Terror on the Streets 

I had a dream last night about the urgency  of now and importance of addressing police officers terrorizing young men. In my dream, there was an image of my nephews walking in a world where police officers and young men are at war. Then I woke up.  It wasn’t a dream, that nightmare is real.  It is happening every day. Young men are killing each other faster than the officers are.  Why aren’t we talking about it.

I saw my 15 year old nephew’s Instagram page with the photo of a young up and coming rapper DC named Swipey who was killed a couple of days ago.  I didn’t know who he was.  But I was intrigued that my 13 year old niece and another fifteen year old nephew commented on the post.  Their comments read RIP with sad emoticons.

I felt instant sadness.  I held them not too long ago in my arms as babies and now as teenager their innocence has already been stripped away.  This young 18 year old was killed by possibly four or five young men who ambushed him with guns. Why? A robbery? An argument? Whatever it was, amounts to nothing important.   What is important, Swipey is gone. Where is the outrage about his death?  Had he been killed by the police, there would be outrage, marches and such.

A sense of urgency to call out the injustice and insensitivity of law enforcement is necessary.  Did you watch the video above of a ten year old chased by police who thought he was a twenty year old?

On my company, Party Politics US chalkboards, people have written that criminal justice, black lives matter, protecting all lives, race relations and racial stereotypes are things they want the next President to work on. I agree with them, do you?

If so, this means all of us no matter who wins the election have to work with the next President to address policemen who are terrorizing our young men.  It means, taking responsibility and having intolerance for the people on the streets carrying guns.  Killing one another on the street and even in church over a seat.

And it means calling this what it is, an American issue.  Power, entitlement and selfishness all a part of America, have brought about this epidemic. America has cultivated this since our inception. It’s not a game, it’s real life. But for some who have no feelings of remorse, whose hearts are so hardened and desensitized, this is like a video game.

A week after the Newtown shooting I said that Wayne LaPierre of the NRA made valid points in his press statement.  Many criticized me.  Looking back, the timing of my thoughts may have been hasty.  The wounds were too fresh.   You were right then. But I still stand by what I said then. We have to listen, doesn’t mean agree, with what he said.

The gun culture alone is not the problem. We are! In his remarks he said “there exists in this country a callous, corrupt shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people.” Before you disagree consider this.

Have you ever innocently bought your child a toy gun, water pistol or super soaker that looks like a gun?  If you are like my parents, you never did.  But somehow, my siblings and I figured out how to shape our hands into a gun and pretend to shoot at each other.

How about this?  Ever purchased video games like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse, or any war games?  Even played them yourself?  You may not have, but a neighbor or family member may have.  Somehow, no matter how hard you tried, your child learned about guns and the power to kill. Unless, you completely shield them from television, movies and school American culture has a way of putting guns in the minds of our children.  It has for a long time.

Even our politicians engage but there role is far greater.  Yet, it still sends a signal that guns and power permeate our society.  Consider that most members of Congress have never fought or served in the military.  Yet they have been empowered to send our young men and women off to war in places we have no business being in.  Then we see the names of loved ones, or those we have never known listed on the news and in newspapers.  In some cases, on the walls of memorials.  We create a police culture abroad with our military and here with our police. This isn’t something just created, it’s been developing a loooong time.

Here’s something else to consider.  Name a country that has had not one, but four Presidents that were killed by shooters since 1865?

Malcolm X said after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination that his assassination was a byproduct of hate, and “the chickens are coming home to roost.”  We have a precipitous environment of hate in America.  The wars abroad have taken out attention off the war at home between the hate between our police forces and the young men killing each other on the street.

Do you want to address this issue? Or do you want your child, nephew, grandson, to be traumatized like this 10 year old who was chased by police who were looking for a twenty year old? I want to address it. To achieve anything, means having some hard long conversations.  That means talking not yelling.

Hot heads don’t solve problem. Now is the time to open our hearts so that we can hear one another. Now is the time to sit down and let cooler heads prevail. If we don’t sit down and talk, nothing get accomplished.

