Wednesday, September 28, 2011


President Barack Obama remembers working with the poor on the south side of Chicago, but he has not sought to be an advocate for the alleviation of their plight. During his campaign for the US presidency Obama refused to state how he would addressed the situation of poverty in this country. Like many of his contenders, Obama spoke more about seeking to secure and enlarge the middle class than he ever did about helping the working class and eliminating the economic depression plaguing African Americans and other communities. Recently, when the congressional black caucus pressed him about the staggering unemployment among African Americans (over 16 percent), Obama fundamentally scolded them like children and commanded they stop their grumbling. No wonder Representative Maxine Waters felt unnecessarily chided, reprimanded, and singled out because of some presumed racial kinship that allows the president to humiliate her and the other caucus members. The fact of the matter is that Obama deserves criticism for his inattention towards jobs training and creation heretofore.

This convenient amnesia is indicative of his political response to crisis. It was not long ago that Obama acquiesced to condescending calls that he renounce his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. An excerpt from Wright’s sermon that condemned America was put on YouTube for all to see and hear. This land basting of the racial history and ethos of the United States is common fare black churches across the country. The alarm from many white citizens stem from the fact that worship hour on Sunday mornings is the most racially segregated period in our land. Consequently, they are not familiar with the rhetorical gymnastics in which African American ministers have routinely engaged. To the majority of blacks, what Wright said was far from alarming—it was right on! Obama prevaricated over the type of utterances he had heard from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ, and particularly from its pastor—the man who conducted the wedding of the President and the First Lady!

Obama’s renunciation of Rev. Wright was ludicrous, and the fact that his denials could be deemed a substantive response is downright absurd! Yet it passed muster so much so that he could be lauded for his “expert” statement on current race relations. Prior to his alleged debacle, Wright had been celebrated as one of the twentieth century’s greatest preachers. Had his language deteriorated within a span of eight years that he needed to be denounced in such a manner? I think not!
It was not long into his administration that some people started murmuring about the note worthy black environmentalist Van Jones. He was being castigated for claiming that people in the Bush administration knew about the tragedy of 9/11 before it occurred. This kind of assessment was not new, and it should not have caused much commotion at all. Obama chose not to address it to the point where Jones felt compelled to resign. Obama accepted his resignation and went about his own business. Obama showed no support for Jones and spinelessly claimed that he was busy with more substantive matters. How dare he!

As Hurricane Irene swept along the eastern seaboard, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial committee elected to postpone the dedication ceremony indefinitely. Recently, the date of October 16th was approved for it. That Sunday is also the sixteenth anniversary of the first Million Man March, whose keynote speaker was none other than Mr. Louis Farrakhan, titular head of the Nation of Islam or Black Muslim organization. Will Pres. Obama transcend political expediency, or cowardice, that day, to pay homage to that controversial leader? Or will he completely ignore the anniversary of that groundbreaking gathering? Or, worse still, will he beg off from attending the historic dedication altogether?

Perhaps, Obama would do well to heed the lesson found in the words of James Russell Lowell:

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

Friday, July 1, 2011


As a body politic, we remain stuck in diametrically opposed positions as an artifice for distinction or differentiation. This polarity is based on the fear that variance from the party line will result in ostracism and lack of support and votes, if one is a candidate. This fear compels people to stand for things that the party generally holds even when endorsing it runs counter to common sense and personal integrity. A byproduct of this hypocrisy is lying, deceit, and intentional mischaracterization of the opposition. We are stuck!

This absurdity explains the recklessness of war, the neglect of the poor in favor of the wealthy, the allowance of corporations to be citizens, the disproportionate incarceration of black males and many and sundry other inequitable and unethical policies and procedures. We continue these shenanigans because they are easy and convenient, despite their brutality and misanthropic effects. How can we escape from such perniciousness and forge a society whose denizens concentrate on building solidarity among the citizenry, helping folks have productive and meaningful lives, and working to eliminate poverty and disease at home and abroad?

The masses of people have to recognize the folly in our youthful, yet originally promising, republic, and build a movement that emphasizes compassion, humaneness, and the best possible. The intense difficulty of maintaining this coalition is understandable, but the fierce urgency of the situation requires immediate action. We are spiraling down a road of repeated government shutdowns because compromise means betrayal and bipartisanship is rare.

Today’s leaders seem unable to discern that any given issue has a variety of response options. Very little is purely right or wrong, and having an opinion about something should not preempt the ability to engage in mature discussion. Filibustering and other tactics are not noble affairs as depicted in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; rather, they are childish maneuverings that make a mockery of what it means to have dialogue and to lead.

