O Captain, My Captain!

1

O Cap­tain, My Cap­tain! I fear our jour­ney is now done.  Our ship has weath­ered every storm, the prize we’ve sought is won.

These words were penned in 1865 by Walt Whit­man about the death of a great man, Abra­ham Lin­coln. I evoke those same words about another great man who has left us too soon: Rev­erend Lance Chaney.

I call Rev. Chaney great, not because of the things he accom­plished nor because of the wealth he attained. I call him great because of the lives he changed. You see, he changed my life–drastically and dra­mat­i­cally. I can­not imag­ine where my life would be today if I had not met him so many years ago. I was a young man try­ing to find his way into man­hood. Chaney took me under his wings and guided me through some of the tough­est times in my life.

I also con­sider Pas­tor Chaney great because of how he lived and, ulti­mately, how he died. Here is a man who fought can­cer for at least five years. Time and again he was given the bad news that he would likely not live. But instead of col­laps­ing under the pres­sure as so many would have, Chaney stood tall and con­tin­ued to preach love, faith, belief and most of all faith. He preached to encour­age us to keep fight­ing, all the while know­ing his jour­ney was almost done. What courage! What fortitude!

What is the mea­sure of a man if not where he stands dur­ing times of adver­sity? What is the mea­sure of a man if not how he faces his own mor­tal­ity; a man who can look death in the face and still per­form his duties? Dur­ing his dark­est hours, Chaney did “not wince, nor cry aloud, but under the blud­geon­ing of chance,” his head was unbowed.

Chaney was a great man. He was my friend. He was my leader. He was my cap­tain. In life he taught me lead­er­ship. In death he taught me manhood.

O cap­tain, my cap­tain, I fear our journey’s done. The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voy­age closed and done.

Posted in: Inspiration

Continue Reading

I Will Prevail

0

If ever there was an occasion,

If ever there was a cause,

If ever some­one needed to rise,

I will answer the call.

 

I will not shrink in the moment.

I will not fear the stage;

But, I will run boldly towards

That from which oth­ers run away.

 

Yes. Doubt is still whispering

Yes. The shadow of fear lingers on;

But, I will not allow them to rob me,

Of that for which I was born.

 

I was cre­ated for this moment;

And for this I am well prepared.

So in this I will be victorious,

In this, I will prevail!

B.P. Dixon 5−29−13

 

Posted in: Inspiration

Continue Reading

Just Let the Young Man Play

0

Tim Tebow is a lik­able guy. As a Chris­t­ian I always get goose­bumps when some­one cred­its their suc­cess to the hand of God. So when­ever I see Tim Tebow play I can’t help but feel a bit of joy! But, then the inevitable hap­pens. I hear politi­cians and radio hosts tak­ing full advan­tage of this oppor­tu­nity by politi­ciz­ing the faith of a sin­cere young man. I get dis­gusted because this is what they do so well. They try to manip­u­late Chris­tian­ity as if it were a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of the Repub­li­can Party.

Then, I hear non­be­liev­ers attack­ing Tebow because they are “dis­gusted” with his open faith. They attempt to dis­credit his pass­ing abil­ity but can’t deny his abil­ity to win. I can’t help but to then come to his defense because I share his faith. Chris­tians, just like fam­ily, will always close rank around each other when one of us are attacked no mat­ter how much we may dis­agree in private!

I don’t know what the Tebow haters dis­like more: the fact that he is a Chris­t­ian or the fact that there are some in  the Repub­li­can Party that are tak­ing advan­tage of his faith. (The lat­ter dis­gusts me more than his faith could pos­si­bly dis­gust an athe­ist.) Clearly there are some non­be­liev­ers and adher­ents of other faiths that dis­like Tebow because he is openly Christian.

I won­der would those who dis­like Tebow would like him more if, instead of being openly Chris­t­ian, he were openly gay. Then, I won­der if those who love him so much because of his faith would like him all the same if he were a reg­is­tered Democrat.

