Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Phil Anselmo

There has been a lot of comment about the actions of this singer in the past few days.  He made a Nazi salute and mouthed the words “white power” while exiting the stage at a recent concert held in memorial for Darrel Abbot.  For those of you who were not aware, Phil Anselmo is the singer of the 90’s metal band Pantera.  He then got addicted to H and pain pills due to a back injury that resulted in Pantera splitting up just before their guitar player, Abbot, was gunned down on stage.  There are many reports that the shooter blamed Abbot for the band’s break up and took Phil’s side, not that any of that matters because he obviously had a lot of problems.  As much as I loved Phil in Pantera, his post addiction self was beyond interesting and inspiring.  He manned up to his mistakes, got sober, and quietly toured college campuses to talk about what he learned about substance abuse and addiction.  Phil had recently been honored by the president for his contribution to the arts.

And this he did what he did.  There have been rumors for years that Phil was a racist.  He has worn shirts that have had symbols that represented white supremacy.  He has tackled race in his music from a very meritocracy point of view which was frequently galvanizing.  He also wrote some of the best lyrics ever talking about racial harmony and brotherhood among races.  It is hard for me to look at the many things that this person has done and think that he is a racist.  There is plenty of evidence out there to support my belief, but there is also plenty of evidence out there to support that he is a racist.  I would go so far as to say that most of the people reading this will never really know.  I say that about almost all celebrity or media coverage of things.  We don’t know nearly as much as we think that we do.  It is not my place to judge someone, though if what he did offends you to the point that never want to look past what he did, then it is your right to feel that way. There are a lot of things we can interpret, but he did what he did.

The first thing I am going to say is that I have been a fan of this man’s art for a long time and because of this, I admit that I have a very biased point of view.  I look at the lyrics to his music and I have a hard time believing that he is hateful of any group of people.  I honestly don’t believe that he intended for the crowd to see him doing what he ultimately got caught doing, as the gesture was recorded as he was walking backstage.  I can believe that he was gesturing towards a friend and not intended to publicly support any hate group or ideology.  I also don’t know if that is good enough.  I won’t pretend to know what a celebrity believes or is thinking from one moment to the next.  I have the same belief when it comes many of the legal allegations that the media makes way too public and often skews public perception, but Phil isn’t being accused of anything here, it is merely a report of a stupid thing that he did and has to be viewed as that.  Maybe part of the reason that people are defending him is because he knows that he is an addict and that he goes to far when on any drug to include alcohol.  I’m not saying that to defend the action, but to say that I know this event was a heavy trigger for him.  I’m sure that it offended plenty of people and helped to reinforce a racist perception surrounding hard rock and metal music that covers the people listening to it.  If you listen to Pantera publicly now, people might assume that you are a racist or that you are trying to convey hate by your musical choice, even if the lyrical content are saying the exact opposite.  That is the kind of burden that has always been a part of the metal community that we have been dealing with for a long time that will be worse now.

Part of me wants to say that this is all being taken out of context.  There are plenty of examples that Phil’s friends, family, and fans have posted online recently in his defense.  How after he got over drug addiction that he quietly toured college campuses and tried to get the word out about drugs and addiction and their glorification in media.  How he would bring disabled people on stage at his shows or the things he would donate to his community that is largely an African American community in New Orleans.  The question that a lot of people are asking now is if it were someone else that had made the gesture, would anyone be defending it.  I think that there is a weird answer to that in that because Anselmo has always asked for a meritocratic approach to race and people and that he was one of the only members of Pantera that was trying to disassociate the band from the rebel flag.  On the other hand, this isn’t the first time that Phil has been accused of being a racist or a white supremacist.  In the past, it was easy for me to dismiss this as him talking openly about race rattled a bunch of feathers and made him a target.

Part of me wants to change this discussion to racism as a general concept and context.  The context here is that you have a 50 something year old man that is at a memorial for a friend of his that he grew up with.  The people that he was with all had known the friend that had died, and I can only imagine that being around these people is similar as when I congregate with some of my old Army buddies.  We all love each other, but whenever we are together, all we can think about are the friends that are no longer with us.  It is like being caked in depression and there is a lot of drinking.  There is a tension there that longs for release.  I know that we tell a lot of “inappropriate” jokes among each other, some racial, but mostly not.  I am a big fan of the taboo and honestly do believe when it comes to jokes that involve race are some of the most healthy because they acknowledge difference in a society that seems to take these things too seriously.  I know that some of those jokes can go very wrong and especially when you have been drinking and are in front of a large group of people, this can make a person appear a certain way.  I also don’t see the joke about Nazi’s or white supremacy, though the one Dave Chapel told about the blind Africa American joining the KKK was hysterical.  The reality might be that Phil really is a racist and how we come to term with our heroes being less than we hoped them to be shouldn’t change their ideals.