Knowing when to concede is a skill that is seldom practiced in the halls of government. For example, failing a promise to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy and to use part of the money to ensure much-needed social programs do not get unduly excised are actions that do not exemplify good decision-making. Instead, it is simply a matter of not keeping one’s word. It was a concession at the wrong time: many people are in dire need of federal assistance in an economic recession and the wealthy are not numbered among them. The decision Pres. Obama made in December 2010 to extend the gratis to the exorbitantly rich seemed to breach his being on the square, so to speak, and to result in a loss of integrity.

He was so stuck in the political malaise we have in this country that he made a concession in the eleventh hour he definitely claimed he would never do. Would that Obama kept his word about not giving the dole to the wealthiest as he did about ferreting out and killing Osama bin Laden!

Monday, May 16, 2011


I know that it is improper never to say “never.” However, I feel I must in order to set the record straight. Martin Luther King, Jr., was never an advocate of capitalism in his campaigns for civil and human rights. His perspective had been that of a democratic socialist since the latter part of his college days. He did not insist on spouting off about socialism for much of his public career because he was attacking the fundamental rights related to local and interstate travel, public accommodations, and voting for the first ten years. The remaining three years of his life, before it was struck down by an assassin’s bullet, were focused on economic exploitation, militarization, and the ongoing institutional discrimination.

Many scholars like to demythologize King by claiming that he evolved into a radical or revolutionary; he became a socialist only after his foray into the ghettos of Chicago; he acceded to some of the demands of the Black Power movement and the burgeoning Black Panthers crusade; he learned more about the evils of capitalism as he answered the call of Marian Wright (Edelman) and then-Senator Robert F. Kennedy to construct a Poor People’s Campaign; he sought to evangelize the nation about nonviolent resolution of conflict by lambasting the Johnson Administration’s escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and connecting it to the mistreatment of young black males; and his concern for Memphis sanitation workers forced him to address directly the worth of the labor movement and the exploitation of labor. In my opinion, these scholars are wrong, for they do not appreciate the fact that there is ample evidence of King’s strong affinity to socialism prior to 1955; King intermittently criticized American capitalism throughout his public career; and, perhaps most importantly, King was compelled first to deal with the superficial and peripheral elements of Jim Crow segregation before he could grapple with the systemic structural, procedural, and policymaking dimensions of racism.

King was not flawless in his pursuit of justice for the marginalized. After all, he was a member of a fallible species as all Homo sapiens are. The development of Operation Breadbasket in 1962 on the heels of the Albany movement in Atlanta, Georgia, was not acquiescence to the economic mainstream by encouraging blacks to become diehard capitalists. Rather, it was in recognition of the fact that employers were racist in their actions and African Americans were faced with unfair hiring practices, on the one hand, and deprived of job training, on the other hand. Breadbasket was begun in order to call attention to unemployment and underemployment among blacks through boycotts against companies not hiring blacks in appreciable, if any, numbers and arbitration with those and other businesses to agree to ways to address and redress the inequitable disparities. These actions were not salvos to modern industrial capitalism, but, rather, a realization of the urgent and emergent needs of people who could not support themselves or their families.

When we embark upon a discussion of King’s legacy, we must not settle on simply paying homage to the “I Have a Dream” speech, the Birmingham and Selma campaigns that largely contributed to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, respectively, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the paranormal premonition of his “Mountaintop” climax the night before his murder. We must, even in confabulating about his meaning for the twenty-first century, mirror his exhortation that “the whole Jericho Road must be changed.” Dr. King’s legacy is one that embraces the tenets of moral law: try to reach your ideal of society through knowing your values, pursuing the best possible, making your strategies and tactics relevant and specific to the situation or the issue, being aware of the consequences of your actions, working in collaboration with others, and seeking to effectuate positive social change that respects the dignity and worth of human personality—whatever one’s metaphysical or theological persuasion might be.

