Sunday, October 7, 2012

MY 40 ACRES & A MULE (1972-1979)



I turned 40. On May 29, 2012. It seems I was born just a few years ago, my earliest thoughts being those of a profound sense of wonder... during nap times... that I existed at all. I wanted to sum up my years with little "wisdoms" I have learned via the oddest of circumstances. All these little vignettes are real but not in any particular order. Oh, Lord, I just realized I'm over halfway dead...

1972. "Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency." NATALIE GOLDBERG During the German winters I would sleep with my rolladens (rolling shutters) up and my window wide open, shivering with the perverse pleasure that if I ever had to suffer unexpectedly in front of others, I wouldn't be the one hyperventilating like an idiot or babbling OUR FATHER like a baby. How ignorant, though, because for the better part of my life I've enjoyed sleep like a thief, stealing snatches here and there.

1973. "Forget your enemies. It's your friends you frustrate that cause all the problems." MICHAEL J. TUCKER In college too many friends meant too many obligations. I had a hard time saying "No" because everyone was so intriguingly interesting... I accompanied a college professor to a "fine arts" concert at the last minute, because she asked me and I couldn't say "No." Oh, also, I didn't want to say no because I enjoyed my peers thinking that I had the certain faculty members "in my pocket." She showed up in this atrocious formal. I was so embarrassed to be seen with her that I disappeared during intermission and sat elsewhere for the last half of the concert. She was angry. How did she repay me? I was on the front row of a class she was teaching. She sat on her desk in front of me (at eye level), opening and closing her legs while she lectured. She never looked my direction, never spoke outside class with me again, but I learned rather quickly that she was paying me back for "using" her.

1974. "Stop being humble, you are not that great." GOLDA MEIR I once had a parent not enroll their child in my school because during their visit I answered the phone in the middle of a lecture. As a matter of course, I occasionally swear, smoke a pipe, or drink a beer in the presence of moralists who think me to be the apex of perfection. Because I have such an adaptable personality, I've learned to purposely "slip up" in front of people who consider me to be the fourth or fifth Personage of the Trinity. In so doing I deflate gnostic expectations I can't maintain... like people believing that I don't need to get paid, don't need to eat, or don't need to pee. 

1975. "Break the leg of a bad habit." PUERTO RICAN PROVERB I recently threw away years of documentation I had on someone I planned to take legal action against for a certain fiscal matter. It occurred to me that not only was a sizeable portion of my files dedicated space for this future event, but a generous amount of space in the underworld of my subconscious was also dedicated to it, flaring up in the occasional nightmare (or daymare). So I killed the possibility of following through on any judicial fantasy I had by destroying the entire lot of papers. I was hyperventilating while I did it (which thankfully sped up the process), but when it was done I had no longer any need to remember. Haha, I was screwed, but I didn't care!

1976. “Better an honest enemy than a false friend.” GERMAN PROVERB I remember being asked over to a "friend's" house in another country during a lunch break where he proceeded to tell me (in front of his entire family) some pretty distressing news. As I soaked in the implications of his little diatribe, I realized it was a set up. He suspected what my reaction would be (I might break down and cry or punch him in the face), so he had his wife and cute little kids present. It wasn't even his place to tell me the "news" (I found out an hour later from my family). What was his motivation? 19 years later I'm still wondering. Contrast that with a neo-Nazi I knew... I never had to wonder about his motives towards me. He stayed on his side of the street, and I stayed on mine. Once we met in the middle and we stared each other down nose to nose until he cried he was so hateful. This other guy, I never knew what to think after the incident when he would wave at me or smile in my direction.

1977. "The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking." ALBERT EINSTEIN In college I rarely read an entire book for required reading: I would read the books cited in the forwards, footnotes, or end notes, but not the entire text itself. Why? Because the college I attended always told us what kinds of conclusions they wanted us to draw in our papers. Why read a book from beginning to end when the conclusions you would draw from it would complicate the idea you have been told to parrot? I virtually always got a B because I modified their conclusions... based upon the footnotes and endnotes read.

1978. "Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it." GORDON R. DICKSON People like to cite me as a source or reference even though they don't follow my advice... which makes me look like an idiot because I endorsed them. I used to give people free advice and free endorsements, but I learned rather quickly that if you give free advice or endorsements, you are liable for that advice or endorsement. It costs you emotional stress & time when it costs them nothing. I now bill people for my advice or endorsement which makes them that much more likely to follow my advice (because if they don't, they are out thousands of dollars). I had a client who paid me for advice & an endorsement. He wasn't following my advice & frankly making me look incompetent. I found out why: he had a third party pay for my consultation fees. So I billed the third party twice as much as I originally billed my client (That cleared up  the problem rather quickly, but if someone is going to make me look incompetent, I'm at least going to charge them for it).

