Tag Archives: MLK Jr.

Just vote … dammit!

For far longer than I dare remember I have been using my journalistic platform to counsel voters to turn out in any election that gets thrown before them.

My main target are the stay-at-homers who decide that their vote in local elections doesn’t matter. So, they figure, why bother?

Sigh. Groan. Scream at the top of my lungs.

We’re going to vote on Nov. 7 in communities across North Texas. Princeton voters are going to elect members to their school district board of trustees as well as to their city council. What’s more, Princeton voters will be asked to fill two new council seats that the enactment of a home-rule charter requires of City Hall.

Exciting times, yes? Hah!

My hunch is that the Princeton turnout will be less than 10% of those who are registered to vote. As bad as that turnout could be, it dives even lower when you factor in those who could vote but don’t even bother to register to do so.

I’ve been covering local elections in Texas since the spring of 1984. Two municipal elections stand out as outliers to the usual trend of pitiful voter participation.

One of them occurred in 1984, when I first arrived in Beaumont. Voters there cast ballots on a measure to rename a major thoroughfare after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sixteen years after the great man’s murder and the city still hadn’t taken action to honor him for his noble work seeking justice for all Americans.

The measure failed, but by just a few votes. The turnout, though, far exceeded the norm, as it attracted more than 20% of the city’s registered voters. City leaders crowed about the turnout, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of their constituents still didn’t cast ballots on an issue that had produced a firestorm of debate and discussion.

FYI, the Beaumont council eventually did act and created a parkway in Dr. King’s honor.

My second example tracks the action taken by another Texas city to sell its publicly owned hospital to a private, for-profit health care provider. Amarillo voters in 1996 squabbled mightily over whether to sell Northwest Texas Hospital to Universal Health Care Inc.

That referendum passed and the turnout stood about 30% of registered voters. Once again, city leaders did their share of chest-thumping over a turnout that still told me that nearly seven out of 10 voters stayed home.

Turnouts vary from city to city. They generally run in these municipal elections at around 6 to 8%. And yet, these elections have far greater tangible impact on us than elections for president or Congress.

What the hell? I have said in every way possible that local voters either can make these decisions themselves or they can leave these decisions to their neighbors who might share a totally different view of how to run City Hall than they do.

Good government has a long way to go to become relevant at the local level.

Recalling stirring oration

A lot of Americans — too many of them, perhaps — are fixated on the upcoming charges awaiting the 45th POTUS, the moron who brought us the memorable boast that “I, alone can fix” what ails the country.

A dear friend reminded us today on a social media post about another speech delivered shortly before a gunman assassinated the man who delivered it.

He said, in part, in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, 1968:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stirred a nation with such rhetoric. I prefer to honor this great man’s memory as I venture through my day.

Cheapening of values

Americans of all stripes are witnessing in real time how our political values no longer hang on politicians’ stated views of key issues and their actions juxtaposed to their stated policies.

Consider what is occurring in Georgia, where the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate — Herschel Walker — has been revealed to be a stunning hypocrite on an issue that demands absolute sincerity.

In any other era, revelations that a staunch opponent of abortion would allegedly have demanded a girlfriend abort a pregnancy would spell the end of a candidacy. Herschel Walker would have resigned his candidacy and left the campaign for someone else to salvage.

These days? Georgia GOP voters are shrugging it off. Party leaders are backing Walker, doubling down on their support for this ignoramus who actually has said that “there is no shame” in demanding an abortion “if I had done it.”

Oh, there’s more. It has been revealed that Walker has four children with four women and has been estranged from at least one of his sons since the young man’s birth.

Remember, too, that Walker is campaigning as an evangelical Christian who opposes — he says — abortion in all cases; he makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or the health of the mother.

Despite all of that, Walker remains a potential spoiler in the race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the incumbent who is seeking election to a full term.

Walker could still win this race! Why? Because it’s all about power! Republicans want to get control of the Senate. They are driven solely by the prospect of Herschel Walker — an individual with zero knowledge of any public policy — defeating a competent senator who, by the way, also serves as senior pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta … the same house of worship where the great Martin Luther King Jr. preached to the faithful.

Yes, we are witnessing a degradation of policy and the ascent of power as this hideous issue plays out.

It is a sickening turn of events.


Herschel Walker: dumbass

Gosh, I hate speaking badly about a guy I used to admire when all he did was pack a football and run with it for thousands of yards during his career.

However, that ex-gridiron star, former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker of Georgia, is now running for the U.S. Senate and all I can say about him is that he might be the biggest dumbass running for high office in this election cycle.

