It has been a while since we last convened and a lot has happened since. During the week leading up to Labor Day, we had commemorations over the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
We have had new revelations about a matter we have not previously discussed: Mr. Snowden's revelations concerning our government's invasion of the privacy of Americans and it's sharing of the personal information of Americans with another nation, Israel.
Finally, Mr. Obama asked us to engage in another war of choice with another Middle-Eastern Arab nation, Syria. These events present enormous issues for us to consider. Is it possible for students in a civics class to think logically and productively about such significant issues when our leaders are having such a difficult time dealing with them? The issues seem hard to put in context and to see them as dots that can be connected.
We had planned to continue our discussion on our readiness to meet the challenges of our security in the context of Dunn's Civics. But again, current events have intruded. Did you get an opportunity to read the first chapter? It is entitled, "Common Purposes in Community Life." For Dunn, common purposes grow out of common wants and create our communities. We plan to spend several sessions on that short chapter concerning our common wants as citizens of our Country. And a good place to begin is to test of the relevance of this 93 year-old book is to see if that chapter helps you understand the events of the last three weeks. On page 9, Dunn sets the stage for our "test: "..happier lives can only result from a more complete satisfaction of our common wants. And "democracy" means, in part, that the common wants of all shall be properly cared for."
This language reminds me of our discussion of the common good in national service. But there is a difference. Dunn is addressing the common wants of us as individuals. In discussing national service we were also concerned with the common good as reflected in the interests of groups (your generation, veterans, and students), institutions (the Aspen Institute and our corporate empire) and governmental organizations (the Army). Let's examine the "wants" of the groups, institutions and governmental organizations involved in our recent events to see if it clarifies things for us.
Wants of the Commemorative marchers
Last month in our discussion "Crafting Responses to Terror III" we asked ourselves a number of questions about the coming Commemorative March(s). This is what we asked:
Do you think that Black Americans have achieved the equality and inclusion they sought in the 1963 March? Do you think that the March organizers of today will make the same demands as those of 1963? Do you think that the organizers of the March will challenge our government and all Americans to redress the social and economic depression of our soldiers, workers and students? Are Black Americans a significant segment of each of these three groups of Americans?
Now that the Commemorative March is over, do you think that the examination of these question help us understand what may be the "wants" of Black Americans. One measure of equality concerns our ability to earn a living, in Dunn's words,"... to satisfy our wants in life." If you look at page five, figure 1 of our Census Report the answer is clear: in a major measure of economic status, Black Americans have made no collective gains since in their quest for income equality in 50 years. Is it fair to say that no progress has been made in creating greater opportunity for Black economic advancement? Of course, not. 50 years ago, rampant discrimination and segregation in the schools, workplaces as well as political disenfranchisement were still the law in most of the South and the custom in portions of the North. That systemic discrimination and segregation denied Black Americans an opportunity to participate fully in the economic life of the country. The 1963 March was a catalyst for mobilizing Black resistance to this injustice and moving our political structure to provide legal remedies such as the Civic Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But, according to some the significance of the March were its demands for economic justice for all people everywhere. Has this demand been lost? What does this demand mean? Listen to the introduction of Dr. King by A. Philip Randolph, the father of the March in 1963. Do you agree that Martin Luther King has been lionized for his non-violent demands against economic and social discrimination while being systematically ignored for his demands against American militarism? Would you expect the leaders of the Commemorative Marches of last month to make similar demands against the immorality and militarism of our Corporate Empire? Who were the leaders(one)(two) of our two Commemorative Marches?
President Obama and Rev. Sharpton are two of many Black Americans who have been included in the highest echelons of American economic, political and social life. Such an inclusion would have stunned the leaders of the 1963 March. And yet Black Americans as a group are no better off economically and American Empire is no less immoral and militaristic than in 1963. Could it be that what Black Americans wanted in 1963, economic justice and inclusion as citizens, were incompatible without the glue of a civic commitment to the morality that Martin Luther King represented?
We can return to a look at the performance of Black Americans as representatives of our Corporate Empire in our discussion of Syria. But let's close our discussion about the Commemorative Marches, by asking what Black Americans do want. What is their strategy and ideas for redressing the continuing decline of their group quality of life, the unimaginable destruction of the life chances of their young men and their failure to live up to their potential as the most important people of color (in a colored world) as citizens of the world's most powerful nation? Our site and discussions propose a way to approach these questions: we believe that no black group interest can ever be realized that is not seen as a common purpose, that is not in the public interest. We believe that the opportunity created in the past 50 years lies in potential to see and to act upon common purposes of all Americans. We believe that the common wants of our soldier/veterans, students and workers, transcend color. And that the failure of "the Black included" to lead in the formation of coalitions around these the groups, among whom Black young people comprise such a significant segment, is a significant reason why Black inequality continues to be the order of the day in America. We believe that Dr. King’s moral compass was absent in our Commemorations and that it must be restored in charting the futures of our soldier/veterans, students, and workers.
(Today we post two comments on the movie “Django Unchained” that we believe is an interesting teaching tool for exploring our current civic environment and the inter-relationship of Black and white Americans.)
Let's turn now to a subject your generation and mine may feel very different about: the meaning of citizenship and privacy.