The other one percent

I watched the final Republican debates of 2015 in shock and awe! I recognized— especially when appealing to the party’s base— that most of the positions of the candidates are more akin to throwing raw meat to wild animals than to substantive discussion of policies of the respective candidates. I wasn’t surprised that I saw these candidates as detached from the realities impacting the largest numbers of our population.

I’m intrigued by the cavalier attitude displayed by members of the Republican Political Elite when addressing the concerns of the masses. Romney’s ‘classic’ 47 percent comment and the obvious deference paid by Republicans to the wealthiest one percent of our nation both give clear indication that wealth determines Republican interest.

This was clear when, in outlining his foreign policy position, Senator Marco Rubio commented that putting “U.S. boots on the ground” was the solution to Middle East conflict. I’ve heard the phrase “boots on the ground” countless times lately but during this “Season of Peace,” it was more offensive, even obscene. It caused me to question the casual concern of this remark and reason for deeper consideration of the other one percent.

If you haven’t given serious thought, the responsibility for the security of our nation is no longer a “shared” responsibility. Those who remember the Selective Service conscription (military draft) remember the concern held by the general population for all our military service members. Every family who had a son between the ages of 18 and 29 was concerned about decisions committing our troops to combat. Whether that son was a ne’er-do-well drafted off the block, a Mensa candidate drafted from the halls of Harvard, or anyone in between, each of those young men and their families— forced or otherwise— became stakeholders in the security of the United States.

The all-volunteer military has seemingly changed that dynamic permanently. Some argue that the Selective Service Registration requirement still exists and all have the potential to serve. The truth is that registration has devolved into a symbolic gesture of civic responsibility. For practical purpose, unless someone has a patriotic epiphany or an economic, financial or educational need, service to the defense of the nation is an option.

Which brings us back to the “Other one percent.” When we look objectively at who now serves our nation, we must admit that our military is primarily comprised of lower-income citizens whose economic circumstances oblige them to join. They are the individuals who live in areas of the country that offer few opportunities for employment or career development. They are the students who see the potential for future success, but without the resources to obtain the requisite education or training that will allow the success they imagine. They are the reservists who join the military for the quid pro quo of extra income in exchange for one weekend a month and an additional two weeks each year. It is a rare exception that you will find a member of the moneyed-class among the ranks.

Which brings us back to “boots on the ground.” There are no “boots on the ground.” There are young men and women who proudly serve our nation. They are not the sons and daughters of those who make decisions that commit them to combat. They are the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and relatives who place the interests of our nation above their own.

To refer to them as “boots on the ground” dishonors them and the privilege they afford the rest of us to live our lives in relative peace. The mere “Thank you for your service,” seems inadequate. In this “Season of Peace,” I can only add my prayers for the blessing of true peace and my hope for them and their families.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. For more information, visit: www.nationalcongressbw.org or call 202-678-6788.

When will it end?

— After all of the senseless killings in schools, in churches, in workplaces, on streets by civilians and by those charged to protect and to serve us; I cannot help but wonder, “When will it end?”

Our world has become increasingly mean and violent. Tempers are short. People take what doesn’t belong to them. Arguments happen over practically nothing. Members of Congress refuse to compromise— making life miserable for those they were elected to serve.

We see adults acting like children. In the past few days, we’ve seen a leading candidate for President resorting to vulgarity to express himself. Since I‘m sometimes asked to participate in events where rappers are on the program, I decided to research some of them, and take a look at the words to some of their songs. I was blown away with the words young boys and some older men use in describing women! I’m painfully aware that a few women lower themselves to act in ways that would make their mothers and grandmothers blush and pray hard for their children to recognize the error of their ways.

Don’t the words peace, respect, love, truth, honor, tolerance, dignity and unity mean anything anymore? Doesn’t life mean anything to those who so easily take the lives of others? Doesn’t dignity mean anything?

A few days ago, Pope Francis visited our nation and experienced the ultimate in love and respect. People seemed to have been affected positively by his presence and his words. I went to the National Mall when the Pope spoke to Congress, and people were happy. The crowd was diverse. People were applauding every time justice was mentioned. They were courteous. People of all persuasions were laughing and talking with one another and all seemed to be well. Nobody had a fight. Even John Boehner bid a happy farewell to his job as Speaker of the House of Representatives! He had a “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to throw down and when to walk away” attitude. He exhibited no bitterness or regret. He even sang a happy little tune at his announcement.

The Pope left town and it seemed that all the goodwill we experienced for a few days left with him. Congress went back to talking about shutting down the government. Republican men began a shameful tag team grilling of Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. Russia announced it’s bombing in Syria, a teen was shot at a local recreation center in Washington, D.C. for no apparent reason, and soon thereafter, it was announced that a mass murder had occurred on a community college campus in Roseburg, Oregon! Why? When will it end?

Talking with each other seems to have become a lost art. If each of us would think of just one thing we could do to make life better for those with whom we come in contact, isn’t it possible we could get rid of some of the anger, the disrespect, the hate that’s leading to all the problems we are currently experiencing? If our leaders would try just one act of kindness on their jobs each day, I think that would be the beginning of change that could lead others to change their behavior. I am not naïve enough to think this would resolve all of the problems that lead to tragedies, but I have enough hope to believe it would make a difference.

Pope Francis left us with the reminder of something most of us learned in Sunday school or at home when we were very young when he said, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

If we did that, just maybe, some of the senseless tragedies would end.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. For more information, visit: www.nationalcongressbw.org or call 202-678-6788.