Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
By Joshua M. Patton
Writing is not something one does to get rich. Some are lucky enough to become successful beyond their wildest dreams and others are luckier still to eke out enough for a decent living and the freedom to not have to work for The Man. I had a lot of success with writing when I was very young. It allowed me the sin of taking the craft and the business side of it for granted. Opportunity has seemingly become a scarce resource for almost every industry.
No, no, this is not a "woe is me," post although it is a dark day of the soul, if I do say so myself and I will cause it is my self. Yet, I did create this weblog and I suppose that since I have no specific direction for it, I can take advantage of it for a little self-indulgence. All in all things are well, but it feels as if everything is hanging by a thread and if it were to snap everything good could come unraveling apart. Chaos, pandemonium, rock fucking bottom.
Yet the thread and the center both apparently still hold. Thus, one must dwell not on the worries in life, but try one's best to enjoy the shit sandwich life sometimes puts on our plates. The college campus I visit four times a week is populated by both the spoiled brats of the well off that have never really had to try at much in their life. Conversely there are single-mothers and people who work two or three part-time jobs while maintaining a full-time course schedule. The spoiled complain about classes, parents, and their general malaise at having life thrust upon them. However those that have no parents to fall back on, those who life has beaten the shit out of, and those whose circumstances justify their being bitter assholes are hopeful of the future and grateful at the opportunity to go to our dinky little school.
So what am I going to do? Write. Study. Live. And try my damndest to be happy. I will have a weekly column appearing at Naked World Post each Tuesday. I continue to look for stories to tell and places to publish them. I am going to keep my main focus on school, a gift given to me by the country (GI Bill)…a gift not to be wasted. I will persist in trying to be a good Dad. This first semester almost got the best of me, but when it came down to it, I buckled down and made that fucker submit. The next semester is going to be even worse, but when we stop challenging ourselves we have given up, haven't we? Still like Ringo, I get by with a little help from my friends. Charles Bukowski worked in a Post-Office for twelve years and didn't make a name for himself as a writer until later in life. There are stories like this for whatever it is you want to do. It just takes a little courage to bet the farm and really go after what it is you want.
We'll talk soon.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
College has changed since I last attended it. No one looks at each other anymore. I walk around campus looking into the faces of those around me. Looking them in the eyes trying to take measure of the sack of flesh before me, but were I to see a spark of anything worth interacting with, I would not be able to get through to the fucker because of earphones shoved in ears and eyes only for the text message screen. I am not sure if it is because this is a post-Columbine, post-9/11, post-Virginia Tech society or if just because kids today grow up with instant messaging, e-mail, and all other sorts of ways to electronically interact.
I attend a small school, Robert Morris University only has about 5,000 students total. Yet, this is what boggles my mind. It is so much harder to be anonymous in a smaller setting. I went to a small high school. Regardless of levels of interaction, the younger kids knew who all of the older kids were. I routinely hang out with people who have no real recollection of my attending our high school. I remember them, because they were older and we wanted to talk to them.
In college, I went to Lock Haven University right after high school and it was more of a small community than anything. Everyone knew everyone and there were always the same three parties happening at various locations around campus. They got it right. If you are going to have to look at each others' faces all the time, why not see what it looks like after they take one shot too many? The dating scene was even more dramatic. Yet, there was no text-stalking or facebook flaming or myspace blasting or skype fisting or anything other than, "I had heard that your man/girl was…." Etc.
I look around at my peers in school and some of them are a decade younger than I am. They seem to know so little, and know that they know so little. When I was 18 I didn't know anything, but I thought I knew everything. These mediocre bastards are quite happy with being ignorant and are in school hoping to find "a good job." I remember looking at some of the less scholarly members of the military when I was serving and thinking that we got those that have no place in college. Yet, now that I see the kids on campus at RMU and I know that those hardworking, thick-headed numbskulls in the Army would have no trouble getting through school other than the awareness that they were not maximizing their potential.
These kids need a little weirdness in their lives. A little bit of blind, irrational ambition. Are we training a generation of worker-bees to pay off the debts of the future? How long until it is just a few pigs around the table, dividing up all of the nation's wealth once the youth has been stripped of real ambition. Or maybe I just picked a fucked-up school? I don't know. The good thing is, I could steal all kinds of stuff from Back to School because these kids have probably never even heard of Rodney Dangerfield. Let the shenanigans begin….
