I have been traveling away from Palo Alto to L.A., Florida, and New York City. During this time there have been certain events in the news and others from my personal experience that have challenged my customary comfort zone of perception and cognition.
I watched on television the visit of President Obama to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects following the recent death of King Abdullah, the country's governing monarch. So I asked myself: How is it possible for the White House to consider it more important for President Obama to go to Saudi Arabia than to Poland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps at Auschwitz? And how is it possible for the government of Poland not to extend an invitation to President Putin of Russia? It was troops of the former Soviet Union that liberated Auschwitz.
Moreover, how is it possible, 70 years after the death camps and the murder of 6 million Jews because they were Jews, that any Jew has to be hesitant or afraid to walk down a street in Paris or another European city wearing his yarmulke?
In New York I went to see the Clint Eastwood movie American Sniper. While waiting for the main feature to play, I watched one preview of a coming movie after another. The common denominator between all the previews was exhibits and glorification of techno-violence and general gun violence. Too many people dismiss any connection between the promotion and glorification of violence in motion pictures and video games and the ubiquitous gun violence that permeates our society.
As I noted in a recent post:
This year firearms are expected to surpass automobiles as the leading cause of death in the United States. Nationwide, young black men have the highest firearm mortality rate; the overwhelming majority of these firearm deaths were from homicides perpetrated by other black men.
When not traveling to or from a speaking engagement, I also see in New York City what I sometimes see in San Francisco: homeless people sleeping on the street, and people holding signs begging for money for food. Again, a personal confrontation with the parallel universes of our country's reality: bounty and want. How is it possible that today, in the United States of America, with its vast abundance of wealth, some people are homeless and have to beg for food on our public streets?
Getting back to American Sniper, how is it possible for us to stand by for one moment when the criminal thugs of ISIS, under the guise of religion, can commit murder and mayhem in the name of establishing a caliphate, publicly behead their captives, and then have the audacity to ask for payment of ransom" money? Is our only response more bombing? The only question for me, after seeing American Sniper, is why Chris Kyle was not given greater opportunity to kill more of those persons bent on our national destruction.
Finally, how was it possible, no matter what your political views about our government's intervention in Iraq may be (that country did not attack us on 9/11), to not be outraged over the failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make the treatment of our volunteer veterans for things like injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder this nation's highest priority?
I also read a recent op-ed by columnist Charles Blow of The New York Times. In 2015, how is it possible that the first response of police investigating a theft on the campus of Yale University is to stop an African-American Yale student, Charles Blow's son? And how is it that their knee-jerk response after he has been stopped for questioning is to draw a gun and point it at him?
Have we learned nothing from the episodes in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland regarding the precarious relationship between local police and young African-American men, 52 years after Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, 51 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and almost 50 years after the Selma march and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
It has been reported that the Koch brothers plan to spend almost $900 million on the 2016 presidential election. When will we learn that a registered voter who actually goes to the polls to vote can match every dollar spent by the Koch brothers?
Speaking about voting, I also recently learned from a tweet by my good friend Roland Martin, the radio and TV commentator, that some black politicians in Alabama have expressed objections to a planned visit by President Obama to Selma, Alabama, in March to commemorate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In what universe are these politicians living? It must be an alternative version of the one we're blessed to be living and participating in.
At the end of the day, does anybody care anymore?