Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year for 2011

To all my family and friends, as well as my social network coalition:

I pray that your 2011 will be a prosperous one and a productive one. I wish you all good health and inner peace. May all your dreams come to fruition and the foundation for future success for years to come be laid.

Most importantly, may God continue to bless you, be with you and keep you in His favor always, Amen.

Party hard and be careful! Much love for me to all of you! Take care!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2010

I have only one wish for this Christmas: Peace. These last two years have been hell in the American political system. Too much rhetoric, too much venom. The reward for the most progressive Congress in 40 years?...One-third of them were sent home. That was the by-product of anger and fear, not peace.

When we are peaceful, when we are civil, we are productive. It is time for American politics, and in turn American government, to be productive again, on a consistent basis. I have a feeling that my wish will not come true because too many in the process benefit from the rancor that has plagued Washington, DC for too long.

That is a shame because America cannot be all it can be when it is at war with itself...Merry Christmas everyone! May all your wishes come true...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My take on the November 2010 elections

It has been almost two weeks now and I have watched and listened and read what the pundits have had to say about this year's elections. Here is my two cents.

We are a divided hostile nation still fighting the wars of the 1970s in the 21st Century. Our political parties are defining themselves based on social agendas rather than pragmatic government. It is time that this strategy has to stop.

We have 15 million people unemployed in this country. That is the equivalent of the populations of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles combined. This election was a call to arms for jobs, jobs, and did I mention, jobs!

We have to create an environment for new jobs to be created in the private sector. If that means tax cuts for everyone, so be it. If that means trimming the Federal deficit, so be it. If that means a new type of stimulus package that can pay for itself, so be it. Bottom line, we have to come up with a solution to this creeping economy before the angst becomes more unruly than what is evident now.

If the Republicans take this as a mandate for anything else, then they will lose power as historically as they obtained it on November 2, 2010. The problem with my Democratic friends in the US House was their gun-ho, yet schizophrenic nature. They wanted to push an agenda they had been sitting on since 1994 and, by God, they got it done from January 2009 to November 2010. Fair pay for women, Increasing the minimum wage, Health Care Reform, TARP, The Economic Stimulus Package, etc...

Speaker Pelosi was one of the most active House leaders in the history of the country, despite dealing with Blue Dogs like Travis Childers and Gene Taylor, who ended up like most things that stand in the middle of the road, they got run over. Her progressive vision blinded her from our nation's most pressing need: personal economic security for our citizens.

And when the American people's needs are ignored, they take it out in the voting booth or they stay at home. Both dynamics happened in the last election. Core Democrats in the South felt they had no one to vote for and angry Independents overwhelmed progressives in the Midwest at the polls.

The President failed to feel the pain of the electorate and he suffered his worst defeat since he ran against Rep. Bobby Rush in the 90s. The magic he had in 2008 had lost its effectiveness in an atmosphere of fear and misplaced anger. The President admits he made a mistake. The question becomes will he learn from it.

Will he be defiant like Jimmy Carter or pragmatic like Bill Clinton? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it is my hope that those individuals who will show up in the Beltway for the first time bring more than anger to Congress. It is time for the innovation that has made America the greatest country in the world.

Let's do away with the tax on overtime pay, create funds for abandoned buildings to be purchased and renovated for small business expansion, revised the 2001 tax cut package to reflect our current economic situation, grant incentives to banks for more commercial lending rather than mortgages, promote entrepreneurship/financial literacy in our educational system, make pragmatic cuts to our government bureaucracy...

Whoa! I'm getting excited. Hopefully, our new Congress and our President will be this excited and creative when they convene soon. Gridlock is not an option, unless they want the American people to really get angry and show out in November 2012.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

School is not for everyone

A young person I know very well told another adult the other day that not everyone is made for school. The young man was trying to explain why he doesn’t want to be confined to the rigors of schooling when his goal in life is to be an artist. He has a valid argument but not for the reasons he believes.

