“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
Sigh. The violence in Baltimore saddens me. It is all so damn sad. It doesn’t help Freddie Gray. It doesn’t help the protesters. It doesn’t help the City of Baltimore.
Martin Luther King, after studying Ghandi’s methods and teachings, decided that nonviolence was the way to make a statement and continue to keep the moral high ground. Today, the people of Baltimor; the poor people of Baltimore, the youth of Baltimore, have lost the moral high ground. They can talk about poverty. They can talk about police brutality. All America will see is pictures of burning cars and innocent store owners crying about their looted stores.
Baltimore could and should have been different. It is a city that has a black mayor. It is a city that has tons of black officers on its police force. It is a city that has a black police chief. Therefore, this wasn’t a black-white thing. This was an us-vs-them thing… or maybe it was a rich-vs-poor thing. I don’t know, but without the race thing in the way I thought that there was a chance for quick and thoughtful discussion leading to some real change. Fire, rocks and injured police officers have ended any thoughts of rapid anything. Progress is now going to be slow. Very slow.
We must remember the lessons from those who have come before us, like Dr. Martin Luther King. The problems in the inner city aren’t new. We have tackled them before. The violence in the inner city isn’t new. We have tackled it before. The problems in our police force are not NEW!! We can fix these problems if we have the will.
But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease. There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
Everyone is familiar with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Whether you love him, you hate him or you’re indifferent to his existence on this earth, you’re still aware of the speech.
If you’re sitting in front of your computer at home, at work or anywhere in between, I would like to ask you a question — what is your dream? Do you dream of being able to send your kids to college? Do you dream that simple dream of being able to pay your bills and have some money left over at the end of the month? Do you dream of being able to go to your doctor without having to worry about how much the prescriptions, the diagnostic tests and other procedures may cost? Do you dream of getting paid a living wage? What is your dream?
When I look at the life of Martin Luther King, I look at someone who was focused on justice and equal opportunity for all. Every now and then I think we, as progressives, get lost and lose our focus. Every time we open our mouths, some conservative will stand up and say, “I object.” Sometimes we get caught up in the back-and-forth with conservatives. Sometimes we forget that our goal is to accomplish something. Our goal is to stand up for justice and equal opportunity. Our goal is not to combat every single, silly utterance of the Right. (See Pat Robertson, Sarah Palin and RushLimbaugh for starters.)
To combat the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, we were told we had to bail out Wall Street. Others have said that we should have let Wall Street flounder and bailed out Main Street. Wall Street is now rolling in record profits because of our money. Main Street is hurting. Where’s the justice? Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and Congress need to enact legislation that is going to seriously help Main Street. Main Street is the engine that will create jobs for the rest of us. The goal of this legislation should not be to hand out money to a couple of fat cats, but to enact legislation that will help revitalize Main Street. As Main Street returns to its former glory, it will begin to hire.
I’m not sure where the idea of “green jobs” came from. I’m not sure why it has been pushed to the back burner… or even taken off the stove of ideas. It is time for Ross Feingold, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to figure out a way to enact a series of bills targeted to help our environment and create millions of new jobs. We need to be able build large wind farms. We need to figure out how to build a smarter electrical grid that will easily transfer the power created by these wind farms in the Midwest to our large urban centers which need the energy. We need to give small, medium and large companies opportunities with these contracts. This legislation should include language that prevents jobs from being shipped overseas. Everything should be made here in America. This will give everybody an equal opportunity in an industry that should be around for a good while. (BTW, why haven’t we poured money into those Telsa cars? An electric car that really works and is ready to drive today? I’m just asking.) Why is this so hard?