Trust The Progress… er, I Mean “Process”

Ben's Journal, Moderate Proposals, Politics

I have often stated that I am a Progressive. I see a problem, I solve it in a simple way. I repeat. #Progress!

You have often stated that I was an insanely successful juggernaut on the pre-American landscape (I am, of course, paraphrasing…). So, how did I become so successful a Progressive? It came down to two fundamental principles.

Firstly, walk into every room and ask yourself, “how can I make it better?”. This is the staple mentality for any successful Progressive. It implies a concern for the standards of quality in regards to all elements within your vicinity that affect the livelihood of society; both people and environment alike. It also implies a motivation to ensure that those standards are met. It’s not just concern. It’s action.

The other fundamental principle to success is to move with a confidence that borderlines on arrogance. This is the fuel which energizes you. It’s not a comparative, “I’m better than you” mentality. Rather, it’s an understanding that “I am great because I’m trying to improve the lives of all of those around me”. Walk tall because, regardless of how successful your attempt is, you are on the RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY.

“Right Side” of History

That concept, “the right side of history” is not addressed often enough in discourse. It is a nifty mindset that can help you dictate your long-term legacy in the court of public opinion. Any student of history has the ability to predict which side of a conflict will be memorialized because it follows simple guidelines:

  • It tears down an oppressive barrier to a group of people
  • It ensures positive long-term economic effects that benefit the masses, not just a certain group of people
  • It promotes equality amongst the population

Figures throughout history are revered because of their Progressive challenges to oppressive, conservative status-quos:

  • Thomas Jefferson for stating “all men are created equal” and establishing the foundation arguments for separation of church and state
  • George Washington for surrendering his office of Presidency
  • Abraham Lincoln for abolishing slavery
  • Franklin Roosevelt for supporting the working-class
  • Ghandi for fighting British imperialism
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. for challenging segregation

These men are remembered for their moves that would be considered “Progressive” in their time period. They challenged policies and institutions that had been based off of previous rationale and argument. They altered the course of history for humanity. They opened up opportunities for groups that had once been denied those “inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. They are the ones who are taught about in schools. They are regarded as heroes and are quoted and emulated from people on both sides of political ideology. They are remembered because of their PROGRESSIVISM.

Now, I hope reading this list has raised an eye-brow. That is good, because that means that you can identify the irony…

  • The first two men owned hundreds of slaves
  • The middle two men were racist
  • The last two men were misogynistic

These men were not Gods. Not even Demi-Gods. They were flawed. They had prejudices and biases that prevented them from doing more to ensure equality for all. Often, they were at the forefront of one cause, but disappeared into the mob of contemporary public opinion for other issues. As fair as we think it might be to hope for someone who could push the oppressive boundaries in all directions, this concept is, unfortunately, just not realistic. But all it took was to be on the forefront of one cause, to challenge one indoctrinated evil (and then to prevail) for them to move forward the advancement of society. Did they do something exceptional? Yes. Did they do enough? Probably not. But that’s how change in society occurs…

Societal Evolution

Society is always evolving for the better. The progress sometimes can be rapid. Sometimes it can feel like it is crawling at a snail’s pace. But it’s still progressing. It is a valuable reminder for Progressives. Because progress implies change, it is going to run into resistance each step of the way. Reactionaries, out of fear or anger, will fight back to sabotage progress, either through hindrance or outright reversal. This is the nature of humans! Depending on the conflict, the level of resistance will fluctuate, but it is always guaranteed. That is why any type of progress is still good.

Progress is not easy. It will never provide a clear path. I heard a great story from Daniel Day Lewis, as he played Abraham Lincoln, and it has always resonated with me:

A compass I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you true north from where your standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what’s the use of knowing true north?

(Lincoln, 2012)

Compromise

I am a big supporter of COMPROMISE. Throughout negotiations, you will often have to reach compromise. It makes everyone angry. But it also provides a substantial foundation to build upon. You may not be able to fully open the door that shuts you out. However, if you have compromised to get a foot in the door, then it will become less difficult for the next person to come along and provide the effort to open it further.

For example, the Affordable Care Act. It enforces the Progressive belief that all Americans should be protected in affordable healthcare. It did a lot of good in providing accessible healthcare for approximately 20 million people who couldn’t afford it before. However, there are issues with the bill. Because of the process for a bill to become a law, the ACA was altered and changed to cater to hundreds of members of Congress. Some wanted the ACA to go farther to ensure free healthcare. Most wanted it to do waaaaaay less. The end result was a compromised bill that was complicated and inefficient in many ways. Does it need to be revised? Absolutely. However, it finally ensured that Federal government was going to ensure that poor people had access to healthcare… THAT’S PROGRESS! Down the line, it will hopefully become more efficient. But in the meantime, it is a huge accomplishment for Progressives.

This is not to say that you should settle for minimal progress. It is a constant struggle that will always leave you desiring for more to be done. Humanity will provide you with the most stubborn of opponents in your crusade… always. So you must understand that it is a process. As Progressives, you need to TRUST THE PROCESS, and keep fighting for your desired goals.

America’s Team Part 3 – Not Boston

Ben's Journal, Moderate Proposals

There are plenty of arguments that can be made as to why America’s team is really the Patriots. Rebels fighting the British. Tea Party. Sons of Liberty. Hometown of John Adams and me, Ben Franklin. Successful Founders and rich history, indeed!