Celebrities and artists are almost all hypocrites.  The Cosby Show was still a great show and still great for what it had to say about race relations, even if Bill is a rapist.  The show still holds up the way that it always has.  The lyrics and outward message that Phil wrote about isn’t any less poignant because he failed to live up to them.  In fact, there are a lot of great people that had sides to them that we often overlook because it tarnishes the image that we have of them.  Gandhi was a white supremacist.  I know that might be a little weird to think about considering that he was from India, who are kind of brown, but the term Caucasian comes from the Caucus of Asia which is kind of where India is.  Same is true of Persians.  Martin Luther King had a lot of misogynist beliefs and was a known womanizer.  Jefferson talked about freedom and owned slaves.  I think as people we sometimes have to look at the ideas and thoughts of these men and possibly take their work and their art away from who they were as people, because if we were so cautious to pick through history to only listen to the men that don’t have a few skeletons hiding in the closet, there are a lot of great thoughts and thinkers that would need to be discarded and we would be a lot worse off as a species.

Update: I finally got around to listening to the Rob Flynn recording.  I didn’t want to give it a view at first, because if there is one thing worse than what Phil did, it is bands that are not very good or popular trying to get publicity for these situations.  I tend to think Rob says a lot of things to try to get attention and don’t have much respect for him.  After watching the video, it first came off to me as someone with a personal grudge.  He goes out of his way to point out there was no wine, when Dime’s widow stood up for Phil and said that there was and that she believes, like I had, that Rob posted his video as a response to an unrelated argument they had earlier in the day.  The one thing that stood out to me in the video was that Rob claims that Phil had and has always said “white power” in the line from New Level.  I called his bullshit and googled live recordings of the song.  The ones that are more professional don’t have it, but when you get to the fan recordings that Phil didn’t think he was being recorded on, they are definitely there and so are the Nazi salutes.  It changed the whole way I view that and him.  I still stand by his songs being powerful, meaningful, and even forward thinking on race, but not sure if knowing that in his mind he is singing about Nazis changes those songs for me like knowing that Mathew Broderick killed a guy right about the time that he shot Ferris Bueller’s Day Off changes that film.  You read into them differently.

With all that being said, much like how there were a lot more people that contributed to that movie, there have been a lot of different artists that are part of the songs that he has made, and ultimately they do stand up, I just have to think about what I’m supporting.  I saw Pantera back in 2000 and didn’t catch any of that racial stuff, probably because I was too busy in the pit.  I’ve seen Down and Superjoint several times each and love those bands.  I heard Phil talking about asking those bands to go forward without him and just feel in a weird place about giving this man my money knowing that he not only is part of the band but that he releases those records.  He owns them and gets an owner’s cut.  There is a part of me that is ok if someone has a private opinion or feeling that is racist.  We all are a bit racist whether we think we are or not, but to blatantly try and signal and recruit skinheads during your shows is overt racism and it makes me ashamed to have supported it.  I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite but at the same time, I’m not sure if Phil and Down can ever go back to business as usual and the last thing I want to hear is some lame apology track or to try and speak with any kind of authority on racism like he has in the past.

I’m rather selfish as a fan.  Down used to be a Super group that made an album once in a blue moon and it was amazing.  Then they started being the main band for all those guys and Kirk left because he didn’t have time to do Down and Crowbar.  He has called on for Down to get a new singer and go on without him, but at this point, the only “super” part of the band is Pepper and Bower.  Down should be something that he earns after a lot of time off. In a lot of ways I want to hear more from the Illegals, the small band that almost no one likes that tours the really small clubs, because I actually did the music but it allows Phil to talk about his own struggles.  The first album was mostly about his injury and how that affects him and his motivation from day to day.  As someone that has a debilitating injury and knowing that struggle every day when you get up, I Love that record.  What I really want to hear is some really struggling personal recovery about his feelings on race.  I don’t want to hear about how he isn’t racist, but about why he is now.  After a career of him talking about hypocrisy I really want him to own this.

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Real Marriage Equality

I keep hearing about this preacher out West who is being arrested for refusing to perform a same sex marriage.  This is where I knew that the gay marriage cause was going to go and the biggest reason that marriage should have never become a service of the state.  For better or worse, when this country was founded, it was a bit more of a religious time, and marriage was a huge part of day to day life.  As much as the founding fathers wanted to separate church and state, this became a function for the state to recognize what was or was not a marriage.  They were government functions, and most of the WASPs that were in the country at the time could not foresee where we have taken relationships to in the modern era.  But that is not the point of freedom.  We have to imagine all possibilities and say that even these things that we haven’t even thought of yet, they will be protected and they will remain free.

