Rights and Democracy
Over 40 years after Dr. Over 40 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, his words still speak to the social conditions that so many Americans face. Our unemployment rate is hovering at 10 percent, and the wealthiest 10 percent of us control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. Economic inequality remains a barrier to greater racial equality. The national commemoration of King’s birthday, therefore, is more for reflection than celebration.
It looks like locking people up is a hard habit to break. The American prison population quadrupled in just the last 25 years. We’ve even surpassed China and Russia in the percentage of citizens in the clink. Meanwhile the rest of the world just scratches its head. “What are those crazy Americans up to now? Their country isn’t crime-ridden.”
Exposing the human brain to these new devices creates both physical risks and political ones. Mind-reading by authorities or the private sector could easily mean a potential loss of freedom. There are then many questions to be resolved before the government or the marketplace adopts this technology. What kind of an informed consent should be granted? What kind of information would be divulged?
The holidays can be stressful for overscheduled families. The kids are home from school and daycare. The in-laws visit. There are year-end deadlines to meet, awkward office holiday parties to attend, and self-inflicted New Year’s resolutions to conquer.
Growing up in Minnesota as the granddaughter of a Swedish immigrant, I got to enjoy all the trappings of Scandinavian picture postcard holidays. Straw ornaments and Swedish flags decorating a tree stacked high with gifts. The Lutheran church’s St. Lucia breakfast, where girls with crowns of candles serve lefse and other pastries.
This Thanksgiving season, the nation should finally commit itself to bridging the socioeconomic divide between the descendents of those who came together during the first Thanksgiving: the Native Americans and the white newcomers. More than cranberry sauce and turkey, this type of reflection and action is essential to the holiday season.
President Barack Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, should be commended for initiating some basic reforms in U.S. drug policy. One of his first sensible acts was to drop the phrase “War on Drugs.” “Regardless of how you try to explain to people that it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he explained. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”
The black love affair with President Barack Obama is stronger than with any figure in the post-civil rights era. According to a recent New York Times poll, President Obama enjoys a 96% approval rating among African Americans. As an African American myself, I too feel pride and joy in seeing one of us succeed and attain so much respect and acclaim in the United States, a country with such a strong and recent history of racist oppression and alienation.