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Thursday, July 30, 2015

On the Matter of Living or Dying... It Gets Personal

As a father of black children and grandchildren in this society, I find myself torn between the angst born of a concern for our safety, and the outrage I experience from witnessing the blatant wickedness of a system of institutionalized injustice. I watch and I listen to the expletives and the explanations that come in the course of the tragedies that this systemic injustice breeds; and I find myself struggling to maintain the moral and cultural equilibrium that I have come to idealize as a function of the hopes I have for a more humane world. The gut-wrenching tension between my hopes and my misgivings are at times very difficult to bear.

Danger is a fact of life. Unfortunate things happen, some of which we have little or no control over. There are bad people of every stripe whose lack of a moral compass wreak havoc in the lives of individuals and communities. In a civilized society we seek through the various agencies of the Law, to curb, if not eliminate, the chaos that bad people cause. The contradiction that plagues us has to do with the fact that some of those entrusted with the duty to maintain order are themselves the agents of chaos. There are poisoners among those who heal. There are arsonists among our firemen. There are murderers and robbers among our police. Some of our elected officials are the scum of the earth. There are perverts among our clergy. In a culture corrupted by these facts... Truth is fiction. This is the unfortunate reality that complicates our quest for civil society. The threats are many and overwhelming, but my main focus here is with the problems involving law-enforcement... Specifically the murderous inclination of some white officers toward black folk.

The murder of our people by officers who have little or no regard for Black Lives must end. The criminals posing in "blue" must come to realize that the filth they represent will no longer be tolerated among us. Their actions are foul... They stink to high heavens. We are well aware of the history that bred these brutes. We are talking about the history of the exploitation and dehumanization of people of color. I am talking about a holocaust that lasted over four hundred years. We are talking about the dark stain of Slavery and its aftermath. We are talking about Jim Crow and the KKK. We are talking about the Confederacy and Segregation. We are talking about the ignorance that breeds a culture of hate which spawns discrimination and murder. We are talking about white cops finding chicken shit reasons to track and threaten us. We are talking about them shooting us and choking us and lynching us in their jails...and then employing the tactic of "testi-lying" to cover up their crimes. The summary execution of persons whose only crime is living while Black must end. America's aspiration to true greatness will remain unfulfilled while this tragic circumstance persists.

The time for soothing our sorrows with platitudes that were formulated and imposed by our oppressors is past. Our quickness to talk about "forgiveness" is not just theologically deficient, its is culturally and legally perverse. The "Amazing Grace" of God is only meaningful in the context of an active application for forgiveness. True change is a function of repentance. Racists must not have their wickedness quickly expunged by our propensity to reach for a religious balm, so that they can continue to facilitate our victimization. Empty religious supplications are no substitute for necessary justice. A god who watches us being oppressed and killed so that we can marvel at his amazing grace is a joker... and a cruel one at that. I prefer the God who "delivers us out of the house of bondage"... And I know that such a Being has no hands but mine. I prefer the God who demands that sinners repent as a prerequisite for saving their asses.. I mean their sinful souls.

The time is now when we must get out of the pews and on to the streets. It is time to make laws that serve Justice. Regulations that permit the indiscriminate use of deadly force that we have witnessed all over the country historically, and that in recent times have elicited the  outcry: Black Lives Matter!', must be removed. Every cop must be required to wear body cameras. All jails must be monitored constantly. Talking back to a police officer is a civil and human right. The mantra of every cop must be to protect and serve, not to dehumanize and destroy. Communities, through their leaders, must become active in qualifying and hiring the men and women who police them. Weeding out those who have no business wearing the badge has always been a challenge... But it must become and remain a priority. It is time to bring the full force of the law to bear against the brute force of the unworthy in our police forces. It is time for us to get involved in our politics with a new vigor. We need to elect Judges and District Attorneys who will prioritize the pursuit of Justice over the financial and political support of police unions.

In the final analysis we all want change. But the Change we need will only come when we end the complacency that results in our non-participation in the political life of our communities and our nation. Our tears will make no difference until they are matched by the profuse sweat that comes from the hard work of acting together to build the kind of society where Peace and Justice are shared values. This requires real activism. It requires that we translate our civic concerns to political decisions at the ballot box. As long as those who victimize us can bet on our continued complacency, as long as we retreat from our duties as activist citizens, as long as we think that our vote and our presence wont make a difference... Until these things change among us .. Our tears will be in vain. We are talking about matters of life and death. In these matters we do not have the luxury of being indifferent ... Because every time we step out of our dwellings into the spaces where we seek to live out our lives... It becomes personal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Terrorism By Any Other Name... Updated - ( A Tribute to Sandra Bland's Militant Resistance)



How did a traffic stop for an alleged illegal lane change lead to the brutal arrest and eventual death of Sandra Bland? Anyone watching that heartbreaking video account of the interaction between this white cop, Brian Encinia, and this young African American woman, must go on to reflect on the culture of racist violence among American law enforcement entities. We must ask questions about its prevalence and its roots. Beyond our grief, we must now come together to expose the terrorist threat posed by racist elements in our police departments, with a view to exposing and prosecuting the rampant criminality of those whose motives are corrupted by the vile hatred of racism. 


An article by Victor E. Kappeler PhD, Foundation Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Justice Studies in the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University, makes the following salient historical points:
"The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. For example, New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation's first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.

Policing was not the only social institution enmeshed in slavery. Slavery was fully institutionalized in the American economic and legal order with laws being enacted at both the state and national divisions of government. Virginia, for example, enacted more than 130 slave statutes between 1689 and 1865. Slavery and the abuse of people of color, however, was not merely a southern affair as many have been taught to believe. Connecticut, New York and other colonies enacted laws to criminalize and control slaves. Congress also passed fugitive Slave Laws, laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850." 

