Two big decisions this week could lead to the perception that President Obama is leading America down a permissive path, thus changing America in a negative way. Yesterday, the Justice Department announced it will not challenge the new state laws legalizing the medical and recreational use of marijuana as long as the laws do not violate eight new federal enforcement priorities, including the distribution of pot to minors.
This is a policy change from April of this year when President Obama’s Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowski said the Administration had no plans to honor the new laws that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
Another significant announcement from the Obama Administration this week came from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who said the government will allow same-sex couples to file joint federal tax returns if they are married in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. Secretary Lew said this new rule will provide “clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide.” The IRS now recognizes the legal status of same-sex couples.
With the Administration changing its position and announcing it will not enforce federal laws in states where marijuana has been legalized and will permit same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, the question will be asked – is President Obama changing American traditions?
As tempting as it is for many Americans to blame President Obama, or any Democrat in the White House, for what might be perceived as the country moving away from certain standards and moral values, it is important to recognize that the President is actually reacting to the ‘voice of the people.’
President Obama did not make decisions about legalizing marijuana or same-sex marriage – the voters in various states made those decisions with their votes and in the case of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court has ruled the vote to ban same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This is not so much a defense of the President as it is a reminder of basic civics. The day will come when criticism of a president for leading American in the wrong direction will come from the other side of the political spectrum and the same defense will be part of that debate.
Political tension is so high in America that this growing trend of blaming a president for anything and everything is certain to continue – unless Americans on both sides of the political aisle focus more on facts than rhetoric. America is changing - and change, even if it’s positive change, will always be resisted by those who sense a loss of stability in an already rapidly-changing world. But change is a natural necessity in the evolution of society.
The path to recognition of legal same-sex marriage as a fundamental right and the path toward the greater acceptance of marijuana use winds through both Republican and Democrat presidents. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws banning sodomy were unconstitutional in 2003, many on the right deemed this as the opening of the door to legalized same-sex marriage. That milestone occurred when President George W. Bush was in office. California was the first state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996 - when President Bill Clinton was in office.
The trends toward accepting same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana have found fertile ground when both parties occupied the White House – so it can be argued that these trends reach beyond partisan politics.
In these times when social media and the Internet serve as a reputable news and editorial source for an increasing number of Americans, it is easy to create a frenzy over condemning the President by web stories, posts and blogs that connect the government’s new position on marijuana laws and the IRS’ recognition of same-sex married couples and, thus advancing the theory that the Obama is leading America away from traditional morals and standards.
In reality, it is actually the growing consensus of the people that is changing America – not the President.
New Orleans police are looking for 3 young men suspected of beating a couple in the French Quarter early Saturday morning. There is surveillance video of a couple being attacked at 6:00 am Saturday morning at the corner of Iberville and Dauphine.
Donnie Mehrtens, III, 27-years-old and from Metairie, was walking a girl to a car early Saturday morning when 3 men jumped the couple. Video shows the 3 men punching the girl in the face and forcing Mehrtens to the ground. The suspects then apparently ran off.
The female victim in the attack told WWL-TV that her male companion’s use of the N-word apparently provoked the attack.
“Donnie was just having a conversation with me and he had used the ‘N’ word just in a general conversation with me. Not calling anybody the name at all,” the woman told WWL-TV’s Katie Moore. Read WWL-TV’s report here.
Whatever the reason for the attack, why can’t NOPD do more to make their presence felt in some of the fringe areas in the French Quarter and the CBD? Police presence on Bourbon Street is strong, but this latest attack happened just one block off Bourbon St. If you are not downtown or in the French Quarter because you live there or out having a good time – then I don’t want you in my neighborhood!
With respect for the Constitution, is there anything wrong with police officers asking people wandering around the quarter or the CBD if they live in that neighborhood and if not, where they are going? This is not technically ‘stop & frisk,’ so why can’t police ask questions?
The story about the couple that was recently attacked on Iberville and Dauphine includes comments from the father of one of the attack victims. Donald Mehrtens, Jr., the father of the 27-year-old Metairie man who was attacked, expressed little confidence that NOPD will find the 3 suspects.
While I felt like NOPD did a thorough job attempting to track down the 4 men who attacked me, there have been no arrests. That doesn’t mean they did not do all they could to find the suspects, but it does reveal the reality that it’s not easy to find the thug-types who roam the ripe territory of the French Quarter and the CBD searching for prey.