Monday, September 21, 2009
Getting Sick Over It: Part One of Three Covering the Healthcare Debate
Lighter Fare: A Review of Jay-Z's New Album
And as always I publish a weekly column at Steelersmix.com
Hope you all enjoy them.
Something new here soon.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Viewed as an “adult” now, when I interact with high school-age children, I do not continue to appear to speak their language. In fact, I usually admonish them if they speak aloud any cyber-phrases, e.g. LOL, BRB, and the like. I did not send very many text messages until I purchased a phone that had a keyboard. I found it far too time-consuming to text-message and I would try to write in complete sentences. I saw these messages as e-mail only 140 characters in length. Yet, the keyboard makes it nearly impossible to consider attempting to send a text message while operating a vehicle. Others, however, thanks to T9 Software, are able to text away at blinding speed and barely glance at the screen and what they are typing. This would make the temptation to text message and drive much, much higher. The temptation also increases as the age of the driver decreases – for some text messaging is a preferred method of communication. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute determined in a comprehensive study that the likelihood of crashing while reading and replying to text messages is 23 times greater than if one is not. That staggering statistic alone was enough to make me plug in my headphone attachment and place my phone far out of reach, when I am driving the vehicle. Yet, I know countless friends that habitually send text messages while driving and with kids growing up “texting,” it is incumbent upon those of us who have not, that it is dangerous and inappropriate to send text messages while driving. We also have to have a conversation with them about not sending around naked pictures of themselves, but I digress.
It is also not just an American problem and the British have attempted what is really not that drastic of a solution. Available on YouTube, there is a video of three young British teenagers that cause a multi-car accident while distracted by text messages on the phone. The accident happens fifteen seconds into the video and what follows is over four minutes of the crash – highly cinematic and very bloody, the rescue effort – including an unresponsive infant that really doesn’t look dead, just adorable, and the paramedics’ rescue efforts for the person who caused the accident – the young actress does a very good job of soundlessly expressing guilt as her primary feeling during this part of the video. Graphic though it may be, I think the most brilliant part of the video is the last few seconds where in the helicopter flight to the hospital it is successfully implied that the driver has only the rest of her life to live with the result of such a careless act. Yet, there is a narrative being developed that this video is far too graphic to be effective for the youth of America.
I think the main argument should be that this particular ad is purely fiction. It is a very well-acted, well-directed, high quality public service announcement and that is all that it is. It goes no further than any network show that substitutes laugh tracks for gun blasts. The last scene of the season finale of LOST this year was far more bloody and “graphic” than anything in that video. Don’t even get me started on Wolverine…. When I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, I recall a group of mothers that happened to be very much against drunk driving showing us video of real drunk driving accidents involving teenagers. In that afternoon, on public school property and time, I saw video of brains splattered across the pavement, a leg not cleanly severed somewhere about mid-calf, sneaker still on the foot, and a myriad of other horrible bloody images. And you know what? It fucking worked. Even without the element of drinking, I realize that while flying down the road I am piloting a massive death trap for myself and anyone unfortunate enough to be in my vicinity when I lose all control and careen into something or someone only to be discovered a bloody mess, cigarette clasped in one hand and, in the other, my phone with a half-written text message to a dope dealer.
Rather than being too graphic, the British ad is exactly the type of thing that would reach the kids of today. Sure, it is still painfully uncool, but the pain comes from a different place than it did when I was forced to listen to 40 year-olds say things like “radical” and “whack” in 1997. So often people usually more invested in a particular cause than the youths they are trying to reach, will discount unorthodox methods of reaching out to kids and this is where they fail. The world is more dangerous than it was when I was growing up, and if we are to prepare our children to survive everyday life we cannot spare their feelings. The purpose of the ad, and others like it, is to shock the shit out of these kids and hopefully at least reach enough of them so that they survive long enough to ensure the survival of the human race. When was it decided that it was in the best interest of our children to hide them away from reality and then shove them out into the harsh light of the real world as workers, college students, or as a part of the military. As a father, I know that we love our kids and want to protect them, but I also know that it is because of this that we must make it hard for them sometimes. We have to force them to deal with uncomfortable or downright twisted happenings in the real world, mostly on their own. They have the potential to be a stronger and smarter people than we will ever be, yet they won’t make it if someone doesn’t tell them to keep their eyes on the road and off that goddamn phone.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Registering for class ... Court of public opinion ... A second run-in with the police ... looking for a handout
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Iraq is not a place for lovers. This war’s purpose was to be the stepping-stone for a major change in the Middle East. It was not to last more than six months and while no one ever expected it to be easy, it was not supposed to last this long. Iraq is a country ravaged by violence – Iraqi against Iraqi, mujahedeen from radical Islamic sects fighting locals or the coalition forces, and our forces themselves -finding it difficult to differentiate between enemy and civilian. Just being there takes a toll on those of us who have never seen war before. The Army does its best to establish a support system for its troops. There are chaplains of every faith available and soldiers often lean on other soldiers. Yet there is no substitute for the voice of a loved on even across miles of ocean and desert.
