The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘demonstrations’ Category

HOW LOWERING THE MINIMUM WAGE COULD SAVE AMERICA

We’ve been inundated with the events of Ferguson, MO.  It’s gotten more attention than the earlier death of Trayvon Martin.  For whatever reason, apparently Michael Brown’s death evoked more emotion than Martin’s.  There were no riots that accompanied George Zimmerman’s “Not Guilty” verdict.  But we’re more than making up for that, not only in Missouri but nationwide.  There have been “riots” which in some cases have turned violent and in all cases disruptive.

Both of these cases are portrayed in the media as murders resulting from racism.  The facts are that both of the deceased were black males.  In the Zimmerman case, his ethnicity was mixed.  The police officer who killed Brown was white.  In both cases, the behavior and events which led the deceased to their demise has been mostly glossed over by the press.  The liberal media are exceptionally selective in what facts they choose to report – and then only after applying a fair amount of spin to their curve ball reporting.

In Martin’s case, as you may recall, the reason that he was out was that he was on his second or third suspension from school.  I’ve forgotten the exact number.  And he was out getting the ingredients for one of today’s more popular do-it-yourself drugs.  Had he not been suspended and was home cracking the books instead of looking forward to cracking the pipe, he would never have been shot and we would never have heard his name.

In Brown’s case there appears to be ample evidence that he had just strong armed a store clerk and stolen some cigarillos so that he could roll a nice tight joint.  He had a significant quantity of marijuana on him and his toxicology report indicated that he had the same substance in his system.  He also ignored the orders of Officer Wilson and then assaulted him while he was in his police car.  After that skirmish which Brown initiated, he subsequently again ignored the officer’s order to stop.  Though there is conflicting testimony as to what happened, at least three witnesses confirmed completely Wilson’s statement that Brown charged him and four additional witnesses confirmed the portions of Wilson’s testimony that they saw.  All of these witnesses were black – and if they were concerned about racist police officers and attitudes as has been alleged, it seems strange that they would be so supportive of the officer’s version of events – unless that is what they saw actually happen.

Facts can sometimes be inconvenient things.  Particularly if they don’t blend with a narrative that is woven for self-serving reasons.  No amount of evidence, testimony or anything else will convince those who in the Brown case decided long before the Grand Jury concluded its investigation that he was a victim of the ultimate in police brutality.  If somehow a video recording of the incident suddenly surfaced, confirming Wilson’s testimony it would do little or nothing to change those peoples’ minds.  We would suddenly start hearing that the video was manufactured or edited to exculpate the cop.

The liberal camp takes great pains to point out that only “deniers” reject the “facts” of “climate change.”  They regard people who inveigh against their position as being ignorant.  And, if the “facts” were seen by everyone as being that, I suggest that they would be correct.  While that same theory ought to apply to these two cases as well, they do not.  It is fair to wonder why that is.

Certainly a part of that can be attributed to emotion.  We are all held hostage to our feelings and if we make decisions based solely on them we often not only misinterpret the evidence but draw faulty conclusions based on those rather than empirical evidence.  The other part is ignorance.  An uneducated person is far more likely to rely on his or her emotions than facts because we all are born with emotions but we have to acquire facts whether through schooling, good parenting or personal observation.  And if everyone around is similarly poorly educated, it is likely that the reliance on emotion is further entrenched through the observations of how others around us act and conduct their lives.  This is the fundamental problem with living in a ghetto – of whatever description.

If you live in a community where a high percentage of your fellow residents don’t work and are receiving a monthly stipend and other government benefits, it becomes socially acceptable, perhaps even desirable, to fit in with what everyone else considers a normal way to go through life.  That is particularly true if you have limited skills and would at best be able to find a minimum wage job which offers little hope of advancement or upward social mobility.  And that is further underscored if you realize that the government benefits you are currently receiving are greater in value than that job and require no effort to receive.  The only American dream that you have to hold on to is that the benefits don’t go away and, in fact, increase.

There are fewer jobs that the undereducated can hope to hold.  Technology and automation have left little opportunity for work for residents of our inner cities.  Retail, fast food and cleaning are about the only venues that require unskilled labor.  The ditch diggers of old have been replaced by hydraulic equipment and the family farm with its labor intensive requirements have been replaced with corporate farming and robotics.  That there is little opportunity for those who do not attain at least a high school diploma can be seen in the extremely high unemployment rates among inner city black males – well more than twice the national average.

