The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Jesse Jackson’

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..

Advertisements

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.

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.

ON SHOWING UP

Today is the opening game of Major League Baseball’s World Series.  I have never quite understood how it got that name, but it is what it is.  Even as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a kid, I remember asking my father, “Why do they call it the World Series when all the teams playing are American?”  Dad, who usually knew the answer to almost everything found himself at a loss for an explanation.  But I guess with the inclusion of a few Canadian franchises, the title is now more justified than when I was a youngster.

In any event, those who are baseball fans are excited.  One of my friends from the dog park, a loyal San Francisco Giants fan, is flying out this morning to attend the first two games in the Bay Area.  A friend of hers has season tickets and has generously offered her the use of one of them.  I know her adrenaline is pumping hard as she assembles her jerseys and other paraphernalia which she will wear in attending these first two games of the series.

I have never attended a World Series game but I can imagine for those who love the sport it is truly a rush.  I picture my friend, having made the trek from Las Vegas, all excited at the prospect of watching her favorite game.  There she is in her seat, properly attired and all excited hoping that the Giants bring home a victory for her and all their other fans in the stands and the millions watching the game.

It gets closer to the time for the first pitch when she notices something unusual.  The Giants are out on the field warming up, but the dugout for the Detroit Tigers is mysteriously empty.  The Tigers didn’t make it to the game.

A rustle starts among the crowd in the stands.  “Where are the Tigers?”  The rustle becomes louder as the fans realize they are going to be deprived of their right to watch this game.  There will be no game because the Giants are handed a Win by Default.

If this were to happen can you imagine the outrage that would ensue?  This would not make headlines only on the Sports Page of our newspapers.  It would make headlines on the Front Page – and I’m sure that our columnists who wrote for Arts and Entertainment, Health and Beauty and Travel would all throw in their two bits as well.

Our blog commentaries on the Presidential election would be dwarfed by the volumes that would be written about this abdication of the Detroit Tigers’ responsibility to participate and the Tweets that would be Tweeted would be sent in record-breaking volumes.  The outrage would be phenomenal.

Well, of course, that isn’t going to happen.  But this scenario does point to the truth of that old saying, “Ninety percent of winning is ‘just showing up’.”  And that brings me to the actual subject of this post.

Several months ago I had called on Rep. Jesse Jackson (D – IL 2nd District) to step down due to his medical condition.  I had hoped that the Congressman would be a statesman and not a politician and do the right thing for the people of the district which he represents.  I lived in that district when he was first elected to the House and so I feel a certain vested interest in the matter.

Several days ago, his father the Rev. Mr. Jesse Jackson, acting as his spokesperson, indicated that the Congressman is returning to the Mayo Clinic for further treatment for his Bi-Polar Disorder which has kept him from fulfilling his elected duties since June of this year.  Apparently the Congressman is so unwell that he is not able to update his constituents himself.

With an election only 13 days away, Mr. Jackson will undoubtedly be re-elected as he has chosen to remain on the ballot.  Because of the way that the congressional district is delineated, Bugs Bunny, if running as a Democrat, would win in a landslide.  Certainly the people in the 2nd District are aware of Congressman Jackson’s condition and despite it will re-elect him, much to their discredit.

By the nature of his condition, I have to allow the Congressman some leeway, believing that he is not really capable of making rational decisions at this moment in time.  However, I do want to point to someone of influence over him, a person who has held a large moral sway over the community and who is no stranger himself to politics, who should exert his influence to persuade the Congressman to do the right thing and step down.  That person is his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

You may recall that the senior Mr. Jackson offered himself as a Democratic nominee for President in 1984 and again in 1988.  He has had a long and successful career advocating equal rights for our black citizens.  I have heard him speak (or perhaps preach) about how we should do the “right thing”.  And it is now time for the Rev. Mr. Jackson to do that himself and encourage his son to step down from a position which he is unable to execute competently, due to his medical condition.

There is no one in this country who doesn’t realize that we have significant challenges ahead which we must address in a mature, honest and thoughtful manner.  Whoever is the next President of the United States will need to work with a Congress that is composed of the best and most capable people we can find, people who are truly committed to doing the people’s business.

Rep. Jackson is not currently capable of being one of those people.  And if his father cannot persuade him to do the right thing, then the House, when it convenes in January, should make that decision for him by expelling him.

If, “Ninety percent of winning is just showing up,” we cannot expect to win if there are people who simply aren’t able to attend.  Congressman Jackson is one of those.

Rep. Jackson, please follow the advice your father gave us for years and “Do the right thing.”

Step down.

Tag Cloud