Nope. Philly prevails. Here’s why:

Boston is important for starting the American rebellion, yes. But the American Revolution starts and finishes in Philadelphia. If we want our image to be a rabble-rousing mob of gun-toting, blue collar workers, then maybe we could consider them… though I guess a lot of America might consider that image very ‘Merican. Not very Enlightened though. Not very Revolutionary… Not like, say, crafting foundational documents which reshape American sociopolitical theory.

Boston’s stock value of American demi-gods is also not as high as one might think… Sorry Patriots of New England. Neither Sam Adams nor John Hancock is significant after they signed the Declaration of Independence. They were NOT helpful in creating the new Republic after the war. Hell, they didn’t really help after starting the war. They were men built for tearing down, and terrible for building up. The just gradually faded away in to local political oblivion.

So the Sons of Liberty don’t help Boston. What else can they claim?

Boston doesn’t get to claim me – Ben Franklin – either. Yes, I was born in Boston. My parents are buried in Boston. I went to school and learned my printing trade in Boston. Boston Enlightened me. But I could not stand the Puritans. If I had stayed in New England, I would have been run out of town, or jailed, for my dismissal of religious fanaticism. I left Boston and I never looked back.

I came to Philadelphia and I made that town. I conceived most of the Progressive and Enlightened institutions established in that city. Philly is my child. Ask any parent: if they had to choose between their own parent or their own child, they would always claim loyalty first, and foremost, to their child. The city, in return, made my success, my fame, my legacy. So my loyalties shifted to Philadelphia. I am connected to that Philadelphia more than I am to Boston.

So, of the Boston characters, there is only John Adams left…

Cool? Forgive me if I don’t roll out the red carpet for that one. Sorry, Boston. Your historical credentials are top-tier…

But Philly is America’s hometown.

America’s Team Part 2

Ben's Journal, Moderate Proposals

The “Cowboy” vs. The “76er”

This is NOT a competition.

I understand that Americans like to view themselves as glorified Cowboys. They are noble tough guy rebels who do what they want; and what they want is to ride into town with guns blazing to kill 60 bad guys and save the damsel. Then, once their heroic deeds are accomplished, they ride off into the sunset. And they smoke Marlboros…

But name three REAL Cowboys: Jesse James? Wyatt Earp? Doc Holliday? Okay, but they were outlaws and U.S. Marshals… not cowboys.

A “76er”, on the other hand, is something else entirely? It’s the member of the Continental Congress from 1776… the Founders of America. They are noble(-ish) rebels who do what they want; and what they want is to stop paying British taxes by fighting, guns blazing, the most powerful Empire that the world had ever seen. They do all this based on the belief that “all men are created equal”. Then, once their heroic deeds are accomplished, they DO NOT ride off into the sunset. They stay and create the new country, raise it, and set it on its path. You know, CREATING AMERICA. Name three REAL 76ers: George Washington! Thomas Jefferson! John Adams! Ben Franklin! I named four. There’s a school in every city named after each of them. And some museums. And some roads. And some colleges. And some cities. And a state….

The 76ers are WAAAAAAY more “American” than the Cowboys.

If you still think it’s a stretch, then you aren’t using COMMON SENSE.

America’s Team: The 76ers

Ben's Journal, Moderate Proposals

I understand the natural inclination to have one professional sports franchise transcend all others, and represent the ideas of our country.

Sooo why are the Dallas Cowboys the ones who earn the title “America’s Team”? How!?

Well, with excellent marketing and sustained success on the field, they have become the most recognizable franchise in the sport, with the infamous “ Silver Star” serving as their beacon. Yes, they played for Dallas, but they represented the entire state of Texas. Sure, that makes sense. One could also argue that they became the top team that attracted disgruntled and casual fans from around the country. (I have no factual statistics to back this statement up… its just a hunch)

But does that earn them the label, “America’s Team”? HELLLLLLLLL NO. You see, America, your loyalties already lie somewhere else.

The real “America’s Team” is the PHILADELPHIA 76ERS… and here’s why:

America’s Hometown

Note: For this exercise, we’re going to pretend that America as an entity thinks like a person (after all, corporations can be…)

When I consider the mantle “America’s Team”, I define it as “the team America supports”. LOGIC tells me that there are two ways to determine your loyalties:

  1. Your hometown/family tradition
  2. The successful/attractive team you see on television while you are growing up.

Considering America was born before any of these sports were created, it didn’t watch any sports growing up. So the second option is off the table. Besides, it is petty, superficial, shallow, and treacherous to abandon your own hometown team because another team is more successful. America wouldn’t do that.

So therefore, America would support Philadelphia in all of its sports because, God Dammit, America is loyal! Hell, the city knows what it truly represents! It doesn’t shy away from the connections. Three out of the five major sport teams have names relating to the United States. Look at the naming of its teams:

  • The most popular sport in America, football, has a Philadelphia team named “The Eagles”. While it’s naming stems from the logo of Franklin Roosevelt’s American Recovery Act, the name still strongly connects to the American symbol, the eagle.
  • The most popular sport in the world, soccer, has a Philadelphia team named “The Union”. This stems from the creation of one country from multiple states… you know, America…

Considering football is the most popular sport in the country, the Eagles would seem to be the Philly team to argue in favor of as the American symbol. However, the NFL is going through a really big image problem right now. Ratings are low. Also, America’s image is struggling at home and abroad. We are going through some growing pains (that happens when you take progressive steps forward).