1979. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake. FRANK WILCZEK I like making mistakes. That seems like it should be an embarrassing admission, but it isn't. I have learned invaluable truths about how the world does NOT really work by testing the waters. When I first started a school in Tennessee, I started on less than $200. No lie. All compliance & financial issues, I learned on the go (how else do you learn?). I come across so many people who are forever planning to do this or that but never do anything but plan. Such people actually do so out of deference to compliance issues; that is to say, they don't want to make mistakes. Well, if one does not want to make mistakes, one might as well not dream. Oh, also, I think the idolatry of compliance to be a kind of enslavement because one can be relatively compliant but never totally compliant because compliance is transient. And nature also allows for generous margins of error.

Oh, don't  follow my advice unless it resonates with you (or it might cause you more problems than it's worth).




Thursday, June 21, 2012

SCAR TISSUE MMA: CORY "CHECKMATE" ROBISON'S XFC PRO DEBUT FIGHT


When George Will said that sports "serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence", he had in mind athletes like 24-year-old Cory "Checkmate" Robison. Tennessee's only Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion, Cory faces off in the ring this Friday night (June 22, 2012) at the Music City Mayem, his Pro Debut MMA fight. Cory comes into the ring with an impressive resume, his most prominent accomplishments being the Brazilian National Champion (2008), European Champion (2008), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion (2009), WKA Bantamweight (2010), Pan-American Games Champion (2010), and Strike Force Veteran (2011).



Cory's fighting career began at age 13 when he discovered he had natural, wrestling ability. He and a friend discovered jiu jitsu that same year, teaching themselves the moves after wrestling practice and in their spare time. By 16 Cory was fighting grown men in a local gym. As his knowledge base grew, his skill-sets increased and he easily outdistanced others. Cory was eventually dubbed "Checkmate" for his patient ability to study, out-think, and outmanuever his opponent. Rarely in sports do you see such a high level of physical skill matched with intellectual power. You especially don't see it in the MMA, an image Cory's sponsor, Scar Tissue MMA is trying to change. 



Scar Tissue MMA is a fight wear company south of Nashville with a growing line of signature, quality fight products. By partnering with Cory, Scar Tissue is trying  to change the popular perception of MMA as a gladiator sport to a legitimate sport with its own unique historical development and set of skills. This perception, they believe, can be changed by supporting and sponsoring honorable contestants who exhibit integrity, humility, and a love of their sport.


That is why this is such a great partnership: Scar Tissue recognizes the Cory Robison's superior fighting ability and tenacious work ethic, and Cory Robison embodies Scar Tissue's motto JUST SHOW UP, a common saying among the Scar Tissue family that comes from the belief that half of any battle is just showing up.

Take a look at the Scar Tissue's interview of Cory Robison below. To find out more information about Cory Robison and Scar Tissue MMA, check out the following links:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

WHAT IS TRAITMARKER?


I was labeled melancholy as a child (in addition to kleptomaniac, compulsive liar, and rebellious). Add middle child and Dr. Benjamin Spock hammered the last nail in the coffin that was my personality. In the 1980's Hippocrates' four humors was experiencing a resurgence in works like Why You Act the Way You Do. You had to be sanguine (loud), choleric (bossy), phlegmatic (lazy), or melancholy (emo).


Generation Xer's like myself cringed at these categories. First of all, THERE WERE ONLY FOUR. Second of all, they only captured our obvious trait (read fault) and that with stereotypical accuracy. The temperaments, though fundamentally accurate, weren't comprehensive enough to capture those unique stirrings within us that never rippled strong enough to register on the personality map but were there all the same, causing millions of us to wonder if we ever could really know ourselves or if others would ever really know us.

With the close of the 1980's came the upheaval of nations, the collapse of borders, and the advent of the global village. 
Cultural means of communication and expression, never before experienced, dramatically increased over the next twenty years. Breakthroughs in online communication, digital simulation and wireless accessibility introduced an entirely new dimension to the catalog of human behavior: the virtual dimension.

Virtual means of expression created new behavioral norms, contributed by phenomena like rapid technological innovation, variegation of the nuclear family, alternative realities, and the reduction of time and space. Simplistic Newtonian physics of linear cause-and-effect have rapidly given way to the quantum theory of repeat viewing, parallel narratives, probability theory, blank space, and the uncertainty principle. We are simply more culturally complex than pre-global culture.

