The Argument Blaming All of America for Charleston Doesn’t Hold Water

I understand the call for gun control after Charleston. I do. But there’s another side.

What if someone inside that church had had a weapon? The loss of life could have been limited. It has happened before.

A shooter or some assailant begins to create havoc and some hero with a gun takes him out. John Hawkins of the political site “Town Hall” cites several incidents of this kind.

Wouldn’t it have been better if the man who pleaded in the AME church in Charleston for the nut case to stop shooting people had weapon and stopped him with bullets. The words obviously had no effect.

If some had their way, the end result would be that the crazies would have the guns and the rest of us would be disarmed. Mr. Obama said in wake of Charleston,”At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

I am sorry, Mr. President, but I am afraid your argument does not hold water. This is America, a country founded on a revolution meant to give liberty to its people and protect them from oppressors.

The Supreme Court has tinkered with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution over the years, but has still upheld the principle that individuals have the right to bear arms. All Mr. Obama’s statement does is lead credence to the “birthers” who believe he is not really American. (I for one don’t care where he was born. His mother was from Kansas.)

What I would support is making gun licenses difficult to get for nuts. I am not a student of gun laws because I do not own one. I can’t even shoot.  I have relatives and friends who do, though, so I stay interested, especially when guns in American come to the forefront during incidents like Charleston.

I do agree that something has to be done to keep sick individuals from getting access to a weapon. Perhaps if our politicians would look at things on a case by case basis instead of posturing for personal gain and trying to limit the rights of the entire population, things would go better.

In the case of the young man who shot up the AME church in Charleston, it seems he got a gun for his birthday. Didn’t Dylann Roof’s father know about his son’s predelictions for wearing apartheid era South African symbols and getting in trouble with the law when he bought the boy his gun? The father has some responsibility here.

Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, the 20-year old responsible for the deaths of a bunch of school children, did not get his guns by himself. He stole them from his mother, who didn’t have the wherewithal to keep them away from him. She paid for this with her life when she died during his shooting spree.

It’s time our politicians quit wringing their hands and blaming the ills and irresponsibility of some on the entire nation. Put the blame where it lies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Baltimore: How did we come to this?

My hometown of Baltimore was not always the gritty, drug-infested, poverty-ridden, primarily African-American town portrayed in the HBO series “The Wire” and now the focus of media attention due to recent race riots. Once upon a time it was a thriving seaport with a diverse population.

In the mid-19th century there were more free blacks in Baltimore than slaves, even though Maryland began the Civil War as a slave state.  They lived and worked among white Americans and German and Irish immigrants. The mingling of the races in this way was unique to the country in its day.

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and spent his young formative years in Baltimore. “Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity,” said Douglass in later years (PBS).

After the Civil War Baltimore endured Jim Crow laws like a lot of southern states, but still had a thriving African American culture. Morgan State University was founded shortly after the war. The city had vibrant black churches which were active in early civil rights advocacy.

The Baltimore black community produced Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and famous musicians such as Eubie Blake and Billie Holiday in the mid 20th century.

Prior to the 20th century, distinct black neighborhoods did not exist in Baltimore. It was economic trends which transformed the city during the last century.

The advent of the steel industry created a mass migration to Baltimore. In addition to the immigration of white Europeans, Baltimore received many southern blacks who were fleeing Jim Crow and looking for s better life.

By 1950 the city was the 6th largest in the United States. Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point was a unionized employer providing a good living for its workers. However, like the rest of the country, Baltimore’s manufacturing base spiraled downward in the last part of the 20th century.

The demographics of the city began to change because of this and  because of racial polarization incited by greedy real estate brokers. Seeking to make a quick buck, they inspired fear and racial animosities among Baltimore’s white population.

These people sold cheap and moved to the suburbs. Between 1950 and 1970 the black population of Baltimore doubled. Then middle class blacks left. So in the last half of the 20th century the city went from two-thirds white to two-thirds black.

Not only did the wealthier people leave, but the businesses did as well.  According to the report “Putting Baltimore’s People First”, it is not race that defines the city now:

“Between 1990 and 2000, the number of African-Americans living in the City declined for the first time, while the most recent census report shows a decline in Baltimore’s black population roughly equal to that of its white population. Now, after decades of population drain, the characteristic that defines the City’s polarization from the suburbs is not race, but economic class.”

What is left in place of industrial jobs in Baltimore is low paying service jobs.

