Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 18, 2011

The weekend begins with breaking news as Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Haiti less than 48 hours before the election, accompanied by……Danny Glover (and what could Mr. Glover be thinking?). Meanwhile the critics of President Obama continue to unite over anything and everything that he might do. And what on earth could be the reason for hurling insults at Japan as it endures the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster?

Finally, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

Really Danny Glover? Really?

The tragic aspects of Haitian history are well known. Haiti’s recent history has been marked by challenges of almost biblical proportions.

It is a testament to the good will of many Haitians, both in Haiti and in the diaspora, that elections will be held on March 20th that hold the promise of being free and fair. The presidential candidates, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, have engaged in a vigorous contest right until the final day.

As the fragile tendrils of democracy and transparency try to take root in Haiti, it is incomprehensible that Danny Glover, the famous actor, activist and humanitarian, would take it upon himself to escort former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristede back to Port Au Prince today.

Both presidential candidates and President Obama have asked that Mr. Aristede delay his return until after the election for concern that his presence at this point could destabilize a very fragile democratic process.

Since Mr. Aristede has not participated in any part of the elections and is not supporting either candidate, there would seem to be reason enough for him to agree to wait in South Africa where he has lived in luxury for the past six years (the source of that luxury is another story for another time).

Instead, Danny Glover has seen fit to bring a torch to gasoline refinery. Given the tragedy and pain and suffering that the Haitian people have suffered historically and recently, it is just wrong for Mr. Glover to participate in this potentially destabilizing event. His prior relief work and support of reconstruction is laudable and it makes his current actions baffling.

If Mr. Aristede wishes to distract and disturb the electoral process he must ultimately answer to the Haitian people for any disruption that takes place on March 20th. But to whom will Mr. Glover answer as he jets back to the United States, not having to live with the consequences of his high profile escort of Mr. Aristede?

Hopefully the elections will be fair and free of the intervention of negative forces. But there is simply no reason to increase the degree of difficulty at this point in the history of Haiti.

Critics of Obama Unite!

Since he was inaugurated, President Obama has had to accept the reality that, for some people, whatever he chose to do would be considered wrong.

The latest example of this is related to the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. As encrusted oligarchies in Tunisia and Egypt tumbled President Obama was critiqued for the timing of his support for agents of change in these countries even though his measured support resulted in the desired regime change and accompanying good will throughout the region.

Libya has proven to be a very different situation as the entrenched dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has shown no inclination to leave and seems to be prepared to immolate his entire country.

In the face of this mindless strategy critics of the president have contended that he should show more “leadership” by establishing a “no-fly zone” and even providing supplies and troops to support the Libyan insurgents.

The commitment of troops and treasure cannot be the first response of this country as there are too many places on this earth with the same fact pattern – right now that would include Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. Would these critics – most recently David Gergen and Senator Lindsay Graham, among others – have President Obama send troops and jets and materiel all over the world to fight injustice and tyranny everywhere at the same time like some latter day Superman?

Fortunately the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a joint military effort in Libya and the wisdom of measured response has been demonstrated once more.

Mr. Gergen and Senator Graham seem to actually believe in Superman. Thankfully President Obama does not.

Insult to Injury

Since the triple tragedy in Japan the global response has been compassionate and tangible. Assistance has flowed to this island nation from all over the world.

But some knuckleheads are determined to show their stupidity by opening their raincoats of fame and flashing their miniscule intellects. Several celebrities including the noted blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the famous philosopher Fifty Cent have been quoted as stating that the people of Japan deserved the tragedies that they are suffering.

Some mish-mosh thought process linking Pearl Harbor to economic success to advocating environmental protection has resulted in this awful stew of hate and misinformation.

Of course Rush and Fitty just don’t care. But the rest of us should.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

A Message to Sarah P. and Other Rappers

In the United States the First Amendment provides an environment for virtually unfettered expression. In recent years rappers and members of the right wing of the right wing have made full use of this freedom. Consider some of these pearls of wisdom:

“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”- Ann Coulter
“Don’t retreat, reload!” – Sarah Palin, March 2010
“I got myself a gun,Uh Ohhhh!
Yea, I got myself a gun” – Jay-Z, “Super Ugly”
“I’ll react like an animal, I’ll tear you apart
If the masterpiece was murder, I’d major in art” – 50 Cent, “Gattman and Robbin”

Over thirty years ago the Black Panthers threatened to “shoot the pigs” (referring to the police) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were known for inflammatory rhetoric as well.

But it has been a while since the left wing of the left wing glorified murder, mass or otherwise. And its really hard to find a current instance of liberal and moderate elected officials openly using gun terminology as a part of their political rhetoric.

Rappers have gotten fair criticism and a deserved bad rap for glorifying and inciting violence in urban communities throughout the country. In New York City the Police Department estimates that 90% of the recorded gunshot victims are black and Latino, communities that make up a large part of the audience of the rappers who love their guns and bullets all the way to the bank.

Ministers, community leaders and many members of the right wing of the right wing have regularly denounced rap lyrics as contributing to violence and mayhem in society. I am certain that no one would suggest that multimillionaires like Jay-Z and 50 Cent are actually giving directives to street operatives to shoot and maim. And we would all agree that “Fitty” and all of his bling wearing colleagues are simply exercising their First Amendment right of free speech.

Yet the body bags are regularly filled in urban America. And one has to get a queasy feeling seeing so many young black men in wheelchairs, paralyzed from the waist down by a spray of automatic bullets that may have been inspired by the regular outpouring of music and lyrics and imagery that portrays gunplay as part of life – “keeping it real” as it were.

Rappers like Jay-Z, take no responsibility for the culture of Uzi’s and Glock’s and 9 millimeters that is now as American as baseball and apple pie. And in this regard Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are no different than any of the other rappers that are out there making their multimillions while spewing forth hateful and violent images that too many people hear and a few people take seriously.

Sara P. and her defenders are absolutely correct in stating that there is no direct connection between her rifle scope “targeting” of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while urging her supporters to “reload” and the Congresswoman being shot in the head by a (presumably) deranged gunman during the Tucson Massacre.

But this is a culture that exists in an environment of viral communication.
The rifle scope “target” map was broadcast over the internet and around the world. Who knows who saw it and incorporated a not so subtle message into a twisted directive? Sarah P. tweets to millions who in turn use a multitude of media tools to pass on the message without nuance or caution.

And then one day a gunman shoots a member of Congress. Last year another (presumably) deranged man flew his plane into an IRS building in Texas. This suicide bomber wanted to strike out against “big government” and his interpretation of the message that he heard from Sarah P., Rush Limbaugh, Tim Pawlenty, Michael Steele and so many more created a perspective that made a suicide flight into a federal building a logical next step.

Some rappers have realized that their glorification of guns and violence has been taken too seriously by their audience and too many people have died as a result. Some have toned down their message recognizing that overheated lyrics can have unintended consequences.

Perhaps Sarah P. and some of her supporters can recognize that there is a Law of Unintended Consequences at work all around us. If Sarah Palin is intent on being a rapper at the very least she can become a responsible one.

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