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OP-ED: Isolate – Don’t Bomb – Syria

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President Obama spoke to the nation Tuesday night on Syria hoping to stem opposition that is rising both at home and abroad. Polls show the broad majority of Americans oppose getting further involved in Syria.

 

Despite his best efforts, the president could not persuade even a majority of the G-20 nations — the largest economies in the world — to declare support for a strike on Syria.

In Congress, the Senate seems split, but in the House the number of representatives expressing their opposition or doubts about striking Syria far exceeds those indicating support.

Americans are weary of war, still waiting for American troops to come home from Afghanistan, now one of the longest wars in U.S. history. I applaud the president for respecting the Constitution and taking the issue to the Congress.

Pundits say that rejection by that body would damage his credibility. But it would accurately reflect deep American skepticism about continued military intrusion into the civil and sectarian conflicts of that region.

The largest concern should be a question of conscience. The administration’s call to intervene is described as an act of humanity, championed by those who are called “humanitarian interventionists.”

They cite a “duty to protect” and emphasize the importance of enforcing the international ban on chemical weapons. The strike, the president says, is “a shot across the bow,” not designed to dislodge the regime or change the course of the brutal civil war in that nation.

But firing cruise missiles also raises questions of conscience. Dr. Martin Luther King broke with Lyndon Johnson over the war in Vietnam, in part because he believed that violence would only beget more violence.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would leave us all blind and toothless. The cruise missiles will surely strike some who had nothing to do with the chemical attacks.

The president would be wiser to detail his evidence to the international community, mobilize a global condemnation of the act, and define a course of further isolating the Syrian regime, turning those who ordered the use of chemical weapons into international pariahs.

Killing more innocent people in an arbitrary punitive act settles nothing, while adding to the violence. More than 2 million people, including 1 million children, have already fled the country. Millions more have been displaced internally. Adding to the violence will only add to this shame.

The administration is now engaged in a full-court press diplomatically to gain support for its strike. Surely, it would be both more effective and more productive to use that energy to engage nations — from Russia to China, Saudi Arabia, even Iran — to press Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control.

The second concern is one of cost. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel argues that even a limited military strike against Syria would cost tens of millions of dollars. But the cost surely will be much higher, while the U.S. is cutting children out of Head Start and depriving disabled seniors of hot meals.

The costs of the unintended consequences are likely to be greater. But the real cost may well be in the distraction from our challenges here at home.

We have over 20 million people in need of full-time work. The economy is limping; Europe is barely inching out of recession..

The congressional debate — in light of the fact that Congress has only has nine days in session to pass a budget to keep the government open next month — should be devoted to the jobs program we need, while passing a budget and lifting the debt ceiling to pay our debts. Instead, this next week at least will be Syria 24/7.

The third concern is one of credibility. The pundits say the president’s credibility and the credibility of this nation are on the line.. But the real credibility gap precedes this president.

The credibility of American intelligence was shattered in the distortions and lies used to sell our intervention in Iraq. That credibility gap grew wider with the revelations that the NSA was collecting data on Americans and allies in ways its leaders had denied in congressional testimony.

Across the world, citizens and leaders are skeptical about American claims.

That a loathsome use of chemical weapons murdered thousands of people in Syria seems clear. But finding evidence that Syrian President Assad ordered the strike is, according to AP intelligence sources, “no slam dunk.”

It is time to challenge the cycle of violence and escalation in the Middle East. Legislators will surely be held accountable for the choice they make.

Email: jjackson@rainbowpush.org

 

Activism

COMMENTARY: Schools and streets have been named after Martin Luther King Jr. 

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

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Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)
Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)

By Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. | Baptist News Global

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Churches and libraries are named after him. He is the only African American and the only American clergy honored with a national holiday. In many countries around the world, he is numbered with global heroes like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Some discredited him by calling him a communist, a detractor and troublemaker. Sophisticated ideological historians are deconstructing his history in order to distort the powerful truth of his ministry. Those who pass laws against teaching Critical Race Theory are making sure that present and coming generations will not learn as Professor Cornel West said, that King’s universal religious commitments led him to internationalize the American ideals of democracy, freedom and equality.

