The Real 300

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


I feel like I usually write about something negative here. It’s usually a post about something I have a gripe with, a witty social commentary, or displaying a controversial opinion. Today though is a change. I write in celebration and optimism, and it’s all due to the 300. No not the Spartans. But the 300 men in Baltimore who are trying to change their city. 

I called Baltimore home for 5 years. It’s a city that I love. It has a distinct personality and feeling. We love our Raven’s and O’s and there is a distinct dialect… But it also has a huge downside. Crime and violence. Certain streets (the blue light district) are even lined with cameras because crime is so rampant in those areas. But… there is a glimmer of change.

What started as a single act of frustration has now been built into an entire movement of hope. 300 men who went out in a way to change the way their neighborhood was operating. Disagreements in their neighborhood prevented a sense of community, absent fathers led to cycles of broken families, and recently a string of random acts of violence especially against children (including a 1 year old that was gunned down) was the last straw.

An event known as “The 300 men march” (though there were many more people and women that participated) was launched and a movement was started. This wasn’t a memorial march for the kids it was to enact change. A change from the norm of the streets not being safe, of senseless deaths, of not having a sense of community, and having something to be proud of for future generations of children. It was attempting to get people off their stoops, out of shadows and into the streets with a cry of “no more!”

It was also a movement for women. It was acknowledged in the community that the women had held the majority of the burden for the lives of the citizens. Women were the ones raising children, women were the ones working to provide for their families, women were the ones who kept the community going. The men decided it was time for them to step up as a whole. A community with only one gender doing the majority of the work will not succeed. 

I’ve talked about “ghetto nihilism,” men needing to step up, a the purpose for strong communities in my previous posts and this movement addresses all of those issues. A memorial for a 15 year old who was shot down was gone after one week. Taken down by people who don’t care. A child lives, then dies, is memorialized for a week and then forgotten about. This cycle needs to be broken. This movement is making partners with the police, with politicians and has their support. Public and private entities working together to cleanse a city. Neither side can do it alone. 

This is an awakening. This is universally good. It helps men, women, the young, the old, the white, the black, everyone. This is how value is added to life. This is what community means. This is what governance means. This is what life is about, and I wish it all the best of luck. 

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Trapped by Poverty and Ghetto Nihilism

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

Homeless man begs for money in the Financial District in San Francisco

Recently I’ve been researching poverty. Attitudes about it, causes of it, and most importantly how to alleviate it. I would hear many different stories about those suffering in poverty, and after going over those stories, a term came out of which seemed to be a similarity in all the stories: “Ghetto Nihilism.”

“Ghetto” is being used as a place where poor people live and

“Nihilism” being used in the philosophical definition of the belief that nothing is worthwhile or a belief that life is pointless and human values are worthless.

This is the feeling that many people living in poverty have and grow up in. For example, on the South Side of Chicago a 10 year old and an 11 year old boy dropped a 5 year old boy out of a 14 story project to his death. The reason? He refused to steal candy for them. They killed a kid for candy.

When children in the neighborhood were asked “why,” their answers we’re sad but enlightening. They noted about how their life doesn’t seem to have much value. There is little work for their parents, deaths are common, the education is awful, and overall quality of life is low. And when your environment tells you that your life has little value, you treat your life and others’ lives like they’re worthless… Or at least worth as much as candy.

Classic ghetto nihilism.

It’s more than just a mindset though. Nihilism is a point of view, or a way of looking at things. The type of stress that comes with literally living like every day could be your last, and not in a “Carpe Diem” or “YOLO” way. But a lazy Sunday turning into a triple homicide across the street type of living. That sort of environment makes a community live in fear. While fear is a necessary emotion when people are put in danger. But danger isn’t meant to be a possibility 24/7 and fear isn’t meant to be endless. Chronic fear can rot the mind. It’s why so many soldiers have PTSD. They live in fear since they live in a battlefield. Death is common and can happen at any instant.

Living in the South side of Chicago has only a few differences. Instead of one country fighting another it’s gangs fighting other gangs. And instead of trained soldiers fighting and dying. It’s citizens. One of the reason the death toll in these neighborhoods isn’t higher is because of gang members lacking accuracy when shooting.