TraitMarker is an online personality branding tool that treats the virtual dimension of personality as real as traditional views of personality. TraitMarker offers 27 simple scenarios that, should you answer honestly, render you a traitMark, a personality profile of your subconscious. So what makes traitMarker unique?

1) TraitMarker does not give you a personality profile of your final decisions: it renders a personality profile of your impulses. Most of us are, perhaps, more aware of what other people think we should be than we are aware of our deepest desires and scripting. You might be surprised at what your TraitMark says about you.

2) Recognizing the influence technology has over our lives is a unique part of the traitMarker assessment. TraitMarker uses the borderless character of technology to describe personality. For example, the Guardian has the organizational traits of a computer firewall. Several of the traitMarker category names are even inspired by technology like Framer, Merger, Server, Engineer, and Gamer.

3) TraitMarker takes into consideration the elasticity of personality. Instead of your personality having a rigid, given form, traitMarker views personality more like a ball of putty. Your personality comprises all of the possible contortions you can make without pulling the putty apart. That is some flexibility. You probably are unaware of the solutions that lie within you for your signature struggles.

4) This is the fun part: traitMarker identifies your personality description to be 1 of 165 different traitMarks! We can offer such diversity of personality descriptions because the matrix we use is based upon a quantum view of personality. TraitMarker is simply a new kind of personality assessment.

It's been 28 years since I first learned I was melancholy, and the Spock Method is now an historical fixture in the field of psychology. It has been almost three years since traitMarker liberated me from the stereotype I saw myself to be. 

TraitMarker launched on April 1, 2012 at  http://traitmarker.com/  and can be taken online for $19.99. Rest assured that your TraitMark is reliable enough to build your personal brand upon. After all, you are not one in a billion. You are the ONLY one in a billion!

You can LIKE our page at 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

RACE, SEXUALITY & EVANGELICAL ANDROGYNY


Recently, I was accused by the leader of a factious, Christian group of heading up The Gay Posse, an insult that was punishment for my effective defense of someone wrongly accused of a crime. I was a little confused at first about the accusation. But over time it became obvious why he called me gay. Because he was too politically correct to call me nigger.

Blasphemy laws in religious communities have changed, directly reflecting the blasphemy laws of wider culture. It's no longer popular to level racial slurs at people you dislike unless you do it discreetly within a forum that shuns the sensibilities of the wider world. However, that's not necessarily because of personal persuasion (or conviction as they say).

It's often because it's legally actionable. 

While the LGBT community has slowly developed a nice, fat portfolio of civil rights victories over the last three decades, it's still popular to indicate ultimate disgust for a person or organization by expressions of an aggressive homophobia. 

Yet very few people take into account the obvious parallels between the two groups (African-Americans & the LGBT community). In the last century alone Civil Rights activists and legislation for both groups...
  • have been identified as progressive, anti-family, anti-Biblical, un-American, and Communist...
  • have been isolated, marginalized, and persecuted (often in the name of a religious purity or orthodoxy)
  • have made gains against popular, governmental policy because of the advocacy of little people who often risked life and limb (in that order) to change public opinion, only turning the tide once they evoked societal rage through the sacrifice of their limbs and lives (and many times accidentally. Many weren't planning to be martyrs for any sort of cause. Rosa Parks wasn't primarily making a statement. She simply wanted to stay seated because her feet were tired)
People have asked me How can you say such things? That's sacrilegious.

Ah, but sacrilege is relative to blasphemy laws.

Being raised in Europe from ages 5-18, these sorts of things never bothered me because they rarely came up. As a resident of Europe, I was simply considered as an American. In American communities abroad I was considered an ambassador. As a result, my conscience wasn't formatted racially but nationally so that I ...
  • spoke German and lived within a German framework whenever appropriate
  • spoke Romanian and put on the east-bloc yoke whenever appropriate to understand my communist-oppressed brothers and sisters
  • lived in compatible fashion with my British brothers and sisters in Oxfordshire, England, toning down despised and egoistically American customs for four years in order to live at peace (I lived in England during the Cruise Missile Crisis)
  • understood enough French, Italian, Hungarian or whatever other language necessary to present myself as amiable (sometimes in order to get what I wanted, hahaha, but you get my point)
With this sort of orientation, living abroad found me oftentimes in conflict with fewer Europeans & more Americans who thought it unnecessary to learn another language or to give up American customs when it grated against native sensibilities or to venture abroad when we needed to stick together

Oh, and you guessed it: many of these sorts held to religious persuasions that might have worked, say, in New Mexico, Georgia, or Connecticut, but that suspiciously rang empty in Mehlingen, Germany or in Lechlade, England or in Satu Mare, Romania or in Calais, France. But true to form, those unwarranted sensibilities drew a deep ravine between those Americans and the native so that not only was the native politically suspect but s/he was also...
  • ignorant so that the native had little or nothing of value to offer except strategic resources
  • volitionally anti-democratic & anti-Christian so that any sort of friendship was considered expedient at best and terminal at worst
The overwhelming number of Americans were generally respectful and liberal in outlook (or ambivalent), but the oppositional ones typically had strange apocalyptic frameworks for filtering the souls of anyone who didn't fit the religious & political template. 

