The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

WHY J’AMAL CAN’T REED, RITE OR TALK GUD – PART I

Margaret Mitchell’s Tara has faded from the landscape and the memories of most, but the pre-bellum plantations of the South have moved northward.  The plantations of enslaved people have migrated to our inner cities, festering with drugs, violence, ignorance, squalor and with as little hope for escape as the slaves, mired in the deep South had, before President Lincoln emancipated them.

Slavery had then and has now in the countries in which it was and is still practiced one fundamental reason for existence.  It’s the economics of it, stupid.  Free or virtually free labor is a better deal for the farmer or manufacturer than paying people a minimum wage – whatever that amount might be.  Slavery has nothing to do with racism.  It’s all about the almighty dollar or dinar or rupee.

In some ways, life was safer and better for blacks in America under the dreadful old slave conditions, as horribly violent as some slave owners were, than what they have on the new plantations of our inner cities as presumably freed people.  As “property” they had economic value.  They could be bought, sold or bred to create more property and increase the slave owner’s balance sheet.  Even the most heartless slave owner realized that destroying his own property, other than to make an example for others, was a poor economic decision.

When Europeans traveled to Africa and abducted or bought subjugated people from other tribes who had vanquished them, it was because they had developed a taste for something called sugar.  More bodies were required to harvest the sugar cane and sugar beets to satisfy the ever increasing demand for that product.  And if blacks could harvest sugar cane they could do the same with cotton and tobacco.  In an agrarian society there was no better source of labor than that which merely needed modest upkeep by way of food and housing and which could reproduce itself.

The South may have lost the Civil War but they had not given up the fight.  The newly freed slaves, many of them grateful for the political party whose head had freed them from their bonds, became Republicans.  The slave owners were Democrats.  And they were organized.  And so the KKK was born in the late 1860’s – originally as an effort to overthrow the state Republican governments in the South where blacks now sat as freed men and legislators.  It was squelched in 1871 to be reborn around 1915, this time with a hate agenda primarily devoted to a program of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism.  This incarnation also died out only to return in the 1950’s, both of those agendas still in mind, but with a primary focus on anti-black terrorism.  The cross burnings and black murders which most Americans think of when they think of the KKK comes from that third incarnation.

Inherent to maintaining slavery wherever it exists is perpetuating a culture of ignorance among the slaves.  A law passed in North Carolina’s 1830-1831 legislative session is fairly typical of how the slave states dealt with the potential of educating slaves:

Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this state: Therefore

Be it enacted by the General Asembly [sic] of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person who shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any slave within this State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, Shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in the State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction shall at the discretion of the court if a white man or woman be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned and if a free person of colour shall be whipped at the discretion of the court not exceeding thirty nine lashes nor less than twenty lashes.

Be it further enacted that if any slave shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any other slave to read or write the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace and on conviction thereof shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

Two decades after the North Carolina law was enacted, in 1852 Massachusetts became the first state to pass a bill mandating the education of all children.  In 1918, Mississippi became the last state to adopt similar legislation.

But passing laws does not effectively dictate morality – or the Ten Commandments would get more respect.  Blacks may have been freed but their former owners merely looked at them as property which had been purloined from them.  And they weren’t afraid of showing their disdain for these former slaves whom they believed should never have been granted freedom, let alone citizenship.  So in that climate, many of these blacks migrated north to former free states to resettle themselves hoping to find an environment with a more welcoming, understanding populace.

For the most part, those hopes were not fulfilled.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

If you don’t know who Dana Busbiber is, by the time you finish reading this post you will.  She happens to be an inner city public school English literature teacher in Sacramento, CA who believes that we should no longer educate our children by teaching Shakespeare because he is “a long dead British guy.”  Ms. Busbiber goes on to say that the only reason that “Shakespeare is great is because ‘some white people’ declared him to be.”  That’s an interesting thesis which unfortunately fails to reflect the fact that themes such as young love as set forth in “Romeo and Juliet” and honor and betrayal as written about in “King Lear” and “Hamlet” are as meaningful and important as they were four hundred years ago when the Bard first penned those plays.