The riots in Ferguson are not about justice for Michael Brown or anyone else.  They are expressions of frustration over the realization that the participants’ future is bleak.  They are right in that perception.  In an economy in which college graduates are living at home in large numbers for lack of jobs, what hope does the high school dropout have?  Sadly, the answer is none.  Unfortunately, those they blame for their plight are not the responsible parties for it.

With fifty years of trying to socially engineer poverty out of existence under our belt, we are in worse shape as a nation than when we initiated the “War on Poverty.”  There is significantly more evidence to support that statement than there is to support the theory of global “Climate Change.”  Yet those who enthusiastically support the idea that our planet is in grave environmental danger are exactly the people who ignore a half century’s evidence and double down on failed policies by further escalating them.  Among those policies is increasing the minimum wage.

Adding further pressure to this equation is Obama’s recent granting five million illegal aliens the right to stay here, and more importantly, the right to work in the country legally.  These are people who come from countries where there are no social welfare programs and where the residents will take any job, no matter how difficult or physically dangerous at whatever wage is offered.  They have a work ethic which is lacking among those in our inner cities and find no job “beneath them.”

If there is any possibility of breaking the cycle of welfare dependency which is now generational in nature it is by getting those who are trapped in that system the opportunity to find work.  It is far more important to encourage the unemployed in Ferguson and throughout the country to find that first job than it is what that job will pay.  Sadly, the way our “welfare programs” are structured, finding employment translates into losing benefits.  This obviously discourages recipients from seeking any form of legal employment.  We perhaps could partially solve this by lowering the minimum wage for people who are in the marketplace for five years or less, during which time their welfare benefits would be unaffected by their earnings.

I remember receiving my first paycheck for a summer job.  When I came home with it and opened the envelope with my family at dinner I clearly recall the sense of pride I had looking at that nearly fifty dollar check (after a deduction for Social Security) which covered one week’s worth of work.  (The minimum wage was $1.25 per hour).  And I took a great deal of satisfaction in the fact  that the company had chosen me over the fifteen other kids who had applied for the job.  Perhaps it was the naiveté of adolescence but it helped me feel as though I had some worth as a person – and that was acknowledged both by my employer in hiring me and then further validated by their paying me for my effort.  That paycheck did great things for my self-esteem and it was with some sadness that I let go of it and deposited it in my savings account.

That is an experience that sadly I fear many kids in our inner cities will never share.  And the higher we generically increase the minimum wage, however well intentioned, the more likely we are  permanently to deny them the dignity of working for a living and perpetuate the cycle of hopelessness into which far too many in this country now have fallen  – and is the root cause of why Ferguson happened in the first place – and why the reaction to Michael Brown’s death was completely predictable.

Ferguson is a symptom of a disease – one which has been decades in the making.  Sadly, following our present path of providing “benefits” rather than real opportunity will only worsen the problem.  And one day the right mixture of ingredients will combine to spark an explosion that will make what happened in Missouri look like a Sunday School picnic.

That day may not be far off in coming.

LESSONS FROM FAR AND WIDE

What do Hong Kong and Ferguson, MO have in common?  Well, they’ve both been in the news as places where the residents have taken to the streets, protesting against government authorities.  And that’s where their similarity begins and ends.

Hong Kong and Ferguson are 7,934 air miles apart – or at least that was what I determined from a very neat program on the internet.  While I might not fully subscribe to the concept of global warming, I do have much greater faith in Al Gore’s other invention – the internet.  I do remember him saying that it was his creation.

Hong Kong has had a long and often rocky history.  Starting as little more than a local fishing village it became part of the Chinese empire.  Then the British took it over, elevating it to the status of Royal Crown Colony.  Finally, the English negotiated a lease with China and ceded it back to the PRC.  It purportedly holds a quasi-autonomous status.  And that is at the heart of the disturbances by protesters in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong ranks eleventh on the list of countries based on GDP per individual, just behind the United States.  By contrast, mainland China, despite the tremendous economic boom it has seen in the last twenty years ranks ninety-seventh.  That is, obviously, attributable in part to its massive population.  But not only does Hong Kong enjoy greater economic opportunity for its citizens – it offers far more personal freedom than those on the mainland enjoy.  The opportunity to earn more and live a better life is what the turmoil in Hong Kong is all about.

