Archive for Politics
Unless you read the newspapers, you would not have heard that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a long awaited report subscribing to the notion that the administration engaged in a propaganda campaign that lead the country into an unnecessary war.
If it were only that straight forward. Eight of the democrats on the committee and two of the republicans arrived at the aforementioned conclusion. The other republicans attached minority statements, rightly so, that reminded the committee of the democratic statements not mentioned in the report, that had also been made overstating the case for war.
I am just an ordinary citizen and I am lost trying to figure out all of this double talk. What is the point of this exercise in futility?
Taking responsibility for one’s actions has always been associated for me, with integrity, sound ethics, and rational behavior. Where have we gone? I will let you be the judge.
You can find the report at http://intelligence.senate.gov.
The following conclusions were found on the MSNBC website:
- Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytic trade craft, led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence.
- The Intelligence Community did not accurately or adequately explain to policymakers the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
- The Intelligence Community (1C) suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. This “group think” dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs. This presumption was so strong that formalized IC mechanisms established to challenge assumptions and group think were not utilized.
In a few significant instances, the analysis in the National Intelligence Estimate suffers from a “layering” effect whereby assessments were built based on previous judgments without carrying forward the uncertainties of the underlying judgments.
In each instance where the Committee found an analytic or collection failure, it resulted in part from a failure of Intelligence Community managers throughout their leadership chains to adequately supervise the work of their analysts and collectors. They did not encourage analysts to challenge their assumptions, fully consider alternative arguments, accurately characterize the intelligence reporting, or counsel analysts who lost their objectivity.
The Committee found significant short-comings in almost every aspect of the Intelligence Community’s human intelligence collection efforts against Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction activities, in particular that the Community had no sources collecting against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 1998. Most, if not all, of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and will not be solved by additional funding and personnel.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in several significant instances, abused its unique position in the Intelligence Community, particularly in terms of information sharing, to the detriment of the Intelligence Community’s prewar analysis concerning Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction programs.
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS – TERRORISM Intelligence Community analysts lack a consistent post-September 11 approach to analyzing and reporting on terrorist threats
A younger friend approached me last week and asked me what I thought about the Scott McClellen book. My response was, “not much”. This was information that I already had. What was the hype about?
There were those who thought it quite grandiose that we were observing someone in this administration acting as a true patriot and placing loyalty to the country above loyalty to the President. Unfortunately I was not one of those high minded individuals. To me it looked like an opportunistic individual publicly stating the obvious and risking nothing from an embarrassed, incompetent, and impotent administration.
With that said, I want to take the opportunity to THANK the people and institutions that did risk the title of “people who lacked patriotism”, but demonstrated the sound judgment, wisdom and true PATRIOTISM to stand against the authorization of war. We need to take a look at these people and question our past stand and our current stand.
HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY LOVE OUR COUNTRY AND THE IDEALS THAT WE WERE FOUNDED ON??????????
WE WERE NOT LISTENING OR PAYING ATTENTION THE FIRST TIME. WHAT WILL WE DO NOW??????
