Wednesday

8:46: Dave Chappelle rips Candace Owens and Laura Ingraham in surprise Netflix special released on You Tube

CC™ Entertainment

In a Netflix comedy special released last year, Dave Chappelle delivered an incendiary, impassioned monologue on the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of racist Minneapolis police officers.
The special, called "8:46," is a reference to the eight minutes and 46 seconds a police officer knelt on Floyd's neck during an arrest on May 25, 2020 killing him and sparking a wave of protests across the US.
Watch Chappelle's full special below:

Tuesday

The best West African destinations

CC™ Travel Scope 

1. Ghana

Hailed as West Africa’s golden child, Ghana is an ideal destination if you’re looking to relax, immerse in the authentic African culture and learn more about African history – no wonder it’s called ‘Africa for beginners. 

For a more exciting getaway, visit the country’s capital – Accra.  You’ll find beautiful beaches (like Labadie beach), luxury hotels and fascinating museums. Don’t forget to stop over at the marketplaces where you can shop African prints, jewellery and souvenirs.

Also read: Epic adventures in Ghana

Amaiashome Beach, Ghana

Image Source: @amaiashome on Instagram

2. Cape Verde

With an abundance of spectacular views and rich culture, Cape Verde is one of the most beautiful countries in West Africa. Located on the west coast of Africa, it’s an archipelago out in the north Atlantic, consisting of 10 islands and several islets. 

Be sure to visit the beaches, the restaurants for amazing seafood and the local market for some artefacts. A visit to the salt lake (Salinas de Pedra de Lume) is a must if you’d like to try a mud bath.

Also read: 12 Reasons to visit Cape Verde

Sal, Cape Verde

Image Source: @rivo_lution on Instagram

3. The Gambia

Despite being the smallest country in Africa, The Gambia is regarded as West Africa’s best-kept secret. Surrounded by golden beaches backed by swaying palms sprinkled with scenic lagoons, an abundance of wildlife, vibrant history and culture, it offers visitors an opportunity to get in touch with nature.

The Gambia has amazing reserves, such as Abuko National Reserve, Gambia National Park and Bijilo Forest Park, where you can see various animals and rare species of wildlife.

Gambia-Travelstart

Image Source: flikr

4. Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast is one of those undiscovered countries in West Africa – a hidden gem. It’s a country surrounded by picture-perfect palm-lined beaches, offering incredible attractions for visitors. The food in Ivory Coast is incredible. A bite of kedjenou and poulet braise will have you begging for more!

Explore the oldest park in Africa, the Comoë National Park, where you can see the lions, waterbucks, hippos and other animals frolicking in their natural habitat. It’s an ideal destination for a family vacation.

Also read: Six amazing things to do in Ivory Coast

kedjenou

Image Source: @cheffe_naomi_a on Instagram

5.  Nigeria

Dubbed as the “giant of Africa” Nigeria is one of the most beautiful countries in West Africa. Its subtropical climate, wide beaches, superb restaurants, excellent shopping malls, exciting craft markets and lively nightlife make Nigeria a year-round destination. 

Nigeria will captivate you with its rich and multicultural society. It boasts beautiful tourist spots such as Olumirin Waterfall in Erin-Ijesha, Ife Museum in Enuwa Square, the Olumo Rock, Agbokim Waterfall and plenty more. 

Also read: 10 Romantic honeymoon destinations in Nigeria

Civic Centre, Lagos

6. Senegal

Home to the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine, Senegal has come a long way in its fight for independence.The African Renaissance Monument, which was built in 2010, is a statue expressing a rebirth of Africa and commemorating Senegalese independence, so be sure to check it out. 

Like many countries in West Africa, Senegal is also famous for its food. The Senegalese glean their culinary inspiration from far and wide, combining French and North African influences with ancient local traditions. The staple dish for most families is thiéboudienne (fish and rice). You’ll find different variations around the country.

Senegalese food

Image source: 196flavours.com

7. Togo

Togo is part of the few countries in West Africa known for its white-sand beaches and perfect scenery. Its multistorey Grand Marché bazaar in Lomé (the capital) is also worth a visit, so be a tourist and do some sightseeing. Start with the Monument de l’Independance and learn about the end of the colonial rule in Togo. The national museum, the food market and the Lomé Cathedral are a must-see as well.

Lome beach

These are the best West African destinations you can visit for a nice holiday. Remember that any way you plan to spend your vacation, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and stay safe. Don’t forget your camera at home because the memories should be documented in pictures.


travelstartblog

Monday

My comments on low vaccine efficacy 'misinterpreted" - Chinese official


CC™ Global News

China's top infectious disease control official said his comments on the effectiveness of his country's vaccines over the weekend were misinterpreted.