There is probably no mentally healthy person on the planet who wouldn’t want to live an easier, better life.  But there are challenges to achieving that goal.  While a person who has little financial expertise may have difficulty making wise investments which will help him or her achieve a more secure future, that person can get an education in finances or, lacking the desire or ability to do that, can higher an advisor who can guide him.  But the greatest threat to accumulating wealth is something over which none of us has control.  That grim reaper which rapes prosperity is government spending – or put in a one word explanation – taxes.  And it is those whom we elect to public office who determine out tax codes.

A few days ago, President Obama went on Al Sharpton’s radio show, (who knew he even had one) and made what is perhaps the most truthful statement he has uttered while either running for or during his time in office.  Obama, talking about those Democrat candidates in red states running for election to the Senate, all of whom has pretty much eschewed even knowing who he is, said (paraphrase),  “They all support me and my policies.  But they have to say or do what they have to say or do to get re-elected.  I don’t take their distancing themselves from me personally.”

I think all of us hope, perhaps even while believing otherwise, that we can rely on what a candidate promises.  We believe because we want to, that person X or Y will really bring a meaningful, positive change to government.  But the influence which most find once they get to Washington seems almost irresistible and if it doesn’t corrupt by the end of a person’s first term, by the second it seems that the allure of power is something which sweeps virtually all up in its web.  But those who believe in the political process and are hopelessly optimistic, continue to get involved in these contests as they present themselves, perhaps justifying years of disappointment with the thought that, “This time it may be different.”

Perhaps the fairly recent introduction of democratic elections is why those in Hong Kong have shown such ardent fervor in their rejection of the PRC’s position that they and they alone will determine for whom the people of Hong Kong should have the opportunity to vote.  The residents of Hong Kong realize that if they do not have the chance to elect people who share their personal and economic visions which have transformed this small island into a comparative paradise, they may lose what they have worked to achieve and their vision for an even better future will perish.  It is in free elections that they put their stock – even if cynics like myself – wonder if that is really the panacea which will deliver us from the bonds of turpitude and incompetence.

Returning to Ferguson, MO, the protests have been ongoing since Michael Brown’s death on August 9th.  Without trying to adjudicate this case as has been so completely done by the media, the primary cause which is advanced for these protests is that an unarmed black man was gunned down by a white police officer and was “executed.”  The underlying premise is that white policemen routinely feel it is within their purview to dispose of black males with impunity and that such acts are condoned generally by a racist society.

The predominantly black community of Ferguson has demanded that “justice be done,” which translates to “hang the white cop.”  But even though their approach to justice is not dissimilar from the mindset which motivated the Klan during its reign of terror, there is the undertow that even if Officer Wilson is put on trial, that trial is prejudiced to acquit him because justice for whites is far less just than it is for blacks, whites being generally acquitted because of their skin color and blacks being convicted because of theirs.

If we accept this view of the justice system, obviously there is little justice to be rendered for anyone whose skin color is black.  That leaves very few alternatives, one being either to move to another jurisdiction where justice is meted out more equitably; another country where justice is determined more fairly; or change those who are in control of the judicial system, replacing them with people who are more likely to treat everyone equally.  That can only come about through the ballot box – something that residents of Hong Kong seem to comprehend quite well.

Given the fact that most people don’t want to move unless they must, it seems natural that most people would gravitate to the third of the alternatives outlined above.  Yet in Ferguson, only eleven percent of the eligible electorate has even bothered to register to vote.  Several weeks ago there was a big news flash that the number of people in Ferguson who had registered, presumably because of the controversy generated by Michael Brown’s death, had swelled in number.  The Missouri Secretary of State later corrected that statement, citing the fact that they had looked at the wrong data base when they issued that announcement.  In fact, there were now still only 11.6% of the population in that city who had elected to exercise their right to the franchise.

If the citizens of Hong Kong are successful in their efforts to make their voices heard and have the opportunity freely to choose those who represent them, it will be to their credit.  And if the citizens of Ferguson continue to live under what they consider repressive and unfair conditions, they will have no one and nothing to blame but themselves and their own indifference.

THE MILLION MUSLIM MARCH

Twelve years after the original 9/11, theories surrounding what really happened that day are flowing as fast as the blood in Cairo.  It’s fifty years since the JFK assassination and that is still the subject of new books.  And it’s almost seventy years since the Holocaust and there are still those who deny that it ever happened.