With a duel image crisis happening, maybe it’s time to rethink who “America’s Team should really be. America, I’d like to introduce you to the 76ers.

Think about the marketing!

Basketball is the fastest growing sport in the world. If we are trying to reassert our popularity image, basketball should be the sport. Think about the popularity of the U.S. Men’s Basketball team at the Olympics in any city… Every other athlete wants to get pictures with them. We win fans of America through this.

Now consider the Sixers: a young and exciting team with rich – but not too rich – history. There is lots of room for growth in our popularity. But what we lack in fans, we also lack in haters. No one hates the 76ers. For most of the team’s existence, it has remained irrelevant. So we can always evolve our image to take on new responsibilities.

Is it that much of a stretch to remake the American Team with the Sixers?

Obviously, the Philadelphia 76ers get their name from the year 1776… the birth year of our country. That number will always connect us with the Founding Fathers – the men who we love to credit with creating the values and philosophies that shaped our country’s identity. We, the Founders, are more representative of the “American image” than a stupid fluffing “Cowboy”…

Use Common Sense. If I’m going to pick one team to truly be America’s team, I’m going to follow a logical formula:

  1. America’s hometown is Philadelphia
  2. Basketball is the fastest growing sport in popularity in the world
  3. Philadelphia’s basketball team is the Philadelphia 76ers
  4. The 76ers = the Founding Fathers
  5. The Founding Fathers established the values and principles of “America”

Therefore…

  1. America’s Team is the Philadelphia 76ers

It’s just Common Sense.

Chapter 2 – Riddlin’

Life and Times of the Philly O.G., Rap

First song = HUGE SUCCESS

My kids didn’t realize I could keep a rhythm or write rhymes… but then again, the bar was set pretty low. I could have written half as much and rapped reeeeeeally slow and they STILL would have enjoyed it. Not much is expected of us, TEACHERS, when it comes to creativity. So, I could have gone full blown “Dr. Seuss” and they would have gone nuts.

Did they understand everything I said? Nope. In fact I had to follow-up with them afterwards that I had, in fact, called them out. I had some difficulty with a few of the vocabulary words so I forcefully (and unpoetic as all Hell…) inserted them into latter bars of the rap.

Did they learn all of the words? Wellllll…. sort of. In hindsight, you should not perform a study guide Vocab Rap on THE DAY OF THE TEST… allowing the students no chance to actually study… oops!

Oh yea, they also didn’t believe that I was really Ben Franklin. In fact, they didn’t even notice the name drop in the first place. When I repeated the line (an equivalent to explaining a joke…) they figured it was my rap name. They definitely do not believe that I am actually Ben Franklin. Oh well! I guess that makes sense since YOU don’t either…

On the plus side, they really liked that line: “So sophisticated I made Rick Ross say, ‘Huh!?’”… so that’s a win!!!!

I got all of my students’ attention. Some of them accepted my challenge. For Vocabulary Unit 2, they were ready to throw down. “Quiz Day” would be renamed “The Thunderdome”.

Now, I would LOVE to say that they spent every hour working on their own vocabulary raps. That would’ve been LOVELY. Instead, I got them to work on it twice in their study-hall… over the course of 4 weeks. And that was only after I extorted them about EXTRA CREDIT. (It got them to write, so don’t judge me.) The IRONY was that they would walk over to me in study-hall to ask if they were using vocabulary words correctly in otherwise slang-filled rhymes:

“You ugly f— punk, your face a abomination…”

OR

“It’s so adventitious that your booty so circuitous…”

AND

“Yo, Nonymous, your synonymous with a hippopotamus…”

(No vocab in this one, it’s just my favorite…)

I knew then what I was getting myself into. I needed to reset the expectations about the INOFFENSIVE lyric clause. There could be none. So that I didn’t lose control of my classes. They needed to be respectful to each other as well as to me. Otherwise, we would not continue with it. In reality, I just didn’t want to get into trouble…

… but I also knew I needed to still come at their necks pretty badly. (Translation: I was going to figuratively demolish them through ridicule). The second OG RULE is: “You attack them once, shame on you. You attack them twice, period.” I came right back at them. I was swinging away with each bar, casting aside all takers.

There was benefit of using all of the vocabulary words in the rap. All of my insults took on a heightened sense of sophistication… making it even more condescending, yet sounding less so.

Plus I kept it fast paced with lots of complex-sounding, multiple-syllable words… it’s a doozy to spit in one take…

The night before the quiz, I created my Power Point. I went to bed early and woke up early. I read an excellent section from a biography of Henry Clay and fried up two eggs with pork roll on the side. I put on another sophisticated “teacher” outfit and I headed to school.

Summer had rolled into fall. The emerald leaves had faded into a rusted auburn that was only a few shades from my hair color. I popped on my head phones and marched.

My Pandora station this time? Birdman…

“Riddlin” Lyrics

(VOCABULARY words in bold*)

My skill so ill, it’ll kill all ages,

You best be courageous, ‘cause my spits is contagious

It’s so advantageous, not ADVENTITIOUS

That I made an assignment where I get to murder you (Biscuits!)

You’re sitting there simmering, miserably COMMISERATING,

You’re anger’s FERMENTATING into straight ABOMINATING

You’ll sit here PECULATING all the rhymes that I’m creating,

I ain’t speculating by sayin’ that your cheaply imitating,

Never duplicating, though unknowingly EXPIATING

Yo, you’re rapping my vocab, that’s INADVERTENT ACCULTURATIN’

You’ve done what I wanted, so congrats! I win!