A brief example of the “relevance” of Shakespeare comes from his play of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.  The play is, of course, the inspiration for the 1957 musical, “West Side Story,” written by Arthur Laurents with musical score by Leonard Bernstein.  Without that “long dead British guy,” would these artists have ever thought to create a story about the Jets and the Sharks and would we have those liltingly beautiful songs, “Maria” and “Tonight?”  Quite possibly not.  And, for that matter, would I have the title of this post, lifted unflinchingly from that same play?

Now that we’ve dispensed with the Busbiber bimbo, let’s turn our attention to the real subject and the title of this post, what is in a name?  Apparently, quite a lot.

Whether it is Judaism, Hinduism or a number of other religious traditions, having the power to “name” things is to give the person possessed of that power control over the thing so named.  In Genesis, God gave man the power to name the animals, and that power conferred the ability to have dominion over them.  And mankind has been busy naming things ever since – including our offspring.  Sometimes with unintended but fairly predictable dire consequences.

One of my classmates at the University of Chicago had the first name, Nimbus.  A nimbus is a luminescent halo or gray rain cloud and we all thought that Nimbus’ name was a good source for a chuckle.  Until we learned that he had a brother by the name of Zippo.  Apparently their father had served in the U. S. Army during WWII and attributed his survival to the unfailing ability  of his lighter to light, allowing him to escape through a pitch black corridor of a burned out building and avoid a platoon of Nazi troops.  But on the scale of 1 – 100, by today’s standards, Nimbus and Zippo barely register.

Twenty-five years ago, I had gone to my bank to cash a check to replenish our small petty cash fund.  Because this was a “business” transaction, I had to wait in the far shorter line for business customers than the regular long line to which the hoi poloi were consigned.  This was a good thing.  Furthermore, wanting to cater to its business customers, the bank regularly assigned its best tellers to the business line to provide those customers with a better experience.  As I waited my turn I happened to notice that the window was being manned by a new teller whom I had not seen before.  I glanced at his nameplate which rested to the side of his window and restrained a deep-seated laugh as I read his name, “Epluribusunum.”

Normally, whether it is a bank teller or a wait person, I try to pay attention to their name tag and use their name in addressing them as a way of acknowledging them as an individual.  That just seems to me a matter of common courtesy.  But I knew that before I got out the last syllable of Epluribusunum I would be laughing and that would be rude, so I conducted my business with this very efficient young man and just wished him a good day as I left his window and the bank.  While I was in line I was trying to think what an appropriate nickname for him might be, which further added to my sense of laughter.  But then I still have difficulty understanding how we turn Charlie into Chuck or Elizabeth into Betty.

You don’t need to be an Einstein to know that when a person is named “’Nshaquetha” or “Latonyethia” or “Epluribusunum” there is greater than a 99.9% probability that she or he is darkly complected.  And while I applaud their mothers’ originality in coming up with these monikers, I really do believe that these uniquely individual names serve as a hindrance to many of these children in their growing up and in their adult lives.  There is a reason that in many countries, including France, Germany, Japan, China, New Zealand and Iceland, among others, names must be selected from an approved list or a name which is not on that list must be submitted for approval before the child can be called by that name.  The United States has few if any such restrictions.

While most of the western world uses a system of naming using surnames as an identifier, the Icelandic people use a rather different system which was common throughout Scandinavia and is again being reintroduced in several of those countries.  It seeks to provide family connection by using a patronymic and in some cases a matronymic system.  That is to say, there are no surnames but a child is identified as his or her father’s son or daughter (or mother’s) by adding either “son” or “dóttir” to their father’s (or mother’s) first name.  Thus, if Jón and Birgit had a boy whom they named Eifur, he might be called either Eifur Jónsson or Eifur Birgitsson.  In the case of a girl named Helga she would be either Helga Jonsdóttir or Helga Birgitsdóttir.

There is a charming simplicity both to having specific names which we may confer on our children and to the Icelandic system of providing relationship attribution through the use of one (or in some cases both) the parents’ names to the newborn.  But as I think about it, with the growing number of unwed mothers and hard to find fathers in the United States, it probably wouldn’t work here.

To those of you have earned it, “Have a Happy Father’s Day.”  And to those of you who contributed in that effort, enjoy Dad’s day as well.