The point is, as Tebow is hav­ing his moment in the sun the omi­nous clouds of pol­i­tics are hov­er­ing over. What’s worse for him, there really isn’t any­thing he can do about it. Those on the left are turned off either by his faith or by the fact that Repub­li­cans prop him up as though they were ready to run him for pres­i­dent. Those on the Right are water­ing down this young man’s sin­cere faith by mix­ing it with their polit­i­cal rhetoric. What is Tebow to do? Sim­ple. Keep win­ning and let the rest of the world fig­ure out what he already knows: he’s a foot­ball player, not a politician.

Pol­i­tics is a dis­gust­ing enough game already. Why ruin foot­ball or Tebow’s Cin­derella sea­son with par­ti­san bick­er­ing. Just let the young man play.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Continue Reading

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

1

Remem­ber that song? The cho­rus has been ring­ing in my head over and over again this week. Sure it’s rain­ing in South Florida today: it’s rainy sea­son; but that has noth­ing to do with why I can hear BJ Thomas singing in my ears “…I’m free, noth­ing wor­ry­ing me!”

This week I gave my res­ig­na­tion let­ter to a job that I had been either work­ing on, or asso­ci­ated with, for the last ten years. In that time I’ve grown from a young man into a father and a hus­band. The job has been a tremen­dous bless­ing in my life and I have noth­ing neg­a­tive to say about it or the staff. They will always have a spe­cial place in my heart.

But in the last few months I real­ized that I had reached my max­i­mum capac­ity there.  There was noth­ing more I could offer them in the pro­fes­sional envi­ron­ment they fos­tered, nor was there any­thing more I could learn from them. My pro­fes­sional career was stag­nant. I was hold­ing on to it because the econ­omy is so ter­ri­ble, jobs are hard to find, and I have a fam­ily to take care of. But in many respects, and for those very rea­sons, I felt trapped.

Have you ever wished for some­one to come along and whisk you away into a brand new life? Wait­ing for a dream job or the man or woman of your dreams to enter and take you away is just that: a dream. That’s how I started to feel. But if we aren’t care­ful life will pass us by and we would look up and real­ize that we had been com­pla­cent; wish­ing we could break free or that some­one would come and res­cue us. That’s when I real­ized I would have to res­cue myself.

I turned in my res­ig­na­tion let­ter this week with­out another job in my hand. As crazy as it may sound in this econ­omy, I can’t accept that my life has to be at a stand­still because jobs are hard to find. Life is pass­ing us by while we “play it safe.” Peo­ple who are doing great things are doing them in their twen­ties, thir­ties, and pos­si­bly their for­ties. There’s no time to sit back com­fort­ably if you know you have some­thing more to give the world. 

The point is we don’t have time to wait for some­one to come and res­cue us: we have to res­cue our­selves. If you have a dream, pur­sue it. If you want to change careers, do it now! If you want your life to go in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion, don’t wait for a dream, cre­ate your own.

Wisdom has its place. I’m no fool. I was able to leave my job because we had enough funds to sus­tain our fam­ily for months to come. I’m deter­mined to set my career and my life in the direc­tion that I choose. Already there are sev­eral oppor­tu­ni­ties lined up for me. I’m not sure I would have found these oppor­tu­ni­ties while I worked where I was. Leav­ing gave me the time I needed to be at the right place and meet the right peo­ple. It allowed me to become avail­able for more and gave me time to focus on my PhD the way it requires. I digress.

It’s easy to stay some­where sim­ply because it’s com­fort­able. But life is sim­ply too short to be trapped in the com­pla­cency of com­fort. Start repo­si­tion­ing your­self now. Save your money so you can have options. Con­tinue your edu­ca­tion so you can move for­ward in the direc­tion that you choose. But most of all don’t wait for some­one to come and res­cue you: res­cue your­self. Set your­self free.

And when you finally break free, all you will be able to hear is BJ Thomas singing:

Rain­drops keep falling on my head, but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turn­ing red…Because I’m free, noth­ing wor­ry­ing me.”

Best of Luck to You!

Posted in: America

Continue Reading

To Tax or Not to Tax

3

I just ended a very brief phone call with my brother from San Diego where in just about 10 min­utes we dis­cussed the entire Debt Ceil­ing prob­lem and the issue of taxes. Of course our cur­rent tax struc­ture is very com­pli­cated and requires CPAs and attor­neys to under­stand, but the under­ly­ing con­cept seems to be the ques­tion of the day: should the gov­ern­ment raise taxes or not?

