U2 Live in Chicago: Innocence & Experience Tour, June 28, 2015

U2 Innocence & Experience Show, Sunday, June 28, 2015, ChicagoLast weekend Abby and I traveled to Chicago to see U2’s Innocence and Experience tour at the United Center. We saw the Sunday, June 28 show and it was pretty amazing.

Stage Setup

It was our fourth U2 show, and while nothing can beat watching U2 during a rainstorm, this was pretty good. I’m continually amazed with their stage setup. They had a walkway down the middle of the arena, with a video screen/catwalk that could be raised and lowered.

So at one point The Edge is walking along the walkway while Bono is walking towards him on the catwalk, 10 feet higher in the air, with a video screen around him that makes it look like Bono was walking down the street.

U2 Innocence & Experience Show, Sunday, June 28, 2015, Chicago

You can see lots more pictures here.

Songs

U2 also played a great mix of songs, playing a lot from the new album (7 songs total) but also playing all the old favorites. I had a hard time coming up with a classic song they didn’t play (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is probably the one I missed the most, but they hit so many others and have so many classics, seems like a win to me).

They also included some they haven’t played much, including “Gloria” (not played live in 10 years) and “Lucifer’s Hands” (a b-side for the new album they’ve only played live once before).

I couldn’t help grabbing some video:

(I also got “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Every Breaking Wave,” and “All I Want Is You.”

Gay Pride

The show was on Sunday, June 28 and the Friday before the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its historic ruling on gay marriage. This was the first U2 show since the decision and it was referenced a coupled times.

First, U2 played “Bullet the Blue Sky” and Bono referenced “Don’t Shoot” and “Can’t Breathe” from the Black Lives Matter movement, before doing a snippet of “The Hands That Built America” and then launching into “Pride (In the Name of Love).”

During “Pride” a rainbow flag landed on the stage that Bono twirled around before shouting, “Gay pride in the name of love!” Then he urged the crowd to sing for Baltimore, Ferguson and Charleston, referring to the on-going racial violence in the U.S.

While introducing the final song, “One,” Bono again returned to gay marriage: “Why would you be against anyone committing their lives to each other?” He dedicated the song to Chicago’s Pride parade that happened that day and put in a little dig that Ireland passed gay marriage before the U.S. (“We put the gay in Gaelic”).

All in all it was a pretty amazing show. Lots of energy, lots of heart, lots of rock.

From Ferguson to Charleston: Institutional Racism

In the past year racism has been in the spotlight more than any time I remember in my life. From Ferguson to Cleveland to Baltimore to McKinney to Charleston, from police brutality to a white supremacist terrorist. It’s prompting some honest and difficult conversations. I hope you’re joining them.

These events and conversations are important to me. The fact is systemic racism continues to be a problem in America today. It’s not overt like it was during Jim Crow. It’s often subconscious. It’s often systemic. It’s often something we (I) don’t even realize we’re doing. But it’s there.

What’s so amazing about this moment right now is that we’re actually having those conversations. I’m completely shocked that the Charleston shooting has turned into a reexamination of the Confederate flag. In some ways that’s getting lost in the weeds, and if we think removing one symbol is going to change much we’d be mistaken. But it’s a small step of progress to recognize the oppression of our past.

People much smarter than I are weighing in on this issue and saying much smarter things than I ever could. So rather than ramble on, I’m going to link to them.

I’ll just close by saying I think we’re watching history happen. Something is changing in America right now. Let’s be a part of making that a change for the good of all people.

I doubt I’ve lived this out very well this past week (or even months as this conversation has gone on), but it’s a powerful prayer to live up to:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
(St. Francis)

Mad Max Is Just a Movie

I watched Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday and it’s all kinds of ridiculous. Who waits 30 years to continue a franchise? Who makes an entire movie one long car chase? Who threatens a boycott of an an action movie because it’s too feminist?

Mad Max is all kinds of absurd. And it’s awesome.

The best example of its absurdity: Bringing your own theme music along on a chase scene, complete with a rock ‘n roll car, fronted by an insane guitar player who can—wait for it—shoot fire from his guitar.

What?!

Exactly.

That flame-throwing guitar is real, by the way. No CGI involved.

If anyone expected Mad Max to make a lot of sense, you’re in the wrong movie. It’s just a lot of crazy action and some bad ass people.

