Baltimore the beautiful city

Posted July 8, 2015 on 3:09 pm | In the category Human Rights, Racism, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Has anyone ever produced more nostalgically beautiful music about the United States than the ultra-Canadian McGarrigle Sisters and their talented offspring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, especially in their communal album “The McGarrigle Hour”?  If you don’t know what we mean, get yourself a copy of this splendid  cd, listen to cut 17, “Talk to me of Mendocino”, the almost heartbreaking  love song written by Anna McGarrigle to a California that will soon no longer exist, and  move on  to cut number 18, “Baltimore the Beautiful City”, listed as a traditional song that they sang as buskers in US cities.This song was of course not written about the fires that ravaged Baltimore, the northernmost of southern cities, in the spring, but it captures the essence of the emotional drain that followed in its wake and no doubt found resonance in the nightmare that followed in Charleston, South Carolina.

Strong Men in anguish prayed

calling out to the heavens for rain

while the fire in ruins laid

Baltimore their beautiful city.

Between March 23rd and June 30, 2015 there were 100 homicides in Baltimore.  The excellent and historic Baltimore newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, recently published the basic facts about these 100 homicides: name of victim, place of residence, age, gender and race.    Three of the victims were white, one Asian, and 7 female, all the rest were black males. and almost all of them were under 35.  No doubt each one of these cases has a backstory worth hearing, but one thing is very clear:  It is dangerous to be a young black man in Baltimore, and there is every reason to feel that you have very few prospects of an improved life through hard work or better education if you were born into this syndrome.  There are of course exceptions, but such exceptions tend to move out into the safer areas of town or out of town, which is also where the white population has been drifting for years.  The city centre is simply too dangerous and if you can afford to leave it, you do leave.  There is no information given on this list about the perpetrators of the homicides, but it is certainly not the case that the police force, which has  been too easily identified as the cause rather than the solution of Baltimore’s racial problems, (by most estimates about half of the police officers in Baltimore are black)  was involved with  many, or even any, of these homicides.  Any serious improvement in this situation can only occur when the basic problem of  an understandable feeling of hopelessness in young black males is met by a willingness in the population as a whole to deal with the underlying problems for it.  Baltimore, the beautiful city, still has some of that southern grace at its northernmost outpost, but also much of  an understood racial division that too often is a destructive part of it.  The solution has to start in finding a way out of  this social structure.

 

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Race, Obama and the Deferred Dream

Posted September 1, 2014 on 10:52 am | In the category Obama, Politics, Press, Racism, Uncategorized | by Jeff

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                                     W.B. Yeats

Reading comments of readers of daily newspapers and reading or hearing the ongoing barrage of criticism and blame laid on the President by his political foes has led many who should know better to believe that President Obama is a human disaster, laying waste to the America we learned about in grade school. Listening to Obama’s supporters could lead us to the conclusion that he is too good to be true and that his political enemies are ignorant louts. Both sides can claim some evidence to support their views, but to get sucked into the mire of so-called analysis by our press pundits is to get lost in a maze of untruths, half-truths, facts, non-facts, beltway bullshit and sheer hate speech.

This is not to conclude that Obama has been a knight in shining armor; clearly he has not. But let’s review some of what he and we have had to put up with for six years:

* the idiotic nonsense of his country of birth with calls for his birth certificate continuing still some five years after it was produced;
* the absurd claims that he was a secret Muslim intent on bringing us sharia law;
* the public insults hurled at his wife for promoting healthy eating;
* criticism linking him to every failed democracy in the world, with John McCain leading a bitter vendetta against the man who defeated him in 2008;
* and, of course, the subtle and not so subtle, racist comments directed at him and his family. It is this factor that has mostly been an elephant on the table,    mostly ignored or simply pretended that the issue does not exist.

A good measure of where the U.S. is in its movement toward genuine racial equality is not so much the recent events in Ferguson Missouri, but rather the way in which the country has responded. A young, black teenager is gunned down with six shots by a white policeman. The teenager’s body is left in the street for over 4 hours without so much as a sheet over it. The police wait a few days and then finally release the policeman’s name, simultaneously beginning to slur the teenager with a video of him pushing a clerk in a convenience store. For many this was enough of a reason to execute the young man. The riots that followed were all too predictable as was the overreaction of the white police, which included arresting journalists, bringing in an ARMY TANK for God’s sake, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, and threatening law-abiding citizens participating in their constitutional right to protest. The NY Times did not help by publishing a front page story about the victim saying he “was no angel” and listing his many crimes – occasionally smoking marijuana, drinking beer underage, jostling a neighbor once – crimes that are consistent with growing up in America – white or black, and perhaps a reminder that none of us are “angels”.

So what has been the response? Well, it varied of course and mostly in predictable ways. There was the initial gnashing of teeth in most of the press with the notable exception of Fox News – an exception also predictable. Then over time the slurring of the victim, the calls for peace in the street, the calling of a grand jury investigation, the burial of the victim, and then back to a sense of normality which means that nothing much is likely to change. Although there is some public concern over their local police forces turning into military machines, dedicated to keeping the people under control rather than protecting them. We shall see where that goes.

But perhaps the best measure of where W.B. Yeats’ “worst…full of passionate intensity” have ended up is that a few weeks after the event, nearly $500,000 had been raised (some by the KKK) for the defense of a so far not even charged white policeman who managed to put 6 bullets in an unarmed black teenager. This spontaneous outpouring of support is as good a measure as any of where we are in our crawl toward racial equality. The money quote in the fund-raising for the officer came from one contributor who said: “We’ll all see this in the end that it was a good shooting. You know, it was a good kill.”

All of this keeps the issue of race on the table when thinking about Obama’s performance as President and the cost to America of continuing to avoid fully addressing the problems facing black Americans. Americans were justifiably proud of their willingness to vote an African American to the presidency – twice. Now they need to do the really hard work of persuading the rest of the country of the need for mutual respect and of the common interest in renewing the nation’s efforts to finally, at long last, put racism in its past. The effort needs a new beginning.

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Mike Huckabee: Ignoramus of the Day

Posted March 1, 2011 on 9:19 pm | In the category Huckabee, Politics, Press, Racism, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, [is] very different than the average American…….if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”

Republican presidential candidate, Fox News analyst and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee  on Steve Malzberg’s right-wing radio talk show.

There are three problems with Huckabee’s comments: 1) Obama was not raised in Kenya; 2) he made them on a national radio talk show; and 3) he has had no comment about them since having it brought to his attention that he was 100% wrong**.

I will add a fourth problem, that he is a likely candidate for President and we really do not need an ignoramus in that position. It would be more than troubling to think of him mistaking Kenya for – oh maybe Hawaii or Indonesia –the two places where Obama actually was raised. What is symptomatic in his comments and most reprehensible is the subtle racism. It is no secret to anyone who follows American politics that the fact that Obama is a black man drives some people nuts. Kind of the way Hillary Clinton’s gender drove them nuts. The fact that people are getting used to hearing this kind of nonsense is not a good sign.

**Huckabee’s spokesman Hogan Gidley did comment::“Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya.’ The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia.” Which does not explain how or why he then segued to discussing how Obama must have thought of the Mau Maus.

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