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In a moment that SHOULD engender love for the humanity of black bodies, For Harriet’s founder, Kimberly Foster, chooses the tragic and untimely murder of Eric Garner to draw a line in the sand between black men and women.

EG memorial

“I can’t breathe…”
This time there weren’t any guns.
“I can’t breathe…”
No conveniently accidental firing that we’re all somehow supposed to accept.
“I can’t breathe…”
No sudden moves for his wallet.
“I can’t breathe…”
But the result still all too familiar.
“I can’t…”

I’m not supposed to be writing this.

I’m not.  I’m not supposed to be writing about how, once again, another black person has been stripped of their dignity and senselessly taken from this earth by those sworn to protect and serve; and, for seemingly no reason at all but occupying space in the land they fought for and toiled. No, I’m not supposed to be writing this.

In a moment that should engender love for the humanity of black bodies, and push our mindschoke21n-17-web to reflect and remember those sadly known more for dying than living — Amadou, Aiyana, Sean, and Oscar — tragic statistics of the forgotten work of our nation.  Unfortunately, we are not talking about them, nor are we talking about the systems/powers that make this nightmarish headline a recurring one. Sadly, for the past few days since the Garner murder, we have been talking about Kimberly Foster and her essay.  As I said before, I’m not supposed to be writing this.

Almost as soon as the air that Eric Garner used to take his last breathes became unobstructed on that Staten Island sidewalk, mere hours before he would be pronounced dead — the same air that should have been reserved for his memory, the Garner family, and those who live under the constant threat of police brutality — this same air was almost immediately obstructed again by Foster’s essay last Tuesday.

In it, the self-proclaimed black feminist and founder of For Harriet, a popular women’s website dedicated to ‘celebrating black womanhood’, dug in her heels and proclaimed that “if the NYPD or the City of New York fail to act [on Garner’s behalf],” she would not be marching for the murder victim because she was reserving her “mental and emotional energy for…Black women.” Yeaaa, she actually said that.

yeIn an odd way, Foster’s Janet Jackson-esque “what have you done for me lately, black men” rebuttal (to what I don’t know) seemed to parallel Kanye’s drunken antics at the 2009 MTV VMAs. As you may recall, the superstar rapper/designer spontaneously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video mid-sentence, to point out that he felt Beyonce was the more deserving artist (and I agreed) for her hit “Single Ladies”; and overnight, created a firestorm of criticism that even the President couldn’t resist, calling his Chi-town neighbor, in a word: “asshole.” 

To me, Foster was channeling Kanye’s interjectory “Imma let you finish…” idiocy all over again. Instead, this time it was more along the lines of, “Yo Garner family, black men, I’m really sad for you and all; Imma let you mourn but Black women have had the most ish to deal with of all time!” Man, where’s President Obama when you need him? Oh yea, getting sued. Nevermind.

At best, her words were a rude and insensitive, tone-deaf call to arms for the plight of black women, and, at worst, it was an outright declaration that black men and women no longer shared the same fate in her eyes.

Yo Garner family, black men, I’m really sad for you and all; Imma let you mourn but Black women have had the most ish to deal with of all time!”

After my first time reading it, like you, I read it again and again in disbelief; hoping a smidget of sympathy could be mustered somehow, someway, but none could be found.  I was totally disgusted with her reasoning altogether.  How could a black woman, the very one who births the black boys who grow up into men like an Eric Garner or Sean Bell, resign herself from the very destiny of that which she gives life to?

On her site, the tagline reads celebrating the ‘fullness of black womanhood’ but when did the cost of AP_esaw_garner_al_sharpton_rally_jt_140719_16x9t_384the party come at the expense of black men?  As an African-American male, I never thought concern for the black family was based on gender. Aren’t we in this thing together? Growing up, I remembered the Tawana Brawley case in NYC and the Duke Lacrosse case in my home state, and how the victims at the center of it were black women; as well as the Rodney King trial out west in LA. Never once did it occur to me that the injustices faced by black women were somehow detracting or pulling away precious “mental or emotional energies” or resources for the many black men falsely imprisoned in correctional facilities or enduring discrimination on the job. To me, the plight facing black men and women in America was never an “either or” endeavor, but always one of “both and.”