The director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said it was a "complete misunderstanding'' that he had said Chinese vaccines offer a low level of protection, in comments to state newspaper the Global Times on Monday.

He had been presenting a "scientific vision'' that adapting vaccine sequences or administering different jabs on after the other could also be options for increasing protection, he said.

"The protection rates of all vaccines in the world are sometimes high, and sometimes low. How to improve their efficacy is a question that needs to be considered by scientists around the world,'' Gao said.

Gao Fu was talking at a conference in Chengdu on Saturday on the topic of how to solve the insufficient protection of current vaccines, Chinese news outlet Pengpai Xinwen (The Paper) reported.

"It is also necessary to consider ways to address the low protection rate of existing vaccines,'' he was cited as saying.

His comments prompted a reaction because there is far less data available on Chinese vaccines than those being produced in many other countries.

Critics have complained of a lack of transparency when it comes to Chinese jabs, which have not been authorized in many European nations.

Data from the third phase of clinical studies was particularly sought after.

Because China has the Coronavirus pandemic largely under control and was reporting hardly any local infections, studies so far have only been published from other countries where vaccines were being used.


WORLD PRESS

Sunday

52 Nigerians hit with severe reactions after taking AstraZeneca vaccine

CC™ Medical News

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, on Friday disclosed that 52 Nigerians have experienced moderate to severe reactions after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja.

He also said 8,439 Nigerians experienced mild Adverse events following immunization (AEFI) after taking the vaccine.

Shuaib stated that the 52 Nigerians that experienced moderate to severe reactions to the vaccine were brought down with fever, vomiting, diarrhea headaches, dizziness and allergic reactions

“In Nigeria, since the vaccination program was officially rolled out on 15th of April 2021, a total of 8,439 mild Adverse events following immunization (AEFI) have been reported. These range from pain, swelling at the site of the inoculation, to body pains and nausea. 

“Similarly, 52 cases of moderate to severe incidents of AEFI have been reported. These presented as fever, vomiting, diarrhea headaches, dizziness and allergic reactions.

“Five states have the highest records of the AEFI namely: Kaduna (970) Cross River (859), Yobe (541), Kebbi (511), and Lagos (448),” he disclosed.

According to Shuaib, as of today, April 16th, 1,071,346, representing 53.2% of the eligible persons targeted with the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered their first dose in this vaccination phase.

He said the data were based on reports received from states through the Electronic Management of Immunization Data (EMID) system only and did not take into account vaccinations that were not yet captured in the system.

“What this number means is that these are the people who have their information already uploaded on our data base, while others are awaiting upload, potentially due to network problems and the high traffic of those coming in to take their shots at the same time.

“While we continue to optimize our registration and immunization data system, we also encourage the state teams to deploy the most suitable internet service for their locations in order to speed up the data entry process, so that we can have the actual number of vaccinated people at any given time,” he said.

Shuaib added that in many states, the inoculation of frontline health workers had been completed and that they had begun offering vaccination to the elderly, particularly those that were 65 years and above.

“We are glad to be able to progress quickly offer immunization to more members of the community.

“Our rollout has been marked by safety, efficiency, best practice, and speed. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and its development partners, have a platform of Senior Supervisors that engage in daily evening review meetings to determine the status of the COVID-19 vaccine implementation in all States & the FCT.”


AGENCY NEWS

Saturday

Ten things we've learnt about identity politics in the United States

CC™ Editor-in-Chief

a) Racism is an institution not an event, statement or action, as evident by the silence and acquiescence of the Republican members of Congress to the dangerous and highly-charged statements, and actions of former President Donald Trump for 4 years, that ultimately culminated in the violent insurrection by White Supremacist supporters of his, against the Congress of the United States on January 6th, 2021.

b) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually instigated the singling out (in 2019) of the women of color in the U.S. House by referring to them as "just four people with no following". That was all President Donald Trump needed to strike at the time, against those women. 

c) Donald Trump "is not a racist". The power structure that enabled him become the POTUS and continues to facilitate his trampling upon the Constitution with impunity is racist and was set up to be that way by the founding fathers, who enslaved the Africans that were brought to America and saw them as less than human.

d) President Barack Obama would not have been elected to office if he had bragged about sexually assaulting women, and he would definitely have been impeached if he had conducted himself in office as Trump did.

e) Imagine what would have happened if Barack Obama had asked those that criticized his administration to leave the country, if they did not like the way things were being done. Or worse still, if he (Obama) had threatened to unleash the U.S. military on American citizens, protesting in the streets. Lastly, I am confident Barack Obama would have been impeached and convicted within a week (at most) if he had instigated an insurrection against a co-equal branch of government.