I got you studyin’, and I win the crown again

Your VITRIOLIC PROCLIVITY’S not giving me remorse,

I told you, “Stop being mean.” I ENJOINED you from this course

But you kids got that attitude, can’t handle your stress,

Your rhymes is TENUOUS, moving your pencil’s strenuous

So trust me, I ain’t afraid that your song gon’ drop,

I got that SANGFROID ‘cause your song gon’ flop

I’m algebraic the way I’m so formulaic, you can’t hold me, though

No equating. Your skill’s NOMINAL, I’m polynomial

My function’s coefficient multiplying to new editions,

I make laws, so watch that CIRCUITOUS SEDITION,

You never should chose to come at me, but you’ll never listen

Next time I say “Wanna go!?” Stick with NONCOMMITTAL indecision

Try to WHEEDLE like a needle, move quick with precision

This’ll EXPEDITE the process, and make for better conditions,

Cause in this game, it’s all about allegiances you makin’

You know how I know that? ‘cause I’m B. Franklin.

Chapter 1 – Moment of Clarity Pt. 2

Life and Times of the Philly O.G.

The Challenge

My kids like to trash talk. So do I. Many of my dialogues with my students in the hallways go like this:

Student: Yo, you’re trash at ball…

Me: Yo, I’m smarter than you…

You know, stuff like that. The only way that I’m going get them interested is if I can get them to feel the need to respond to me. Plus, I AM smarter than them; that’s why I am teaching them.

So if I’m going to write a rap that’s worthy for my students to respond, I needed to follow the Rap Commandments that I had developed:

10 Rap Commandments

  1. No one is better than you. #Fact.
  2. When starting out, sample popular beats. If it’s good enough for Drake, it’s good enough for you.
  3. Address everyone as haters and rivals unless they are on your TEAM. Then they’re Fam.
  4. You came from the bottom. This industry is only for those who struggled and hustled (working hard/doing anything) against the established system and authority in order to get where they are. The more illegal, the better.
  5. Hype yourself up by using metaphors, similes, and hyperboles. It’s quantity OVER quality on this one…
  6. Act and speak like you don’t give a “feck”. In fact, say that you don’t “Give. A. FECK.” just so there’s no confusion.
  7. Briefly allude to at least one physical altercation to establish your toughness.
  8. You are so attractive to the opposite sex that you don’t understand rejection… which, actually, is not good.
  9. Money, Money, Money. No money = No credit. Specifically reference BEN FRANKLIN in any and all songs… in order to directly correlate yourself with economic success. (#BOSS)
  10. When in doubt, drop another F-bomb for MOTHERFECUND emphasis.

With my trusty format, I went about crafting my masterpiece. I chose to use Jay-Z’s “Moment of Clarity”. Immediately in the verse, I identified the conflict as being the cliché “Old School vs. New School” debate. As antagonist, I argued that “new rap” is lazy and shitty. In order to establish my credentials, I addressed a conversation that I had partaken in with Jay-Z. He gave me his blessing to educate the youth with his raps. (#truth) Oh yea! And I incorporated the 20 vocabulary words as well…

Oh, I didn’t reference money in my rap (Commandment #9…). Instead, I finally revealed myself to be Ben Franklin…

I was ready to break the world. The morning of the presentation, I woke up at 4:45 AM; I completed my 30 minutes of reading; And I dressed in my best “Teacher” outfit. As I began the 30 minute walk to school, I popped on my headphones and zoned out to the bass of “Rick Ross” Pandora…

Yea, Rick Ross… Get over it.

With my masterpiece written, I quickly rushed to school. I totally forgot to have a visual presentation for them to read as I rapped! I powered through 30 minutes to create a Power Point slide show. The formula was simple:

  1. Place 2-4 lines of lyrics on a slide
  2. Take a “selfie”
  3. Email the “selfie” to myself
  4. Attach the “selfie” to the slide.
  5. Repeat

Now I was completely prepared. I was ready to deliver my firing shots… and reveal myself to the world.

So here’s the first rap in my autobiographical mixtape…

“Moment of Clarity” Lyrics

Rap is LAME, that’s what people have been saying

DECADENT rappers only wanna make it rain and

Talking bout the bling and LURID things, it’s JADED

SIMULATING lifestyles of the rich and famous

But their words are weak, they better get strong

Every other word I hear is just another F-bomb

It’s so lazy! So I prayed to Jay-Z

Like: Dear Hov I wonder can you save me,

He said, “nah just INTERCEDE, for me

ASSUAGE this situation with a dictionary,

Scare em with your stock of vocabulary

This structured struggle needs moments of clarity,”

So that’s my PREROGATIVE, to EXPOSTULATE

Y’all to save the genre before its too late

So no more INNUENDOS, its time for some straight talk

Dop all the UMBRAGE, don’t be a PROVINCIAL

I taught 50 how to stunt, Meek to be a boss

So sophisticated, I made Rick Ross say “HUH”?

I taught Miley how to twerk!

Such a teacher, I taught Harry Potter how to curse!

Pick the location, I’ll break you down to basics

MERITORIOUS for being so gloriously creative

And I’m back now after my HIATUS

I’m Ben Franklin TRANSCENDING generations

I’m amazing, nothing more to say kid

Switching criticisms into APPROBATIONS

I’m a pro, yo, and now your on probation

Prove that you’re a rapper! Quick! Time’s a-wasting!

