If I Can Pick Apart This Brain I Might Be Able to Give You a Piece

In spite of the news I awoke to this morning, which we are all aware of by now I’m sure, I decided to start the week off on a good note; so on the way back from the market, after buying some coffee, I stopped and plucked a bunch of wildflowers from the curb and stuck them in an old Mexican Coke bottle when I got home.

It’s amazing what a simple display of color and texture can do to brighten a room, change a mood.

33 dead, huh?

I’m going to have to pick a lot of damn flowers.

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If I can pick apart this brain I might be able to give you a piece. If you let me love you might just see what I am thinking.

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In more Imus fallout, Obama widened his platform to include a serious discussion about…. rap.

“We’ve got to admit to ourselves, that it was not the first time that we heard the word ‘ho,’ Obama told a crowd of about 1,200 at a fundraising dinner for the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus in Columbia. “Turn on the radio station. There are a whole lot of songs that use the same language … we’ve been permitting it in our homes, and in our schools and on iPods.”

Now, I’m not going to rush to defend rap as an altruistic artform, nor can I stomach most of the crap I hear on the radio, but I can’t stand it when a politician takes the safe road by railing against the cultural boogeyman of the moment.

Our society always feels compelled to blame our ills on a particular group, a certain subculture, most often minority-based. From Reefer Madness and Zoot Suit Riots to modern-day immigrants and rappers. Like we’d be a peace-loving, respect-for-all society if it weren’t for those darn rappers teaching a crotchety old white dude like Imus such a word as ‘ho’.

When I was younger I listened to a lot of hip-hop, scared the shit out of my parents, and generally used language I’m embarrassed of today. We tossed the ‘ho’ word around freely. It was a synonym for women, plain and simple.

“Let’s go get some hoes tonight.”
“What hoes are going to be there?”
“Dude, you get no hoes!”
It’s ugly but true.

I’d like to say we didn’t know any better, but we did, we were just young and insecure and using words and language like that was really the last resort of rebellion in America. In 1994 the president smoked pot and had sex just like us and the advertisers had won and we were willing consumerists dying to buy into the game.

From the 1960’s America had swung around 180 degrees. Peace and love was out. ‘Bitch better have my money’ was in. The new counter-culture wasn’t as much opposed to the mainstream culture as much as an extreme version of its ugliness. The materialism. The misogyny. Celebritihood.

Why that all happened is one of the tragedies of our time.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not P Diddy’s fault, although he’s not blameless in its perpetuation. It’s Reagan’s.

In the early 80’s Reagan’s shredding of publicly-funded arts forced high schools in New York to cut their music programs. This left urban youth with a hole that they filled by discovering scratching, rapping, and sampling.

You can take away their instruments and people will bang on the walls to make a beat and blow into a bottle to make sound. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been at a party where an impromptu jam session broke out in the kitchen, we grabbed pots and pans to slam together and freestyled for over an hour; everyone joining in, singing or rapping or merely tapping on the dishwasher.

Meanwhile, back in the 80’s; urban cities were abandoned by the federal government as drugs and gangs destroyed entire communities. Crack flooded the streets and dealers became ghetto superstars, while white yuppies were consuming the fine stuff up in the hills, while Nancy preached just say no.

And we expect the youth to hold their tongues?

The Me decade did not lack for a leader. Good-old jelly bean-slurping Ronnie, with his died hair and Hollywood good looks, represented an America that functioned under one guiding principle: greed is good.

Rap is not some foreign, alien disease infecting our culture, it is a product of our culture, our politics, our mindstate.

Around 18 or so, the word ‘ho’ started to bristle my ears when I would hear a friend speak it. I started to drop it from my lexicon. It dawned on me that the reason none of us were getting any women might have a little something to do with us calling them hoes all the time. (let me clarify: I was always a gentleman, even if I called them a derogatory term, believe me – I wrote poems, opened doors, brought flowers, I was chivalrous to a fault – it was just what we used in place of the word ‘girl’. Strange, I admit.) Some of my friends from back then still haven’t learned that lesson, and they still wonder why they can’t find a girlfriend.

Like I said, I’m not defending rappers for using those terms and for taking advantage of our materialistic, misogynist culture, I think they’ll have some dark karma from it, but it’s their preogative and they will have to deal with their own conscious. It’s just that I look around at the media landscape and I could name countless examples of cheap, crass, demeaning programing that could be condemned, picking on rap seems to be nothing more than a choosing a scapegoat to score points with supposed “moderates”, one that won’t really fight back.

The point is to grow as a person, mature, and evolve so you reject this form of entertainment. That involves better public education, more funding of the arts, and a shift in the cultural zeitgeist. It involves choices a parent makes with their child, conversations.

Obama’s platitudes about rap won’t help, it’ll just make it cooler with the kids and give rappers one more thing to rhyme with drama.

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It is times like these that the world really misses the Mojave Phone Booth.

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Some people turn to prayer in time of need
I turn to ARTOFSTARVING

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