It is a challenge for couples to work through the stresses of a relationship even when there isn’t war raging around them or a separation of thousands of miles. The true problem couples face in this situation is a lack of selflessness. The soldier faces an entire change of lifestyle with restrictions on everything he or she does from eating to recreational time. Violence can erupt around one so suddenly, it can be difficult to ever let one’s guard down. Yet, the person at home also has to deal with everyday life made worse by the absence of a partner. The problems tend to come when couples stop listening to each other and focus on oneself. The couples that “make it” are those who in spite of all their immediate concerns remain focused on the needs of their loved one, trusting the other to do the same.
My friend Hank was married to the mother of his two sons, Karen during our deployment. She met him at a party at the college they both attended at one of the local frat houses. Karen found herself facing the unwanted advances of one of the frat brothers, literally backed into a corner. She was contemplating the self-defense moves her mother had taught her before she left for school (thumbs in the eyes or a knee in the groin?) when the very drunk boy was grabbed from behind and she found herself face to face with her rescuer, Hank.
“Mind if I take this guy’s place and ask you to dance?” He asked her with a wry smile.
“It was yours to begin with,” Karen replied softly.
In six months, they were living together in a small apartment in the Southside of Chicago. Karen continued at the University of Chicago, while Hank left school and began to work in the newly exploding mortgage market. After a few successful months, Hank surprised Karen with a cruise to the Bahamas. On the last night of the cruise, they stood on the deck watching the sunset into the Atlantic.
“Have you ever seen anything more beautiful,” she asked looking out at the horizon.
“Yes, you” said Hank. Karen turned to him to smile and saw him on one knee, arm extended, and a small box in his hand.
“What are you doing?” she asked breathlessly.
“Asking you to marry me,” he replied, the normal air of confidence in his voice absent, replaced with nervousness she had not heard from him before. They both wept tears of joy as the sun disappeared for the night.
As with all love stories, the actual business of living happily ever-after was more of a challenge than they had imagined. Hank’s mortgage business was struggling, as the bubble seemed poised to burst at any moment. When their second child was born, Hank left his reserve unit with two years left on his contract remaining in the Army. Yet without the extra money, he became more desperate for business. One particularly stressful day, Hank took a call from a hysterical Karen. He had been called up from the inactive reserves and was to be deployed to Iraq. Without him to run the day-to-day operations, the business he worked to build was doomed. Karen, however, thought the steady income from the military would bring some needed financial stability, Hank’s absence notwithstanding.
The couple had been growing distant for months before this and Karen had decided to go graduate school while Hank was gone. While he was still stateside, Karen was often rushed to get off of the phone when he called, late for some class or behind on reading or homework. Once our unit was in country, we would travel to the phone center and Hank was always the first one through with his phone calls. He would speak to his oldest son for a few minutes and then after a few terse exchanges with Karen he would hang up without the air of relief and comfort most of us had after calling home. He was buckling under the pressures of duty, the separation in general, and uncertainty about his future post-Iraq since the mortgage business was all but gone.
I was attached to a unit from Chicago, but our unit was attached to a National Guard battalion from Idaho. Lisa was a platoon leader in the headquarters unit and we often interacted, becoming fast friends. Her husband was a truck driver attached to a different company and stationed on another base. Despite what we thought, even though he was in country with her, this too came with its share of problems. The spoke only through e-mail and rarely saw each other. When they did, the differences in rank prevented them from expressing their love through physical means – a hug, a kiss, handholding – all verboten by US Army standards. She would often wile away the down time by telling us about their relationship and its beginnings.
Matt and Lisa had been friends since he had joined the Idaho National Guard. Yet, that all changed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during their annual two-week training. They were at the on-post club when compelled by drink and dancing Lisa kissed Matt. They loaded up on buses to be taken back to their barracks, and once back at their rooms, armed with a small bottle of rum, they located an empty barracks to spend the night in each other’s arms.
