No Place of Justice for the Masses

As an American who absorbed the civic lessons about the government – its three branches which were put in place by the framers of the Constitution to insure that our government would be a democracy of the highest order – I grew up thinking that when all failed for people who were looking for justice, there would always be the United States Supreme Court. I grew up believing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was a place where anyone in trouble could find justice. Even the titles of these federal agencies brought a sense of comfort. When all else failed , there would always be something in our government which would protect the poor, the innocent and the forgotten.

But as I have grown older, I have been disappointed, over and over again, as I have watched the Court, for the most part, protect the interests of the government. In spite of the banter about the justices not being partisan, they have seemingly too often been aligned with the government and particular political parties.  I was stunned when I read that U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote, in the Dred Scott decision that there “were no rights of a black man that a white man is bound to respect.” I was stunned and hurt to learn that in the Buck v. Bell case, where a attorneys were fighting the right of an institution to forcibly sterilize people whom powers that be thought to be “feebleminded” that a former president of the United States, William Howard Taft, served as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the constitutionality of states carrying out the procedures. In that case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered by some to be this nation’s finest legal mind, aligned himself with his opinion that eugenics was a right thing in order to create a perfect race of people, and he wrote against Buck and her case. Buck was poor and a victim of the heinous belief system of eugenicists, which was popular in the 1920s, and Holmes wrote, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

There have been times, for sure, when the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on behalf of a marginalized group of people. Brown v. Board of Education is probably the best known, when the Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and the ever controversial Roe v. Wade ruled on behalf of women who declared that they, not the state, have a right to choose what they do with their bodies, but for too many cases, there has been no legal protection for the marginalized, not in local and state courts, and certainly not in federal courts.

If it is true that the Constitution was and is a magnificent document – and it really was – it is also true that too often, the tenets of that document have been woefully ignored. Among those tenets is the principle that all Americans were entitled to have speedy trials tried by a “jury of their peers.” And yet, in case after case, American courts have tried African Americans in trials which have had all-white juries, where black people have been deliberately excluded – and that is, if they have had a trial at all. Far too often, black people have only had to have been accused of a crime and a lynch mob has come and dragged them out of jail cells before a trial was ever held, killing them on the lawns of court houses or sometimes, in the deep woods – and none of these people have ever been arrested or held accountable.

It is a scary and real thought that there is no place where you might find justice in this land which some say is a “nation of laws.” It would be better to say that it is a nation of laws for those who can afford to pay for justice. Adam Cohen, in his book Imbeciles: The Supreme Court,American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, notes that the justice system in many cases has failed to adhere to the principle contained in the Hammurabi Code, which teaches that “the purpose of law is tonsure that the strong do not harm the weak.” That has not been the case, not in this country or elsewhere. Those who apply the law have been in too many cases totally biased and blind to the justice desired by “the least of these.” As Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said that it is true that life is better for an individual if he is “rich and guilty” than “poor and innocent.”

That fact leaves little room to believe in the justice system. In fact, that fact belies the reality that the ideal and the real too often do not intersect, and that despite the lofty words contained in our written documents, justice for many is simply not going to a reality. The poor, the left out and the left behind are just out of luck in this “land of the free and home of the brave.”

A candid observation …

 

The Definition of Strength

It has always seemed to me that the common definition of strength is not what it really is.

Many Americans this morning are celebrating that force is being used in the war-torn Middle East. The missiles fired on Syria were supposedly dropped because the administration, specifically, the president, were horrified by images of people who had been hit with a deadly gas.

Then, the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) was dropped in Afghanistan, killing a some members of ISIS.

Many Americans are rejoicing. They are saying that the moves made by the administration show “strength.” People are saying, “we are back in the game again.”

The game? What …game? Is it really a game that we seem to be on the brink of a deadly war?

Diplomacy, I guess, is a punk technique. In the presence of ISIS, the only way to handle this is to “bomb the —- out of them.” The way of the Empire is to engage in war, to force change by killing innocent people and destroying other countries.

People have been absolutely incensed with former President Obama for not engaging in war. It made him and the United States look weak, they say.

