,727 followers.

However, when Mayor Booker calls out the Obama campaign's tactics, it makes us wonder...was it the right thing to do? Should he have stuck to his guns and his morals that said, "The political discourse has gone too far, we've got to get above the nasty fighting and stay above the fray?" Or should he have stood by his friend and fellow statesman who's running in a tight race against a man that Mayor Booker surely doesn't want to win the presidency?

It's a tough call, and one we often have to make in our personal lives. Do you stand by your friend even when you disagree with her cheating on her kind yet gullible boyfriend? Or do you call her on it and threaten consequences if she doesn't shape up and act right?

In this case, I too have some critical feedback for the Obama campaign's tactics. The emails I'm getting from the Democratic National Committee often sound as divisive as a Fox News personality, and there's an ad out that compares Mitt Romney to a vampire for "sucking jobs away from a steel town." That type of rhetoric is polarizing and doesn't resonate with the charismatic picture of our president that draws voters together. Obama's campaign needs to take a couple chill pills. However, I believe that the mayor could have expressed his concerns to the campaign without necessarily sharing them with the world. I can't say for sure if Mayor Booker already tried to do this and had to resort to airing his concerns on Meet the Press, but think about it this way:

Drawing on the previous example, if your friend is cheating on her boyfriend, do you tell her to get right via Twitter or over a one-on-one brunch? Obviously, the right thing to do is the personal, less public option. Mayor Booker, I agree with what you said; I just question if the setting was right.

Welp. I don't know whether Mr. Newark regrets his word choice or comments, but I bet he never expected this would happen: Mitt Romney's campaign has a new star in their most recent attack ads; he's using the words of the one and only Honorable Mayor Cory Booker to attack the President.

Who. Woulda. Thunk? I guess we should be gearing up for a nasty ugly presidential election which is exactly what Booker was trying to avoid.

What do you all think? Where do you draw the line on sticking to your gut versus loyalty to your friends? Do you think there is always a way to choose both or find common ground? Let me know your thoughts. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day 2012

From age 11 to my departure for college, I lived with my younger siblings, Vanessa and John, and with my mother, Kim. My mom is many things, but cooker of large dinners, she is not. Our usual dinner routine was a phone call from Mom around 6 PM as she was on her way home from work, asking: What do you all feel like eating tonight?" One night, we'd opted for Popeye's. When she arrived home with the fragrant fried chicken, biscuits drizzled in honey, and greasy potato wedges, we were more than ready to dig in. Just as my mother was setting the table, there was a knock at the door. At the time, we lived in a community called "Little Africa" which is made up of primarily Black families, many related to each other, and many who had known each other for so many generations, we called them cousin anyway. So when my mother opened the door to reveal a middle aged man, who was more than a little dusty, I mildly recognized the face but couldn't quite place him. 

She greeted him and said, "How you doing? You here to pay your water bill?" (My mother worked at the water company where she was known to extend credit so folks' water wouldn't be turned off. Some people who lived in our neighborhood preferred to stop by the house and pay her directly versus traveling to the office.)

He mumbled "Naw. Ma'am, I was wondering if you had something I could eat." 

I told my sister to scoot over, anticipating that my mom was going to invite him to share our dinner. My mother did no such thing. Instead, she boxed up all the chicken, biscuits, assorted sides, grabbed some canned items, put it in a bundle and handed it over to him. She said, "Here you go, hun. This should hold you for a while." I don't know that I've ever seen such a grateful face. He accepted the food and headed on out the door.

I was livid. There were 3 hungry children in the house, and here she was just volunteering our dinner to some man that we didn't really know! How dare she?! She didn't even consult with us! Now before you start thinking I'm evil... I should share that I ran track and had the appetite of a linebacker. Furthermore, I knew my mom was struggling to make ends meet so I correctly guessed that PBandJ was in our immediate future. Also, I was a bratty, mouthy brace-faced teenager who was upset that puberty hadn't quite knocked on my door. Judge me if you must. I lashed out and said, "How could you just give away our dinner?! Now what are WE gonna eat? You're just going to let us starve?!?" (Did I mention that I was dramatic?)

The look of compassion left my mother's face just that quickly and she sharply said, "Crystal Marie have I ever let any of you all go hungry? Don't you dare say that again." And that was that. 

At the time I didn't recognize it, but my mother was teaching us a lesson in compassion. Yes, you should work hard to get what you need and want from life, but extending a helping hand is what we as humans are called to do. Many people talk about how great their mothers are to them, and I can certainly attest to that. But my mother is kind to complete strangers, a character trait that I don't see too often.

  • My mother's church attendance is sporadic; but I've never met someone more Christ-like than her.
  • My mother never graduated from college, but she's more intelligent and keen than most. (Every piece of advice or admonition she's given me has always proven true. Every. Single. Time. It's scary, really)
But most importantly, my mother is a living example of who I want to be. I find myself doing little things that she always does, many of them the very habits that annoyed me most as a kid. As I get older, I'm increasingly more attentive to her perspective on my major decisions. When I get good news, she is the first one I want to share it with. When I get upsetting news, she's the first person I call for solace.

