The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘equality’ Category

THE WELCOME MAT

The Las Vegas Valley Water District has a motto, designed to remind us that each of us has the responsibility to conserve water.  “It’s A Desert Out There.”  The casual visitor to Las Vegas, had he been here last week, might have shaken his head incredulously at that slogan as we had a three day substantial rainfall.  It reminded me of being back in Chicago.

The rain continued for long periods of time throughout the day, would pause for perhaps ten minutes and then resume.  Because of the precipitation and the ominous and gloomy clouds which brought it, I decided to skip Gracie’s normal evening sojourn to the Dog Park and walk her through the neighborhood instead.  At least we could scurry home quickly should the downpour resume.

While Gracie is one quarter Golden Retriever, apparently the gene that accompanies fondness for water is missing from her DNA.  True, she does love to hit the fountain of the lawn sprinklers for a refreshing drink, but the stuff that falls from the skies doesn’t, in her estimation, have the same appeal.  Perhaps that is because the lawn sprinklers are a regular and predictable phenomenon – and rain is such a sporadic event.

In any case, we were meandering around the block and I happened to notice that, without exception, every home had a door mat at the front door.  And interestingly, most of those doormats had the word “Welcome” on them.  Gracie and I are the exception.  Our doormat says, “Please Wipe Your Paws.”  But for some reason, looking at these doormats caused me to think about both the issue of immigration and the allegations of police oppression which have become so rampant in some sectors of the media.

The United States accepts over a million people a year who want to immigrate to the country – more people than the rest of the countries of the world combined.  The process of gaining legal status here is onerous and rather Byzantine – but apparently enough people worldwide are willing to endure both the wait and the process to ensure that a continuous stream of newcomers arrives on American shores every year.

These people have a somewhat different view of life in America than some of us who are here legally by reason of birth.  I mean, who in his right mind would want to go to the trouble and expense of moving to a country where there was a high probability that when he got there he would be “oppressed” by those in law enforcement?  Basic logic would suggest that would be a place to avoid rather than one to which a person would seek admittance.

Now just because a person has a good heart and is welcoming to friends and guests, it does not follow that his kindliness would extend to everyone who presented himself at his door.  Most of us would probably call 911 if we saw a hooded man, brandishing a gun, rather than welcoming that person in for tea.  And while most of us who are here as a result of immigration reflect on our own and our forebears’ experience in coming to America and want to extend that same courtesy to others who are similarly motivated, that does not imply that we want to do so in an indiscriminate manner and open the door to anyone who presents himself.

If we look at the historical waves of immigration that occurred in America, we need to put in perspective that while we gratefully welcomed low wage people in the first and early part of the country’s second century, that in large measure reflected that the country and its infrastructure were under construction and needed those workers to build railroads and dig ditches for sewers.  Their arrival did not displace workers who were already here.  But the infrastructure, notwithstanding its deteriorating condition, and the railroads have been built.  No such need exists today.

Our manufacturing sector has greatly diminished and Wall St. no longer waits with baited breath to hear the U. S. Steel quarterly report as it did in the 1950’s.  Rather, the financial markets are moved by whether or not Google or Apple made their number for the most recent three month period.  Of the thirty stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average , only nine are purely involved in manufacturing and of those, two manufacture drugs.  The other twenty-one companies are primarily involved in providing services.

The problem with a stagnant, albeit slightly improving economy, is that those Americans who are at the bottom of the economic barrel face increased competition from illegal aliens (or if you prefer “undocumented people”) and nowhere is this more evident than within the inner city communities predominantly occupied by blacks.  That, at least in part, explains why the rate of unemployment among blacks consistently runs twice the “official” rate of unemployment – and among young black men runs twice that, nearing twenty-five percent.

If we truly want to face the issue of why there is unrest and despondency among certain groups of our population, racism is a convenient but dishonest explanation.  Let’s face it – the automobile dealer who is selling Ferraris doesn’t really care about the race of the person who buys his vehicle – and cares even less how that person obtained the cash to close the deal.  It isn’t a matter of race – rather it’s a matter of economics.  And the economic outlook for those in our inner cities is very bleak.