The American Public School System, which at one time was hailed as the greatest achievement in the industrialized world, is a farce. It has been devalued and regimented to the point of uselessness in this modern technological era we live in. Teachers are forced to be more concerned about job security, thus restricting from them the freedom to truly educate the youth that comes into their classrooms. Administrators, politicians and other bureaucrats are more concerned about test scores rather than the quality of the education the children receive.

Some people do well on standardized tests, others don’t. However, that does not mean that the good test-takers are any more knowledgeable about the subject matter than those who don’t perform well. Some children are not given all the tools to succeed, we know this all too well, but the pressure that is put on some of them to perform at an early age based on a test-taking strategy is ludicrous and counter-productive to establishing a free society.

Whatever happened to the concept of enlightenment? That is what education is supposed to be about. You, as a human being, are suppose to be taught things, not to pass a test, but for your self-edification. Your exposure to the arts, introduction of new languages and cultures, the application of mathematics and sciences are meant to be stimulating, not a chore to master. The joy of communicating effectively, meaning fluency in reading, writing and speaking your native language, is lost in the statistical urgency of diminishing prison beds and poverty rolls.

It is time to go back to basics. It is time teach once again, not to satisfy a global industrial complex, but to make sure the wonders of the universe and civilization are challenging yet exciting again. How is it that we live in the greatest country in the world and the majority of our children cannot identify it on a map of the world? Because we have lost sight of our mission in life: to achieve enlightenment.

Back in colonial days, blacksmiths had a diploma, so that means that enlightenment did not take you away from manual labor jobs. It does mean however that you are a more complete being, in other words, more representative of what God created. That is what we have to go back to.
Some of our greatest intellectuals came from one room schoolhouses, so infrastructure improvement is not the panacea, nor is barrels full of public dollars. It is about a true commitment to excellent enlightenment for our country and our world.

Thomas Jefferson believed that by the time a child was ten years old, he or she should be able to master reading, writing, public speaking, all forms of mathematics and science, a foreign language and have an educated appreciation for the arts. With the tools we have now at our disposal, it should be easier to achieve than say in the 19th Century when Jefferson expressed these thoughts. Instead of following the example of prodigies like Jefferson, we have modeled our education system to appease the industrialists like George Pullman, who believed the public schools in America should be designed to train future workers, not visionaries.

I have always made the argument in my public speeches about education that our system now trains children to follow the blocks instead of questioning should they be better arranged. A horse may need blinders to go forward, but humans need to maximize their peripheral vision. An education system grounded on the premise of human enlightenment is the key.

So no, school the way it is set up is not for everyone. It crushes free will and diminishes individual worth. A school that values human enlightenment is a school that is made for everybody.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barbour is right...

MS Gov. Haley Barbour recently stated that at least 80 percent of the BP oil spill penalties, soon to be imposed by the Federal Government, should go to the states affected. I wholeheartedly agree.

What use will the Feds have to keep any of the penalties, let alone more than 20 percent? The manpower used does not come close to any equity of the potential long-term devastation to the ecology of the Gulf Coast.

The people of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have had to deal with a lot over the last five years. The last thing they need to deal with is a Federal Government short-changing them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I am back!

After a long hiatus due to a political campaign I was working on, I'm back!!! I will get on with the process of again writing what is on my mind, especially since a ton of stuff has happened since I last wrote.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Really Dr. Mason?

The headline article in the March 8th edition of the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS) startled me yesterday as I was visiting some of my former colleagues in the State Capitol. Dr. Ronald Mason, the president of Jackson State University, basically asserted in an e-mail to one of his faculty members that the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus could not be trusted and that the caucus was out to get him.

As a personal note to Dr. Mason, I just want to say thanks, sarcastically. Since I served in the Mississippi Legislature during that time, I just want to thank him for painting us all in such a broad brush. I personally don't know what I did to earn his distrust, considering I was one of his biggest supporters to be hired, and virtually shut down the House of Representatives to make sure JSU received their fair share of funding prior to Billy McCoy being the Speaker of the House.

True, there are some members of the MSLBC that would like to see Dr. Mason leave, but not all of the members, past or current. It was an unfair assessment of those public servants who have done everything they could to represent the best interests of Mississippi Public Historically Black Colleges and some kind of gesture should be made to make amends to those of us who respected his presidency, especially those of us who are alumni of that fine institution.