So back to my observation about the racial minority & LGBT community: unless we're not accessing the same news, the facts are open for verification. While the racial condition is considered genetic and the LGBT condition is considered to be within the realm of theoretical genetics, both groups have received similar humiliating treatment, worst of them all being the formative spiritual idea that both are under some sort of curse. 

People tell me If I were Black, I would be offended at being associated with homosexuals. Well, I supposed that's just nice for them (it's just like those sorts of people to believe that whatever they imagine in their redeemed minds must be "inescapably" true in hardcore reality).

But they never ask me if I'm offended by the zealously religious who cite additional restrictions (as laid out in the Bible, even) about...

  • who I can and cannot marry (should or should not have married in my case)
  • how I am or am not designed (I am designed racially for subjugation)
  • what I am or am not likely to do in my life (I am not likely to do anything of value unless it falls within or under the framework of a revisionist history, because if it doesn't then I will be revised out of history)
They think I should actually prefer this sort of benevolent treatment than associate with that other godless horde. 

Maybe I should. 

But I don't. 

And maybe they have no idea what they would do or think were they Black.


I find three things difficult to speak about with self-consciously world-viewish people who think in these sorts of formulae:
  • The first is politics. Politics is gaming, I think, and the seriousness that people take the game off the board and into the Great Beyond is surreal to me. When Clinton first was elected President, a number of people on my college campus wore black to protest. The professor of my Materials & Methods class took the first few minutes of class that morning to address the mood. One student cited Clinton as supporting the killing of fetuses. But Bill Clinton wasn't even President yet. Weren't fetuses already being killed? How was he now responsible and the current President not? Oh, because the current President didn't believe in abortion (oh, the power of redemptive abstraction). That's what makes him innocent and Clinton guilty, and I would know that were I taking the political game as seriously as I should be taking it. 
  • The second is emerging (emergent) Christianity. As if Christianity were like an erection in danger of going flat. Christianity has survived approximately 2013 years and will no doubt last the next 2013 years with the longevity of a cockroach and without the futuristic branding techniques of chubby apologists and innovative marketeers who collaborate in their ecclesio-cubicles or sit on not-for-profit think-tanks that turn a profit to convince us that Christianity is in danger of extinction if we don't purchase their line of commercial goods that will somehow magically foul the efforts of Antichrist himself from emerging. 
  • Last of all is race. I don't think that people who aren't Black should tell me what it's like to be one (and neither should I tell people who are Hispanic or Armenian what it's really like to be one). I also don't think that people who aren't Black should think my thoughts are so far off from their own because of something as surface as my skin color (Nah, but, Lawd, wese Negros has sucha speshals ways o' thinkin...). If any sort of minority is self-conscious in a dominant culture context, I can assure you that it's not skin color that primarily makes them uncomfortable.
It's deeper than that: it's history (enter the revisionists). It's the fact that my New England-educated mother (born and raised in Alabama) was subject to Jim Crow and found it difficult to watch her boys embrace German culture without wincing because we weren't wincing. It's my Philadelphia-born father warning me the week before I came to the U.S. on my own in 1991 that I wasn't going to find it easy living in America as I had found it living in Europe (and I unknowingly was going right into the bowels of the bastion of fundamentalism!). I took the advice compliantly though cryptic it was. It's his sigh at my response because I wasn't sighing. 

Yesterday at my office I introduced my student, CVR recording artist Gabrielle Solair, to Marcela Gomez, The Hispanic Marketing Group founder and CEO. Both women are Colombian. I sat down and listened to them talk for over an hour in pointed, blunt, no-holds-barred Colombian fashion. 

Gabrielle, turning 17 this weekend, finally found someone who spoke to that part of her heritage that for almost seventeen years had been written off to be culturally embarrassing and rebellious, suppressed and refined by the Southern hospitality on her mother's side, and despised and shunned on her father's nationalistic pro-Colombian side. 