Con­ser­v­a­tive thought on the mat­ter is very sim­ple: no new taxes. Most econ­o­mists would agree that the last thing you want to do in a recession—or recovery—or what­ever you want to call it—is to raise taxes. Rais­ing taxes now would pull more money from the econ­omy and decrease our indi­vid­ual pur­chas­ing power and—arguably—our invest­ing power. This is dur­ing a reces­sion mind you. But the Repub­li­cans and Con­ser­v­a­tives have made a hard-lined stance against rais­ing taxes ever—recession or no recession—NO NEW TAXES.

The argu­ment goes, “Rais­ing Taxes on the job cre­ators hurts job cre­ation and slows down the econ­omy.” So, by decreas­ing taxes we would stim­u­late the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs.

This is the same talk­ing point we’ve heard relent­lessly as far back as most of us are old enough to remem­ber. Under­neath this argu­ment are the fol­low­ing impor­tant assumptions:

  1. Job Cre­ators will cre­ate jobs if taxes are low.
  2. Lower taxes moti­vates Job Cre­ators to invest in their business.
  3. Lower taxes encour­ages Job Cre­ators to spend por­tions of their profit.

Within 10 min­utes we were able to see the obvi­ous flaws in these per­va­sive talk­ing points.

  1. Busi­nesses will (and right­fully SHOULD) only cre­ate jobs when there is more DEMAND than their cur­rent work­force can fill for the var­i­ous prod­ucts they offer. Any­thing more would be bad busi­ness practice.
  2. If the cost of invest­ing in their busi­ness is higher than the cost of hold­ing onto their prof­its, then busi­nesses will hold on to their prof­its. VERY SIMPLY: the costs of invest­ing are INTEREST, EXPENSES, and RISK. The cost of hold­ing onto prof­its is TAXES. It is purely an eco­nomic deci­sion. Why invest prof­its when it is cheaper to sim­ply hold on to them? Sim­ply put: if the tax code is such that it is cheaper for me to sit on my prof­its then I have no incen­tive to Invest. There is no rea­son for me to research and develop new prod­ucts because I get the same result with­out the expenses and the risks through the cur­rent tax code.

Let me give you an exam­ple: Gen­eral Elec­tric posted $5.1 Bil­lion dol­lars in prof­its and paid $0 in taxes. In fact, they received $3.2 Bil­lion in tax ben­e­fits sub­si­dized by the Amer­i­can people—you and I. Gen­eral Elec­tric has no need to invest in the econ­omy beyond any­thing it is cur­rently doing. Because of our cur­rent tax struc­ture, the com­pany paid less in taxes than the aver­age US tax­payer. What’s more, GE got a $3.2 Bil­lion rebate. QUESTION: What invest­ment could Gen­eral Elec­tric have made dur­ing the same time period that would have been as effort­less, risk free, and prof­itable? ANSWER: None.  How am I sure of this answer? If there was another way for them to make more money more effi­ciently they would be engaged in it: it would only be good business.

We now are in a sit­u­a­tion in our coun­try where what is being touted as truth has become per­verse: not rais­ing taxes is caus­ing there to be less invest­ment in the econ­omy and there­fore fewer jobs that are being cre­ated. Why add 1000 new jobs when adding those jobs MAY not reward you any more than the cur­rent tax struc­ture rewards you?

If I could be redun­dant to make a point: Busi­nesses are no longer in the busi­ness of busi­ness, they are in the busi­ness of mak­ing and keep­ing prof­its. I would argue that this is the only point for many busi­nesses: and do you blame them? At the end of the day we all want to make and keep our money. So until the cost of hold­ing prof­its becomes greater than the cost of invest­ing prof­its, we won’t see the job cre­ation that many law­mak­ers claim come with lower taxes. (For the eco­nomic astute, could it be that we have inverted the Laf­fer curve where taxes are so low that job cre­ation is stifled?)

