Silence of “we the people” is deadly

“We the people” absolutely cannot be silent and be unaware of what is going on around us.

When I was young, living in Detroit, I and my friends were told how to survive “out there.” We were never to be unaware; we were never to be so trusting that we didn’t, at all times, inspect our surroundings before we got out of our cars. We were never to appear to be sitting ducks. We had to be aware.

“We the people” are too often “unaware,” and it costs us.

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Chief who spent three years in jail for tax evasion, was appalled by what he saw while in prison. One of the things that he said in an interview with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show” was that “if people knew what was going on, they’d be angry. They’d want to change things.”

I read tonight a story about three young African-American youth – males – who were arrested as they waited for a school bus that was to take them to a scrimmage. Police officers showed up and told them to move. They politely declined, explaining that they were waiting for a school bus. According to the story, they were asked to disperse – to go home – several times, and when they refused, they were arrested!

When their coach showed up moments later, and saw three of his players in handcuffs, he asked officers what was going on. The officers said that the young men had been arrested because they had refused to go home, as had been asked. The coach said that they were waiting for a bus to go to a basketball scrimmage – but the officers did not care and threatened to arrest him if he did not back off.

These are law-abiding young men, who were minding their business. They were waiting for a bus. And for that, they were demonized and arrested.

I saw the story on Roland Martin’s site (http://rolandmartinreports.com/blog/2013/12/coach-defends-students-arrested-at-bus-stop/) and I was enraged. Perhaps I got as angry as I got because I had just watched the remaining segments of Henry Gates’ “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” and I was reminded of how much work has gone into getting rights and dignity for African-Americans, but whatever the reason, I was enraged because what was described in the story about the young men was nothing but sheer harassment and an abuse of power.

“We the people” don’t know how common that sort of thing is. “We the people” are too ready to accept media accounts of “crime” on the streets and buy into and contribute to the demonization of young black kids.

My son, thankfully, got through his teen years without being arrested for being young and stupid, or young, black, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. He got through his teens  without being harassed by police officers. But so many young black kids, especially young black males, are not so lucky …and many times, they are guilty of nothing other than being …young and black.

If Kerik is right – that if people see the injustice that goes on they will be angry and will want things to change, then “we the people” need to make sure that these tragic stories of injustice are not ignored. More than that, we ought to look for them and chronicle them so that the American public knows more of what is true instead of relying on the myth of “black badness.”

When the American people saw television reports on how black people in Alabama were being treated, when they saw how victims of Hurricane Katrina – primarily poor and black – were being treated, their backs went up. They didn’t like what they saw. They pressed for justice.

They saw and they reacted …and if that’s what it takes to get popular support for justice, then we need to make sure that the stories of the rampant injustice which is so common for black people – gets notice.  After facts are checked, when we come across stories of this type of injustice, we ought to, we need to , farm it out to journalists, programs and organizations who have the capacity to “spread the word” and garner attention to what is still going on.

Unless we cry for justice, there will be none. Politicians, lawmakers, and others in power count on our being ignorant, complacent, and/or silent. We can’t afford to do that. Too many young black people are being picked off and demonized by a power structure which has much to lose if its political strategy backfires. They need black people to be demonized in order to woo the fearful and fretful numbers of Americans who need to believe that their perception of “the bad Negro” are correct.

Their perceptions are wrong, and “we the people” need to do all we can to shatter the myths.

A candid observation …

Health Care for the Poor Still Elusive

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the Affordable Care Act and we still have literally millions of people who cannot afford and will not have, health care.

How in the world can that be? The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help that very demographic, wasn’t it?

A New York Times article said that nearly two-thirds of poor, black people, and single mothers, in addition to one-half of all low-wage earners, will still not have access to health care. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/health/millions-of-poor-are-left-uncovered-by-health-law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131003).

The vast number of these people live in states controlled by Republicans, and in which those lawmakers have voted against expanding Medicaid. “The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are
home to about half of the country’s population, but about 68 percent of
poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the
country’s uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those
excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses’
aides.” said the NYT article.

While some are appalled that so many people will still be unable to get health care, others are not surprised.

Some say that the Affordable Care Act was designed not to help poor black people, or single mothers, or low-wage earners. It was designed, they say, to benefit low wage earners who happen to be white.

It is sadly ironic that the majority of the poor people whom this act was ostensibly created to help are apparently black.  They live primarily in Southern states where, again, Republican lawmakers have balked at extending Medicaid, citing cost.  The American citizens who will still not be able to get health care, many of them, make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to keep them above the poverty line, making them eligible to qualify for subsidies, which the ACA is providing.

It is equally as ironic that some lawmakers feel justified in not supporting the expansion of Medicaid because they seem to feel that the poor are poor because they are lazy and want to take advantage of working Americans. There is great disdain for the poor, blaming them for their poverty and spreading this belief so that great numbers of people buy into the hype.  While in one breath, lawmakers will say that in America, democracy makes it possible for “all” people to be successful and therefore, not poor,  in another breath, they will support a system which is not democratic at all, but, rather, oligarchic in nature, supporting the expansion of the very rich on the backs of poor people and their labor.