However, I don't think the damage he has done since talks of mergers of the HBCU's can really be repaired, primarily after his electronic critique has been published statewide. I just hope someday he will eventually understand that the majority of Mississippi's African-American legislators are the best allies he has in this state, no matter how many pats on the back he gets from others.

Really, Dr. Mason, I assumed you were better than that. I guess it is my disappointment.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Things are always changing in my world so much that I don't have time to comment on them all, especially when they happen. In addition, even though this is a blog about my life experiences and opinions, I have to consider some of the ramifications of sharing everything with the world. On that note, I wish to publicly apologize to my love for the last posting which seemed to affect her more than I realized. The forecast has changed from gloomy to partly sunny with bright horizons predicted for the future. If you read the last posting you know what I am saying without saying it.

Moving on, I am pleased about a couple of things that happened this past week. One, as the Winter Olympics culminate today with an epic battle in men's hockey, I am pleased that the projected American stars for these Games delivered. No, they did not dominate their events, or sport even, like Michael Phelps did, but they either won and/or medaled and they gave it their all. We won in events we hadn't in generations and rose above the "Blades of Glory" trash talking during the figure skating events. It was compelling television for the sports junkie coming down from his/her Super Bowl high and I pray that executives like Gary Betteman don't blow it for the 2014 Games in Russia. Commissioner, you know what I'm talking about.

The other event that pleased me was the summit on health care reform, hosted by the President at the Blair House in Washington, DC. I am glad that the President called it, and in turn, called the bluff of the F-O-X-N-E-W-S crowd. I am glad the Republican leadership showed up, especially the members who departed from the rhetoric and threw out specific ideas to make the legislation better.

Having sat in major policy hearings, conference committees and town hall meetings, I really appreciated the opportunity for many Americans to watch their government really work. Sure it may look like grandstanding, but I believe in the end we are going to see a major health care reform bill passed in this administration. There were many in the room who want to see the President fail in his attempt only for short-term political gain, but surely they know that the summit event itself did more to stop that goal from becoming a reality. No US President in my lifetime attempted to bring the conference committee experience into our living rooms before. I hope the American people appreciated the experience as much as I did, because it was for their long-term benefit.

Let me end this post on this note. When you have a chance to experience something great, take advantage of the opportunity. Don't let others dissuade you from doing what your gut tells you. Don't let fear of the unknown, or a lack of specific knowledge stop you from participating in greatness. Go forth and enjoy the moment because that is what life is all about.

Until next time, take care and be blessed!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Second Time Not The Charm

Today, as I write this, two teams are preparing to battle for the NFL Championship, knowing at the end of the day one of them will come up short of attaining their goal. At this moment, I am already in the loser's locker room.

Last night, my wife made it official what I saw coming for weeks: she formally asked me for a divorce. We were married for little more than a year and two months. Despite the whirlwind romance we had and the excitement we brought to this marriage, in the end it was erased by harsh words and fate.

My soon-to-be second ex-wife is really a nice person. She has the most beautiful smile and is one of the most creative people I have ever met. However last night, I did not see that smile, there was nothing creative or poetic in how she broke the news. The spark in her eyes is gone. The smile has been replaced with a look of exasperation. The rainbow that she thought she had finally attained had slipped away and her disappointment was visibly apparent.

I admit I am not a rainbow chaser, so I cannot comprehend the depth of anger, frustration and despair she is feeling, but I am seeing the results. As soon as I finish this entry, I will be moving my things into storage for the remainder of the day and trying to find a place to stay during this time.

My struggle is that I have given up everything that I had built up after my first divorce to make this marriage happen. The problem is that my pride overshadowed my heart. When I wrote my last entry about my wife on our anniversary, the emotions and love was real. To a degree, it still is, however, it was my pride and anger and frustration that drove an immovable wedge between us and her son. Now financially, I am in a quandary of how I am going to make it for the next several months. I am fortunate God gave me an opportunity to earn some extra income, but it is political, so it will not last long, nor will it be dependable.