f) Gratitude is not a requirement of citizenship. Furthermore, all U.S. citizens (naturalized or natural born) have equal rights or do they.......?

g) The old order of the Democratic party is completely out of touch and the treatment of the four women Representatives of color by Speaker Pelosi two years ago, serves to buttress that point.

h) The Republican party has always had a playbook steeped in identity politics. Anyone remember the Willie Horton ads? Trump is not doing anything new. He simply took it to another level.

i) The palpable silence of the so-called religious leaders (especially the white religious leaders) in the United States tells you all you need to know about them.

j) The silence of most top American CEOs and business leaders (until recently) also tells you all you need to know about them and their organizations. The ones that have 'spoken out' are not only late to the game (about four years late at least), but are speaking out merely to 'sanitize' their brand, as well as clear whatever is left of their conscience (assuming most of them actually have one).

#Racism #Willie Horton #Barack Obama #Donald Trump #Capitol Insurrection #White Supremacy #White Nationalists

Thursday

'The narrative is always white is better' - Ex-Chelsea director and former Nigeria international Emenalo on systemic racism in football

Ex-Chelsea and Monaco Sporting Director Mike Emenalo
CC™ Introspective 

Former Chelsea sporting director Michael Emenalo says “the narrative has to change” if black coaches are to be given the same opportunities as their white counterparts.

The issue of racism in society has been given greater prominence in recent months following the killing of American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, which sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the globe. 
Premier League players and staff have shown their solidarity against racism by taking a knee before kick-off at every game, while the players also have 'Black Lives Matter' printed on their shirt sleeves.
Emenalo, though, believes there needs to be a more fundamental shift in how black players and managers are perceived if there is to be true equality in football.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is currently the only manager from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background in the Premier League. Emenalo meanwhile is one of only two BAME technical directors in Premier League history along with Les Ferdinand, whose QPR side were relegated three months after his appointment as director of football in February 2015.
“The narrative has to change. The narrative right now is always that white is better,” he told the Guardian.
“So it doesn’t matter what Chris Hughton produces as a manager. There’s always someone saying a white guy can do it better. People need to do the right thing. Like Martin Luther King said: ‘Judge me by my competence – not my skin colour.'
“When I sit behind the bench at a game, I want to be close to my work. But it’s also so that people of my colour could say: ‘I can do that.’ People in the parking lot would say: ‘Oh my God, you don’t know what you mean to us.’ Then I feel even worse because I want to say more.”
Emenalo joined Chelsea as chief scout in 2007 following a playing career that saw him play in five countries and feature for Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup. The 54-year-old was briefly promoted to assistant coach in 2010 before becoming technical director the following year.
He would go on to spend a decade at Stamford Bridge, overseeing a complete overhaul of the club’s academy structure and being credited with the scouting and signing of players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard.
Despite those achievements, Emenalo felt he constantly had to prove himself to the 10 permanent or caretaker managers Chelsea went through in that time.
“Everybody has a misconception of my knowledge, insight and experience. I did it 10 times with 10 managers,” he added.
“Each time I climbed the hill and convinced them of my worth. I have a university degree in international relations and diplomacy. I know how to deal with people and with situations. I had World Cup experience and been part of this industry on five continents.
"I said: ‘I’ll give them an opportunity to understand me.’ They all did but it’s not easy starting from ground zero every time.”
Stats Perform News

Monday

Editorial Flashback: It's an e-mail scam, not a "Nigerian scam"....

Editor-in-Chief

Imagine my surprise when I turned to the consumer page of the Attorney General of the State of Washington to find that a whole people, in this case citizens of Nigeria, had been painted with a wide brush (see former website content below in italics). Regarding the latter, I am talking about the much talked about e-mail scams or advance fee fraud, many believe originated from that West African nation.