Professor Kappeler strengthens his argument via other scholarly sources (Turner, Giacopassi and Vandiver (2006:186) who observe : "the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”

Anyone witnessing the blatant criminal brutality demonstrated in the actions of members of police forces in today's Ferguson, New York City, South Carolina, Texas, Tulsa, and other American states and cities, must stop to reflect on the origins of American policing as stated by Kappeler and associates. There can be no doubt that the behavior of the officers in question and those who continue to justify their behavior through what former NY City policeman Frank Serpico calls "testi-lying", must be understood in the context of this history. Serpico experienced the terroristic treatment of his own colleagues. He bears the scars of that abuse. The terror that characterized slave society continues to be reflected in the actions of law-enforcement departments that have a view of people of color rooted in the social dynamics of slave society and its aftermath. The terrorism that was used to deny the humanity of persons of color is still evident in the callous practices of today's "slave patrols". The ruthless criminality of these officers has led to a national outcry, symbolized by the declaration "BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!".

In America today we are willing to invade countries to defend the Human Rights of people. We are committed to fight against terrorism wherever it exists. We call out the perpetrators of murder and target them for international scorn and the sting of Justice. What about the terrorism that is daily perpetrated against Black People here... When will we see the same commitment to obliterating the scourge of hate in our midst?  When will the rotten apples in our police forces be singled out for the treatment we reserve for terrorists? That is what they are. That is how they should be treated. The assumptions that informed the slave patrol are alive and well in Ferguson, Waller County, NY City, Tulsa, South Carolina, Florida, and every place where certain white police officers see people of color as less than human. Some of these officers have been shown to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were primary actors in the original slave patrols.

 Our ancestors were terrorized for over four hundred years in order to maintain the control that an evil system of exploitation needed to secure itself. We will not submit to these atrocities anymore. The random stops that Whites are spared, and which become the excuse for chasing us down, running us over, slamming our faces into concrete sidewalks, pressing their hard knees into our spines, choking the breath out of our bodies, and shooting us in our backs must be called what they are... Acts of terror. Our society must end its practice of local policing as slave patrols. The time has come to acknowledge that terrorism by any other name ... is still an evil. It must be discredited and stamped out. It is time to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beyond Our Dreams... A Season of Lucid Living (Part 3)

In my dreams I walk the winds, 
I climb the stairs of open space;
In my dreams I float …Unfettered 
By myths of connectedness that limit…
(Excerpt from the poem “Surreality” by the author)

Beyond Our Surrealism…

“In my dreams I walk the winds… I climb the stairs of open space… “. So goes the opening lines in the first verse of my poem “Surreality”. It is possible to accomplish the impossible in our dreams. We fly. I walk on air in my dreams. I float around unencumbered by the force of gravity. In my dreams I use the power of my thoughts to rearrange objects …and objectionables. I face and conquer great adversaries with the skill of a well practiced master. In my lucid dreams I take risks that I dared not take in my wakened state. And then I wake up…
Gravity is real. In “real life” one does not just wish the obstacles away. The challenges we face in our wakened state require abilities that we do not always possess. Mastering our circumstances, while not impossible, requires the kind of effort and dedication that few cultivate the will to do. Our dreams are at times frightful, and we may wake up sweating profusely from an awe-full surreal event. Mastering ourselves and our circumstances in reality takes some sweat, and tears… and substantial bruising sometimes. That. Is. Life.
In the immediate absence of the means to realize the kind of life we desire, we sometimes find ourselves daydreaming. Ultimately, beyond our daydreaming we come to a place of resolve. This is a place of cliched truisms… Where there is a will, there is a way. Nothing is impossible… If I can think it, I can accomplish it. Descartes’ myth becomes our mantra… Cogito ergo sum! I think therefore I am. I adopt to myself, and to my aspirations, the power of the ideas in the Gospel of John… “In the beginning was the Word (Thought), and the (Thought) was God… Everything that was created was created by the Thought”. My thoughts thus become the reality in which I live and move and have my being. My words/thoughts become flesh and live in my life/world.
In the absence of an enabling vision of our lives, we remain in the bed of complacency. We live there. We sleep there. We dream there. In the presence of a viable vision of Life, we hear the voice that says to us… Wake up! “Take up thy bed and walk!” Rising up from the bed of complacency is the expressed commitment of those possessed of an empowering vision of the future. It is the act of persons who no longer perceive themselves in terms of the crippling disability that afflicts those who think of themselves as the victims of a life imposed upon. We create our own symbols.
Ultimately it is up to us to reinterpret our possibilities in terms that empower us. In the place of the chained feet of a burdened existence, we can grow wings… We can fly unfettered, leaving behind us the superimposed connections to those realities that chain us to the nowhere of a severely limited existence. “In my dreams I walk the winds, I climb the stairs of open space; In my dreams I float unfettered … By myths of connectedness that limit… In my dreams I am one with my thoughts… And know only as a remembrance … The obstacle of my consciousness…”
Beyond our dreams we are challenged to live our lives in a season of clarity. This season is ushered in by the vision we develop from a place of lucid living. Begin by determining to be the primary actor in the life that is yours. Claim your life with all the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and industrial energy you can muster. Live with the certainty that your life can be whatever you determine it to be.

