GROUND ZERO (PART ONE) (Columnists’ Note: This column was written well before the events of 9/11/01) Brothers, sometimes it helps to take an inventory. You know--reflect upon the paths we have trod that have brought us to the present. Such is the case here at: ‘The Manhood Line’. In this, the sixth year of your favorite column, I’d like to personally thank each one--both male and female--who have taken the time to write or send e-mail concerning a column they have read. This column stands alone in its unique mission: ‘Building better men from the inside out, via the power of Jesus Christ’. The publication where you are reading this column has a lot of courageous men and women working hard behind the scenes. Many of our publications--even in the African-American community--long ago, gave up on the idea of building better men. I dare say some of them secretly enjoy making a lot of cash off of our failures. But not this brave crew of journalism warriors, in THIS publication or website! Why a column written from a biblical, business, and common-sense perspective aimed only at men? Simple, there was a need for it. And, with the passage of time, I have discovered--even with the inclusion of the Internet, and more writers surfacing on the web--there is still a need for this column. A rising number of men have not been taught, nor reminded of the need for real, biblical manhood. I hate to disappoint--or anger--some of you brothers, but you can’t find real manhood in Islam, Hindu, Judaism, Tarot Cards, Astrology, nor Egyptology. It’s not being taught in our homes nor social institutions, nor taught from the pulpit or found in many pews. It’s not being shown on Capitol Hill, or in our local governmental bodies. It’s not on CNN, ABC, NBC, BET, or MTV. And, you can’t find it in Hollywood, or on your favorite entertainment offerings. Real manhood; real, biblical manhood is born OUT of trial and adversity. You never quite know how much a man you really are until the shooting starts, and the bullets of life come flying RIGHT AT YOUR CHEST! TWO CRUCIAL DEFEATS AND A VICTORY: During the mid-1990s, I decided to make a run for local public office. I did the research, homework, and legwork for the election. Nevertheless, in spite of a great effort, I lost--two-to-one--against a seasoned opponent. A man I met during my campaign provided me with some brotherly advice: ‘Mike’, he said, ‘time is your friend, and their enemy!’ This was a reflection of the essence of manhood--taking the time to comfort a brother whom you know did his best, but still came up short. Brothers, I’ll make it plain. It is one thing to be ‘rallying’ around a brother when he is successful, the bills are paid, and his wife and kids are acting right. It’s another thing altogether to rally around a brother when his business has been lost due to financial mismanagement beyond his control, or he is going through a divorce, or one of his kids is locked up in Juvenile Hall. That’s life, from which real men know there is no parole. And, as we all know, you can do everything right--and STILL come up short! Brothers, can I get an AMEN in the house? It was during the research process of the campaign that I discovered the massive lack of encouraging and uplifting material available for men--especially men of color. If a woman of color wanted to run for public office, start a corporation, or enter a career field, there were reams of material available. Men of color, it seemed, had been written off by the community and especially the church--while at the same time, they paid lip service to wanting men involved. They were not willing to take the time, nor expend the energy to do what Paul did for Timothy and Titus in the Bible--raise them and train them in their work. It was a SECOND election defeat, thanks to internal gamesmanship in my own political party that led me to realize that I had achieved a solid victory. I could write about those areas of life that many men didn’t want to talk about--yet were essential in building our manhood. Thus, I discovered a far better purpose would be served by penning this column every month. I would encourage ANY brother to run for public office when the opportunity presents itself. I may have lost, but that does not mean that YOU can’t get the brass ring! Like the Old Folks used to say: “When life hands you lemons; make lemonade!” Or, in the words of one former Black politician who inspired me with his life’s story: ‘A setback is a setup for a comeback!’ And, with each passing column, there is a victory! DISCARDED BY OUR OWN: Sadly brothers, many of us have quietly written each other off. We don’t talk together as we once did. If a brother ‘makes it’ in any profession, marries the woman of his dreams, and is an upstanding member of the community, he is--oftentimes--NOT well received by the brotherhood in his own camp. He is, instead, looked at with envy, suspicion and scorn. Oftentimes by the same brothers who have been by his house each payday, asking for a loan, or something to eat or drink. Now, I make no apologies. I am a Christian, an African-American Man, a husband and father, a Minister, a Republican, plus a journalist and teacher for added spice. I have come a long way by the power of Christ. I have tasted the bitter tears of divorce, known the pain of having a son incarcerated, and have been knocked down in black and white. I have found many doors closed among many of the brotherhood simply because some do not believe in ‘associating’ with me because of any one of these realities. One of the marks of manhood, knowing how to stand, oftentimes alone, when you have a solid dream, vision, or talent that has been birthed in you for the long haul. Now, I’ve heard the talk about a ‘need’ for a ‘rites of passage’ programs for our young men of color. Brothers, let one from the Old School give you a tip on how to know that you are a ‘real’ man. First, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ; second, you have a real job and have a solid education and/or work career; third, you know how to treat a lady--like a lady--and not some half-dressed blow-up doll from a rap video. That’s a real man, and not a male. My columns have always been written from a biblical, business, and common-sense perspective. ‘Biblical’, because a real man is changed from the inside-out; ‘Business’, because it takes organization skills, work, and drive to succeed in a multi-layered society, and; ‘Common-sense’, because it takes tried-and-true wisdom to accomplish any task, dream, or goal. And, if you find these subjects ‘offensive’ or ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’, then, in the words of Pastor John Hagee, “If you can’t HACK IT, get your JACKET!” ‘HE’ WOMEN AND ‘SHE’ MEN: America is now--and has been for a long time--a feminized nation. While progress has been made in reversing this trend, in far too many cases logic is not used when people in general approach problems, troubles, or tribulations. We have been ‘duped’ into going by ‘feelings’ alone. Case in point; male/female relationships. Brothers, many of you have teenage sons. As a veteran substitute school teacher, let me clue you to a little secret as if you didn’t know. Many of today’s teenage girls are sexually aggressive in the school house, thanks to a lack of discipline being taught at their house. Now, the girls are calling the boys at all hours of the day and night. Now, the girls are getting into fistfights in the hallways over the boy of their choice. In fact, right here in my home city, it used to be that there were only four or five girls at a time in the Juvenile Detention Center. Now, there are up to 40 at any given time, with crimes ranging from theft to battery to attempted murder. With all of this attention, many of our young men are acting like young women, and their mothers and fathers are LETTING THEM get away with it! “Work?”, some of them say with rolled up eyes, “I’ll just let some girl or woman take care of me!” And, there are many of our daughters that are stupid enough to line up and line some hood rat’s pockets! Brothers, God created man to lead, and woman to receive. However, if you go by the mainstream press--again, including many African American offerings-- woman should lead, and man should be content to receive. That’s why you have many ‘he’ women and ‘she’ men in the home, church, and the workplace--and many confused people trying to ‘pick’ their way through the minefield of the politically correct. See you around for part two real soon--and you best buckle up! It’s going to be a ride YOU won’t soon forget! Mike Ramey is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE , a syndicated, monthly column, written for men from a biblical, business, and common-sense perspective. You can reach him On Line at [email protected]. (C) 2001 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International (02).