"E-mail Scams - Advance fee and counterfeit check/Nigerian scams: If you suffered a financial loss you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov"
To better understand this issue, it will be prudent to give a brief overview of the most populous country on the African continent, a nation that has disbursed so much good to much of humanity, with some bad mixed in (show me a perfect country or people).
Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on October 1st, 1960. Since then, the country has experienced a civil war (that lasted for three years 1967-1970 and killed 1 million of its citizens) while also enjoying a long spell of economic prosperity and boom from the 70s to the late-80s (much from oil and other natural resources she has been blessed with).
Lately, beginning in the 1990s, the country's infrastructure, image and over-all national reputation has taking a beating, mainly as a result of defective leadership laced with unbecoming greed and avarice.
The general climate of corruption (not quite different from what you would find in most countries but quite overt in Nigeria) has led to an expected societal breakdown, where law, order and common decency became an exception and not the norm.
For all of its struggles with corruption and the systematic destruction of its storied institutions and culture, much of this by its own military, with the acquiescence of the West (the latter mostly concerned with taking its resources by any means), the country has re-set itself back on course, with democratic elections in 1999 and has never looked back since.
The descent into "white collar crime" with the e-mail scams and other forms of criminal activity (by a very marginal minority) does NOT define the nature and character of Nigerians (over 200 million people), with many Nigerians contributing as physicians, scientists, technology experts and business executives in much of the world, particularly Africa, Europe and the United States (with a well established immigrant population in the Puget Sound as well).
While the e-mail/advance fee scam has generally been portrayed as a "Nigerian Scam", recent investigations by the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) (working in conjunction with the FBI and Interpol) have shown that most of these crimes (e-mail/advance fee scams) have actually been committed by citizens of other West African countries, namely Ghana, the Sierra Leone and Liberia (due to the wars and extreme poverty in the latter two).
The interesting spin to the preceding information is that America's next door neighbor, Canada, has become a notorious breeding ground as well for a large proportion of these e-mail and other transactional scams. Witness the Canadian "lottery winner" e-mails as well as the offer to send you a "cashiers check" when you try to sell your car on Craigslist.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a body recently set up by Nigeria's democratically elected government, has also been very aggressive in pursuing the perpetrators of ALL financial crimes, within the Nigerian state.
While it is true that the Nigerian government "needs to do more" to ensure that this menace is curtailed (at least within its borders), one can say that the US government also needs to do more, by advising its citizens not to reply to e-mail solicitations to receive money from "relatives", they never had in Nigeria or anywhere else in the first place.

The advance fee fraud and e-mail scam developed a life of its own by the default of enablement. The greed and avarice in the United States (particularly on Wall Street) is there for all to see, but I am yet to see any Attorney General websites or newspapers refer to those as "American scam" or even worse still, label the scam on Wall Street with an ethnic delineation.
I am grateful to the deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Washington AG at the time for heeding my call and that of other well-meaning and hardworking Nigerians to remove the "Nigerian" label on this disgraceful activity.

One would hope that the likes of Sean Robinson (Staff Writer at the Tacoma News Tribune) might also learn something and understand that much like the criminals on Wall Street and those on the corners of the worst neighborhoods of Tacoma and indeed America who murder (serial killers et al), rape, pillage, molest and commit countless heinous crimes, are not branded with an American or other ethnic-American brush, it would be fool-hardy to do the same to others.

Sunday

Kevin Love: To Anybody Going Through It


CC™ Medical Opinion

By Kevin Love (NBA Champion and five-time All-Star)

Being depressed is exhausting.

That’s one of the cruelest ironies about mental health. When you’re in a dark place, everyone around you — all your friends and family — they just want to see you doing what you love again, being happy, being “the old you.”

Sometimes it feels like the world is looking at you saying things like, “Come on, man, just get over it. Don’t think like that. Just move on.”

But what people on the outside don’t always understand is that it takes all of your strength and willpower just to exist. Just to keep on going. Battling depression, battling anxiety, battling any mental health disorder … it’s all just so unbelievably exhausting.

That’s been on my mind a lot lately, considering the millions and millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs, or lost their loved ones, or who are just dealing with the unprecedented anxieties of being a human in 2020. I know so many people out there are suffering right now. I’m no different. I’m still going through it. Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal.

Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal.

Let’s just call it what it is. Some days are total shit, right?

It feels good just to say it.

Even in the best of times, my default setting was often dread. That’s just the way I’ve been wired since I was a kid. It’s like there’s a constant, low-level threat that I can sense in the pit of my stomach from the moment that I wake up in the morning. It’s like this white noise humming in the background, and it’s saying, Something bad is going to happen, any second now. That sense of dread would often be amplified by something in the news or by social media, and at any point could send me into a spiral.

My way out was always basketball. But I don’t mean that in some cliché way — where I would go to the park, roll the ball out and suddenly everything would be O.K. It was a different kind of thing entirely.

The best way I’ve ever heard it described was in the HBO documentary on Robin Williams after his death. He was talking about the only way he could combat his demons was to wake up in the morning and ride his bike until he had absolutely nothing left in the tank, and then at night he would go up on stage and do a two-hour stand-up set and just pour all of himself into it — every single ounce of himself, until he was just totally wrung out, mentally and physically.

Anything to stop the thoughts. Because the thoughts can be disturbing.

That resonated with me so much. Ever since I was a kid, I’d often put myself through hell in the hopes of numbing my mind. I used to think of it as going into my “pain tank.” If I wore myself out to the point of exhaustion, then I’d be mentally on empty, too. It was like I had to wring myself out completely so that at the end of the day I was just blank.