Please, nothing lyrically HACKNEYED

Put a COALITION of them words to this beat

I’ll ELICIT all your creativity

With an UNCTUOUS look, I’ll pretend to be beat…

…sike

Chapter 1 – Moment of Clarity Pt. 1

Life and Times of the Philly O.G.

One could argue that the best place to start this story would be at the very beginning of my creation. The moment that I opened my eyes and looked up at my bright eyed scientist creators. But NOPE! I will use later pieces for the necessary exposition…

Rule #1 of story-telling: Give the reader just enough information to understand the current scene, and nothing more.

The real beginning of this story was the day that I chose to incorporate rap into my English class…

It made perfect sense!

Context – Rap in the Classroom

For some context, my students couldn’t quote Shakespeare but they could regurgitate, at will, any lyrics from Kendrick or Meek Mill. Rap incorporated a storytelling style that was FAR more interesting to them than the “classics” ever were. They connected with the cracked “streets” of Philly, not the cobblestone roads of “fair Verona”. I was cool with it; I loved rap!

Who gave a shit that it had foul words!? They were listening to the music anyway… so I might as well create a forum to talk about it.

I used our mutual interest in the art form to help them practice identifying literary elements and devices used by rappers and authors alike. They used them to search for context clues related to unfamiliar slang.

I had them explain to me who they thought won the Jay-Z and Nas beef. They had to, in writing, craft their argument. Assertions were made and were required to be supported by strong quotes (lyrics). Context set up the foundation of the argument and the commentary on the quotes solidified the entire treatise.

It had… mixed results… but the kids definitely were more interested. So I tried to keep rap prevalent in my classroom, even if it was relegated to the occasional “relief lesson” placement.

Rap also gave me an opportunity to create my own content which the students would, ideally, memorize and recite. I’ve seen pre-schoolers not know how to spell their own name but knew how to spell “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T” thanks to Lil’ Boosie.

Going into the Fall of 2015, I knew I was going to start rapping for my students. I had learned a lot of vocabulary through my own verses when I was younger. It felt like a good approach for my students to learn the vocabulary for the test. But I knew that they wouldn’t just do it. I had to approach it in the only way I knew how. Bribery.

I gave students an extra credit opportunity. If they wrote a “poem” (but I meant “rap”…) using all 20 vocabulary words in the unit, they would receive 2 EXTRA HOMEWORK CREDITS!!!!

… no one cared. No one was going to do it.

So I decided I would

(To be continued…)

Franklin For President – Introduction and FAQs Pt. 2

Life and Times of the Philly O.G.

How is it possible that you are back?

You know… science…

Alright, fine…

“Science”*

I’m sorry. I wish that there was a better answer here… but I really I don’t know how they did it. The scientists – my creators –  explained it to me… and I really tried to focus and learn, I really did… but they lost me at the phrase DNA… (“Seriously, what!?! Deoxy-what?? Oh, it’s my blood? Just say that next time!”)

In other words,  you gotta ask them. I just have no idea.

But here are the basics:

Apparently they took some of my blood from my grave (and cracked the stone in process!) and then they created more of the blood with a “machine” that can replicate blood… annnnnnnd that’s all I can remember.

Seriously, my head hurts just trying to reiterate that… I’m not accustomed to the complexities of your science.

I died a loooooooooooooooooooooong time ago. At least I’m doing a good job going with the flow, though. I mean, can you imagine if it was John Adams that came back to life?? I sure as Hell can. And in my imagination, it’s fucking unbearable!

But I do trust science. You should too! In the end, all that matters is that I, Ben Franklin, have returned to the present-time.

Why didn’t you immediately tell the world that you were “Ben Franklin”?

Let’s be honest. You would NOT have believed me, in the first place. You still don’t!

Secondly, if you think that I’m going to just come back to the present time period and immediately expose myself to the world, then you are NOT thinking.

Do you know how much of a culture shock it is to come back to life 220 years in the future? (You don’t do you? So back off…)

I’m a primitive scientist. Practical genius. A man of logic. Basically I’m in the algebraic category of science. Formulas of arithmetic and x- y- variables. The formulas of simple machines.

Unfortunately, this has no bearing in the present day since we’re in a calculus world. A realm of abstract and advanced equations. The internet and quantum mechanics. That’s above my level.

I died 20 years before the bicycle was invented… so what THE FUCK is a train?!?!

I play checkers. This is chess…

So I took a couple years to get accustomed to the new society. In hind sight, it was a REEEEEEEEEEALLY good call.

So, why did you choose to unveil your true identity right now?

Well, for starters, I felt that 5 years prepared me with a sufficient understanding of society, business, politics, etc…

More importantly, I was really pissed off at the Alexander Hamilton Musical. Was it good? Yes. But on principle, HELL NOPE!

I am already annoyed that I will forever be remembered as being a fat, old, bald guy… and now they aren’t including me in MY OWN DAMN ERA!?!

It was time to respond.

Why did you choose to create a Mixtape as your format?

Shout out to my students. I’ve connected with them through rap. Turns out that is the best format for me. I always liked rhyming and poetic verse when I was young. It was an easy way of adding rhythm, to a music-less life. Rap has been such a nice surprise for me! They like it too. We connected. All I had to do was adjust to the new cultural elements around slang, subject matter, literary devices, and then I was able to kick it with my kids.