In the video, did you see the young man’s mother talking to her son.  I am certain her heart was racing.  Anger boiling.  And yet she asks him, what are you feeling.  That is a mother’s love and relief that her son lived to tell the tale of what happened. But what about the next time?

We all know, the officers were wrong!  But yelling at them accomplishes what? That is no different than what we accuse our politicians on both sides of the aisle for doing.  The urgency of the moment calls on us to sit down to talk before more young men like this ten year old are traumatized.

Some of you may want to make it about race. I see it.  I see modern day slave catchers kidnapping free black men and selling them into slavery. Instead, today they see no value for their life so they are killing them.  These young men are expendable to them.  They use the excuse, I thought he had a gun.  Knowing that if it goes to court, like the white man that killed Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers and many others will walk out of court a free man.

Here’s the reality.  One stark difference from then and now.  Today, we can vote for people who can change policy.  Unfortunately, we don’t vote or we vote straight party without looking at the positions of all the candidates!  We all can be smarter in our approach and find that while we have differences, there may be some significant things we can work on together.

We can work together in ways we couldn’t just sixty years ago. We can’t do that if we remain trapped in an abyss of hole of despair. As a legislator told me, if you want to get out of the hole, stop digging!

Young men killing each other is digging us all into a deeper hole.  They don’t appear to put much value on their own lives.  How do we expect the police to value them.

I don’t know why those young men killed young Swipey. But my heart aches for him, his friends, girlfriend and my niece and nephews.

I don’t for the life of me understand why those police officers chased this ten year old.  My heart aches for him and his mother.  My heart is open.  But I can’t blame him if his heart hardens after this experience.  This is part of the narrative we aren’t talking about. The cause and effect.  That’s why many of these young men are killing each other.  Who has valued these children’s lives.  If you don’t see it in the video, trust me, that hurt will manifest itself soon into another hardened heart.  His innocence was just ripped from him, no differently than the young slave boy or girl who was pulled away at a young age to work in the fields instead of playing like little kids should.

If you’re still reading this now and you’re white, or Republican and conservative, close your eyes and imagine, what if this ten year old was your child.

To my young friends, disenchanted with the voting process. Don’t give up. To those who say #BernieOrBust let your voice be heard at the ballot box. There’s another election in two years and another presidential one in four.

If you think not voting is an option, don’t complain about the injustices that are happening. But if it is important to see change occur, remember that we have a checks and balance system in our federal, states and cities. President is not the end all. We need you to vote not just for president.

We need you to vote for congressional, state and local elected candidates who believe like you and me that policy must change. This election is about more than Clinton and Trump. It is about the people. It is about ensuring that we don’t have another fiscal cliff crisis. Or another threat of a government shutdown. It is about creating policy that protects us all from another housing, auto or banking collapse.

My dream last night was about the urgency of now. And the need for all of us, no matter what race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, to recognize that this election is a referendum on human values. Guns add nothing to that value. This election is about human dignity. It is about how we live with each other. How we treat one another. How we love one another. How we value one another.

Surely we can do better than what these officers did to this young man?  If you agree, please share it with your friends and family and talk about it. Join me and others on our Facebook group Chalkboard Conversations where we are having daily discussion.  Together we can make a change.

What do you think?

 

To read Wayne LaPierre full text statement after Newtown http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/full-text-nra-remarks-gun-control-debate-newtown-article-1.1225043

Video of Wayne LaPierre statement http://youtu.be/iusoultZYSs

Learn more about Party Politics US at http://www.partypoliticsus.com and/or join our daily conversations on Facebook in the group Chalkboard Conversations.

headshot Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR), founder of Party Politics US and Associate Producer on The Framing of OJ Simpson.  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

They Aren’t Going to Like This!

Politics has always fascinated me.  When I was four, I told my parents, “I am going to be the first Black President!”  Almost forty years ago, that seemed impossible. But in 1978, at the age of six, I saw Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the Camp David Accords with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin hammering out an agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt.

I studied Sadat. Why not? He looked like me.  His hair was gray, but the texture looked like mine. I could relate to him even more, when I learned he was a Muslim like my family. At first, I was alarmed that he smoked a pipe. But that made me look closer and see something I have found in other courageous leaders.