Cor­po­rate wel­fare in the form of tax sub­si­dies and crip­plingly low taxes has done to cor­po­ra­tions what many believed would hap­pen with wel­fare to the cit­i­zens: it has made them lazy and has not given them any rea­son to go out and cre­ate jobs. Don’t mis­con­strue any­thing I am say­ing to think I am claim­ing these busi­nesses are evil. They are not. Most of us would do the same exact thing in their sit­u­a­tions. They are sim­ply engag­ing in good busi­ness prac­tices. These prac­tices cur­rently are not help­ing the econ­omy to grow.  Now, we need our polit­i­cal lead­ers to do their job and help our econ­omy grow by encour­ag­ing these busi­nesses to invest in themselves.

 

 

Posted in: America

Continue Reading

Version 2.0: The Upgrade

2

I often refer to my son as BpD 2.0 because I con­sider him to be the upgraded model of myself. I think about his life and all of the things that I will fight to pro­vide for him. Where I went to the local uni­ver­sity I will make sure he has the oppor­tu­nity to go to an Ivy League insti­tu­tion, if he chooses. Things it took me thirty years to learn I will work to teach him in fif­teen, if he chooses to learn.

I look at my son and some­times I find myself envy­ing him. He will go places that I can only imag­ine because I will work to make sure of that. My goal is to launch him in the stratos­phere and watch as his tal­ents and abil­i­ties take him fur­ther than my mea­ger measure.

It may seem odd that I say “envy.” I can admit it. I wish I had the oppor­tu­ni­ties I will pro­vide for him. That’s why I will do all I can to pro­vide them for him. He deserves every­thing I could ever give him and then some.

But as I write these lines I real­ize that as much as my son is the upgraded ver­sion of me, I am the upgraded ver­sion of my father. Already I’ve gone far­ther than my father in many, many respects. And although he’s no longer with me, I know with­out a doubt that he is still root­ing me on. Just last night I dreamed that he met my wife and smiled from ear to ear because he approve of her.

And so, I will push my son even fur­ther in what­ever direc­tion he chooses. Why? Because my father would do the same for me. Every father should do that for his children.

Then I real­ized. My son isn’t ver­sion 2.0 of me; he’s ver­sion 3.0 of my father. The legacy continues.

Love you dada.

Posted in: Family

Continue Reading

Author Labels Democratic Party “Demonic” as History is being Rewritten

2

When Democ­rats protest it is demonic. When Repub­li­cans do it, it’s patri­otic, or so Ann Coulter’s new book, Demonic: How the Lib­eral Mob is Endan­ger­ing Amer­ica, asserts. From the cries of the French Rev­o­lu­tion to “Yes We Can,” Coul­ter ties every lib­eral protest, every march for free­dom, and every dis­sent­ing voice with the likes of Mus­solini and Hitler and cat­e­gor­i­cally labels them all to be demonic. Any­one who has read any­thing of this par­tic­u­lar pun­dit is not the least bit sur­prised by some of her more out­ra­geous claims; how­ever, one would be sur­prised to know that in this hall of fame of demonic mob lead­ers she includes civil rights leader, Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr.

The non­vi­o­lent activism of Dr. King clearly can stand for itself and needs no defense; how­ever, Demonic seems to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of a con­certed effort to rewrite Amer­i­can his­tory for polit­i­cal pur­poses. Sud­denly, Rea­gan is a pres­i­dent that all Amer­i­cans should look to as the model of what the pres­i­dency should be. Trickle-down eco­nom­ics is renamed Supply-Side Eco­nom­ics, and mag­i­cally becomes the holy grail of Eco­nomic Pol­icy. Sarah Palin incor­rectly states that Paul Revere was warn­ing the British on his mid­night ride only to have her sup­port­ers quickly edit Wikipedia to reflect her ver­sion of his­tory. Now, Ann Coul­ter lays all of the atroc­i­ties of seg­re­ga­tion, Jim Crow, and the Ku Klux Klan at the feet of the Demo­c­ra­tic Party. To add insult to injury, she states that the March on Birm­ing­ham was in fact a demonic mob instead of a non-violent act of civil dis­obe­di­ence. All of a sud­den, the his­tory we learned in our schools, our churches, and through the voices of our past no longer matches what is being asserted today.