Any real legatee of King’s must be acutely cognizant of the latter’s core orientation towards democratic socialism. The solution to economic exploitation—apart from discriminatory employment practices—is not only a redistribution of the wealth of this country, but also ensuring that every individual has a livable income, can participate fully in the body politic, and can have all the basic and existential human needs satisfied.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Recently, I have been hearing folks having epiphanic experiences when it comes to institutionalized racism in the United States. I am surprised and quickly become suspicious when these instances are reported, because I reflexively disbelieve anyone living in this country can be so impervious to what has been systematically going on for centuries with regard to African Americans (as well as other peoples of color), that they claim ignorance even as they continue to swim, if you will, in reservoirs of privilege as they have all of their lives! There are countless matrices and social stimuli that daily replay the racial divide within everybody’s purview. We do not need a surfeit of data to observe the injustices and to resolve to collaborate unendingly to fight against this blight upon all of our humanity—although Michelle Alexander has done precisely that in her book entitled, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Colorblindness, of course, is a popular descriptor of what many wish for and claim today it exists, on the one hand, and an expression of the shallow and uncritical perception many have who simply do not wish to deal with the sickness of racism, on the other hand. Colorblindness can be used as a foil ostensibly to hide our greed, selfishness, individualism, and indifference to the plight of people of darker hue. Prejudice raises its ugly head not only in the thoughts of lower-class whites who have the privilege of sighing that they ain’t like no nigger, but also in the charitable contributions of the well-off who never consider sacrificing current material comforts in order to help to begin to dismantle a system designed to lock people in the poorhouse. Yet because we insist that our society has reached an age of colorblindness, we can exculpate ourselves from any responsibility for a system of oppression and exploitation that scandalizes human dignity and worth. Consequently, a structure of exclusion fundamentally based on racial categories can be blatantly perpetuated by lofting from our lips the sordid and flagrantly cynical subterfuge that we have finally arrived!

Every black person in the United States should develop a hermeneutic of suspicion when dealing with others alleging enlightenment and also live in this environment steeped in racism. It is very, very difficult to transcend it unscathed. Knowing the history of well-minded liberals and some progressives in this country, blacks cannot drop their guards because some of the most vicious forms of racism have been engendered and propagated by such people! Race matters in this country because we let it by supposedly having the luxury to ignore and be indifferent to it—while those categorized, prejudged, and victimized by it recognize its validity and its entrenchment in all facets of our regular milieu.

Until we discern the continuum of racial discrimination—from individual prejudice to institutional genocide—we will forever plead some exonerative ignorance or contemplative epiphany ad infinitum that renders us in effect inactive perpetrators of the status quo, which promises that the day of freedom, dignity, and equality for all persons shall remain a pipe dream!

Friday, March 11, 2011


There is pressure upon Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President Barack Obama, to proceed to a military solution to the crisis in Libya. Unfortunately, Col. Muammar Qaddafi has elected to trounce the rebels through air attacks, ground forces, and other military technologies rather than face up to the civil strife he helped to cause prior to his offensive defense tactics in the face of the uprising. The United States has tolerated Qaddafi’s human rights abuses since he became less vituperative against us some years back.

Qaddafi has been in office much longer than Hosni Mubarak. With such a long tenure at the helm of the ship of state, a political leader must be dictatorial and violent against the people. There is no way for opposition to be on the losing end for decades without massive suppression occurring. Needless to say, Qaddafi’s rule has not been exceptional.

It is ironic that one of the main responses of the Obama administration has been to defer to the United Nations as far as military intervention is concerned. We have repeatedly defied the U.N. since its inception, when we have used the device of “national security” to do whatsoever we wanted to preserve or advance our interests. Meanwhile, we watch from afar innocent Libyan civilians being massacred and virtually defenseless demonstrators struck down, because we are more concerned about Afghanistan and Iraq—two places where a hefty portion of our military arsenal is still engaged, both actively and poised for future sorties.

There are many in Obama’s coterie who believe that Qaddafi is definitely on the way out and, therefore, sitting on our duffs is not a bad option for now. This attitude is appalling, for it makes light of the awful devastation the Libyan dictator is wreaking on his own people today. How can we be so cavalier about people’s lives?
Many of our European allies depend upon this authoritarian regime’s oil. They will begin to feel more desperate about what’s happening in that country and may themselves opt to engage their own military might. Perhaps, we will be more favorable to that action, or more willing to support them rather than the democratic rebels of darker hue in Libya itself.

Ultimately, I do not favor a military solution to the crisis in Libya. There are ways to force Qaddafi out without using a weapon of mass destruction. The question is whether our intelligence and diplomacy are fit for the challenge. At this point, I fear the answer to that question and the many lives that are at stake!


The public sector needs protection from those who favor the well-to-do at the expense of the average worker. Many who have this inclination seem impervious to the fact that their support works against their own interest. What kind of democracy is it that fervently seeks after tax cuts for the richest in the nation, yet removes the primarily thing that has historically kept workers shielded from callously greedy business owners, namely, collective bargaining? Many people had struggled and died to make the work environment tolerable. If it were not for unions, children would be allowed to work, wages would not keep up with inflation, the work week would be tediously longer than it is now, there would be no such thing as overtime, maternity leave, medical benefits, pensions, retirement pay, improved working conditions, etc.