While their conversation disparaged the male dominance of American culture (I made sure to keep my mouth shut because... well... I'm male) and analyzed the quirks of American Caucasian women (I made sure to keep my mouth shut because... well... my wife is Caucasian), what a beautiful thing it was to watch understanding morph to a new level. 

What's uncomfortably painful to religiously conscientious minorities in dominant-culture congregations is that while our congregations battle the political issues of the day in Sunday School lessons, sermons, and extra-curricular activities (like book groups), we don't want to be affiliated with Jim Crow tactics used on our people just a few short years ago (or for some Hispanics, tactics currently being used on their people). 

I'll tell you why. Because the majority of minorities don't believe these sorts of political issues initially to be an issue of ethics when it comes to who we are (or who the opposition is like)...

We believe it to be unmistakably an ontological issue. We believe that our existence (in general) in said congregations is largely seen to be an awkward embarrassment and a misfortune on two fronts:
  • a misfortune that racial lines of demarcation and solidarity weren't upheld in the larger culture to make relationships easier to maintain. I hear this echoed in the laments of Well, back in our day... or When I was young... (Oh, I've read what it was like back in the day... my parents and grandparents have told me what it was like back in the day).
  • a misfortune that the presence of racial minorities in dominant-culture congregations is easier dealt with by minimizing distinctions to the point of ignoring or erasing them: that is to say, amplifying the distinction disproportionately to the attention it deserves and thereby unintentionally making minorities targets of special treatment (at one church I attended, no one ever looked at me... until each summer vacation Bible school when I was sought after to play some Black missionary or African convert.)
I believe the same for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters. I don't believe the attitudes or means with which many Christian communities view and deal with LGBT persons are initially borne of righteous indignation. They are borne of disgust, first and foremost, because what the LGBT community sexually represents isn't culturally palatable (I attended a fundamentalist college where I was always hounded for my dating, engagement, and eventual marriage of a white woman. While people leveraged the Bible to convince me of my error, they largely cited how it wasn't acceptable in American culture unless I moved to some places up North or out West, how my children would be confused, and how I wouldn't find a church that would accept me). 

I also believe it to spring from the same ontological attitude of believing it would be easier were the LGBT person to be at the least visibly marked for special treatment and at the worst socially segregated so as to make life easier for both groups (because then there would be clear-cut rules). In the case of the minority and LGBT person, the religious community doesn't initially begin its thoughts about them with acknowledgement of their relationship to each of us as fellow human beings who were created in the image of God. No, they are the enemy. They are the reason our kids listen to gangsta rap. They are the reason our kids have sex at younger and younger ages. They are the reason marriage is falling apart. They are the reason for the War on Terror. They are the scapegoat, so heap it all on them. They are the sacrificial lambs, and it's better that they take all cultural blame than the rest of us.

So if the religious community wants to characterize the homosexual as confused at the least or rebellious at the worst, it should assume that many minorities fall within the same camp. We have no idea what our congregations think about our people groups, our history, or our presence in their congregations save that they tolerate us (and what a glorious, fat diamond they shall get in their crown for such a risk). 

What a mixed message. 

The Christian idea that man is made in God's image is deliciously tantalizing to millions of us. Until we realize that it's application is qualified by factors many of us cannot control or do not understand. I can't and I won't agree with the religiously ideological treatment of homosexuals because...
  • I simultaneously find myself rationalizing the lynching of my great-grandfather for having a child with my German great-grandmother (American race laws forbade it). 
  • I find myself rationalizing the shutting up of my German grandmother in the psych ward in Somerset County, Pennsylvania to live out the rest of her days because she had a bi-racial child (Children obey your parents). 
  • I find myself rationalizing the deportment of Hispanic children born in this country. 
  • I find myself being understanding of all the Black, Mexican, and Polish jokes that were a part of my Christian fundamentalist and evangelical experience. 
So someone is going to have to come up with a better apologetic for describing the difference between my racial history and the history of behavioral minorities like the LGBT community... because it all sounds androgynous to me.

While I think the leader of that small band of factious Christian believers should be honest with what he really wants to say to me, I don't think that will help much. If unbelievers are worthy of eternal damnation, then a little terminal damnation isn't going to hurt them much. 

Especially if the unbeliever is gay. 

Or a nigger!

Friday, February 10, 2012

ROMAN & ALAINA WOOD: "LAST FOREST IN THE CITY"


Every once in a while I hear an album that sucks me into a vortex of hyperfocus, contrary to my signature ADD. That's what happened when I was introduced to bards like Joni Mitchell, U2, and Sufjan Stevens. Roman and Alaina's LAST FOREST IN THE CITY did the same for me.


