Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama can change America

As we to prepare to witness the historical inauguration of Barack Obama as the first Black person to become President of the United States, I feel good about it. I wish him well. I do not wish him well because I agree with his policies; I hope he is not successful in implementing some of the changes he wishes for our county. On some issues, I think we should be changing in the opposite direction of the direction Obama wants to take us. On other issues, I agree with Obama and hope he follows through on his campaign promises. In general, it is not his policies that have given me high hopes for Obama. I am not hoping he can change government policy but rather I am hopeful that he can change society.

America is still a society where most White people have it pretty good and most Black people do not. You do not have to tell me that there are successful African Americans and poor White people; of course there are. But, on average the typical Black person has it much worse in this country than the average White person.

Some will point out that any remnant of discrimination has been eliminated and opportunity, even preferential treatment, has been provided to Black Americans. For the most part I agree, and yet the divide between the races is undeniable.

If you are born white, you can have reasonable expectations of growing up to be successful. Even if you are born to parents of modest means, you probably know someone who has achieved success or someone in your family may have achieved success. If you are white it is reasonable to have high expectations. The chances are pretty good that the typical White child will grow up to be productive, and middle class and prestige and wealth are within grasp for those with exceptional abilities and those who apply themselves.

What can the black child realistically look forward to? Many find a reality in this: If you are a black girl you will be pregnant by the time you are sixteen and raise a child alone as a single mother, financially struggling your entire life. If you are a black boy it is worse. You will start getting into trouble with the law by the time you are a young teenager. You will drop out of school and you will end up spending part of your life in prison. You may be killed before you reach thirty. No one has to tell me it doesn’t have to be this way; I know it doesn’t, but the picture I have painted is the likely reality. If life turns out better, then you have beaten the odds.

Why is it like this? I suspect that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Great Society are all responsible for the state of the Black community. We have witnessed the destruction of the family in the Black community; the family unit is the building block of society. And poverty can be a simple math equation. For example, a mother earning $20,000 a year with one child is living in poverty. However, a family with a father earning $30,000 and a mother earning $20,000 and raising one child are doing OK. Poverty is much more than a math equation though. The absence of the father in the home is more than the absence of that income. Young men need a role model and a strong disciplinarian to keep them from running wild. Young women need a stable male figure, representing strength and fortitude and demonstrating love.

Poverty is hopelessness. Poverty is a different set of values. Poverty is a state of mind. If poverty is not to be devastating, people need the support system of the family structure. Poverty and despair and immediate gratification and low expectations and self-destructive behavior have become part of the fabric of Black society.

I think that whatever success Obama may have as President, his greatest success may be that he can change Black society. I can only imagine the pride that many Blacks must be feeling as they see a Black man achieve the ultimate success in becoming the most influential and powerful person in the world. Certainly we have had other Black role models recently. The Bush administration featured Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, yet I suspect that having a Black man at the very top of the ladder can have an impact that other Blacks in lesser positions cannot have.

Due to the historical structure of society, politics and even the entertainment industry, Blacks have had few admirable role models in the publicized realm. In modern times, the Black adults that many Black kids look up to are rappers and athletes. Many of the athletes have the persona of thugs and pimps and the rappers revel in that image. I watched the movie Ray Charles the other night. I love the music of Ray Charles and really enjoyed the movie, yet Ray Charles was not an admirable person. He was a drug addict who was openly unfaithful to his wife. If you are a Black parent, is this the kind of role model you want for your kid? I know one could also say that there are plenty of Whites who would make poor role models, but it seems poor role models are abundant in the black community and people to admire are few and far between.

It seem like even the successful blacks are often crooks and thugs or tainted by scandal or associations. Here in Tennessee we had an attractive Black candidate run for Senate a few years ago named Harold Ford, Jr. There was never any serious allegation about defects in his character, yet he comes from a powerful political Black family out of Memphis that is deeply tainted by scandal and corruption. His uncle, John Ford, was a sharp-dressing, handsome, arrogant, slick politician who had numerous run-ins with the law and who had a wife but also openly had a mistress. He openly maintained two households. He was a state senator for many years and is now in prison for corruption. From Adam Clayton Powell down through the present, it seems that there is almost an expectation that Blacks who achieve political success are corrupt.