Thus, my hometown is only a microcosm of what has happened in America since World War II in the social and economic spheres. I would add, however, that Baltimore is also a hotbed of political corruption and elects poor self-serving leaders.

Current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is under fire for her statement this week that her administration gave “space” to those who wished to destroy things in the city. How did Ms. Blake get her job? She replaced Sheila Dixon, the first female mayor of Baltimore and third African-American to hold the post.

Ms. Dixon was forced out due to felonies which included stealing funds meant for the poor.

But African-American leaders in the  Baltimore area are just following a long history of corruption and malfeasance perpetrated by their white predecessors. Historian George Calcott has noted that between 1962 and 1979 two governors, two congressmen, a Speaker of the House of Delegates, eight members of the General Assembly and 14 major state and county officials were indicted. Most of these “statesmen” were from the Baltimore area.

Not to be outdone, current politicos have tried to surpass their 1970s colleagues. The Baltimore Sun newspaper reported in 2012:

“For the past three years, Maryland has experienced an unprecedented crime wave of political corruption. The only comparable period in memory would be the 1970s, when a governor was jailed and a sitting U.S. vice president (who had served as governor and Baltimore County executive) resigned in shame. The current offenders have been high-ranking elected officials, and the offenses have been far more serious than simple lapses in judgment. They have involved a level of hubris and ethical depravity that are shocking by any standard.”

Is it any wonder the people of Baltimore have had enough/  Trust in government is gone. The  city has had several generations of rottenness at the top and the poor have been defrauded.

I liken the plight of the poor of Baltimore to that of the Palestinians. The people have been in refugee camps since Israel became a nation in 1948.

The Economist  in 2013 interviewed a Palestinian psychologist. It reported this:

“It’s been too long,” says Mahmoud Subuh, a psychologist in Balata, where the population of 28,000 is crammed into a square kilometre of squat housing. “People don’t even dream any more” of returning to their old homes, he says.

The magazine added, “After 65 years as the fount of anger sustaining the struggle, the camps have degenerated into wretched inner-city ghettoes”

It also maintained that the people are victims of the Israelis and the Palestinian authorities, both which view the aforementioned camp “as nests of gun-runners, drug-traffickers and car thieves.”

A botched Israeli raid killed three refugees and wounded 17 in a raid of a camp near Jerusalem that year, the Economist said. The Palestinian Authority also killed a refugee making arrests in Balata at the time.

Sound familiar?

Somehow, some way the people have to get their rights back and throw the scoundrels out. Perhaps it will start with the African American churches in Baltimore.

Watching television today I saw where one pastor was front and center decrying the violence. The average citizen was also out on the Baltimore streets cleaning up the mess made by street thugs.

It’s time people like this really make themselves heard. I’m afraid once the media barrage is over Baltimore will go back to business as usual. Let’s hope not. Now’s the opportunity for the average Baltimoron to make a difference in their city and change things for good.

It won’t be easy because the corrupt politicians and business people are entrenched. But great leaders have emerged in the past in such circumstances. Hopefully Baltimore will find theirs.

For further reading:

http://www.nathanielturner.com/robertmooreand1199union3.htm

http://explorebaltimore.org/the-baltimore-experience/legacy/baltimores-black-history/

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1259/121/6050/html/1000.html

Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance

By John T. Willis, Herbert C. Smith

https://books.google.com/books?id=4SZpgc0XWMoC&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=maryland+corrupt+politicians&source=bl&ots=SwH_j8hK7-&sig=8SsYp4fUaLWM-S8rrci75uD7GPM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fBxAVd6PLI3lggSPiIH4Ag&ved=0CGQQ6AEwDTgK#v=onepage&q=maryland%20corrupt%20politicians&f=false

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Public mayhem

I do not consider myself to be a paragon of virtue, but I AM a trained (and interested) cultural observer. Today has been a microcosm for me of where I think our culture is in terms of what I guess used to be called “manners”. In the afternoon I was walking to teach a class and a worker came by, yelling at the top of his lungs, to a student,”It’s a beautiful f*$)*$ day” several times over. (At hearing him, what indeed has been a pretty afternoon turned dark for me.) Later I got on the public bus, always an interesting laboratory for anthropological studies. As I entered and went to take my seat, the driver pulled out with a jerk before I was down, causing my fingers to ram into the pole I was holding onto. This caused a stinging pain and at first I thought I had broken bones. I was fine soon and the driver did say,”Sorry about that,” but that was it. Nothing new. I used to see those guys dump seniors into the aisle in Europe. Still. After hitting the main station some teens got on. One proceeded to violently push another as they were going down the aisle. It was a close affair that another passenger was not injured. Our driver ignored the whole thing. When we came to their stop, one of them yelled like a megaphone “BACK DOOR” (close to my ear). The driver had not opened it. Another passenger went to get off a couple stops later. Again, this adult passenger in frustration said “Back door.” It opened. (At this point I began to wonder if our driver was drunk or on drugs.)