Beyond Our Dreams... A Season of Lucid Living (Part 2)

In my dreams I walk the winds, 
I climb the stairs of open space;
In my dreams I float …Unfettered 
By myths of connectedness that limit
…”
(Excerpt from the poem “Surreality” by the author)

Dream vs. Vision

Beyond the short stories in our sleep, we have the ability to consciously project the futures we desire in the waking hours of our daily lives. Some refer to this as “dreaming about the future”. While our dreams are mostly involuntary ventures into the surreal, we have a real ability to mentally and spiritually and emotionally project the kind of future we want for ourselves. We can call this “having a vision of our lives”. It is a truth worth noting that “if we don’t know where we want to go we will end up someplace else”. Our destinies are a function of the choices we make about where we want to end up in life. Every road leads somewhere. The question we face has to do with whether the road we are traveling is leading to the places we want to go.
Creating a vision of our futures gives us a useful predictive tool that most of us find handy in navigating the course of our lives. Despite their semantic and rhetorical points of departure, we often use the words dream and vision interchangeably. The operational difference between them has to do with the purely incidental nature of dreams, as against the purposeful nature of being a visionary in the matter of charting one’s destiny. We can agree that our ability to “move ahead” has a lot to do with our penchant for seeing ahead through the foresight that a well cultivated vision provides. Life without a purposeful vision can be a course of stumbling… A journey fraught with too many unforeseen obstacles.
There is a place where our dreams and our vision of life merge. I call it a place of Lucid Living. Lucid living is our ability to creatively engage the circumstances of life with the clarity that comes from a well honed vision. That clarity facilitates the engagement of useful perspectives that are not otherwise available to us. It allows us to take calculated risks that we would otherwise retreat from. It helps us see possibilities that evade those who face similar circumstances, but who haven’t done the work of vision cultivation.
It is “cool” to dream… many of us spend an inordinate amount of time at it; but then we must wake up and do the real work that accomplishing one’s vision involves. It is one thing to be the receptacle of a surreal experience; it is quite another matter to be fully and consciously engaged in the real work of creating the life and world we desire for ourselves. It is one thing to spend our time wishing and hoping; it is quite another to offer up the sweat and tears that come from what is at times a bruising sustained effort.

Beyond Our Dreams... A Season of Lucid Living (Part 1)

In my dreams I walk the winds, 

I climb the stairs of open space;
In my dreams I float …Unfettered 
By myths of connectedness that limit…
(Excerpt from the poem “Surreality” by the author)

While We Sleep…

We all dream during sleep. Some of our dreams we remember, others we don’t. Our dreams represent the conscious and unconscious symbols of our waking states. Dreams are the short stories of the aspirations, secret and otherwise, that motivate the many actions through which our lives and realities are expressed.
Our dreams are sometimes predictive, revealing to us events that will come to pass in our futures. At other times they are purely symbolic; representing the existential agents of our hopes and fears, and revealing the emotional depth of our involvement with those symbols. Some of our dreams seem to come “out of the blue” of our world. They seem not to have any basis in our conscious experiences. Others are a direct result of the outstanding impressions of our daily lives.
Our dreams come and go as we sleep. We remember some of them, and we endeavor to understand the symbols that occur and recur in them. Most of our dreams occur seemingly without conscious input from us. On the other hand, there are dreamers who predetermine the content of their dreams. These persons dream so much that they, in the course of a dream, are actually aware that they are dreaming, and can direct the course of events of that dream. This is what is called “lucid dreaming”. As one who has had such experiences in my sleep, I can attest to the interesting nature of lucid dreaming. My dreamscape became a virtual wonderland for the exploration of fantasies that I dared not share.
As a young boy growing up in a rural district in Jamaica, I was a frequent dreamer. In a place where we didn’t have very much… and where many had much less to look forward to… the long, silent, dark nights provided the perfect opportunity for dreaming. I looked forward to my dreams. They provided for me adventures in symbolism and thrill-seeking that unlimited me in so many vital ways. We had no electricity or running water. Without radio or television, and with very few reading resources in the very simple place we called home, the adventures in my sleep were a welcome escape from a sometimes dull reality.
Many of my dreams were predictive in nature. It was not unusual for me to have a dream that foretold in precise detail the return of a family member who had gone on a trip to some distant destination. One of my more unforgettable episodes had to do with a dream that predicted my younger brother’s accident in which he broke a leg in a fall from a tree on my grandmother’s property. This unfortunate event, like others in my dreams, happened the very next day after I dreamt it. As astoundingly sad as it made me to share the fact that I had seen such a thing in my dreams, the predictive aspect of dreaming has always been a source of wonder to me. I have come to regard it as time-traveling in my sleep… a forwarding to the future you might say.

Monday, July 20, 2015

We Claim "A Common Creator" ... But Are We Our Brothers' Keepers?


In light of the fundamentalism which insists that we must give prominence to the Biblical foundations of our nation’s origins, it becomes imperative that we raise some fundamental questions about those foundations. What, we must ask, are the social ramifications of a belief system that assumes the “fatherhood” of “a common Creator”? In the words of Cain… Am I my brother’s keeper? Do I have the right to demand that I be treated as a “fellow person”? In the tradition of Martin Buber, a prominent twentieth century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist and educator; shall we cultivate amongst ourselves “I-thou” rather than “I-it” relationships. Do we truly believe that “all persons are created equal”?

Religious belief is by no means separable from the anthropological assumptions of the faithful. People do in fact create gods in their own images. Our religious ideals therefore bear the indelible imprint of our social, economic, and historical bearings. For this reason it is a semantically perilous exercise to posit a conversation about a just and civil society with assumptions about commonalities in religious belief. As I have stated elsewhere, our theology is, for the most part, the deification of our anthropology. The peril of religious dialogue is therefore its inherent subjectivity. Given this fact, it is not surprising to find that even the highest authority in any religious system will be verbally and otherwise assaulted by the faithful of the church of status quo ethics and economics. Such authorities include even the Successor of Peter.

The new Pope has garnered much press for the fresh new approach he has brought to leadership at the Vatican. His theological praxis is no doubt informed by the experiences he had as a pastor among the poor in Latin America. Like Arch-Bishop Dom Helder Camara who mused- ‘When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.’- he is no stranger to the plight of those who struggle daily to eek out a living in desperate circumstances. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for greater efforts to lift up the world’s poor. The pontiff had this to say in his recent encyclical:


“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness… This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

The fact that this statement expresses the doctrinal position of the Church way before this Pope came to office has not saved him from the venom of the icons of our current conservatism. The standard satanization has been pronounced against him. MARXIST! The “gates of hell” may not prevail against the “Rock” on which the Church is built; but the missile “Marxist!” has a certain philosophically destructive appeal among the religious masses.

