Kari Lake Burns Democracy, Candace Cameron Bure Fends Off Character Assassins, Record Number of Muslims Elected, Junk Food Aims at POC, Raise Voting Age to 28?, Women Athletes Face Body Fat Shaming
My thoughts on the top--and not so top--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
We’re covering a lot today: politics, sports, food, TV, music (two wonderful music videos). Let’s get right to it.
Politics: Still Crazy After All These Losses
Kari Lake Is Denying Her Election Loss (New York Magazine)
Summary: “Days after the governor’s race was called for her opponent, Arizona Republican candidate Kari Lake is still not conceding.
“In a video posted to Twitter Thursday morning, the former news anchor told her supporters that she was ‘still in this fight’ and indicated that she intends to challenge the results of the election. Lake also claimed without offering any evidence that her opponent, Arizona secretary of State Katie Hobbs, had meddled in the election.”
My Take: This is one of the election races that I watched very closely because Lake, a Trump clone of disinformation and disenfranchisement, embodies the very worst qualities of a candidate. It was inconceivable to me that Arizonians couldn’t see through the facade of “cool mom who lets kids have one sip of beer on the Fourth of July” to see the horror show behind.
She’s an election denier, which is basically a Flat-Earther with political donors. She denied the results of Trump’s shellacking and, predictably, she’s denying her own deserved loss. In her arrogance, it’s not possible that the people rejected her inability to think logically, her flimsy political cliches, and her relentless fear-mongering. She claims that she’s collecting evidence of voter misadventure, which will have the same end results as Trump’s legal team: nothing. She knows that, but her real agenda is keeping her face in the public eye.
Here’s why this is important: It’s clear that becoming Arizona’s governor was just a stepping stone to her eventual candidacy for president. She has the look and the well-modulated voice from her years working for the mainstream media (Fox) she now despises. And, as we’ve seen before, sometimes that’s enough. This time it wasn’t. I hope it won’t be in the future—if we want to keep America a democracy that values the electoral process.
Television: LGBTQ+-Free Zone
Candace Cameron Bure Responds to Backlash Over “Traditional Marriage” Comment, Says There Are Attempts to “Assassinate My Character” (The Hollywood Reporter)
Summary: Former Fuller House actress Candace Cameron Bure and current chief creative officer of the new Great American Family (GAF) network has faced critical backlash after stating that her network will focus on Christmas stories that reflect only traditional families, not same-sex families.
In response, Bure released a statement that begins: “I would like to address my comments on Great American Family’s programming as reported in The Wall Street Journal. All of you who know me, know beyond question that I have great love and affection for all people. It absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone. It saddens me that the media is often seeking to divide us, even around a subject as comforting and merry as Christmas movies. But, given the toxic climate in our culture right now, I shouldn’t be surprised. We need Christmas more than ever.” (It’s a lengthy statement assuring everyone—including her critics—that she loves them all. Read the full text here.)
My Take: I do not doubt for one second that Bure believes she is doing good. I do not doubt she feels love for all the groups she professes to love. Nor does her company have a legal obligation to be inclusive. However, she does not have the moral high ground she thinks she does. She is not a victim of “the toxic climate in our culture right now”—she is an unwitting promoter and enabler of that toxicity.
To be clear, I don’t think she should be forced into diversity—that should be her company’s choice, even though to reject diversity, which is meant to bring all people together, is an immoral choice. Hiding behind her narrow interpretation of Christianity—which many Christians would reject—is not a justification.
Had her company just gone about churning out their Hallmark-style by-the-numbers Christmas movies (which, by the way, I think are sometimes fun and even touching), it would have taken awhile for the audience to catch on to their exclusivity. But she boldly wanted to make it clear that gays were not part of their White Christmas world. Though she is well within her rights to make that call, others are within theirs to reject that business model. That is not “cancelling,” it’s making a consumer choice.
Although she professes to love all groups—including LGBTQ+—it is not really a show of love to deliberately exclude them, which is an announcement that they are not a welcomed part of your Christmas community. That is the anti-Christmas spirit. It is also the same rationalization that many in the entertainment businesses used to keep Black, Latinx, and Asian characters out of shows.
Her statement reminds me an 1856 letter written by Robert E. Lee explaining why Blacks were better off as slaves:
The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.