Interestingly, some of those who claim the last event is a fabrication and whose co-religionists are widely blamed for the first event will be marching for “Muslim rights” in our nation’s capital – if things go according to plan.  Truly, these are strange times in which we live.

In all probability, the “March,” if it comes off will have far fewer participants than the organizers’ goal of one million.  From the admittedly inaccurate numbers of perhaps 2.6 million Muslims in America, that would require nearly every other Muslim to participate.  Islam, which is the fastest growing religion in our prison systems, would have to secure a one day release for some of its incarcerated adherents to achieve its goals.

But the issue isn’t whether a million people show up in Washington.  It is a matter of the presumed motivation which is causing the organizers to make the effort to pull this event off.  That is, theoretically, “to combat the discrimination that Muslims endure in America and to give us non-Muslims a better understanding of what Islam is really about.”

Perhaps I’ve been fortunate.  My third and fourth years of college I lived across the street from Elijah Muhammad’s Temple of Islam #2.  There were always a few young men, nicely dressed in suit and tie who stood outside the Temple and made sure that no incidents occurred there.  This was about a mile and a half from the complex that Muhammad Ali built.

Because I lived in a very well-integrated neighborhood – not just in terms of race but in religion as well, I knew a number of Muslims who were proprietors of stores.  One family started in this country with one brother who came from Pakistan, who worked two jobs and saved enough to buy a Standard Oil gas station.  He then brought over two other brothers and his wife and all of them worked in the family business and purchased several more gas stations.

These were people who came here for opportunity, worked hard in what has clearly become the old-fashioned and now passé way and were well-integrated in their communities.  But that is my experience and one that is not shared by a lot of Americans.

What is the American perception of Islam?  It is rather different – and perhaps more accurate than mine.

The Twin Towers; the Taliban; accurate stories about the suppression of women’s rights in countries in which Sharia law rules the land; the Boston Marathon; the persecution of Christians; the constant defamation of Jews as pigs; Afghanistan; Pakistan; Iraq; the issuance of fatwas against anyone who speaks ill of Islam; well, the list goes on and on, but you get the picture.

In some respects, the presumed “persecution of Muslims in America” is very little different than Al Sharpton’s categorization of how blacks are mistreated in this country.  And the problem is that when any group engages in what most of us consider to be uncivilized behavior, it is hard for even the objective observer not to extrapolate from that and conclude that is how all members of that group behave.

It is understandable to me that Americans who see constant reports about the number of violent deaths which occur in Chicago and our other major cities and see that the assailants and the victims are mostly black conclude that blacks are violent.

It is understandable to me that Americans who read about young girls in Islamic countries who are the victims of rape or refuse the advances of a male whom they spurned being stoned to death or being the victims of “honor killings” conclude that is the way Islam works.

Well, although it isn’t the politically correct thing, there is a tremendous amount of violence in our inner city black communities.  And there is a tremendous amount of medieval behavior in countries where Islam is the majority faith.

If we start by admitting that, perhaps we’ll look for the path which will lead us to fixing those problems.  And that would be worth a great deal more than having a march on Washington – or anywhere else.

SO, HOW MUCH DOES HAVING NO JOB PAY PER HOUR?

In just a few short months I will be celebrating my 30th anniversary – of not setting foot inside or eating the food prepared at McDonald’s.  The actual date is December 18th.  While it used to be an off again on again place for me to get something to eat, I really can’t say that I have missed it – in the least.

When I was a college student it was sort of the norm to grab a bite there from time to time.  I never felt that the food was exceptional – or even really good – but it was fast and it was cheap.  I imagine it’s still fast but from the reports I’ve gotten, eating at Mickey D’s. or most of its competitors is now getting rather pricey.

Well, the point of this post is not to critique the value or quality of food at our fast food chain outlets.  Rather, it is to discuss the economics of being in the fast food business.

Ray Kroc was a genius.  He realized that by taking simple products like burgers, fries and shakes and standardizing their preparation, he could teach virtually anyone how to prepare an order for a customer.  The genius that Mr. Kroc had was that he developed a system – and that system could be duplicated, over and over and over again.

