Words only mean what people say they mean. It's like the word f--k. Some people hear it
as a word of exclamation, like golly. Some people hear it as something nasty.
But when you take all the charge out of the word, it is simply an exclamation, an
adjective, a verb, and nothing more in the vernacular of a great segment of the population
of this country, let alone the world.
Unless you use it amongst people who are shocked by it, in which case you use it to
shock them and get their attention.
What's more important and interesting... people like Eminem didn't make these words
up. They learned them from the role models they have. They learned the use of
words through their role models and people described to them as heroes. So, to blame
these young people for their attitudes, behaviors, language and actions... who do you
think we should really blame, if we are to blame anyone? Blame solves nothing.
One night, I was curious, so I went to East Palo Alto, California, where I actually
grew up the first 4-5 years of my life. When we lived there, it was an upper-middle
class white neighborhood. 6 months after we moved out, it was a full blown ghetto,
and the block where we lived was nicknamed Little Nairobi.
So, I went back some 25 years later, to see what it was like, and to see if our country
had made any real strides in improving the condition of people in the ghettos, and
empowering African Americans. This was around 1990.
I picked up this woman selling drugs on the corner... told her I just wanted to drive
around awhile, and wondered if she had the time to give me a tour. I told her the address
where I lived and she wouldn't take me there. She said it was too dangerous. I asked
her if it was really that dangerous, and then the tour really began.
Block after block, I saw the white outlines on the ground and the blood stains where
people had recently been killed. She said, 2 or 3 people per night got shot or
killed in that area.
Little did I know that she was taking me from neighborhood to neighborhood, house to
house, making crack deliveries. I finally asked her what she was doing... I wasn't
really sure if I wanted to know. But I asked. When she told me, I got a little
frightened. Finally, she asked me if I wanted to try some.
I actually didn't.. I'd heard about its addictiveness and lethalness.. but I tried one
hit off her little glass pipe... and yes, I inhaled... and I immediately learned why it
was so popular and so addictive. It was the only time I ever tried it. But I wanted
Just as I really wanted to understand why the group, 2 Live Crew was so popular at that
time. As much as I found their themes entertaining, (just as I enjoy Prince) I
couldn't understand all the need for disrespective language and all of that... any more
than Tipper could.
After all, when I graduated from high school in 1973, I was still very conservative. I
believed in abstention, not as birth control or disease prevention, but as a personal
philosophy. As a respect for the dignity and sacredness of the total surrender and
expression of love between two people.
I should add, there were employees at a company I worked for who worked "under
me" who lived there.
The thing is, what do we all consider crude and rude and disrespectful?
How dare they talk of sex so much? How dare they talk of women as ho's and talk
of incest and rape and brutality... calling each other names... but I began to realize...
as I realize even more as I approach page 400+ of Ulysses... as I consider that men think
about sex, on average, every 7 seconds, and women every 10.
They were not walking around pretending, living inside a veil of the facade of
righteousness. They were being.. Simply being. Speaking and acting based on their truth.
And their truth, their reality, was based on a heritage and microcosmic culture of
oppression, ridicule and thwarting. And the words they spoke were about the only free
self-expression they had. People didn't seem to listen otherwise.
And to break out of it, they did what they felt they had to do. I knew guys there
whose lives were shattered because they got injured, and their dreams of miraculously
rising out of the ghetto by playing basketball and football or playing music became an
And so, their oppression became worse, and the anger and aggression they displayed was
the only outlet they had. It's the same feeling as being wrongfully imprisoned for a crime
you didn't do.
All the language, all the actions, all the behaviors... if only we approached them as
thoughts and complaints to be understood, not judged. And the blame for the
circumstances that generated them is not just theirs... it is our culture. It is the
world we told them they must live in.
So if there is to be blame, it must be placed on the leaders of the country, the
individual citizens, you and me. Because we created the circumstances. We
generated their reality. No matter what color their skin is. No matter their culture. No
matter what words they say or the things they do to express it.
And it is the same consideration that must be given to the world we create as global
citizens and communities. The issue is the same with Iraq. Not only do we not
understand Arabic and Islamist peoples, we don't bother to try. But we judge them to be in
error because of our lack of education about them.
So, it is no wonder to me that the United States is becoming an aggressor nation.
Not because it is at the essence of our people. But because our leaders and
role models provide the example that what's important is winning through force, and that
the losers, whether the battle was fair or not, simply must get over it.
So we oppress other countries more, destroy them with financial wars, and when they
express themselves or try to defend themselves from our transgressions, we demonize them,
instead of being responsible for our own actions.