DNay votes in the Senate (21 Democrats, 1 Republican, and 1 Independent):aniel Akaka (D-HI)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Robert Byrd (D-WV),
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) Kent Conrad (D-ND) Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Mark Dayton (D-MN) Richard Durbin (D-IL) Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Bob Graham (D-FL) Daniel Inouye (D-HI) James Jeffords (I-VT)
Edward Kennedy (D-MA) Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Carl Levin (D-MI)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Patty Murray (D-WA) Jack Reed (D-RI)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Paul Wellstone (D-MN) Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Nay votes in the House of Representatives (126 Democrats, 6 Republicans, and 1 Independent):
Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) Thomas Allen (D-ME) Joe Baca (D-CA)
Brian Baird (D-WA) John Baldacci (D-ME) Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Gresham Barrett (R-SC) Xavier Becerra (D-CA) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
David Bonior (D-MI) Robert Brady (D-PA) Corinne Brown (D-FL)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Lois Capps (D-CA) Michael Capuano (D-MA)
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) Julia Carson (D-IN) William Clay Jr. (D-MO)
Eva Clayton (D-NC) James Clyburn (D-SC) Gary Condit (D-CA)
John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) Jerry Costello (D-IL) William Coyne (D-PA)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD) Susan Davis (D-CA) Danny Davis (D-IL)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR) Diana DeGette (D-CO) Bill Delahunt (D-MA)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) John Dingell (D-MI) Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Mike Doyle (D-PA) John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Lane Evans (D-IL) Sam Farr (D-CA) Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
Bob Filner (D-CA) Barney Frank (D-MA) Charles Gonzalez (D-TX)
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) Alcee Hastings (D-FL) Earl Hilliard (D-AL)
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Mike Honda (D-CA) Darlene Hooley (D-OR) John Hostettler (R-IN)
Amo Houghton (R-NY) Jay Inslee (D-WA) Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Dale Kildee (D-MI) Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI)
Jerry Kleczka (D-WI) Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) John LaFalce (D-NY)
James Langevin (D-RI) Rick Larsen (D-WA) John Larson (D-CT)
Jim Leach (R-IA) Barbara Lee (D-CA) Sandy Levin (D-MI)
John Lewis (D-GA) Bill Lipinski (D-IL) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
James Maloney (D-CT) Robert Matsui (D-CA) Karen McCarthy (D-MO)
Betty McCollum (D-MN) Jim McDermott-D-WA) Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) Carrie Meek (D-FL) Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA)
George Miller (D-CA) Alan Mollohan (D-WV) Jim Moran (D-VA)
Connie Morella (R-MD)* Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Richard Neal (D-MA) Jim Oberstar (D-MN) David Obey (D-WI)
John Olver (D-MA) Major Owens (D-NY) Frank Pallone Jr.(D-NJ)
Ed Pastor (D-AZ) Ron Paul (R-TX) Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) David Price (D-NC) Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Charles Rangel (D-NY) Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Bobby Rush (D-IL) Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN) Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Thomas Sawyer (D-OH) Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) Jose Serrano (D-NY) Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Vic Snyder (D-AR) Hilda Solis (D-CA) Pete Stark (D-CA)
Ted Strickland (D-OH) Burt Stupak (D–MI) Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS) John Tierney (D-MA) Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
Mark Udall (D-CO) Tom Udall (D-NM) Nydia Velaquez (D-NY)
Pete Visclosky (D-IN) Maxine Waters (D-CA) Diane Watson (D-CA)
Melvin Watt (D-NC) Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) David Wu (D-OR)
Then there were people like Scott Ritter and Brent Scowcroft who voiced loudly the warning against a pre-emptive road to war.
The only news organization that we have left besides NPR and PBS, the McClatchy News Organization.
If Barack Obama is the democratic nominee, my dream ticket will be an
OBAMA / HAGEL ticket.
Chuck Hagel has been one of the few republicans that asked his party and the president some tough questions over the last eight years. He is a Vietnam veteran, a businessman, a member of four committees in the senate: Foreign Relations, Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Committee on Rules and Administration and the select committee on Intelligence. He has also self imposed term limits on himself.
Senator Hagel who was a Vietnam vet opposed the surge strategy that Senator McCain vigorously supported. Currently he is a co-sponsor with Senator Jim Webb for a A Post-Iraq G.I. Bill. This is a bill that Senator John McCain is not supporting.
In a conversationwith Richard Haass, Hagel suggested that we consider direct, unconditional comprehensive bilateral talks with Iran.
It is time that people from both parties and independents demand ethical, competent leadership in Washington DC, leaders who have no allegiance to anyone but the citizens of the United States of America.
Please join me in asking both Senator Obama and Senator Chuck Hagel to come together and lead this country through the tumultuous years ahead. Both of these men have presented themselves as true men of integrity.
We have lost entirely too much time over the last twenty years in political gridlock.
Let’s end it now.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
“Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
“Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”—
Eisenhower, Farewell Address, 17 January 1961.
The choices that were made during this administration will have consequences that will out live most of us who are currently here on the planet. So many of us are quick to move to the next topic and do not want to dwell in the past. Even if the past is the last eight years. It is imperative that we thoroughly look at how we arrived at this point in time. How did an entire nation of people allow a few individuals to convince us to go invade another sovereign state. Just a little common sense tells us that this was not because the leader of the country was a dangerous and unstable individual who had killed his own people and invaded another country. We have several people on the world stage that fit that description and several countries that are committing genocide, engaging in nuclear weapons testing, and in reality are a much greater threat to our country.