Riots and lootings solve nothing but in fact create additional problems for the business owners who are directly affected and potentially can lead to the arrest and incarceration of those who participate.  In truth, some of those who participate are simply out for ill-gotten gain – and any excuse will do to set them and their malicious intentions in motion.  Others probably have a sense of their own helplessness but see no path to extricate themselves from it.  And then there are some ideologues who believe that America is the most racist, despicable country in the world.

To those in the third category, remember that once there was a Berlin Wall – designed to keep the citizens of East Berlin from making their way to freedom.  America has no such barrier in place to prevent any willing person from leaving.  And there are countries which apparently are willing to give anyone, irrespective of background, an opportunity to start over.

The recent committal of five more Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay suggests that country might provide a more nurturing venue for them to spend the remainder of their lives.  And given the generous way in which our federal government spends taxpayer dollars, there’s probably a program in place to help facilitate their change of address.  Take advantage of the opportunity – please.

Via con Dios.

THE MOUTH THAT ROARED

“Glad tidings of great joy.”  That is the message of the Nativvity, preached from a thousand pulpits this Christmas.  But for at least one of our clergy, Jesse Jackson, Sr. there is never a holiday so solemn that he can’t refrain from preaching about the ethereal to offer his opinion on the mundane.  In his most recent foray, the Rev. Mr. Jackson decided to express his outrage at the “racist and anti-gay comments” that “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson made in his GQ interview.

Thanks to the controversy of Mr. Robertson’s remarks, there may only be a handful of people in the United States who have not seen one or more episodes of “Duck Dynasty.”  I am one of them.   If I want to watch reality television, I have only to step out on the streets and observe those who pass by.  At least that is unscripted.

I’m not certain how many of us read the GQ interview.  I have and would agree with those who found Mr. Robertson’s remarks to have been phrased in a less than poetic way.  But those are the remarks he made and considering his background as a backwoodsman I’m sure that he expressed himself in the way which is familiar to him.  That is hardly a reason for condemning the man.  If it were, Vice President Biden would be under a gag order.

For those of us who subscribe to a Christian ethos,as I presume the Rev. Mr. Jackson does, there is no reason nor does any of us have the right to condemn anyone else.  We leave that job to a higher authority.  Subsequent to the interview, Mr. Robertson made it quite clear that he personally condemned no one personally.  That is not his job.

What Jesse Jackson categorized as “anti-gay” remarks actually related to sexual activity outside the traditional marital relationship.  Mr. Jackson should be aware that the Bible does condemn all sexual activity other than between a husband and wife, whether that is between two men or two women or a man and woman who are not married.  We all transgress.  The Rev. Mr. Jackson is no exception, having fathered a child outside his marriage.  Hopefully he has mended his former ways.  But it is hard to listen to his condemnation of another on this subject and not have some reservations about his sincerity or the worth of his words.

Then there is the second issue, Mr. Robertson’s “racist” remarks.  As far as I could tell from the interview, Mr. Robertson merely described the condition and the attitudes of those blacks with whom he worked in the field.  Whether his interpretation of their condition was accurate or not, none of us can truly say.  But to categorize his belief that those blacks never expressed outrage at their conditions as being racist seems to be an overreach.

Racism – or for that matter – any form of prejudice is a horrible thing.  All of us should pity those who make it the central point of their worldview.  That includes Mr. Jackson and all others who profiteer by pitting one race against another.  People who truly oppose racism, as Mr. Jackson did back in the ‘60’s should be equally outraged when anyone is attacked solely on the basis of that person’s skin color.  Of course, back then, Mr. Jackson would not have attacked Phil Robertson for his position on homosexuality since he espoused exactly the same view..