My quality time with my son will be altered because of my instabilities. I will continue to surmount debt as I will incur new expenses on an extremely tight budget. I will also see who my true friends are in this time of crisis.

God reminds us that He breaks us down to build us back up. He must have great things in store for me and my new ex-wife because we are both very broken. I have apologized to her already for my role in the destruction of this happy home. Though we may never reconcile as a couple, I pray that she can recover and forgive me as a human being. All my anger towards her has dissipated and I am now ready to move on, not knowing how the rest of the story is going to play out.

To know my new ex-wife is to know someone who people in the arts world would call a muse. A muse is someone who can evoke powerful creativity and beauty. To see this muse lose some of her luster, to see her agonize in pain, physically, spiritually and emotionally, and to know that you are the catalyst for this muse's despondence, it is the worst punishment a human being with any sense of compassion could be subjected to. Looking back on my actions in this marriage, it is a punishment well deserved.

I hate that the timing of my emotional downturn coincided with her happiest moment. While my emotions ran like a super roller coaster, hers was on a steady decline. My erratic behavior during this time of emotional transition for me was too much for her spirit too bear. It will be my biggest regret of my life.

My ex-wife does have a name. It is Regina Louise Turner. Her friends call her Gina. She often refers to herself as Lady G. She is sexy, friendly and has a beautiful spirit. She is strong, opinionated and intelligent. She will make a great wife for the right-minded man. She is my loss.

Now technically we are still married, but it is strictly on paper. The love that brought us together is gone. The love that is needed to keep us together will not be allowed to manifest. We are both tired and desire peace from each other and within each other. As reluctant as it is for me to say it, it is time for me to go and let her get on with the rest of her life. I just hope that I have not closed out her heart to the point that she will not find that happy marriage she seeks.

God, Gina has asked for strength, continue to increase it. She has asked for courage, continue to increase it. She has asked for wisdom, continue to increase it. Bless her, heal her heart, make her whole again. It will be the world's loss if she does not heal.

As for me, God, continue to temper my spirit, remind me that You are in control, and keep me focused on what is important in life: love and peace. Relationships may end with others but I never want to lose my relationship with You. Guide me on this new journey and give me the discernment to find true love, true peace and true success. Protect me from my enemies and remove my reproach. Forgive me for my transgressions and prepare a place for all that have been in my life in Your Heavenly home.

Finally, for those of you who will be disappointed by this news, don't despair long. Just pray for us. There are no villains in this story, just tragic figures. We are not dead, just moving on for the better. We both don't know what the long-term future holds, but in the immediate moment, this is the best resolution. For the record, I do not want to give up on the marriage, but it takes two. Neither one of us can do it alone, she is tired of carrying her end and I have to respect that.

So this may be the last time you will hear from me for a while until I get re-settled. When I do come back, it will the beginning of the new start I proclaimed for 2010. The old saying goes what does not kill you will make you stronger. When I return, I will be a much stronger Erik Robert Fleming. May God continue to bless you, be with you and keep you in His favor always.

Take care.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saints and Ain'ts

I wanted to write on these items separately as the thoughts first came to my head, but things in my life, which are still unfolding, dictated otherwise. More on that later. For now I want to comment on a couple of things.

First, I am so happy that the New Orleans Saints are going to their first Super Bowl. The Saints have basically been a symbol of professional athletic futility since 1967. They ruined great college players like Archie Manning and were the last stop for aging pros. Charleston Heston even played an aging Saints quarterback in a movie in which he died on the field. Fans used to wear bags on their heads when they came to Saints games.

Not anymore. Since 2006, the Saints have been one of the premier franchises in the league. Their glorious return to the Superdome, a stadium that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, symbolized a dawning of a new era in Saints and NFL history. I remember watching that first home game in the renovated Superdome against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. I believe I was the only non die-hard Saints fan that believed they were going to beat the Falcons, led at that time by Michael Vick. After forcing the Falcons to punt on their first possession, the Saints blocked the punt for a touchdown and the Dome was rocking. It has not stopped rocking since.