As these types of seemingly random, senseless attacks continue, I am angrier now than I was after I was attacked. There appears to be a growing sense that thugs know they will probably get away with attacking people who fit the profile of being tourists or those people who have been out enjoying a night out. These are the people who are less likely to be armed and less likely to be prepared for a possible attack. So, the thug-types are targeting the most vulnerable, which also makes them cowards.
Our city shines when we host a major event and police presence is calculated to protect our visitors, but it appears that the same vigilance for protecting locals who are here throughout the year supporting businesses downtown is not the same.
How sad that more seems to be done to protect our visitors than our citizens!
Since the 1960’s, the music and fashion that define each decade seems to reach mass appeal status, not in the year the new decade begins - 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 – but rather in the third and fourth year of each decade.
The collection of the music, the fashions and the general attitude that dominated the MTV Video Music Awards 2013 seemed to suggest the pop culture trends that will define this decade from 2010 to 2020. And if society has been concerned that the vulgar and violent direction of music will continue to evolve and define the future – I suggest the MTV VMS’s 2013 delivered some encouraging news!
Missing from this year’s Video Music Awards was a rebellious crassness that has been a dominant memory from past VMA shows. There were a few ‘bleeps’ and MTV showed great constraint in presenting a show that fit the tone of this year’s star acts.
There are so many adjectives to describe Justin Timberlake – let me try to limit them to a few: an amazing singing and dancing talent, trendsetter, classy and here’s an adjective not often used to describe music’s top pop stars – he is appreciative. J.T. won the award for Video of the Year for “Mirrors” and the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement. He thanked his grandparents and mentioned that his grandfather had passed away in December. At one point he looked into the camera and said “hi” to his “Granny.” In the setting of an MTV Video Music Awards show, that moment showed unbelievable class and revealed a lot of Justin Timberlake’s character. For young generations today, Justin Timberlake will be around long into the future as many of the icons of the Baby Boomer generation are today.
Bruno Mars is another talent that is defining music and style in 2013. The music and the visuals of the video for his hit “Treasure” provide an instant flashback to the late-70’s and early 80’s. The guitar licks in the song are reminiscent of Chic, his voice and moves remind us all of a pre-“Thriller” Michael Jackson and the visual theme of the video is a re-creation of many the classic videos of Earth, Wind and Fire. The Bruno Mars video for “Treasure” is a nostalgic moment for Baby Boomers, but it is a fresh, innovative direction for a new young generation. Quite often when new technology inspires art – art breaks the current rules with a retro reach to the past.
The white hip hop artist, Macklemore, and I mention ‘white’ because I love breaking stereotypes for those who are so quick to negatively judge based on skin color, was another performer who shed a positive light on the music of a young generation today. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won awards for Best Hip Hop video for “Can’t Hold This” and Best Video with a social message for “Same Love.” The song is about equality for gays. In accepting the award for Best Video with a social message, Macklemore talked about his generation being at the forefront of equality and said that gay rights are human rights. Another presenter said that hating someone because of their sexual orientation is like judging a person because of skin color. If you are part of a generation that once stood up for equality, there is a lot to admire about the new young generation that is standing up for equality – even if you don’t agree with the equality they are standing up for.
Miley Cyrus’ performance early in the show and her performance during Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” only further demonstrated that this MTV awards show may be a signal of new trends in music. Miley Cyrus stood out as being overtly vulgar. I have defended Miley’s skimpy clothing that has been highly criticized in the mainstream media and I have supported her attempts to distance herself from her Disney past and establish herself as a maturing young artist, but the blatant sexual gestures and the focus on her crotch and simulated self-gratification were amateur, forced and vulgar. Perhaps on other MTV awards shows Miley Cyrus’ sexual gestures would have fit in and been celebrated, but she exposed herself as a false sex music goddess with her immaturity.
The other moments that seemed juxtaposed to the ambience of the night were the times when comedian Kevin Hart attempted to get laughs by his harsh putdowns of performers on the show. His comments were actually very uncomfortable for the audience. Lady Gaga opened the show and that was her first performance since having hip surgery. Kevin Hart ridiculed the size of her hips and her figure. After the brief, but celebrated N’SYNC reunion for the song “Bye Bye Bye,” Hart made fun of some of the guys gaining weight and said they were so out of shape that they struggled to get through the routine. Awkward moments that would have appropriately fit the attitude of other MTV shows, seemed to contradict a flashpoint that may be signaling a new trend in music and pop culture.