Have we heard Mr. Jackson speak out about the “Knockout Game” in which predominantly black young hoodlums attack innocent, defenseless people and try to knock them unconscious with a single punch?  Have we heard him protest the fact that most of the victims have been Jews?  Has he spoken out about the tragic shooting murder last week of Brian Friedland in the Short Hills, NJ mall at the hands of four black thugs?  Of course, this most recent murder might have been the unfortunate result of a car jacking, nothing more.  But whenever a black is attacked by a white person, Mr. Jackson assumes that the motivating factor behind the attack is racism.  Why doesn’t the same logic apply when the roles of assailant and victim are reversed?

Over the years I’ve watched Jesse Jackson morph from a committed advocate for the disadvantaged to a purveyor of racism for the sake of personal gain and prestige.  That is perhaps the greatest tragedy – watching his perversion from a crusader to a succubus.

While his words once had meaning and his message had value, they are now little more than the vitriolic output of a mouth that once roared and whose passion once soared.  And there are fewer people of conscience who  bother to listen to him any more and worse, are embarrassed for him..

THE PASSING OF A STATESMAN

The first black president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 years.  He was a statesman and a gentle, humble man.  Mr. Mandela served 27 years of a life sentence before he was released from prison for his anti-apartheid campaign which finally saw the downfall of that oppressive institution.

It is interesting that Mandela’s efforts in South Africa happened concurrently with the civil rights movement in the United States.  What is amazing is that in South Africa where blacks were the majority population, it took many more years for apartheid to be abolished while the minority black population in the United States saw significant legal and social advances much earlier.  That was something that Mandela marveled at, both while he was in prison and afterward.

Nelson Mandela came under a lot of criticism for his efforts from the United States which supported the white government in South Africa.  His support came from  the Soviet Union and Cuba and he was branded a communist.  That probably is an accurate assessment of his political viewpoint.

But that shouldn’t surprise us if we see that communism, whether it was in Russia or China gained a hold as an appealing political system as the concentration of power and wealth was held by very few.  It is for that reason that there was a significant investment by political American blacks in Marxism going back to the 1920’s, long before the Civil Rights law was enacted.

On a national level it is undeniable that communism is one of the most efficient methods of immediately re-distributing wealth.  On an individual level we have another word for it – theft.  Having the legal authority to seize another person’s property barely elevates the act from an armed robbery accomplished at gunpoint.

Perhaps if the United States and other western countries had backed Mandela’s efforts he might have embraced our capitalistic viewpoint.  But how can a person embrace an economic system which promotes individual effort when the majority of people are denied the right to be rewarded for their achievements?  Clearly, Mandela had placed his focus on the underlying problem – that black South Africans had no rights and no prospects for a better future.

At the trial which resulted in his conviction, he made the following statement:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Those are the words of Nelson Mandela.  Those are the words of a statesman.

THE CIVIL RIGHTS BUSINESS

In the beginning there was the Civil Rights Movement.  That transformed into the Civil Rights Concerto for Left Hand Percussion instruments.  That transformed into the Civil Rights Business (For Profit).  This business has one product and one mantra – victimization.

Like the Phoenix it seems that the incarnations this business has are infinite.  That is because if you can attribute racism to anything that exists or anything anyone does, you have a never ending amount of material with which to work.

The state of North Carolina offers us a case in point with their passage of changes to their voting law requirements.  No sooner was the law signed by the governor than the NAACP and ACLU filed suit to get it overturned.  The premise is that the law is intended to “restrict” those who will be allowed to vote in that state’s elections.  The presumption, if we are to believe those in the Civil Right Business who have already spoken out against the law is that “restrict” means disenfranchising qualified voters who happen to be black.

One of the premiere objections to the North Carolina law is that the state will require every voter to provide a valid picture ID in order to receive a ballot.  “Valid” includes a variety of options:  a North Carolina Driver’s License, a student ID issued by a state college or university, a current United States Passport or a North Carolina issued ID.  The law, incidentally, does not go into effect until 2016 – three years from now.