When Garner died last week, he left a black woman to become a single mother of six kids. When Sean Bell died, he left a black woman to become a single mother of one. Obviously, what affects one affects the other. You see, what Foster fails to understand is that our paths as black men and women are forever intertwined; and a house divided against itself will surely never stand. 

But, of course, there is always room for improvement. With any strive for progress there is bound to be criticism, and I think that we can all agree that it has been more than -7711cf00f0a81e71warranted on both sides; but we have no choice but to stand and work together if we are to ever gain any kind of significant ground.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr once said that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and the faster women like Foster realizes this, the better.

And besides, Harriet Tubman, the woman for which Foster names her site, didn’t reserve her physical energies for only black women during slavery, so how can she justify reserving her mental and emotional energies now? Or maybe, just maybe, her site is really “For” someone else?

 

Curtis A. Thomas is former Hill staffer and blogger residing in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached at thomas.curtis.a@gmail.com.
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SPOILER ALERT: It takes 16 days of a #Govtshutdown for the leaders of our banana republic to have a kumbaya moment and not default on our national debt. But when was the last time you reached across the aisle in your own house? Has contention become the new compromise for us, too?   

elephant-donkey-angry-clash-cropped-proto-custom_28  

Strange days in our nation’s capitol…strange days indeed.

Now that the national recurring nightmare known as the #Govtshutdown has become a somewhat distant memory of our 24-hour news cycle, and Americans, from sea to shining sea, are back to work and once again too busy to focus on the antics of the “The Real ‘House’ Husbands of DC” (aka the new, dysfunctional reality show from the C-Span channel formerly known as our U.S. Congress), I think it’s about time we pon the replay and analyze just WTH happened and what it might say indirectly, if anything, about our own relationships.  

**Side note to all the couch potato/loveseat gladiators out there: Is it just me, or was it kinda peculiar that just when Washington actually needed a real life Olivia Pope-type figure, Scandal just so happened to come back on the air? Does Shonda Rhimes have an upper room security clearance we don’t know about?…but I digress** 

nnnnnnIf you recall, during the 16 day shutdown, many furloughed workers decried the historic political stalemate, invoking the famous sentiment of the late Rodney King, “Why can’t our leaders all just get along?”

But in response, many Tea Party Republicans (mostly from places where the sweet tea will give you instant Wilford Brimley-pronounced die-uh-beat-us) channeled the side-eyed spirit of Sheree Whitfield of RHOA fame, asking, “Who gon’ check me, boo?”

Yeaaa, really.

Not since Miley Cyrus’s hapless and booty-less assault of Beetlejuice at the VMAs in August, had Americans been so embarrassed and disgusted of Obama’s nation.

130826-Miley-Cyrus-VMAs_0

Now for the less politically-inclined, here’s a quick non partisan recap of the two sides of the shutdown:

In my best Michael Buffer voice…

In the blue corner, hailing from the southside of the Chi (stand up)! The home of Keef and Kanye, with an oratory only second to the Kinnng himself. Weighing in at a solid 165 lbs…he’s lean, he’s the American Dream — he’s the man that put the ‘Obama’ in Obamacare. Let’s hear it for Mr. 44, your President, Barack “The Rock” Obamaaaaaa!  [Applause]

Michael-Buffer-internet-radio-royaltiesAnd his opponent across the ring, fighting out of the red corner…representing H-town to the fullest. He’s a one-man wrecking crew for the Tea Party. He’s kingpin of the Obamacare haters…weighing in at a staggering 192 lbs of pure hate for gov’t programs. He’s Sarah Palin in a business suit! “Mr. Conservative Canadian”, himself, Senator Ted “no new friends” Cruuuuuuzzzz!!!! Now ladies and gentlemen…lets get ready to rumbleeeeeee!!!

Well, it sorta went like that. (Hey, this isn’t the NY Times.) 