But this new president – this is the Popeye against the Brutus called terrorism. He really believes he can destroy ISIS with bombs.

Meanwhile, he is hurting his own people by proposing budget cuts that affect programs that help the poor, the elderly, and children.

It doesn’t matter, though. He does not see the irony of him and his administration being outraged about Syrians treated badly by their government while his own government is treating his own people badly, under the sanction of the law.

All that matters is that he is showing “strength” in a conflict which seemingly has no end. Americans will run to participate in a war against an idea, and in a war which has such deep roots that not even the strongest nuclear weapon would be effective.

Is it arrogance or hubris that makes a nation “strong?” That seems to be the message. In a world in which so many people profess to believe in Christianity, which touts the formation and preservation of community, the basic Christian message seems to be disposable.

Refraining from force is perceived as being weak. The strong do all they can to maintain power, a mindset which inevitably causes the less fortunate (or “weak”) to be trampled upon. The deployment of force is held more dear than is the exercise of compassion and restraint.

So, this American president is standing on a platform, beating his chest, bragging about his strength. He is Popeye; his “spinach” is the belief that using force means or defines that very strength.

Meanwhile, the huddled masses, here and around the world, will be trounced upon, and nobody seems to care.

So much for strength.

A candid observation …

Is White Supremacy a Disease?

As I have watched and listened to the GOP fight to “repeal and replace”  Obamacare, the ACA (Affordable Care Act), and have listened to the president say he is undoing policies put into place by President Obama, I have found myself wondering if what we are seeing thus far is nothing more than a serious backlash against the former president, instead of a desire to govern our country.

The current president seems to be competing with Obama, even now; he seems obsessed, actually. It began on Inauguration Day, with the president worrying about his numbers. He clearly wanted to be able to say that he had drawn more people than had his predecessor, though the pictures of his crowds, as compared to Obama’s, clearly showed that he had not.

He and the GOP have been intent on repealing and replacing the ACA because “we made a promise to the American people.” They did. When the ACA rolled out, there was stiff and virulent opposition to it. The Tea Party was able to organize around its opposition to the law, but now, even Trump supporters realize that the ACA, though not perfect, has enabled them to have health care …and they want the law to stay in place.  The town halls being held not just in Democratic strongholds, but also in places where the president is loved and supported, are showing that people want the ACA. They don’t want it repealed. They want lawmakers to fix it and then leave their healthcare alone.

In other words, the people do not care about the GOP keeping that particular promise. They like what they are getting, flaws and all.

That being the case, why isn’t the GOP hearing “the American people?”  If they want to get rid of the bill so that they can give the wealthy a tax break, and give advantages again to the insurance companies, they should say that. That’s an OK goal, meaning, it’s in line with what seems to be Republican ideology. “The American people” don’t want that, but the GOP and the president ought to at least be honest in why they want to repeal the ACA.

But the ACA was attacked as soon as it was passed, even attacked as it was being formed. The anger was real; the Republicans felt like the bill had been “rammed down their throats,” an ironic complaint since the Republicans really tried to do in three weeks what the Obama administration took over a year to get into place.

What the GOP and the president seem to be intent upon, however, is undoing Obama’s signature piece of legislation.  That would be an apt slap in the face for the black man who dared be president of these United States. The president seems hell bent on erasing Obama’s legacy and it is proving to be harder to do than he thought it would be.

I can’t help but go back to the fact that on Obama’s first inauguration day, there were GOP leaders meeting to decide how to make him a one-term president. Before he had done a single day’s work as president, the Republican leadership was working to destroy him. Mitch McConnell said in October, 2010 that his party’s primary goal was to make Obama a one-term president.

The Republicans obstructed Obama at every turn. in January, 2016,  he had a budget which called for $4.15 trillion in spending – and the Republicans refused to seriously consider it. The president is busy undoing policies Obama put in place to protect the environment, to protect immigrants and children of immigrants…It feels like “anything Obama” has to go, according to the GOP mindset.

And it feels like nothing more than racial resentment, boiling over.