Thank you Mom for being a friend; for checking me when I'm wrong; for reminding me of my value when I feel worthless; and for being a role model that I can call at any hour of the day for a free master class. 

I love you. Happy Mother's Day 2012. 

Your CrysCross 

P.S. She's also super bad. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

You Give Jesus A Bad Name (More than just a Bon Jovi Parody)

North Carolina is pretty awesome, specifically Charlotte. It’s pretty. They have several Cook-Out locations. Gas is only priced at half past ridiculous. My mom lives there, and my niece is only an hour or so away. But it seems like someone sneaked a couple bigotry roofies in everyone's sweet tea.

North Carolina is often viewed as a “purple state” because it is home to a fair share of both Democrats and Republicans. In 2008, North Carolinians voted for President Barack Obama and went Blue for the first time since Jimmy Carter’s administration. But yesterday, the country was reminded of just how red North Carolina can be.

North Carolina residents were offered a referendum on same sex marriage, and on May 8, 2012, they voted to add “Amendment 1” to their constitution. To give you some background, North Carolina state law already defines marriages as “between a man and a woman.” But Amendment 1 goes a step further and states:

"Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

This means that civil unions are not recognized; it also means that “common law” and other heterosexual domestic partnerships are not “recognized or valid.” For gay rights advocates, this was a presumably expected yet still disappointing blow. As interesting as this news was, the general public had no idea that we were in for a historic surprise the following day.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, in an ABC News interview, President Barack Obama, following Vice President Biden’s lead a few days prior, stated matter of factly, that he supported same sex marriages. In an email to his supporters, he affirmed his thoughts with the following:

“I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry… What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.”

*in my Presidential voice* Let me be clear: 

I’m a Christian. I’m a liberal. I believe in the separation of church and state. I don’t think using “the good book” as a reference point for any type of legislation is a good idea. 

However, I recognize that marriage is indeed a religious institution that should be honored and respected (marriage by the way is present in more than just the Christian faith). So I believe that the best solution is that we begin the tedious but fair process of removing the divisive, controversial term “marriage” from the law books.

All couples, heterosexual or homosexual, who would like their union to be recognized, should be entitled to a strong, legal civil union. Rights currently extended to domestic partnerships and married couples should be extended to all committed couples who enter into a civil union. For those couples who would like to be “married” in the traditional sense, they can be... in a traditional ceremony by their house of worship. In this manner, “marriage” is given its rightful place… outside of government and in the places where people believe it is defined, but we also maintain that all couples have equal rights.

But this will never happen, because people are selfish. I expect hate from groups who have never been discriminated against. Sometimes, if you don’t get it… you don’t get it. But, I’m most disturbed by marginalized groups who have spoken out against gay rights. Do you not realize how hypocritical that is?! I’m sad to report that Black Americans, particularly self-righteous ones, are egregious offenders in this regard. Blacks will pick up a hoodie and march but when someone else needs something, many are often nowhere to be found.

Do people not realize that prejudice is prejudice? Do they not recognize that when we fail to speak up on behalf of undocumented citizens, gays, and other persecuted groups that our silence is just as damning as the persecution itself? And when your cause is on the chopping block, wouldn't it be nice to have some supporters outside of the ones who have a clear personal vested interest?

Is the Bible really a fair go-to source for denying gays the right to be married?? You're basically saying “I don’t support your lifestyle because MY religion doesn’t agree.” Think about that. How would we feel if Muslims invoked their holy book in suggestions for a law? Not so great, I imagine. How dare you invoke the name of Christ to satisfy your self-serving, prejudiced ideas on how other people should live their lives!

Furthermore, what’s the gain?!? What do we get out of telling people what to do in their households? What do we get out of telling gay couples that they can’t welcome a child who needs a home into their loving home? What do we get out of telling gay people that they can’t visit each other in hospitals because “Jesus [allegedly] said so.” Does your heterosexual marriage suffer because gays can be married? Who really wins here?? Consider this; Georgia bans same-sex marriages. And yet, let's just be real; Atlanta is a clear example that anti-gay legislation does nothing to affect the incidence of homosexuality.

While you think on that, why don’t you chew on this nugget my pal shared with me. Was Gandhi talking about you when he said, 
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

When considering issues that affect someone who doesn’t look like you, love the way you do, or worship the way you worship (or at all), here’s a philosophy that may help: 
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Must have read this in a fortune cookie or something)

That's my word or three. What's yours?

P.S. Sometimes I write in other places. Check me out!
 Also, my pal Panama wrote about Obama’s stance on Same-Sex Marriage over at Read it here.