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Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter and politics

Easter Sunday for a Catholic family like mine usually means a get-together at an aunt and uncle's house, some food, some drinks, and some general hanging out.

It also usually means an inevitable conversation about politics, especially with the majority of the family being right-wing lower middle-class folk from upstate New York, except for my immediate family, which is made up mainly of middle-class, liberal-minded people from suburban Central Jersey.

The political speech turned to comments made recently by the leader of presidential hopeful and Democrat Barack Obama's Chicago church.

Of course the New Yorkers complained about the preacher's negative comments about this allegedly wonderful, perfect country, and how those comments should never be made by anyone, including those living in the war zones that make up many of this nation's urban areas.

Someone from the other side of the argument immediately chimed in that those comments may have been off the mark, but they reflect deep anger and resentment on the part of many of African American residents who have yet to see much of the American Dream that was probably once promised to them.

Like many in Trenton, they are born or brought into a world of little opportunity, much hardship, and few choices.

Sure, some back-breaking hard work, dedication, and luck might overcome the urban system, but odds are that the overwhelming pressures causing many of those who would have otherwise led a productive life into joining gangs or committing crime will eventually take their toll.

None of those in the New York State side of the family seemed to understand the realities that confront many of these people, like the people living in the area of Mr. Obama's church and its preacher, likely in a rough neighborhood in South Chicago.

For these people America the Beautiful and its political system have done little to help them lead a full or rewarding life, instead giving them a constant view of a world of sorrow, death, and wasted opportunities.

After explaining to some of my extended family members about the situation and the system that exists here in my beloved - if dysfunctional - city of residence, they quickly quieted.

I declared that their happy and normal lives would probably fall into complete disarray if their luck in the lottery of life had instead dealt them a ticket to a broken family living on Stuyvesant Avenue or Walnut Avenue.

It is of the utmost importance to understand where someone is coming from and what their background is before making broad judgments about comments, words, or actions.

This country has a great social divide that needs to be bridged before the promise of the idea of the United States can ever be completely realized.

*This is not meant to excuse the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments. They are wrong. But people from all over the economic and political spectrum make these comments, especially right-wing religious leaders. People will use these statements to their advantage wherever possible, until the underlying problems are addressed to the point where taking such positions becomes untenable.


Nicholas Stewart said...

The divide is viewed by those who look for it. I have spent enough time in this ciy and out to know that there are opportunities everywhere regardless of economic status.

Greg Forester said...

I am not denying that, but the situation makes things a lot more difficult than many of us have had it.

Chrissy said...

I see the divide as a chasm that surrounds the city, not so much splitting it. There are people in the city who take advantage of opportunities and carve out a good life, and those who don't, won't, or can't. All of us here more or less have an understanding of who's who in the city. It's the people outside the city who turn the blind eye, and who -- in my opinion -- have created the divide, and fostered it. My family is like Greg's: suburban/rural, and largely right-wing. The divide is there; it's vast and clear at a holiday dinner table in safe, quiet suburbia.