Point of View Columns

The American Fountain of Youth

When we take a closer look at American history, we realize that the youth of America may have been, and may be in the future, this country’s remaining saving grace. Despite their multiple, virtually countless faults, the so-called Founding Fathers devised a form of governance that, when practiced according to principle, is a virtual work of art. And those “Founding Fathers” were primarily men in their twenties and thirties. Similarly, the epic civil rights movement and episodically heroic Vietnam War protest were led by young men and women (Martin Luther King was 34 when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech). And now, this past weekend, we witnessed the youth of America seize the mantle of leadership and take up battle against gun insanity in the United States.

There is no need, and this is not an attempt, to romanticize or rationalize American history or the American present. But it is a truth that in the history of this planet younger generations of any era have translated the change into their lives into the changes of society and the world in which we live. In the current era there has been such an emphasis on self-comfort, self-aggrandizement and just plain self, that there should be no surprise in learning that it has taken the current generation of youth more than a minute to climb out of their digitized rabbit holes and confront the world with their vision of today and tomorrow.

The awful and bloody reality of living in the United States of Gun has been with us for the better part of this country’s existence. But it has been during the past half century that the glorification of the God of Gun has been commercialized to the point that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is seen by too many as an advertisement for gun ownership and more importantly, gun sales.

But the generation of young people with the most potent voices last weekend are the first generation to literally grow up from the cradle to skateboard with regular visitations of mass gun violence in schools. These boys and girls and young women and young men have not known a time when a year could go by without death by automatic weapons fire in some school somewhere in these United States. Theirs is a generation that lives in an America where bullets know no boundaries – from the suburbs to the inner cities to the farmland – where bullets cannot distinguish between black and white, male or female, rich or poor. Bullets in their world kill without discrimination and seemingly without pause.

This past Saturday we may have witnessed a generation of young people realizing that the world is theirs to change and that they have the power to cast off the painful yoke of endurance and pain and quite simply change the world. With their capacity to communicate globally and instantaneously and their discovery that they have (or will have) the right to vote, this young generation of new warriors may be able to do something that past generations have been unable to do – stop the worship of the gun and revisit the notion of reverence for life and peace.

We should be glad that they are not listening when they are told that they are too young to express their opinion, much less seek to change the world. Of course, that is what was said to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and the generation of war protesters whose voices drove a President from office and started this country on the path of peace and away from useless and bloody war.

Last week we may have watched the dawning of a new day in America and in the world.

Time will tell. As it always does – because actions will always speak louder than words, no matter how noble and eloquent those words might be.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 26, 2011

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been postponed giving us an opportunity to think about the other men and women who should be remembered. The Tea Party stalwarts are whining about being called terrorists and we can reasonably ask, “Why?” And finally, Nick Ashford died this past week. Another artist-hero has died and once more we should be thankful for the musical gifts that he bestowed during his lifetime, gifts that will most certainly live on.

In Memoriam

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been indefinitely postponed due to Hurricane Irene. When the dedication does take place it will be an important and historic event.

The honor to Dr. King is important. It is also important that in honoring Dr. King the thousands of unnamed men and women who sacrificed and supported the civil rights movement are also remembered. Most of us are familiar with names like Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Dubois and Rosa Parks. But the movement that changed a nation and changed the world was powered by men and women named Liuzzo and Green and Cheney and Schwerner and Goodman and Sherrod.

There is a tendency in this country to sanitize the less pleasant aspects of this country’s past. The Disney-like version goes like this: “There was racial discrimination in this country and then Martin Luther King came along and gave a great speech. After that the Civil Rights Bill was passed and justice prevailed.”

Aside from being wrong, this sanitized version doesn’t tell the truth – that millions of men and women and children, black and white, united against tremendous and brutal and cruel opposition to change this country. This change took place over a period of over 50 years and the struggle is not complete.

Change in this country does not come about easily or quickly. Change does not come without pain and dedication and sacrifice. Change is not brought about by the few. It is brought about the many.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without demand”. It is a lesson that needs to be relearned right now.

If the Shoe Fits….

The G.O.Tea Party zealots have been weeping crocodile tears over being labeled “terrorists” by Democrats. They have also been accused of using terrorist tactics in connection with their debt ceiling debate antics and hijinks.