As I have mentioned in many other places, I am Pagan and proudly so.  I have a faith where being in a relationship, even one defined as a marriage, where monogamy is not a tenant.  Now, no matter what your personal convictions are, I am a firm believer that people will always do as much as they can get away with when it suits them.  In states where “adultery” is legally defined as having sex outside of the person that you are married to, and committing adultery can forfeit your assets to the “injured” party,  people will lie when it suits them.  Relationships end for all kinds of reasons, open and monogamous alike.  It is not up for a court to decide that just because an open marriage doesn’t work, to get to give a moral say just because one party has proof.  We all know that these kinds of morality laws are on the books from state to state.  In Maryland here, it is illegal to have premarital sex in a hotel room.  Now we justify that such things are never enforced, but the point is that they have every bit as much legal merit as not murdering, and if someone ever made a case against you, then there is little to nothing that you can do.

That is why this preacher being arrested scares me.  He was simply practicing his faith.  I am not saying that the government should not allow this gay couple to wed, but how is it not a vendictive action to go after someone that disagrees with you, is practicing their own freedoms, and you choose to infringe on them and then make him have to hire lawyers and go through all this legal mess.  It isn’t as if the preacher was a state employee, but the case here is that he did have a state licence to perform marriages.  State sanctioned religion.  It will never end well, and no matter what the legal decision ends up being, you are going to have a decision in it that will be looked at and used against the American people putting more stupid laws on the books that infringe our rights.

Frontier(s)

This is one of those films that I have a love/hate relationship with.  I absolutely love the new wave of underground French Horror films.  I would argue that the wave actually started with the Spanish film Them (2001), though it really started to take shape with the grossly overrated Inside (2004).  By that time you start to see many of the new tropes start to take shape, with homages to the home invasion films of the 70’s and creating a genre around them with the kind of gristly anticipation of Rami’s original Evil Dead.  One of the kind of weird tropes has been that of a pregnant female protagonist.  This film is not original in any of the devices that it uses, but it is one of the more prominent and popular films to come out of this film movement, probably because it is a hodgepodge of so many other famous and better films, and often tries to say so much that any meaning often gets lost to the audience.  One of the biggest reasons for this has to be the frantic editing pace that seems to be taken from a bad Michael Bay rip off.

One of the first things to note is just how much this film looks up to and tries to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973).  Unlike many other home invasion movies, this film is not about people breaking into the victims home, but more about trespassers in a strange world.  Unlike TCSM, or the much lesser House of Wax remake, these victims have been invited to the property under the guise of it being an inn so that they can be exploited.  To fully understand that this inn acts as a new state, as the victims are literally fleeing the city and the state, which has become a fascist police state that has come down hard on muslims/those of Middle Eastern decent.  While I do kind of shutter at that stereotype, the film is rarely if ever subtle and painting in the widest strokes imaginable.  The allusion here is to refugees that have been invited to a new host country only to be further exploited.  Since they are already refugees in France, the real message is that France, and as the obtuse Nazi references strongly imply, all of Europe has exploited immigrants.

The normal trope of chastity and sinful behavior causing death have a new place here, with the Muslim characters refusing vice at the hands of the Nazi inn keepers, as this now references to cultural assimilation and giving up more traditional values, though it is hardly only the inn keepers that are assimilating them, as the female protagonist is already pregnant.  Also interesting here is that the female is French and it is the traditional male that has succumbed.  I can only speculate that the reason for this has to do with avoiding controversy if the roles were reversed and a traditional Muslim girl were impregnated by a sympathetic French man.  This is an attempt to show that there is some solidarity with citizens against the state that resides with minorities, thought the film’s ending rather roughly contradicts this message.  The woman, after having killed all of the Nazi’s that have conversely killed all of the Arabs that she was running with, she then quite solemnly turns herself back into French authorities, maybe to protect the child that she was contemplating aborting at the beginning of the film.  To me this could only mean that at some level she is both accepting her place in the fascist regime, though I can appreciate the argument that because she is going to be in prison that she is actually sacrificing her own freedom in order to honor her friends that have fallen.

