Category Archives: American Culture

My Life in a Peanut Shell

I just realized (in the spirit of life imitating art) that recent events in my life were merely a series of promos for the upcoming Peanuts movie.

Everything that I needed to know I learned in kindergarten(?) or maybe in some of the cartoons that my mom relied on to babysit me.  We already know that some of the greatest childhood entertainment came from Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, and Peanuts.  Charles Shultz would be turning in his grave if he witnessed the evolution of children’s entertainment.

“But NO!  I had to listen to YOU…”

The above clip has had significant meaning to me in the past few years.  Take a look at the script:

“I’m glad you came back…”

“You’ll see the Great Pumpkin with your own eyes…”

“If you try to hold my hand,  I’ll slug you!”

“You look all around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy…”

“I was robbed!  I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin!”

“Halloween is over, and I MISSED IT!”

“And it was all your fault!  And I’ll sue!”

“What a fool I was…”

“You owe me restitution!”

pumpkin carving

“You’ve heard about furry and a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

“Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a [woman] who’s been cheated out of trick or treats.”

Each line above has meaning to me.  We could explore the nuance of each one, but it is a personal journey, no? Remember, these cartoons were created nearly 50 years ago!  Although they were not likely to be a prediction of things to come, they were certainly a reflection of the way things were at that time.  A happier time, maybe.  My naivety and genuine innocence prevented me from perceiving the full weight of what was happening in those cartoons.  But now, it’s far more than an opportunity to reminisce.  There was something there for me to see THEN.  There is something so familiar that it has awakened something in me NOW.  I’m not embarrassed that I could draw something so prolific from a childhood memory.  In fact, it lends itself to the notion that a seed was planted then that will blossom now.

Do you suppose that the most overlooked part of Trick Or Treating is the trick?  We are so focused on the treat, that we forget that there is an alternative…the silver lining, if you will. That trick is a surprise.  It jolts the system causing either alarm or uneasiness.  It’s a learning experience, and its an opportunity to avoid being tricked again.  That knowledge is far more valuable than any classroom lesson or parental warning. Ah, the silver lining…the reward on the other side of disappointment.

I come from an era when my mother was reluctant to let me engage in tradition Halloween shenanigans like “mischief night,” “beggars’night,”or the actually dressing up to go door-to-door asking for treats.  She blamed her mistrust on the Atlanta Child Murders, the Tylenol Scare, and a general mistrust of strangers.  It was never due to the evil that the holiday represented.  And for me, whatever mom decided was law!

In college I read James Baldwin’s “Evidence of Things Not Seen”baldwin This gave me healthy a perspective of the racial relations that led up to a mis-adjudication of a black man for crimes committed against young children by an “uncatchable” serial killer.  “The Tylenol Scare” referred to an urban legend about children receiving tampered candy and medicinal treats instead of the traditional Halloween spoils. The general mistrust of strangers is certainly a trait that I’ve carried into adulthood however.

My childhood was probably no different from any other child born in the early 70’s who endured the disco era, Reaganomics, or 80’s fashion.  But it was the cartoon entertainment that had the most profound impact on me.  From Peanuts, I grew excited about the holidays.  I learned mistrust from my “friends” each time I witnessed Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown (every time he began to believe in the genuine goodness of people).  I developed an enjoyment of neo-jazz from the score in each Peanut’s Holiday Special.  I witnessed gender identity develop each time “Chuck” had an encounter with Peppermint Patty.  The lone black kid, the musician Schroeder, and Pig-Pen were all characters that I could relate to because I either knew someone like that kid or I WAS that kid!  Not to mention the very first time I heard what Christmas was all about [Charlie Brown]. It was my first exposure to the biblical story according to Luke.

But the Halloween Special…  that one’s most meaningful to me now.  Have you ever considered the undertones about faith in that one?  The waiting for evidence of things unseen?  That’s Hebrew 11:1!  And only as recent as yesterday did I stumble across what some believe to be the true meaning behind the Allhallows Eve. But what I experience now adds meaning to what I already held to be true.  The caution, the waiting, the patience, the disbelief, and now the 12 steps to recovery.  Laughingly, I recognize that not everything in life requires therapy to recover.  Sometimes a few moments of silence is all that is necessary.  I wonder what the the Peanut’s Valentine’s Day Special has in store for me.

Truth In Our History Books

While sitting on a “race matters” panel at a local town meeting, the panelist were asked by a member of the community: what can WE do to change the curriculum? As a parent (and a non-educator) her voice resounded the frustration of so many of us. There is a resistance to “rewrite” our American history. But the TRUTH has not be told in its entirety.     
Aside from the racist tendencies to omit the truth from our most recently published textbooks, we urge our school board members across the nation to mandate a change in the way we teach social studies. During this election season, we encourage voters to demand that board candidates take this matter seriously! And we pray that the district curriculum writers be mindful of our united responsibility to our children.
  