Walker is running as a Republican. He wants to succeed Sen. Rafael Warnock, one of two Democrats elected to the Senate in 2020 from Georgia.

I have heard some of the nonsense that comes from Walker’s pie hole. One utterance, caught my attention. He recently said while disparaging evolutionary science that “If man came from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys?”

Isn’t that just a real knee-slapper? Actually, that isn’t even an original quip. I heard the late comic George Carlin say it many years ago. So, Walker not only is a dumbass, but he’s a dumbass who cannot offer many original thoughts.

Sen. Warnock has done a creditable job in the Senate. He has become a leading voice of the Senate’s progressive caucus. He also has plenty of what one could call “cred” among African Americans, given that he is African American. What’s more, when he is not writing federal law, he preaches at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the Holy Word to his parishioners.

It occurs to me that this contest could offer voters in one state a chance to stop the dumbing-down of Congress by returning a man with considerable intellect — Sen. Warnock — and rejecting a man with next to zero understanding of how government works … and who cannot even produce an original quip.


Content of character: does it still count?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Make no mistake that I likely would feel differently were I of African-American or Latino or Asian descent. I am none of those.

Having laid that predicate down, I want to engage in the discussion over who President-elect Biden should select as the nation’s next attorney general.

I practically jumped out of my shoes the other day when I heard an African-American commentator, Jonathan Capehart, say out loud that the three individuals Biden is believed to be considering as AG are too white for his taste. Capehart wants more “diversity” among the finalists.

Hmm. Let’s examine this briefly. The three people Biden reportedly is pondering are U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland, former deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. They all possess exemplary legal credentials. They also all have committed through their careers to advancing the cause of civil rights.

Their only “shortcoming” is that they aren’t people of color.

President-elect Biden has kept his pledge to nominate executive branch team members who reflect the nation. Has loaded the Cabinet with and top-level staffers with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women; my goodness, he even has selected an openly gay man to serve in the Cabinet.

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, only to have his nomination blocked in 2016 by Senate Republicans who wanted to wait for the presidential election outcome that year. Garland has been a champion for minority rights, for gay rights and has staked out a center-left course while serving on the federal bench.

Sally Yates has demonstrated her own commitment to fair and impartial justice as a deputy AG, striving to be sensitive to minority Americans’ concerns over whether the justice system was loaded against them.

Doug Jones, who lost his bid for re-election to the Senate from Alabama in 2020, served as a federal prosecutor and obtained the conviction of the Klansmen who blew up the Birmingham, Ala., church in 1963 that killed four precious African-American girls; it was one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 20th century. He, too, has earned his spurs in fighting for minority rights.

Is it essential that the next AG be a person of color? No. It isn’t. It is essential that the next attorney general refrain from engaging in partisan politics and administer justice dispassionately and in accordance with the law.

I want to remind everyone of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day in 1963. He spoke of his “dream” that one day black Americans can be judged by “content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.”

Shouldn’t that noble goal apply to any American?

Baptist preacher a Marxist? Huh?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is cracking me up … except that I ain’t laughing.

She is running for election to a seat in Georgia against the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who happens to be the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached to his congregation.

Loeffler brands Warnock as a Marxist sympathizer.

Hold on! Marxism is a philosophy that espouses the notion that God does not exist. Thus, it seems more than a bit of a stretch to suggest that an ordained Baptist preacher — a fellow who speaks to his flock about the love of Jesus Christ — could also sympathize with a God-less society endorsed by Karl Marx.

How does that work. Sen. Loeffler?

Another icon passes from scene

Americans have been yanked into a long-held reality with the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police officers, which is that justice too often is applied unevenly in this country.

So now, here we are. The nation is mourning a giant of a great cause to bring equal justice, equal rights to all citizens. John Lewis has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years of age.

U.S. Rep. Lewis comes from an era of great struggle. It was a violent time and Lewis, tragically, was the victim of that violence. Police in Alabama beat Lewis to a pulp as he marched along with other black citizens for equal rights. He recovered. Lewis continued to stand tall alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young and other activists of the time seeking justice and liberty for all Americans … regardless of their racial makeup.

“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” former President Barack Obama wrote in his statement. “And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”

Lewis took his struggle to the floor of the U.S. House, where he served with honor representing the people of Georgia as a Democratic congressman.

Andrew Young also rose to prominence as well, becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. He spoke today of his friend’s death and the belief that despite the deaths of so many great civil rights icons, their work and their legacies live on.

The live through their spirit that remains among us, Young said.