It was common knowledge in the unit that the two were a couple, despite the fact that they worked in different sections. Lisa climbed through the ranks and became an officer. Matt, a troubled soldier at best, was still a private first class, but he harbored no jealousy about Lisa’s promotion. In fact, he was very proud of her and often joked about having an Officer “in his pocket.” These words found their way to the commanding officer. In a meeting with the couple, she explained how the regulations were poised to change to disallow any relationships between officers and enlisted soldiers unless they were married. An angry Matt yelled at his captain, “Well then just TRY and stop us from getting married,” and stormed out of the office.
“Well, that wasn’t the result I was looking for. What do you have to say, Lieutenant?”
A shocked Lisa looked at her fellow officer and said, “I think I am getting married!”
When the battalion received orders to deploy to Iraq, Lisa was on the list to go but not Matt. He ran around frantically and found himself a place with another platoon. Iraq was a scary prospect, but now they could face it together. Once they arrived in-country, Matt’s platoon was placed on a base in Tikrit and Lisa’s on our base two hours north near Kirkuk. The only way they could see each other was to convoy between the bases. Each time he would convoy, Lisa would wait by the gate nervously until they arrived. Only rarely did they get to do much more than eat a quick meal or maybe sneak off to her quarters for a few short hours. “It’s maddening,” she told us, “for him to be so close and yet always at least an arm’s length away.”
As our deployment wound to a close, Hank noticed that the letters and e-mails from Karen were becoming more and more infrequent. Hank’s duties were of an administrative nature, so he rarely left the base. Still, this comes with its own pressures. As a squad leader, he also had to deal with increasingly stressed soldiers suffering from the cabin fever that comes from living and working in this horrid desert for almost a year. His happiest moments were his talks with his sons; they were spending more time with Hank’s parents and Karen’s lack of communication worried him. The tension he suffered between work and his personal situation became serious and our commander ordered Hank to take the next rest and relaxation leave, giving him two weeks at home. He spoke to Karen only twice to arrange for transportation home from the airport.
After no less than 20 hours of travel time in cramped military aircraft, Hank arrived in Chicago feeling a mixture of relief and the sense that something bad was about to happen. Karen met him at the airport, accompanied by a man. They had met at school, not unlike her and Hank, and had fallen in love she explained. Hank said nothing when Karen asked for a divorce but after a few tense moments broke the nose of the man standing next to his future ex-wife. He picked up his green duffel bag and walked off to find a cab; he was the only one weeping this time.
Back in Iraq, the tensions were heating up as the second round of elections loomed. During election time, the attacks against civilians and soldiers would double. These usually came in the form of roadside bombs. Matt and Lisa had continued to see each other infrequently, but they were always happy times. Hank once asked his secret, and Matt simply said when he saw his wife – his concerns, his stresses melted away and he was only concerned about her. “Helping her deal with her problems somehow erased mine.” They had started to use the military postal system to send each other letters and small packages, finding joy in the smallest of things.
Right before the election, the couple had not spoken in about three weeks. With the increasing violence, travel between the two bases was only by helicopter, but there were some supplies that by truck. The road between Kirkuk and Tikrit had been heavily attacked, but Matt was so desperate to see his wife, he was the only one to volunteer for the trip. Lisa arrived at the gate to see the guards frantic – barking into the radio and receiving the standard Med Evac reports. Matt’s convoy had been hit and two soldiers were wounded, one dead. The guards did not know the names, so Lisa had no idea about her husband’s fate. After what seemed like days, the vehicles pulled in to the base. Lisa scanned the vehicles not seeing her husband and her stomach went cold. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes and then she heard her name. In what seemed like slow-motion she turned to see him jump from the back of a large truck – dirty and covered in blood that was not his own.
“I thought…” she stammered.
“Shh,” Matt said, holding his wife and keeping the tears at bay, “It’ll take more than a war to keep me from you.” As the commotion continued around them, they held each other weeping a mixture of joy and despair for being together but in this place.