The trou­ble with this effort to rewrite our his­tory is that so many Amer­i­cans don’t know their his­tory well enough to deter­mine the sig­nif­i­cance of the changes being made. A less informed per­son may be per­suaded to believe that the Demo­c­ra­tic Party today, which enjoys nearly ninety-five per­cent of the African-American vote, is the same party that existed prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that Dr. King was a demonic mob leader, and that Rea­gan was the great­est pres­i­dent of all time. One who doesn’t know any bet­ter might begin to ques­tion why they would ever vote Demo­c­ra­tic again, con­sid­er­ing that so many Democ­rats were racists and seg­re­ga­tion­ists. Democ­rats are Democ­rats, right? Thank­fully, we know better.

Prior to 1964 the South was dom­i­nated by the Demo­c­ra­tic Party. Klans­men were pri­mar­ily Democ­rats. George Wal­lace was a Demo­c­rat. Strong Thur­man was a Demo­c­rat. Nev­er­the­less, when Demo­c­ra­tic Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964 the South­ern “Dix­iecrats” clearly felt as though the Demo­c­ra­tic Party no longer rep­re­sented their ide­ol­ogy, sub­se­quently leav­ing the Party. Coul­ter alludes to this impor­tant detail only in pass­ing by say­ing that after the pas­sage of the act, “the anti-civil rights wing of the Demo­c­ra­tic Party dis­ap­peared vir­tu­ally overnight.” Still, she failed to men­tion where these self-proclaimed racists and seg­re­ga­tion­ists went when they dis­ap­peared: the Repub­li­can Party.

In 1960, Louisiana, Geor­gia, South Car­olina, and parts of Alabama all voted Demo­c­ra­tic in the 1960 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Between 1960 and 1964, ten­sions in the South led to trans­for­ma­tion in the pri­or­i­ties of the young JFK and the Civil Rights Act became a pri­or­ity. After his assas­si­na­tion, Lyn­don John­son signed the act into law, serv­ing as the final straw for the Dix­iecrats. In 1964 the Dix­iecrats, along with their con­stituen­cies, left the Demo­c­rat party en masse and migrated to the Repub­li­can Party. In that elec­tion, Mis­sis­sippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Geor­gia, and South Car­olina all turned red as their elec­toral votes went to the Repub­li­can Party can­di­date, Barry Gold­wa­ter. A nefar­i­ous rewrite could eas­ily erase this very impor­tant tran­si­tion sim­ply because not enough Amer­i­cans know Amer­i­can his­tory for themselves.

There is no sur­prise that the only pro­tes­tors Coul­ter sees as non-demonic are mem­bers of the Tea Party, and the only pres­i­dents that are wor­thy of recog­ni­tion are those that had an R by their name, even though their ide­olo­gies var­ied wildly through­out the exis­tence of the Party. Need­less to say, if all, or even the major­ity, of the South­ern Dix­iecrats became Repub­li­can in the 1960s, then the Republicans—many of which still wave the Rebel flag today—cannot pos­si­bly claim to be the same party as Lin­coln who destroyed their dreams of seces­sion. The great­est irony of Coulter’s machi­na­tions is that while she cham­pi­oned Ronald Rea­gan as the Repub­li­can hero, those of us who know our Amer­i­can his­tory also know that he too was one of the Democ­rats that turned their coats dur­ing the six­ties after he felt the “Party left [him].” Maybe it was a case of bad tim­ing, or maybe Rea­gan actu­ally meant what he said when he stated, “If an indi­vid­ual wants to dis­crim­i­nate against Negroes…that’s their business.”

With only thir­teen per­cent of high school seniors hav­ing a sat­is­fac­tory knowl­edge of Amer­i­can his­tory, it becomes painfully clear why this book can­not be con­sid­ered a joke. The only evi­dence of demonic activ­ity in this book is her attempt to manip­u­late the unin­formed. This is why it is so impor­tant, now more than ever, that we teach his­tory to our chil­dren with the same urgency that we teach the sci­ences; if the past can be rewrit­ten for polit­i­cal gain, then surely our future doesn’t stand a chance.