So it will be as the nation gets past its time of mourning the death of a real-life, authentic American hero.

Rest in peace, Rep. Lewis. You have done well, but the hard work will continue in your memory.

Nation needs this kind of wisdom

The United States of America is in crisis. We have been through this before, in other contexts. However, we are lacking the kind of wisdom that comes from the top of our political leadership that we have heard during previous crises.

The Dallas Morning News today published an editorial calling for such wisdom as we grapple with issues relating to police brutality and racial injustice. The newspaper cited a speech given by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, at that moment a candidate for president, in the hours after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was felled by an assassin.

RFK said this:

“In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization — black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

“Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

“So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

“But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

Sen. Kennedy spoke those words to a crowd of African-Americans gathered for a political rally in Indianapolis, Ind. While many cities in the land erupted in violence that evening, Indianapolis remained calm. Why? Because citizens were somehow assured that at least one political leader was listening to them and he cared about them.

A gunman would still RFK’s voice forever just two months later.

We are made poorer as a result. We need that kind of wisdom in this moment of grief.

Time of My Life, Part 29: Welcome to the politics of race

Thirty-five years ago this week I began an amazing lesson in life and in the pursuit of my chosen craft. It marked my introduction to the politics of race and how some folks frame their public policy views on that basis.

I moved from a white-bread suburban community to a community that was — and still is — divided sharply along racial lines. Gladstone, Ore., is a nice town of about 15,000 residents. Beaumont, Texas, also is a wonderful community of about 120,000 residents. Gladstone is the white-bread town; Beaumont is divided roughly into equal parts white and black residents.

The week I arrived in Beaumont in early April 1984 to become an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise was the week of a pivotal school board election. The federal courts had ordered the public school system to desegregate. Two school districts merged into one; one of the districts was mostly white, the other was mostly black. Voters had to elect a new school board that would govern the combined district.

That election also featured a referendum on whether to rename a major thoroughfare after the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While many communities had honored Dr. King in such a manner, Beaumont had not yet taken that leap.

How did the election turn out? Voters elected a new school board that comprised an African-American majority among trustees; voters also narrowly rejected the street-naming referendum.

Talk about sending mixed message! Talk about the widest range of political emotion possible!

White residents were — by and large — filled with anxiety over the school board election results, while generally applauding the result of the street-naming measure. Black residents were thrilled to have elected a school board of mostly black trustees, while generally cursing the result of the MLK Jr. referendum.

I felt it daily. I heard it daily. I had little professional experience dealing with the politics of race. Yes, I had served in the Army with African-American soldiers, so I had grown to understand this basic act: We’re all human beings whose blood is precisely the same color. My introduction to the politics of race, though, told me how differently people of differing racial makeup view the world.

I grew quickly to understand those differences, although quite obviously I could not change my own racial makeup or tell my African-American neighbors that “I know how you feel.” Quite clearly, I did not know.

It all enlightened and educated me greatly. I believe I grew up significantly as I became more comfortable while learning about racial politics in my new community.

Here’s a punchline. Years later, the Beaumont City Council — virtually without warning — decided to rename a spur that runs north-south through the city after Dr. King. It acted while the city’s local black leadership was out of town attending an NAACP conference. The local NAACP president hit the ceiling. He was enraged. The mostly white City Council stuck to its decision.

The newly named Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, I want to add, has been transformed into a beautiful thoroughfare. Beaumont’s black residents wanted to rename an established thoroughfare after Dr. King. They didn’t get their wish. They got something better.

We had departed Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle, so we didn’t get to witness the completion of the MLK Jr. Parkway. We have returned on occasion over the years. It’s a wonderful tribute to a great American.

Bill Cosby: He’s no Mandela, MLK Jr. or Gandhi

I don’t usually comment on convicted criminals, but I cannot let this issue pass without offering a brief response.

Bill Cosby, the formerly revered comedian and actor, is now a convicted sexual assailant. A jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman. He’s now spending three to 10 years in prison.

But now he says he doesn’t feel remorse because he is a “political prisoner,” in the mold of Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

No, he isn’t.

Hmm. Mandela was held on Robben Island for 27 years because he protested apartheid in South Africa; Dr. King was held in jail because he opposed oppression of African-Americans in the United States; Gandhi was imprisoned because he wanted independence for India.

Yep, those great men were political prisoners.

Bill Cosby is in the slammer because he was convicted of sexual assault. There is absolutely zero moral equivalence between what he did and why the men to whom he compares himself were denied their freedom.

Be quiet, Mr. Cosby, and do your time.