Since I had already had the rap background, a mixtape seemed like the appropriate way to respond to a RAP musical. I figured we’d settle this the way that the Founding Fathers had always intended… through an underground mixtape heard by dozens of people.

Okay, but… I’m still not getting it. How is it possible that you are back??

JESUS CHRIIIIIIST! It took less time to convince you of the science behind Jurassic Park…

Just enjoy the damn story!

Franklin for President Mixtape – Synopsis

Life and Times of the Philly O.G.

FranklinForPres_Artwork_Web

What is the Mixtape?

I am about to throw a lot of things at you… just get ready, and try to follow me on this.

Synopsis:

Ben Franklin came back to life several years ago in 2011. Due to his severe culture shock, he chose to keep his true identity secret, until he could figure out what the Hell was happening. He initially made money by giving walking tours in Old City Philadelphia. He would talk about his life as well as his personal opinions about some of the other Founding Fathers. And he made a lot of money. People loved his humor and they admired his in-depth knowledge. He didn’t pretend to be Ben Franklin, but he got a lot of Ben Franklins… if you know what I mean? … Money. I mean “money”. Anyway, his reputation grew and he expanded. He was able to earn a position in an Old City high school. That’s right, Benjamin Franklin is a teacher. He became an English teacher under the alias, “A. Nonymous”. Through extensive readings – as well as his experiences as urban high school teacher – he became more connected to the current American society and was happy with his new life until…

… THE RISE OF BOTH THE ALEXANDER HAMILTON MUSICAL AND DONALD TRUMP!!!

Young Ben was appalled! Firstly, how could a story be told about the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention without Franklin!?! Furthermore, how could a walking 1980s-Wall-Street-caricature possibly be good for the image of America??? The country has lost its mind. It was time that some Common Sense was brought back into society!

Young Ben decided that it was time for him to unveil himself to the masses: his students and YOU, the lucky reader. He intends to establish some much needed sanity to present-day pop culture and politics. And he did it in the most “Philly” way he could think of… by dropping a Rap Mixtape. He wrote VOCAB INFUSED HIP-HOP SONGS challenging everyone and everything that could get in his way. When you want complete domination of a city, you need to start out swinging, after all.

In order to provide some context, we, at the “Franklin for President” campaign, have provided entries of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S PRIVATE JOURNAL that correlate with the songs. This way, you can have a mostly thorough understanding of what the Hell is happening!

So if you ever wanted to know what it would be like if Benjamin Franklin came back to life, worked as high school teacher in Philly… on the same block he once worked in a print shop… during the Trump years… well, this is the blog for you!!!

And yes, this shit is corny… cause this shit is poppin‘.

So here it is, the Ben Franklin For President Mixtape…

Volume 1…

The Re-Intro…

Coming tomorrow…

An Essay on Racism

Politics

Introduction

Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room. If you come on my tour, you will spend your time in Old City learning about the great things that the Founding Fathers did. Excellent! To quote our latest (last?) president: “We did great things. Super big things. We did a phenomenal job.” (Trump, #twitter) Let’s not pretend, however, that we were saints. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be worshipped as a Demi-God. (I deserve it more than most.) But it’s what we DID NOT do that is still causing problems 230 years later.

Slavery is that problem. We did not end slavery when we had a chance. In fact, we made it worse. During the Constitutional Convention, we gave the the southern slave states more political power by allowing them to count slaves into the population. More people represented in a region will mean more members in the House of Representatives. The north protested. The south lashed back. We ended up compromising and saying that each slave would count as three-fifths of a person.

By incorporating the 3/5 Compromise into the Constitution, we reinforced the horrible institution in two ways: 1) we strengthened the political power of the southern plantations; and 2) we established it as a fundamental institution.

Increased Southern Political Power

The Three-Fifths Compromise was supposed to be a compromise. (Compromise (n.) – Selling your soul to save your hide) Instead, we allowed more representatives for slaveholders because we included a large number of people who couldn’t even be represented. We gave the southerners more power by giving them more seats in the House of Representatives and more votes in the Electoral College. This ensured the survival of slavery. The select few of us, First Generation Americans, who actually detested slavery, always figured that a war would be the only way to end slavery…. and we were right. But do you think, before the Civil War, the population as a whole would be willing to have a war if they knew it would kill 670,000 Americans? Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but the answer is “no”. (73 years of failed compromises between the north and south proved this…)

“Canonized” Institution

Our Constitution established the three branches of government. It set term limits. It created the Electoral College. It understood the weaknesses in humanity and provided checks and balances to prevent consolidation of too much power. It became the blueprint for our republic, the most successful republic in world history. This document is worshipped in our country more than the Bible. The phrase, “that’s unconstitutional!”, has a stronger impact than the phrase, “that’s un-Christian!” in this country. So anything written in it, is essentially American gospel… even if the gospel that is preached includes racism, sexism and prejudice.

Soooooo, basically, established a racist and oppressive foundation making it easy for future generations of white-privileged, American, men to defend and rationalize hypocrisy, racism, prejudice, injustice, oppression, enslavement, rape, and murder.