As with many of these types of films, there is a heavy emphasis on what one has to do to survive, and that violence is actually the lowest common denominator of what makes society and civilization tick.  Non violence, while preferable to violence, is always going to not withstand those that choose to enact violence on the nonviolent, and that as much as we may try to remove ourselves from that message, we always have to harden ourselves for the potential of defending ourselves.  She literally escapes death through a puddle of pig shit and blood, arising free yet changed from the experience.  Her turning herself in is in a way admitting to herself that even though she survived, that there are more out there like the Nazi family and that she is incapable of protecting herself and her child indefinitely, and that she does in fact need the state’s violence to protect her, though submitting to those terms is also submitting to their selection of suppressing the immigrants, to which her child has a heritage.

Ultimately the film suffers from being too literal and confused, much like the editing style that does keep the audience from emersion in the film, though with some many contradicting ideas and possible meanings, you can say that you will not have a hard time at least getting in the mindset the film wants you to get in, even if you can’t agree on a concussion.  Then again, that sounds very French to me.

The Anorexic

I really haven’t given much of an update in a while as to what I’m up to.  My most recent project is a documentary that I was hired to do regarding the state of Maryland’s taking the child of a family because the child had anorexia and had complications resulting from the disorder.  The child had already been in treatment, prior to the state’s involvement.  Going into this, I knew that there were a lot of questions that would need to be asked, especially regarding why the state felt like they needed to take the child away, which can become a rather hairy subject when the person paying the bills is the person who is going to be under a great amount of scrutiny, hypothetically paying me thousands of dollars to make a two hour inditement of him being a bad parent, and yet he was steadfast in the truth that the government is overstepping their bounds and that other parents should be aware of what is going on, though his politics are a bit right of my own (proud centrist) I can definitely appreciate a parent that is upset and lashing out.

His reasoning is to give more red tape to the government before they are able to separate children from their parents with his case hopefully being heard by the supreme court in Maryland.  After a few interviews and background discussion with educators and people in the medical field, they have very mixed opinions, as they believe it to be already too difficult with so many children being abused at home or being neglected.  Some of the points I will be exploring is the way in which once the state takes custody of a child, the state then appoints a lawyer to represent the child to the state, when that lawyer does not take into account the wishes of the child.  The state giving out bonuses for children to be taken away from their homes to social workers.  Why the state has their doctor give the prognosis of children in question, even in cases that go beyond that doctor’s scope of practice, and more so that when other medical professionals regard that prognosis, that there are no repercussions?

I have to say that it is still too early to give my opinion.  There are many questions I want answered on both sides and totally understand why many people are so suspicious of his claims, and see how some could see the parent as bringing this situation on himself, but look forward to talking with the other side’s legal team soon and look forward to sharing my conclusions.

Phil Robertson

I really have had a hard time with this one.  I really can see both sides to this one and I can also see why both of the main view points on this is completely wrong.  I should probably start off by pointing out that I am not Christian, but I am religious.  I am Celtic Pagan, and while I don’t want to go too much into my own personal faith here, because it really doesn’t matter in terms of who I am as a person, it scares me that someone claiming to have a faith is being viewed the way that it is being viewed.  I have absolutely nothing negative to say about gays of any sort, in terms of their lifestyle being a sin or what have you.  I really don’t care what people do in their own homes, and am in no place to judge about sexual propriety.  Pat would probably also tell you that I am going to hell as well.  To him, or at least to many Christians, all people, of all other faiths, that are not Christian are going to go to Hell.   That is what he believes.  I understand this idea that even though those were his beliefs that he should have kept them quiet because he represents this other company and that they have a right to fire one of their employees that does not agree with their company line.  But this isn’t somebody who is truly representing the company.  That is like saying that any of the other reality stars that the A&E network carries represents the network.  Mr. Robertson is not their CEO, and really doesn’t represent the company any more than the crazy cat lady from hoarders.

One of the first things that upsets me about this is just how little of an actual argument or a reflection of religious freedom in this country this ploy for attention is.  Consider just how much support the Duck Dynasty clan have received since the controversy.  The controversy would not have come about if there had not been consequences.  I mean really think about the average viewer response had he said what he said, the LBGT movement reacted like we can expect them to, and A&E simply been like, he is a religious redneck with a shotgun, deal with it.  Did you really expect him to embrace you?  I’m pretty sure that even fans of the show would have thought that was a little harsh, but because he was banned from the show, even if it was just on paper as he was reinstated just before new episodes that were filmed well before all of this so they would include the patriarch, will now be that much more advertised.  Because there was a reaction, that was well calculated to make him look like a martyr, sales of the Duck Dynasty merchandise has skyrocketed, and guess who owns all of that.  It is not the Robertson family.  What would have been an interesting campaign is if fans of the show actually boycotted the show, realizing that even though the t-shirts they were buying had the face of their favorite character, that in fact their hard earned money was going into the very pockets of the villain that fired the man they were trying to defend.