They are pensive. Sadat looked this way with his pipe in hand. But like courageous leaders, sometimes he looked sad. Not the kind of sad you and I feel. His was a retrospective sadness. Like he was thinking, “They aren’t going to like this, but it is the right thing to do.”

That look comes from knowing they may be right but have to move a mountain of naysayers to get the people onboard. Who wouldn’t be sad knowing this lies ahead. That is why CHANGE is hard and we see many leaders instead of standing up with courage, they turn and run the other way.

Equipped with this difficult task, on the global stage Sadat still often flashed a big smile. Begin and Carter did too. Their smiles on September 17th, 1978, were one of hope, that together they would move that mountain.

History shows that courageous leaders against great opposition, inspire hope.  They inspire even when we aren’t ready to travel the road less traveled. Fortunately, we have had Presidents do this, even when our Congress disagrees. Domestically this was the case with slavery, segregation and women’s right to vote.

Internationally we saw it when President John F. Kennedy negotiated behind the scenes with Russia averting war over the Cuban missile crisis.  When President Richard Nixon negotiated and then visited China.  And when, President Ronald Reagan negotiated with Russia to eliminate intermediate range and shorter range missiles. All decisions that altered the course of history using the strength of diplomacy over the power of war.

The Iran agreement is a pathway forward that trusts the strength of our diplomacy. What fourteen countries including the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany achieved is historic.

Leaders like South African President Nelson Mandela whose nation was imperiled by apartheid offered his nation a better way forward.  If we look at photos and video of Mandela, you might see the look of pensiveness and sadness once he left prison.  Yet, close your eyes and remember his great smile.  It is like he knew something we didn’t.  And he provided hope to his nation and led them from apartheid to liberation.

Like Mandela, Obama now will try to offer that hope to our Congress who disagree with his decision with Iran. Congress will debate it and may vote against it. The reality is there is no agreement the GOP  would accept. They prefer fear, conflict and tension.  That is why this agreement puts Obama in the category of Presidents like Mandela, Kennedy, Carter, Nixon, Reagan, Sadat and Begin.

He made a hard decision that leads to a better pathway for peace.  And opens pathways for the world to get to know Iran better.  Because of the Camp David Accords I have been able to visit Egypt, South Africa and Israel.  I hope in the near future, peace in Iran makes it possible to travel there.

CHANGE is difficult for some to accept.  At times, leaders feel like they are stuck in quick sand moving large numbers out of an abyss of despair. They cannot walk like they are on land. They have to rise above the danger and see, then communicate that help and a brighter future with a better way is ahead of them.

Some leaders don’t have that ability.  More importantly, they don’t possess the talent or ability to inspire hope .  So they use fear to keep people close. This causes more friction and danger. We see this too often here and abroad. It keeps wars going for too long.

That’s why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words are still used today. During a time of great economic calamity he said in his first Inaugural Address that the “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Fear has been used for centuries to keep us from moving FORWARD. The awakening of the intellectual spirit is offering hope that there is a new and better way FORWARD. That is what this agreement is really about, a better way FORWARD.

We won’t know for weeks, years or decades to come, if Iran will hold up its end of the bargain. But we should give it a try. And whether you do or don’t applaud the President for it, at least support him in the short term for diverting our nation from a course that would lead to another war.

The President like those before him often has that pensive look. At times, he has a look of sadness in his eyes. Moving a mountain is no small feat. Over the past six years, we have seen his big smile!  It is a smile of HOPE. It tells us everything is going to be okay. He is battle tested and deserves our support on this decision. The President has led our nation out of economic uncertainty, stabilized global markets and got us out of two wars.

He has moved mountains and as a leader he continues to make the hard decisions, not the popular one. His hair is gray much like Sadat’s almost four decades ago. He like Sadat, Begin and Carter during the Camp David Accords is trying to make America safer.

Some child or children are watching Obama as I watched Sadat thirty-nine years ago because they can relate to him. More importantly, they are watching us. Let’s give them the best example to follow. One that shows that together, we can move big mountains and make the world a better place for us all!

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.