What makes what happened in Wisconsin that much more egregious is the manner in which they railroaded the bill through because of the absence of fourteen Democratic lawmakers who were disgusted in the puerile discussions made by Republicans. These Republican legislators claimed they were acting on a conservative mandate from the people—people who were clearly unable to ascertain that they themselves were being blamed for the fiscal crisis in their state. The average public sector worker is not the type of individual that brought the economy to its knees in 2008. It is so much easier to attack the masses of people who have very little recourse for defense except for protesting in the public square.

If a repressive regime can be forced to abdicate and abscond by citizen protests, then why is not a government of the people, by the people, and for the people able to be squashed, impeached, or radically reformed? Union busting is repressive; the denial of the breadth of collective bargaining removes the major form of safeguards for the average laborer. Such action flies in the face of what it means to be a human being worthy of dignity and respect. Certainly, corporate Wisconsin could have taken much of the slack, rather than lobbying to save themselves and ignore consumers upon whom they depend.

Voting is a right in this country, and it ought to be. But that does not mean that voters are aware of their rights or can discern what is in their best interests and in the best interest of the whole. It is incumbent upon the informed electorate to educate the rest of the population that is perpetuating their own self-affliction. Labor unions are still needed to protect the contemporary worker. They are by no means antiquated, and all workers have benefitted from their long history of struggle and activism on behalf of laborers.

The other states that are considering Wisconsin-like measures, including my own state of Iowa, need to be assailed by an Egyptian-type rebellion in order to salvage the last vestiges of real democracy in our weakening republic. Union busting has to become and remain a relic of the Reagan administration!

Friday, February 11, 2011


I'm not particularly fond of the daily fare of social networks like Facebook, but at last such tools have been used to advocate for a democratic society and urge protests aimed at the removal of an oligarchy that has been in place since for thirty years! Now, that's employing the Internet in a constructive manner, and I applaud the youth liberation movement in Egypt for its fervor and ingenuity.

As Frederick Douglass stated in the latter part of the nineteenth century, "Power concedes nothing without a demand." Certainly, the masses of people repeatedly demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, and today their earnest met with success. Hallelujah! Alhamdulillah!

After Anwar Sadat was assassinated, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak seemed like a godsend. He appeared generous to the opposition, freeing many political prisoners, and interested in opening up the economy to the marginalized. But that soon changed. In trying to squash what he saw as radical fundamentalism, the trajectory of his rulership changed dramatically. Rather than becoming a paradigm for democratic leadership, he became increasingly repressive and oppressive, allowing for nearly half of the population to live at subsistence levels. Mubarak cracked down on free, fair, and open elections, and sought to orchestrate his eventual succession. He put a lot of his personal allies in high political positions, including his son Gamal. Egypt has been in a state of emergency for decades, which served as a vehicle to crush any political reform. The dream of democracy was transformed into a nightmare of exploitation.

Somehow, Egypt remained a strong ally of the United States, as administration after administration simply looked the other way in order to maintain American interests in the region. As we have become increasingly receptive to the alleviation of pain for the Palestinians, we have not stridently criticized Mubarak for closing off refuge for displaced Palestinians. Because we consider Egypt key to our national security interests, we have oftentimes suddenly become blind when Egypt offends--as we have been with Saudi Arabia as well as with Israel. Rather than support the burgeoning liberation movement in Egypt, we acted like immobile deer in approaching headlights. The Obama Administration did not have the foresight or insight to discern the unrest brewing at the surface; it was afraid that any words critical of the Mubarak regime would enervate our friendly relations and destabilize the region. Mubarak use this softness on the part of the United States and continued to horde money for himself and his henchmen for a couple decades.

What's in store for Egyptland now? I would never fully trust military personnel to rule a country. It would be optimistic, however, to expect the military to share power, for the instability of the country needs to end, and who else but the military can forge such a state of affairs? I think a civilian coalition should spring up to help organize a new democracy that believes in curtailing the plight of the disinherited. That's what ethical government is all about!

In a very real sense, Mubarak is a tragic figure. Despite his billions, he clinged to a position against the will of the people. He still needed to be bolstered by status and station, rather than ceding to the masses their own process of striving for ideal democracy. In essence, he had become corrupt to the bone: delighting in power and disdaining the people whom he, at one time, vowed to support, sustain, develop, and enhance. Lord Acton was right: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Mubarak had to be forced out; an it happened without the violence of most protesters. Now that's how to walk like an Egyptian!