How does one defend the institution of slavery? The answer is: They cannot and should not. But sometimes the most indefensible mistakes can become the most valuable learning experiences. After all, how else will we curb racism unless we understand how one can rationalize and defend it? (Remember: History doesn’t repeat itself; it paraphrases) Let’s look at my own experience:

My Failures

I printed advertisements for slave sales in my newspaper. I owned two slaves. I am aware that fighting for liberty while denying it to others at the same time made us vicious hypocrites. Unfortunately, my mindset was developed, at the time, from a practical approach. I knew that the institution of slavery was so enmeshed in the fabric of our society that it was unlikely to meet its demise any time soon. Servitude was an institution that went as far back in human history as all others. I wrongfully rationalized that I would be unable to do anything to dismantle the institution; so I, instead, decided to take advantage of the rules it rewarded to me, a white man.

I recognized and argued that the idea of white racial superiority was only prevalent because we were treating them as animals. If the black population were allowed to be educated, I argued, then they would be just as successful as whites. But they were not allowed to be educated, and  so I was unable to prove my point. So this artificial facade of racial supremacy stood firm. I was, of course, a “child of the times” and my “times” were waaaay racist and prejudicial. (Hell, I hated Germans!) Every cultural group despised each other. English vs. French, Christian vs. Muslim, Catholic vs. Protestant… hypocrisy and distrust were everywhere. This is not an attempt to defend slavery, but it does help to explain the mindset of humans. Geographic differences are common enough (Suck it, New Jersey!) without incorporating, distinct languages and cultures…. Let alone skin color. (Foreign = different = not normal) It takes a long time for change to occur in societal norms and expectations. (Think real hard about how many people were willing to argue and fight for gay marriage 10 years ago…) I did very little to attempt to break down barriers in my youthful years.

We had to tip-toe around the subject during the birth of our nation because the South was unwilling to join with the North unless slavery was untouched. Our only priority was to establish a firm union, so we let all other attempts at bettering the world evaporate.

It wasn’t until the end of my life that I tried to curb the influence of slavery, but to little avail. (I joined a petition to support a bill in the House of Representatives to abolish the slave trade. When Southern slave owners argued it was their “Christian duty” to convert the heathens, I responded with satire. I wrote an essay as a Muslim slave trader who defended the enslavement of “heathen Christians” and convert them to the true religion, Islam. (Remember: those who rationalize oppression based on their religious beliefs are God Damn hypocrites.) Though clever, the essay produced far too little too late. I, like so many others, did not focus on attacking the subject when I was younger because I had everything to lose. Only when I was on my deathbed did I put any effort into it.

It’s hardly the story of a martyr…

I will not defend myself. I genuinely repent for my wrongs and failures. I hope our mistakes, as the Founders of our nation, will be used as a guide into the understanding of human nature, and government as a whole. Let’s consider the selfish nature of human nature….

Human Nature’s Selfish Nature

I spent my entire life trying to figure out a formula that could measure, estimate, and explain human nature. What I realized was that it was impossible to compute humanity. Humans are, by nature, contrary and complicated. We say one thing and do the other. It can never be 100% determined when it will occur, but inconsistency can be consistently guaranteed. (Did that make sense?) Humans are not just beastly individualistic by nature, nor are they all socially civilized. Both are true some of the time; neither are true all the time. For example a person can be reasoned with, but a mob of people demand action not reason. The closest thing to certainty, however, is that humans reach their optimum level of compassion when their self-interest is not in jeopardy.

We all come from various experiences and relationships that shape our opinions and actions. We, as individual humans, can be incredibly generous and compassionate. We can be charitable and empathetic. Some are selfless. Most, however, only reach this level of “model citizenry” once they are sure that their own interests are taken care of. Survival, comfort, security for children… all are very natural variables which most humans consider of the highest importance. This fact can negatively impact the quality of compassion and empathy that a person gives to others.

Self-interest is not moral. Self-interest is not rational. Self-interest is certainly not charitable. And yet, everyone can relate to it. That is why the most genuinely selfless are hailed and canonized as heroes and saints… because they are the exceptions to this rule!

Taking that sentiment into consideration, it is easy to see why slavery became an entrenched part of our society. The value of a nation does not come from the land, but rather the productivity of people who develop it. Therefore, the more developed and productive your land and people  were, the more value and power you had. Free labor was a commodity every person wanted; an increase in goods and productivity (with minimal cost) appeals to anyone who wants to increase their time and wealth. What started with indentured servitude built the backbone of slavery. After all, one only had their servant for seven years… what does one do when they’ve gotten accustomed to that type of “help”? . The threat of potentially losing that level of production and value than causes one to think about ways to keep a more permanent level of servitude… slavery is the most profitable.

In a cruel twist of irony, the Age of Reason, flourished in a time of rampant prejudice. One could easily rationalize a defense of slavery on the grounds of racial superiority…

All it takes is one generation for the institution to be so deeply entrenched in the society for people to be unwilling to change it. An institution where people can produce needed goods as cheaply and quickly as possible; while at the same time serving as motivation for others who want to achieve that kind of land, wealth, and power. This is the type of life most farmers wanted and many children grew up experiencing. One in which slaves are prevalent and considered a commodity, not a worker. Businessmen, both North and South, are seeing how popular and “free” this form of labor has become. They are motivated to invest and profit from this lucrative trade. Entire livelihoods are based on this institution. Compassion for the enslaved is lost under the profits and gains of the business world. Even those who would be willing to free slaves and pay them for their work, do not because they will be unable to compete with anyone who employs “free” slave labor. People have been willing to fight for their beliefs, do you really believe they would not do the same to maintain their livelihoods?

Thus the complexity of Human Nature: A person wants to do the right thing; yet when faced with the question of a person’s value, they are selfish in nature.