War by its very nature is destructive, but the casualties are not always victims of some form of violence. The mental distress soldiers suffer upon their return from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan is vastly underreported and undertreated. Some casualties are families ripped apart because the soldier and the spouse do not know how to support each other or ask for the support they need. All too often couples will just talk at each other, each relaying why it is they need the others' support, instead of just listening. Also, ten minute-phone calls and fifteen minutes to use computers, do not lead to healthy communication in relationships. The military is taking "efforts" to reduce the strain on families and couples, but whatever they do it will not be enough. Iraq is not a place for lovers.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Big States, Little States, United StatesSubmitted 1 year agoWhile watching the twenty-four hour news networks form a narrative for the elections, most specifically this current primary season, I have noticed a disturbing trend that threatens to marginalize the democratic process in these United States of America. The pundits and talking heads dismiss the primary and even general elections in states such as Idaho, Mississippi, Utah, and others. The way the primary system is set up, my state of Pennsylvania is typically irrelevant in the nomination process. Sure, our voice is heard to the tune of possibly 21 electoral votes in November, but in that election we have rarely had any say about for whom it is that we are casting our ballots. Today, our primary election is seen as the next significant battleground for the Democratic candidates and I am surprised at the small amount of attention we have been getting from these candidates.
Senator Clinton made her play for the state early, riding her momentum from the victories in Texas and Ohio. She appeared at my native Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade and wracked up significant endorsements from politician delegates and local officials alike. Senator Obama has conducted some town hall meetings in the outlying areas of the city and had one rally in the Oakland area of the city around a number of the largest colleges in the area. I had hoped for some more vigorous campaigning on his part, but the politics of race have been played rather heavily in this area, and I think the rural folks across the state need a little more time with the candidate than those of us in the city. We shall see what the final weeks leading up to the election bring in terms of campaign appearances.
I wonder, though, how many people in Mississippi would have liked the opportunity to have a town meeting with the candidate of their choosing as the Iowa or New Hampshire constituencies enjoyed. I wonder if the people of Delaware suffer less from the effects of this crippling economy than those in big "important" states. The disenfranchisement of the American Voter seems to continue in an a day and age when technology is as such we no longer need these antiquated contrivances that served their purposes in their day but should be pushed to evolve into a more pure version of this experiment called democracy.
After all, this is simply the party nomination process and we tend to forget that the political parties are organizations that should be allowed to make up their own rules. Yet, the two-party system we have in place limits the ability for all of the voices in the population to be heard. However, given the arguments made by this particular party during the resolutions of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the party that dares to call itself democratic should ensure that their nomination process is as democratic as possible. The delegates should be bound to vote as the voters which sent them to the convention directed. We are in a day and age where we can move towards a more popular vote.
I do not believe that we should get rid of the Electoral College, it actually promotes fairness in that it protects states that are outnumbered in population maintain a voice in the democratic process. However, I do believe that we need to bind these representatives in both the Electoral College and amongst the ranks of the delegates elected in the primaries to adhere to the wishes of the voters in their districts. I also believe that a party calling itself democratic should remove the politician delegates they so adorably adorned with the moniker "super." While I am not so keen on the notion of only a two-party system, this is what we are stuck with. Thusly I believe the party should be bound by the will of its members not of its bosses and top elected officials.
Barack Obama has effectively ignored the type of "big-state" strategy that Senator Clinton has employed. He has taken the opportunity to campaign vigorously in all states sending a message that transcends simple delegate tallies and exit polls. He is sending the message that every vote matters to him and that he is running for President of the United States not President of the Blue States. I believe his opponent's logic is fatally flawed and his current status as front-runner is the evidence of that. The opposing candidate herself has said that despite which of them will be the nominee, the Democratic Party should align itself behind the nominee and truly be a unified party for a change in the current Washington scene. Senator Clinton's campaign messages of late, and to a lesser extent the responses of Senator Obama's campaign, have not carried that harmonious tone. However, are we to believe the solid blue states will not toe the line and fall in to support Obama were he to win the nomination? The swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and some of the south hang in the balance and will require attention from both candidates in the general election as none of these candidates are like anything that we are used to.
I am sure that John McCain will run a dignified campaign and I believe Barack Obama has shown that he too wants to change the timbre of political campaigning for the betterment of the process. There are a few contests left in the primary season, will there be substantive debate on the differences between these candidates or will they rip each others' characters to shreds and in doing so destroy their own effectively doing the work of the Republicans for them when it comes to exploiting the weakness of these candidates? And what of the message Senator Clinton is sending to the voters of the states she ignores on the campaign trail while at the same time speaking up for the "disenfranchised" voters of Florida and Michigan because she desperately needs them now?