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

“There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached non-violence and love.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance

Forgive us, Lord, for reducing Martin Luther King to being only a civil rights leader. Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance. All many people know about him is that he had a dream. He was more than a dreamer. Forgive us for ignoring your calling of Martin Luther King as a minister with good news for a bad news world.

In keeping with Luke 4:18-19, King — like Jesus — had a deep commitment to the poor, pushed down, left out, disrespected Black sanitation workers of Memphis. He addressed, to the displeasure of the white power structure, the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Black population — equitable education, decent housing, jobs that paid living wages, and equal justice in the courts. The sanitation workers had lost their lives working long hours for dirt-poor pay with unsafe trucks that had taken the lives of several workers.

The workers had a strike with the support of many in the community. They carried signs that said, “I AM A MAN!” Some critics of King did not understand his identification with the cause of sanitation workers.

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

Professor Luther D. Ivory states in Toward a Theology of Radical Involvement that King used the teaching of Imago Dei to counter the notion of Black inferiority. Everyone irrespective of race, gender, education or economic status is to be valued and treated with respect and dignity. Blacks needed this message to overcome feelings of shame, inferiority and self-hatred caused by the absurdities of racism.

With this understanding, the foundation is built for Blacks and whites to live together in the beloved community. Living in the beloved community calls for Blacks and whites to work together to transform existing injustices in institutions and public life.

Forgive us, Lord, for our distorted gospel

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Lord, forgive American Christians — Black and white — for their middle-class captivity with a distorted view of the gospel. This understanding of the gospel was concerned about life after death and not life after birth, addressing only the sweet by and by while ignoring the nasty now and now. This gospel condemns the personal sins of the individuals while ignoring corporate and institutional evils. This gospel refused to oppose chemical and nuclear waste dumps that are built on the edge of communities where the poor and politically powerless live.

In his book Stride Toward Freedom, King corrects the distorted view of the gospel saying: “The gospel deals with the whole man, not only his soul, but his body; not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. … Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the conditions that scar the soul is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our white nationalism

Forgive America, Lord, for her ethnocentrism and white nationalism that justifies her behavior whether it is right or wrong. American arrogance has been promoted by persons who have held the highest leadership positions in the nation. America has promoted herself as being No. 1 among the wealthy nations of the world.

In “A Lament for Humanity” on Humans Rights Day 2021, pastor, author and judge Wendell Griffen wrote, “The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. Nearly half the world’s population of 3.4 billion people lives on less than $5.50 per day. Every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they must pay out-of-pocket for health care. Currently 258 million children (one out of five) will not be allowed to attend school.”

Pastor Griffen adds: “And it came to pass that humanity appears to have cursed itself and the world by that greed, lust for power, inequality and bigotry that make community seem like a global fantasy instead of a human imperative.”

The inequality is not accidental; it is deliberative, calculated and purposeful.

Forgive us, Lord, for we were warned by King in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here? He wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to learn to live together, Black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu. A family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never live apart, must somehow learn to live with each other in peace.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our violence

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Forgive us, Lord, for our worship of guns. There are more guns in America than people. Our money says “In God We Trust” but there are 121 firearms for every 100 residents. And 75% of homicides are related to guns. America leads all other nations in gun deaths. Our children have fears of being killed in school by a student. Black Christians in churches and Jews in synagogues have been killed while worshipping. Our shopping centers have had mass killings.

On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was invaded by persons with guns attempting to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes. The reports say the lives of the vice president and the Speaker of the House were marked for death.

Guns are used to settle differences. The United States is the No. 1 seller of arms to the countries of the world. Forgive us, Lord, for giving deaf ears to the apostle of nonviolence. He preached against what he called the triplets of evil: war, poverty and racism. It was he who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

A prayer for hope

May those of us who have become discouraged because racism seems to be on the increase find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because white supremacy and white nationalism are boldly obtaining a stronger foothold in state and national governments find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because voting rights for which people shed their blood so we could vote are now being stolen, placing democracy in jeopardy find hope.

Forgive us, Lord, if we forget how Martin Luther King told us in his very last speech that we would face difficult days. Those days are here.