One G.O.Tea Party Taliban wannabees even confronted President Obama in Iowa over the matter. Presumably he wanted an apology from the Commander in Chief for his hurt feelings. President Obama finessed a response that sounded like, “No one said you were terrorists, just that some of you were acting like terrorists”.

I wish that President Obama had channeled his inner Bob Marley and just said, “Who the cap fits, let dem wear it”. After all, the right wing of the right wing held this country and its economy and its people hostage during the budget ceiling debacle.

It is true that they didn’t use the threat of bombs. Instead they threatened to collapse the economy of the planet, a goal that would certainly coincide with that of Osama bin Laden or The Jackal. The right wing of the right wing made non-negotiable budget demands that required grievous cost cutting that will negatively impact upon the lives of millions of Americans.

Sounds like hostage taking and terrorist tactics to me. “If the shoe fits, let him wear it”. And stop whining.

In Memoriam – 2

Nick Ashford died earlier this week. With his wife, Valerie Simpson (who celebrates her birthday today); he wrote such songs as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Solid as a Rock”, “I’m Every Woman” and so many others. The lyrics he wrote were poems that blended with the music using art of phrasing and symbolism in a unique fashion.

One has to wonder if the work of Ashford and Simpson, or Smokey Robinson or Holland-Dozier-Holland would be welcome if presented as original music today. Today it seems amazing that they could write tremendous music without ever mentioning niggers, bitches or guns.

With that said, we are thankful to have been the beneficiaries of the artistry of Nick Ashford.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving approaches and there are always reasons to give thanks…..and to there are always reasons to pause and consider:

Requiem for a Heavyweight

This past week the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee voted 9-1 to censure Congressman Charles Rangel setting the stage for a sad ending to a confluence of ethical standards and hypocrisy.

While the counsel for the Committee stated for the record that none of the actions of Congressman Rangel were “corrupt” or “self-aggrandizing”, the Committee voted to subject him the same punishment meted out to Congressman who were convicted of payroll fraud, sexual misconduct and the acceptance of bribes. One wonders if the other 434 members of Congress could withstand the scrutiny focused upon Congressman Rangel and whether censure would be the appropriate punishment in the final accounting.

Congressman Rangel asked for a delay in his hearing as he could no longer afford counsel. It turns out that the law firm that had been paid $2 million would not continue to represent him unless it could be assured that he could pay another $1 million.

Even if one can assume that this law firm actually rendered $ 2 million worth of legal service and counsel, how this firm could be so intransigent in its billing policy that it could not work out a fee payment arrangement with a client that had already paid millions of dollars is distressing and a depressing commentary on the practice of law.

Finally, newspaper columnists, bloggers and talking heads have been crowing and bellowing over the presumed demise of Congressman Rangel’s political career. An ounce of humanity or a drop of compassion is clearly in short supply these days. But it is worth pointing out that there are thousands of men and women who have been able to go to school, pursue careers, obtain decent housing and take care of their families because of the efforts of Congressman Rangel. His acknowledged imperfections cannot tarnish his accomplishments.

Those who sit in judgment of Charles Rangel, whether they are in Congress or in the media or in the street should look in the mirror to see if they measure up to the standards of accomplishment of the man that they now choose to pillory.

“Scottsboro Boys” – cont’d

The more that I learn about this travesty of a minstrel musical (it turns out that Rosa Parks makes a cameo appearance – the flesh crawls at this arrogant absence of good taste), I am baffled that there is so little protest.

It is not only black Americans that should be outraged. People of goodwill and good judgment should know that offensive material that poses as art should be subject to criticism at the very least.

I hasten to add that this is not a First Amendment issue. The producers and directors of this buck and wing spectacle posing as an historical perspective have every right to come up with whatever drivel that they choose. I am simply surprised at how anesthetized and desensitized too many of us have become.

Perhaps the outrages of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck, et. al. have permanently lowered our standards when it comes to good taste. If that is the case, then shame on us all.

Driving Miss Ginni Crazy

In a recent Point of View “Weekend Edition” I wrote about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and her right wing of the right wing conservative organization. I then wrote about Mrs. Thomas and her bizarre post-dawn phone call to Anita Hill soliciting an apology to her husband.

Now it has been announced that Virginia Thomas is suspending the activities of her conservative cheerleading outfit because of “too much controversy”. Perhaps after the elections of November 2nd she feels like her mission has been accomplished. We can only hope that we have heard the last of her.

But I doubt it.

Have a great weekend!

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