But enough explaining… Now to the REAL purpose of this essay…..

 

A Brief(-ish) Message to Rational White People

Let’s get something straight, rational white people: we need to seriously accept this fuck up. LET THE WHITE GUILT SINK IN. Own it. Let it make you feel sick and shameful.  I am, to be honest, embarrassed at how much we, as a Caucasian collective, have NOT done this. We continue to reinforce painful ignorance, if not outright atrocities, towards minorities…

So listen up!  I am reaching out to those good natured people who do not mean to be racist… yet still manage to pull it off ever-so convincingly… (We make it look so easy!) Let’s summarize our “inglorious” track-record in a nutshell:

  • We kidnapped and stole a population of people from their homes in Africa
  • We put chains on them and took them to a far-off land, throwing away bodies of the dead in the ocean as if they were nothing
  • We spent 250 years raising their subsequent generations to be considered inferior creatures; treating them like animals
  • We fought a war that killed 650,000 men in it to abolish/maintain slavery (depending on which side we were fighting for)
  • We, the Northerners, shamelessly exploited the “rights” of the freed blacks in order to punish the Southerners, while putting little effort into trying to respect and repay the newly freed population
  • We, the Southerners, spent the next 100 years preventing the black population from the rights to run independent businesses, to own homes, to receive an education, to vote
  • We, the Northerners, spent the next 100 years denying jobs, housing, and a quality education to the black population because they were competing with what we already had.
  • We, the Southerners, maintained a consistent reign of terror on the black population through brutal violence, rape, and lynching as a method to maintain status quo.
  • We, the Northerners, did the same, but in a more covert way, encouraging blacks to stick to within their own culture or to become more white like us.
  • We were the bad guys in the Civil Rights Movement. We assaulted their heroes. We arrested their heroes. We sent the big bad FBI after their heroes. We murdered their heroes because at that time, they weren’t “our” heroes
  • We all have maintained segregation despite the Voting Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education through many ways, some of which include gerrymandered districts and the “White Flight” to the suburbs.
  • We maintained poverty in their communities, provided inferior education, and made it easy for drugs and guns to flow into the communities… and yet still remorselessly and condescendingly look down on these communities
  • We sent many of them to prison over petty crimes and then become shocked and horrified that they come out hardened…  doing  little to rehabilitate and educate them…
  • We built up this image of the dangerous young black man, terrifying all who are not one of them.
  • We allowed police to LITERALLY get away with murder…. all in the name of  our “law and order.”
  • We continue to exploit every aspect of their culture for the sake of “entertainment” while not realizing how ignorant we are of their history, struggle, joys, and celebrations which make up that “entertainment” …(Ignorant of ignorance…  #ironic)
  • Oh, yea! We also treated our first black president like he was “un-American” for no reason other than just because he was colored and had a “weird” name…

In other words: WE, as a collective whole caucasian peoples, need to stop saying and doing just about everything and take some time to reflect.

We need to understand that “All Lives Matters” is exactly the tone-deaf response that members of the Black Lives Matter predicted we’d have. We missed the point that whites would be MORE sensitive if white people were dying in the same manner… because we were being too sensitive about ourselves first.

We need to stop saying “I don’t see race” and “racism is done”. We need to understand that we make these statements because we are PRIVILEGED enough not to know the feeling of being stopped and harassed for the color of our skin. We aren’t reminded about race and their effects  every day unless we go to seek it.

We need to stop complaining about Affirmative Action and start sending much needed suburban taxpayer money into poor urban school districts. It’s called “equity”. More resources need to be used to ameliorate the problems (which we caused) in order to maybe, just maybe, be able to provide a more equal playing-field in the generations to come.

Until we realize that we really don’t know what it feels like to be a minority in this country, then we need to just sit down and shut the franklin up.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sooooo, I know what you’re thinking… I think…

I mean, you might have been waiting for the reading to get a bit more funny or sarcastic… or you could have stopped reading a long time ago… but in general you might be feeling overwhelmed with emotions like guilt, anger, annoyance, confusion, or hunger (it’s a long essay…).

Let me help you and summarize the important take aways: 

  • Us, Founding Fathers, reeeeeeeeally fucked up by maintaining and strengthening the institution of slavery; which means that white, straight, males are the cause of most (if not all) societal problems in America. Yea, I said it.
  • No matter the color of skin, all humans are capable of rationalizing prejudice and slavery because of a tendency towards self-preservation (FACT)
  • Regardless of the acknowledgement that all humans are capable of enslaving others, let me once again REITERATE that White Americans need to understand that we are to blame for the socio-economic problems within American society (#firstworldamericanproblems)
  • Whites are born with ZERO credibility to discuss race because our privilege blinds us to the prevalence of racism in daily life

Let me be frank…. -lin (BOOM! #puns): I don’t expect any earth-shattering changes to come from this essay. I learned long ago that COMMON SENSE says that people do not want to be corrected…. even with COMMON SENSE. So my expectations are tempered, yet, if I managed to get you to walk away deep in reflection or more enlightened mind, then I did my job.

Remember, ignorance can be more dangerous and detrimental than outright hatred. Ignorance hides us from all forms of transgressions, robs us from our opportunities of growth and change, and allows us to maintain a status quo without feeling any sort of guilt. If White America can embrace the guilt, then we can begin to move in the right direction. If not? Well, then we will continue to grasp in the dark for that elusive objective that we, Founding Fathers, set out to create: A More Perfect Union.