Saturday, January 19, 2008

Are We Losing the Dream That Dr. King Dreamed?

" I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ' We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal '." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born in Newark and raised across the Passaic River in Kearney, I knew Newark before and after the 1967 riots. I worked and shopped downtown, as we referred to Newark. So I had frequently traveled through Central Avenue and the Third Ward, the home of the projects. These would be housing projects built by the government to provide more decent housing for the black community but ultimately turned into a hub of crime and I believe were eventually abandoned. The intentions of President Johnson's "The Great Society"were good.

During the days of rioting, I saw the National Guard roll out of the Newark Armory, jeep after jeep, into its streets. During and after the riots, I saw these soldiers with their rifles not slung over their shoulders but cradled in the crook of their elbows as they patrolled from roofs of apartment and office buildings. Here the impoverished morality of racism and its consequences gripped you. You could not escape it. It was something for this somewhat inexperienced woman to see: our soldiers poised to shoot…at people… as we moved about the city.

The 1960’s was a time of change and activism. The insistence to end racism was certainly one of the’60’s better legacies. Those who instigate for change are responsible for seeing that the change is for the better. Perhaps we '60's people have not done the best of work on other things we tackled. I am haunted by the concern that some of what we changed did not bring America to a better place. Today through the evolution of thought from the ‘60’s, our deeper moral codes have given way to a shallow political correctness. Instead of having courage of our convictions, treating others the way we want to be treated or being honest, we have buff body image and taking our Valtrex to prevent the spread STD’s as the moral virtues of the new millennium. A lot of us no longer seem willing to suffer inconvenience or discomfort to uphold American principles.

Instead of one of the most educated generations yielding diverse thought, we practice group- think from the university level to the marketplace. Deeper moral principles are permitted to falter and flounder because through the social pressure to be politically correct, we must surrender our moral autonomy to the one and only correct point of view, as if it were some sort of unchallengeable given. There is no questioning the president lest we be deemed traitors. Individual expression is no longer hailed. We are now an evolving collective, a trait we once abhored about communism.

Along with China, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the US has been recently added as a torture site to a Canadian manual that was submitted to Amnesty International.
Did we take to the streets over Abu Ghraib or the torture issue in general or over the constitutionally dubious wiretapping until we prevailed? Now the CIA has destroyed tapes of harsh interrogations. There will be a hearing. Yawn.

In the ‘60’s our leaders inspired by their hearts with word and deed. Today, we have the inspiration of spin and spin- doctors. I wonder--- do we still have those hot- blooded American citizens who just insisted on changin’ the bad times? Can we be bothered to do the right thing, not the easy thing? Would American citizens push for racial equality today with the same intensity we did 40 years ago?

When he delivered his signature address, Dr. Martin Luther King perhaps did speak to the largest demonstration for freedom our nation had ever witnessed. In a dangerous climate through immense personal suffering, Bible in hand, he worked to unite blacks and whites with the dignity of the principles of love and forgiveness. After his death I witnessed a little of the stunning grief of his supporters in Newark as they marched in disbelief. It was indescribable. The sadness was suffocating at times. Not only does Dr. King deserve honor but so do the peaceful principles he invoked to change the course of our history. So do the courageous Americans who stood with him deserve honor. Still, I fear his death ended an era when people felt a personal obligation to protect America and the ideals it bespeaks at home and worldwide. There was a time when we all felt we should defend our country by demanding it follow through on its principles, no uniform required. I am concerned that the American dream Dr. King dreamed for all people may be in jeopardy.

To hear and see once again the “I have a Dream “speech visit

Click under UTube, lower left hand corner.

Or, read it at

Stay tuned.


MediumPetey said...

Here on Lethal Injection challenge:

Courier News Flemington blog said...


Thanks for the URL. I did not get the entire address but I did come across the comment section on lethal injection. If you were referring me to a particular post, I need the title of the piece. I was particularly interested in a comment that referred to NY Times and Wash. Post editorials. These argue for humane deaths.

I have been chewing over a few points on lethal injection and have sited an article in the LA Times that is very favorable to your point of view and persuades me to think minimally, it is important to examine nationwide the way in which lethal injection is carried out with respect to current protocols.

“Supreme Court takes up lethal injection battle” LA Times Jan. 7, 2008,1,4528939.story?page=2

Both the NY Times and Wash. Post editorials argue for humane injections. I really do not have a problem with us voluntarily introducing more humane techniques. I think too that executions must be carried out with the accuracy necessary for the injections to be delivered as intended, no sloppy work. Where I get hung up is the attempt to constitutionally guarantee prisoners pain free deaths. Pain and suffering are not tantamount to cruel and unusual.

We have cancer patients in need of medical marijuana that has been denied by the courts. We have pain patients who do not get enough pain medication. When they insist, they feel they are stigmatized as drug abusers. Yet, we ought to guarantee convicted criminals a pain free death. Why? What makes them so special? Who is campaigning to make sure innocent patients have pain relief and pain free deaths? If one class of Americans is entitled to pain free deaths, what about all Americans?

As I see it all prisoners are entitled to is freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, not pain free death. What bothers me much more than lethal injection is the isolation of prisoners. I think this is absolutely a cruel and unusual punishment. We need the human connection.

I also think the 3 strikes law can result in cruel and unusual punishment. I believe it was challenged and it was upheld.

MediumPetey said...

"Pain and suffering are not tantamount to cruel and unusual."

Once again, this is not at all true. One of the criteria that the SC uses to determine if a punishment is cruel and unusual is whether Pain and suffering is too great or exists at all.

"...we ought to guarantee convicted criminals a pain free death. Why? What makes them so special? Who is campaigning to make sure innocent patients have pain relief and pain free deaths?"

Again, as I have noted previously, these situations are not judged by the same criteria. In one, the state is taking on the authority to take someone's life, and Constitutional protections are administered by the courts, period. In the other case, the eminent death is by the hand of God, or nature, or disease ---and no constitutional guarantees are engendered. It is not a criteria by which this matter is judged. There is no operational or legal nexus between the issues.They both involve the broad issue of death, but that is all..

Courier News Flemington blog said...


I want you to address the pain and suffering of cancer patients that the courts did not deem necessary to address when these patients wanted to use marijuana to offset the side effects of chemo. DEA agents are challenging states' medical marijuana laws. There is a distinction between nature inflicted and man inflicted. But courts have declined to use their power to offer remediation to pain and suffering when they could intervene and do so here. This cancer suffering does not go away in a matter of minutes or seconds. Do you support those kinds of decisions?

Although I am not a scholar on the intricacies of these "cruel and unusual" court rulings, few laypersons are, intuitively, I do not believe the courts in general think pain and suffering is tantamount to cruel and unusual. That is setting a very low threshold for the cruel and unusual litmus test. Cruel and unusual is not the same as everyday and typical...cruel and unusual must be too much and too great, exceptional or it loses all meaning and distinction.

I place the burden on you to demonstrate that this pain in botched executions is far greater than the pain people suffer in daily life...

And what about the pain these criminals inflict on their victims...who is taking that pain away?