On a side note, the Florida and Michigan debate also causes me to scratch my head in bewilderment. Back when this was first decided, no one seemed to care that the voters' voices had been silenced because it was supposed to be over before 50% of the country had voted. The voters however, have retaken ownership of the process. It seems disingenuous that there is such an outcry now, when the offenses were committed so long ago. It is not a concern for a constituency to be fairly represented bur more political positioning in order to either regain or maintain an advantage. Senator Clinton is almost out of it, I believe, but she will not go down with out a fight. My only hope is that she does not take half of the party with her. The time has come to make a change: a drastic change of what is considered politics-as-usual; a change that allows us to look beyond skin color or gender; a change to the myth of political experience equating executive qualification; a change that allows us to see past the partisanship that should represent a foundation for ideological debate instead of vicious infighting that strangles our government and renders it ineffectual. The largest indicator in my mind that someone represents that change is when they break from the mold, do something unexpected, and take the road less traveled by.
4 - 4 - 1968Submitted 1 year ago
"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored"Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.
In my MP3 player I have an eclectic mix of music to get me through the 40 minute bus ride from my home to downtown. Along with music, I have a collection of spoken word pieces and some inspiring speeches. One of these is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" and it is a speech that I never tire of hearing. We can see what was unequivocally bad then with the benefit of hindsight, what has changed by comparing the present to then, and even can apply these words to stimulate real discussion of where we still have to go. It is something that I think all Americans should be familiar with as we are with JFK's inauguration speech, the Gettysburg Address, or if I may be so bold, the Sermon on the Mount.
I am not trying to assign a sainthood or divinity to Dr. King. He was undeniably a typically flawed human being just like the rest of us. Sadly, the FBI pursued Dr. King through countless wiretaps and electronic surveillance. They were searching for anything that could ties him to the Communists, in an attempt to attach a powerful black leader to the nation's fiercest enemy. All they discovered was an intensely self-critical man that had a weakness the President who authorized the surveillance also suffered, the problem of infidelity. The relentless harassment that Dr. King received in terms of written threats and physical acts of violence possibly aided by the Federal investigation serve to further exemplify that this was a man who was larger than his faults and begs the question what scared the establishment so much about this man that they devoted so many resources to his downfall? For the might of the FBI all they could find was pillow talk and tabloid news that today's society relegates to the entertainment news. Was it a fear that he was a megalomaniacal leader looking to overturn the infrastructure of the government?
From his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech:
"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood,"and
"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. 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."These quotes do not reflect the Anti-American ravings of a dangerous subversive. These powerful statements come from a man who so loves his country that he will castigate it with no hesitation when its actions go against the values we hold sacrosanct as a nation. These are the characteristics of the Patriot. Unlike the most commonly misunderstood idea of patriotism, unquestioning obedience to the government and the current agenda, Dr. King -- like Lincoln and the delegates of the Continental Congress -- held the national authority to task and ensured that our shared equality was equally honored.
Thus we remember the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, a particular milestone the man himself never achieved only 39 years of age when he was gunned down. Some believe his killers to be the great white establishment, an entire conspiracy network put into place to remove from power a man that was, according to an FBI Memo, "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country." How tragic it would be if this great man was killed by a singular hateful and small-minded man. Truly a life as grand as his deserves an equally grand finish. The truth may be forever argued and never discovered. Now 40 years past his death, I wonder if it isn't one of the more irrelevant points in the discussion. What Dr King, I believe, would have us remember about his time on earth is what he said, and how we relate those words to our experiences in today's world. As we remember his passing -- when a champion of peace had his life taken in an act of cowardly violence -- let us reflect on the way this change was brought about and look at ourselves for the courage to continue to strive for a better cohesion of cultures.
Change was achieved and ground was made to level the racial playing field. We no longer have Bull Conner keeping his police officers at home and allowing his town to come under mob rule. The journey of the Freedom Riders ensured that nothing like that could ever happen again. This was a victory of the civil rights movement and Dr. King. Today's racism is more subtle and more subverted. There are no more great demonstrations of hate or intolerance, merely quiet acts that "hopefully" go unnoticed by the mainstream media. This is part of the reason that the racial discussion has become stagnant because it ultimately comes down to "It's better than the 60's, right?"
