January 20, 2014
Something must be done – soon
There are heroes and there are victims. There are those who go to prison and those who take their own lives.
The scenes of police officers surrounding school buildings have become common. Much too common.
Guns and students don’t mix.
But lately, they have become regular headlines.
In 2013, there were 29 shootings at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges across the country.
Those 29 incidents left 26 people dead and 35 wounded.
In 2012, there were 14 incidents – including the Newtown, Conn., tragedy – which left 44 dead and 17 wounded.
For comparison’s sake, there were three such incidents in 1992, with seven deaths, and three in 1993, with four deaths.
And already in 2014, there have been three school shootings resulting in five injuries.
Pretty sobering numbers.
We’re guessing the numbers for shopping malls are similar and movie theatres, for some reason, see more than their share of violence.
All of these instances are troubling, but the school shootings weigh heaviest. These are children.
It’s school. Children go there to learn, to see their friends, to grow. They have every right (or should have) to feel safe in their classrooms, gymnasiums and cafeterias.
Anymore, we wonder if they do.
School districts have been forced to increase security measures – which we applaud.
Still, these efforts divert time and money away from the purpose of school itself.
Obviously, this trend of guns at schools looks likely to continue unless we do something about it.
What, we’re not completely sure – arming faculty and staff members, having each student pass through a metal detector, walling off our schools like prisons.
We don’t have the answer.
But we do know, with the numbers piling up like they are, something has to be done.
January 19, 2014
The (Freeport) Journal-Standard
Martin Luther King’s dream should be our dream, too
Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved. Despite many advances in civil rights since King was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the age of 39 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., racism is alive and well.
Racism will only die if we collectively drive a stake through its heart.
King once said, “Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” That’s a question we can ask ourselves every day, but it is especially appropriate today.
Are we only helping others who look like us, or do we help those whose skin color may be different?
If we truly want to honor King, we’ll follow his path. It doesn’t have to be a grand march on Washington. It can be as simple as helping a neighbor, attending a public meeting, volunteering at a church or school, or voting.
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has become a day of service, a day to encourage volunteers.
However, the Baptist preacher and civil rights pioneer is remembered most for his dream.
That speech, one of the most famous in history, was delivered Aug. 28, 1963.
What you do today is not nearly as important as what you resolve to do. Resolve to have the “audacious faith” of which King spoke in 1964, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize:
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.
“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding of events which surround him.
“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.”
Dreams can come true if we have the commitment.
January 19, 2014
Catalyst for civil rights still exists today
The photo is hard to look at, even still.
It shows the white owner of a Florida motel pouring muriatic acid into a whites-only swimming pool after several young black men jumped in.
It was 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement, and tensions about race were high.
But it remains difficult to fathom the treatment people faced simply because of the color of their skin. The photos of fire hoses being turned on marchers, the videos of mobs of whites attacking black men, women and children, the idea of someone pouring undiluted hydrochloric acid into a swimming pool (even if it was not enough to do any harm) – it doesn’t seem real.
It portends something that would happen in another place; not in a nation conceived in equality and opportunity.
The picture is not isolated. There are hundreds like it showing the struggle for humanity that took place a mere 50 years ago – and in many senses is still taking place.
At the center of this storm in the 1960s was a young preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. He urged non-violence opposition to the societal wrongs that still separated blacks and whites: “Whites only” lunch counters, water fountains and restrooms; unequal application of the law; segregation of schools.
He knew the dangers, living with constant death threats and seeing directly the hatred and anger visible in so many of the photographs of the era.
The irony is that his call for passive resistance would subsequently be met in the most violent manner of death possible: Killed April 4, 1968, by an assassin’s bullet.
In his passing, King gave the world something his detractors probably never imagined – a catalyst. More whites, already disgusted with the treatment of other humans, started to join the marches and rallies and challenge the way things were being done.
King, through his life and death, had forced a nation to look at itself in the mirror. For perhaps the first time, civil rights became an issue that was a part of everyday life because it was brought into people’s homes on the nightly news. No longer could the oppression be ignored.
We cannot allow that spark to be diminished. We cannot allow the sacrifices that were made to be forgotten. We cannot stop or even slow down the perpetual reach for equality.
January 18, 2014
(Peoria) Journal Star
The War on Poverty, success or failure?
Earlier this month – Jan. 8 – marked the 50th birthday of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and it should surprise next to no one that both parties are trying to exploit the issue in their own unique if predictable ways, not just because they care in ways large or small about the plight of the poor but because … well, did we mention that 2014 is an election year?
Where more than a few conservatives and Republicans are concerned, LBJ’s Great Society has been an abysmal failure, creating a crippling dependence on government while defining America’s slide into socialism, as evidenced by a record number of poor Americans, nearly 47 million. The poor, they argue, are worse off than they were in 1964, and middle class taxpayers are, too.
More than a few liberals and Democrats would beg to differ, arguing that given the nation’s population growth – 125 million – the percentage of poor in fact has dropped in the last 50 years. Poverty is a relative thing, with America’s poor far better off, for the most part, than their counterparts around the world. For them, the programs created and/or expanded in the context of LBJ’s War on Poverty – Head Start, food stamps, unemployment compensation, Medicaid, etc. – have been a critical safety net and a lifeline that has put millions who otherwise wouldn’t have had a prayer over the top.
There is an element of truth in what both sides have to say, as well as an element of self-serving, vote-counting nonsense.
From this vantage, Republicans have a steeper hill to climb in mounting the pedestal inscribed “Pals of the Poor,” especially following a 2012 presidential election in which their nominee expressed contempt for the so-called “47 percent” of Americans he considered “takers” rather than “makers.” Since then the party has sought significant cuts in programs that serve the underprivileged, such as food stamps. There’s some validity in the old saw that teaching a man to fish is far preferable in the long run to giving him a fish to eat, but when you balk at funding even for job training programs, it starts to ring hollow.
Conversely, while Democrats may think they have the market cornered on compassion, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has a point when he says that “while we have programs in place that help deal with the pain of poverty, they don’t deal with the structural problems” that perpetuate it, such as the dramatic rise in single-parent families. Let’s face it, economic pain also can be self-inflicted. And sometimes Democrats can be generous, nonjudgmental and forgiving to a fault, their apparent answer to every problem to just throw more of other people’s money at it while asking little or nothing of those on the receiving end. As such they open themselves to the charge of the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” to steal a phrase once used by George W. Bush.
When LBJ said 50 years ago that “for the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty,” at least he had noble, if naive, intentions. We’re not so confident those laudable impulses still exist.