Then we turned, and as we did another passenger flashed his middle finger out the window to a passing car, obviously a greeting to a “friend.”

Print

I once heard a story whereby a new warden instituted a “no profanity” policy in his prison. Apparently it worked wonders for overall social comportment there. I think it is high time our society get back to “manners” before we get a law and order dictator who will force it upon us on pain of punishment.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bibi makes his case in biblical fashion

Moses

The sculpture Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to in the House chamber during his speech.

The greeting Benjamin Netanyahu received in the US Congress chambers today reminded us of how strong a relationship America and Israel have with each other, regardless of who is in power in either country.

Despite boycott threats from Democrats, their leadership joined with Republicans in heartedly welcoming the Israeli prime minister to the podium. For the most part, they also cheered mightily during his remarks.

Yes, Bibi came hat in hand to just about the only nation on Earth that considers Israel a friend. That’s what you do when a bully on your block is threatening you. You find a big, strong friend to protect you.

Netanyahu was gracious in his opening comments. Even though the American president did not welcome this speech, Israel’s conservative leader thanked Barack Obama for the things he had done for Israel.  Bibi even made a point of welcoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) back after an injury.

Bibi made his case concerning the acceptance of what he calls a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that desire its destruction.

These countries don’t even try to hide it. First and foremost among them is Iran, who as Netanyahu made clear, has been unambiguous about its plan to annihilate Israel.

Lest the US leadership think that Iran only means to destroy the nation and leave the Jews alone, he reminded them that Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, has commented that “if all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”

Bibi’s spoke of the present nuclear negotiations with Iran by the Obama administration as similar to attempts by a  parent to deal with a rebellious child. Further, he described Tehran’s present behavior as a kind that threatens the entire Middle East.

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations,” sad Netanyahu.

Perhaps Bibi’s best argument did not concern the protection of Israel from destruction, but  how a nuclear armed Iran would result in nuclear proliferation around the entire region. Nations such as Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by while its Shiite enemy gathered atomic weapons,

Netanyahu indicated this would risk nuclear war and threaten not only the peace of the Middle East, but of the entire world.

“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” he said. “It would be a farewell to arms control.”

And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

Netanyahu did not rule out making a deal with Iran concerning its nukes, but he wants Iran to change its present behavior.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said.

Bibi finished his speech with a comment which at first sounded like a threat, one that could have suddenly turned the harmonious atmosphere in the House chamber into ice.

Netanyahu noted,”For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

When that statement came from Bibi’s lips, my first thought was,”Uh-oh.” But he finished his thought with this:

“But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.

I know that you stand with Israel.”

One again, Bibi offered a gracious olive branch to the Obama administration.

Netanyahu knows America and Israel share a biblical heritage, a connection that Republicans have accused Barack Obama of replacing with Islamic influences. He made allusions to this truth in his remarks.

Early on, Bibi referred to the current threat to Israel by relating it the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther. A Jew, she saved her people from a Persian enemy, an event celebrated on March 4 by Purim.

Further, at the end of his talk Netanyahu pointed to a sculpture of Moses in the House chamber. He quoted the biblical patriarch to the Congressional membership,first in Hebrew, then in English.

“Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”

Netanyahu whetted my own appetite for Bible reading today with these remarks. I have decided that after I finish this piece I am going back and read the book of Esther for my own edification, not for any geopolitical purposes.

During his speech Bibi showed why the people of Israel elected him. He is a strong leader in dangerous times.

The Israeli prime minister is also a gracious one. I have much more hope for Israeli-American relations after this appearance before my country’s leaders.

Some of them appeared to view  Bibi as government leaders did the aliens in the film “Mars Attack”. Looking at their faces it seemed to me that Netanyahu’s world view was completely strange. But for the most part, as noted above, his comments were warmly received by members of both parties.