READING, WRITING AND TAX FRAUD

There has been a lot of negative feedback directed at the White House for its omission in not sending a higher level individual to the rally that took place last Sunday in Paris.  Surely, we could have spared Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry to attend.  If, God forbid, something had happened, they could easily have been replaced by someone equally incompetent.

While White House spokesman Josh Earnest, acknowledged that this was a small faux pas on the part of the administration, he preceded that with a variety of other explanations which bore all the validity of the explanation that “The attack on our facility in Benghazi occurred as a result of a spontaneous attack, caused by an offensive video.”

Let’s see,  “The President only found out about the rally as a result of hearing about it in the media and there wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to ensure that the proper security measures would be in place to guarantee his safety.”  So let’s think back to the funeral of Nelson Mandela which the president did attend.  There were several more days which intervened between his death and burial – and there was probably previous planning about security which would have been tethered together since he was an elderly man and his death, at some point, was expected.  So, despite what must have been greater security, do you remember the mentally ill man who, while Obama gave his eulogy, was gesticulating a translation in a pseudo-sign language style of his own invention?  Was the entirety of the Secret Service detail off in the red light district during the ceremony?

“The president was not invited to attend.”  If that is true it might speak volumes about the real state of Franco-American relationships – though it is surprising considering the fact that Presidents Hollande and Obama are both socialists.  Perhaps the French simply didn’t want the nation to be snubbed in the same way that the British were by Obama’s failure to attend Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

While it seems unreasonable to expect this or any other president to expose himself to unnecessary personal risk, that didn’t seem to deter Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter being a much more likely target, from having the gumption to show up and march in the front line, arm in arm.  One could argue that with or without any American security, Obama might well be viewed by the Islamic radical terrorists as an ally rather than an opponent and would have been the safest of all world leaders present at the rally.  After all, he’s been busily freeing Guantanamo detainees and sending them back to the homeland where they can rejoin the fight to eradicate Western Civilization from the face of the map.  Well, at least we taxpayers are saving money since we spend three times more per year on one of the enemy combatants in Gitmo than we do on your basic murderer or rapist in one of our federal penitentiaries.

Now that several days have gone by since the Paris demonstration of solidarity, I think I may have hit on the real reason that Obama couldn’t bother to make it to France – other than the obvious that he was watching the playoff  games.  It is that he was fleshing out his latest idea that we should offer everyone the opportunity to attend community college, maintain an “average” average and have the taxpayers fund their education.  This may surprise some long time readers but I have to say that this might be the brightest idea that has sprung from Obama in the last six years – or perhaps ever.  Which is not to say that I am in complete agreement with it.  But let’s set aside partisanship and review this proposal on an objective basis.

I’m going to begin with an assumption that while an associate’s degree might not carry with it the potential earnings benefit of a four year bachelor’s degree, it should at the least offer its recipient at least half the potential of the more advanced parchment.  We’ll set aside the fact that about thirty percent of those holding newly conferred bachelor’s degrees are unable to find any work and more than sixty percent are holding positions for which they are overqualified for lack of suitable opportunities which would require their newly acquired expertise.  Those are mere anomalies.  There are at least a few examples of how acquiring a four year degree – or at least working toward that goal – can bring with it financial rewards.

The feds recently apprehended seven student athletes who attended the University of South Dakota who were involved in a tax fraud scheme which reportedly diverted $1.1 Million in fraudulent tax refund claims and which netted the group $400,000 which they withdrew from ATM’s before they were arrested.  Of these, six were members of the USD football team and one was a member of the university’s track and field team.  (He was probably the runner for the group).  So to those of you who criticize the quality of education that our kids get in college, I can only say, “Pshaw.”

As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps the explanation that Obama was watching the football playoffs is indeed the real reason for his notable absence at the Parisian rally.  He might have been scouting for promising football players to add to the administration’s staff who could come up with innovative ways to pay for his community college proposal.  After all, most of those guys have four year degrees – and a fairly large percentage have felony convictions to round out their resumes.

SEX AND THE SINGLE COLLEGE STUDENT

Once upon a time the height of sexual titillation was the “strip tease.”  That was when we were sexually repressed, believed the normal order in which life proceeded was courtship, marriage and then children and generally confined our sexual activities to the bedroom with the person who was our life partner.  As one person put it – “The strip tease is intended to tantalize but not to reveal all.  It leaves that to the imagination of the viewer.”  Things have changed – and arguably not for the better.