Drew Brees and Sean Payton have not only personally recovered from the hurricane's devastation, but they have helped an entire city revitalized itself. I do not believe that there is a NFL city that has more of a personal connection to their home team than New Orleans. Not even Green Bay, where the citizens own the team.

The Saints rising to the occasion to, in essence, beat a hometown hero to get to the Super Bowl is already the greatest story in sports this year. Now they have to beat another hometown legend to win it all. I know that no team is just happy to get to the championship, but win or lose, the Saints have given the people of New Orleans something to cheer about and look forward to, even as reminders of Katrina's destructive effect still remain, especially in the city's Ninth Ward.

Now to the Ain'ts. Dr. Ronald Mason made a crucial mistake this past week. Dr. Mason is the president of Jackson State University, my alma mater. Mason, who I voted for to get the position, has let me down by his lack of political acumen. Seems as though he drew up a plan to show how a merger of Mississippi's Historically Black Universities could work, even renaming the combined school Jacobs State University.

In his defense, Mason said the idea was just something he was playing with and it was not meant for public consumption. He later reiterated his earlier statement that he was not in favor of merging the HBCUs. However, now it is a perception problem.

Gov. Haley Barbour had earlier indicated that he wanted to merge the schools in order to shore up the state budget. Gov. Barbour served on the JSU Development Foundation Board during Mason's tenure. Therefore the perception is that Mason showed Barbour a model of how this could work and Barbour ran with it.

Now knowing both men I am assuming that it did not go down like that, but timing and perception is everything in politics. Initially, when Barbour made that recommendation, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, as a whole, said nothing, though it was known that they were against it. Yet when Dr. Mason, who is African-American, was implicated in devising a plan to make the merger work, it did not take them anytime to stand before the press and decry a university president they have never fully embraced.

Having said that, Dr. Mason has brought this fury on himself. In this day and age, when you put something on a computer and say e-mail it to some friends or colleagues, it is no telling where it might show up. Now if the Mississippi Legislature did the impossible and approved this merger, then it would have been prudent for Mason to put his thoughts out there in an electronic format to stay ahead of the move. By jumping the gun though, he added fuel to the fire and made a non-issue viable again. It will be interesting to see if he weathers this storm like others in the past. I personally believe the damage is beyond repair and that hindsight is now telling him he should have joined his law school roommate, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in the Department of Justice.

Another ain't is the national Democratic Party. When the President of the United States, the one you successfully elected to the office, has to implore you not to "run to the hills" in a State of the Union Address, things are not looking good for you. We have long lived up to the Will Rogers standard of not being an organized party, but that has to change before the November elections. The election in Massachusetts should be considered a wake-up call, not a surrendering point.
Watching the Governor of Virginia flaunt it in your face last night should be a call-to-arms, not a sign to retreat.

Health care reform must be passed. Jobs must be created. The deficit must be reduced. These are the issues the party can take the lead on before they watch their majority melt down on November 2nd. It is time for leadership in Washington, specifically the halls of Congress, and it is time for the DNC to support their local state chapters to mount a successful battle against the GOP in their respective Congressional elections, even in Mississippi.

It is time for the Democrats to adopt the John Paul Jones mantra, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

That is all for now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Go Reid! Go!

"He had no alternative. Senator Lott dug himself a hole and he didn't dig it all in one setting. He dug it over the years. And he couldn't figure out a way to get out of it...You play how you practice. If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it's that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I've always practiced how I play." -Sen. Harry Reid, December 20, 2000, on Lott's resignation from the post of Senate Majority Leader

On page 37 of the upcoming book, "Game Change," it states that "(Senator Reid's) encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination."

That revelation has created a firestorm which the senator jumped in front of, owned up to, and personally apologized to the President about. The timing is precarious because of the current fight to push through health care reform legislation and the President believes Reid's leadership is important in this process, thus the quick acceptance of the apology.

I don't know if I am that forgiving. I had the privilege of running against Sen. Lott and people that supported me never forgot what Lott said to humor a 100-year-old Senator on his birthday. For those of us in Mississippi, it was not a surprise that Lott would do that, but it was a surprise that it made national news and led to his resignation before a new president took office.

