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Whose America?

This is not the America that I grew up in.

I grew up in the 1970s. Forty years ago, for a person of color, the world was still your oyster. You could do anything that you wanted—as long as you put your mind to it.

Work hard and be rewarded

Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas (LOC)

You had to work hard. The mantra that was beaten into all of us was to get your education. Education was the ticket to a better life. Education was the way out of the ghetto. That was the way out of low-end jobs. Education.

People of color understood that the playing field wasn’t level, but this obstacle could be overcome with hard work. Then something happened during the 1980s. America stopped investing in education. We stopped investing in ourselves. Sure, President Clinton and President Obama did their best to reverse this trend, but when you look back over the last 30 to 40 years, we simply have not invested in ourselves.

Instead, we believed, as a nation, that tax cuts for the wealthy would help everyone. It was like magic pixie dust. Tax cuts would turn everything into gold and silver.

The fact is that tax cuts helped only the rich. No one else. There was no money for infrastructure. There was no money for education. There was only money to help the rich get richer—just as they were designed to do.

President Joe Biden

As comedian Steve Martin used to say, “I’m just a wild and crazy guy.” Joe Biden wants to do something crazy. Joe Biden wants to invest in us.

In his State of the Union address, Joe Biden laid out a plan in which we would invest in the United States of America. We would repair and build bridges. We would improve our infrastructure. We would improve our electrical grid. We would invest billions into high-speed broadband. We would invest in ourselves so that we can compete with China, Russia, and any other nation in the world. We would invest in education again. Two years of free community college, this is one of the best ideas I have heard in decades. Let’s not saddle our young adults with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

How can you be an American and oppose this? Well, if you are a Republican and you really don’t want to see a Democratic president succeed, you can oppose this. The first thing out of your mouth would be surprise at the “ridiculously” high price tag.

I would ask how much should we spend on a country of over 330 million people in order to improve the lives of everyone? A couple hundred million? A couple hundred billion? Or should we spend what is necessary in order to improve the lives of Americans?

Here’s my question: Would you invest $10,000 in your own education and training? $40,000 for the wellbeing of your family of four? Well, that’s more than what Joe Biden is asking: $3 trillion dollars for 330 million people comes to $9,090 per person. Don’t you think everyday Americans are worth an investment of ten thousand dollars, when we just let the top CEOs of America’s biggest companies—Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and others—increase their personal wealth by well over a billion dollars each last year?

Republicans commonly pass spending bills for aircraft carriers, fighter jets, and tax cuts without a second thought about how to pay for them. (Of course, many of them lied to us and told him that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. That has never happened. That never will happen.) Now, that we are trying to help the American people, now they want a price tag. I’m sorry, I’m not playing this game.

Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina gave what can only be described as a sad rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address. It is clear that Senator Scott lives in a bubble in which no reality can really penetrate. Then again, when you think about it, he has to live in a bubble. If he were to see that the Republican Party has turned in the party of white supremacy, he would have to question his own self-worth. Why does he belong to a party that hates who he is?

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By |2021-05-16T15:55:10-04:00May 16th, 2021|Coronavirus, Economy, Newsletter, Poverty, Race|Comments Off on Whose America?

Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

(I wrote this for the Urban News in December 2020.)

I’m exhausted. I’m physically and mentally spent. The past six months have been draining. Almost every minute of every day I spent wondering what bizarre, crazy, cockamamie, cruel tweet and/or policy was Donald Trump going to implement today.

Were we going to lock immigrant children in outdoor prisons in Alaska? Was the Supreme Court or any number of federal judges going to strike down Obamacare? Was it going to be okay to dump coal waste in my front yard or possibly in our national parks?

Then, just to prolong the pain and suffering, the election was not over on November 3. It took four more days for projections to declare a winner. I could’ve cried big, huge crocodile tears but I did not. I rolled up my sleeves and asked, “What’s next?”

Hillsong Church

I have only gone to a couple of alternative church services in my life. In my opinion, the services were short on sermons but there was a lot of singing and fellowship. I like more traditional church services. Hillsong Church is one of these mega-churches. It started in Australia and now has churches (branches) in six continents.