It is ironic that in a culture where the God of the prophets tells the oppressors of the poor to go to hell with their “sacrifices” and their other religious observances, these same oppressors never cease to warn the poor about “a godless ideology”. I am reminded of the Epistle of John where it is unequivocally stated, and here I paraphrase again… If a man says he loves God whom he cannot see, while he is oppressing his brother whom he can see… That man is a LIAR. So, one may ask on the basis of this declaration, whose is the godless ideology?

President Barack Obama has been making the case for increasing the minimum wage.The federal minimum wage currently is $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 a year. The President has indicated his commitment to back a Senate measure to increase the minimum statutory pay to $10.10. In the process he too has had to endure the satanization …“MARXIST!”; all because of his efforts to improve the lot of the widow and the orphan. The President and the Pope both understand that this kind of critique “comes with the territory”. Those of us who support the efforts of these leaders to make ours a more just society have no doubt that History will absolve them.

JUSTICE IS THE ONLY TRUE WORSHIP
As a student of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is my conclusion that every 8th century prophet would have to endure the satanization of the likes of Rush Limbaugh in their stand against the economic/cultural status quo. In the struggle toward a more just society we must stand up to the pseudo-intellectualism of the moral halfwits among us. We must not sit idly by while the apostles of what His Holiness calls “the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system” hold court. Furthermore, we will not allow the voices of the prophets to be drowned out by their heresy. We need to participate meaningfully in calling the poor into a realization of the power they have to change the bleak and seemingly hopeless circumstances that face them. It is time for the worker to understand that their worth is much more than 1/204th of that of the CEO’s, who smiles at them and declares his/her feigned charitableness by handing out hormone inflated turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we truly believe in a God of Righteousness, then we must listen as He/She speaks to us... Amos 5 vs 21-24:

I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

The resetting of our priorities to which we are directed by this rebuke has its very essence in the reality that to “do justly and to love mercy” is in fact the ONLY meaningful religion. The virtuousness of this statement is however not reserved for the religious. Prosperity does not happen in a social vacuum. The law of the jungle might have a certain appeal to the greed induced coma that typifies the behavior of those who have blocked the need to be “righteous”, but it only sets them up for destruction by the hosts of the aggrieved. The “jungle” is by no means a desirable social ideal. Ultimately our hopes for progress are rooted in a fundamental understanding of the kind of community where justice is a shared value. A society in which I-Thou takes the place of I-it in our socio-economic interactions. It is the need for this kind of community that beckons us to treat with greater urgency the need for greater equity among us... The need to become a more just society.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Racism: The Cancer Eating Away at America's Gut

White supremacist groups and their political sympathizers keep insisting that the confederate flag is just a symbol of "southern heritage" and "southern pride'. We get that. They fly it in their homes. They plaster it on the sides and rear windows of their automobiles. They raise it above highways. They agitate to have it installed and flown above public buildings. Because they fervently insist on celebrating that "heritage' and that "pride", in the course of any intelligent conversation we must insist that they explain what that heritage is that they are so proud about.

The confederate flag was the flag flown by several confederate Army units, including General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Let us remind ourselves that the Civil War was fought essentially to preserve the national institutions of slavery and white supremacy. The South lost that war, but the battle to preserve the "heritage" of enslavement and racism persists to this day. After fading from view the flag made a prominent resurgence during the Civil Rights era of the 1950's and 1960's.

The essence of white supremacist sentiment is captured in a now infamous statement that Abraham Lincoln made in the context of a political debate in Charleston, Illinois on September 18, 1858. While there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not Lincoln harboured racism as a fact of his own cultural and ideological disposition, this statement in and of itself captures the gist of white supremacist thinking on issues critical to the lives of black folk. Lincoln's words, in this circumstance, demonstrate the awkward position that politicians put themselves in when they speak out of both sides of their mouths on a critical issue such as this. On this occasion he bites his own tongue when he responds to the prodding of a political opponent about his involvement in the abolishionist movement by stating:

"I will say that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, ...that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of  qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is  physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

The confederate flag, wherever it is raised, is a symbol of  the most reprehensible fact of  our American reality. It represents the hatred and oppression inherent in the holocaust that was perpetuated through the enslavement and subsequent oppression of Africans and their descendants in this society. The "heritage" that those who hoist this flag want to continue to celebrate is outlined as follows by Keith Harmon Snow:

"...the acquisition and sale of people of color as possession, white on black rape and sexual slavery, destruction of families, forced labor, chain gangs and penal servitude, beatings, tortures, executions and lynchings of black and brown people - but it was further enshrined as such by its resurgence during the Civil Rights movement, with the FBI's domestic terror program (COINTELPRO), with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and with the national struggle for desegregation, and all these things happening at a time when people of color all over the world were fighting for independence from colonialism / imperialism." 

This is the heritage around which white racist pride jumps up and down. The hoisters of this flag seek our collective indulgence as they continue to give the finger to the just aspirations of people of color everywhere. Through their continued actions they are endorsing the expressed sentiments of Lincoln in that speech in Illinois. To give prominence to this flag is to foster and promulgate what must be recognized as hate speech. We cant help but ask the politicians who want to pussy-foot around this issue whether or not they would support flying the flag of the Nazis in similar circumstances. We should ask those running for office how it would sit with their Jewish constituents if they were perceived to be acquiescing to the anti semitic sentiments of any of their supporters.

The cancer of hate that thrives in our gut as a nation needs to be diagnosed as such. It needs to be subjected to the necessary radical treatment that we reserve for any malady that threaten our lives. Make no mistake about it - people are dying from this sickness in our midst. It is not good enough that we engage in occasional outpouring of emotions when those infected with the disease of white racism spew their nasty venom at will, snuffing out vulnerable lives like those in that church in South Carolina. It is past time that this nation becomes proactive about its collective well-being. It is time to focus on preventive actions that nip that cancer in the bud wherever it is discovered. This must become a national priority... And we must proceed with ALL urgency.