Everybody who goes through mental health issues has a unique story, but for me (and I think this is probably true for a lot of people), my entire identity was tied to one thing in a really unhealthy way. Way before I was in the NBA or even in college, my self-worth was all about performing. I was what I did, which I think a lot of people can relate to, whether they’re a chef or a lawyer or a nurse or whatever the profession. I just happened to play basketball.

When I wasn’t performing, I didn’t feel like I was succeeding as a person.

I didn’t really know how to be comfortable in my own skin. I could never just be unapologetically Kevin, walking into a room. I was never in the moment, alive. It was always the next thing, the next game, the next, next, next. It was like I was trying to achieve my way out of depression. And so I guess it’s not surprising that some of the darkest moments of my life happened when that crutch of basketball got taken away.

This is still hard to talk about, but I feel like it might resonate with people out there who are going through something right now. People who have lost their jobs (and their sense of purpose) during this crisis. People who … I don’t know … maybe just need to hear this.

It was like I was trying to achieve my way out of depression.

Everybody knows about my anxiety attack during the Atlanta game back in 2018. That’s become, over time, easier to talk about. Especially with the overwhelming support that I’ve gotten. In a way, it’s almost ironic that I’ve become known for this one incident, because that was the first and — thank God — the only time that I’ve experienced a debilitating panic attack in public like that. But that moment, as terrifying as it was, was just the tip of the iceberg, in a lot of ways. It was the culmination of years and years of me suppressing a lot of issues. I’ve never really talked about the other side of my mental health issues, which is a much more complicated and subtle battle with depression.

Five years before the panic attack that everyone knows about, I was probably in the darkest period of my life. I’d only played 18 games with the Timberwolves that season, breaking my right hand twice, and that was when this whole … I guess you’d call it a facade or a character that I had sort of built up …. it all started crumbling. I was in a cast. My identity was gone. My emotional outlet was gone. All I was left with was me and my mind. I was living alone at the time, and my social anxiety was so bad that I never even left my apartment. Actually, I would rarely even leave my bedroom. I would have the shades down most of the day, no lights on, no TV, nothing. It felt like I was on a deserted island by myself, and it was always midnight.

Just … dark. Dark and alone with my thoughts. Every. Single. Day.

And I want to make it clear that I know how fortunate I was, compared to most people. I knew then and I know now. I didn’t have to worry about my bills, or kids, or anything like that. But none of that mattered. My whole sense of purpose was tied to my job, and with that gone, every little thing that went wrong, no matter how small, just started compounding and compounding.

That’s the thing that people on the outside don’t fully understand. Nothing major has to happen to start a spiral. It can happen over the smallest thing in the world. Because when you have depression you can fall apart at any moment disproportionate to the circumstances.

Then it’s just…. Shame.

It got to the point that year where I was simply paralyzed with depression. And of course, I’m not about to show my weakness to anybody, right? I was tucked away in my apartment, and nobody could see me suffering. The only time I would leave my apartment was to work out, because that was the only place where I felt like I added value to the world, period. To those around me, I would put on a brave face.

Fake facades are hard to keep up.

The future started to feel meaningless. And when it gets to the point where you lose hope, that’s when the only thing you can think about is, “How can I make this pain go away?”

I don’t think I have to say much more than that.

If it hadn’t been for a couple of my closest friends, I don’t know if I would be here today telling my story. And 99.9% of the people in my life probably don’t know how bad it got for me. But as hard as that might be for them to hear, I feel like I need to get that off my chest for the people out there who might be in a similar situation right now.

If it hadn’t been for a couple of my closest friends, I don’t know if I would be here today telling my story.

When I was sitting in that dark room, I just couldn’t see how things were ever going to get better. And if there’s somebody out there right now who is reading this — even just one person — who is sitting in that same dark room, having those same thoughts….

All I can say to you is this:

Talk to somebody.

You would be amazed at how freeing it is just to talk to somebody, and tell them the truth about what you’re going through.

And listen, I’m not trying to sell you some fairy-tale version of mental health. It took me years and years — hell, it genuinely took 29 years for me to realize what I needed.

I needed medication. I needed therapy.

I still need those things now, and I probably always will.

There are still days where I look at social media, or I see the news, and my anxiety gets triggered. But sometimes I get triggered by almost nothing at all. Just simple negativity is enough to start a spiral of overgeneralization.

Oh, my coffee was shit this morning? I must be shit. I’m a horrible human being.

There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. That’s just the truth. And that’s why I wrote this.

I think that sometimes — because of all the incredible support I’ve been given, and because of my platform as an NBA player — people see me as some kind of Finished Product. Or some kind of Success Story for Mental Health or something. They see the curated version of me, and not the real person.

The fact is, the real person is still dealing with his deep-seated shit every single day. The real person is still trying to learn how to control his anger and anxiety. And the real person, by the way, never would have been able to tell his story in the first place without the courage of DeMar DeRozan, who blazed that path for everybody in the league today.

The real person’s story didn’t end when the Cavs won an NBA title, and suddenly it was all good, and then the credits rolled, the end.

No. The truth is, the deepest sense of joy and peace that I’ve gained in my life doesn’t have anything to do with basketball. It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with money or fame or achievement.

You don’t achieve your way out of depression.

No, as sweet as it was to win an NBA title for the city of Cleveland, that wasn’t the happy ending. That was my job, which is now a different thing from my identity and my self-worth. One of the best days of my life happened after I started working through my issues with a therapist, and I walked into a room for the first time and I was just 100% my authentic self. I was comfortable in my own skin. I was alright with just being Kevin. I wasn’t thinking about the next thing. I was just in the moment, fully alive. And I can tell you from experience that you can live for years, but not be really alive and fully present for 30 seconds at a time.

If you would’ve told me back in 2012, when I was at my lowest, that I would ever feel at peace like that, walking into a room, I just wouldn’t have believed it. I was coming off a season where I was an All-Star, All-NBA, and won a Gold medal at the London Olympics. But I was completely unaware of the darkness that was about to consume me.

Look, I’m not trying to sell you some happy ending. All I can do is just be as honest as possible about a really dark period in my life.

So here it is.

When I was lying on the floor of the trainer’s room during my anxiety attack back in 2018, it was probably the single scariest moment of my life. I was gasping for air, and my heart was pounding out of my chest, and I really thought that death was a possibility. And I’ll never forget how our trainer, Steve Spiro, he just kept asking, “Kevin, what do you need? What do you need? What do you need?”

What do you need?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

That’s everything.

I spent 29 years trying to figure it out.

What do you need?

For me, I guess what I needed was to talk to somebody.

For me, what I needed was to know that I wasn’t alone.

If you’re struggling right now, I can’t tell you that this is going to be easy.

But I can tell you that it does get better.

And I can tell you that you are definitely not alone.

Monday

White Evangelicals Made a Deal With the Devil. Now What?

Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St John's Church in Washington DC. Credits: Getty Images

CC™ Sunday Viewpoint

By Sarah Jones

In the end, white Christian America stood by its man. The exit polls present an imperfect but definitive picture. At least three-quarters of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in November, a figure largely unchanged from 2016. Evangelicals didn’t win Trump another four years in power, but not for lack of effort. While most of America tired of the president’s impieties, the born-again found in themselves a higher tolerance for sin.

And the sins are legion, lest we forget. He tear-gassed protesters so he could walk to a D.C. church and hold a Bible upside-down in front of it without interference. He lied and cheated, and smeared women who accused him of sexual assault. He separated migrant children from their parents and staffed his administration with white nationalists. Over a quarter of a million Americans died of coronavirus, while he railed against doctors and scientists trying to save lives. Not even a plague turned evangelicals from their earthly lord. For Trump, the consequences are political and legal. For evangelicals, the fallout has a more spiritual quality. What does it profit a faith to gain a whole country and then lose it, along with its own soul?

Evangelicals had more to lose than Republicans, for reasons I learned in church as a child. You can’t evangelize anyone if your testimony is poor. If you disobey your parents, or wear a skirt that falls above your knees, how can anyone believe you’re saved? Another Sunday School lesson, conveniently forgotten? Be sure that your sin will find you out. Evangelicals bought power, and the bill is coming due. The price is their Christian witness, the credibility of their redemption by God. Evangelicalism won’t disappear after Trump, but its alliance with an unpopular and brutal president could alienate all but the most zealous. 

To be evangelical in the 1990s was to learn fear. The world was so dangerous, and our status in it so fragile. The fossil record was a lie, and scientists knew it. You could not watch the Teletubbies because Jerry Falwell thought the purple one was gay. No Disney, either, and not because Walt had been a fascist; Disneyworld allowed a gay pride day, and in one scene of The Lion King, you could see the stars spell out “sex.” You were lucky to even be alive, to have escaped the abortion mill. The predominantly white evangelical world in which I was raised had created its own shadow universe, a buffer between it and the hostile world. Our parents could put us in Christian schools or homeschool us; if they did risk public school, we could take shelter with groups like YoungLife and the Fellowship Christian of Athletes, which would tell we to make the most of this chance to save souls. We had alternatives for everything; our own pop music, our own kids’ shows, our own versions of biology and U.S. history, and an ecosystem of colleges and universities to train us up in the way we should go: toward the Republican Party, and away from the left, with no equivocation.

