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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

April 7, 2008

 

Staying the Course, McCain Style

Just one day after attacks inside the safest area in Baghdad - the Green Zones - killed three and wounded thirty-one American soldiers, Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain came up with this one:

""We must once again reject, as we did in early 2007, the calls for a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal of our forces just at the moment when they are succeeding,"
-McCain

What McCain means to say, even after the attacks, is "Stay the Course", no matter how stupid or irresponsible that course might be. And it is both of those things.

It has come to this: We can no longer keep the our troops safe inside of the Green Zone. There is no safe place to e an American soldier inside of Iraq any more. And our involvement in Iraq has made Afghanistan a hotbed of violence as well with The Taliban, those supporters and guardians of Osama bin-Laden (yeah, remember him?) and al-Qaeda, back in control of much of the nation we chased them out of not so long ago.

And McCain wants to continue on the same old tired course which his would-be predecessor and obvious role-model put him on.

Does this guy read the papers or what?

McCain is desperately trying to find his position on anything and everything, including the Iraq war. The guy who ran as "The Maverick" has long since left the building. In his stead is this guy who thinks that the tax cuts "the other McCain" voted against; and the war which that "other McCain" hated are both good ideas. He has embraced George Bush's policies almost in their entirety and has drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak.

And he wants us all to take a sip as well.

"I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for president that they cannot keep if elected,"
-McCain

And I do believe that Senator McCain will keep his promises, including the one which will keep our troops in Iraq, Do I think that McCain was serious when he said that our being in Iraq for "one hundred years" would be "just fine with me"? You bet I do. He believes it because somewhere along the line Bush and that same band of crooks and liars which McCain himself used to chastise made him a believer.

Of course McCain doesn't think that anyone could get the troops out of Iraq anytime soon because he can't envision anything but President Bush's "Stay the Course" plan, and that just won't do it for those of us at home paying attention.

Isn't it ironic that Iraq used to be the most important issue on the minds of us regular Americans, but today the economy - the Bush economy - is miles ahead of it? And isn't it also ironic that McCain has adopted President Bush's stance on both of those issues. I guess McCain must feel that getting the support of the big Bush donors is more important than his reputation , his morals or his soul.

Couldn't this guy, at his age, find a better role model?

About one year ago, Senator Hillary Clinton had asked the Defense Department about their plan for the eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Not only did she not receive a copy of that plan, but they were dumbfounded that anyone would even suggest such a thing. We know that the Bush administration had no intention of ever withdrawing from Iraq, what with it being a great way for their "base or haves and have mores" to gain more of our hard-earned middle class dollars. But what in God's name is McCain thinking?

As Democratic candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Clinton talk about responsible ways to get us out of there, but keep us within striking distance if the need arises, I wonder what McCain's plan is? If he is elected, then re-elected, by the end of his second term would he then have a plan? Or are the deaths of thousands more American soldiers just the price we'll have to pay for freedom... again?

Not even in one hundred years.

Today McCain has no other plan other than to "Stay the Course", and that's just what he'll

-Noah Greenberg



THE LEGACY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

At 6:01 pm on Thursday, April 4, 1968, a single shot rang out. It shattered the jaw of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had been standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, went through his shoulder and traveled down his spine. He was pronounced dead an hour later. Like many families in Philadelphia, mine was shattered by the news. My parents were civil rights workers, as were nearly all our family friends, black and white. The phone kept ringing long into the night.

I was an eighth grade student at a Catholic girl’s school in Mount Airy when King was murdered. I went to school the next day hung over with grief. My family hadn’t known Dr. King personally, but we had known many of his close friends and associates, some of whom had stayed at our house. I felt personally touched–and broken–by his murder, as did so many others.

Despite the 40 years that have passed, that night and the following day remain vivid memories. It was a warm spring and tulips bloomed all around the border of the schoolyard. That morning, I had gone to school stunned, but by afternoon I was sitting in Mother Superior’s office, unremorseful and angry. I had slapped another girl when she made a racist joke about the assassination. When the officiating nun reprimanded me, I demanded that she also reprimand the other girl. I got into a shouting, then shoving match with the nun over Dr. King. When it was over, I was suspended from school for a day, given an essay to write over the weekend and had learned another unpleasant lesson about racism.

The outrage I felt and the violent turn it took in the schoolyard was soon to be replicated on a much grander and far more violent scale across the country. Riots broke out in more than 60 cities, resulting in over 40 deaths, hundreds of injuries and arrests and millions in property damage. The outrage was palpable. President Lyndon Johnson declared a national day of mourning on April 7th. On April 8th Coretta Scott King led a march on Memphis. King’s funeral was held April 9th.