  


The President Sings in a Church and All is Well?

By Tony Kashani / July 14th, 2015

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted.
— From On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
President Obama sings Amazing Grace at the funeral of state Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine people shot at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. and it is hailed as a healing moment for the nation. Obama supporters can go on pretending that we live in a post-racial society, affordable care act is our solution to the national health care crisis, and his support of gay marriage becomes the defining moment of a lovely presidency for them. They choose to continue romancing the president while Transpacific Partnership Treaty is about to be finalized, drone strikes continue killing many innocent people all over the North African and Middle Eastern regions, giving birth to more regional terrorism and anti-American sentiment around the globe. The big banks continue to consolidate and squeeze the public, the Supreme Court votes 5-4 against the Environmental Protection Agency, disabling the agency from regulating the amount of toxic pollutants in the air over the US. Why do people turn a blind eye to all of this? Or do they even see it? Much of it has to do with the ways in which they obtain their worldview; through the highly controlled lens of corporate media, owned by a handful of powerful conglomerates.
In her recent Op-Ed piece, Ayo Coley writes:
On MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” Georgetown professor Michael Dyson called out Obama for his failure to name anti-Black racism as the cause of the Charleston massacre. It was a fair criticism: President Obama’s remarks were lackluster and dishonest. His statement that “communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times” was a case in point of our national tiptoeing around systemic white supremacy and structural racism.
Back in 1972, media theorists, Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw mused about a theory they were working on. They aptly called it The Agenda Setting Theory.1 In a nutshell, they assumed that the media aren’t always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about.
Today the collective media conglomerates, act as an informal ministry of culture. One cursory glance reveals a most sophisticated media machine. Collectively speaking, the corporate media in the US—and elsewhere in the world—is juggernaut, capable of producing docile consumers who are more confused about the world today than any time in history, and simply choose the anti-intellectual, easy to digest, items on media’s daily menu.
In the so-called free world built around neoliberal principles of exploitation of labor and generation of bamboozled consumers, one way to keep the odds in favor of the proverbial 1% through the media is to offer a steady and dependable propaganda diet. Thus we receive an inundation of horrible news headlines, around the clock sports, mediocre at best movies through Hollywood/Bollywood complex, and a slew of mindless entertainment programs through the zillion TV channels.  Can anyone, with any degree of confidence—and honesty—tell us what exactly is going on in Ukraine today? Is it about the global flow of energy? Is it about jockeying for position between the United States, European Union, and Russia? Is it about a genuinely organic revolution, whereby Ukrainians are demanding democracy and equality? Is it about neo-fascist elements propped up by the West to do the bidding for corporatism? Where exactly did ISIS come from? Is the Saudi royal family bankrolling these criminals to pretend to be Muslim and kill as many Muslims as they can? Where did the training come from? Are they simply recruiting the ex-Baathists of the old Iraqi regime? Why are we not getting the real story about what is happening in Greece? A referendum against the EU-imposed austerity by the Greeks will have massive implications for the world economy. Instead, we get wall to wall coverage of two escaped prisoners, and many so-called experts chime in with “serious” opinions, and people discuss the story at the dinner table. Meanwhile, ESPN continues to be the most-watched cable network in prime-time.
What is getting clipped at the editing room? Are journalists who are trained at professional journalism schools acting in good faith with their reporting? Are they even allowed to report the many “truths” that are there? Do the corporate media hire the proverbial good faith journalists? Should they even worry who is seeking the truth? In most schools of journalism technique and form are taught masterfully, but Ethics is either absent or given cursory attention in the curriculum. The blurring of boundaries between business and  journalism has left the journalists of present and the future in a state of self-delusion. Anderson Coopers and Christian Amanpours of future are being groomed as we speak. Predicated on neoliberal principles, media companies need a few stars to seduce the public and a massive army of serfs to do the dirty work. What is more, a lot of the work is outsourced per free market algorithms of labor practices. In his highly insightful piece, the erudite media scholar Toby Miller writes about the success of organizations such as Mindworks Global Media, a company outside New Delhi that provides Indian-based journalists and copy editors who work long-distance for newspapers whose reporters are supposedly in the US and Europe. There are 35-40% cost savings to consider.
When did the corporate media transform into the ministry of culture? One could use the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by Bill Clinton, as the point of departure. We can simply muse that once the ownership of all media was concentrated and under the control of a handful of conglomerates, then the logic of news reporting changed. Pseudo news and infotainment are now converging with everything else, including reality TV, soft porn on mainstream cable, and anti-intellectual romancing of “leadership.”
The fact of the matter is that political and world event news is boring, disjointed, and quite fragmentary. Given the fabulous profit margins the corporate media yield, this is quite deliberate. Follow that logic and the Bruce Jenner transformation becomes a big story for any market demographic with any political orientation. Tie it into the LGBTQ rights and pepper it with the usual “freedom of expression” humbug and craven white liberals will gobble it up, as they did. On the other hand, the ultra-conservative god fearing gun slingers will pay attention because Bruce Jenner represents a decaying of morality. The market is the Ethics of neoliberal media. The same recipe was used for the Gay Marriage issue. We have a serious domestic terrorism, tied to institutional racism, in this nation that we must address.
Cops killing young black men and a white racist man killing nine people in a black church along with a regular lethal gun culture are issues that a good faith media would address by searching for root causes. But instead we will have the case of the bad apples with the cops, and the story of the confederate flag. If you get people talking about the flag, then they will not be inclined to talk about the white terrorist who grew up with a gun culture and had easy access to the killing machines. But if the story is about the flag, then there is a “controversy.” There is always an impetus for such controversies, as we have a cherished first amendment in our constitution that assures freedom of expression for all. This is the same right that many Americans give up voluntarily at the work place in fear of losing their jobs because there is no union or a governmental agency to protect them. If the story is confined to the flag, its implications, then people will not be inclined to talk about labor issues. If the president sings in a church, then it is the time of healing and praising courageous leadership, and not the right time to discuss domestic terrorism, gun control, and deep racial divide, or the widening of the gap between rich and poor.
There is Hope
We can turn the corporate media on its head. We can create our own agenda. This requires courage, intellectualism, and dedication. We must learn and teach critical media literacy. There are many examples to give us hope. In discussing the appropriation of Gay rights by the sinister government agencies, Glen Greenwald states:
This is all a stark illustration of what has become a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic. Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.
The mainstream corporate media is not an absolutist paradigm. Occasionally, the ministry of culture let’s authentic voices slip through the cracks, whereby honest erudite thinkers and journalists voice their opinions, report probing facts, and offer sober analyses. Henry Giroux’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times is a perfect example of this condition.
To be sure, we have champions of truth-telling in our ever strengthening alternative media. Many powerful voices are working toward building solidarity for a revolution in thinking and value systems, which should yield an egalitarian society.  The relentless work of Bill Moyers, Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and Amy Goodman, just to name a few, has been instrumental in building the pillars of progressive solidarity. There is good reason that the presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who does not shy away from the socialist label, is gaining so much popular support that has the Clinton machine nervously changing strategies, seemingly every day.
Finally, we have the power of social media, which provide the only democratic platform for people to share solidarity-building ideas. But cyber activism and online clicking of petitions, while necessary, will not make change by themselves. We can create our own agenda and take action, as did the Occupy Movement.
  1. Theorist: Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw. Primary Article: McCombs, M., & Shaw, D.L. (1972). “The agenda-setting function of the mass media”. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-185. []