When I was in college, the focus was on trying to get an education.  While this was in the rebellious ‘60’s, getting laid was probably something that some of my fellow students hoped for (and in some cases were able to achieve), but it was not something in which the school participated through “educational” curricula on the subject.  Well, officially the University of Chicago is a school founded by a Baptist – John D. Rockefeller.   Perhaps that’s the explanation.

The recent “Rolling Stones” now discredited story about the female rape victim, Jackie at the University of Virginia, brought this to mind.  Rape is a dreadful crime.  As we know, it’s not about engaging in sex so much as it is about overwhelming the unwilling person, forcing him or her into doing something in which they do not want to be involved.  It is, in essence, an act of bullying – which like all bullying can carry with it both physical and psychological damage.  And that is something which all of us should find offensive and reprehensible.

We might have fewer rapes on our college campuses or elsewhere throughout the country if people simply applied the rule of common sense to the way in which we conducted ourselves.  Some of the things we could do or advise our children to do is to avoid places where excessive partying is expected to be the order of the evening; avoid excessive amounts of alcohol; don’t accept beverages from people whom you don’t know; have a companion with you who is looking out for you and for whom you are looking out; don’t smoke dope or take any pills while you’re out at the party.  While that will not eliminate the possibility of rape, following those simple rules might reduce the likelihood that it would occur.

But part of the problem I suspect, at least in some cases, is there can be a fine line between rape and consensual sex.  Naturally, if the “victim” willingly over drank and engaged in sex, buyer’s remorse might set in the following morning and perhaps the recollection of the events of the previous night might be blurred.  And part of the problem might be that while our colleges and universities are busily involved in investigating incidences of alleged rape on their campuses, many of them are promoting an agenda in which the lines between propriety and libertine behavior are aggressively blurred.  Allow me to offer a few examples.

To my recollection, during my time in college, I don’t recall anyone “streaking” the campus.  That might be because the weather in Chicago is cold and is well-described as having two seasons – winter and August.  But in some of our finer universities, not only is streaking commonplace – it’s evolved to the point of being an athletic event.  Among the schools that have nude athletes competing are Rice University; Williams College; the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill); Dartmouth College, to name only a few.

Without making a value judgment about public nudity, I think it is safe to say that if you are wearing no clothing or other accoutrements, it becomes more difficult to carry your Pagan Symbolism in Native American Basket Weaving syllabus to class along with your cell phone, your change and your lunch.  But nudity is merely the tip of the sexberg which circles our colleges’ ivy walls.  There’s “Sex Week.”  I’ve posted the calendar for Harvard University’s recently concluded 2014 Fall program below:

Sunday, November 2

Brown Girlz Do it Well: a Queer Diaspora Remix

2:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Join Harvard South Asian Association and SHEATH for a creative workshop by Dark Matter and a discussion on explore our own narratives of family, queerness, and diaspora. The intention is to situate our personal narratives within broader systems of racism, casteism, classism, islamophobia, and imperialism.

DARKMATTER is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of Janani and Aloo. Using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie)determination, racial justice, and movement building. DM has been invited to perform and facilitate workshops across the world. you can follow their antics at www.darkmatterrage.com or @darkmatterrage.

Monday, November 3

SEXY AND I KNOW IT: Sex Ed 101

5:00 pm, Sever 202

What’s an internal condom? How about a dental dam? If you’re looking for a sex-ed primer, this is the place to be. Sex educator Shira Cahn-Lipman will interactively teach us about the do’s and dont’s of safer sex practices in an inclusive way. All genders and sexualities are encouraged to join us for a primer or a refresher on how to safely enjoy sex!

Losing Your (Concept of) Virginity

6:00 – 7:30 pm, Harvard College Women’s Center (Canaday B basement)

This event aims to explore the myths, stigmas, and popular ideas surrounding virginity. Through documentary clips, activities, and group discussions, we will consider the historical context of virginity and its different social, political, personal, and religious meanings. All are welcome to attend and share their thoughts, though no sharing of personal experience is required, and no identities are assumed. Does virginity matter? How does a person lose their virginity? What does virginity really mean? And what does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 4

What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101

5:00 pm, Sever 113

Come learn everything about anal sex from the experts of Good Vibrations, a sex-positive store located right in Brookline! They will dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well. They will cover a wide variety of topics, including: anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners, and much more! Learn the facts about this exciting yet often misunderstood form of pleasure, find out the common mistakes people make, and get all your questions answered!