© 2011 Ben­jamin P. Dixon

 

Posted in: America

Continue Reading

My Life is Out of Control

1

Recently I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that my life is com­pletely out of con­trol. Every time I decide to do some­thing, fate and, per­haps, des­tiny says oth­er­wise. I decide to move to a par­tic­u­lar city: deci­sion over­rid­den. I decide to take a par­tic­u­lar job: deci­sion over­rid­den. Sud­denly, I meet the most amaz­ing woman I’ve ever known and less than six months later we are mar­ried. Eleven months later we have our first child. In the blink of an eye my life has changed. The pace at which it changed is breath­tak­ing and, at times, fright­en­ing; nev­er­the­less, they were won­der­ful and amazing.

Now I have a wife and a child, and together we decided that we were going to move to a par­tic­u­lar city. We both agreed on where we wanted to live and what we wanted to do with our lives, and so it seemed as though my lot in life had finally changed. It seemed as though things were going our way. Deci­sion made: deci­sion over­rid­den. We decide to move: deci­sion over­rid­den. We decide to take dif­fer­ent jobs: deci­sion over­rid­den. Then sud­denly, I real­ized  that I fin­ished a Master’s degree in less than twelve months, got accepted into a PhD pro­gram less than thirty days after grad­u­a­tion, and an amaz­ing door into my future swings open widely. Once again, my life—no, our lives—are mov­ing at a fran­tic pace. The pace is so fast that it is breath­tak­ing and, at times, fright­en­ing; nev­er­the­less, won­der­ful and amazing.

That’s when I real­ized my life is com­pletely out of con­trol. The deci­sions I call myself mak­ing are over­rid­den every sin­gle time. The plans I made for my life have been changed so much that I no longer write them in pen. I’m sure you can imag­ine the frus­tra­tion this causes. I’m sure you’ve been in the same sit­u­a­tion. We make plans for our lives but life has its own plans. I keep think­ing about Ernest Henley’s Invic­tus where he proclaims:

It mat­ters not how straight the gate,

How charged with pun­ish­ments the scroll,

I am the mas­ter of my fate,

I am the cap­tain of my soul.

I hear these words, but for me, they are com­pletely untrue. I am not in charge of my life. My life is not my own. I can accept this now. My wife has accepted this as well. Why? We accept this because every deci­sion that has been over­rid­den in our lives ulti­mately led us to each other. Every job we did not get kept us in the city we needed to be in to find one another. Ulti­mately, every deci­sion that was over­rid­den led us to Ben­jamin 2.0.Every choice that was over­ruled led to us both fin­ish­ing our master’s, Jada’s sec­ond, my accep­tance into a PhD pro­gram, and an oppor­tu­nity that you will hear about soon enough.

Sim­ply put, I can’t imag­ine any of the other deci­sions being bet­ter than the ones that I was ulti­mately forced into. And so, my life is com­pletely out of con­trol: my con­trol. Then I remem­ber a prayer that I said when I was sixteen:

Lord, I know I can make deci­sions, but I can­not always trust that my deci­sions will be the right ones. So I am turn­ing my life over to you because I know that what you have planned for me will always be bet­ter for me because you want only what’s best for me. I trust your will for my life more than I trust my abil­ity to make good deci­sions. So, lead the way.”

Be care­ful what you ask for. I was blessed enough to get it.

 

–BpDixon

Posted in: Inspiration

Continue Reading

Blogging from D.C.

0

 

iPhone pic­ture of the White House

It’s a gloomy Fri­day after­noon in the nation’s capi­tol. I’m sit­ting on the steps of the Lin­coln Memo­r­ial look­ing at the crowds of tourists scram­bling up the mar­ble steps for their oppor­tu­nity to take a pic­ture with hon­est Abe. Look­ing across the land­scape of Amer­i­can His­tory I find a moment of repose.

I make it a point to stop by the Lin­coln Memo­r­ial every time I’m in the city. There is some­thing sacred and solemn about this shrine in par­tic­u­lar. Per­haps it is the very sim­ple words that are engraved above his mar­ble image:

In this tem­ple as in the hearts of the peo­ple for whom he saved the Union the Mem­ory of Abra­ham Lin­coln is enshrined forever”

These sim­ple words cause me to reflect on our nation’s his­tory. My jour­ney begins dur­ing the Civil War but instantly trans­ports me back to the found­ing of our nation. This is a jour­ney through time that I take on a reg­u­lar basis. To say I am fas­ci­nated with our nation’s past and con­sumed with thoughts of our future would be an under­state­ment. How­ever, this jour­ney is uniquely dif­fer­ent. I look down onto the small walk­way that sep­a­rates the two dif­fer­ent sets of steps and see an engrav­ing of where Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. stood and gave his his­tor­i­cal speech. This time my jour­ney through time is dif­fer­ent because where it doesn’t take me to our finest moments but our darkest.