Anyway, as popular elected officials, I’m sure both men felt very entitled to their positions.  But I bet if we were to look just underneath the surface of it all, (past the telegenic smiles and poll tested one-liners) like the rest of us, both were probably just afraid of what the future might hold if the reigns of power were tipped too far towards the other.

michelle_obama_bangs_white_shirt_joe_raedlegetty_images_18i880t-18i8811And with such extreme gridlock and party division, I bet that neither felt comfortable enough to even come off of their positions the length of Michelle’s bangs (in other words, just a couple of inches longer than necessary). Thus, bringing us to our issue at hand…

Whether you’re a veteran dater or veteran pol, you should know by now that in order for any semblance of progress to be achieved in the state house or in your own, compromise is in order. It’s essentially the dirty, late night Trey Songz-esque song adlib phone convo and subsequent make up sex that recharges almost every relationship battery.

But unfortunately, due to past trial and heartache, several depressing post-K-Ci Mary J. Blige songs, Drake’s emo-raps, and Keisha Cole’s / Jazmine Sullivan’s whole catalog combined, so many of us have begun to question and abandon pursuing the requisite courage/faith needed to find that rich and gooey necessary center. 

mmmmmmmm

I fear that, well, because of fear, itself, too many daters have settled into the idea that holding each other’s principles for ransom and hijacking the total affair is now an act of practicality and sound reason. Now if any of this sounds remotely familiar, then you may be dating a relationship republican.

These are the kind of daters that generally overlook olive branches, and see most things as an all or nothing enterprise. They are not necessarily selfish, as they are afraid of succumbing to another’s will.

In no time, they can take an otherwise strong and independent man or woman, and almost overnight turn him/her into a strong candidate for a deep, eyes closed, head hug from Iyanla on ‘Fix My Life’.  SAD.

fixmylife They are keen on making you their emotional hostage–pulling you away from your friends and family, making you question your judgment and former nonnegotiables all in the name of wearing the unattainable crown of the “good guy” or “perfect girl.”

Next thing you know, you’re liable to wake up one day as the tragic protagonist of a Tyler Perry flick with some lightskinned girl hanging her clothes up in YOUR CLOSET without you knowing. (You know the ones that look like they could be related to La La.) And much like the post-engagement Kanye, pretty soon your friends and fans may not even recognize you at all. Can I get a SAD, two times? SAD, SAD.

yeAt this point, you may be wondering, “How can anyone be expected to resolve all of this and salvage the relationship in some nice and neat made-for-TV way?” Well, I’m glad you asked, because in all honestly, you can’t. If you want my advice: pretend you’re a member of TLC and your mate is Pebbles and get the hell up out of there!

And for goodness sake, try and date a Democrat from now on. If Scandal has taught us anything, it should at least be that, right? Ijs lol!

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HAVE YOU HEARD???

Yea…I know I’ve been slacking but just like Dwyane Wade’s ex wife, I’ve been working on ways for the world to better notice me. In other words, HGHI is getting an upgrade!  

They say people don’t read anymore but they certainly do listen, right? Well, to accompany my blogs, I will now be adding a tag-a-long video series called “Note 2 Self.”  

The purpose of N2S will be to expand on some ideas in my blogs and foster more dialogue amongst the HGHI community and beyond.  So basically, it’s just one man’s poor excuse to try and get his hands on some blog awards, eh!  And if that doesn’t work some blog/book groupies, straight Hill Harper style! [Isn’t that how it works, anyway lol?]

I’m not serious, but just in case I am be sure to check out N2S COMING SOON!!!!!

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Its not ’08 but it matters just as much

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests.  We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe.  We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.  We are and forever will be the United States of America.”   ~ Victory Speech Nov. 6, 2012

(Do you ever remember anyone quoting a Dubya speech? Yea, me neither.)

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Is it just me, or does EVERY election season nowadays seem to be a lightning rod for almost any and every person with the least possible discernment?

Before you go guessing, no I’m not referring to Mitt Romney’s late August Political Roast in Tampa headlined by the dark comedy duo of Eastwood n’ chair, or the latest ploy by her pinkness, Ms. Minaj, to stay relevant by endorsing the GOP on wax (Note: the threats on Mariah’s life happened afterwards, it’s hard to keep up with foolishness, you know) or the random former ‘Clueless’ star’s clueless come-to-Romney revelation on twitter abound with sexual innuendos (proving once again, you can take the girl off of VH1, but you can never take the VH1 off of the girl). 