#SellingSexy – How our social culture is shaping the future of entertainment

8:00 pm, Sever 113

Cosponsored by the Radcliffe Union of Students

Wednesday, November 5

#HearOurStories: A Digital Story Screening

7:00 pm, Fong Auditorium

An exciting event on sexual rights, social justice and young parenthood. In partnership with the UMass Amherst Hear Our Stories project, the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective are proud to host a youth-led screening of digital stories created by young mothers as part of Harvard Sex Week. This event will illuminate the multi-layered identities of young parents and intersection of issues faced by young people including violence, discrimination, and homelessness. Following the screening will be a panel with some of the young women who created the digital stories.

Cosponsored by the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective

Thursday, November 6

Sexual Health Career Panel

4:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

The annual Sexual Health Career fair will highlight opportunities available to students for careers in sexual health, reproductive justice, BGLTQ advocacy, and other related fields. Come speak to representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the Aids Action Committee, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood, and Global Protection Corps, and hear about summer internships and post-grad job opportunities. The event will feature a panel discussion on career paths in sexual health, followed by a meet & greet career fair. Hosted by SHARC (Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors) in partnership with Sex Week at Harvard.​

Cosponsored by Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Jungle Fever: On Exotification

6:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Have you ever said or heard the following?

I love [insert racial or ethnic group here] because they always [insert stereotype about said racial or ethnic group]!

If so, then you have either experienced or participated in exotification. Exotification means objectifying someone’s racial or ethnic identity, treating that identity–and that identity alone–as what defines them or makes them desirable. To learn more about exotification and its problematic nature, come to the exotification panel on November 6th from 6-8 pm in TIcknor Lounge.

Cosponsored by the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, Latinas Unidas, and the Association of Black Harvard Women

Friday, November 7

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish

4:30 pm, Sever 106

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish will explore supposedly “taboo” topics in sexuality, namely the kinky. Munch, Harvard’s Kink and Alternative Sexuality group will run a presentation on kink through the lens of the ever popular Fifty Shades of Grey. This presentation will attempt to expose and attempt to correct inaccuracies in the book’s portrayal of kink.

Cosponsored by Harvard College Munch

Open Mic Night

8 pm, Dudley Co-Op

Join SHEATH and Speak Out Loud, Harvard’s only spoken word poetry group, at 8pm on Friday, November 7th for an open mic! Poetry, food, and friendly faces will populate this casual Sex Week event while providing an open and relaxed space to consider the other topics addressed throughout the week. Following the open mic will be the annual Sex Week party (more food!).

Cosponsored by Harvard College Speak Out Loud

Saturday, November 8

Love @ First Swipe: Online Hookup Culture

4:30 pm, Sever 113

Grindr? Tindr? whats the technique? whats the upside/downside?

Cosponsored by Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, CONTACT Peer Counseling, Response, and Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Given our younger generation’s liberation from society’s repressive view of healthy sexuality as evidenced in part by the contents of Harvard’s Sex Week program, it does give me pause to wonder why rape is such a problem for these kids.  After all, isn’t the rapist merely expressing her or himself in a way which is meaningful to that person?  Shouldn’t a permissive and inclusive society accept that person’s right to be that person?  Why all the noise about rape on campus – or elsewhere?  Bill Cosby, stand up and take a bow.

California has certainly got the vision since they are in the process of passing a law which would define a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student of at least fourteen years of age as being “consensual.”  Way to go California Teacher’s Union.  You certainly have the best interests of your young students at heart – preparing them well for a continuing education in our institutions of higher learning.

Now I realize some of my readers might consider our current views toward human sexual expression as being – may I use the word – perverted.  That just goes to show how old-fashioned you are – and you need to enroll in a class immediately which will help you evolve from your antediluvian views.  But even you, I think, will have to admit that there has been at least one positive development that has come out of our current sexual enlightenment.

