Saturday, November 29, 2008

Worried About Being Bored on the Eve of Christmas? Here's an idea!

Greetings to all my friends and bloggers around the world. This has been an interesting Thanksgiving break. First and foremost, my sincerest condolences to the family of the Wal-Mart employee in New Jersey who got killed by a senseless, irrational horde that ran over him to get a cheap discount on Black Friday. This is one of those moments where we really need to sit down and reflect if letting our wallets and not our brains rule our decisions is really worth it. It is one of those times when, if I have to pay an extra buck or two and in the process I save the life of a store clerk, it is a dollar well spent. Life cannot be on sale. I read those news and they made me sick and even ashamed of the human race. I also want to extend my condolences to the victims of the (here we go again) senseless, irrational acts of a terrorist group in Mumbai. It is unfortunate when people have to resort to violence to prove a political point (yes, it is a million times more shameful when they resort to violence to buy something on sale, but I digress). This kind of reminded me of a scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day between John Connor (Edward Furlong) and The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger):

John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?

May all these victims of irrationality rest in peace.

As I did the last time, I will save you all from the updates on my nieces. In a few weeks, I'll reprise the role of the annoying uncle who shoves his nieces down your throats with a super-long update (followed by a very critical blog about how we're turning into the Truman Show... just stayed tuned... A Gonzo 2.0 Christmas will be something else!!!!)

But, for now, on to the blog...

Still Wondering What to Do on Dec. 23 or the Morning of Dec. 24?
The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur has an idea for you!

Oh, Christmas (sorry, but 1995 called and said they had totally run out of political correctness to supply the blogs in 2008... so if say "the holidays" is simply to spice up the narrative. I actually PREFER Christmas, thank you!), that wonderful time of the year when school is out and we all start thinking about what to do until classes begin again, in the case of students. In general, it is the time to take a break and celebrate with friends and family and give an honorable goodbye to the year that soon will be over. For those of us who live abroad, we may be blessed to go visit our families in our native countries, or some decide to stay in their university campuses most of the time because of either school or money issues, sometimes both. Regardless, we are all thinking about what to do during Christmas and it is very likely that we will make arrangements not to be all by ourselves during the holidays.

Unless you do not know me or do not read my blogs (like some of my school and college friends on Facebook - told you I'm going all Carlos Mencia on this one!), you already know I have had an 11-month situation with my right leg. I am still in the process of recovery (slow but steady) and I will be home by the time there is one year after the surgery. It has taken quite a toll on my whole family, I know it has taken a bit of a toll on my girlfriend even. I have been thinking of doing something to celebrate my recovery. While talking to my beloved the other day, I came up with an idea to celebrate. I want to share it with you in hopes that you also find this inspirational and follow suit as an activity for 12/23 and Christmas' Eve in the morning

I had my leg surgery on the 23rd and was discharged from the hospital at 3:00 on Christmas' Eve. For a moment, I thought I would spend that day in a hospital room. Even though I pulled a Neo on this one and dodged that bullet, I imagined there were folks at this hospital who were not so lucky. Then I thought of a visit I did to a children's hospital and an orphanage in Medellin 10 years ago and how much that moved me. Putting two and two together, this is what I will do. Again, I share this not to sell myself as a good samaritan (I believe what the Good Book says about not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing... plus, I believe that showboating is something I myself do as part of being in the academia... showboating and charity go together just like caviare and pumpkin pie do!) but to maybe give you some food for thought.

It dawned on me that on Dec. 23, there will be children at that hospital and orphanage who will be left to their own devices and very likely spend Christmas at a hospital. I will not be able to spend that day with them, but at least I can brighten their holidays a little bit. So, I will contact these two places and will take some presents for some children. I am no Bill Gates, so my funds are very limited. I will narrow down my options for the hospital to children about to have surgery or recovering from it and who will be hospitalized on 12/24. I will visit a few of them and will at least give them a toy and a warm wish for their recovery. That for me is the best way to celebrate the blessings from my recovery.

In fact, I will officially make this pledge to you, my friends and bloggers around the world: Beginning this year, I will do this every Dec. 23, no matter where I am. I will visit a hospital and keep some company to children who do not have anybody else, or maybe to elderly people who have a surgery and nobody to keep them company. Life blessed me with resources to have the surgery and amazing friends to be with me. It is time for me to pay my dues.

This is my personal pledge. But, think about it: All you will do on those two days is probably veg out and watch TV. Spending a few hours spreading holiday cheer might make a huge difference to those children, elder people, etc. who may possibly be all by themselves otherwise. Plus, if some people have time to stand up for 12 hours in front of a store to get cheap electronics, I think we can spend a twelfth of that time visiting someone who will REALLY, TRULY, UNEQUIVOCALLY "appreciate our business." I already have my agenda for Dec. 23 figured out... it is up to you to decide in which direction you spread joy.