The football team at Harper High school (in Chicago) was asked if they were every shot at. Over 90% of the team raised their hand. Some even shared their stories about rival gangs trying to run them down, missing them but hitting their friends. 100% raised hands when asked if they knew someone who was shot.

Alicia Jones is another product of this system. Impregnated at 16, she dropped out of high school and then found herself at 23, a mother of 4 more children, with 3 different fathers. None helped in the raising of any of the children. She’s on government assistance because it’s hard to find a job in an area where jobs are scarce. Who wants to set up a business in an area of high violence and crime? Even when there are jobs…a female without even a high school diploma isn’t an attractive employee. She describes her life as “trapped.” And where is she going to find child care and pay for that while she’s out working? She described her life as trapped. Trapped by poverty, trapped by poor choices made as a youth, trapped by an environment that preys on each other instead of helping each other.

These are stories of poverty. As a person who came from a place far from poverty it would be easy to make assumptions. That people enjoy being on welfare because they don’t have work, that poverty is a choice, that “mooching” off the government is norm. When in reality none of those could be further from the truth. Most people don’t live in the “bad areas” of major cities. It’s also easy to write off as an issue or not care about. Easy to demonize the poor instead of trying to help them.

And by help them I don’t mean write a check or give to the panhandler on the side of the intersection. I mean REAL help. What do we do as society to help those living in poverty? How do we take someone who has little money and education, with a lot of responsibilities (or even little ones) and make them a mainstream member of society?

There is no silver bullet for this disease. But there is one that is close, and it’s education. But education in a variety of forms.

Education in jail for young inmates who still have a life ahead of them.
Education for those who drop out of high school.
Education about employment for those on welfare.
BETTER education for teenagers in school.

And busting poverty myths through education about the impoverished.


Kill the Diets

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
What is the point of technology? I think it’s to make life easier. As humans we don’t like to do more work than we need to. Take transportation for example. Horse and carriages made it so we don’t have to walk, cars made it so we don’t have to ride horses, and planes made it so we don’t have to use cars. There are dozens of advantages of getting to places faster such as seeing loved ones who live further away, to expanding potential areas of work, and it all boils down to not having to work as much.
Every advance makes life easier for us in some respect, but I ask: Have we forgotten what hard work is? There are some things that can’t be fixed with the push of a button, unlike turning on the AC to make my room cooler, that I just did.
I’m talking about diets and weight loss pills. We have become so lazy as a society that we have become accustom to thinking that there are quick fixes to everything, including our weight and looks, like they were a car that needs an oil change. And sometimes there are. “Tummy tucks,” and “stomach stapling” as well as liposuction, and “face lifts” can be fixed easily. However, these don’t stop the heart of the problem, which is over-eating, inactivity, or most likely both.
So people decide to “diet” (whatever that means). A diet is essentially what you eat.  One could have a diet of whiskey and crackers if they’d like to. It would be an unhealthy diet but it’s possible. “Diet” sodas seem to be a quick fix, since you still get a sugary taste but with zero of the calories. Of course “diet” drinks have also been thought to lead to certain types of cancer in heavy consumption. So they aren’t a quick fix.
“Diet” (in the fad context) means to only eat a certain type of foods. Or even getting your meals sent to you since apparently we don’t know how to shop for ourselves. I remember the disgusting chocolate milk shakes my mom used to get on some fad craze that don’t work. You know why? BECAUSE CHOCOLATE SHAKES ARE NOT WHAT YOU EAT WHEN YOU TRY TO LOSE WEIGHT!  It’s not counting calories. It’s not Adkins, it’s not Jenny Craig, it’s not South Beach either. It’s not a quick fix, despite what the celebrity personalities will tell you on weight loss commercials.
Quick fixes are heroic though in some way. Quick fixes are thought to be made by the most genius entrepreneurs. Quick fixes are even seen as American! Who doesn’t want to hear the unbelievable story from a beauty queen who used to be 300 lbs?! And how did they do it? It’s all thanks to (enter product name here) of course in the fine print it always says that the product works with a good diet and frequent exercise.
Now there is an idea! Exercise…and a good diet. It’s not sexy. It’s not quick. But it’s the only sure fix. I had a piano teacher when I was young who told my family about the 140 lbs that he lost after getting stuck in a log at a summer camp that was part of an obstacle course. He went on to talk about the diet he was put on and the exercise regiment he underwent. My mom was surprised because of the shape he was in when he was telling the story. She thought that he should tell his story to lots of people. He laughed and said people don’t want to hear the story of hard work. It takes months, if not years to get in shape. It’s a journey.
And it’s not like I’m revealing some secret and sacred knowledge. The key to being healthy is 1st rejecting all those quick fixes and fad diets. Next is:
It’s a good diet. Which are: Fruit, vegetables, lean meats. Mix in some low fat dairy and whole grains.
Which is not: Sugar/high fructose corn syrup, fat, anything enriched, anything labeled “diet” high salt/sodium contents, processed foods.
It’s exercise: A good anaerobic routine that works arms, your core, and your legs. And a good aerobic routine to burn fat (like running)
It’s not: a lap ban routine while watching Dr. Phil.
If you can do these things then congratulations. Health is hard to achieve. With so many distractions and charlatan products out there it’s easy to be led astray. It’s hard work, it’s dedication, and it’s pain. to As a high school coach I was told I didn’t do my job of working out my student athletes if they were not sore the morning after their first practice. Because it’s as they say… No pain no gain