Changing the way we perceive social studies instruction: https://medium.com/@Ocelot74/truth-in-our-history-books-264ab90d1eb6 

UnCommon Core

What if… 
The deliberate degradation of the education system was a ploy to tear away the American fabric, to diminish democracy, and to establish a hierarchy of political control.
What if… 
Those who are implementing this strategy already recognize that to withhold education is equivalent to destroying opportunities. 
Without opportunities, our nation will be further impoverished! Without opportunities our children will seek alternative means to establish themselves and grow. Without opportunities, we will resort to violence!
This type of manipulation is incongruous to the constitution under which our current form of government is established. In itself it is tyrannous and will inevitably spawn a revolution of epic proportions.   

-m. Morton

Be The Change!

  
The onset of October 2015 has brought with it its challenges, but like the months prior we’ve seen the way we interact with one another evolve.  We’ve witnessed groups of people come together to mourn the passing of life.  We’ve celebrated the new lives created from the passion.  Embracing movements that demonstrate our love for mankind can blossom from our compassion.  

However, recent events have us reacting instead of planning. 

There’s so much going on that we can barely summerize an event with a sound bite before there’s another surge of violence or civil unrest.  The two are not mutual exclusive!  

Think globally, act locally.  The way we react to the world around us shouldn’t be so cynical.  Nor should it be cryptic!  

I feel!  I need…  I want a better world!  Not just for our children, but for me.  And it’s not just me who feels this way.  I bet you can relate.  

Aren’t we tired of individuals speaking for us?  Why are we not speaking for ourselves???  Aren’t we weary of leaders speaking at us instead of to us?!?

We ARE the change that we want to see. Even when we take a momentary break from the chaos, we do get involved when the circumstances become personal.  It’s not a question of “what are we waiting for?”   It’s a matter of how intense our response will be.  Whether we realize it or not, we ARE the call to action (CTA) of the “now generation”.  

And our response is assertive!   Whether it’s #livesMatter or #handsUp or #spreadknowledge, we move when we need to. Again, we are a unified CTA!  And when unified, we are an unstoppable force. We!  You & me.  

Thinking globally, we watch how the world is evolving.  Global economies, famine, and war…just to name a few of the evening news headlines…are events impacting us daily.  We have a role too.  How likely are citizens across the world witnessing our evolution?  

Integrity is defined by doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  

So let’s imagine that no one is watching, just for a moment.  Below is a photo of a tag a local vandal left for us.  No dignity in it, but deep within there is promise.  We are watchful, yet hopeful. We want to catch the vandal.  But not to punish him! We want give him an opportunity.  We are building, decorating, and re-creating.  

 
You see, this is the wall of our new home, the new Boys & Girls Club of Vineland.  It was donated to us, and we love it!  We love it’s hope. We love what it represents: a promise that we are making to the community and to ourselves.  We want every child, every teen, and every adult who wants to improve our community to join us.  We want you.  
  
Thinking locally, I recall an opportunity to join something bigger than me–somewhere better than where I’ve been. With an invitation to a celebration for our children and our community, I attended the Boys & Girls Club’s banquet. I witnessed young people dressed in formal ware not only enjoying the accolades but facilitating the event! A year later I’m a proud board member. I ask you to join us this year to witness for yourself the sheer awesomeness. 

  
We ARE the change!  We!  You and Me!  Let’s demonstrate that our love for mankind can blossom from our compassion for others. Let’s plan something great!  Let’s do something bigger than Us!

Purged

Did We Just Experience a 30 day Purge?

Several years ago Hollywood created, released, and marketed a film that suggested that a law abiding community could be obtained.  A utopia, if you will, could be created if the government would simply shut down for one day.  There was a catch, however.  In the time that there was no law enforcement, no rescue services, and no safe haven the community will be able to purge itself of all it’s anti-social desires and misdeeds.  This was a fictional account of what could happen.

With marginal results, the film warranted a sequel.  Last summer The Purge II opened in theaters nationwide.  Uncertain whether it was a marketing attempt or a hacker’s wet dream, the entire nation was put on alert that real-life “purges” were going to take place in urban cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City.  Heads of state scrambled to prevent panic as the danger might be perceived as eminent and debilitating.

As time would tell, there was no mass shut-down of social or emergency services.  There was no “24 hours of lawlessness,” but the months that followed unveiled a paradox of proportional injustice.  Instead of law abiding citizens turning on their government, government officials have idly watched as law enforcement officers have turned on the citizens they swore to protect.  There has been more media-amplified killings by members of the law enforcement community in the last 12 months than ever recorded.  Consequently, an uprising of citizens has provoked more fear and reaction from the cops.