In times like these the quiet resolve of Dr. King can inspire us all to strive for the betterment of our national community and to have the courage to stand up in the face of corruption, ignorance, and violence without sullying one's own principles. The courage to take unpopular stances will be tested in no more difficult way than when attacked. Dr. King would instruct us to turn the other cheek as individuals or as a people. Today, he would be called soft, Un-American, and perhaps a traitor when considering the war on terror and the fervor behind it. During these times we remember not just the way Dr. King was taken from us, but what he did while he was here. His love of the people extended not to just the black community but the entire community. When we look at the life of the man and not just his death perhaps we of all colors and beliefs can emulate in some small way the character of a man who had the courage to peacefully stand up to an entire nation for the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
The Argument for The Democratic ProcessSubmitted 1 year agoThe dominating political discussion is the Democratic primary, and Pennsylvania's relevance in this contest is rather exciting to voters all across the state, Republican and Democrat. Throughout the Republican Primary season and this continuing Democratic race there has been a call from some in the parties expressing eagerness to make the latter contests irrelevant with the underdog ceding the nomination to the front-runner. If one looks at the political party nomination process as party business and not as an exercise in democracy, then the position makes sense. There is more time to stimulate the general election debate, raise funds, and organize constituencies. Therefore the late scheduling of the conventions and disqualifications of some states were party business as well. The parties deemed that the conventions had become more coronations and, it is my guess, that they scheduled these conventions to build momentum for the home stretch of the general election race. However, given the actions of the Florida and Michigan governments, and the almost down-the-middle divide in the party between the candidates the voters and the party leaders are sadly reminded of what the traditional purpose of the convention has been, to fairly and effectively select the party's nominee.
Some have called for Senator Clinton to leave the race and cede victory to Senator Obama. While as a voter, I would love to see Senators McCain and Obama begin their campaigns and the greater national discussion to follow. There are some within the Democratic Party that believe this continued primary season hurts the party. Others say it is fantastic for the party and should continue until the convention is held, (with time adjusted for the effect of 24-hour news media) some half-dozen years from now. Either of these points-of-view could be correct, it depends on the manner in which the campaigns are conducted throughout.
For the past month John McCain has been able to quietly rally the Republican troops, fill in the gaps in his organization, and essentially begin his general election campaign while the two Democratic candidates lambasted each other's character. The question changed from which of these two would be the best agent of change into why the other candidate and, by extension, those they associate with would make for a bad candidacy. This to me was a wasted opportunity and one of the reasons why Democrats are viewed as disorganized and their own worst enemy. When John McCain secured the nomination Mike Huckabee was still gaining a significant percentage of votes building steam seemingly because Sen. McCain was the front-runner. Every media outlet drove into the voters' mind that since there was no way for Huck to win the nomination, that it was time to call the race. When Huck bowed out, both Senators Obama and Clinton should have picked up right where he left off. Sen. Obama had the right idea, identifying their differences but also pointing out why Democrats should be respectful of John McCain and thus appealing to some of McCain's moderate and independent support.
However, his opponent then launched her 3 A.M. ad and he had to turn his focus on his primary opponent. Had she taken the same approach and deftly included why she would be superior to Sen. Obama in challenging Sen. McCain, he would have had to fend off attacks from two directions with little organization to handle such work. This is her current strategy in Pennsylvania. Attacks directly against Sen. Obama have not worked before. However, now that the subject of race has been introduced by her surrogates and the Rev. Wright attention, the notion that "She's the only candidate that can beat John McCain," has a new effectiveness with some of the blue-collar white democrats in the state.
The notion that any election in a democracy is not good for the country is ludicrous. The voters have made this more than simply party business. When there are only two significant parties presenting candidates on a national level, the selection of the nominee is very important. However, if the tones of these campaigns are not dignified and helpful to the party first and the candidate second, then effectively the Democrats make the Republican's workload much easier when it comes time to start raking muck. The differences in policy are not attention grabbing and will not keep the senior election analysts on the news networks talking. Instead they have engaged in snarky backbiting and character assaults that grab headlines but may hurt their efforts in the long run to November 2. The challenge lies at the feet of the Democratic candidates and the steps they take on the road to the convention. Senator Obama, in my opinion has so far done the best job of attempting to elevate the debate and focus forward rather than at sinking the ship sailing along next to him. He is content to make his case rather than be divisive and then let the American voter decide like adults. This week it seems as though Senator Clinton is attempting to lighten things up as well, even engaging in a poorly-delivered April Fool's joke. I only hope that she has the courage to run her campaign with dignity and honesty, not for herself, not even for her party, but for the American people so that we may move towards a future in which we are able to again believe in not only the candidates but the process itself.