We do the same thing to our own citizens.
But people don't get over it. They suppress. They become oppressed.
And the anger and disrespect grows and festers.. until it is forced to the surface in one
way or another. And then we blame them. Instead of understanding, when the
only productive thing to do is understand.
The words and anger and shock factor of people like Eminem should not cause us to
question their integrity and morals and intent... it should cause us to question how and
why we have generated circumstances such that their expression manifests
itself in anger, rage, and attempts to shock us into acknowledgement.
The truth is, their expression of things in such a way that we find reprehensible is
actually the greatest example of their integrity. Eminem doesn't sell because he
shocks people, he sells because he is a representative of a culture, a culture that is
rapidly expanding and revolting.
It's a revolt against an older generation that is legitimately concerned about
retirement. Other generations are rightfully paying attention to wealth building and
raising their families, or being promoted in their careers.
Just like the hippies, these young people, these other "non-white",
supposedly non-mainstream cultures don't understand their own anger, otherwise they would
organize and overthrow the current power structures, by adhering to the real ones created
by our founders. They were told to believe in it, and are realizing it to be a
facade, and they are seeking something to believe in. Be glad they choose to express
themselves in music, and not violence.
Think back to the 60's, if you can. The people who are in control of the government,
and the bulk of the "baby-boomers" are the same as the ones who reminded their
elders to be careful about the world they were creating and leaving to their children. I
would hope that more people would learn the lesson they demanded of the older generations
of their time.
We need to listen to our future leaders. Not to appease, but to understand, and take
appropriate action as we acknowledge our creation of their reality and the tangible world.
Banning and objecting to music will only further suppress and enrage. When we say
young people show no respect, ask yourself, what have we truly provided them to
respect? What respect do we show the younger generation that deserves reciprocation?
I ask that as an inquiry, not a criticism. Remember W-O-L-D by Harry Chapin?
Consider the fact that most young people don't vote, let alone get involved in the
political process itself. The reason is simple: they don't feel represented and they don't
believe representatives are concerned with their issues and opinions because they don't
have money to support campaign funding, and they don't vote... because they think they
aren't represented... and on and on and on into a deadlock, and a defeat for Democracy.
That's why I want to commend a fine, upcoming political player named Thomas Breyer. He
started an organization called Party-Y.org It is a
non-partisan organization that encourages young people under the age of thirty to run for
It's perfectly natural for a country to become more conservative and economically
concerned as it ages. I believe that the elder generations always have a great deal to
discover from young people - based on their exposures to new technologies and historical
events - about things we tend to lose track of in what becomes our daily routines.
I believe that every bit as much as I believe that older people have an incredible
amount of wisdom to share with young people. They just know stuff. Stuff you'd never know
by reading history books or looking at statistics.
Because, history really isn't about all that, it's all just about people and what they
do, and how they ultimately realize that all of the money and accolades mean nothing
without appreciating the trials and victories of humanity over all obstacles.
Every generation has a gift to offer each other: wisdom, creativity, experience and
exuberance. When they work together, they're unstoppable. When they're divided, there is
little chance for progress or peace, because it means we have stopped learning, and given
up on the idea that we are in this world as a nation together, and instead have resigned
ourselves to the idea that we have no choice but to fend for ourselves regardless of the
principles in which we believe.
For every parent, I would ask you to reflect on whether the ethics, manners,
traditions and heritage you have taught your children is reflective of the real world they
are growing up to live in. For young people, I would ask you to reflect on whether
your conduct is how you would prefer it to be if it was the "way it's supposed to
be", and then ask yourself what you might need to do, and what kind of person would
you need to be in order to cause that "way it's supposed to be".
Just an inquiry, not a criticism. Personally, I think life is mostly an inquiry and a
conversation. Our opinions are expressed in our culture. And it's useful to
objectively look around and see what's going on from time to time.
I like to go to Home Depot and just look around at all the new products that have come
out, and imagine what I might do with them just so I know what's possible, and where
technology is leading.
Like in any big family, the folks who have good discussions and share wisdom,
creativity and experience tend to work the best.
Case in point: Benton Harbor, Michigan
Pop: 12,000 Predominantly African-American
Unemployment Rate 29-50%
Median Yearly Income: $8500
50% of citizens are under the age of 20
Mayor: Police relationship unkind to
citizens "This is just the straw that broke the camel's back, in my
opinion" says Mayor Charles Yarbrough
Police line streets of Benton Harbor
after nights of riots Residents outraged by deadly police chase