I am talking about the thousands of voters across the nation who still have yet to psychologically pull the lever for a presidential candidate with only T-minus 24 days left till election day.

To the media, they are the highly esteemed and pivotal UNDECIDEDS, but after millions of dollars spent on ads by both camps, thousands of rally/yard signs printed, hundreds of televised interviews, two party conventions and one presidential debate in the rearview, many like HBO funnyman Bill Maher are now calling them by their more scientific name: low information voters

Political scientists define low information voters as the

less sophisticated, poorly informed voters who often vote against their best interests based on rumors, stereotypes, and other less rationale factors.  

In layman’s terms, they are the electoral love child of the many folks who consistently make Repo Games so deliciously addictive, mixed with the invitees from the movie Dinner for Schmucks.

Per Maher, the fate of our very republic is in the hands of Mensa members like: Nadya Suleman aka OctoMom and Kanye’s better, more thoroughly videotaped, half reality starlet Kim Kardashian.

Now, if any of this seems disturbing to you, then good, it should be; but have you noticed that when it comes to dating many of us are no more sophisticated?  Simply put, many of us would be classified as low information daters. 

When choosing whether or not to date someone, many of us routinely stereotype and give credence to some of the most lowbrow things like astrology, swag, induction into a brother/sister fraternity, or whether random people on facebook feel we’ll look cute together (I can hear it now, look at the Alpha/AKA power couple, ugh!).  Also, many more of us are just not as observant as we think, overlooking cues that are practically staring us in the face.

Take for instance, a situation an old college friend of mine had.  She was 29 at the time, a virgin, and had been dating a guy long distance for a few months.  Though dating long distance wasn’t really her thing, she went along with it because she kinda met him through her sister.  Well, as time went on she was glad she had given him a chance, because in her words, he was “doing all the right things” — he was nice, well-mannered, gainfully employed, and came to see her like clockwork despite them being 6 1/2 hours apart.

Only one problem, she was claiming this guy, calling him her boyfriend and had never seen where he lived.  I thought it was essential information, but she felt it would happen in due time.  After some more months of seamless dating, she decided to collect the interest on her near 30-year old chastity belt and turn in her V-card for Delta frequent flyer miles and other relationship cash prizes.  And lo and behold, not too long afterwards, she found out he was married. 

And after a brief estrogen-induced investigation, she discovered that he not only owned a house with his wife, but she had been living there with him the whole time!  I told her, no offense, but did you ever wonder why a guy might be so willing to drive 6 1/2 hours to see you from Atlanta; the black mecca, and former land of Freaknik and blessed home of Magic City?  And, (in my Andre 3000 voice) why would you ever, ever ever, ever ever, elevate a guy to bf status without first seeing where and how he lived? At least make the man work for the lie.

She had no answer and got off the phone irritated.

See my friends, though many of us have already reached or are within reach of our own slice of pie a la Americana–

          1) the debt/degree from such and such college/university

          2) the car with individualized tags to needlessly remind passersby your a ‘BOSS’ or a ‘DIVA’,

          3) the house or condo in a somewhat secure zipcode (or studio if you live in NYC),

          4) and kids named for some weird, smorgasbord blend of you and your child’s father’s name that sounds more like a celebrity couple than a live human being (like Chrihanna or Kimye)

–many of us have the most difficult time accepting the fact that we could come so far in life and still remain so naive when dealing with the opposite sex.  

For the ladies, (in my PSA voice) if your longest relationship to date is easily your worst then you may be a low information dater.  And fellas, if your dating life seems to strangely resemble an episode of the Oxygen channel’s hit show “Snapped” in any way then you know the rest…

We continually date and give to those that don’t serve our interests. We tell ourselves that if we just stick to our lil’ portable checklists of do’s & don’ts, we’ll be fine. But by now, we should know that when the heart is truly up and running it has a tendency to blur lines.  Hope can replace reality and fantasy becomes fate.

So, we can all act shocked and appalled over RiRi signing on for another season of the Chrihanna saga, or Evelyn diving head first (no pun intended) into the shallow end of love; but these stories aren’t just headlines but snippets of our own lives.  There will never be a perfect partner or precise questionnaire to find him/her; but if we all just pull back and breathe, maybe check a few references (just a thought), make sure all the exes are still alive, then hopefully we could avoid such tragedies and maybe become just as good in picking a partner as we are at picking a President. But, till then, let’s just agree to vote for Obama, and figure out the rest later.