For me, King’s assassination was a turning point. The men and women I had met through my parents’ civil rights work were people who awed me. I was already doing scout work on the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy–who would himself be assassinated less than two months after King.

It’s easy to look back at that time as one of both hope and despair, excitement and outrage and feel nostalgic for the drama of it all. As a nation, we were on a precipice that could lead to change so vital and compelling that it would alter history, or we could be pulled over into an abyss of violence and only further widen the chasm between white and black America.

Throughout the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic candidates have invoked the name and messages of Dr. King repeatedly. First Hillary Clinton referred to King’s “sheer urgency of now” phrase, then Barack Obama picked it up. King’s “I have a dream” speech has been invoked by both candidates. When Obama gave his speech on race in Philadelphia in response to racist commentaries by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, some said it was the most important moment in race history since the speeches of Dr. King.

When people are nostalgic for an earlier era or have not even lived through that era, it’s easy to make comparisons that don’t exist. Many have tried to excuse Jeremiah Wright’s comments, for example, by saying that they mirror comments by Dr. King. They do not.

There have been a few–very few–utterly singular figures in American history. Many of them were the so-called Founding Fathers: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. Dr. King was one of those singular figures and I, for one, resist the notion of replication. There was no comparable figure in American history to Martin Luther King, Jr. People can compare and contrast all they want with this or that orator, same or different race, but the fact is, the mark Dr. King left on America was his and his alone. To suggest otherwise is to undercut the superlative and unique contribution to the nation that he single-handedly made.

Part of King’s legacy has been realized: The boycotts and marches he organized helped to end the Jim Crow laws that had distorted and besmirched American democracy and destroyed so many black lives. The very fact that a black man and a woman are candidates for the presidency is in part the result of King’s ardent quest for equality.

When most of us think of the speeches of Dr. King, we think of his “I have a dream” speech, or the speech he gave less than 24 hours before he was murdered: “I have seen the promised land.”

A different speech resonates for me and haunts me as I think about current events in Philadelphia. Sadly, Dr. King’s legacy has failed to prevail in our city and in so many others.

When King was working on poverty issues. he gave a speech in Newark, New Jersey, the site of race riots in July 1967. A mantra of the political time–and of the rioting that was pervading the country from Watts to Cicero, Newark to Philadelphia–was “burn, baby, burn.”

King took that and re-framed it in a viscerally compelling context: “It’s not burn baby burn but learn baby learn so you can build baby build and earn baby earn.”

The Democratic presidential candidates have been chanting a mantra for change and either of them would indeed change Washington, if only symbolically through their race or gender. But the kind of change that Dr. King envisioned wasn’t the kind of change either Obama or Clinton talk about. King’s vision for change ran as deep as one can get–to the fundament of equality that we are nowhere near achieving in this country.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the “post-racial” and “post-feminist” in this election season. We know, of course, that America is neither post-racial nor post-feminist. Racism still flourishes, if covertly, in America and sexism is as blatant now as it was before women got the vote. Racism and sexism keep us from true equality.

In examining all the references to change and change we can believe in and solutions for change that have come from Obama and Clinton, I see their messages of change don’t address what has happened in the 40 years since I slapped a classmate and shoved a nun in my outrage and grief over King’s murder at my almost wholly white Catholic girl’s school that is now wholly black. King’s message and vision got lost somewhere along the way from the 1960s to now and talking about change isn’t enough to bring it back.

In the past week in Philadelphia 13 black teenagers were arrested in two horrifying incidents of violence in the Broad Street subway. In one, seven teens from Simon Gratz High School in East Germantown set out to beat someone up. They found Sean Conroy, 36, at 2:30 in the afternoon. They beat him until he had an asthma attack and died at the scene. A few days later another group of teens set upon a woman, chanting lines from a rap song and kicking and punching her. The woman lost *only* a tooth and some patches of hair, as well as her wallet and purse, but the incident was as random and violent as the one that killed Conroy–but fortunately not fatal.

In the days after King’s murder, the violence was rampant, the outrage uncontrollable. I was just a kid and I felt it deeply enough to slap a classmate and shove a nun. I can only imagine what adults–especially African American adults–were feeling.