What is perhaps the most absurd thing about the movie is how everyone is calling it a feminist movie. Yes, there are strong female characters. Yes, Charlize Theron’s character totally overshadows Mad Max. Yes, there’s a crew of old-aged biker chicks with the mantra, “One man, one bullet.” (78-year-old Melissa Jaffer did her own stunts.) And yes, the damsels in distress are pretty well rescuing themselves.

So what?

It’s awesome. It fits perfectly in the post-apocalyptic world to have women reduced to objects and pushed to the point they fight back. Girl power isn’t exactly new in Mad Max. Tina Turner was quite the bad ass in charge. There was even the Warrior Woman in Road Warrior, fighting off the horde to the death.

It’s refreshing to see an action movie that takes women seriously. But do we really need to call it feminist? Can’t we just call it a movie?

The Age of the Movie Saga

We’ve entered the age of the movie saga. Movies no longer come with one or two sequels, instead it’s an entire series. It’s a big shift from when I grew up and makes things interesting for my kids.

My kids don’t watch a ton of TV (we make them earn TV time with optional chores, which means they usually opt to play outside instead), but over spring break we relaxed a little. Knowing the next Avengers movie is coming out soon, I got a pile of DVDs from the library.

Both kids have seen and like the Avengers, but they haven’t watched all the other movies. I hadn’t even seen them all. So over break we watched Captain America 1,  Thor 1 & 2 as well as X-Men 1.

To truly catch the kids up on the Marvel series they’d also have to see Iron Man 1, 2 & 3 (not sure about that… I remember Iron Man 1 being awfully violent for a 6-year-old) and Hulk. Plus the Agents of Shield TV show. Thankfully none of it is required watching—Marvel does a nice job of stringing things loosely together (you could enjoy Avengers without having seen any of the other movies… I had only seen Iron Man 1 & 2 and Thor 1).

When you try to put the entire saga together to date, there are 10 movies: Hulk, Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Captain America 1, Thor 1, Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy (so the last one is very loosely connected… but the post-credits scene at the end of Thor 2 shows they are connected, and will be more connected in the future). There are even marathon screenings of all the movies leading up to Avengers 2. At 27 hours, we’ve moved beyond the movie marathon. And it’s only going to grow. Marvel has a roll-out plan into 2019 that will nearly double the number of movies. Continue reading The Age of the Movie Saga

Oregon’s Racist History

Oregon’s original constitution included a “bill of rights” that banned black people the state.

The state used a popular vote to adopt their constitution and had separate votes on two  issues. Oregon residents voted to outlaw slavery with a strong 75% majority. But an overwhelming 89% voted to ban black or any mixed race people from the state.

The laws were technically overturned by the federal government’s 14th amendment, which Oregon ratified in 1866, but then un-ratified in 1868 (largely symbolic).

We like to whitewash our history and think that segregation and racism only happened in the South, or that being anti-slavery meant people weren’t racist. Not so.

I first heard about this history at the White Privilege Conference and Gizmodo has a fascinating blog post about it.

And of course Oregon isn’t the only Northern state with a troubled racial history. The Gizmodo blog links to a story about a black family buying a home in a white, Minneapolis neighborhood in the 1930s and the riot that ensued.

White Privilege & the Ferguson Report

Last week I attended the White Privilege Conference in Louisville, Ky. The name of the conference always raises eyebrows, especially when people don’t understand the concept of white privilege.

The conference gets criticism on both sides. It also gets the attention of the KKK, which tells me they must be doing something right.

So is it a bunch of white people sitting around in a guilt trip? No. It’s not the Privileged White People Conference. It’s about realizing the various kinds of bias we have in our lives—racial and otherwise—how it often leads to oppression of various forms, and what we can do to stop it.

The fact that I’m a white, anglo-saxon male with a college degree gives me certain privileges and biases that color how I see the world. It doesn’t mean I’m a racist, but it does mean I’m immersed in a society built on discrimination. Many of those biases have unknowingly become a part of who I am. It comes up in everything from the color of bandages (why does the “flesh color” match my skin but not my son’s?) to how we related to the police.

For example, Franklin Graham seems to have a different relationship to the police than the black citizens of Minneapolis.

“Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience.” -Franklin Graham

“People just feel alienated from the police, or don’t trust the police, or don’t think maybe that the kid is going to be treated fairly, or don’t think that calling the police makes a difference, or don’t feel empowered to engage the police.” -School Board Member Don Samuels, who lives in predominately black North Minneapolis (in a report on the racial bias in Minneapolis policing)

Continue reading White Privilege & the Ferguson Report

2015 Diversity in Reading Update

I talked about pursuing diverse books last month, looking at my track record for both gender and racial diversity. It’s hard work. Diversity doesn’t just happen.