A reasonable person might say that a three year time span should allow almost anyone the opportunity to obtain a valid ID so that he or she could exercise the right to vote.  In that time period a woman could bear four children and a man could father a lot more.  Isn’t that passionately concerned voter able to find the time to get a (free) North Carolina ID card?  The card, incidentally is available at over 180 different locations throughout the state – and North Carolina isn’t one of our geographically larger states.  But if a short ride is too long for that concerned voter, the entire process can be accomplished through the U. S. mail.

So taking this one portion of the law, what reasonable objection can opponents have to it?  Frankly, I’m a bit mystified.  But I am empathetic to their concern about voter suppression.  My concern takes the reverse side of their argument – and it centers around those voters who have a legitimate right to vote and who exercise that right.

You see, every vote which is cast illegally disenfranchises the voter who actually has that right.

THEY “GONNA PUT YA’LL BACK IN CHAINS”

Some people think Vice President Joe Biden is merely inept and insensitive.  I think that he’s planning a second career as a script writer for SNL should he and President Obama’s bid for re-election fail.  So far he’s managed to offend blacks, Greeks, and Indians (the kind that he thinks were destined to own and operate 7-11’s) and can it be a long wait until he starts telling Pollock jokes?

What the Vice President doesn’t understand is that there is some truth in his statement, that blacks are “Gonna get put back in chains.”  The part of the statement that he doesn’t comprehend is that is exactly the case now and has become increasingly more so under the greatest expansionist of the “Welfare State,” President Barack Obama.

Welfare is perhaps the greatest oxymoron in our language.  Very simply put – it isn’t.  It is indentured servitude and has created a permanent underclass with no education, no future and no hope.  It allows people to subsist below the poverty level in an environment of despair, overcrowded housing conditions and with exposure to personal violence that, if we were to see their real lives portrayed on television, we would be horrified.

This is not the “Good Times” of Esther Rolle and Jimmie Walker, living in a housing project in Chicago and keeping it together as a family.  That is an image that does not stand up to the reality of the average black welfare recipient’s life – a life which includes poor medical care and an insufficient income to feed the family which is headed up by a mother with no father present in more than seven of ten cases.

This is a story about a life where the children born into it experience a nationwide drop out rate from high school of nearly seventy percent and a teenage pregnancy rate that is six times the national average – perpetuating yet another generation destined to live in poverty and ignorance.

This is a story where the average life expectancy of a resident is 12 years shorter than for their black brothers who live in middle class neighborhoods, due to disease and violent death.

This is a true American tragedy – and it is at the feet of our politicians that we should lay the blame.  They have done everything in their power to continue the enslavement of this large segment of our population in a manner that would have embarrassed their ancestors’ former owners.  Why?  Because this is a dependable block of votes to keep the perpetrators in power and the voters, who know no better, miserable and dependent.

Thank heaven for industry which has provided a means of escape from this life of poverty and despair – although that exit sign is open only to a few – those who have the potential to become professional athletes or have careers in entertainment.  For there is no other way out for this populace whom we have created.  Even if the economy were booming, they simply do not have the skills to fill possible job openings – not even within government.

So Vice President Biden, spend a day visiting one of the public housing projects that you and your party have created – if you dare.  And if you can come away from that experience with a clever remark on your lips and a smile on your face – well then it should be clear to all that it is you who are the joke.  And no one is laughing.

MEDIATION

I have debated whether to write this post for almost a week.  But something caught my eye this morning which decided me to move forward with it.

First a bit of history.  Two of my readers who are both thoughtful and comment frequently on my posts got into a “discussion” on one of their blogs.  The exchange became a bit heated, although both participants tried to lay out their differing positions without resorting to acrimony.

One of those readers has a faith-based view of his relationship with life – the other approaches life from an atheistic position.  The specific topic which caused the conversation was the issue of “gay marriage.”