The citizens who have not engaged in a righteous civil rights struggle since the assinations of JFK, MLK, and Malcolm X are learning how to successfully develop a meaningful call to action.  Contemporary leaders have exercised the gamut of rallies, riots, sit-ins, die-ins, boycotts, and social media civil rights campaigns.  To no avail, the problems have been exacerbated right up to and including the mass murders that kicked off the summer of 2015.  What started as call to remember their names has morphed into a hashtagging frenzy that brought about awareness but has done nothing to slow the threat of injustice.  Good cops have been put on the defense, mayors and governors have braced themselves for public backlash, and county prosecutors have changed their tone to condemn the over-zealous murders that take place at routine traffic stops.  Even the president (from the safety of Kenya) has recently condemned the injustices that women, minorities, and the disenfranchised have endured for too long!

police-brutality-620x350

The Constitution that all officials have sworn to uphold has been revisited and challenged since it was penned.  But the Supreme Court has made some rulings in the past year that have inspired ambitious politicians to base their campaigns on soundbites that either support the status quo or promise change through a new world order.  The ignorant, the wealthy, and the oppressors now have a common bond as their presidential candidates spout catch-phrases like: “Let’s return to the good-ol’ days’ or Let’s take America back!”

The citizens who were once considered the minority have become the majority, and the over-privileged panic to maintain their wealth.  Meanwhile an overlooked demographic has been embraced by the top presidential candidates…the ignorant and uneducated.  There aren’t enough wealthy voters to elect a president!  They are relying on the poor and hungry. As an aside, what better way to cultivate a nation of uninformed voters than to condemn the public schools?  A political strategist can see it’s the quickest way to prevent a large number of people from acquiring the skills needed to question authority.  The powerful are plowing seeds of ignorance, sprinkled with precipitation from countless thunderstorms, and reaped for November 2016 consumption.

The poor and hungry…

There are various ways to explain the condition of poverty:  poor in wealth, poor in spirit, and (and this case) poor in authority.  Hunger can be defined as hungry for nourishment, hungry for wealth, hungry for knowledge, hungry for religion, or (for purposes of this analysis) hungry for human rights.  The New Civil Rights movement will embody the poor and the the hungry.  Those who are neither poor nor hungry will resist.

Since the confederate flag came down, the nation’s eyes have been primed for a revolution.  The rationale for keeping a historic symbol of hate up so long was already understood and accepted for 150 years, but the articulation of these sentiments was just too much for our nation to bare.

Starbucks made a preemptive attempt months ago when it suggested we talk about race, but the market could not tolerate such a “controversial” topic.  The masses said, “No, it’s not the time…” as entire movements of “Black Lives Matter” and #ICantBreathe filled the airwaves, web paths, and store fronts.  August will mark the movie release of “Straight Outta Compton” which will certainly shine a spotlight on what becomes of young black youth who embrace their art to change the world.

The past 30 days have been a warning to the world.  We are a nation that was heralded for it’s democracy and liberties. Those who’ve sworn to uphold the Constitution are also the same individuals who apply THEIR discretion of its interpretation.  The Supreme Court is the third branch of our government, but another kind of supreme court exists at every traffic stop.  When our lawmakers do not create “just” laws and our law enforcers prioritize the laws based on their whims, the Supreme Court only gets the cases after it’s too late.  We the people..?

police

Vigilante “hacktivists” are now taking center stage.  The same technology that was designed to make our lives easier has allowed us all to fall victim to cyber-attacks, terrorist threats, and out-and-out fear for our well-being.  We are now witnessing authorities surrendering to the demands of terrorists, hackers, and the media.  The NAACP and the ACLU have revved up their efforts to put anti-police social media and iphone apps into the hands of potential victims everywhere.  Our liberties are being attacked and we are at a loss to defend them.  Question:  Who is the enemy?

Childish Conspiracy?

Once we put all the division aside, we are left with the daunting task of finding the truth.  Sadly the division between us is so great that we may never have a believable or reliable investigation. #SandraBland

For me, there is a valid reason that I don’t travel abroad more often.  I have a deep concern whenever someone asks me about where I am from.  The relevance of asking such a question may be as simple as making conversation, but the farther we are from home the more interesting we appear to others.  So it only makes sense that when we leave our nation’s borders, with being American comes questions about our lifestyles and the way we manage ourselves. There is a growing shame.

