That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Why Am I Watching These Phony Campaign Debates?


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Some friends have given up watching televised news programs altogether. They’re disgusted by what our election has become: a spectacle. “I’ll check the highlights of this charade tomorrow”; “It insults our democracy”; “It’s all rigged”, they claim. “It’s only about money.”

I confess, I’m still watching. If it’s a choice between the Grammy awards and these debates, both viewed by millions of Americans, I’ll choose the latter. I’m more engaged by the insults, the claims and these personalities on the US political stage than by any other kind of entertainment.

Never before have I followed political campaigning with such keenness. Others say the same. But then, did US networks sponsor so many debates in the past? And have we had such a colorful lineup?

Yes, our media generate this pizzazz for their own profit and to maintain political clout. We recognize how candidates’ statements and banter are thin on substance. But the process offers wonderful opportunities for post-debate reviews and analyses by battalions of wise (sic) consultants, correspondents and news anchors. Yes, we acknowledge that we’re witnessing what may be a performance staged and managed by party bosses-- Democrat and Republican-- to proffer the semblance of a genuine competition for public consumption, while their nominees are already decided.

Soooo: why am I following these debates? Frankly, I don’t know why. Normally I prefer radio and print over television. Until these debates, I was unaware which networks favor which candidates and slant their commentaries and pick their guests to reinforce their editorial position.

There’s the additional dilemma of where to assign my humble vote. I still believe everyone counts-- at our local level if not the national. I’ve argued that state elections—choosing people who represent my state and congressional district in the US Congress, and my county in New York’s legislature-- are more important than the presidential campaign.

Local campaigns will get underway much later. Meanwhile I’m faced with this noisy presidential lineup. I wouldn’t support Clinton (although I’m her generation) because, while she may seem “experienced”, she didn’t achieve anything noteworthy during her political career. I can’t support a woman just to help the US prove it is as enlightened as the rest of the world.

I was ready to back Elizabeth Warren. But after she decided against entering the race, I moved towards Sanders by default. (I’m still waiting for him to explain exactly how he’s going to win US Congress’ support for the commendable socialist platform he promises to unleash on America. If Republicans continue to dominate the US Senate and House, they will surely thwart Sanders as effectively as they have Obama.)

Back to the media circus of our debates: I admit the process unfolding day by day is packed with suspense. I’m as engrossed with the media maneuverings and mutterings as much as with individual candidates. Besides the money flowing into networks’ bank account, journalists’ careers are being made, among them a new crop of capable young women.

Scanning news coverage by 7 channels, I’ve become an admirer of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Maddow uses the campaign to teach us about our American political process; she draws attention to what isn’t discussed; she reviews US election history and explains regional differences.

Then there are the absences: absent from all discussions among candidates are US-Israeli policy, US-Saudi policy, and US-India policy. Not only is Israel a taboo subject for candidates, it’s also absent in discussions of voters’ values. Among all the talk about interest groups, do you hear anything about Jewish voters? Candidates are wooing Asian voters, Latino voters, young voters, elderly voters, the Evangelical vote, the Catholic vote, the Muslim vote, the Mormon vote, the gun owner vote, the farm vote, the urban vote and the unions. They are shamelessly courting the Black vote. But the Jewish vote? Not a whisper.

Our Jewish citizens are unarguably involved. Any serious political candidate must court the Jewish American vote. But it’s not discussed publically along with other ethnic voting patterns. Competing candidates do not mention this constituency, and thus far, media analysts and polls avoid it. Why? I don’t know.

I’m not unhappy with the excessive positions and behavior of Trump, or Cruz, or Carson. We need to witness their frightening opinions and thereby face the reality of American extremism. These men inadvertently expose the ugly but undeniably ugly underbelly of America.

Finally I enjoy watching because, I believe, even if party bosses are manipulating the process, no one-- no senior pundit, no rookie correspondent, no veteran host, no millionaire donor, no political science professor-- knows the final outcome. No one’s sure how this game will end. Which reminds me: I must check when the next debate airs, and which party’s performing.  

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