Israel is not guiltless in the world, but what nation is? It certainly doesn’t deserve to have its fate left in the hands of religious fanatics, people who run a government which has made it crystal clear that it seeks to obliterate the Jews from the face of the Earth.

I hope after Bibi’s talk that our president understands that. If he doesn’t, may the Congressional leaders who gave him a standing ovation take up Israel’s defense instead.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bibi makes his case in biblical fashion

Moses

The sculpture of Moses referred to today by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The greeting Benjamin Netanyahu received in the US Congress chambers today reminded us of how strong a relationship America and Israel have with each other, regardless of who is in power in either country.

Despite boycott threats from Democrats, their leadership joined with Republicans in heartedly welcoming the Israeli prime minister to the podium. For the most part, they also cheered mightily during his remarks.

Yes, Bibi came hat in hand to just about the only nation on Earth that considers Israel a friend. That’s what you do when a bully on your block is threatening you. You find a big, strong friend to protect you.

Netanyahu was gracious in his opening comments. Even though the American president did not welcome this speech, Israel’s conservative leader thanked Barack Obama for the things he had done for Israel.  Bibi even made a point of welcoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) back after an injury.

Bibi made his case concerning the acceptance of what he calls a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that desire its destruction.

These countries don’t even try to hide it. First and foremost among them is Iran, who as Netanyahu made clear, has been unambiguous about its plan to annihilate Israel.

Lest the US leadership think that Iran only means to destroy the nation and leave the Jews alone, he reminded them that Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, has commented that “if all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”

Bibi’s spoke of the present nuclear negotiations with Iran by the Obama administration as similar to attempts by a  parent to deal with a rebellious child. Further, he described Tehran’s present behavior as a kind that threatens the entire Middle East.

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations,” sad Netanyahu.

Perhaps Bibi’s best argument did not concern the protection of Israel from destruction, but  how a nuclear armed Iran would result in nuclear proliferation around the entire region. Nations such as Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by while its Shiite enemy gathered atomic weapons,

Netanyahu indicated this would risk nuclear war and threaten not only the peace of the Middle East, but of the entire world.

“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” he said. “It would be a farewell to arms control.”

And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

Netanyahu did not rule out making a deal with Iran concerning its nukes, but he wants Iran to change its present behavior.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said.

Bibi finished his speech with a comment which at first sounded like a threat, one that could have suddenly turned the harmonious atmosphere in the House chamber into ice.

Netanyahu noted,”For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

When that statement came from Bibi’s lips, my first thought was,”Uh-oh.” But he finished his thought with this:

“But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.

I know that you stand with Israel.”

One again, Bibi offered a gracious olive branch to the Obama administration.

Netanyahu knows America and Israel share a biblical heritage, a connection that Republicans have accused Barack Obama of replacing with Islamic influences. He made allusions to this truth in his remarks.

Early on, Bibi referred to the current threat to Israel by relating it the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther. A Jew, she saved her people from a Persian enemy, an event celebrated on March 4 by Purim.

Further, at the end of his talk Netanyahu pointed to a sculpture of Moses in the House chamber. He quoted the biblical patriarch to the Congressional membership,first in Hebrew, then in English.

“Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”

Netanyahu whetted my own appetite for Bible reading today with these remarks. I have decided that after I finish this piece I am going back and read the book of Esther for my own edification, not for any geopolitical purposes.

During his speech Bibi showed why the people of Israel elected him. He is a strong leader in dangerous times.

The Israeli prime minister is also a gracious one. I have much more hope for Israeli-American relations after this appearance before my country’s leaders.

Some of them appeared to view  Bibi as government leaders did the aliens in the film “Mars Attack”. Looking at their faces it seemed to me that Netanyahu’s world view was completely strange. But for the most part, as noted above, his comments were warmly received by members of both parties.

Israel is not guiltless in the world, but what nation is? It certainly doesn’t deserve to have its fate left in the hands of religious fanatics, people who run a government which has made it crystal clear that it seeks to obliterate the Jews from the face of the Earth.

I hope after Bibi’s talk that our president understands that. If he doesn’t, may the Congressional leaders who gave him a standing ovation take up Israel’s defense instead.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Movie Review: shots at “American Sniper” are way off target

“In the world there are people who take a power drill to a kid. Thank God there are people like Chris Kyle up on a roof who blow the guy with the power drill’s head off.”

This is comedian and commentator Dennis Miller’s reply to Fox News star Bill O’Reilly when the latter asked him about complaint’s from some that the film “American Sniper” is pro-war propaganda.