Celebrities like Kevin Durant and Selena Gomez have been seen at the church. Pastor Carl Lentz, the leader of the New York branch, had a personal relationship with Justin Bieber! Now, you have to say that’s cool—or at least TMZ thinks so. Lentz had been mentored by Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong.

But then there seemed to be a loss of focus. There was lying, cheating, and infidelity. Early last month, Carl Lentz was fired from Hillsong Church. In an Instagram post, the pastor said, “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life.”

This statement is a little jarring coming from a pastor. Wouldn’t you figure that his most important relationship would be with God first, and his wife second? Maybe I’m wrong.

To me, there are a lot of similarities between Donald Trump, the Hillsong Church, and pastor Carl Lentz. Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church seem to focus on superficial appearances. Smiles and a good photo op are more important than sitting in any “stupid” policy meeting. Being friends with Justin Bieber seem to be more important than the tenets of Christianity— honesty, fidelity, and humility.

We all remember Donald Trump clearing the street so that he could walk across Lafayette Square, unimpeded by protesters, and wave a Bible in his hand (upside down) for a photo opportunity as he stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Trump has lied. He has lied about just about everything you and I can think of, and he is still lying.

Of course, I may be wrong about Carl Lentz. He may be a great guy and fantastic pastor who just lost his way. I know I’m not wrong about Donald Trump.

Trump

Trump and his incessant whining about the election are like that child who keeps asking if he can have a cookie after being told “NO!” three or four times. (Trump and the child both need to be sent to their room.)

Trump and his accomplices have come up with one conspiracy theory after another. He has filed one lawsuit after another and lost in court time after time, but he continues. Why lie and insist that he won the election which he lost by over 7 million votes?

Maybe he truly believes that former Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez (who died seven years ago) infiltrated Smartmatic (a company that supplied voting machines to only a single US county); released a computer virus that changed Trump votes to Biden votes; and covered its tracks so well that no Republican or Democrat noticed the problem—oh, and did this only in states where Trump lost.

Or maybe his whining has a purpose. Maybe Trump understands that he is in legal jeopardy. He is sending out email after email to his supporters begging for money. Maybe Trump can’t simply ask for money in a straightforward fashion. Maybe the only way that he can shake millions of dollars out of his flock—$207.5 million between Nov. 3 and Dec. 3—is with these stupid conspiracy theories.

Maybe Trump is ending his presidency as he began it, with a grift. Several federal agencies are looking into his inaugural committee which took in $107 million dollars but has not accounted for its spending. Now, as Trump exits the White House, he again is vacuuming up money from his followers.

At work a couple of weeks ago, one of the anesthesiologists was sitting across from me in the surgeons’ lounge. He wanted to know why I supported Joe Biden. He asked me to explain my support without mentioning Donald Trump. I just smiled and took a deep breath:

Joe Biden will take the coronavirus seriously. Joe Biden will restore the NATO alliance. Joe Biden will work toward universal healthcare and will strengthen Obamacare. Biden will help America rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and help you and me have cleaner air to breathe and have clean water to boat, fish, or drink. He will fight for social justice and help reform our justice system so that there are far fewer George Floyds. He will get our economy on track, and he will tax the wealthy. Biden will never call White supremacists “good people.” He will work to end corporate welfare. He will work with Democrats and Republicans and find some way to reform our immigration policy.

Not a bad list of reasons, after all. (more…)

By |2021-01-08T14:37:25-04:00January 8th, 2021|Elections, Healthcare, Party Politics|Comments Off on Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

Law and Order

(I wrote this for the Urban News in September 2020.)

Tens of thousands of Americans recently descended onto Washington DC to reenact the March on Washington in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The purpose of this march was to rekindle the feeling and the momentum that were present back in 1963. While George Floyd May 25th death while being detained by the Minneapolis police may have been the catalyst that started the protests around the country, he has been far from the only person of color to die in police custody. Jacob Blake is the latest in a long line of men of color who get detained by the police for some minor reason (or none) and somehow end up getting shot.