But that violence–misplaced and wrong as it was, particularly given Dr. King’s message of non-violence and civil disobedience–made sense. All of us for whom Dr. King was an iconic figure, an embodiment of hope and change and *future* felt betrayed by his murder. We wanted vengeance and vigilante justice and for someone–anyone–to answer for what had happened. And we would slap and shove and riot and burn until our anger was appeased.

That’s a different kind of violence. Retributive and inexcusable, yet thoroughly comprehensible. But how to make sense of what has happened in the years since King’s assassination? How do we make sense of the lure of guns and drugs, gangs and violence? How do we make sense of black teenagers looking to kill for no reason except that they can?

In 2008, one in eight black males between the ages of 15 and 30 is in prison. One in 100 black females between the ages of 15 and 30 is in prison. One in 50 black males and one in 150 black females is infected with HIV. Two out of every five black children is living in poverty. More than 70 percent of African American children are born out of wedlock. African-American babies have three times the rate of infant mortality as white babies and are 20 times more likely to be born addicted to drugs. Nearly half of all African-American high school students drop out before graduation.

These statistics are staggering, shattering, saddening. Millions of lives are being lost to violence, ignorance, despair. Where is Dr. King’s legacy of “learn baby learn so you can earn baby earn and build baby build”? How do we fix this ongoing tragedy in our community?

It’s terribly easy and rewarding to chant mantras for change in a crowd of fellow believers. It makes you feel good, makes you feel hopeful.

But most of us don’t live at rallies for presidential candidates where everyone in attendance is like-minded–or appears to be for the duration of the speech. Most of us live in places where even looking at someone the wrong way–as the woman in the subway apparently did on April 3rd–can get you killed.

So how do we rediscover Dr. King’s vision? How do we revitalize his legacy?

On the anniversary of his death, there were solemn remembrances. Rev. Jesse Jackson, the last person to see King before he died, spoke from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and thousands marched in Memphis. NPR replayed his “promised land” speech. Many of us spent the day in some semblance of mourning.

But memorializing goes far deeper than sentiment. To truly memorialize Dr. King we have to re-embrace his message of change and hope and vision. We can’t just talk about it, we have to actualize it.

Dr. King’s life–and brutal, senseless murder–changed my young life and the lives of so many others 40 years ago. Many of us dedicated our lives to service, turning our outrage into a vehicle for change. On this tragic anniversary, we need to revisit Dr. King’s message, his striving for equality for all Americans. We need to remember what it was he stood for.

We know exactly where we can start to make his vision a reality: With ourselves, our families, our communities. Dr. King wanted America to be a land of opportunity for all those who had been denied the promise of American democracy. We can–and must–fulfill that quest for equity and justice. We cannot let King’s dream die nor his message fade. We cannot allow one more senseless killing, one more life lost to drugs or guns, HIV or prison. On this solemn anniversary we should re-dedicate ourselves to one of the most visionary Americans who ever lived, a man who gave his life to make the lives of others better.

Martin Luther King’s life was cut short by senseless violence, but his life taken by those who wanted to stop his message, to shut him up forever. He didn’t die over a drug deal or an unpaid debt or a fight. He died for justice, for equality.

He died for America. Don’t we owe him something in return?



In response to Bush's bad jobs numbers, Robert Chapman writes:

The worst part of the bad economic news reported in the Weekend Madman, is that it isn't news to most of us.

The average American trying to hold onto a job and make ends meet already knows that the economy is in bad shape.

I used to be able tank up and drive my car for a week on $ 8.50. After seven years of pro-business, high growth GOP policies, it now costs me $ 37.

This is a major drain on my budget.

The job picture is even worse. I used to be able to find primary jobs and interview a few times a year. Moonlighting or finding part-time jobs for my kids was accessible and feasible. It was easy to supplement income to make ends meet.

Now I am constantly meeting people trying to work two or three of the jobs I used to moonlight in or send my kids to. Besides making it harder to supplement one's income, one is hesitant to take moonlighting because it might cut someone off who needs the job as a primary source of income.

This is the economic equivalent of the death of a thousand cuts. No one of these wounds in itself is significant, but as they pile up, the effects accumulate and one dies a slow and painful death.



And in response to, "Of course this new was released Friday afternoon. It seems as if any and all news coming out of the Bush administration (a.k.a. the Administration of Diminished Responsibility) is being released Friday afternoons nowadays," Robert Scardapane writes:

Madman, actually Bush had the same policy during the first Bush recession! Do these people really think it's not going to be noticed? When a person gets a pink slip, I doubt the day matter to them.


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-Noah Greenberg