Rev. William Barber, the creator of the Moral Mondays movement, talks about this being a time of the Third Reconstruction. The first rReconstruction happened after the gains made by blacks after the Civil War. Whites did not like it, and after the federal government took troops out of the South to protect black, all hell broke loose. Whites put laws and policies into place that not only undid all of the gains made by black people, but also to prevent any more progress from being made.

Whites wanted to “make America white,” and therefore, “right” again, in their eyes.

It feels like that is what is happening now. The operative mindset – that of white supremacy, believing that America was made by white people for white people …is running wild. People of color will be put in their place, if these lawmakers have their way. White supremacy as a way of life corrodes the capacity for compassion and care, and makes people blind with a false notion of white superiority.

It is hard to watch. It is even harder to manage the feelings of resentment that the diseased lawmakers are stoking.

A candid observation …

 

 

The Budget, The President and the Poor

The administration is defending some of its budget cuts, including some that directly impact programs like “Meals on Wheels,” and job training programs. The White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney says “we can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. We can’t defend money on programs that cannot show that they deliver  what they say they will deliver.”

Mulvaney cited after school programs which feed kids; the philosophy is that if children are able to eat, they will do better in school. Mulvaney says there is no evidence that the program is working

We are trying to focus on the recipients of the money and those on whom the money is spent. He says the administration is being compassionate by taking the taxpayers seriously. What he is not saying is what the elderly, for example, who receive meals, are supposed to do. Where is the compassion for them?

Money will be taken from American tax payers to build “the wall.” Billions of dollars will be collected and spent to build new detention facilities.

Compassion.

What are the children, the poor, the elderly supposed to do?

Mulvaney seems to think that states will take care of their own. They will receive community development block grants (CDBG) and that they will find a way to take care of “the least of these.”

But that seems unlikely. States looked to the federal government in the first place because the states were not able to take care of them.

So, the question is, who is the recipient of this “compassion?”

It seems like the compassion is being offered to big corporations. It seems that there is a great amount of time and energy being paid to protect the very rich, at the expense of the poor. The administration seems not to care that under the proposed new health care act, literally millions of Americans will no longer have access to  to heath care.

They say that the goal is not to make sure more people have access to health care. The goal is to save money.

I would add that the larger goal is to make sure insurance companies are able to make big money. The health and health needs of the people be damned.

Is this compassion?

I guess I am confused.

On second thought, I am not.

I can see clearly, and what I see is a group of people who do not care about those who are striving to survive in this country which has little toleration for the them.

It is disgusting. And scary.

A candid observation.

On the Media

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The president of the United States has been on a  campaign to discredit the media; he takes every opportunity to cast a cloud over what is called the “mainstream media,” casting them as harbingers of lies. This he does even as he himself blatantly lies about nearly everything.

While I do not agree that what he calls “fake news” is in fact, fake, I do take issue with the press as an entity which has sorely misrepresented situations in the past. The press has enormous power which it could have been using all along to dispel, for instance, that most black people are criminals. It has missed opportunities to shift the narrative about black people from one that makes society justify whatever treatment blacks receive at the hands of law enforcement. It seldom reports on the huge gains blacks make in spite of impoverished neighborhoods, failing schools, and joblessness. In spite of what the press presents, black people in this country have done and continue to do amazing things, racism, sexism and capitalism notwithstanding.

In the same way, the press feeds into the frenzy and the fear around terrorism. Too often, as soon as there is an incident which may or may not be terrorism, the press puts the “t” word out, making those who are already afraid sink even deeper into their fear.

The press is predictably quiet, however, when white people act in ways that are problematic or which reek of radical American Christian terrorism. There has been very little coverage, and certainly, the picture of the man who shot two people from India, yelling before he shot them, “Get out of my country!” has not been plastered across television screens. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/24/get-out-of-my-country-kansan-reportedly-yelled-before-shooting-2-men-from-india-killing-one/?utm_term=.40f469a5d8d6) Chances are, very few Americans know about the shooting, and the dearth of information and reporting on it is helping people stay in their own corners of truth where the “bad dudes,” as the president says, are anything but white.