Also, many of the civil rights leaders and religious leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson seem more like demigods and shakedown artist rather than principled leaders. Certainly there are many, many good people pastoring Black churches across America and other Black leaders of stature, but the high profile Black leaders look like con artist.

My hope for America is that Blacks will aspire to look and act like Barack Obama and not the pimp on the corner, or the drug dealer, or the rapper, or the thug athlete. I hope that the image of the Obama household where a family consisting of two successful parents and two little girls living in a normal, loving, and supportive environment sinks into the psyche of every Black kid across America. I hope that Blacks see that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. I hope they learn to value education. I hope that speaking normal English and being responsible and working hard and studying and having aspirations is no longer considered “acting white.”

I hope there is never a hint of scandal on Obama. I was concerned about some of his Chicago relationships but I hope they were casual and that nothing more comes out to tie Obama to the corruptions of some of his past associates. If Obama has a girl friend on the side, I hope we never learn about it. I hope Obama is never caught taking money under the table. I hope he never shakes down contributors or is caught helping a corrupt crony get a contract or having a cheap affair with an intern.

I hope that Obama does not try to help the Black community by extending the dependency of the welfare state. That is the last thing the Black community needs. They do not need more dependency; they need self-sufficiency. Welfare reform was a step in the right direction and then it was abandoned and we backslid. For the last few years, for the most part, the problems of the Black community have been ignored. There are ways to expand opportunity without fostering dependency. The best thing Obama can do for the Black community is be a role model and use the bully pulpit to inspire Blacks to have greater aspirations and change the way they think. If Black kids want to grow up and be like Obama, that may be Obama’s most lasting legacy.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Evaporated cane juice?

Nashville has finally arrived! We have a Trader Joe's. I went to Trader Joe's recently and bought some good stuff at good prices. One of the things I purchased was Sunflower Seed Butter. The ingredients in Sunflower Seed Butter are sunflower seeds, evaporated cane juice, and salt. Evaporated cane juice? Isn't that sugar?

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Mike, I don't wish George W. Bush ill, I just wish him goodbye and good riddance

Dear Rod,

For the last eight years, President Bush has led our country with firm determination and a steady hand in the face of numerous challenges and crises. He restored honor and integrity to the White House and protected America from another terrorist attack.

As President and Mrs. Bush prepare to leave Washington in a few weeks to return to Texas, I know I speak for Republicans and grassroots leaders across America when I say we are all grateful for their tremendous service to our country. To show our appreciation for our Commander-in-Chief, the RNC is asking every Republican to sign an electronic card that will be presented to President Bush before he leaves office. It is the least each of us can do to show our gratitude to the leader of our country and our Party.

And if you can, Rod, I hope you will also consider giving a gift to keep our Party strong and moving forward. Your secure online contribution of $1,000, $500, $100, $50 or $25 will go a long way toward helping the RNC provide the support our Republican leaders need to fight the Democrats' liberal agenda and prepare for the vital 2009-2010 elections.

I hope you will add your name to the RNC's Thank You card to President Bush and Laura Bush today. And thank you for your continued support of our Party and our cause.

Best Wishes,

Robert M. "Mike" Duncan
Chairman, Republican National Committee

P.S. Rod, in order for your name to be included on the RNC's Thank you e-card to President and Mrs. Bush, you must reply to this e-mail by January 15th. Please click here to sign the President's Thank You card and to make a secure online gift to help strengthen our Party for the battles ahead. Thank you.

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your kind letter but I must decline the opportunity to send a donation to the RNC at this time, and I am not going to sign the e-card thanking President Bush for his service. Although I made several contributions to the McCain campaign and the RNC during the election, I am withholding future donations until I see who is elected the new chairman of the RNC. Frankly, Mike, since you represent the old guard of Bush loyalist, I will be less likely to contribute to the RNC if you are re-elected chairman.