It will take soldiers, strategist, diplomats and a leader who understands that there can be no victory when there has been bloodshed, there can only be rebuilding and healing.
We as Americans must decide what definition of PATRIOTISM we will take into the election booth in November and select another individual to make decisions and act in our name on the world stage.
Will we utilize a patriotism that we wear on our sleeve or will we utilize a PATRIOTISM that we carry in our hearts.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Why is this election like no other election that we have ever had in this country? No, it’s not the gender / race thing. This is the first election in the history of this country where we have had this number of individuals and states having a decisive say in who will be the president of the country. In the past, a maximum of ten states were involved in selecting the party nominees. Because the primaries were scheduled over such a wide span of time, most of the nominees had dropped out of the race before greater than three quarters of the country even held their primaries. Since this was the case, those that even showed up to participate in the primaries were minimal.
I personally believe that it is the definition of a democracy to have a plurality of the population participating in elections and the formation of solutions to its issues.
This brings me to the reasons that I am supporting Barack Obama.
Reason number 1: Resistance to change is futile. We have reached a point in time where this country will either look over our shoulders and accept what is occurring outside of our borders and make the necessary competitive adjustments to continue in this evolutionary marathon or we will keep our heads focused straight ahead and fall behind as the rest of the world sprints pass.
We should be leading the world in solving some of the massive opportunities that are being presented to us in the form of global warming, terrorism, global economic, and resource utilization, along with disease and poverty.
Barack Obama presents himself to me as a man that views the country and the world from a more wholistic perspective. He seems to recognize that our way forward will depend less on a single leader and more on communities of American and world citizens to resolve the many looming issues on the horizon.
He appears to possess a select skill set including strong organizational and leadership abilities that have been demonstrated throughout his campaign. He appears to come from a place of diplomacy and respect for the ideas of others.
But most of all for me, he appears to possess a temperament of calmness, confidence, and OPTIMISM that will be essential for the individual who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. We all know that this individual will be faced with a set of issues like none we have seen in the past.
I am delighted to be an INDEPENDENT who has solid candidates to choose from. My eyes are on the FUTURE. This election will dictate the path we take as a country into the 21st century.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on vision and introduced Woodrow Wilson as a visionary. Several of my readers were quite disturbed that I, as a person of African descent, could list Woodrow Wilson, who established official racial segregation in the federal government during his administration, as a VISIONARY.
Creating the League of Nations and shaping the Treaty of Versailles was visionary. It was visionary to see the need to enter World War I to “Make the World Safe for Demacracy”. Yes, I know that he was a segregationist, but we must look at the whole man and not a fragment.
Race is a topic that we never like to discuss, but it’s always the elephant in the room. This is unfortunate, but it is a core element of our society. I had to evolve to this notion, but I look at race like I look at the flowers in my garden or the different dogs at a dog show. Those of you who know me know how much I love my dogs and my orchids. We have a variety of people with different hues, shapes, eye color like we have different breeds of dogs and different types of flowers. I realize that this seems somewhat simplified, but what can I say. Is a Rose superior to an Iris or a beagle to a daschund. I think not. They are only different.
I hope and pray that we as Americans will not miss the opportunity to let a fragment of who we have been define the whole of who we are.
I think that the Obama speech speaks to who we have been and who we can become.
I have the video of the speech in the Vodpod collection, but I think that it would be extremely beneficial to read the transcript of the speech.
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.
I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story. I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate.
But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans. This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign.
At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough”. We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarisation, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.
For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic healthcare crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a US Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over 30 years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters … And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.
Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about … memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”That has been my experience at Trinity.
Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptised my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork.
We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like healthcare, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote: “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country.
But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, 50 years after Brown v Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.
Legalised discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations.
That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late ’50s and early ’60s, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted.
What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future.
Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews.
The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.
So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.
Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.
And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognising they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans – the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old – is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.
But what we know – what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.
It requires all Americans to realise that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathise with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.We can do that.But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option.
Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say: “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.
This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st-century economy.
Not this time. This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have healthcare; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorised and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for president if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organised for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organise a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. And Ashley said that when she was 9 years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her healthcare. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign.
They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say healthcare or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.” “I’m here because of Ashley.”
By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give healthcare to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realise over the course of the 221 years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.