Two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he spoke powerful words of hope. We must not forget them. He said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Yes, the immediate future may not look promising. Negative news about climate change may haunt us. Young college graduates are uncertain about career opportunities. The COVID-19 virus and its mutations trouble us. These finite disappointments multiply geometrically, but we must not lose infinite hope.

I am not speaking of blind hope but an infinite hope that presses forward believing that if we do our part, our way-maker God, who brought us through the Middle Passage, the horror of runaway slaves chased by bloodhounds and beaten with many stripes if caught, the sexual abuse of the slave woman bearing a mulatto child for the slave owner, and the way-maker God of liberation who helped us survive the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and inspired our preachers to preach on after their churches were burned and to rebuild them back bigger — that this God will inspire us and create in us the power to keep the dream alive.

Not the God of the slave master’s preacher who told us not to steal the master’s chickens when our babies were crying from hunger, but the God of infinite hope, the God who creates ex nihilo, who makes a way out of no way. The way-maker God inspires us and creates in us the power to keep the dream of Martin Luther King alive.

Dante Stewart reminds us how Pastor James Bevel spoke about infinite hope: “There is a false rumor around our leader’s death. Martin Luther King is not our leader. Our leader is the man who led Moses out of Egypt. Our leader is the one who went with Daniel in the lion’s den. Our leader is the man who walked out of the grave on Easter morning. Our leader never sleeps nor slumbers. He cannot be put in jail. Our leader is still on the case. Our leader is not dead. One of the prophets died. We will not stop because of that.”

Alfred Smith served four decades as pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. Now pastor emeritus, he is a member of the American Baptist Churches in the USA and dually aligned with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, where he served as the organization’s 12th president.

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Activism

OPINION: An Agenda for Jobs and Freedom in Oakland

This struggle is not over, and the work must continue, as today the Black unemployment rate continues to far exceed the white unemployment rate in America. The racial wealth gap is large, and, in Oakland, our local disparity studies continue to document, year after year, the ongoing exclusion of Black-owned businesses from important city opportunities in contracts and economic development.  

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Rebecca Kaplan. Oakland.ca.gov photo.
Rebecca Kaplan. Oakland.ca.gov photo.

By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember-At-Large

In 1963, hundreds of thousands of people marched in what many now refer to as the March on Washington for Civil Rights. But the march organizers called it the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, fighting for justice and equality under law and equal access to economic opportunities and jobs.

This struggle is not over, and the work must continue, as today the Black unemployment rate continues to far exceed the white unemployment rate in America. The racial wealth gap is large, and, in Oakland, our local disparity studies continue to document, year after year, the ongoing exclusion of Black-owned businesses from important city opportunities in contracts and economic development.

That is part of why I and others have been pushing to remedy these problems, and fighting to ensure that jobs, business contracts, and development opportunities in the City of Oakland must, much more significantly, include our Black community.

One of the recommendations that came from conducting the most recent disparity study, was to ensure that Black contractors are ready and able to bid on city contracts.

As a result, and with strong community support, we fought for and won a budget amendment allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a project, in conjunction with the Construction Resource Center, to provide training and technical support to ensure Black contractors have improved access to these opportunities.

And yet, at every turn, there has been opposition and obstruction to these efforts, from an Administration which initially tried not to even conduct the legally mandated disparity study in the first place, to hide the data about the extent of the ongoing inequities and tried to block the release of the study.

Once the study was released, and our budget amendment had passed, they then continued to obstruct these efforts, refusing to issue the funds for the contract. Repeated and ongoing efforts — including demanding follow-up public reports from the Administration on the status of funds — were required to get the support that the Council had approved, issued.

Similar obstruction also took place with workforce investment funds — even as communities in Oakland continue to suffer the economic fallout from both the pandemic and decades of under-investment and inequality.

Monies the Council has approved to support workforce development, job training, and job placement have been delayed and undermined. In fact, this issue of delay of funding of these vital needs has been such an ongoing problem that former Councilmember Desley Brooks authored a law, which Council passed, mandating “prompt payment” — recognizing that crucial organizations doing work to improve quality of life and opportunity are impeded and undermined when payment is not issued promptly.