I love a good Christmas movie full of romance, community love, forgiveness, and all the joys of people trying to be their best selves. Which is why I won’t be watching any from the GAF (Grinch American Family) network.
[Kareem’s Note: The same week as Bure’s controversy came out, the Senate moved a step closer to passing the Respect for Marriage Act that provides federal protections for same-sex marriages. Twelve Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to proceed with the act.]
We’re just getting started. Lots more in here, including some wonderful music at the end. But before you forget, do what you gotta do—which is subscribe.
Politics: Progress in Tolerance—Mostly
Summary: The mid-term elections resulted in 82 Muslim candidates swept up local, state, federal and judicial seats in 25 states. “Many of those wins were in red states, including Texas, Virginia and Georgia, and included 20 incumbents and 17 new candidates. Those seats range from local boards of education and city councils to the U.S. House of Representatives, where congresswoman Ilhan Omar, D-MN, and Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, maintained their positions.”
My Take: Like most groups, Muslim-Americans are not a cultural or political monolith. They do not all agree with each other politically—they don’t even agree with each other religiously. So, the reason the election of more Muslim-Americans is good news is not because they will vote in lock-step, but because it is a hopeful symbol that more Americans are rejecting the harsh, widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric that the Trump cronies have been spreading for years.
I would never support a candidate just because they are Muslim any more than I would support a candidate just because they are Black. In fact, a few of the Muslims who were elected do not align with my principles so I wouldn’t have voted for them. But what makes me excited for our future is that those who do align themselves with those Muslims I disagree with, did so without consideration of their religion, just the principles. I respect that. I encourage that. Because that’s the America I love.
Then, just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, this happened: North Carolina sheriff who quit after racist remarks gets re-elected within weeks (The Guardian). North Carolina’s Sheriff Jody Greene resigned in October after a district attorney filed a petition to have him removed from office for “highly inappropriate and racially charged statements” made about Black employees in 2019. He was accused of saying: “I’m sick of these Black bastards – I’m gonna clean house and be done with it. They’re gone. I’m telling you.” The petition also accused Greene of having sex with a detective under his command, along with other instances of alleged corruption and misconduct.
Last week, the voters re-elected Greene. To quote The Fantastic Four’s The Thing, “‘Nuff said.”
Food: We Are What We Eat
Summary: “A new study published in November by the Rudd Center for Food and Policy Health at the University of Connecticut found that US food companies disproportionately market unhealthy food and drink – including candy, sodas, snacks and fast food – to Black and Hispanic children, teens and adults.” The result of this is that in 2021, Blacks viewed up to 21% more food and drink ads than Whites. A 2010 study found that Black children saw 50% more fast food ads than White kids.
The context: While 16.6% of White children are categorized as obese in the U.S., 26.2% of Hispanic children and 24.8% of Black children are considered obese.
My Take: As it says in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” For a lot of food companies the answer is: “A whole lotta profit is worth the price of a pesky ole soul.”
These food companies, like McDonald’s, know that they are making much worse the already depressed health status among Blacks in poorer neighborhoods. The neighborhoods often don’t have access to supermarkets as much as predominantly White neighborhoods. And the markets that they can shop at usually don’t offer as many healthy (meaning more expensive) options.
In the article, nutritionist Johane Filemon explained that fast food companies have other options: “They can still make money by advertising their more nutrient-dense foods. The constant marketing of unhealthy food is setting these kids of color and their bodies—the future of their health—up for failure.”
People of Color are in a constant daily struggle for equal rights and opportunities. But if our kids aren’t healthy, we’ve already lost the battle. It would be so much better if these companies chose to work with our communities to promote and safeguard the well-being of our children. That would be the kind of commitment that deserves customer loyalty.
Politics: If First You Don’t Suppress…
Some Republicans Want to Raise Voting Age After Gen Z Midterm Turnout (The Daily Beast)
Summary: “Tuesday’s midterm election saw Gen Z come out strong for Democrats, including for their generation’s first U.S. representative: Maxwell Frost, a 25-year-old Democrat from Florida.” This has resulted in some Fox News commentators and other conservative pundits to suggest raising the voting age to 21 or, according to one radio personality, 28.