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Comic Relief... Seriously

Donald Trump: God's gift to comedy (opinion)
http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/14/opinions/macks-comics-love-trump/index.html

Psalm 2... Against The Gingoism Of Warmongers

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
(Those who have ears to hear... Let them hear.)


The establishment of Peace and its consequent expressions in Justice will always have its detractors. Those detractors are usually those interested in keeping things the way they are. They want to do so because they can collateralize their existential insecurities by creating constant imbalances in the lives of others. Their hope is founded in the despair that they breed and cultivate in the life of others. The prospects of a peaceful world threatens their system of things, and so they "rage" against those who seek, through just means, to bring about a more peaceful world. They pursue discord among peoples and nations so that they can fill their coffers with the ill-gotten gains of conflict-generation. Their treasure chests are filled at the expense of the flag-draped coffins of those they trick into combat with their fraudulent calls to patriotism. 


Let there be no mistaking the Psalmist's intent. The establishment of Peace is not a parochial event. It is not the proffered endowment of any "chosen people"; the Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the whole World and they that dwell therein. The unrelenting objections and protestations of those who believe and act as if the World owes them preferential treatment will come back to haunt them. This will be the case because of the existential contradictions in their behavior. They ignore the heathenic tendencies in their own hearts, while they pursue their intentions to raid and steal their neighbors' vineyard as some kind of birthright. This vain  hypocrisy will not endure... It shall not stand.

That day will come when the inherent contradictions in the behavior of  the unjust will cause derision and revulsion toward and among them. That day will come when they will be measured by the same judgement they pronounce against others. Against their loud and aggressive protestations, Justice shall prevail... Righteousness shall be established. The City of Peace will be established in a place of prominence among us; and the "stone" that their builders refused, and berated, shall be its very foundation. The hegemony they assumed will then be a gift to those who understand, and are willing to comply with, the accords of Equity... Of Equality and Justice for all.

In the end those who resist what is true and right will have to deal with the consequences of their own intransigence. Make no mistake about it... They. Will. Be. Broken. There are always opportunities to turn away from the vanity that obstructs the path to Peace. We would all do well to avail ourselves of those opportunities.


Prisoners or Captives...?

Prisoner: a person legally held in prison as a punishment for crimes they have committed or while awaiting trial.
Captive: a person who is enslaved or dominated or imprisoned.
One major challenge of the court system and those who direct its operation is to make judgements about the crimes for which a person should be incarcerated. Another equally challenging responsibility of the system of Justice is to guard against the unjust imprisonment of people. It is the latter of these two concerns that is my main focus here..
It is a fact that the justice system has been in a number of circumstances, perverted to serve the economic interests of corrupt lawyers and judges. It is also a fact that sentencing has become a vehicle for filling the jails with people who are seen as nothing more than cogs in the wheel of an “industry” driven by a for profit motive. In light of these facts we must ask serious questions about the motivations behind the sentences handed down by some of our judges.
Are we locking away people in our prisons who should be more justly and appropriately placed in programs focused on social, medical, and psychological rehabilitation? Furthermore, are we committing a greater harm by placing them at the mercy of those whose goal is to make a profit at the expense of the life of the socially and economically disadvantaged? Are many of those we have now lumped in as “prisoners” more appropriately captives of an essentially unjust system?
Consider the following from an article by Kate Henderson, and published in Liberty Voice in December 2013.
“Mark Ciaverella Jr was a Judge in the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court, Luzerne County, who abused his position to sell juveniles into prison facilities as “Kids for Cash.” When it came to his turn to be sentenced he was given almost thirty years behind bars… …This man took money in exchange for the incarceration of thousands of children and young adults. The developer who owned the private prison system paid him “under the table.” These highly illegal and immoral earnings amounted to over a million dollars in Ciaverella’s…pocket. 
Convictions he made between the years of 2003 to 2004 have all been overturned, amounting to over 4,000 cases. He consistently violated the constitutional rights of youngsters, including their right to have legal counsel and their right to enter an intelligent plea.  One of the youngest persons he passed sentence on was only ten years old. His sentencing was rapid, and invariably severe. He needed to keep that prison packed with kids. Non-violent, insignificant and even nonsensical “crime” was penalised the same way.”
There is reason to believe that Ciaverella is not alone in this “enterprise”. The proverbial “love of money” is what drives the judicial indiscretion of many of our judges. That, combined with their political ambitions, has created a slippery slope by way of which we have managed to create a level of incarceration not seen anywhere else in the world. The “land of the free” has become the home of the imprisoned.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Balancing the scales