With that being said, once we have established that this is a commercial venture, and is being brought out inorganically to drive a divide amongst people without actually furthering the argument or actual thought, much like how abortion is talked about on campaign trails, not because any political figure actually has a shot in hell to affect the issue one way or the other, unless they are campaigning for a supreme court justice, which of course are appointed.  Why do politicians talk about an issue that they have no affect over (I’ve even seen local sheriffs talk about it)?  It is because they know that both sides are very passionate about the issue and they know that is a way to endear themselves, and keep the conversation away from they own record, or more complicated issues that most of our population doesn’t properly understand.  It is part of division culture, that we have to take sides with very little information, without ever really trying to examine the issues and a way to make them better for all involved.

So what is the religion debate in this country and how do I feel about it?  I agree with the first amendment.  I think that we as a population should be free to worship as we choose.  The problem with that, is that we are a country that is a conglomeration of a lot of different cultures, and there is a huge coloration between the two.  I also believe that there needs to be a separation between church and state.  It is the only way that a bunch of people from many different faiths can all not hate each other.  We have to be reminded of what we have in common, not constantly be forced to deal with why we are different.  I personally don’t care how or what you worship, but don’t want to be personally subjected to it.  There is a very annoying idea that I read about a lot concerning the founding fathers being Christians that would be rolling over in their graves that children are not allowed to pray in schools, and while I agree that many rights groups have taken things to an extreme, there is a reason for that.

Here is the point that we need to realize.  That religion can be offensive.  Religion is not PC.  Religion, if it intends to answer the question of where it is that we came from and connect that to where it is that we are going after we die, needs to be very, very old.  Ideals that might seem antiquated in modern society are the basis for what religion is.  While it might seem offensive, or against convention, but I think to put your faith into a religion, you have to take every aspect of that faith.  I hate the modern practice of picking and choosing what it is that you believe.  So many Christians that I know call themselves Christians, but they don’t believe in the parts that are against modern morals, and for us as a society to expect such convictions is wrong.  Religions are a bit racist, passing down old feuds and old societal rules that we can not properly judge without becoming a little bit bigoted for judging.

I recently read a post about the ACLU complaining about prayer for soldiers and how this evil organization was trying to take God away from men in uniform, who “obviously” need it going to war overseas.  I seriously doubt the ACLU would have become involved if their had not been some complaints from someone involved.  I served in the military and fought overseas.  I again am not Christian.  I was forced to sit through multiple prayers that were not even thinly hidden to be Christian in origin.  The only masking was as to what denomination that was being represented.  I would also like to inform you that as of when i got out in 2011, it was against regulations for the Army to hire Chaplains that were not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, or Hindu.  That means that Pagans, Wiccans, and Buddhists were out of luck if they sought spiritual guidance.  I also want you to guess how many times the Jewish, Mormon, Hindu, or Muslim Chaplains were allowed to lead prayer during ceremonies and other mandatory formations.  While I fully agree with the purpose of having Chaplains in the military, and that there needs to be that sort of counseling,  the existence of systemic bias goes a long way to show the issues with religious rights in this country.  Consider marriage in this country.  There are many definitions of family in the world.  There is the homosexual argument, but think of Polygamists such as in the Mormon and Muslim faiths.  Consider that many Pagan faiths do not believe in monogamy.  Consider how state laws set up marriages, so that if there is any infidelity that can be proven that the other partner gets a huge pay day.  Consider that in terms of immigration, they do not recognize homosexual or poly relationships of any kind.  You have to be in a monogamous Christian outlined household.  Then you think about the Muslims that live in Michigan, who play the call to prayer loudly, early in the morning.  Many non-Muslims have complained.  Think about gay pride parades that are almost pornographic.  I have a lot of kinky sexual practices, yet I can’t imagine an I like to choke people parade for white heterosexuals.  There is something about the majority that scares people.  They should just have to deal with everything, and then, there is the backlash that the majority, Christian, white people have in the form of Duck Dynasty.  They are a majority of this country, and while you might not think that if you live in a big city on the East coast, there is a lot of room between you and California.

The point is that both majority and minority should been mutually respectful of one another.  Both sides need to realize that to be tolerated does not mean that the other side has to like them.  That is ok.  We don’t need to continually keep picking sides, because the more that we do, the more that we allow ourselves to be used by a system that doesn’t care about us or the issues that they are presenting to us nearly as much as they enjoy controlling us and keeping us divided for their own profit margins.