The couple's album story debuted in 2011 in a Jerusalem bomb shelter. Having known Seattle native Roman since 2004 and Canadian beauty Alaina since 2009, I was struck by the forest pun: their last name is Wood.


LAST FOREST IN THE CITY is about the effects of industrial development on the intact, inner-city family. An instrumental merge of R & B, folk, and Indie elements, Roman and Alaina trace the emotional spectrum of a family in transition. Children of divorced parents themselves, their lyrics emanate from a genius born of affliction. Check out the Jerusalem Post's article on the couple's album: 

http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/Music/Article.aspx?id=251009


And take a few minutes to listen. My absolute favorites are tracks 4 & 5.

http://romanandalaina.bandcamp.com/album/last-forest-in-the-city

Monday, February 6, 2012

ADVOCATE: TENNESSEE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE RIGHTS COALITION



Advocates are underrated. Each of us had an effective advocate those first few, critical years of our lives. We each should still have someone who "watches our back" as it were. 







I was going through old mail on Super Bowl Sunday and saw that I missed an opportunity to donate towards the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) for their 2011 end-of-the-year donation drive. 

I sat down to read their newsletter, a summary of their efforts for one year. There they are helping people from nationalities as various as there are colors. The TIRRC is the American father or mother who makes sure they have shelter, food, and water. And that they are protected from the injustices of principled pedantry, scientifically-manufactured doctrine, and collective prejudice.

I was stunned when I finished reading. Stunned that I had done nothing this past year to contribute to the cause other than to read their emails and listen to a few NPR specials.

*

"The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States. TIRRC conducts its work through four major program areas:

Base Building / Leadership Development
TIRRC aims to empower immigrant and refugee communities by organizing around common issues, providing training and technical assistance for emerging and established immigrant-led organizations, and developing immigrant leaders capable of sustaining a growing movement and effecting real change.

Grassroots Civic Engagement / Policy Change
Engaging immigrants and refugees in the civic process is one of TIRRC's core missions. TIRRC strives to help immigrants and their new communities use their voices to defeat anti-immigrant legislation and pass proactive, pro-integration legislation at the local, state and federal levels.

Defense of Civil Rights / Civil Liberties
TIRRC educates immigrants and refugees about their rights and subsequently, increases the capacity of immigrant-led organizations to address abuses.

Public Awareness / Ally Building
Educating the public about the contributions of immigrants and building relationships with key constituencies in order to shift momentum around the immigration debate and build broad public support for pro-integration policies are also key TIRRC initiatives.

Key recent accomplishments include the following:

Defeat of the “English-only” referendum
TIRRC contributed substantially to the defeat of the "English-Only" referendum, upholding Nashville’s image as a welcoming, world-class city. As part of a two-year effort, TIRRC conducted a media campaign in response to Nashville’s proposed “English-only” ordinance in the city council, drawing attention to the personal testimonies of Somali, Sudanese, and Kurdish refugees and helping public figures understand the negative impact such a policy would have on all immigrants and refugees in Nashville. In all, TIRRC mobilized more than 10,000 New American voters and helped lead the largest city-wide coalition in history.

Mobilization/ Engagement of New American Voters
TIRRC has engaged thousands of new American voters in the civic process and raised the profile of the immigrant vote. To date, TIRRC has registered more than 5,000 new Americans and contacted over 20,000 as part of two successful voter registration and get-out-the vote campaigns.

Welcoming Tennessee Initiative
Conceived and implemented by TIRRC,  the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative (WTI) has produced a measurable shift in public opinion on the subject of immigration: As a result of WTI more Tennesseans are engaged in dialogue about immigration, informed about its positive effects, and motivated to stand up to intolerance and challenge punitive and mean-spirited legislation.

Southeast Immigrants Rights Network
TIRRC co-founded the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, and as a direct result, emerged as a model and mentor for immigrant rights organizations forming in “new destination” states. TIRRC held three successful annual conferences, building the organizing and leadership capacity of over thirty organizations in the region.

Education for Immigrant Children
TIRRC was instrumental in securing funding for educating immigrant children through advocating for and helping to pass a bill to increase statewide funding for English language learner (ELL) programs in public schools by $30 million. As a result, ELL student-teacher ratios were reduced from 50:1 to 30:1.

Establishing Better Access to Drivers Licenses for Immigrants
TIRRC increased access to driver licenses for new immigrants. TIRRC's campaign to increase the number of language translations available for Tennessee’s written driver’s license test was successful; The organization secured a commitment from the state Department of Safety to provide translations in Chinese and Arabic in early 2009, supplementing Spanish, Japanese, and Korean."