Now while they chose to differ in their views on this specific issue, what I find remarkable is that I suspect these two gentlemen probably do agree on the social and political issues with which we find ourselves confronted today about eighty percent of the time.  How they arrive at similar conclusions is less important to me than I believe that it is to them.  So allow me to offer them the following example to support my position that it is not so significant how we arrive at our destination as it is that we do arrive there.

Consider the case of two car drivers.  Both are aware that there are speed limits which we are supposed to observe.  The first driver believes in following the letter of the law and regulates the speed at which he operates his vehicle to be certain he always is within the limit – because that is the law.  The second driver, less concerned with the law than safety, also chooses to drive within the limit because he believes that doing so will minimize the chance of an accident in which he, his passengers and other motorists will be involved.  Does it matter which rationale brought both these drivers to the same conclusion?  Of course not.

Religion and science have long been contenders in the battle to explain universal and epistemological truth.  They have butted heads often, but a reading of both their histories suggest that they both share a common weakness.  That is that while they declaim that what they say is so is so – what they say has and will continue to change over time.  That is evident in our religions’ accepting a heliocentric based solar system to replace the geocentric one we saw in the Middle Ages; and that is evident in something as fundamental as the expansion of the periodic table of elements which has occurred in the last fifty years.

There is another commonality between the positions of both the religious man and the atheist.  That is that both positions are based on faith – as it is neither possible to prove the existence of God nor to disprove it.  We should have given up trying long ago and just accept that “it is what it is – whatever it is.”

But let’s return to the item that caught my eye this morning and to discuss the issue which precipitated the conversation between my two readers.  That was an announcement yesterday by NASCAR driver, Denny Hamlin that he and his girl friend are expecting their first baby.

“Hamlin says marriage is not in the immediate plans.  There’s no reason to rush into it.”

Based on the number of unwed pregnancies; the number of illegitimate children who are being brought into the world and for whom we are asked for financial support; the explosion in the number of children born into single parent homes which put them at a great disadvantage in the challenge to become productive members of society, do we not have far greater challenges because of the behavior of our heterosexual brethren than to spend our time on the issue of gay marriage?

We know that the estimated ten percent of us who are gay or lesbian did not cause this problem.  But they will be asked to pay for the results brought about by it.  Is that fair or equitable?  My atheistic reader and I would both say no (not to put words in his mouth).  I happen to believe my religious friend might agree with that as well.

Frankly, I’m tired of the “Support Chuck-Fil-A” and stage a “Kiss in at Chuck-Fil-A” mentality.  Both sides do nothing but further fractionalize us and rather than bring a positive message serve more as media circuses than means to an honest discussion and resolution.  And if America needs anything right now it is honesty, starting with our elected officials and with every thoughtful citizen participating.

If I have offended either or both of my readers to whom I address this post I apologize.  That was not my intent.  I believe that if we focus on the things that divide us rather than those in which we are united, we are dooming ourselves to a dismal future.  I know that is not what any of us wishes.   And I know that both of you have a message and a perspective which we need to hear and consider.  Please keep talking – not only to the world but to each other.

Here endeth the Mediation.

ON APATHY

The first step on the road either to success or defeat is trying.  If you are unwilling to get in the game you certainly will not lose – but you also deny yourself the possibility of winning.  Is that why we are a nation of spectators – whether it be sports, the environment or politics?

Our insecurity at the thought of losing overwhelms our sense of adventure and potential for accomplishment.  We’ll let the “other guy” do it – and live by the consequences of his efforts – grousing about the results if we don’t like them.

Apathy is defined as “a state lacking emotion or interest.”  We have another word for it.  That word is “zombie.”

One of my favorite modern musical artists is Judy Small, an Australian native.  She is a prolific songwriter and performer and has composed meaningful songs that cover a wide gamut of social issues.  This is her take on “apathy.”

“You can only make a difference if you try to make a difference.”

Here’s hoping that you enjoyed the song, put down your remote and found a good reason to go out and change the world.  After all, it’s your world to make better.

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