Till next time, my damies…

As old folks say, you can follow me on the Twitter @hesgot2haveit

 

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Growing up in the south in the late 80s, amid the ashes of the Civil Rights Movement, I was routinely reminded that my generation, generation X or the post post-civil rights generation,stood on the shoulders” of those great men and women that preceded us. 

We were born well after voting rights and school integration, but one day my generation would be called upon to take the reins and write our own chapter in the history book of our people’s progress.  The notion was never contested nor forgotten.  Only thing, I was never told what to do if those who came before me would rather bequeath a cold shoulder than spare a friendly one as their generational parting gift.

In the 40 years since “Unbought and Unbossed,” I’ve watched the once audacious and divergent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which once drafted a Black Declaration of Independence, grow larger in number and influence but shrink further and further from political relevancy and independence within the Democratic Party.  

So much so, that since the enactment of the King Holiday, I’m afraid many of my peers would fail to pinpoint any resonating, forward-looking proposal or cohesive action taken by the now 43-strong “conscience of the Congress” to rally around for the future.  Case in point, their recent walkout of the Capitol with the rest of the Democrat caucus contesting Attorney General Holder’s contempt vote this past June, barely raised an eyebrow in comparison to their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) scheduled this week.

Although there are no more Adam Clayton Powell’s or Shirley Chisholm’s, the sole address for African-American politicos reads like a short list of “Who’s Who in Black History.”  Some are the former foot soldiers of SNCC, BPP, and the NAACP.  

Conversely, individuals like Georgia stalwart Rep. John Lewis remain irrefutable legends in their own right, while others have simply become relics of a proud but bygone era and political calculus better suited for the last century.

During his 2008 primary fight, then-Sen. Barack Obama alluded to being 14 years Sen. Clinton’s junior as an edge in recapturing the spirit of the younger generations, as well as breaking through the stifling arguments that consumed much of her husband’s presidency.  

Unfortunately, like the former first lady, more than half of the members of the current CBC are of the retiring baby boomer generation or older.

In the past, the story of our progress as a people was always inscribed in the voices and vigor of our youth.  In 1905, it was a 37 year-old Dubois that helped form the Niagara Movement

Dr. King was only 34, when he stepped onto the bright, marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963; and Rep. Chisholm and then-Sen. Obama were both candidates for the highest office in the land by the age of 47.

Yet, for the first time in our history, and against the wisdom of the past, we have kept our aging foot soldiers on the front lines effectively turning our politics into a venture of veterans.  Thus, alienating the very vitality and endurance of our youth that has always been at the very core spearheading our progressive campaigns.

In 1971, when the CBC was founded, the median age of its members was 45.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 62, almost seven years above the median age for the entire House of Representatives.  This 17-year jump is mostly due to an aging class of pols groomed in the throes of the civil rights movement that insist on maintaining their seat at the head of the table of the black body politic.  

For example, after almost a century of combined Congressional tenures, longstanding members like Representatives Conyers and Rangel, ages 83 and 82, respectively, stand emblematic of our present problem.

This unwillingness to transition on into an elder statesman/mentor role and effectively enlist those of us who grew up reading about the Edmund Pettus Bridge rather than marching over it, has, in my opinion, left many of my generation not only estranged from the political process, but worse yet, more cynical about participatory politics.  

While out registering young people to vote in 2008 for President Obama, I was told by several African-Americans on the streets of Philadelphia that the national elections were not only rigged but that there was “no way” a black man could be elected President.  

Though the tenuous history between African-Americans and the ballot box is well documented, I believe some of the fault for these perspectives can be laid at our feet.  In almost every facet of life, be it academia, pop culture, sports, or religion, young African-Americans have long witnessed a “passing of the torch” or sea change.  Well, all except for, you guessed it–politics.  

In the world of politics, it’s as if Larry, Magic, and the rest of Jordan’s 1992 Dream Team are still first string, even though Lebron and Kobe are well into their prime.