Last evening, a young man drove into a crowd of people in New Orleans, injuring a good number of them, though none of them apparently have life-threatening injuries. The youngest injured is reportedly 3 years old. The incident was reported, but there was no name given, and no picture. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/25/us/new-orleans-mardi-gras-parade-accident/)  Had this man had an Muslim-sounding name, and had he been a person who appeared to be Muslim, there is little doubt his name and picture would have been plastered over every news operation in this country.

There was none of that, though, but instead a strange silence. This young man, taken into custody, was white. He was apparently drunk. And did a tragic thing. Yet, the media protects him.

The press is definitely tainted and leans toward protecting the status quo. It is too eager to report on the troubling and bad things people of color do, while too often not giving the same kind of attention to the things white people do. It represents the power structure and seems that it understands that its job is to keep that power structure in place.

There has been some effort in the recent past by the press to report on the very real struggles of African Americans to make their voices heard. The Black Lives Matter movement is not something that this country likes to give credence to. The press has been good about covering the town halls that are going on all over the country, in spite of Republicans saying they are merely gripe sessions put in place by the angry Left,  using paid protesters.

But on the hatred of radical Christian terrorists, the press has failed miserably. Immediately lifting up a situation which involves a person of color while ignoring a similar situation where the perpetrator is clearly white, and filled with hatred, speaks of a lack of objectivity on the part of the press and a willingness to feed into the paranoia surrounding “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of who commits the act, and white people who drive into crowds of innocent people are not deserving of being protected by the press.

A candid observation …

Trying to Understand

I am really trying to understand what is going on in this country.

The Right is in the White House. We are being led by people who hold white nationalist ideas. We are being told to be afraid of Muslims, to keep Mexican immigrants out of the country. We are being told that when the news media (which does have issues) reports a fact, that it is “fake news.” We have a commander-in-chief who is shameless in his lying and hypocrisy, and aides to this man who say that his power is not to be questioned.

It feels like we are slipping into a dark, cramped space. The “drained swamp” is filled with the very people this president criticized his opponent for having relationships with. Billionaires, all over the place, are going to make policy. They, who have never done much to help America’s underclass, are going to be the ones to “make America great again.”

People who support the administration say, “We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.” What does that mean? I don’t recall ever hearing that kind of rhetoric before. I know people did not like the previous president, but for many of them, that hatred came not because of what he said, but because of who he was. When he was elected, people on the Right were heard to say, “We want him to fail;” “We want to make him a one-term president.”

This president is hated not because of the election results. He is hated because of what he has said, how he has insulted everyone, called people names, encouraged Russians to hack into American cyberspace. He has been crude and dishonest, has known it, and has not cared. He has drawn white supremacists, white nationalists to him, with love. He has embraced Vladimir Putin, a long-time enemy of America and a leader whom many has called a “thug,” saying he admires him because he is a strong leader.

Maybe it was the progressive agenda that was making its way into American life that has some people genuinely upset. Many Americans have been distressed at how the world has changed and is yet still changing. America will never be what it “was” in the eyes of those who have always had privilege. But this administration – and its followers – seem to be intend on trying to make the impossible, possible. They want the days back when sexism, racism, heterosexuality, and God knows what else, reigned, when the voices of the underclass were muted by policy and by practices.

Hate crimes are rising; little children in school are being permitted to spew hate language at other little children. Immigrants are frightened; Muslims are frightened; black people realize that the promise of “law and order” on the part of this president probably means really bad news for them. Jewish-Americans are frightened. David Duke says this president has opened the door for white supremacy to reign again.

Evangelical Christians are happy, though there seems to be not much of the God I know in what is going on.

The trouble is, the language of this administration and his crew keeps the angst going. It keeps people up at night. It is causing people to suffer from real depression.It feels like every single thing that has made America what it is is being attacked. Nothing feels safe anymore – not the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press.

And nobody on the Right is saying anything. Those who have claimed to be so patriotic and religious …are, for the most part, silent.

It is beyond comprehension why people who said they hated the presumed dishonesty of Hillary Clinton are not bothered by this president’s dishonesty. It is beyond comprehension why the Congress isn’t railing about the presumed relationship of Gen. Michael Flynn with the Russians, when they spent millions of taxpayer dollars for hearings on Benghazi. It is beyond comprehension why a man who welcomed leaks when they were helping him is now saying that leaks are illegal.