So far this year I haven’t been consciously picking diverse books (choosing a book because it’s written by a woman or a person of color as opposed to a white guy), but I have been lining up more diverse books in the lists of what I want to read.

Basically I want to read more diverse books without going so far the other way that I refuse to read something written by a white guy.

Here’s where I’m at so far:

  • 17 of 24 female authors
  • 11 of 24 POC characters or authors

Not bad. The slant to women authors is probably more coincidental. I honestly thought there would be more people of color so far, but this is more proof of how you have to work for it. Most of the POC reads have been books I intentionally sought out. Only one was an “accident” (a book featuring a main character of color that I didn’t know about ahead of time).

It’s also clear just how hard it is to find good diversity in books. I’ve been searching and I continue to search for more sources and recommendations. I’m thankful for organizations like We Need Diverse Books that move beyond the rallying cry and offer resources and solutions. I’m especially looking for good chapter books to read to my kids.

Favorite book so far? Probably the Parable of the Sower/Talents series by Octavia Butler. Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson is a close second.

Reflections on MLK’s Birthday

This week #BlackLivesMatter protesters were charged with various crimes and restitution for the Christmas protests at the Mall of America. At the same time I’m reading the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. and hoping to actually attend MLK Day events instead of just enjoy another day off. I’m troubled by the continual question of whether or not black lives actually matter—questionable police killings, terror in Paris that trumps massacre in Nigeria, and condemnations for protests that inconvenience people.

I’m frustrated by all of it. So I rant…

In this day and time when we celebrate the work and life of Martin Luther King Jr., why is it that we sanitize the man?

We want to make him a hero of racial harmony, the winner in the battle for freedom and equal rights.

We forget his challenge to the churches of the time, who stood by in silence while King wrote to them from his jail cell on scraps of paper. We forget that King not only wanted racial equality, but progress. Jobs, housing, education—King wanted fairness and equality in all of these areas of life. He was anti-war and even argued for a nationalized healthcare system.

We forget all those unrealized dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. Instead we focus on free at last. We look around and decide that segregation is gone so we must have made it to the mountaintop.

Such a vision of King allows us to declare his work done.

Here in the North we like to congratulate ourselves that we weren’t the center of marches and protests, we didn’t unleash dogs and fire hoses.

Yet here in the North, in Minnesota where we pride ourselves on being nice, it’s really just a facade. While our education system is the pride of the nation, it fails Minnesotans of color. Our achievement gap is among the worst in the nation. Blacks make up only 5% of Minnesota, yet they fill 37% of our prisons—the black to white disparity in our prisons is among the worst in the nation (Council on Black Minnesotans Disparity Analysis, PDF). Across the country the net worth of blacks is one-thirteenth the net worth of whites.

50 years after free at last why do these basic inequalities still exist?

If we truly believe that all people are equal, if that’s the foundation of our society, the basis of our freedom, the ethos of America itself—then why do such disparities exist?

It is time to open our eyes to the casual, hidden racism in our own hearts. It’s time to stop thinking that we are post-racial and realize the million tiny ways that our society is still segregated, still racist, still separate and still definitely not equal.

Disagree? Then why are black people 20 times more likely to be stopped by police? And it’s not justified, because “whites stopped during traffic searches were found to carry contraband at higher rates than blacks and other minorities, [yet] resulting arrests and prosecution rate were ten times higher for blacks than for whites,” (Disparity Analysis).

There’s Minnesota Nice at work.

We think the black man needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps, but we forget, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the black man is actually barefoot.

We bristle at the idea that a black person should get help that we never received. I worked hard to get to where I am today. Yes you did. But so did your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, many of whom benefited by ousting Native Americans, by enjoying the benefits of free slave labor or milking the lives of sharecroppers. None of that is personally your fault or mine (and we bristle at the idea), but we have privilege lifting us up, while the black community has centuries of weight holding them down even today.

This cartoon so simply illustrates the differences:

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It’s time we open our eyes to the realities. Today it’s not blatant Jim Crow laws, but hidden biases in our justice system that seek anything but justice. A white teenager caught with drugs made a simple mistake, boys will be boys and they’re given a slap on the wrist. Black teen drug offenders are thugs and gangbangers. They get criminal records.