In an instant images of slav­ery, Japan­ese intern­ment camps, Jim Crow laws, and the hyper-polarized antics of the present flash before my eyes. Just as quickly as I jour­ney through these dark moments in our his­tory, feel­ings of great pride over­take me. Some may won­der how this could be. At a bare min­i­mum I should have feel­ings of ambiva­lence about this coun­try because of my her­itage; but I don’t. I’m have always been and con­tinue to be proud to be an Amer­i­can. Noth­ing in our past has the abil­ity to taint my love for this coun­try. I see our past crimes, atroc­i­ties, and embar­rass­ments as lessons that shaped our union. We are, as Jef­fer­son proph­e­sied, ever evolv­ing into a more per­fect union.

Sud­denly, my moment of patri­otic pride fades as I begin think about how many peo­ple don’t feel the same way about our nation. So many are con­sumed by the pain and prob­lems of our past that they con­demn our nation’s future. Oth­ers are so infu­ri­ated by oppos­ing ideas of gov­ern­ing that they declare the end of “the nation our founders built.”  In my heart I won­der how many cit­i­zens can love this coun­try beyond our past and dif­fer­ences in polit­i­cal ideology.

iPhone pic­ture of the Lin­coln Memorial

So many of us only love the coun­try when our party is in con­trol or when the check has our name on it. Every time the check goes to a dif­fer­ent demo­graphic or when­ever our polit­i­cal rivals are in power we declare that our nation is lost and has to be taken back. Is our love based only on polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy and what the nation can do for us?

 

And just as I begin to suc­cumb to these feel­ings of sad­ness I take another look across the land­scape of our capi­tol and a smile breaks through. Patri­otic pride over­takes the feel­ings of sad­ness because my eyes are privy to the truth: our nation will not be con­demned because of our past, will not be lost because our rivals may be in power, and despite our dif­fer­ences will always be beau­ti­ful. I look again at the spot where Dr. King stood and my jour­ney through time ends at the same place it began: repose.

iPhone image of the Lin­coln Memorial

We may have our dif­fer­ences, but each of us still has Amer­ica. This is our land. This is our home. The past is all of ours to own. The future is all of ours to make. But where some see prob­lems I see promise. I see oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­tribute to mak­ing our nation more per­fect while real­iz­ing that we will never get there. At our best we will still have dif­fer­ences, prob­lems, and a trou­bled past. But today Amer­ica is unques­tion­ably more beau­ti­ful and more per­fect. What it will be tomor­row depends on how many cit­i­zens can be proud to be an Amer­i­can even when our party is not in power and when some­one else is ben­e­fit­ing from her.

Thanks for the jour­ney Abe. Per­haps this is why I make it a point to always stop by here when­ever I’m in the city. Next stop, the Capi­tol Building.

Posted in: America

Continue Reading

In Response to Cornel West and Noam Chomsky’s Criticism of the Killing of Osama bin Laden

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noam Chom­sky and Cor­nell West have used their posi­tions as twenty-first-century Amer­i­can philoso­phers to not merely cri­tique our nation’s han­dling of Osama bin Laden, but also to label it as an exe­cu­tion and an assas­si­na­tion. Chom­sky even goes to the extent of call­ing bin Laden a vic­tim.

West uses the issues of social jus­tice to con­jure dis­dain for America’s focus on bring­ing bin Laden to jus­tice. He jux­ta­poses the injus­tices of poverty and hunger in Amer­ica with the nation’s quest for jus­tice against bin Laden and con­cludes that our pri­or­i­ties are warped. Chom­sky attacks the issue at a more fun­da­men­tal, albeit con­spir­a­to­r­ial, level by sug­gest­ing that Amer­ica had no con­crete evi­dence that Osama bin Laden was actu­ally the mas­ter­mind behind the attacks on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. He calls Pres­i­dent Obama a liar and then chal­lenges us to con­sider how we would feel if Iraqi com­man­dos landed out­side of G.W. Bush’s ranch, exe­cuted him, and then dumped his body in the ocean. These two care­fully crafted com­men­taries serve only to bring atten­tion to the authors; they do noth­ing for the cause of our nation or the cause of the jus­tice that West and Chom­sky claim to champion.