When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.’” —Archbishop Dom Helder Camara

There is an alarming lamentation among economists, social and political commentators, and progressive voices for economic justice, that while household incomes have essentially remained stagnant since the mid 1980s, in the same period corporate profits and executive compensation have grown at mind-boggling rates. Fifty percent of income resources now go to the top ten percent, while the other fifty percent is shared by the bottom ninety percent. This lamentation should get our attention because of the ramifications of this kind of inequity for the stability of any society. Peace does not proliferate where justice has no foundation. This is a fact of life…everywhere.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank has observed the following:
Our skyrocketing inequality – so contrary to our meritocratic ideal of America as a place where anyone with hard work and talent can “make it” – means that those who are born to parents of limited means are likely never to live up to their potential. Children in other rich countries like Canada, France, Germany and Sweden have a better chance of doing better than their parents did than American kids have. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty – the second worst of all the advanced economies, putting us behind countries like Bulgaria, Latvia and Greece.”

In a national culture where American exceptionalism has become the cliched boast of those whose political ambitions drive them to side with those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo, we must ask ourselves whether or not this is the “exceptionalism” we want to engender going forward. What can we expect to be the future of a society in which the social, political, and economic ambitions of the few creates the kind of disparity that drives the majority toward a veritable cliff of hopelessness? Our nation’s destiny is without doubt severely compromised when the hope of the few creates despair among the many.

Zoe Carpenter, writing in The Nation, observes the following:
“It’s no secret that this sort of economic inequality is increasing nationwide; the disparity between America’s richest and poorest is the widest it’s been since the Roaring Twenties. Less discussed are the gaps in life expectancy that have widened over the past twenty-five years between America’s counties, cities and neighborhoods. While the country as a whole has gotten richer and healthier, the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has shrunk and American’s without high school diplomas have seen their life expectancy slide back to what it was in the 1950’s. Economic inequalities manifest not in numbers, but in sick and dying bodies.”

The stark reality of our national life is that the growing inequalities in our economy are sadly expressed in crime and violence, in diminished access to quality education, and in the diminished health and life expectancy of the many who struggle to make ends meet. It is convenient for pompous conservatives to point the finger at the presumed “immorality” of the disadvantaged. By objectifying the unwed parent they are able to direct attention away from more substantial issues among us. For example, we might be asking questions as to whether it is moral for a fast food chain to bank billions of dollars in corporate profits while denying its workers a livable wage.

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by the well developed sleight of tongue of our socio/economic/cultural detractors, who want to talk about individual responsibility while corporate entities get to call their lack of a collective moral orientation “success”. It is time to ask ourselves some hard questions about the kind of nation we are. Is community only essential when we want to mobilize the children of the working class to shed their blood in wars that have their raison d’etre in the undisclosed economic motivations of the neoconservative class?

Jesus of Nazareth, whom many conservatives worship as their “Savior”, rebuked those pointing their fingers at those who are too disadvantaged to effectively answer the charge of "immorality" with the instruction, and here I paraphrase… Remove the log from your own eye before you talk about the speck in the eyes of others! As for this Jesus, he was a man surrounded by the working class. He himself is believed by many to have been, among other things, a carpenter.  This was a man who understood the predicament of the Mary Magdalenes of his world. He did not look down his nose at fishermen among whom he moved easily, his buddy Peter being one of them. He got Matthew, a tax collector, to leave a profession that many saw as oppressive and join him in the work of liberation. Jesus stood up for the poor, as his embrace of that well read mission statement from Isaiah 61 shows. The good news he proclaimed to the poor was bad news for those who gained from keeping things the way they were.

There is no doubt in my mind that today’s conservative would condemn this Nazarene’s “social gospel” as unadulterated Marxism. His relationship with the political leadership and its economic partners was by no means a comfortable one. Remember that incident with the “money changers” in the temple? These economic vampires were using their monopoly of the currency supply to make exorbitant profits, charging “whatever the market would bear” for coins that the people needed to pay their annual Temple tax. Jesus physically threw them out of the Temple after branding them “thieves”. Days later these same bankers called for his death. How dare he do anything to compromise their hard earned profit margins. 

According to Bloomberg, the average CEO makes 204 times the salary of the average employee. Is this what we mean in fact when we spout off about “American exceptionalism”? How long will civility hold when the social contract engendered by our economic relationships continues to guarantee the fecundity of the few at the expense of the many? Simply put, how long can we expect that the poor will accept that their lot in this life is to be fodder for the ambitions of the greed rich?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"... , But Nothing Is Thicker than Love."

True Story... A son of the Confederacy lived his whole life believing and expressing the half-baked untruths of racial prejudice. He had been raised to believe that Blacks were inferior to Whites. Sixty years into a life lived in the South he still shared the ideals of white supremacy. To this man the right of his kind to deny others their right to freedom and self-determination was something to be celebrated as a fact of life. In his household the Confederate flag was flown as a symbol of white pride. It was a reminder of a time when there was no doubt in their minds that their right to enslave and otherwise dominate Blacks was god-given.

The mark of racial injustice was indelibly printed on the consciousness of these folk. They celebrated a history that the civilized world has long come to view with disgust. But in the midst of the disgust of a world tending more and more toward Justice, they want to fly the flag of Hate higher. In a world that has long agreed that symbols of hate must be relegated to museums of shame, they want to wear those symbols blazed in ink on their bodies.This son of the Confederacy had that flag tattooed down the length of his large white arms. And so it was. But reality came forcefully to this man one day.