We villainize  criminals today, forgetting that Jesus Christ was a criminal, falsely accused and executed by the state. While hanging on the cross with thieves and robbers on either side, he turned and forgave the criminal.

When a black man is shot and killed by the police, we pull up every wrong the black man has ever done. We pull up his criminal record, the bad things he said, the questionable photos on social media. The forgiveness that is supposed to be at the very heart of our Christian faith goes out the window as we justify why this man deserved to be killed. He said bad things, once upon a time, so it’s OK for the police to shoot him. He robbed a store, so the death penalty is OK. Innocent until shot by police and proven guilty by a jury of sensational media. But he broke the law, so he had it coming.

It doesn’t matter if that black man was 12 years old.

It doesn’t matter if that black man was innocent.

Forgiveness does not apply because that black man was a bad man.

Not only was Jesus Christ a criminal, but so was Martin Luther King Jr. He sat in jail more than 30 times. The FBI had him under surveillance. They were more worried about this black man protesting and marching across the south than they were the KKK who were bombing and murdering across the south.

This is where we are today. We have sanitized—dare I say whitewashed—the civil rights movement to make it safe and comfortable and convince ourselves that we arrived at the mountaintop a long time ago. That way we don’t have to look around at the injustices piling up at our feet. We can ignore them and keep on walking.

We can decry the protesters who block freeways and clog shopping malls, dismissing them and labeling them as law breakers and criminals, ignoring that these same tactics were used 50 years ago in the civil rights movement. We herald these actions in history but condemn them in the present.

freewaysitin1964

We do not have equality today. We do not have justice today. We have not made it to the mountaintop.

There is still work to be done.

As we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the many other civil rights pioneers, let us not give in to the thinking that the work is done. Let’s find today’s civil rights pioneers, today’s strugglers and join with them.

What Now?

If, like me, you’re wondering what to do and want to be involved and know how you can help, then join me in listening.

Let’s read the powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is a good place to start.

But let’s not stop with powerful words written more than 50 years ago (as amazing as they are). Let’s listen to today’s leaders like Nekima Levy-Pounds, a local civil rights lawyer and law professor at St. Thomas. She’s one of 10 charged with organizing the #BlackLivesMatter protests at the Mall of America and charged with $25,000 in lost income and police overtime, in addition to other fines.

Let’s read books like The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Let’s attend MLK Day events and celebrate more than a sanitized legacy.

Let’s begin to understand how the promise of American has been limited to a select few, and that struggle and protest are the only way that promise has been opened to all. Keeping that promise is never easy or automatic. For justice to roll down, the people must rise up. Let’s do the work to ensure that all people truly are created equal and have the same advantages and opportunities.

Let’s make America the land of freedom and equality we claim it is.

Gender Diversity in Books

Last week I looked at diversity in my reading  going back to 2001. I simply looked at racial diversity, assuming gender diversity wasn’t a big deal anymore.

Out of curiosity, I went back and charted gender diversity.

Turns out I’ve been lacking gender diversity as well:

Gender diversity among the books I read.

  • This is a little more straight-forward to chart than racial diversity. For books with multiple authors, I counted them if any of the contributors were women.
  • 2014 is the only year I’ve read more women than men (54%). The only other years that come close are 2008 with 45% (that happens to be the year I re-read the entire Harry Potter series, accounting for 7 of the 9 books authored by a woman) and 2013 with 42%.
  • Most years I’m sitting between a quarter and a third of my books written by female authors.
  • For a few years I only read two or three female authors. In my lame defense, I didn’t read many books that year. But the ratio was still around 10% or less. Ouch.
  • I’ve read a lot more YA and middle grade fiction recently, and I wonder if that has accounted for my recent spike in women authors. There tend to be a lot more women authors in YA and middle grade.

Clearly, more proof that diversity doesn’t happen by accident.

Why We Must Pursue Diverse Books

We Need Diverse BooksI believe diversity matters. We’re better when we hear from a diverse range of voices. But if we’re not intentional about embracing diversity, it doesn’t happen.

I got my We Need Diverse Books swag in the mail today, my reward for supporting their highly successful Indiegogo project.

I read a lot of books last year (203, not that I’m bragging), and I was curious how diverse my selections were. I made an effort to read more diverse books in 2014 (in part thanks to We Need Diverse Books), but I was also curious about previous years as well.

So here’s a chart of the diversity of my reading going back to 2001:

My total books vs. diverse books Continue reading Why We Must Pursue Diverse Books

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.