Nothing makes sense. You can see the pieces of the puzzle, but it’s like the pieces in front of you do not belong with the puzzle you’re trying to put together. It feels like this nation is headed into a maelstrom, and will be hurled downward to a place from which we will never emerge the same.

Many supporters of the new administration say what he is doing is making America safer. I think not. I think this administration is feeding an anger and frustration in many, many people who at this point feel caged in and trapped and who will fight ferociously to get out.

That is not good.

I am trying to understand what is going on. I do not know. But I do know that it feels very, very scary.

A candid observation…

 

The Season of Dis-ease

Since the election of the new president, I have heard more than a few people say that they do not feel safe. People of color, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community have all said something to the effect of “I don’t know anymore, when I look at people, who is with me and who hates me.”

I feel them. I have felt the same way.

Not long ago, I was in a doctor’s office just to drop off a form. I went to the front desk and said why I was there and the receptionist, without really looking up, said, “You’ll have to sign in.”

OK. All right. There were about six names ahead of me. For the life of me I could not understand why I should have to sign in, but I did. I was irritated because I had somewhere else to go and had thought I would just be able to whisk into and out of this office.

After a half-hour wait, the receptionist called my name. Yes, by this time I was ticked off, but was relieved that I could finally just drop off the form. But another woman said, “you’ll have to sign in” as she looked at me.

Totally irritated now, I said – and my irritation came through my voice – “I already signed in” and someone else in the area, feeling the tension, verified that I had in fact signed in. The woman at the desk rolled her eyes at me and said, grudgingly, “oh, all right.”

This happened after the presidential election. I had heard of increasing incidents of racial hatred in schools and in businesses and saw a truck slowly moving in my neighborhood sporting a Confederate flag. It had all made me uneasy. I thought white Americans were pretty much moving away from racism.

But what I’d seen and heard since the election did not verify my beliefs, and raised in me, I admit, some concern and anticipation of what to expect from people who were happy with who was now in the White House.

They were glad; they had a guy in place who would “make America great again,” which meant, in my mind, that he would make America unabashedly embrace her white supremacist world view.

The fact that I have heard so many different people say the same thing boggles my mind. At a recent direct action rally, a man of Hispanic descent said the same thing. I have heard Muslims, little black and brown children, members of the LGBTQ community all say the same thing – and I have read stories where even the little children, little white children, have picked up the language of division and hate and are spewing it to their classmates.

Nothing, when it comes to race relations and tolerance and acceptance and affirmation, and egalitarianism and pluralism has changed. In spite of her boast of being the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” America is still a foundation ally racist country which espouses and supports hatred toward people of color and people of different religions.

It is very disheartening, but true.

I don’t know if that woman in the doctor’s office that day rolled her eyes at me because I sounded irritated or if because she felt her whiteness gave her the right to do so. I know I raged inside because of my now heightened distrust of the fundamental American spirit when it comes to people of color.

None of us feel safe …here. Radical Islamic terrorism are the battle-cry words of those in power, but for us who are black, brown, members of marginalized groups, Muslim…for us, “radical American Christian terrorism and hatred” are far more real to us. I and many like me are in a state of dis-ease, the same dis-ease that people of color have felt for literally hundreds of years.

Little has changed, in spite of our hope that it would.

A candid observation.

Understanding America

I do not understand this country I thought I knew.

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Yes, there is and has always been racism, and sexism and in fact, all kinds of oppression meted out to a lot of people and groups. The history of racial and sexual oppression of people in this country is not pretty. People want to deny it, or ignore it, but it is there.

Even though I read this history and am knowing it better and better, even though I knew the history of domestic terrorism which white mobs have engaged in, most times with the help and support of law enforcement, I always thought that deep down, underneath the racial hatred,  there was the possibility of hatred passing away or at least diminishing so that all God’s children could live together.

I believed that.

I do not believe that all white people are bad, nor do I believe that all white people are racist.