There was a part of the system which was essential for the delivery of a fast and inexpensive meal.  That was inexpensive help.  Fortunately, there was no lack of supply of poorly skilled workers available who relished the idea of a job – at any hourly wage – and who flocked through the doors of McDonald’s’ franchisees to apply.

A lot of these early employees were high school students who were looking to save some money for college or for other purchases they had in mind.  But a lot of these fast food employees were people who had so few skills that their work options were limited.  They found a home in various fast food company outlets, flipping burgers, salting fries and pouring drinks.

Perhaps you read that there has been a strike at various McDonald’s in NYC and other locations throughout the country.  The minimum wage workers are demanding an increase in their salaries – in some cases to double what they are presently being paid.

Now I’m not going to bore you with the old economists’ arguments about whether raising the minimum wage actually helps or hurts the employee.   (There is an immediate escalation in income combined with a consequent reduction in the number of workers as companies find ways to automate jobs formerly held by humans).  But let’s look for a moment at the fast food industry and how, should the strikers’ demands be met, management might counter.

The best statistic that I can garner is that there are presently about 160,000 fast food outlets in the country.  These include familiar brands like Wendy’s; Burger King; Starbucks; Taco Bell, ad infinitum.  That’s a lot of real estate and a lot of food.  In fact, according to the industry trade association, one out of six of us visits one of these outlets each and every day.  It’s an industry projected to have revenues approaching 200 Billion dollars this year.

Now you would imagine that a business that cumulatively employs people at 160,000 locations would employ a lot of people – and you would be correct.  But the number of outlets/number of employees is a bit misleading.  You see, quite a few of them are open 24/7 (at least for drive through purchases) and virtually all of them have two shifts of workers per day.

So for sake of discussion, let’s assume that there are 300,000 people who, on a daily basis are engaged in one single activity – taking orders.  (If you’ve been inside a fast food restaurant you know that there are usually several people doing this – plus one dedicated to the drive through window – so this number is ridiculously low).

What, other than saying, “Hello and welcome to X” does this person do that a machine cannot do (with the assistance of a little customer input)?  Absolutely nothing.

We have long been acclimated to using ATM’s for our financial transactions.  It took us a little while to get used to them but we did it.  Now, punching in our PIN and waiting to deposit our check or receive our withdrawal is a normal part of life.  Those machines replaced tens of thousands of tellers across the country.

There is absolutely no reason that the fast food industry could not implement the same sort of ATM-like equipment to accept orders and voìla – 300,000 jobs (again this is an incredibly low estimate) have just disappeared.

Think about the savings.   No payment of FICA, FUTA, health insurance or all the other things that are peripheral costs to the employee’s actual salary.  That machine is never going to file a Worker’s Comp or Unemployment claim.  It’s never going to ask for a day off or expect pay for an earned vacation.

I suspect that the cost of converting this function and purchasing the equipment  could be recovered in one year’s time or less.  And any businessman knows that is a good investment.

So when Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and all those minimum wage workers hold their banners high, demanding a hike in their wages, they might want to give some consideration not to the rhetoric but to the possibilities which may lay ahead.

There is something else I would call to their attention.  The “Emancipation Proclamation” freed the country from the bonds of slavery.  There are no indentured servants or slaves working at our fast food restaurants.  People work there because of their own choice – not because someone is threatening their life or the lives of their families.  If they can find a position at twice their present wages, I would be the first to encourage them to accept that better job.

But to those who are sympathetic to the workers’ plight I would like to offer a suggestion that would help out the person who takes your order and will, at the same time, assuage your conscience.

Leave them a tip as an expression of your concern and gratitude.

SELECTIVE JUSTICE

The mob that gathered last Saturday to voice their negative opinion of the George Zimmerman acquittal did get one thing right.  Whether or not one agrees with their premise that the basis for Mr. Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict was the result of a justice system that punishes minorities more harshly than it does whites, they are correct in saying that anytime anyone is either convicted or acquitted of a crime because of something extraneous to the facts of the case, there is an inequity which has prevailed – and all of us should protest against it.

Why should we protest such a miscarriage of justice – especially if we happen to like a particular verdict?  The answer is little more than “self-preservation”.  If we close our eyes to this sort of behavior in someone else’s case, who knows how long it will be before a corrupt political system finds reason to place us in the defendant’s box?

