"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“We Still Aren’t Good Enough”: Morally, We Have Failed To Make A Brotherhood

How fitting it is that this weekend’s shabbat observance, which I plan to share with the B’nai Tzedek Congregation in Potomac, coincides with two other weekend celebrations: Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the swearing-in of President Obama.

There is much to commemorate: the exodus to freedom from slavery in Egypt; the life and legacy of America’s foremost civil rights leader; and a changing United States that reelected its first black president.

But delve deep below this weekend’s celebratory moments and consider our world with introspection, and you might well be led to an observation that King made in 1954, one that still holds true.

In a sermon in Detroit, he said that you didn’t have to look far to see that something was basically wrong with our world.

Society, he said, has more knowledge today than people have had in any period of human history, whether the topic is mathematics, science, social science or philosophy.

“The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough,” King preached, “but it’s as if we aren’t good enough.”

The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, he said, but that our moral genius has not caught up.

Through our scientific advances, such as the building of jet aircraft that can transect the globe, we have made the world a neighborhood, King said.

But morally, he said, we’ve failed to make it a brotherhood.

Examples abound.

Consider these words: “It is high time to assess how many [members of parliament] and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security threat.”

Do you think those evil thoughts were expressed during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich? Marton Gyongyosi of the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party of Hungary spoke those words last fall.

The fire of anti-Semitism that reduced a once-thriving Hungarian Jewish population to a third of its size still smolders. The smoke also rises in other parts of the world.

Some government leaders condemned Gyongyosi’s remarks, belatedly. But there are plenty of others, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who belong in Gyongyosi’s camp.

They remind us, just as King preached at the tender age of 29, that we still aren’t good enough. King declared that some things are right and some things are wrong, eternally and absolutely.

And there still exists one undeniable wrong that must be faced.

Despite scientific and technological advances that have taken us to places unthought of only a few years ago, in 2013 bigotry has global dimensions. It represents a moral challenge to the world.

King spoke of creating a worldwide fellowship that lifts concern “beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” Embrace all mankind, he said.

Now that is a tough call for an American president, to move from national to ecumenical concerns.

Fixing the economy, rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening the middle class, managing the debt, protecting our homeland, defending the vulnerable and changing gun laws are presidential priorities that can’t wait. They all cry out for action.

But bigotry is a global curse, a growing cancer on the world. Can America turn a blind eye to hatred?

Would that the questions stopped there.

Is hatred a popular subject for a reelected Barack Obama to address? The polls would probably say no.

We have enough on our hands here at home, is the common answer. What do ethnic and religious rivalries have to do with us, anyway?

Besides, is it good politics? The politicians probably would universally say no. There are no votes in taking on world hate.

But is it the right thing to do?

King would say yes.

Not because he believed that a word from the president of the United States would change the world.

But King might contend that the president of a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse nation founded on the principles of liberty and equal rights — however haltingly observed in the past — has an obligation to take sides against bigotry wherever it is found.

King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“We are” he said, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. What ever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Bear this in mind as we gather this weekend to remember, rejoice and observe.


By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 19, 2013


January 19, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry | , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Beginning, Not A Conclusion”: Showing Resolve, President Obama Pushes Republicans Toward Surrender

Watching his Republican adversaries in the House of Representatives tiptoe gingerly away from another destructive confrontation over the debt ceiling just before his second inaugural celebration, President Obama must feel a measure of satisfaction. Yet this is a beginning, not a conclusion. The hopes of the nation that re-elected him depend on whether he understands why he is winning – and how he can continue to prevail.

The formula for success was simple enough: He wouldn’t relinquish fundamental positions on taxes and spending. He stopped pretending that the old bipartisanship is currently possible on Capitol Hill. He refused to negotiate under threat from the Republicans. And he called their bluff on the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling.

Adopting those firm positions, he persevered despite the usual deluge of complaint from commentators, politicians, editorial boards, and other Beltway sages, who predictably roasted him for behaving as if he meant what he said during last year’s campaign. Not surprisingly, however, the popular majority admires him and ignores his critics.

Of course, there is nothing new here: Americans prefer a political leader who displays a touch of grit, even if they don’t fully agree with that leader’s views or actions. Establishing a determined and principled persona is vital; compromise can come later.

Certainly Obama’s power has been enhanced by his election victory — a victory achieved by stiff resistance to the Republican agenda and willingness to fight back. Except for the second debate, when he reverted to old habits of vacillation and diffidence, the president showed steel during the campaign. And since Election Day, he has remained consistently decisive.

The rewards of steadfastness can be seen in the polls. Gallup shows a 7-point climb in his approval rating since last August, from 46 percent then to more than 53 percent last week. Rasmussen shows a climb of roughly 10 points during the same period, with a corresponding decline in disapproval. In the CNN/Time surveys, the president’s margin of approval has risen from 3 points last August to 12 points today. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 61 percent regard him as a “strong leader,” 58 percent agreed with his view of the debt ceiling – and 67 percent say that congressional Republicans haven’t done enough to compromise with him on important issues. In all these polls and others, the public voices an exceptionally low opinion of Congress — and especially of congressional Republicans.

The Republicans still mutter threats about the budget, but their slow-motion surrender resulted directly from a growing perception of Obama’s resolve. He should continue to stare them down, unblinking, unless and until they abandon the Tea Party tactics of obstruction and blackmail.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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