That's it for now. Till my next blog, I bid farewell.

The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur...

Raúl A. (El Patrón)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can! Obama: How we should all start turning a new page!

Greetings to all my friends and bloggers around the world. There will be no acknowledgments or updates this time around. My tribute to Gonzo 2.0 is all about President-Elect Obama! So, let's cut to the chase, shall we?

The Turning of a Page? Obama and the Larger Picture...

Unless you're living under a rock, you already know what happened. Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois, is now the next President of the United States of America. It is a moment of epic and historical proportions and it is a moment to reflect on what the next four years will and should be like. After all, Obama's victory is something that is the end-result of a larger, a much larger effort. I won't claim to know it all, but I'll try to offer an historical perspective, incomplete, but historical nonetheless.

You see, the fact that an African-American has made it to the highest post on the planet is no act of sheer serendipity. It's more than the outrage and discontent for eight years of failed policies. There's a deeper philosophical struggle here and that needs to be mentioned as well. Obama's accomplishment is the build-up of the work of several Black/African-American men and women in the arts, the academia, sports, and even entertainment, who have been standing up against the inequailities of the times and the lack of opportunities over the past two centuries. Obama mentioned a 106-year-old lady in his speech. In those 106 years, a lot of people have worked towards this day, a day that we should not forget; a day when we should recall some of those names...

When I saw Obama standing on that podium, I could see the legacy of intellectuals such as Frederick Douglass and what he said about issues of inequality and discrimination. I see people like Carter G. Woodson, and how maybe he can be hopeful that the Negro, the Latino, the Disabled, and other minorities in the U.S. and the world will no longer be Miseducated. I can see that the efforts to stand up for their rights that brave men and women like Rosa Parks and her refusal to move to the back of the bus were not futile. I can see that the act of civil disobedience by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, back in Mexico '68 is something to be proud of and not, as was at the time, something to be vilified about. I can see the war cry of the late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul and Forefather of Hip-Hop, "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!" still giving all of us inspiration. I can see the efforts behind the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education making more and more sense and why everybody deserves fair access to education.

In Obama's words of hope, I can see the efforts of more men and women who have not been afraid to speak their minds and fight for their beliefs from their different fronts and while doing that, breaking ground. I see the work, words, and actions of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, The Texas Western Miners, Muhammad Ali, Toni Morrison, Cornel West, Richard Pryor, even Jesse Jackson, just to name a few. African-American history (as African and Afro history around the world) is rich and full of moments worth highlighting. Obama's victory is simply a moment when everybody's efforts have converged in that victory walk at the podium at Grant Park in Chicago.

But this is more than a much-deserved moment of victory and even vindication for so many African-Americans who have felt what oppression looks like. It is a moment of vindication for all of us who believe in social justice and true equality. It is also a challenge for those of us who believe that no children should really be left behind beyond cheap rhetoric. This is not a challenge that simply belongs to the U.S. In many countries, mine included, there are still millions of people from different minorities still dealing with oppression, disenfranchisement, marginalization, etc. If anything, Obama has taught us what WE, meaning those of us who have the privilege of a world-class education, need to do with it. Mind you, he could've used his Harvard Law degree just to be partner of the law of "Johnson, Smith, Jones, & Obama," right? He could've conformed with being a millionaire attorney making money of our lawsuits. Instead, he has worked hard for the have-nots, since his days as an activist in Chicago. Obama has reminded us that access to these golden opportunities places us in a position of advantage from which we can help and empower others.

One of Obama's slogans was, "Change we can believe in." The questions for the rest of us, both in the U.S. and the world are: What kind of CHANGE do we believe in? What kind of CHANGE do we want to be part of? What kind of CHANGE do we want to bring about in our communities, in our cities, in our countries? I think this should galvanize all of us, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, etc. and make us aware of the challenges ahead of us as citizens of the world. We live in what Marshall McLuhan used to call the Global Village. We're more connected to each other than ever. What will we use those connections for? To benefit ourselves only? Or to benefit others? I think the change of the guard that we just noticed is a call for all of us, White, Black, Latino, Asian, Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Christian, Muslim, etc. to start making a difference once and for all. The winds of change are knocking on our doors. Our children and grandchildren will judge us for how we respond or refuse to respond to this call. It is up to us, in the words of the great Bob Marley, to "get up, stand up..."

I know I already have!

That's it for now. Till my next blog, I bid farewell.

The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur...

Raúl A. (El Patrón)