Admittedly, I have been anticipating the signs of the music, fashion and pop culture that will embody the trends that define this decade. The ‘dressed up,’ classy style of Justin Timberlake’s new music and his more formal fashion, the new hair styles for men that are more clean-cut, even for an edgy, tattooed young generation and the music and fashion style of the Bruno Mars-type stars, all point the way to the pop culture that is defining the times.
When it seems that pop culture is pushing the limits that will lead to the complete dismantling of society, there is often a pulling back from the edge. The permissiveness of the content on television and in society in the 70’s ended with the more wholesome content of television and trends in the 80’s. Just when it might appear that a young generation is poised to destroy our society and challenge the morals of the established world, there may now be a sign that pop culture is moving in a more wholesome direction.
The stars that will be most remembered from the MTV Video Music Awards of 2013 and the stars that will be most criticized, may provide a glimpse into the trends that will define a young generation whose time has come to set new trends.
In the blog, “What the MTV Music Video Awards tell us about a young generation,” I point out the positive aspects of the MTV awards show last night, and I do mention one of the strong negatives – Miley Cryus’ performance.
Last night I tweeted: “Watching the MTV Awards: Justin Timberlake is total classytalent. Miley Cyrus was vulgar trash!” It seems I am not the only one who had that reaction to Cyrus’ raunchy actions. Two sisters watching in a suburb of New Orleans, who would both be in her demographic and know all the lyrics and dance moves to today’s music both had a very negative reaction to Cyrus last night. “Twinkle twinkle little whore, close your legs, they’re not a door,” commented a 13-year-old. Her 19-year-old sister said Miley Cyrus’ performance was “a verydisgusting and shocking performance. She has gone from a Disney Channel star to a slut. No one really expected anything less from her considering the music video for “We Can’t Stop.” It was also very disturbing. I think she was just begging for attention and truly has gone off the deep end.”
For the record, I have defended Miley Cyrus’ evolution into her life after Disney – from her wearing short shorts and crop tops while pumping gas - to her choice of video content, but I cannot defend her performance last night.
As most of you know, I am not a prude by any means and I support and understand freedom of expression. I also believe that some of the visuals considered ‘too sexual’ by many in the mainstream media, like Janet Jackson’s alleged wardrobe malfunction during a Super Bowl Half-time show and the on-stage sexual antics of Madonna, Lady Gaga and many of the other pop sex goddesses, do not have the power to inspire early sexual activity in young generations. Those displays are merely reflections of the sexuality that lives within the vast majority of young teenagers as they sense the presence of hormones. It’s natural and rather than blame entertainment, parents should simply teach and expect sexual ‘responsibility’ from their teenagers.
In her big summer hit, “We Can’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus sings about “Molly,” and that was censored by MTV during the awards show. “Molly” stands for molecule and is a powder or crystal form of MDMA – the chemical used in the sexual-inspiring drug Ecstasy. I can only speak from what I have heard others say about the drug Ecstasy. It is an illegal drug that induces feelings of erotic euphoria and inspires overt sexual desires. Anyone who watched her performance on the MTV awards show, last night, would not be surprised if Miley Cyrus was not just singing about “Molly,” but was indeed on “Molly.”
Though Madonna, Lady Gaga and others have been criticized for their blatant sexuality on-stage, there was something about the forced and unnatural exposure to the full length of Miley Cyrus’ tongue and the use of her real hand, and later performing with Robin Thicke, a foam finger to simulate self-gratification and her ‘twerking’ that turned an effort at achieving art into a display of vulgarity.
It is often said that “any publicity is good publicity” and Miley Cyrus did reach any star’s goal of having a much-talked about and memorable performance. However, I’m not sure she is at the point where her audience is ready for that kind of rebellious sexual maturity. Her only hope is that the performance introduces her to a new audience that is ready for her new on-stage sexuality.
Miley Cyrus showed that she does not have the maturity to pull off this major leap to a different performing level. While you might not agree with the open displays of sexuality by Madonna, Lady Gaga and others, it does seem obvious that 20-year-old Miley is not yet ready to be a pop sex goddess. Her hope now should be that she can allow wise guidance to lead her through this attempt at career suicide.