But this election has shown me that too many white people are racist and are unable to rise above their racism for the common good.

During the presidential election, I truly thought that the masses of Americans, white and black, would be disappointed, angered and repulsed by the hateful rhetoric spewed by the incoming president. I thought they would reject hatred, reject racism and sexism and all the other “isms” that we heard over the past year and a half.

But the masses didn’t care. The incoming president tapped into something in them – an anger based on economic woes, for sure, but also based on something else more sinister. They did not care what he said, who he said it about, how true or false it was, how crass it was, or whose feelings it would hurt.

He was going to “make America great again,” which seemed, in the end, to mean that he was going to give a lot of Americans permission to openly …hate …again.

I was sure the masses of Americans would be dismayed that he used people from Breitbart News as close advisors. I was wrong. I was sure people who called themselves patriotic would be appalled at this would-be president delegitimizing the heroism of Sen. John McCain. He was speaking to a certain group of people – mostly white – and he was clear about it.

I was sure the masses of Americans would reject that. I thought we had come further than that.

I was sure Americans would be disgusted by this man making fun of journalist who had a disability. He said he didn’t do that; his surrogates say he didn’t, either. No, it was the “dishonest media” that spread that story. He completely ignored the fact that people saw him, saw what he did and said.

His supporters were ready for a change; how it came about didn’t matter. They loved it that he was “not a politician” and that he “said it like it was.”

But “like it was” for whom?

Time will tell what this man’s policies will be. It is not my opinion of his shortcomings which is the big deal here. The big deal is that the masses of Americans supported his hateful rhetoric. They applauded and ignored his name-calling and bullying people They ignored his obviously thin skin and his lack of impulse control. Even now, they do not care that he is buddying up to Vladimir Putin.

It is troubling to me because I thought I knew America, fundamentally. I thought there were more people who despised racial hatred than there were people who still live in it.

I was wrong.

A candid observation…

 

 

The Complexity of Hope

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As this country winds down from the Obama administration and readies itself for the incoming administration, nothing feels secure. Nobody quite knows what the new president will do or not do. His refusal to show his tax returns has maddened some to the point that they say they are not going to pay their taxes. His arrogance shows itself daily; his rants on Twitter seem so immature and, frankly, inappropriate for a head of state.

His antics, actions, and words, are, quite honestly, troubling and frightening. His refusal to severely admonish Russia for whatever role it had in hacking American cyberspace feels …like treason. His treatment of the press is an assault on one of the basic freedoms guaranteed to Americans; one wonders what the press will be able to do under his leadership – if they will be able to practice responsible journalism, though, to be honest, the press has for a while slipped from being a truth-seeking entity to being merely entertainment. Cable news programs are not really news; they are all-day talk shows.

This man who will be inaugurated president has insulted almost everyone who can be insulted – from women, to blacks, to immigrants to people with disabilities. Because of his rhetoric, little children feel free to hurl racist epithets at their classmates, and reports indicate that, since the campaign, hate crimes have been on the rise. (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/hate-on-the-rise-after-trumps-election) Immigrants – legal and illegal – including children of immigrants who were born here are afraid of being deported. Muslims are afraid of being assaulted.

The cold war between Russia and the United States ended years ago, and the threat of a nuclear war felt like it was really a thing of the past, but now, not so much. The new president is buddying up with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he apparently likes because Putin likes him, but both the incoming president and Putin seem to be of the same ilk: arrogant men in pursuit of power at any cost. They are “getting along” now but one has to wonder how long the warm fuzzies between them will last. When one or both of them get angry at the other, when the quest for ultimate power by one or both of them takes precedence over civility, what will happen? Who will suffer? And it’s not like the two of them are the only hot-heads in power; Kim Jung-un of North Korea seems to be just as volatile as Putin and the president-elect, and China has already been riled by actions the president-elect took when he accepted a call from Taiwan, in violation of the One China policy which has been respected for decades.

This country does not feel as safe as it has felt before now, and it’s not just because of the threat of terrorism. It’s largely because the incoming president has ushered in a spirit of hatred and bigotry – or maybe he has just unearthed it from the underground – and he has done so arrogantly.