This administration, beginning with President Obama and continuing with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder have demonstrated a continuing pattern and practice of engaging in precisely such behavior – not only in violation of their oaths of office but to the general degradation of our legal system and ultimately to the detriment of every American.

It is hard, other than for political reasons, for me to understand the administration’s resistance to requiring people to provide proof of identity before they are allowed to vote.  When I write a check for groceries, the store wants to verify who I am.  (I don’t blame them).  When I call my gas or electric or telephone or cable TV provider to make an inquiry on the phone, they ask for the last four digits of my Social Security number and my DOB.  (I don’t blame them).

Why, then is it such a big deal that a person be required to prove that he is the person who he or she claims to be before being handed a ballot?  In fact, I believe that if we want to talk about discrimination in voting (as the Atty. General recently has regarding changes in the voting rules in a Texas county), I believe a strong case could be made about the disenfranchisement of legitimate voters by allowing people who do not have that right to vote in our elections.

There are only a few plausible explanations:

1)  The Administration is more concerned with getting people who support their agenda to vote them and their cronies into office than they are in upholding the Constitution;

2)  The Administration is terminally brain-dead and doesn’t have a clue that voting “irregularities” occur.  (If President Obama had lived his entire life in Alaska rather than a good portion of it in Chicago, there might be more believability in this);

3)  The Administration is vindictive and selective in its enforcement of the laws of the land;

4)  The Administration, having been called on by the mob to bring “Justice to Trayvon”, realizing there is no basis for their further pursuing this, need yet another distraction to show that they’re on the side of the “oppressed”;

5)   The Administration is just down right upset at the recent passage of tighter abortion regulations in Texas and is trying to appease one of its most faithful voting blocs.

That Atty. Gen. Holder’s new initiative comes in response to the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down key portions of the Voting Rights bill as being currently irrelevant is particularly disturbing.  There is a reason that the Founding Fathers ordered government divided into three equal parts.

Perhaps the president and the AG missed that semester in law school.

.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE INDIFFERENT

When “Elmer Gantry” was first published, it created a furor that rippled through the American conscience and through our churches.  The portrayal of a lecherous minister so offended the typical American churchgoer that author Sinclair Lewis received several written death threats.

The message of Christianity is peace.  That message has often been lost to those who claim to be adherents – as must have been the case of those who “in God’s name” threatened the writer’s life.

As we look through twenty-one centuries of history, the church often appears to us to be less a home for saints than a hospital for sinners.  And some of those sinners are in serious need of life support to sustain them.

My father attended church on a regular basis.  But I think that I should hardly describe him as a zealot.  On more than one occasion I heard him say, “Religion has been the cause of more wars than anything else.”  But he would continue by asking the rhetorical question, “Can you imagine, if we didn’t have religion and some belief in a higher moral justice, how barbaric mankind might be?”

There are many people of faith who follow and practice their beliefs in quiet dignity.  We do not hear of them.  They are not the subjects of the evening news and the tabloids take no interest in their lives.  Good new is, in essence, no news.

But bad news is news and bad news sells.  And it would be hard to deny that even more so than when “Elmer Gantry” was published, there is a great deal of bad news to report about the clergy of this country.

I needn’t detail here the list of immoral acts that some clergy have committed as the media have done an excellent job of reporting on those.  Or have they?  Well, they’ve done an excellent job in covering the acts of pedophilia of Roman Catholic priests in a number of American dioceses.  And they’ve monitored the inefficient response of the diocesans in either attempting to cover up those crimes either by transferring the priests in question or by ignoring the problem completely, hoping that it would go away on its own.

Those responses by the hierarchy are both insufficient, ignorant and morally suspect.  But if we didn’t intuitively know that the media have taken great pains to point that out to us – over and over.  Perhaps they consider that their rightful role as the source for reporting on the “new moral justice.”

But this “new moral justice” seems to apply only occasionally and with specificity – targeted not at the clergy “in toto” but selectively.  And interestingly, one might argue, that there are racial overtones both to the reporting and to the lack of it.

If you look historically at both the white and black communities, it would be accurate to say that black Americans saw in religion the hope for a life in a future world far better than they knew in this one and attended their churches more regularly and perhaps with greater fervor than their white counterparts.

The focus of black churches lay more personally in the person of the minister conducting the service than with the priest at the altar.  Any priest would do to execute a “valid liturgy” – but within the black churches people came to hear the preachin’ and to be roused by the Holy Spirit.  No self-respecting black church did not have an adequate supply of “fallin’ out fans” on hand to accommodate the ladies of the congregation when, moved by the Word of God, they came near to fainting.