Saturday, January 7, 2012

FOUR SIGNS YOUR CHRISTIAN HUSBAND MIGHT BE CHEATING ON YOU


I live in a county with a high volume (and tolerance) for the impromptu affair. It is also an overwhelmingly conservative, Christian county which makes it that much harder to determine adultery. I mean, Christians are supposed to avoid [falsely] accusing each other, to avoid causing division "among the brethren", and to avoid being busybodies. Consequently, some of the most unhealthy relational behavior becomes inadvertently protected. The elevation of these New Testament maxims over, say, the Ten Commandments (or common sense), discourages the ferreting out of adultery in the self-proclaiming Christian man more than in the man who makes no such claim (or who prefers not to market that aspect of himself).


Seriously, what do you do when you have a suspicion or proof even that a friend or acquaintance is cheating on his wife? And he has kids? And he has a reputation to lose were he to be found out? I'm not talking about going on a witch hunt or being a Wienersnitch. I'm talking about putting to rest the open loops in our minds when we see or sense peculiar patterns of the men around us who, whether or not it's true, consider us to be friends. 


I have been in more awkward circumstances than I care to admit where a belligerent Evangelical or Charismatic male personality made it clear that something was not quite right about himself and was so comfortable with himself that he was too clever for his own good to realize the signs he was leaving the rest of us. Here are four signs that your Christian husband might have some shennanigans up his sleeve (or up his pants leg):


1. Exclusive use of Evangelical Language. All day Sunday is one thing and Wednesday night (for some people) another. But men who have regular jobs Monday through Saturday who exclusively (or as much as possible) use religious code to speak of work, politics, how they are doing, finances, etc. are intentionally hiding something. I mean religious code is not specific enough to communicate certain kinds of information ("Gunny, when it comes to pass, concentrate your men of God on the coordinates of the pagan enemy. Blast those idol worshipers to Kingdom Come in the name of the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit." or "IT guy, my computer is infested with all sorts of unrighteousness. Would you be willing to move your bowels of compassion to help me purge it like hyssop, making it whiter than snow? I'm on a deadline, just what Satan would like. But I'm pro-life."). It's called "changing the subject", and it's not any more natural than it would be to use religious code to describe a Big Mac or a new pair of shoes. I've seen it (heard it) hundreds of times:


Business Partner: "Hey, there was $60,000 in the operations account. Now, there is only $25,000. Where is the other $35,000?"


Blessed Business Partner: "Hey, Bill, stop panicking. Panicking is sin. Scripture says that God will provide. The Israelites panicked in the wilderness, and that's why they are no longer God's chosen people. I will find out what happened to the money, but you need to promise me that you are going to trust God and trust me, or God might not bless our company. Do you want to still be one of God's chosen people?"


Business Partner: "But you're the treasurer!"


Blessed Business Partner: "Bill... Scripture says 'Cast thy cares upon the Lord.' You are in rebellion."


Business Partner: "All I'm saying is..."


Blessed Business Partner: "'Get thee behind me, Satan!'"


Religious code in these sorts of situations not only discourages communication, but it intentionally muddies the waters. I recently spoke with a man who has done his share of disseminating seed behind his wife's back. Our conversation went something like the following:


Me: "So how are things with the wife?"


Him: "God's strength is perfect."


Me: "That's nice. What does your wife have to say about your affairs?"


Him: "God's grace is sustaining her. And He's been giving us a calm we have never felt before."


Me: "OK, but does she know how many women you've been sleeping with?"


Him: "In his time."


This guy was not interested in reconciling with his wife, and his unrelated use of God-words clearly made that point.


2. The Underscore of Chauvinism through Scripture (at Odd Times). I am intrigued with men who find the need to quote Scripture whenever the subject of successful women or their wives comes up. Even if you were just talking about a subject like sports or stocks where the language is industry-specific, all of a sudden you are subject to an antiquated sermon about women. The sermon usually surrounds some confusing nexus about why these particular husbands don't "allow" their wives to do certain things like not allowing them their own career interests, not allowing them social network outlets, not allowing them to (in any way shape or form) have a voice that matters in any cultural conversation the husband does not control. 



Man 1: "So, did you go to the game last night?"


Man 2: "Yeah, we owned! It was awesome!"


Man 1: "Did your wife go?"


Man 2: "Oh, she was with the kids. She doesn't even like games. She wouldn't understand them anyway."


Man 1: "Do you take her out much?"