And yet…today comedian Steve Harvey, loved and respected by so many people, black and white – visited the president-elect in Trump Tower. He said after the meeting that he did so because “President Obama called me and told me I should meet” with the incoming president. Harvey said that the talk was good; that his host seemed “sincere” and that he seemed like a nice person. He repeated that President Obama “said we should talk.” Harvey talked not only to the president-elect but to members of the transition team and to Dr. Ben Carson, who will head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (HUD) Harvey said the incoming administration wants to address the problems of the inner cities, something about which Harvey and others have long been concerned about and worked to improve.

He also said that President Obama said that “we have to come from behind our computers”and work, so “I came from behind my microphone” because, he said, we have work to do.

For a moment I couldn’t believe that Steve Harvey was in Trump Tower. I hardly knew what to think.  But he kept on saying, “President Obama said I needed to talk with…” and Harvey did it. If the president can do something for the inner cities, then, said Harvey, he’s good with it. Political commentator Ana Navarro, who said again that she thinks the incoming president is a “despicable human being” said she respects the office of president. If he can get people jobs and do all that that he said he would do, then she will respect that.

It seems that Steve Harvey has decided to hope. To hope, says Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark, ” is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is because the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” (p. 4)

Watching all that has been happening has been difficult and disconcerting; it has certainly widened the lake of uncertainty in which Americans are swimming. And yet, Steve Harvey reminded me of this thing called “hope,” daring to talk to someone whom you do not trust or like, for the sake of a transformation for the betterment of someone other than ourselves.

It may be that this time is a time in which we all…learn to hope and thus, learn to live in a new way.

A candid observation …

 

 

Poor Kids and Mental Illness

I was at a program a couple of weeks ago where children with autism and/or who were on the spectrum were performing in a holiday recital.

The atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and poorly controlled chaos. Some of the children were wide-eyed and expectant. Others had no life in their eyes at all. Some ran around the venue, parents chasing them, others sat stone-still or rocked back and forth making quiet noises.

On stage, some performed so well that one would not know they had a developmental issue. Others merely stood and made noises. My daughter, a music therapist, was the organizer of the recital, and she literally worked wonders with the children, both those who were high functioning and with those who were more challenged.

What I noticed, though, is that most of the children in this school and therefore in this recital were white; there were only three African American children. The sight stopped me cold, because surely, there are kids of all ethnicities who are born with autism and other developmental issues, but they were not represented this evening.

The observation took me to my belief that there are many children in poor, urban and rural areas, who have autism but whose parents either cannot afford the specialized care they need or are too  young or too fraught with their own issues to recognize that there is something physically wrong with their children. Instead of getting care, they get yelled at, whipped, called names and are put down by their families. Then, they go to school and still, nobody recognizes that they have a developmental problem, and again, get chastised, criticized, put down, are ostracized, called names, labeled behavior problems …and they live lives of utter despair.

I imagine it must be like a person who has had a stroke and whose cognitive abilities are still intact but who cannot talk or communicate. He or she is at the liberty of people who do not understand and, unfortunately, often do not care.

These children enter the cradle to prison pipeline. They have a hard time in school; they must find themselves by themselves and many never do. Once they are pubescent, they are on the streets where they find some relief from feeling inadequate and stupid and bad. They find friends who like them and seem to respect them and they do what they can do to stay connected to what becomes their family.

That family, however, too often leads them deeper and deeper into the streets and the lure of excitement and danger offered by the streets. Too often, little kids with autism or other ailments grow up totally untreated; they are miserable children who grow up to be adults in despair. They push and fight and claw their way to try to find light and normalcy in this life but often fail.

They are killed, or they kill. They are arrested. They are convicted and put into prison, and they die.

As I watched these little children, my heart ached. There must be something we can do. There must be a way to form a foundation or something so that these children can get the same love, care and attention other, more privileged children receive. All children need that, no matter their color, ethnicity or class. If humans do not get care and love, they disintegrate, inside, spiritually and emotionally.

My guess is that there are more children than not being labeled bad who are really sick.

We who are able need to care about them and somehow, do something to help them.

A candid observation …