In Blake’s case, like Floyd’s, we have an infamous video. The circumstances leading up to the video are unclear. Mr. Blake was trying to break up a domestic dispute between two women; the police were called; Jacob Blake, unarmed, is seen = walking to the driver-side door of a family-type van. He opens the door to get in—where his sons are waiting for him—and then gets shot seven times in the back. Thankfully, Jacob Blake is alive. Unfortunately, he is paralyzed.

We Need Action

Since the public reaction to George Floyd’s death began early this summer, we have had plenty of protests. We have protested in large cities and small communities. We have had moments of silence. We have also had thought-provoking, emotionally and mentally stimulating speeches. It seems to me, that the time for speeches is over. Now we need a plan to move forward.

Every city needs to establish an Office of Neighborhood Safety—a civilian-led office that works closely with the police department on decreasing violence and increasing safety and well-being in our communities.

Police departments need to be refocused on the core mission which is to promote safety in the community. (This is not DE-funding, but RE-allocating budgets.) Some police funding should be diverted to social services. Police officers should not respond to situations in which someone with mental illness is exhibiting erratic behavior. Let a highly trained social workers attempt to defuse the situation before calling in the police.

All police shootings should be investigated by independent federal agencies and NOT local officials. (This will also require that our federal agencies, especially those under an Attorney General, be thoroughly depoliticized and returned to independence from the White House.) Our goal must be to keep everyone safe and have zero unarmed Americans shot by the police.

David Cornelius Smith

David Cornelius Smith was a 28-year-old gentleman who suffered from some mental issues. The police were called because he was acting erratically. A struggle ensued as the police tried to subdue him, including by tasing him five times—but were still unable to control him. The police finally wrestled Mr. Smith to the ground and pin him, face down. One police officer is on his legs. Another has his knee on Mr. Smith’s neck. After over four minutes, Mr. Smith is not moving. He is also not breathing. The Minneapolis police officers call for an ambulance and David Cornelius Smith dies in the hospital several days later.

This event occurred in September 2010. It involved the same Minneapolis police department that held down George Floyd 10 years later. Back then, there were promises of reform. There was also a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit paid out to Mr. Smith’s family. But still the behavior persists. Still nothing has changed. This is truly depressing.

Yet it is important for us to remember that change is hard. Police departments have been allowed to police our communities as they see fit for decades. We are asking for major reform. This will not come easy. This is a fight that we need to continue on the local, state, and federal levels.

Law and Order

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran a campaign based on “restoring Law and Order.” The country had just completed eight years of Democratic rule under John F. Kennedy (1961-62) and Lyndon Johnson (1963-68). Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April 1968. Bobby Kennedy—running against Johnson—was assassinated in June. Protests and riots broke out throughout the nation. This was against a backdrop of national introspection over the Vietnam War.

But things are vastly different in 2020. Donald Trump is trying to run his reelection campaign based on “law and order.” The idea that Trump—who has ignored the Constitution, bent and broken scores of laws, and run roughshod over Congress and even ignored Supreme Court rulings—can rebrand himself as someone who supports the military and the police, is somewhat ironic. It would almost be amusing if it weren’t so appalling.

Richard Nixon was the challenger in 1968. Donald Trump is the incumbent. Therefore, whatever disorder and lawlessness that exists sprang up under his presidency. Trump has proven time and time again that he does not believe that laws apply to him.

Donald Trump obstructed justice. In the Mueller report, they clearly outlined multiple times in which Donald Trump tried to influence the outcome of the investigation, he and his Attorney General, William Barr, told us that there was no collusion, but we also know that Paul Manafort gave campaign information to a Russian citizen (the US intelligence community believes that the Russian citizen is also a Russian spy). This simple act is in fact collusion.

We also know that Donald Trump solicited the president of Ukraine to help Trump win reelection. This is also against the law. Donald Trump got impeached for this action. Donald Trump just accepted the Republican nomination for president and held a campaign rally on the White House lawn. This is a clear violation of the Hatch act. This is against the law.

Many of the people that have surrounded Trump for the last 36 months have been arrested and thrown in jail for different violations of… the law. It seems a little far-fetched to say that you are the law and order president when you and your cronies are constantly breaking the law.

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By |2020-11-02T20:10:44-04:00October 25th, 2020|Civil Liberty, Civil Rights, Domestic Issues|Comments Off on Law and Order
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