This man had a daughter as his first born. She lives and moves in the emerging new America. She works and shops and plays with Black folk. She sings and dances to Black music performed by Black artists. She sits on the same buses. She flies on airplanes piloted by Black pilots. She attends universities staffed by Black professors. Her personal physician is a Black woman. She fell in love with a black man... And became the mother of a "mixed-race' child. And so now this son of the Confederacy is the grandfather of a black baby... Whom he cant help but love. He cant help it I tell you. And so recently he is desperate to have that tattoo on his arm removed or covered. It can no longer occupy the place it has on his strong right arm... The same arm with which he must now lift and hug his mixed-race grandchild.

This nation recently witnessed a terrible tragedy in South Carolina in which nine members of an African Methodist Episcopal Church were shot to death by a young man who held that symbol of hate as his motivation to murder. After much heart-rending reflection the leadership of this state decided to remove the Confederate flag from its place of prominence at the Peoples' House in that state. It is done... and as a nation we take one more step to the inevitable day when Justice becomes a birthright of every man, woman, and child among us. To those among us whose hearts have been hardened by the hate they celebrate we say a prayer... But more directly we say 'Enough!". We are no longer willing to have the lives of our loved ones sacrificed at the alter of your vanity. Some of us, in the midst of our grief, are quick to "forgive";  but true forgiveness can only come when transgressors confess their faults and repent of their wicked ways.

That day will come when we can come together to celebrate the power of brotherhood. That day will come when the power of Love will overcome the torment of fear. We cannot continue to do wickedness while we hope for "Amazing Grace". Like Paul we must ask the question: "What then, shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound?" To that question we must all reply like the apostle: 'God forbid!".  Like the son of the Confederacy who now finds himself embracing his black grandchild, we all are part of a history that is at times unfortunate. The history of hate that still heats and thickens the blood of many among us is unfortunate... But it can be overcome. The thickened and heated blood of the hater is a source of his own distress. Our hardened hearts will eventually lead to our downfall. Those who suffer from the malady of Hate need to avail themselves of the fountain of living waters. That fountain is Love. Your ancestors did wrong. You can and must change.  Blood may be thicker than water... But nothing is thicker than Love.

Friday, July 3, 2015

"What So Proudly We Hail..."

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave comes alive and jubilant on Independence Day. Fireworks create great art in the skies over every city in the nation. On Independence Day we come together in celebration of the "Declaration" that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; the rallying cry for the establishment of a unique experiment in human civilization. America is unique because the idea out of which this great nation derives, and as a function of which it continues to evolve, is one that transcends the usual "ties that bind".  Unlike many others, this is not a nation that derives from the ethnic or other cultural indicators that are used as the main identifiers of a people. As Americans we raise up and celebrate that one trait that lifts us above notions of tribe... We lift up our common humanity as the one dominant factor that breeds true kinship.

Beyond notions of tribe... Beyond the usual ethnic and cultural similarities that are facts of our lives, as a nation we celebrate the ideas outlined in our common creed... We insist to our last breath that as a nation we must elevate the ideals of our common humanity above all else. When Americans say "freedom", we do not hesitate to articulate the idealism that we mean freedom not just for some, not just for whites, or browns, or rich, or a privileged few... We mean freedom for all persons... Everywhere. It is this transcendent notion that marks us as an exceptional nation. It is without doubt a fact that we have not, and do not always live up to our creed. It is a fact that we have transgressed, and in many respects continue to violate the very terms and conditions of our potential and our promise. 

Many are the challenges that still persist as we march toward our existential destiny, but we believe that we are equal to the task of overcoming those challenges. As a nation we shall not abandon the ideals that are inseparable in our very foundation. We refuse to be defined by our shortcomings. Where we fail, we confess our failures and determine to press on to the goals that make us a special people. Where there is injustice, we will remind ourselves of our creed. Where that injustice expresses itself as hate, we will do the work necessary to address that hate and its disciples. Where there is economic inequity, we will band together to balance the scales. When our politicians and police fail us, we will insist on the appropriate remedies through every means available... and necessary. When existing laws fail us we shall insist on the principles outlined in our exalted creed... And we will continue the work of making sure that the Law becomes the handmaid of our ideals.

We have come a long way as a nation. In a land once scarred by the scourge of slavery, a Black family now calls the White House home... For the second of two consecutive terms! We are witnessing in POTUS Barack Obama the most positively consequential Presidency of the last two generations. Minorities once ostracized and subjected to the violent whims and fancies of cultural detractors now enjoy equal protection under the law. Nations once ostracized for reasons that do not apply universally are now back in the fold.. on equitable terms. This is indeed a land of hope and opportunity, and not just for the person born here; but for all who come here and are willing to do what it takes. Hardworking immigrants and their children are able to prosper in ways that are unlikely in the places they came from. No matter where you are from, the prospects of a good education and a more secure economic future here are better than in most other countries.

In the annals of history we are still a young nation. There are nations that we relate to that are many times older than us as a historical unit, but the great strength of the United States of America is in the fact that we are a gathering of all our brothers and sisters from all over this globe called Earth. America represents a coming together of mankind that is powerfully unique. To paraphrase that well known anthem: We are the world. We are its children. Our unique challenge is to find a way to make a brighter day for our brothers and sisters everywhere.

And so when we participate in the spectacle of celebratory bursts of light, let us remember how far we have come and how bright we must continue to shine. Let us see in the rockets' red, white, and blue glare the promise of our diversity. Let us be reminded by the 'bombs bursting in air" of the wonderful potential of a united people... A nation bound together as one by the humane  hopes and aspirations we share. We are a nation in which Hope overcomes Despair... Where the power of Love overcomes the dysfunction of Fear.  What we so proudly hail when we celebrate our coming into being as a nation is the potential and the promise of that Freedom which we claim as a right of our humanity. Every time we say Happy Independence Day America! ...in that same breath, let us hold sacred the Rights of every person to the unique blessings of Liberty.