Thursday, June 29, 2017

How blind we are to the racism around us

I don't know when I've been madder!

Of course I've come pretty close with the trauma brought to our country by the campaign and election of a person totally ill equipped to be our president. But an article that has gotten me so riled up in today's Washington Post is just another clear indication of the long-standing problem we have faced in our country - racism and the belief that we Eurocentric whites are superior to everyone else in the world. It was of course first manifest when our forebears stole a vast portion of a continent from an indigenous population which we saw as inferior. And then African-Americans were enslaved not only to build the first edifices of our our capital that "express freedom" and also built the rich economy of the South. Yet for the past eight years we were misled as we felt that the election of a black president had overcoming all of that. And now, a simple story, fortunately not as traumatic as "police murders," shows us how far we have yet to go in realizing that Black Lives Matter

My horror was all occasioned by today's article by Petula Dvorak's in today's issue of The Washington Post, June 27, 2017, entitled:
"On the mall selling cold drinks can get a black youth into hot water"
with the subtitle
"On the mall, fear of young black men armed with bottles of water"

Having lost out on other summer jobs, three young African-Americans, ages 16 and 17, thought they could make some money and be of help to people by selling water on the National Mall on an extremely hot day for $1.00.

"Selling Water While Black was enough to get the teens… handcuffed and humiliated by
Park Police working a undercover sting targeting illegal vendors.
The three youth were dumping the melting ice out of their bins, about to head home,
when they were surrounded by three undercover officers
who pulled out their badges and cuffed the boys
before questioning or conversation even began…
There they were, hands behind their backs,
one splayed on a sidewalk, as tourists walked by and gawked…
It was embarrassing. All these people watching us thinking we”re just criminals.
He'd never been in handcuffs before. He said they hurt."

So that's the basic story. There's really no more I can add. You must read the rest of the article to get the flavor of its totality. One of the youth was fearful that his mother would be mad at him – when she finally picked him up, after about an hour and a half in 90° heat. His answer was heartbreaking. "She was happy that I was alive," he said.

It is infuriating to me the double standard by which so many of us make judgments. Perhaps this comes at a particular time when I was again sensitized to our countries racism by one of my former students, a large, heavy–set African-American. This gentle, extremely pleasant young man wrote on Facebook about the embarrassment he experiences time and again when clerks check his $20 bill to see if it is counterfeit!

In my 91 year of life I have been heartened to see – and be a modest part of – the positive direction I thought had brought us beyond the divisiveness that surrounds us. The task before us is greater than ever in arousing a “true moral majority" that seeks equality and justice for all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm sorry, I just can't stop ranting,

and this time it's not about the presidency. It's about us, and our selfishness and concern for our only comfort and convenience that we failed to do all we can to help save the planet for posterity. Thus I become cynical and yearn for the old days. Oh, I know they were anything but the "good ole' days" for far too much of our population – African-Americans, Native Americans and those of a minority sexual orientation.  While I recognize we have ways to go  in those areas,I am truly amazed by the progress we have made since my growing up in Texas in the depression years. But for most of the "other" Americans it was a time of commitment to a cause and ready to deny ourselves for the good of the world as we saw it.  For us a much larger middle-class it was a relaxed and comfortable way of life.

I say this because I have been pondering a recent article in the Washington Post, "The inevitable climate solution." It was written by two former presidential cabinet members, one Republican and one Democrat, George P. Shultz and Lawrence H. Summers.  While I must admit that while I didn't understand the technicalities of their position, I was not prepared for the statement that follows

This approach ensures that working-class Americans
benefit financially.
Because energy use rises with income and the dividend
would be equal for all.
The Treasury Department estimates that the bottom 70% of Americans would be better off
with the carbon dividend plan.

How many of us "liberal activists" fall into that category? We are the selfish major destroyers of the environment. I'm appalled at how often we fail to follow the simple practices that scientific studies – from proper waste disposal to excessive use of plastic water bottles and the thousands of other proven environmentally wise practices.

I truly believe that too many of us in, or nearing that 30%, who have been content to exert our energies toward the ballot box and selfishly pursued our own comfortable lifestyle. In doing so we have failed to join what I am still convinced are the majority of Americans who want a more civil, sharing country and world that cares for more than our own comfort and the future of the world.

I wonder what sort of revolutionary spirit to join us in such an enterprise? Personally I still have hope and faith that this idealistic, committed younger generation can move us in this direction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's hard to muse at 92*

when one is a bit "under the weather", and does not have enough intellectual strength to work on the rant he would REALLY like to produce.  Thus it feels strange to merely add my "two cents worth" during this, one of the most perilous times I have witnessed in my almost century of life.

I've already disclosed my predilection to fall back to personal clichés. (I recall that in answering the thousands of Reddit questions during the past two years, I was asked about the use of idioms and clichés from my era.) I think they are more expressive of ones feelings than the computieze and tweets of today.  So I shall continue to do so.

The one that has come to mind first relates to the "chickens coming home to roost."  And I think that relates to "one reaps what one sows." Certainly the "Liar in Chief" was telling the truth when he stated he "knew how to make deals". And this is what we have gotten, a dealmaker who casts aside established rules, protocols and commitments as well as moral rectitude to achieve victory for himself over anyone or anything standing in his way.

I'm affronted by his being seen throughout the world as speaking for my/our country. Through his caustic divisiveness, he has turned back the progress of  human and civil rights made in my lifetime.  He has personified and resurrected the image of the "Ugly American" throughout the world that millions have worked for years to overcome.   I am personally dismayed as an educator that our educational system failed in its responsibility to educate a thoughtful citizenry that would so  easily fall prey to the hollow promises of someone who represents the worst of the American character.

Through the years our country has achieved a vaunted reputation identified as "American Exceptionalism". In spite of our "sins" a reputation has been built and accepted by many throughout the world that our countries' leadership has had a positive influence in ameliorating suffering and leading the nations of the world toward peace.

Yet in far too many cases this leadership has been undermined by actions and moral failures that have "come home to roost."  I sincerely believe that for many reasons – from selfishness to the speed of change – we have begun to lose our way and must return to re-committing ourselves to human values that reflect a concern for the welfare of all races and religions.  "Globalism" is not a newly coined word or concept.  Republican candidate for president in 1940, Wendell Willkie's  book, ONE World joined the pronouncements of President Roosevelt in recognizing our role in leadership toward world peace through the United Nations.

And that's why I'm hopeful that I'll feel better soon to complete the one topic "weighing heavy on my heart". Of course I had to end with a cliché.

Ron Lehker

*I know I'm only 91, but I like the rhythmic effect.