We are all familiar with what was once considered a rather coarse expression,  “GO F*CK YOURSELF.”   Now there’s a college course that explains how to do that.

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.

SPAY AND NEUTER

With a lifelong passion for companion animals, primarily dogs although a few kitties worked their way in, I heartily support the effort to act humanely and control the animal population so that fewer of them are inhumanely treated or are euthanized.  While I personally value these critters more highly than at least a couple of the people I’ve met on my journey, I realize that the prevailing thought among most people is that we, as top of the food chain (momentarily), are far more important than the most wonderful of our four footed friends.  So let’s go with that line of thought for a moment.

I’ve previously written about an explanation I received from a Russian Orthodox bishop as to what the “unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit” was.  For those who missed it let me recap.  God’s love and forgiveness is limitless.  But unless the person who needs that forgiveness asks for it, God does not impose himself on the sinner.  The way most of us know this is by the label, “Free Will.”  But if a person is so hardened of heart that he refuses to ask for forgiveness, it is denied him.  That is not by God’s choice but is a function of the individual’s decision.

While I am not a theologian, from a lay person’s perspective I have come to the conclusion that certain specific acts or crimes are manifestations of the person who has reached a point where he or she is incapable of asking for compassion – because that person is unable to understand compassion and feels no guilt about inflicting violence and brutality against others.  The three crimes which I view as examples of this are crimes against children; crimes against the infirm or elderly; and crimes against animals.

We send our children to school to be educated in the fundamentals they will need to make it through.  We trust that when they go there they will be provided a safe environment in which to learn.  The most recent shooting spree by a jilted boy friend in Washington state is garnering only slightly more attention than the hatchet attacks against two rookie New York City policemen, probably because the shooter, a Native American, doesn’t fit the left’s agenda that virtually all violence is committed by white males and the NRA is responsible for all our ills.

But this piece is not about school shootings.  It is about something at least as tragic and even more widespread.  It is about sexually predatory teachers.  And it seems, based on recent arrests, that there is an ordinate number of women, not men, who are the guilty parties.  That doesn’t work well with the “War on Women” meme that abounds in the liberal media.

I recently read several stories in which female teachers took advantage of their position and had sexual relations with their students.  One was committed by a twenty-two year old substitute teacher on her first day teaching at a school in Washington, D. C.  The student was a seventeen year old male, on whom she performed oral sex.  Perhaps as disturbing as the story were the comments on the story, many of which referred to her attractive appearance and left remarks like, “Wow, she’s a looker.  I wish I had her teaching my class when I was in high school.”

Another story from a few days earlier detailed the fact that a thirty-four year old teacher had been arrested in California and charged with having an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of her students.  In this case she was married and has several small children at home.  That in itself is a scary thought.

In New York City, a gym teacher was charged with thirty counts of statutory rape for allegedly having sex with one of her male students on a regular basis over a period of many months.  In addition, she faces four charges for “criminal sexual acts”.  Apparently, predators are not restricted to any geographical area.  All they need is a classroom.

My parents had many concerns that they pondered in my rearing.  I am, however, confident that worrying about one of my teacher’s molesting me while at was at school was not on their list of worries.  If I had kids in school today I suspect I would feel differently.

Now I realize that there are those on the left who adamantly oppose the death penalty, suggesting that the argument that executing someone does not really deter others from committing similar executable crimes.  Perhaps they’re correct.  And the argument that if we made a mistake in arriving at a conviction and then execute the person, well that decision is irreversible.  That’s definitely true.  So I would like to promote a compromise punishment for people who are found guilty of sexually predatory behavior – whether teachers or otherwise.  Spay and neuter.

Should the reader think this is “cruel and unusual punishment” I would draw their attention to the children who are maligned and how they are likely to suffer a lifelong struggle to overcome their abuse.  And, unlike a lethal injection or a firing squad, having to live the rest of your life as an asexual person might indeed prove to be a deterrent for others contemplating engaging in similar activities.