Performers have changed their images from nice to naughty – but it is more difficult to go back and forth from nice to naughty to whatever is next. Based on her performance last night, I wonder if Miley Cyrus may be ‘positioning herself’ (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) for the adult entertainment industry?
Have faith that many young teens, like the two sisters quoted earlier in this blog, were turned-off and disgusted by Miley Cryus’ vulgar presence. The widespread condemnation of Cyrus’ performance at the MTV VMA’s, even among teenagers, shows us that even teenagers know when something goes too far! And that is reassuring!
A 22-year-old Australian who was in America going to college on a baseball scholarship was gunned down by three teenagers – police say one confessed that they killed the young man because they were “bored.”
There are several aspects of this senseless murder worth addressing. First, for all those who will use this tragedy as an opportunity to tout anti-gun rhetoric, which new law do you think would have kept a gun from the hands of the three teenagers accused in this murder?
Secondly, since the victim was white and two of the three teenagers are black, the silence from the Jesse Jackson’s and Al Sharpton’s of the world is deafening. I hate to bring up race, but in this case it is important to recognize that race does matter to those who have built dynasties on racism. Being a human being appears to be of little importance when there is an injustice, but being of a certain race does matter.
There are many times I agree with the injustices many leaders speak out against, but I do not agree with speaking out only in the cases that advance organizations that benefit from racial tension. The sad truth is that there are people in America who would lose their power and financial support if there was no racial tension in this country. So, why would they ever want to really fight for true racial harmony?
But the one thing that stands out most to me about the murder of Christopher Lane is the excuse given for the shooting. James Edwards, 15, and Chauncey Lane, 16, have been charged with murder and are being held without bond. Michael Jones, 17, is charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact and firing a weapon. He is being held on $1 million bail. James Edwards confessed and said the three teens shot Christopher Lane because they were “bored” and they did it for “fun.” All three will be tried as adults.
The setting for this horrific murder is Duncan, Oklahoma – a rural farming and ranching community. This did not happen in a city neighborhood infested with crime and drug dealers where a kid getting his first gun might compare to a child getting his first bike. This random shooting happened in a part of this country that most Americans would consider safe.
The admission from one of the teenagers that they did it because they were “bored” speaks volumes about condition of society in 2013. Forgive me if I sound ‘old-fashioned,’ but there were plenty of times when I was bored as a teenager. My Dad had a gun and I knew exactly where he kept the gun. At no time was there the slightest thought of using a gun to end my boredom.
It occurs to me that there are several young generations that lack the skills to deal with those inevitable human moments of being bored. And when children lack certain skills to deal with things innate to being a human, I can’t help but look at the generations of parents that have given too much power to young people by assuming that it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure their children are never bored.
Today, there is a never-ending supply of incredible technology that can be used to entertain children and teens all the time and anywhere – at home, in the car and sitting at the table while having dinner with their parents. But what has this done to children and teenagers? It has robbed them of the ability to cope with those natural moments when we all get bored. As an adult generation, we have allowed that to happen. Yes, much of it is the fault of parents today.
Not that any excuse of a random murder would be acceptable, but the least acceptable excuse is they killed a person because they were “bored.” If you are a parent and if you are trying to entertain your children all the time or if you are striving to make certain they are never bored, you are failing in an important aspect of parenting. Sometimes, even as adults, we get bored – that’s life. So teach your children to deal with it because that is part of preparing them for the real world.
The father of one of the teens charged with the murder spoke to reporters and said that he is sad for the parents of the young man who was killed, but he said that he, too, has lost a son from this tragedy. I understand what he’s saying, but maybe the lesson to learn is that parents, aided by modern society, have allowed their children to have unrealistic expectations about real life in general. The mother of one of the teens said that if her son was involved, he should be punished. My question might be – how much do you bother punishing him when he was younger?
I’m not sure how a law would be crafted that would hold parents accountable for the criminal behavior of their children, but the message from those of us who are civilized in society is simple – be a parent to your children or don’t show up crying in front of TV cameras when your failure leads to tragedy.
Some children raised by good, caring parents are bad, but there are too many parents today that have blamed everything except themselves for the failings for which they do not want to be held responsible.