During the 2010 midterms, I watched a brazen Tea Party movement, fully steeped and brewed, hijack the national political conversation and put forth candidates from Delaware to Nevada that echoed their sentiments around issues of taxation and debt

And last month, I watched that movement bear fruit on the national stage when 42 year-old Congressman Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate on the national Republican ticket.  

Immediately, I began to wonder: “Where was our young “Paul Ryan” of color?  Where were our new breed of foot soldiers for the 21st century to counter the Janesville native?  We can’t afford to wait on another “Obama” candidate!  

Mr. Ryan was first elected to Congress at age 28, and I cant help but think if some Congressional seats opened up in some of the traditionally minority districts, then maybe we could begin grooming our own twenty-something gurus to champion our modern issues.  He or she wouldn’t listen to AC/DC as Ryan noted, but possibly Jay-Z and Weezy.  They could begin to “occupy” our own street and start restoring the channels of communication and understanding between the youth and the policies that stand in their way.     

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we owe a great debt to the lions and lionesses of the civil rights generation, I just think they have brought us as far as they can.

I believe it’s time for the world to be introduced to the starters of the second half of our movement, men and women that can harness the full vernacular and power posed by social media like Obama, and be responsive in a moment’s notice through Twitter like Newark’s Cory Booker.  

These men and women would organize around green technology jobs and internet access and freedom in the same vein those great men and women of the past organized around living wages and voting rights in their day.

Like anyone, I am grateful for the past efforts of the caucus, but they must understand that today is a new day.  Our parents have their stories of how they helped tackle the larger issues of their day, its time we were left to tackle ours.  And if we are made to wait much longer, I’m afraid we do so at our own peril.  

Years ago, Rep. William Clay, Sr., a founding member of the CBC, famously stated, “black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”  And with all due respect, sir, though I thank you for your service, I now believe you’re on our time.

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In case you missed it, one of the most amazing and yet utterly ridiculous things to probably occur during the race for the Republican nomination happened the other day.  No, it wasn’t the former Speaker’s doubling down on his Jacksonian-like claim to manifest destiny well into the final frontier and create a moon colony in space before the end of his second term.  Nor was it Mitt Romney’s odd compliment to Michiganders for the “perfect” height of their state’s trees.  In fact, for a brief moment, through all the back and forth between the GOP hopefuls, one of the three stooges of conservatism actually landed a pretty decent attack on the President.  Only problem, it didn’t make sense.

Last week, Santorum took home the week’s “ridiculist” prize for his inane statement that President Obama was a “snob.”  Not that such claims of elitism and “uppity”-ness have never been levied against the nation’s first African-American president, but the senator did not refer to the President as a snob for the more obvious: his Harvard credentials, avid golf playing, or vacations in Martha’s Vineyard.  The senator from Pennsylvania evidently conjured up the spirit to accuse the President of snobbery because of his encouraging words for the nation’s young people to attend college.  Imagine that!

It has to make you literally scratch your head to figure out what target audience in the Republican Party that gem of a statement was aimed for.  But it has to make you pause and wonder even more why while such a statement has created instant fodder on center-left and left blogs such as the Huffington Post and received both ridicule and extensive examination from networks like MSNBC and CNN, the comment has been barely discussed if not defended by that bastion of cable conservatism, FOX NEWS.

Therein lies the problem.  In a nutshell, our mainstream news structure operates like your current cable package—tailored to your personal viewpoints and interests.  Want more NBA?  Tune into NBA TV.  Love black and white movies?  Well, you don’t want to miss the AMC movie channel.  Feel like President Obama is not your president no matter the results of the election?  Try the Fox News channel on for size.  Believe that Republicans despise poor people?  You’ll feel right at home at MSNBC.

Our nation’s news has become too subjective.  Long gone are the days of Cronkite.  Today, American’s political news sources have a case of ADD, and exists in a constant wrestling match over ratings.  In my opinion, if we are truly concerned about the state of our news, then we must make less room for punditry and make a return to objective “hard” news.  It is not enough to reject those messages from politicians that manipulate and divide, but also the programmers and messengers in the media that frame and dissect our current affairs to exploit our emotions as well.  And, if you disagree, then I’m sure there’s a channel for that too.  Or maybe it’s only on the moon?

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