Unwanted diversity

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

I don’t get the chance to go out and see movies in the theaters very often. Purchasing a pair of tickets, and some snacks will ring you up to 25 dollars easily. However, a few days ago I went out to see Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent,” with my girlfriend. It was a great movie but what really intrigued me was one of the previews that we watched. A preview played for a new remake of the classic movie “Annie,” but will be a little different this time around.

Annie is still a little girl but instead of being set in the 30’s, it’s modern day. Instead of an antiquated orphanage, Annie is in a group home, with a nicer surrogate mother. And instead of “Daddy Warbucks” it’s a Jamie Foxx character running for mayor. Also, Annie is a black girl.

As soon as the preview ended, my girlfriend told me that we need to see that. And we probably will. It’s a great new take on an old story. As America’s demographics change so are our stories and I think it’s great that there is now a rags to riches stories where black girls can see themselves as the star.

This movie will be a hit for two reasons. It’s a great story, but it’s also because this diversity is promoted in an open minded society. In open minded/western circles almost all kinds of diversity are accepted and promoted. Almost. Racial diversity, gender diversity, acceptance of different sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, and religions are good. So we can all agree right? Diversity is good, and being open minded is good? Great. I’m very happy that there are outlets of acceptance for all types of minorities… Well almost all types.

What is not accepted in these “ultra open minded” ways of thinking is any idea that is socially or politically different. There is no tolerance of anything that is fully tolerant. Which forces us to cater to silliest of ideas, because if we don’t then we risk being called a racist or sexist. Ideas like it is “oppressive” for a teacher to assume that all the boys in their class identify as being male and the girls in their class identify as being female. But instead they should take a poll of the class to see which gender each student prefers… Am I sexist for saying this? Depends on how “open minded” one is.

This is a real idea that has been proposed in some circles, where anything less is oppressive. And sure, there are people who have different identities than male/female and that’s fine. However, in other circles it is considered hostile to ask a young man if he’s sure he wants to identify as male.

What I do want to promote is a diversity of ideas. I’ve talked about this topic in other posts about how ideology is dangerous, how to kill bad movements, and that if your mind is so inflexible that you can’t see other valid points of view, you can stunt your own mental growth.

But what ideas are valid? To find out you must explore them and make that decision for yourself. To me absurdity is not valid. And what is absurd to me is an intolerance of anything that is not fully tolerant. I used to be the person who was intolerant of intolerance. Only to see that I was becoming what I despised. A truly open mind means thinking about ideas that you might not agree with at first. How are we supposed to learn if we are only surrounded by things we agree with?