There is no question that the minister in a black community not only represented an example by which congregants should model their lives but was one of the few success stories to which the impoverished members of his community could look to give them hope.  In today’s parlance, he was a “Big Kahuna.”

If you subscribe to my theory of “selective coverage” by the media it should not surprise you that the scandals which were extensively reported among the more conservative (translation:“White”) churches received that coverage and the appropriate amount of bashing.

But in the more “liberal” wings of the black churches, the misdeeds of ministers have been briefly reported and quietly buried.  Black church goers have, like so many others, been led to the “liberal altar of free stuff” and have greedily drunk from the Kool Aid of a false communion that has been consecrated by their own clergy.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, an aide to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at one time a fierce and sincere advocate for the black community.  Early in his career he recognized that legalized abortion was little more than a license to minimize the number of black Americans and was, in essence, selective population control.  His opposition to abortion was so fervent that in 1975 he planned on drafting  a Constitutional Amendment banning the practice.

This is a different Jesse Jackson than we see today.  He has had to endure the embarrassment of admitting that he fathered an illegitimate child – an epidemic problem in the black community – but in his defense, he at least made the effort to pay the mother child support.  And he has had to deal with the shame that his son, my former Congressman, now awaiting sentencing together with his wife, brought on the family for the misappropriation of $750,000 in funds raised for his election campaigns.

It was a different Jesse Jackson who in 1969 realized that when he spoke of “us and them” he was not framing that remark as a statement about blacks and whites, because he was a man who preached about reconciliation between the races, but who was talking about those who had economic security and those who lacked it.

“When we change the race problem into a class fight between the haves and the have-nots, then we are going to have a new ball game.”

The truth is that whether or not we agreed with Mr. Jackson back in the ‘60’s, it was hard to argue with his honesty.  Given the one hundred eighty degree changes in his views (and this might be surprising as most conservatives and a fair number of ministers believe that truth is immutable), it is hard to ascribe much relevance to what Rev. Jackson has to say now.

One of Jesse Jackson’s colleagues when they came together in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was the Rev. Al Sharpton.  Sharpton does not have the baggage of changing his opinions as does the Rev. Mr. Jackson.  He is now and always has seen race as the basis of every inequity which has ever occurred throughout American history.

Sharpton was ordained a Pentecostal minister at the age of ten.  It was at this time that his father abandoned Sharpton’s mother and their children to have an affair with Sharpton’s half sister.

Over the years of his career, Sharpton has, through his National Action Network, promoted organized demonstrations in response to incidents which have occurred throughout America (and most frequently in his native city of New York) where he believes the American judicial system has failed its black citizens.  Of course, the most notable of these has been his recent effort to pressure the Justice Department into further prosecuting one George Zimmerman.

But if we look at the issues that this now liberal Baptist minister has taken on, there is one thing that the objective observer must conclude.  It is that in virtually all of the cases that Mr. Sharpton has championed, there has been no evidence of racial motivation nor has there been any evidence of racially motivated law-enforcement  neglecting the rights of our black citizens.

At some point, we all need to re-read the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and I would offer that to Mr. Sharpton as a summer reading project as well.

Robert Browning penned the words:

“God’s in his Heaven —
All’s right with the world!”

Those either must have been happier days.  Or perhaps the poet’s love for Elizabeth Barrett gave him a rosier view of the world than what most of us held.

The reality that we confront, because we have adopted the morality of secularism, is that in so many ways the people now occupying planet Earth appear to be more dysfunctional than ever.  We have thrown off the old standards and have eagerly stood hours in line to sign up to take the oath that we will adhere to the new ones.  They are far simpler to comply with as there are none.  We shouldn’t be surprised at the results.

Maybe Dad was right.

“Can you imagine, if we didn’t have religion and some belief in a higher moral justice, how barbaric mankind might be?”

Unfortunately, I think we’re all finding out the answer to that question.

DON’T USE THE ‘P’ WORD

There has been so much news media coverage of the anti-Zimmerman Trayvon Martin rallies that it occurred to me that there has been one group of idiots protesters who have been singular in their silence.  That group, of course, is OWS.   You may remember them from a few years back.