O’Reilly noted prior to  Miller’s comment that he was annoyed at the attack on “American Sniper” because he felt that director Clint Eastwood had gone out of his way to show the suffering endured by Kyle and his wife from the Iraq War.

I would agree with both men’s assessment of this film, a unique work that is creating quite a stir at the box office and in American culture at the moment.

I knew little of Kyle’s story before I went to see “American Sniper” last week, but a close friend and my brother-in-law were highly complimentary of the flick. Therefore, I had high expectations for it. I was not disappointed.

The storyline generally follows Kyle’s four tours (yes, four!) of Iraq where he protected American Marines from concealed places with his adept shooting skill.

It was the culture shock Kyle experienced in going back and forth from the normality of the US to the chaos of war that moved me the most.

Kyle, played by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”, “American Hustle”), sees himself as a man on a mission to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Much of the conflict in himself and with his wife comes from the guilt he endures when he is not in Iraq carrying out it out.

American Sniper Movie (1)

                                  Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper filming “American Sniper”

Credited with the most “kills” by a sniper in American history, Kyle has been quoted as saying that it was not the shootings that troubled him most.

It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.

Cooper reflects this attitude in the film. He did something for me that I feel an actor should always do. His performance made me forget that the person on the screen was not an actor. As far as I was concerned, as I got lost in the film, I saw Cooper as Chris Kyle.

While I would agree with O’Reilly that the violence is downplayed, it is there. Yes, there is blood in the movie, but as I told a friend today, it is a “tempered gore”. There is enough of it to show the tragedy of death under such circumstances.

The person who enters the cinema expecting to see a war movie will be disappointed. Like the 1955 film “Battle Cry”, the film is not so much about combat as it is about the sad effects of it on people’s lives.  (In fact, I like to tell my friends the former flick is more “cry” than “battle”.)

Indeed, it was not the deaths of the people in Kyle’s sights in “American Sniper”that bothered me the most. It was his senseless killing back in the States at the hands of a veteran that he was trying to help.

I mistakenly entered the theatre too early and saw his funeral procession as the credits ran. I quickly hurried out of the room, but even at that point thinking about his ultimate demise was a very emotional experience.

Why? Because as Miller and others have said, I knew that Chris Kyle is an American hero before entering the theater. The movie just confirmed it.

Unfortunately, for him to survive multiple visits to a horrible battlefield and end up dying violently in his own land speaks volumes about our culture today.

However, given what one headline writer called the “rampage” at the box office to see “American Sniper”, I believe there is hope for our society. Most people value the contribution Kyle made “over there.”

To echo Dennis Miller, thank God for such men.

10952242_10206031329244991_6818306480628803214_n

People line up to see “American Sniper” as I exit the theatre

Leave a comment

Filed under Film reviews

On Comet, On Cupid…On Waiting!

I know me. I will not do something until I’m good and ready.

At the moment, I am writing these thoughts when I probably should be working on a proposal for a presentation at a conference next March. I am King Procrastinator, or more likely, a Procaffeinator. I saw that term on Facebook today. A Procaffeinator is a person who cannot accomplish a task until they’ve had their coffee or tea.

Well, I am sitting right here at Panera with my cup of coffee, but the deadline for this proposal isn’t until this weekend, and it has even been extended! Too soon. Thus, the only real deadline I am facing is one in about 90 minutes. That’s when the last bus of the day leaves the mall area.

I have been on a Christmas break from my university job for a week now, so that’s part of my problem. I think I am on vacation, but I am really not, I have spent a lot of time catching up on much-needed sleep when I guess I should have been more productive. I did pick up my room today though!

It’s not that i have avoided the proposal project altogether. Yesterday I did some research, scanning the Internet for potential sites to review on my topic. But I’m really only half done.

Like anything else, I think the only way I am going to get this proposal done and out is by promising myself a reward. Shoot, if my current host Panera and other places like movie theaters can do it, why can’t I? A “selfie reward” I will call it.

The big time waster for me thus far has been my affection for movies, especially the classic ones. When I haven’t been sleeping,I have been watching flicks.

I think how I can get this job done is to give myself the right to watch a decent movie after its finished, and not until. I’ll have something to look forward to and therefore be more motivated.

I wonder what’s on Netflix tonight? Oh forget it! When I get home I’ll do a little research, go to bed and hit it hard in the morning.

At least then I can make some morning Joe.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized