Monday, May 30, 2011

The Big Question



David Gregory, the moderator for NBC's Meet the Press, asked the question leading up to a break in the round table discussion is the Federal Government capable enough to solve the problems of the day as it is constituted. My answer to that question is, emphatically, no.

Now listen to the conversation, if you have not already, between former President Clinton and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, in the video above. That is a real discussion between people who understand the process. Those are the kind of discussions I use to have with my colleagues in the Mississippi Legislature, thus allowing me to earn the trust of Democrats and Republicans alike. These are the discussions that are sorely lacking in our process now.

The title of the video is misguided because Ryan admits all he was trying to do was start the discussion on Medicare Reform. He knew that his proposal was a radical idea, but the discussion has to start somewhere, so why not throw something out there and see if it sticks. The problem is that in this era of partisan spin and cheer leading, the GOP equated Ryan's icebreaker as the gospel to fix Medicare and the Democrats campaigned against it, successfully I might add in a special election in the most conservative Congressional District in New York State.

Ideas in politics are just that: ideas. They are not subject to pious adherence, they are starting points to invoke intelligent discussion and hopefully a workable solution to a public policy issue. Whether it is the deficit or crime in the streets, ideas in the legislative process are introduced as legislation to be debated, dissected and eventually fine-tuned to comport to the balance of providing for the general welfare while maintaining individual liberty. That is the foundation by which all legislation should be framed.

Fox News and MSNBC are not the policy makers for this nation, therefore our political direction should not be guided them. The men and women that sit in the United States Congress have that responsibility and they should start acting like they understand that. When the country is in a crisis, ideology should be thrown out the window and the preservation of the nation should be the main priority. Instead of developing talking points, both parties should be engaged in meshing ideas to move the nation forward.

Campaigning has its season. Governing is the main job. It is harder to govern that it is to campaign. In order to move this country forward, at some point in time, our elected leaders must be able to discern the difference. If they cannot, then they should be removed during the electoral process, it is that simple. However, the reality is everybody that says throw the bums out wants to keep their bum, and this cycle of leadership without vision or courage continues.

Leaders lead, followers follow. Right now we have a Congress comprised of expert followers, not leaders. They can give great speeches and most of their media sound bytes are on point, but that does not equate to leadership. The wood stain does not help the patio deck support the weight of those who stand on it, it is the strength of the wood used to construct the deck. We know how to make politics sound appealing to our bases, but we have forgotten how to govern the masses. In other words, we know how to make the deck look good for our benefit, but we have forgotten how to build the deck altogether.

In this time in our history, that has to change. This is the time for big ideas, not small-mindedness. As someone who has had the privilege of serving the public, I know how hard this is. I know how unappreciated one must feel when they have the passion to govern while others are more concerned with staying elected. But we need those people with a passion to govern to step into the forefront, even if it means breaking the party line. If those people are not in Congress yet, then they must run for Congress and we must support them, for the future of our nation is at stake.

Our economy is in a mess because we are too scared to do the things, or even have the discussions, necessary to make the fundamental changes needed to improve it. The political parties either want to vilify or sanctify the business community that drives our economic engine. They should be leading them. That is what they truly want and that is what the American people truly want. It is time to stop disappointing them and start doing what they want.

The Ryan-Clinton exchange was as pragmatic as one can, and should, expect from their political leaders. It is long overdue for those discussions to be the norm in Washington once again. It is time for the leaders to lead, and not in name or deference only.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hallelujah!

That was the response my estranged wife posted on Twitter when I said goodbye officially to our tumultuous marriage this morning.

It is obvious that clinging on to a false hope of reconciliation was futile and unhealthy for me. That should be a lesson for all of us. When a relationship is going to end, let it end, despite how strong your feelings are.

No matter how much you love someone, you should never let that love overpower the love you have for yourself. No matter how painful your loss may be, you will survive, as I will. Time will heal all wounds because God is the master of time and healing.

I am so open about my life because I am living it and I feel I have the right to tell my story more than anyone else. I have nothing to hide because I have done nothing wrong but be human and only God can condemn or forgive me for that.

I wish that the outcome could have been different but a relationship takes two people to make it work. It has become painfully obvious that my estranged wife was not committed to do her part. To her credit, she went through a lot while I was in the grip of depression. To be honest, she went through hell. Therefore, I cannot blame her for rejoicing that I will no longer be a part of her life. Hopefully over time she will find someone that will make her rejoice in a more positive way.

She will be mad when she hears about this, but she will get over it like she will get over our marriage. There is no going back anyway, once a spouse says they want a divorce, it is best to let it happen and move on.

There is no pain that God cannot help you overcome, even heartbreak. So for those reading this, take it not as an announcement of a failure, but as a lesson in love and relationships.

If you truly love someone, sometimes it is best to let them go...Hallelujah!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Pride is Back on Madison Avenue

I remember this time of year during the Michael Jordan era in the NBA. The Chicago Bulls would be working their way through a series of Eastern Conference contenders to defend their NBA title. As a fan, I would be so excited to watch MJ, Pippen and an assortment of incredible role players slashing, dunking and shutting down their opponents.

Well, it has been a long time since 1998. No additional banners have been erected. No ticker tape parades. Not for the Bulls anyway, as the White Sox and the Blackhawks have won their respective championships since then. But things are starting to return to normal on Madison Avenue in Chicago, because the pride of a champion is coming back.

Led by the league's MVP, Derrick Rose, the Bulls are back among the NBA's elite again. Along with Dang (the old man on this young team), Noah, Gibson and the new guy Boozer, they have generated the old memories again. With tough defense and an attacking half-court offense, the Bulls have its fans excited again about May and June basketball.

Everything is right in the world now. The Bulls are back!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hustle hard

With all apologies to rapper Ace Hood, I want to take this time to talk about the concept of hustle hard, better known as success in the grind of life. It is the mantra of the new economy the President aptly described we are in.

Everybody will have to work a little harder and step down from their personal pedestals to make it in this economy. If you have just a high school diploma or you have a felony conviction, it will be like climbing a societal Mt. Everest to make it, but since people have conquered the real mountain, advancement to the summit of the proverbial mountain can happen as well.

Just having an associates or bachelor's degree will not make the load that much lighter, but what you actually learn can never be taken away and that knowledge can be used as an important tool for survival. However, it does not really matter what tools and weapons you have at your disposal, if you do not have the drive and the fortitude to push through the tough times ahead, you will not be successful.

The hope is that as you are still breathing, your chances for success still exist. You have to possess the ability to hustle hard when the odds are stacked against you, meaning that when chaos is all around, your mind has to be clear, creative and decisive. Materialism is a distraction, comfort and security are the ultimate goals. In other words why flex a BMW when a Chrysler 300 will do fine? Why go to the Rocawear boutique when they sell it at Burlington Coat Factory?

Hustling hard is not about being blinged out, it is about working non-stop to achieve your goals, meet your needs and then fulfill your desires. Many young people, and to be honest, quite a few my age, don't really understand that. Somehow, someway, they think they have earned a sense of entitlement. This current economy has served as a great reality check for many persons that fall into that category.

Bottom line, in order to hustle hard successfully, one must be willing to make sacrifices, be willing to keep the faith when it seems hope is gone, and safely navigate through the pitfalls of life's journey to get to your ultimate goal. If you are not hustling hard, then you are only hustling yourself.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Inspiration/Revelation

Last night, I watched the PBS documentary Freedom Riders and was reinvigorated. Lately, as I have been chronicling my personal struggles, it has taken a lot of energy to keep my spirits up and to move on into my glorious future. That has taken away energies toward the cause and that is understandable because you have to help yourself before you can help others.

That is why it was important for me to watch the story of the young men and women who braved the best shot the Jim Crow South threw at them and made a difference, as well as history. It was also important to be reminded how Jackson, Mississippi became the last defiant stand for the riders.

Young people from all over the country, by the hundreds, descended on Jackson, ready to go to Mississippi State Prison at Parchmen, to bring the rule of law to the defiant Dixieland. It reminded me of when I made the decision to come to Jackson because I am sure they were asked the same question I was: why Jackson?

They knew the answer before I did. I had to stay in Mississippi for four years to see what they saw. Fifty years ago, they saw Jackson as the crossroads from the past to the future. Now it is my responsibility to keep that pathway open.

People have constantly asked me will I ever run for political office again. I have been hesitant to answer because of my current struggles. Last night reminded me that my internal demons are nothing compared to the principalities and powers that terrorized those young freedom fighters. They perservered and so will I. More importantly than running for office, I am engaged again and I will be active in the pursuit of justice, opportunity and respect for all Mississippians.

Thank you Freedom Riders for breaking down barriers for me and continuing to inspire me to do God's work, especially in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taking a deep breath...

...The hits just keep on coming, but it was not like it was unexpected. I will now have to abandon my undisclosed location and be back out wandering in the world. Since no new flow of income has emerged and there is no hope of reconciliation in my personal life, the nomadic journey begins again.

But I have to take a deep breath and count it all joy. I may be struggling but I am still here. People are planning to manipulate me again politically, but they will not succeed. People are tarnishing my good name and trying to make me look bad with my family and friends, but they will not succeed. People are trying to play games with my emotions so that I will relapse and lose control of my life, but they will not succeed. People are painting me as an unstable person, but the truth is the accusers and framers are the unstable ones themselves.

People are rejoicing that my struggles continue, but their joy will soon come to an end. I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I am pressing forward. The devil will employ all of his resources to keep me down but I will not succumb to him or those who, willingly or unwillingly, do his dirty work. When I get to the other side, those who were with me during this struggle will be greatly rewarded. Those who have abandoned me, kicked me or pushed me into this abyss will get their just rewards in due time from a source more powerful than anything in this universe...

...whew! Taking another deep breath...

This struggle is tiring to the soul, but I cannot stop and surrender to the weariness. I wish those who don't love me would leave me alone and those who do love me stay strong in their prayers and support. Of course, if it was that easy then it would not be a struggle.

This is where the testimony of faith applies: I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me...

...Deep breath...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May have quit tobacco too soon...

...It has been nearly a week since I dipped my last chew of tobacco between my cheek and gum. It has been rough. I can feel my weight climbing back after I lost over 30 lbs. The cravings have gotten stronger, and the stress is starting to mount.

I did not get the news I wanted concerning a job that I was offered, nor concerning pending financial matters. I am being inundated with opinions from family and friends about my personal life and whether I am going to have a political future in this state.

Right about now, I would be pulling a good pinch of Grizzly Mint from the tobacco tin, sticking it in my mouth and letting the soothing tobacco do its work. However, I know that the few minutes of peace and tranquility I may garner from that pinch will eventually lead to years of discomfort and maybe even sudden death. That is why I quit.

When I said I wanted to enjoy the next 46 years of my life, I meant it. I want to be cancer-free as long as I can be, therefore I want to live as long as I can. I want to have moments with my son as he gets older. I want to see the men that are currently in my custody living productive lives outside of incarceration. I want to see the next generation of leaders emerge and take Mississippi/America to new heights. I may even want to fall in love again.

I cannot do that if I die from mouth cancer or lung cancer or any other type of cancer. It is going to be a struggle, but it is one I have to prevail because the alternative is definitely not a viable option.

On that note, it has been brought to my attention that maybe I should not be so personal with my blog entries. Some have said that it may jeopardize a job opportunity or make some folks feel uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is living in your car because you cannot afford a place to live. Feeling uncomfortable is going a whole year without gainful employment, begging and borrowing and scraping up whatever you can to survive. Feeling uncomfortable is watching your child in intensive care and being powerless to do anything to help accelerate the healing.

Feeling uncomfortable after reading some one's personal diary: not so much. As for the job, there is a popular saying amongst the social networking set that goes: be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. It is what it is. This blog is my blog to be as transparent as I want without crossing the dreaded TMI line.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, maybe I don't need to succumb to the craving after all. All I need to do is express myself and not stress myself. In short, blogging good; chewing tobacco bad.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Confession of a celebrator

Hello.

My name is Erik, and I celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden...

I introduce myself that way because Americans seemed to be uneasy with people who celebrated the death of our tyrant for the last decade, much like they are around addicts, no matter which stage of the recovery they are in.

I had no problem with it. Unfortunately, I was in my undisclosed location getting ready for some early shuteye when I heard the news, not from CNN mind you, but my first ex-wife. CNN was confirmation, then MSNBC for pragmatic coverage of what was happening.

There were no flash celebrations in my neighborhood, but I enjoyed and reveled with the folks on TV. I was glad that bin Laden died on the same exact day as Hitler and I am assured that they are rotting in the same, well-deserved place.

Victory, by the way, is never morbid. A crazy man decided to use an act of terror to get attention and start a holy war. He succeeded, he got the attention he wanted, and now he is dead! Yippee!

If that is considered insensitive, so be it. I think it is insensitive to fly planes into buildings, killing innocent people. I think it is insensitive to blow up government buildings because you disagree with its presence in your region of the world. I think it is insensitive to convince young men to sacrifice their lives as suicide bombers based on ideological rhetoric.

So I was glad to see my fellow citizens celebrating an end to tyranny in their generation. The images will live in my memories forever. The Greatest American Generation had their victory celebration. The Founding Fathers had theirs. Now we have had our turn.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The end...

The end. Those two little words have so much meaning. Basically it means the conclusion of a story that has been told and often times leaves the reader wanting more or completely satisfied.

The end to me means the conclusion of the first 46 years of my life. It has been eventful. Two failed marriages, a domestic abuse charge, financial struggles, numerous jobs, a fairly successful political career, college (nuff said), fatherhood, romantic relationships (and some not so romantic), parties, my ongoing spiritual journey and a serious battle with depression.

It's the battle with depression that has transformed my life. Once I was diagnosed and treated, my life has started to transform. It all started on the day of my last blog. That following Monday, I started counseling and medication. I have never felt better.

My outlook on life has become normal again. I am enjoying the little things and no longer sweatting the small stuff. My mind is sharper and I am more engaged in politics than ever, even without holding a politcal office.

Unfortunately my change has come too late to undo a lot a damage that was done during my darkest moments, but that is to be understood. Now, it is time to take this new self on a new adventure. The past is the past. Lessons have been learned. It is time to move on.

So this is the end of the first 46-year chapter of my life. I look forward to the journey for the next 46 years with great anticipation. I will never let sorrow and despair control my life again. As I travel through life's valleys, I will gather strength through my faith and press on to the mountain top. I am more alive now than I have ever been and I am going to live like I am truly alive.

Goodbye depression! Goodbye loneliness! Goodbye gloom and doom! Hello world, my name is Erik Fleming!

THE END