Surely, I thought they cannot possibly have despoiled all of New York City’s parks.  There are just too many of them (parks that is).  So what’s been happening with this group of kooks budding intelligentsia?

Well, the MSM may consider them yesterday’s news but after doing a search I came upon their web page.  And it appears that they are alive and well and still finding causes worthy of their attention.

Now with all the Martin stuff going on, perhaps you, like me, managed to miss the fact that OWS held a rally – according to their web site on Friday, July 19th in 35 cities (it turned out actually to be eight) around the world.

The purpose of these rallies was to protest the deaths of two women, one who was murdered in Turkey and the other in Sweden.  The murders occurred earlier this month and are unrelated other than that both of these women were prostitutes “sex workers.”

The following comes from the OWS website:

“Following the murders of Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation (sic), violence and murders.  In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in more than 35 cities from four continents who agreed to organise (sic) demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places.  JOIN US on Friday the 19th at 3 pm local time and stand in solidarity with sex workers and their loved ones around the world!  Justice for Dora!  Justice for Jasmine!  Justice for all sex workers who are victims of violence!”

The protests in Dora’s memory (apparently Dora was a man) were scheduled to take place in Paris, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Berlin, Brighton, Canberra and Vancouver.  It isn’t surprising that American news media failed to cover the protests as most Americans have no idea where in Africa any of these places are

As to Petite Jasmine, she apparently was a woman, in fact a mother – but if the searches I did were correct, her name was Jasmine Petite rather than the way OWS had it listed.  It seems the Swedes frown on prostitution “sex work” and took her children from her, awarding custody to her ex-husband who had a reputation for heaping physical abuse on his former wife.  I wouldn’t care to be a judge deciding child custody under those circumstances.

While I was unable to find any specifics as to the exact execution of either murder, suffice it to say that I would expect that most murders could be categorized as “brutal.”  To trivialize any person’s wrongful death because of her “profession” is to demean the memory not only of that individual but to demean ourselves and our own humanity in the process.  In that respect, as I knew neither Dora nor Jasmine, I have no emotional response as I would at the loss of someone who was a part of my life but join with John Donne in his sentiments as he expressed them in “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”

Hopefully, both Dora’s and Jasmine’s murderers will be found, tried, convicted and pay an appropriate penalty.

I was struck by one passage which appeared later in the OWS release about the solidarity demonstrations.  And although I have read and re-read it at least a dozen times, I still am having some difficulty translating it into comprehensible English:

“As the sex trade becomes an ever more important part of how neoliberal economies handle the poorest and most marginalized, violence against sex workers – particularly against transgender and immigrant women – has become a tragic epidemic.”

Frankly, while I don’t know the statistics, I think it would be hard to categorize the number of prostitutes “sex workers” being murdered world-wide as an epidemic.  These were the first two incidents with which I was familiar – and I only happened to learn of them while I was looking for something else.

As I make an attempt at translating the OWS paragraph, I gather that what they are saying is that most governments (probably based on the majority of their citizens’ implied beliefs) simply don’t care much for people engaged in the business of prostitution “sex work” and therefore offer little protection from violence for people in the industry.

That may well be true.  But the reason for that may not be solely the willful disregard of these people’s importance and their lives but a function of fiscal reality.

You see, when you have government needing unexpectedly to divert its resources to doing things like cleaning up the parks in New York because groups such as OWS have totally trashed them; when you have to dispatch the NYPD to those same parks to try to retain some semblance of civilized behavior, those are funds that might otherwise have been used to protect not only NY’s prostitutes “sex workers,” but the general population of the city.

So if OWS wants truly to honor the memories of Dora and Jasmine and protect others in their line of work, perhaps they might consider changing their tactics from disruption and debris to engaging with people in a serious and mature manner in a more conversational way.  They certainly have the right, as do we all, to make their opinions known, given their protection under the 1st Amendment.

In closing, I would like to share with my readers another announcement which OWS offers on its website.  Apparently, Tuesday, November 5, 2013 will be a “day of solidarity” on which OWS is organizing a “worldwide demonstration against corrupt government”.  I can’t say that I completely disagree with their premise.  So if any of you is interested you still have some time to sign up for this event.

As for me, I’m particularly curious to see how, if this worldwide demonstration comes off, it is going to play in Islamabad,Tripoli and Beijing..

Tag Cloud