On the flip side of that though, I was told as a candidate to remove my facial hair and modify my glasses to come across as less threatening to a certain section of voters. In 2006 and 2008, I was even called the "Obama of the South" by some supporters because of the similar clean-cut image and oratorical style. It was not uncommon to hear people say that myself and Obama were well-spoken African-Americans that were electable.

So I don't really know if my anger is toward Reid for saying the remarks or re-visiting living through that assessment. However, I do believe it is a double-standard to support Reid for saying something as calculating, regardless of the goodwill intended, and condemn Lott. Both remarks were wrong and poorly phrased.

To break it down, based on Reid's remarks, Harold Ford is more electable than Martin Luther King, Jr. That is not a real assessment. Electability is based on financial support, stances on issues, trust and the political temperature of the voters. Image plays a part only when those aforementioned factors are a virtual dead heat, i.e. John F. Kennedy vs. Richard M. Nixon. You have to look the part, but looks with no substance equal political disaster and crushed egos.

I guess if I was a white person I would be more offended by Reid's remarks because it implies that Obama was acceptable but a darker-skinned African-American that slipped in some Ebonics in his/her oratory with his same background would not be in my eyes. It also feeds the negative vibe some Blacks were expressing about Obama when he first decided to run for the Presidency, that he was not "Black enough."

The key was that President Obama was the better candidate. The narrow-minded folks aside, Obama swayed the American public with his knowledge of the issues and the message of change. He is a great speaker and he presented a presidential image, regardless of the level of melanin in his skin. Reid's remarks belittle that notion.

Maybe I am still altruistic, but I believe if Obama ran a campaign similar to Sen. Dodd or even Sen. Biden, then he would not have come close to winning the primary, let alone the General Election. Obama's election reassured my faith in the American electorate and helped me realize what I would need to work on to pursue a higher office again.

I have to admit that race does still play a factor in elections, but I know from experience that being Black does not guarantee the Black vote and does not automatically discount the white vote. You have to work hard for every vote, and even though I lost my election, I know that my vote total was not just based on ethnic solidarity. Reid's remarks diminishes that belief.

I understand the importance of Reid's role in the current health care reform debate. I understand and appreciate the Democrats circling the wagons for him, unlike what the GOP did to Lott , forcing him out of their leadership circle for six years. I don't agree with the dismissal of his remarks as an apples and oranges comparison with Lott. Offensive and demeaning is offensive and demeaning, regardless if our friends say it or our enemies.

I am glad the President has forgiven Reid. Now he needs to ask Reid to seriously consider stepping down or, at the very least, not run for re-election this cycle. Reid basically said in the earlier posted quote what is said in the backroom will be eventually said in public. Reid's lack of faith in the American people should be enough grounds for a public servant to step aside and allow a chance for a servant with that faith to step in his place.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Start

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Happy New Year, my friends. It is the first year of the second decade of the 21st Century. It is time for a new start!

If you have been neglecting your relationship with the God who gave us this new opportunity, today is the day to get reacquainted. If you have not tapped into that spiritual power that resides within you, today is the day that you should dip into that vast reservoir.

You are what God created you to be: wonderful and glorious! Walk in that and claim your rightful inheritance. You will overcome all adversity. You triumph over all enemies. You will be the shining example that others will follow. It is your destiny and your birthright.

In 2010, be bold, be courageous, be the best you can be! The spirit that dwells within you is not a spirit of fear or timidity, therefore don't act outside of your nature. You are a child of God! Live like it!

This year, make a difference in the world you live in, no matter how small the contribution. Stand on the promises of God and go forth with His favor to do great things in 2010. Remember the greatest commandment is love and the greatest commission is to spread the Word! Do your part to love and enlighten this year, in as many places as you can.

Finally, be a prayer warrior this year. The world is reeling with strife, probably including the home you live in. Commune with God regularly and let Him guide you through these tough times. Through prayer, you re-energize your faith. As stated before, your faith is your strength, so flex those faithful muscles in 2010.

This is a new start! Praise God for yet another second chance! Amen! Amen! Amen!