Whatever the cause, whatever the rumor, the fear was always the same. It was about power, and what would happen if we lost it. Certain facts, like the whiteness of our congregations and the maleness of our pulpits and the shortcomings of our leaders, were not worth mentioning. You were fighting for God, and God was not racist or sexist; He was only true. The unsaved hated this, it made them angry, and that was proof you were doing the right thing. If “owning the libs” has a discernible origin point, it’s here, in the white evangelical church.

While I was in college and Trump was still a reality show star, evangelicals faced a crisis in the pews. Young people were leaving the church, and they weren’t coming back. The first signs arrived in 2007, in the last hopeful months before the Great Recession. A pair of Christian researchers released a study with troubling implications for the future of the church. Young people aged 16 to 29 were skeptical of Christianity and of evangelicalism in particular, concluded Dave Kinnaman of the Barna Group and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Group. “Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political,” they wrote. Among the unchurched, attitudes were even more negative. A mere 3 percent said they had positive views of evangelicalism, a precipitous decline from previous generations.

I interviewed Lyons about his research while I was a student journalist at Cedarville University, a conservative Baptist school in Ohio. By the time I graduated, I’d become one of his statistics, an atheist with a minor in Bible. Trump was not even a glimmer in Steve Bannon’s eye, but the evangelical tradition had already asked me to tolerate many sins. There was George W. Bush and his catastrophic invasion of Iraq; welfare policies that starved the poor; the dehumanization of immigrants, of LGBT people, of women who do not wish to stay pregnant, and my own, non-negotiable submission to men. At some point I realized that I had traveled some distance in my mind, and I could not go back the way I came. I was over it, I was through.

The years after my personal exodus brought with them more proof that the church was in trouble. Partisanship did not entirely explain why. Membership declined fastest in mainline congregations, even though they tend to be more liberal than the independent churches of my youth. Social media has expanded the philosophical marketplace; all Christian traditions face competition from new ideologies for the hearts and minds of the young. But conservative denominations are suffering, too. The Southern Baptist Convention said this June it had experienced its thirteenth consecutive year of membership decline. By age 22, two-thirds of adults who attend Protestant services as teenagers have dropped out of church for at least a year, LifeWay Research found last year, and a quarter cited political disagreements as the reason. An alliance with a president the young largely hated might not lure new generations to the fold.

Years of attrition have taken a toll on white evangelicals, said Robert Jones, the author of White Christian America and the founder of the Public Religion Research Institute. “If you go back a couple of election cycles ago, into Barack Obama’s first election, they were 21 percent of the population, and today they are 15 percent of the population,” he told me. The share of Black evangelicals has remained relatively stable, he added, while the numbers of Latino evangelicals have grown. And while these groups ostensibly share a religious label, politically they are far apart.

“If I take the religious landscape, and I sort religious groups by their support for one candidate or the other, what inevitably happens is that there are no two groups further away from each other in that sorting than white evangelical Protestants and African-American Protestants,” Jones said, adding that Latino evangelicals are “a little more divided.” (Indeed, Trump won significant support from this group in 2020.)

But white evangelicals are still outliers overall: They’re more conservative than other Protestants, more conservative than Catholics, more conservative, in fact, than any other demographic in the country. The implicit claim of the Moral Majority — that it embodied mainstream opinion — always lacked evidence, but it’s become even less true over time. By the time Trump applied Richard Nixon’s label of a “silent majority” to his own coalition, it barely made sense at all. A bloc that can only take the White House through the electoral college, and not the popular vote, only to lose it outright four years later, has no claim to majority status. They are a remnant within a remnant, a nation within a nation.

There are still dissenters. Last year, the outgoing editor of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, called for Trump’s removal from office. Galli wrote the typical approach for his magazine was to “stay above the fray,” and “allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible,” he wrote. But Trump had abused the power of his office and revealed a “grossly deficient moral character.” Galli has since converted to Catholicism, a decision he explained to Religion News Services as being more personal than political.

Others stay. But they can experience a painful friction between their spiritual convictions and political independence. My parents, both pro-life evangelicals, have now voted against Trump twice. I spoke to another by Skype, not long before the election.

I know Marlena Proper Graves from my days at that Baptist university, when I was an upstart college feminist, and she was a resident director and the spouse of a professor. Now the author of two books on faith and a doctoral candidate at Bowling Green State University, Graves worries about the influence of Trump, and Trump’s party, on her beloved church. The word “evangelical,” she noted, had always referred to a constellation of beliefs. “You have a relationship with God, God cares about you, God cares about all people, and Christ is central,” she said, ticking them off. “But now it seems to be something of a culture.” That culture is an exclusionary one. “I’ve been disinvited from events because of my views and activism for immigrants, because it’s controversial,” she said.