My Take: I’m not too worried that these sore losers will be able to overthrow the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But their comments go to a deeper and more sinister campaign that has been going on in the Republican party: mass suppression. First, there was the suppression of women by taking away their freedom to choose concerning their own reproduction. Second, there was the suppression of the LGBTQ+ community as state after state passed laws restricting their rights. Third, there was the suppression in education as schools have been mandated to not teach actual history but only the sanitized version that cheerleads for conservatives. Fourth, and perhaps most subversive, is the one that spits on the flag, the Constitution, and every value the country stands for: suppressing voters of color because they might not vote for the party that doesn’t support them. Restricting voters to only those who agree with you really isn’t how democracy works—it’s how you destroy democracy.
There was a lesson this last election that some Republicans refuse to acknowledge, either out of ignorance or arrogance: voters want people with actual plans for bettering our future, not merely class monitors who whine and point fingers at others.
Sports: When Will this B.S. Finally End?
Female College Athletes Say Pressure to Cut Body Fat Is Toxic (The New York Times)
Summary: “The New York Times spoke with nearly 20 female current and former athletes across the Power 5 conferences, many of whom have found body composition tests to be invasive, inconsequential to their performance, and triggering for those who had eating disorders or were predisposed to them. The tests are just one aspect of a culture in women’s college sports in which weight, body image and body composition are often discussed in harmful ways — or not discussed at all, even though they are important factors in the athletes’ physical and mental health.
“Body composition data often overemphasize the correlation between body fat percentage and athletic performance, while understating other key factors like sleep and hydration, said Dr. Paula Quatromoni, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Boston University and an expert on sports nutrition and eating disorders.”
My Take: All athletes—male and female—feel hyper-conscious of their bodies because we are always trying to maximize performance. But sports history is filled with bad ideas about what’s healthy for you and what isn’t. When I was at UCLA, Coach Wooden didn’t like us taking water breaks because he thought drinking water would hurt our playing. We now know the opposite is true. Lots of coaches overtrain athletes in order to toughen them up, but only causing them unnecessary physical injuries—and sometimes death. That’s why it’s crucial for coaches to be aware of the latest scientific developments in sports medicine as well as aware of social issues regarding their players. Lack of awareness is why we have seen so many sports organizations with women athletes allowing their players to be sexually abused for so long.
Yes, we need to keep our eyes on the prize. But the prize isn’t winning at any cost, it’s making sure that winning is a meaningful measurement of the athlete’s progress, an indication of her thriving. Not merely performing.
Body image has been a tool for oppression of women for so many years that it’s ingrained in our society. Not coincidentally, making women feel insecure about body image is worth billions of dollars in the cosmetics, hair, plastic surgery, and clothes industries. It’s worse that it spills over into sports. But that’s a rant for another day.
For now, let’s remember that our athletes—especially those in school—are people in need of guidance who look for that in their coaches. Don’t let them down just because you want a winning team on your resume.
[Kareem’s note: In a related story, in Massachusetts, several high school football players and their coaches have been suspended and their season canceled after a video of a violent hazing was uncovered (“Massachusetts High School in Turmoil Over ‘Disgusting’ Hazing Video”). In the video, three Haverhill High School students drag a reported freshman across the floor and remove his clothes. A fourth teammate in only his underwear straddles the boy’s head and commits a violent sexual act.
If this were an isolated case, we all might be less horrified. But we keep reading about these sports hazings over and over again, most of which involve sexual humiliation. Clearly, this is part of a larger issue involving toxic masculinity, but this is not how we want our boys to act. Sports is where many try to define their masculinity and coaches need to step up and eradicate this ridiculous culture of physical hazing. This is not team building, it’s criminal behavior.]
Music: 2023 Grammy Nominee
“Linger Awhile” by Samara Joy (Argonaut)
Summary: “Joy is a 22-year-old jazz vocalist who is new to the scene, releasing her first album only a year ago, yet listening to ‘Linger Awhile’ gives a different impression. Joy’s warm and smooth tone tells a story of maturity and delicacy, features you would not expect of a vocalist who only picked up singing jazz four years ago.”
My Take: Samara Joy has just been nominated for two 2023 Grammy Awards, one for Best New Artist and the second for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Linger Awhile. While her voice is reminiscent of a young Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington, she has a distinctive sound of her own, which is as clear and striking as tapping a metal knife against fine crystal glass. There is an echo of the past in her songs, but her voice is modern and can sting like salt on a cut.
It’s a tribute to how much I love her album that I’ve included two videos of her, which I have never done before. But I wanted you to hear two very different songs to get an idea of her range.