As to the argument that the death penalty is final – well, I’d admit that this too would be irreversible should someone be wrongly convicted.  But I have faith that in the near future, science will have developed a way for us to clone ourselves – so for those few who were innocent, there would still be light at the end of the tunnel.  That might be a brighter light than the one that will ever shine on the victims whom these predators have abused.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

It was the year 1957 – 57 years ago.  The scene was Little Rock, Arkansas.  The governor of that state was Orval Faubus (D), a name that may be unfamiliar to younger readers.  The nine male white Justices of the Supreme Court had struck down desegregation in public schools in the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision.  The governor of Arkansas disagreed with that decision and militarized the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from attending Little Rock Central High School.

The nine black students who had enrolled in Little Rock Central High School initially were blocked from attending by the Guard.  The Mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann appealed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) who intervened, sending in the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to escort and protect the students.  Eisenhower ultimately federalized the Arkansas National Guard, taking them out of the control of Governor Faubus.

Particularly during their first year attending Little Rock Central High, all of the students were subject to derision and abuse by their white counterparts.  One of them, Melba Patillo had acid thrown in her face and several white girls tried to light her hair on fire when she was in the rest room.  Others were spit on as they walked the school’s hallways.  That was the way it was in America in 1957 – at least in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The state of Arkansas elects its governor for a two year term.  Orval Faubus was elected to six successive terms by the citizens of that state.  Notwithstanding what transpired in Little Rock in 1957, Faubus won his final election as governor in 1964 and carried more than 81% of the black vote in that election.  What were the black voters of Arkansas thinking back then?  What are they thinking today?

There was something refreshing about Orval Faubus.  He made the list of the “Top Ten Most Influential Men in America” in 1958.  He was either loved or hated.  There was no parsing your position when it came to the governor.  You knew that Faubus was a strict segregationist.  He made no bones about his position and made no excuses for his beliefs.  Whether you agreed or disagreed with him, it was impossible to say that he was not honest.

I thought about Little Rock as events in Ferguson, MO are unfolding.  To say the least, the way in which the Ferguson PD has managed this has been far from perfect.  Suspicion has arisen because of the failure, until today, to release the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown.  The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon (D) took charge and by appointing the head of the Missouri State Police,  Captain Ron Johnson took a big step in the right direction.  Johnson is well-spoken and is a calming influence, helping to diffuse a situation that was at a boiling point and is now at a fast simmer.

The family made a statement and appealed to the community to keep calm, to continue to demonstrate but to do so in a peaceful manner.  That is admirable and is what should happen.  But in today’s release of the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown, it was also revealed that Brown was caught on the Quick Trip video security camera, robbing the store.  His identity and participation in this theft has now been confirmed – as well his manhandling the short owner of the store who is dwarfed by this 6’ 4”, 292 pound “gentle giant” as he has been characterized.  And then the attorneys for the Brown family, headed by Benjamin Crump who represented the Trayvon Martin family, released the following statement:

Michael Brown’s family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piece mil (sic) information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.

There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender.

The prolonged release of the officer’s name and then the subsequent alleged information regarding a robbery is the reason why the family and the local community have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies.

It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him.

The police strategy of attempting to blame the victim will not divert our attention, from being focused on the autopsy, ballistics report and the trajectory of the bullets that caused Michael’s death and will demonstrate to the world this brutal execution of an unarmed teenager.

Benjamin L Crump, Esq.
Anthony D. Gray, Esq.
Daryl D. Parks, Esq.

If I hadn’t read the signatures at the end of this statement, I would have guessed that it had been written by Al Sharpton or one of the other race baiters who regularly stir the pot when these sorts of incidents occur.  And just for once, it would give all of us some real reason for outrage if the “victim” as Michael Brown may have been, did not engage in possibly illegal acts, such as the store robbery, which only muddy the waters on what happened.

I didn’t know the late Michael Brown.  Losing your life over fifty dollars worth of stolen cigars is mind numbing.  But I do know that good kids don’t steal from convenience stores.  And if there is one lesson to be learned, it is one that is generally ignored by our black citizens.

In 1964 when black Arkansas voters cast 81% of their ballots for the segregationist/racist Governor Orval Faubus, the overall unemployment rate in this country was 5.2% and for black workers was 6.1%.  Today the rate for black teenagers, kids like Michael Brown is nearly 25% – and black Americans voted for another Democrat, Barack Obama giving him 95% of their ballots.

It makes me long for the good old days.

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