Dr. West con­flates two entirely dif­fer­ent issues that are arguably mutu­ally exclu­sive: the killing of Osama bin Laden has noth­ing to do with the eco­nomic injus­tices that many Amer­i­cans clearly suf­fer on a daily basis. Does Dr. West sug­gest that we forgo national secu­rity mat­ters until we have reme­died all of our inter­nal social ills? Should we com­mit our troops to build­ing homes for the home­less with­out regard to pro­tect­ing our inter­ests abroad? Would the dol­lars spent cap­tur­ing Osama have been bet­ter used by insti­tut­ing a new social pro­gram or per­haps even repa­ra­tions? These propo­si­tions are equally as fool­ish as Dr. West’s comments.

Chom­sky insin­u­ates that Amer­ica is the cul­prit and, in this case, bin Laden was yet another vic­tim of our impe­ri­al­is­tic and cap­i­tal­is­tic machi­na­tions. He then plays to his base by allud­ing to Bush’s atroc­i­ties and ask­ing how we would react if the shoe were on the other foot. I would ask Chom­sky if bin Laden’s crimes were absolved because of our crimes. Are we as a nation so eter­nally stained that we have no right to exe­cute jus­tice on our ene­mies? If this is the case, then surely Amer­ica is damned; how­ever, I would remind Chom­sky that just as we rise together as a nation, so too shall we fall. He is just as much a ben­e­fi­ciary of our nation’s bless­ings as the cap­i­tal­ist on Wall Street; as he con­demns our nation because of our crimes, he inex­tri­ca­bly con­demns himself.

As to his ques­tion of the shoe being on the other foot, surely he is intel­li­gent enough to under­stand that bin Laden was not the cur­rent head, nor the for­mer head, of any state. Surely he knows that in regard to inter­na­tional law, bin Laden and Bush are oranges and apples. This ques­tion serves no pur­pose other than to stir the lin­ger­ing anger of his con­stituents against Bush and the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. Notwith­stand­ing his ques­tion, there is some­thing to be said here about nationalism.

As much as I dis­agreed with Bush, he was my pres­i­dent. I would take up arms with other patri­ots to avenge, revenge, and exe­cute jus­tice on any act against the pres­i­dent of the nation of which I am a citizen—not because of the indi­vid­ual, but because of the posi­tion. This is our nation, and an attack against it is an attack against me. Per­haps that is too patri­otic for Chomsky’s tastes. This is a free coun­try. There­fore, he has the right to play the role of the per­pet­ual dis­senter and even to do so from his ivory tower at MIT, as though he iden­ti­fies with those of us who truly are, and have been, the oppressed.

Like­wise, we too have the right to dis­agree with two of the pre­em­i­nent schol­ars of our day. How dis­ap­point­ing it is that they would resort to appeal­ing to the pathos of their devoted dis­ci­ples when they are fully aware of the fact that this is the exact type of manip­u­la­tion that we must help the aver­age cit­i­zen, such as I, rise above. It is bad enough that we are com­pet­ing against the onslaught of deceit from talk radio and the blo­gos­phere; do we now have to com­pete against those who are sup­posed to help enlighten us? Amer­ica deserves bet­ter than intel­lec­tu­als who stoop to the level of talk show hosts and use the pul­pits they have erected in the halls of acad­e­mia to for­ward their per­sonal careers.

After all is said and done, the poor will still be the eco­nom­i­cally exploited, and the hun­gry will still be search­ing for their next meal. More­over, West’s and Chomsky’s com­ments will do noth­ing to rem­edy these prob­lems any more than America’s killing of Osama bin Laden. At least the lat­ter is an accom­plish­ment that ben­e­fits the entire world and not just the per­sonas of two schol­ars of whom I am for­ever a stu­dent. This com­men­tary is merely a dis­sent in the same spirit they have inspired.

© 2011 Ben­jamin P. Dixon.


Continue Reading