I don’t personally know you, and you may be a good guy, but I want a clean break from the Bush years and a new beginning for the party. You see, I have been a disgruntled Republican these last few years and instead of wanting to show my appreciation to President Bush, I am sighing relief that we survived his presidency. I am certainly not celebrating that Obama is being inaugurated President, but I almost feel like celebrating that Bush is leaving office. I want to forget that Bush ever happened.

I must disagree with several things you say in your letter. First of all, you say that Bush has restored honor and integrity to the White House. I don’t quite see it that way. Sure, Bill Clinton was shady and there were allocations about questionable land deals and shake-down of contributors and association with shady characters; but, Republicans have had Jack Abramoff and other scandals, so on balance, I don’t know that Bush has a claim to any greater integrity than Clinton.

If you are referring to Bill Clinton getting a blow job in the oval office, then I always thought that was a bit overblown. I know Clinton lied about it and committed perjury and that was an embarrassment, but it didn’t put the country at risk. At most, that was a personal failing. He betrayed Hillary, not the country. Bush may have a greater claim to personal moral purity than Clinton but I would not say that Bush restored honor and integrity to the office of President. In some ways, Bush brought more dishonor to the Office. Justifying and condoning torture dishonored our nation.

Bill Clinton embarrassed us by the blow job incident; Bush embarrassed us by just being George W. Bush. I am relieved that I will not have to see anymore “Great moments in Presidential Speeches.” One of the most embarrassing times I remember about GWB is when he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. She clearly was an unqualified person. I would have been embarrassed if our Metro Council had tried to put her on the bench as a General Sessions judge, and yet Bush wanted to put her on the Supreme Court. Bush always seemed to value loyalty over competence and if there is one word to describe his presidency it is “incompetence.”

You say that Bush has led us with “firm determination and a steady hand.” Is that just another way of saying he was bull headed and would not listen to reason? That is the way I see him.

You say that you know you speak for Republicans and grassroots leaders across America when you say we are all grateful for President Bush’s service to our country. You don’t speak for me. I am not grateful for Bush’s service. I think we would be better off if Bush had never been our president.

Don't get me wrong. I don’t hate Bush. I don’t wish him ill. Unlike many on the left, I don’t even think Bush is an evil person. But, he made some serious mistakes and shamed our nation. Maybe history will judge him more kindly than I now judge him. Two presidents who are now highly regarded, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, committed offenses to our constitution and committed grave violation of our civil liberties and yet history treats them well, so history may treat Bush well. Who knows? We will have to wait and see.

I don’t think everything Bush did was wrong. There is much about his administration with which I agree and admire. He has some accomplishments which I think deserve praise. We can be proud of the assistance we have given Africa to fight AIDS. Bush appointed two supremely qualified solid conservatives to the Supreme Court. I generally agree with “no child left behind.” I agreed with Bush’s tax policy. There are other things that Bush tried to accomplish that were the right thing to do but he simply failed to pull them off. He tried to avert the housing crisis and rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the Democrats in Congress defeated his proposed reforms. Comprehensive immigration reform, social security reform, and health care reform were the correct policies to pursue, and I was with him. On comprehensive immigration reform, I think Bush was right but he was defeated because he could not get the support of his own party.

I fault Bush for expanding entitlements with the Medicare prescription drug benefit. I fault him for run-away spending and failure to use the veto. I think he failed to show leadership and must accept part of the blame for the Katrina response. Most of all, I fault him for leading us into an unnecessary war based on faulty and manipulated intelligence. I am ashamed of illegal wire-tapping, extraordinary rendition, torture, and Abu Ghraib.

I don’t want Bush to be indicted. I don’t want investigations. I want to look forward and not backward. However, I don’t want to honor George W. Bush. I want my country’s honor restored and I hope the Grand Ole Party can find its soul. I don’t wish George W. Bush ill; I just wish him good-bye and good riddance.


Rod Williams

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