When Proper was young, she told me, she listened to Christian radio all the time, just like I did. Preachers and commentators like James Dobson, a famed radio personality and the founder of Focus on the Family, would opine on the issues of the day, on morality, and virtue. “All these people would talk about character,” she said. “How you can’t vote for Bill Clinton in particular because of Monica Lewinsky, because he had affairs.” Then came Trump. “People said, first, that they didn’t think he would win. Then it was all about abortion and judges. I felt like I was being punked,” she remembered. But many evangelicals are in on the joke. Faced with popular rejection and the humiliation of Trump, they declare themselves persecuted, and identify numerous enemies. The mission remains the same: Purify the nation, and pacify the barbarians.

Beyond the usual celebrity preacher scandals, the faith’s place in the broader Christian right required it to make moral compromises it never tolerated among the rank-and-file members of the flock. Our definition of morality narrowed the further up the pyramid you climbed. For the politicians we backed, it shrank to a pinprick point: Ronald Reagan was divorced. What mattered instead to the Moral Majority was his opposition to abortion, his hippie-bashing, his ability to trade in euphemisms about “states’ rights.” Two Bush presidents later, thrice-married Trump gave evangelicals the conservative Supreme Court of their dreams.

As hypocritical as white evangelical support for Trump may look from the outside, the president actually understood his base quite well. Eight years of a Black, liberal president threatened their hegemony. So had the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Sarah Posner, an investigative journalist and the author of Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump, told me that Trump managed to tap into two key evangelical tendencies. “Those two things were the racial grievances of the white base of the Republican Party, and how televangelism had changed evangelicalism from the 1970s onward,” she said.

Galli, the former Christianity Today editor, believes Trump also appealed to an entrenched evangelical sense of marginalization. By the time same-sex marriage was legalized, public opinion on LGBT rights had already liberalized; the gap between white evangelicals, and everyone else, on matters of sexuality is now wider than it’s ever been. “Here comes Donald Trump, saying it’s OK to be Christian, it’s OK to have your values, it’s OK to practice your values in the public square. And he does this in a very authoritative manner,” Galli explained. Trump didn’t know his Scripture, but he knew there was a war on, and that was enough. The nation’s culture warriors had found their general.

Evangelicals, Galli added, “are deeply suspicious of human authority,” but only to a point. What they may fear, really, is authority they don’t control. “Paradoxically,” he continued, “they are a group that’s attracted to authoritarian leaders, whether that person be a pastor of a megachurch or a dictator.” Those tendencies existed before Trump. With the help of the far-right press, social media, and alternative institutions, they will survive Trump, too.

“I think that the thing that we have to keep our eye on is the ways in which the infrastructure that they built gives them an advantage beyond what their numbers would tell you,” Posner said. Conservative evangelicals already know that they’re no longer the Moral Majority, and they’ve found a way to make it work for them. “They’ll recognize, for example, that they may be in the minority on LGBTQ rights, but in their view, that’s all the more reason that they should be protected by either the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the First Amendment, in having the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.”

That infrastructure still churns out new acolytes, who embrace the worst elements of the tradition we all used to share. The same movement that produced me also spawned Madison Cawthorn, a Republican elected to Congress last month. He was born the year the Southern Baptist Convention first apologized for slavery, and he will be the youngest member of Congress when he takes office in January. He’ll also be one of furthest-right Republicans in office, with a personal life that once again tests the bounds of evangelical toleration for sin. Women from his Christian homeschooling community in North Carolina and women who studied with him at the conservative Patrick Henry College have accused him repeatedly of sexual harassment and misconduct. A racist website linked to his campaign criticized a local journalist for leaving academia to “work for non-white males” like Senator Cory Booker, “who aims to ruin white males.” After he won, he celebrated with a tweet. “Cry more, lib,” he wrote.

There’s time for Cawthorn to self-immolate on a pyre of his own sins before he’s old enough to run for president. But there will be other Cawthorns, other white evangelical candidates who will try to master Trumpism-without-Trump. They might not need an army to win, either. The GOP already knows it doesn’t have to be popular to stay in power. They need a radical remnant, and a lot of dirty tricks. Republicans can get what they want by suppressing the vote, or by undermining our confidence in elections. They can protect themselves through the subtle tyranny of inequality, which empowers the wealthy while alienating the most under-represented among us. A party out of step with most voters must either reform, or it must cheat. This, too, is something the modern GOP has in common with the Christian right. Democracy is the enemy. People can’t be trusted with their own souls. Leave them to their own devices, and they make the wrong choices, take the easy way out, threaten everything holy. They need a savior, whether they like it or not.

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