We have continued to push for full implementation of this law.

This is also why the plan of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) to develop 30,000 jobs in the revitalization of the Oakland Coliseum site is so important.

This vital development opportunity is one of the most significant in the entire county. It is on a large site that is central to the entire region, with easy access to BART, freeways, the airport and more.

The land has been approved for development through the completion of the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, as well as Oakland having completed California’s required Surplus Lands process.

This large site can provide for housing at all income levels, business, entertainment, hotel, convention, biotech, public services, and much more, and provide for quality jobs for our community, both during construction and in ongoing jobs going forward.

This important effort, too, faced ongoing obstruction from the Administration, and, nevertheless, we persisted, and it was approved in November 2021 by the City Council in a unanimous vote!

In order to ensure that Oakland, and particularly, the Black community in Oakland, will have the opportunity to fully succeed, it is essential that the next mayor of Oakland be someone who not only will stop the obstruction of these important efforts, but also who will actively champion them and help ensure they are brought to fruition.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Roosevelt Vernon Cobb, Daddy Hammercy!

I now understand why publishing has been a major part of my life, because you worked for the Phoenix newspaper in Muskogee, Oklahoma, before you brought your family to Oakland, where I was born at 1776 7th Street at the Pack Train Hotel into a large, welded barrel that you kept in the closet.

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Theodore Vernon Cobb. Photo courtesy of the family.
Theodore Vernon Cobb. Photo courtesy of the family.

Publisher Paul Cobb’s Birthday Tribute to his father

By Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post Newsgroup

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I am honored to be a son of your seven-children family circle.

Even though you only finished the 6th grade, you were known to spot talent and could predict future opportunities for success, especially when you met Mary Magdalene Bland while she was working at Grandpa Early Bland’s watermelon and food stand.

And you prophesied that the “Lord willing, I’m going to marry you.”

You crested when you married her after she had graduated from Langston University.

I now understand why publishing has been a major part of my life, because you worked for the Phoenix newspaper in Muskogee, Oklahoma, before you brought your family to Oakland, where I was born at 1776 7th Street at the Pack Train Hotel into a large, welded barrel that you kept in the closet.

Most of that money was “earned” from your after-work second job mastery of the billiard tables on Seventh Street while wearing overalls with a cargo hook in your back pocket.

You brought your entrepreneurial skills to your work as a longshoreman, where unbeknownst to your children, you managed to save by dropping the dimes, quarters, halves, and silver dollars.

Those coins allowed you to buy properties and a car, in the same manner in which you earned them, face-to-face, over the counter, to be counted and acknowledged by the bankers and dealers, while you watched.

As a kid, with a portable shoe shine box, I worked in front of the pool halls by day, where I collected national Black newspapers from the Pullman Porters who brought them to me as a tip with payment.

You and Jimmy Herman helped me and my brother to get hired as ship clerks.

Dad, I did not know that you “graced” those same places at night. I remember when your wife told you to stop that lifestyle or she would leave, you stopped. You abruptly pursued a Bible-based lifestyle with zeal.

I still use some of your favorite aphorisms, such as, “don’t back down from any challenge, or anybody, at any time: You must outwork them.”

“Always come big or stay at home and if you do that, then all I can say is Hammercy.”

Following your advice, I married Gay Plair in 1970. I discovered that her father and you were both named after President Theodore Roosevelt and both of you share conjoined birth dates. Theodore Plair’s birthday is December 31 and yours is January 1. “Hammercy!”

You would have been proud to know that ILWU President Jimmy Herman came to my house with Port Director Wally Abernathy and American President Lines Shipping Co., CEO Bruce Seaton where we organized the Oakland Dredging Coalition to expand jobs and maritime opportunities.

I reminded your friend Herman how you would have said “Dig a little deeper or stay at home.” Hammercy!

This birthday message is being published in the Oakland Post because when Gay published her father’s birthday tribute on Facebook I finally realized that I, too, must honor you the same way. I hope the readers will show me how to use Facebook because I need to activate the “friends” names on my page.

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