Man 2: "She loves being at home. These men who have wives who work or who gallivant all over the place end up causing themselves trouble. The Bible makes it clear that a woman's place is in the home. She should be doing whatever is necessary to support her husband, and last night my wife was supporting me by watching the kids while I saw the game."


Man 1: "What does she do for fun?"


Man 2: "Oh, she has a ladies night. Once a month or so. Other than that she's busy with the kids. She likes to sew. She reads. Hey, what about that game!"



I personally avoid these men's wives, because the hungry vibes they give off (or the deep breath they have to take to dive into normal, male interaction) are, well, uncomfortable.


3. Irregular or Unexplained Absences. I'm not certain why it's OK for husbands to unexpectedly disappear for a time from dinner, from the office, from church, from the city (you name it) but it is not OK for wives to do the same. In the community I live in, work is so integrated as to be indistinguishable from break time or play. People work at Starbucks. They work at restaurants. They conference call when running. They network while doing Crossfit. They Facebook all hours of the day. So it only makes sense for men to use the excuse that they are "going to work" or "getting work done" or "having a meeting" when you see them at strange places around town (or out of town).


I was recently in a local store a few days before Christmas looking at JBL stereo systems when I ran into a friend I've known for fourteen years. When I asked about her husband (a friend of mine, too), she informed me that they were divorced. She described how he fluctuated between work and unemployment. One extended stint when he was not working, he set up a home office to deceive her into thinking he was working. He would tell her that he would be in the home office working on time-sensitive deals. Occasionally, she would intrude on him only to find out he was not there. He was always leaving out the back door. Whenever she would call him up (and she did this frequently), he was always at the gas station getting cigarettes or at some meeting. 


I have a good friend who just moved across the U.S. I pretty much know his schedule. I can even call him at odd times and project where he will be. Nine times out of ten I'm right. He wants me to know his schedule, because he wants to be on the radar. I've spoken with wives who cannot even tell me what their husband's overseas schedule is much less his in-town schedule. I've had women complain to me that they cannot get their husbands on the phone at all during a 10-12 hour work day. The cell rings until it goes to voice-mail, or the husband prefers to text hours later.


I'm not saying that time will never allow you the use of these things, but as habits never. Such husbands don't even bother to offer where they were beyond the blanket "I was at work." It really isn't that hard to keep tabs on your husband or for your husband to let you know where he is. If he wants you to know, that is (and if you want to know).


4. The Overhauling of Relationships. Many a man I know has gotten extra-religious before his infidelity became public. In evangelical and charismatic denominations, it takes the form of an unexplained, theological shift. Not only does the man have a problem with the pastor of the church that he has willfully attended for years, but he also has a problem with the pastor's wife and the pastor's children and the pastor's teaching style and the pastor's personality and the pastor's choice of deacons and elders and the theology and the denomination and the history of the church, and everything in between. 


Then he disappears for a time while he's "sorting" things out: checking out churches, studying the Bible, meeting new religious circles. Then one day he's gone altogether. And no one bothers asking why (or people think they know why). I have known many friends to unexpectedly switch to Anglican, Roman Catholic, Fundamentalist, and agnostic expressions of faith. And they can never adequately explain their choices, largely because they think that the rest of us just wouldn't understand. I've actually had friends advised by their new spiritual guides to completely leave behind their old life so that the new one can take root (And I'm sure it does. Like a weed.). That's a foolish and generous berth for these men to do whatever they want to do without someone who really knows them getting too nosy. 


While only a few of these friends of mine ended up leaving their wives, sudden life changes, like changes in temperature, can ruin things permanently (I just ruined my freezer this weekend, thinking I could thaw it in the winter. Not only did it take extra-long to defrost, but it seems that the compressor froze up). 


I remember seeing a hipster friend I've known for years, swapping cars with a lady not his wife in a part of town I have never since seen him in. As I passed by, I remember almost calling him and then changing my mind. There are fifty reasons he could be swapping cars with a woman not his wife (couldn't there be?). I let that bit of rationale suppress my suspicion. So that I didn't even make the connection to the suspicious-looking bruises I saw on his wife's arm months before. And I could have sworn she had been crying. But, there could be fifty reasons why she had bruises on her arm and why there were tears in her eyes at the same time. Couldn't there be?


What is pitiful about these four signs is that the wife almost never sees them. These are ways men act in front of other men. Over the years my friends and I have agreed that it is better to be presumptive and preemptive than to allow these open loops to become ever wider. Who cares if your friend is offended? Really? What's the worse he can do but give you some Old Testament reason as to why he's screwing another man's wife? 


I've heard those lines, too.