Archive for July, 2008

This may be a bit of a departure from the usual themes on this blog, or maybe it isn’t. In any event, I was moved by this commentary/essay by Frank Deford this morning on NPR. It’s a cliche to say it, I know, but sometimes sport is the perfect metaphor for life.

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For those of you who have been praying for Leslie and Tyson Aschliman as Leslie bravely battled cancer these past few months, thank you. Last night, Leslie’s battle came to an end, but her eternal journey began. From last night’s 11:07 p.m. post on Leslie and Tyson’s blog:

After a hard battle with cancer Leslie Jo (Bucher) Aschliman went home to be with Jesus. She was a wife, mother, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin, grandchild, and friend. She will be greatly missed.

Please continue to pray for Tyson and little TJ as they endure the loss of a wonderful wife and mom. Also, remember their extended family.

Again, thanks for joining us in lifting up this precious family. I know that your gracious thoughts and prayers were part of the miracle that God was performing in the midst of this sad and tragic situation.

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Asking for Prayer Again

Many of you added my friends Leslie and Tyson Aschliman to your prayer list a long time ago. I’d like to ask again that you hold this young family up to God as Leslie battles cancer. The bit of news that came today did not sound good. Tyson had to rush Leslie to the hospital. That’s all I know right now. I would ask that you continue to intercede for them, especially now during this uncertain time. Thank you.

UPDATE 7-22-08: Please see the Aschliman’s blog for the latest. The family continues to need our prayers.

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I didn’t want this to become Barack Obama week here at the blog, but it seems like much of the best thinking on issues of racial reconciliation in society are related to things happening in and around the Obama campaign. Which, I suppose, should not be that surprising.

Briefly, I wanted to call your attention to Rev. Eric Redmond’s thoughtful and thought-provoking piece over at his A Man from Issachar blog. In the post, he responds to a question that was brought to him by an aquaintance at the recent Hampton University Ministers’ Conference: “How can any Christian African American vote for Obama, given his views on abortion and same-sex marriage?” Eric’s reasoned response offers several points worth pondering.

And while I’m still riding the Obama wave, allow me to belatedly call your attention to a piece that my colleague LaTonya Taylor forwarded to me earlier this week, a Washington Times article that asks the question, “Who decided to call Obama black?” Given his mixed-race heritage, why is it taken for granted that Obama is a black man? And what does our labeling of him as a black man say about racial politics and identity in America? Also worth a read.

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Man, Jesse Jackson has gotten himself into another fine mess. But is it really what it seems? This latest Obama-drama hit last night: Jackson caught speaking disparagingly, and rather crudely, to a friend about Obama during a Fox News broadcast break when he thought the mic was off.

The full quote went something like, “Barack has been talking down to black people about this faith-based … I want to cut his nuts off.” A very crude remark, indeed. And perhaps one that a man from a certain generation might use in the company of his homeboys. But shouldn’t Jackson have known better than to bring that out in a Fox News studio, even if it was in a whisper during a commercial break?

Actually, my conspiracy theory side kicked in when I heard about this story last night. While I’m sure this isn’t the case, wouldn’t it be interesting if Jackson spoke those words on purpose to help assuage the white public’s fear of Obama? Think about it from the perspective of some folks, “If Jesse Jackson—a guy we really hate—doesn’t like Obama for telling black people that they need to take personal responsibility, then maybe Obama isn’t that bad after all.”

Let’s face it, Jackson is very media savvy. He knows how to get a message out there. He’s a smart man who’s been doing this stuff for a long time. Even though he’s not that close to Obama, it’s clear that he wants him to be the next president—probably for many reasons (first African American president, Democrat, Chicago roots, one of us in the White House, etc). Could Jesse be sacrificing himself in order to help skeptical people give a closer listen to the good things Obama is saying?

I’m not sure I really believe this, but I thought I’d offer it up for your consideration anyway.

Update: At least one Chicago columnist has a similar theory about the possible impact of Jackson’s words. And The Root posted an interesting piece as well.

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Anyone catch Will Smith’s alcoholic superhero movie Hancock over the holiday weekend? Though it received mixed reviews, it grossed a heroic $107 million since opening last Wednesday. I haven’t seen it, but as a fan of superhero movies (the first Superman with Christopher Reeve is my all-time favorite), I look forward to catching it soon. If you’ve seen it already, I’d love to hear your reviews.

I bring up Hancock because of an interesting—and somewhat cynical—review I found at the progressive site AlterNet.org. In the review, critic Eileen Jones mines the film and Will Smith’s superstardom for all their racial subtext. But at the core of the piece are parallels she surmises between the careers of Smith and presidential candidate Barack Obama, both of whom have been described as “transcending race.”

I’m sure some of you are thinking, Here we go again, imposing race on everything, and perhaps Jones is reading too much into things here. After all, it’s just another Will Smith summer action flick. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by Jones’ exploration of the “transcending race” theme, which has been such a two-edged sword for Obama. Describing the ways both Smith and Obama are perceived by some from within the African American community, Jones writes:

In succeeding so spectacularly so far, both men risk accusations of “transcending race” by selling out, flashing megawatt smiles while skating over the bitterness of the African American experience, refusing to display anger, appealing to white audiences with endless reassurance: See how smoothly we’ve succeeded, how apparently unscarred we are by experience, what solid citizens we are with our nicely tailored suits, our picture-perfect families, our upbeat attitudes. Madison Avenue couldn’t have come up with better advertisements for racial progress in America than Obama and Smith.

She goes on to invoke images of Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier, and other historical markers of race relations in America as she tears the film apart. It’s not a positive review, but is it helpful as social commentary? One of the most fascinating things for me about Obama’s candidacy has been this delicate dance he’s been forced to perform for the sake of getting elected. I’ve blogged about it again and again and again. It’s a dance that all politicians must do, but Obama’s race and cultural heritage have required him to bring a more complex choreography to the floor. Jones suggests that any black man seeking public acceptance by the majority culture must engage in this dance, and she zeroes in on Smith and his superhero character as further examples of this phenomenon.

My desire was to see Hancock purely for its entertainment value; I certainly wasn’t planning on wearing my racial antennae to the theater. What do you think? If you’ve seen the film, did you pick up any of these racial overtones? Or do you think this is just one more example of the media imposing race where it doesn’t belong?

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National Anthem-gate is causing quite a stir in Denver. Has anyone caught drift of this controversy yet? It seems jazz singer Rene Marie really pushed the limits during a civic event in the Mile High City.  My old friend Steve Chavis offers some great thoughts about it over at his excellent blog, The Old School (and I’m not just saying that because of his kind words about my blog—well, maybe I am a little). Anyway, I already chimed in over there about the issue. I’d encourage you to log in and let Steve hear your thoughts.

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