I spend more time focusing on domestic issues.  What happens close to home is more tangible than the seemingly unreliable tales of terror abroad.  When I refer to our foreign affairs as propaganda, I am met with rage from believers that the war on world terror organizations is more important.  My response is simple:  “How can we fight abroad when there is so much injustice occurring in our own nation?”

Questions like this recreate the division that (if just for a moment) seemed to disappear.  America culture is what unites us, but our diversity has leveraged more and more distance between us.  The fight against foreign terror tends to trump the concerns for domestic terror.  We have a narrow view of what is considered “domestic terror.”

The last 30 days of horrific events in both the Southern and Northern regions of our nation have been atrocious.  What we once considered homeland security risks (Jihads, ISIS, al-Queda) are now competing for national security resources. How effective is our local law enforcement?  When the military must be used to control angry mobs and martial law is enacted to maintain law and order in both urban and suburban landscapes, the shift in priorities is evident.

The identity of our terrorist has changed significantly as well. Defenders of freedom are frustrated.  We can’t identify a terrorist before “imminent danger” occurs.  Movies about spies and central intelligence had the American public fooled into thinking that we could thwart off an attack by deciphering encrypted messages.  But 9/11 confirmed that we can’t even identify a cipher!  How could we have so much intelligence and still have our freedoms threatened?  Before we had an idea of what terrorists looked like…and how they behaved…and how they organized…and how they recruited. Continued attacks have proved that we can not predict accurately. Instead we have heightened risks of attack each holiday season. First we panicked when terrorist began to look like “average Americans” but we then realized that there is no typical American look. Now we panic as Americans have been recruited to carry out these acts of terror on behalf of terrorist organizations.  This is a distraction.  America’s homegrown terrorist organizations have existed for hundreds of years.  We are witnessing a re ignition of hatred for freedom and democracy that is blossoming at an exponential rate. The Trench Coat Mafia and the Timothy McVeigh’s of the world are not the only domestic terrorists that we fear.  Those guys hated the American way and took notes from the Unabomber manifesto.  Shooters like James Holmes who opened fire in an Aurora movie theater (or the newest copy cat John Houser who recently “shot up” a Louisiana theater before taking his own life) are not considered terrorist although their flavor of terror rivals the Marine shootings in Chattanooga last week. “It was all over within 30 minutes.”  In times of true peril, a minute can seem like a day. As our nation bleeds, how does 30 minutes compare to the last 30 days?


The look of terror never changed.  We just didn’t know what we were looking at!  But these incidents bring about a fear and worry that is far different than the type of domestic terror that is sparking controversy week after week.  The last shovel of dirt was not cast on the graves of the “Emmanuel Nine” before the nation focussed on a flag that hung too high.  What a distraction?!?  But it was a fight that needed to be fought nonetheless.  Little did we know that it was a catalyst for a wave of hate crimes across that nation.  Churches burning, presidential candidates harnessing popularity by spreading hate for immigrants and war heroes alike, and now the newest trend…but new only in that we are hearing about it more frequently.

It appears that the law enforcement community has a BLACK eye that it can’t heal.  The community can find no respite despite the use of dash cams and body cams which only perpetuate the truths that there is little justice for any one at the hands of local police officers.  In the past month the Supreme Court has made rulings on the the 1st Amendment (freedom of expression), and the 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms);  can we get a ruling on our 4th Amendment (right to due process) or the abuse of our 5th Amendment (right to remain silent)?

It would appear that the black community is under attack by domestic terrorists in blue uniforms who brandish guns, handcuffs, and batons.  No matter how compliant (or combative), the end result is death at the hand of the wrong officer.  Not just the black community falls victim to these injustices, but all who witness the system that is not swift enough to prevent another senseless death.


We have created a new division in our nation.  There are those who see the problem and react.  Then there are those who see the problem and justify its existence.  Those of us who are reacting need the world to RECOGNIZE the problems and unite in another call to action.  But those who are either ignoring the problem or who are defending the injustice will too soon become victims of their own failure to create positive change.

Political Clowns

  
The Donald is clearing the way as the head clown. All other republicans are stepping back and watching this man, who is fueling his own campaign and PAC, say all kinds of things that will ultimately unite conservatives and liberals in a unified mistrust of power and money.  

GOP polls

Meanwhile, squandering his wealth seeking political fame, his bankrupted fortune has become a smokescreen for his genuine bigotry and hate–the kind of ignorance that fits the formula for getting the poor and disenfranchised to join a Conservative party that neither recognizes nor supports them.  

Vote for None of the Above

What better way to clear your debt than by giving all of your money away to the vultures that feed on propaganda, media attention, and conspiracy. As if to suggest that if you feed the lions, they will prey no more…

Let’s take this opportunity to collaborate.  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below.