Some of the most caustic criticism of my writing is by people who claim to be open minded. But my ideas did not fit into their open mind…all types of “ist” words are thrown because if you don’t agree with my views on race I must be a racist or if your views differ than mine on gender I must be a sexist, right? I’ve been called a variety of names not because of people disagreeing with me 100% but only agreeing with me 80% and because we don’t share all the exact same thoughts then I must be something lesser.

I consider myself part of the open minded crowd. But where we differ is “ist” words are thrown around to shout down any dissent, instead of only being used when real racism/sexism is present. I use this blog to try and stop carelessly throwing out those “ist” words. People try and do everything we try to stave them off, and show off to others just how socially aware and open minded we are. But how do we do it? We make up clever twitter hashtags, or where we like it (purses) to promote breast cancer awareness, or post a picture of something awful so they can show their moral superiority by criticizing it.

But it’s all for show. #bringourgirlsback didn’t return the Nigerian girls from terrorists.
Saying where you like it (your purse) or your bra color only promotes questions, not breast cancer awareness
And posting a picture of pollution doesn’t make you an environmentalist.
These things are just “open minded brownie points.” Meant to show off your views instead of act them out. It would be like if you donate 1000 dollars to a charity and then you brag about it. That kind of defeats the whole purpose of doing a good deed. The best people I know are the ones who do good deeds and then go on with their lives.

Saying you have an open mind is okay. Showing you have an open mind by not insulting others who think differently is better. The only way I was able to evolve my views is by interacting with those who disagreed with me on a cordial level. So I challenge you. Welcome diversity in all forms. Not just the easy ones. Immerse yourself with ideas that you don’t agree with, you just may learn something.

Freedom from Religion

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


In a recent decision by the Supreme Court, the craft chain “Hobby Lobby” can now disallow certain contraceptives in its health care plans. It now seems that corporations are not just people, but people with religious values and morals…It’s looks as if the traditional pill is safe, but emergency contraception like the morning after pill and others are off limits to be covered by Hobby Lobby. I could talk about how this is a setback for women, or about how corporations are gaining too much influence in our lives. While both are true the direction I want to take this post is to talk about freedom. And since it’s a day after Independence Day, it seems


We have many freedoms here in America (at least theoretically.) Freedom of speech, arms, to gather, to protest, and the freedom to worship whatever God we want in any way we want (so long as it doesn’t hurt others) But while we have that freedom to worship a chicken or a piece of yarn, we also have the freedom from religion and to not abide by the practices of the yarn worshipers. We have the freedom to look at any or all religions and say “that’s not for me.” We are not forced to join a religious institution if faith is not a “gift we have received.”

But times are a changing aren’t they?! It seems like just yesterday a corporation was just a conglomerate of people working to promote a brand. Then they were born into these young people and were babies. And now they’re growing up in front of our eyes and are establishing their own religious and political agendas. “sigh” They grow up so fast…

While this SC ruling takes away restrictions that made them provide certain services based on their religious beliefs, it could be just the iceberg if we take it to some logical endings.

I’ve studied theology for awhile and there is nothing in the bible that talks about contraception. But so what right? When a corporation can just make up tenants of their faith and then get the government to sign off on them not having to provide certain things, where can this lead?

Can other Christian businesses not have to hire gays?
Can Muslim companies force women employees to wear hijabs?
Can I make up my own “sexy” religion and require that my employees wear nothing but a name tag?

If corporations start having their own religious preferences then why does any of this suddenly not seem so ridiculous? I’m not saying that any of this will happen but people will take advantages of things that are given to them. When applying to a job I shouldn’t have to worry about what religious views I will have to ascribe to in order to work there.

You shouldn’t have to be selective on where you work because of the way you’ll be treated or religious views you have to abide by. We live by the Constitution and people without faith shouldn’t have to live by the bible, Christians shouldn’t have to live by the Koran, Muslims shouldn’t have to live by the Torah…etc

I’m a Christian and would love others to know God’s love and acceptance but understand if others don’t want to hear about it, or are fine with their own faith journey, I’m okay with that. I also love the fact I live in a place where I have the freedom to “live out loud” in my own faith. But if the future is one of corporations shoving their religious views down people’s throat, then I’m glad I have the freedom to be free from them…or at least used to have it.