With these millions of people still unable to get affordable health care, the health of the very poor will still be jeopardized. Children will still be in danger from getting sick and possibly dying from preventable and treatable diseases, and adults will not be able to get the care and medication they need to, likewise, get treatable diseases diagnosed or to get medications that will keep those diseases from killing them.

All of the showboating on television, with Tea Party Republicans saying that they are speaking on behalf of “the American people” has been disturbing and disgusting. “The American people,” for them, obviously do not include poor black and brown people, single mothers, and people unable to make a living wage.

The politicians in Washington are playing a game with the lives of all Americans as they fight like children having temper tantrums, working to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wouldn’t be so troubling if Tea Party Republicans had a viable health care plan in place to replace the ACA, one that would help people like these millions of black, brown and poor people.

They are not concerned with that part of America’s population, though. These politicians are fighting for is a group of people who object to big government and the role big government has historically played in taking care of “the least of these.”  They do not have the slightest concern, say, for the American citizen who needs treatment and medication for high blood pressure, or for the child who has an abscessed tooth, and who happens to be poor.

It is a scary thing to be poor in such a wealthy land. It is scary and troubling and frustrating to work, as the work ethic says we must – and still be deemed unworthy to make a living wage. The government shut-down, forced by the opposition between Tea Party Republicans who are fighting President Obama by opposing the ACA, is making poor people suffer even more as their salaries are being withheld.

Nobody cares about you if you’re poor – not even here in America, where our political system is supposed to be “exceptional” and above that in all other developed countries.  The fact that many Americans are a paycheck away from being put out on the street, should be troubling to a group of people who say they govern for “the American people.”

Apparently, that’s not true. They govern for “some” American people. Black, brown and poor people of all colors, as well as people struggling to make ends meet, just don’t seem to matter. No matter what lofty words are used to describe America’s democratic ideals, her oligarchic reality says that there is a serious chasm between the ideal and the real.

Poor people count. Black and brown people count. Single mothers …count.

Somebody ought to remind Congress of the same because it seems that millions of Americans have been forgotten.

A candid observation…

President Needs to Provide Light of Hope for Masses

united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web
Image by kevindean via Flickr

When people say they want their country back, what, exactly, are they saying?

I ask because more than one news person has said that tonight’s State of the Union is an opportunity and a mandate for President Obama to offer a vision of the future; without such a vision, they say, people will lapse into yearning for the past.

What past are they yearning for?

One of the most profound things I’ve ever heard was said by author Karen Armstrong, who said that when too much is changing, too quickly, people yearn for the past; it is in those moments that fundamentalism becomes strongest. The lack of things familiar take people all the way out of their comfort zones and feed their fear and anxiety. The only safe thing to do is to yearn for that which they know, even if what they have known was not all that good.

We sit in transition period. The economy is improving, but is still horrendous; people who used to be middle class are now poor or at best, lower middle class. People who were comfortable, economically, are now immensely uncomfortable and have no sense of security when it comes to visualizing or imagining their future or the future of their children.

This economic debacle has been called a recession, but from all that I have read, it so resembles the Great Depression. The arguments about the distance between the very wealthy and the new poor are the same, and I would suppose that much of what a vast number of Americans are feeling now is not all that different from what the people in the 1930s felt.

It took a long time for the aftershocks of the fall of the stock market to stop coming; people were still in dire straits in the late 1930s. Even as late as 1938, money was scarce for most people, and they looked for pleasure in the tiniest things – but they yearned for the “good old days.”

That, apparently, is where Americans are now. Though it is totally unrealistic to expect that President Obama – or any president, for that matter – would be able to undo what took at least eight years to create, people cannot and will not resonate with that reality.  Mitt Romney said that people who do not have money are envious of those who do…and he is probably right. None of us who are flailing and who are treading water want to be where we are.

And so we are in a bad place, we Americans. We want out. We want relief. Though many hate the idea of entitlements, many have survived because of those entitlements. But that’s not what we want. We want jobs. We want there to be not a diminishing middle class but a renewed and growing middle class. We want to be able to stop having to worry about making decisions on whether we will eat or buy extra gas for a week.

All of the politicians, including President Obama, are wealthy. They cannot feel our pain. They can imagine and they can exploit it, but they cannot feel it. They are so far removed from our places of angst, that their campaigns ring hollow and their blatant exploitation of our fears borders on the immoral and unethical.

The news people are right: if the present dilemma of the American people does not get better soon, Americans who ar prone to look back and yearn for a fantastical past will do just that. Those who have never been economically sound or comfortable will continue to yearn, ironically, for a reality they have never known.

The President has an enormous burden upon him. Unlike the politicians who are recklessly using the angst and anxiety of the American people for their own selfish gain, President Obama has to give a glimmer of hope to people who are on the brink of falling into permanent despair.

I, for one, hope he realizes that, and provides the light in darkness for so many who are truly walking in darkness.

A candid observation