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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The post-ISIS Middle East, Putting Ferguson into Context and "What's in a Name"


What's in a Name?

Isis the Goddess

Tojo, Mussolini and Hitler, Axis leaders of the Second World War

A condominium is under construction in West Palm Beach.  Until a few weeks ago, it had been named after the Egyptian goddess, Isis.   The builder, however, must have decided that would hurt sales so the billboard came down, and was replaced by one with a new name using the street number instead of the politically charged name of the goddess.

Meanwhile, a few miles west in Wellington, Florida, where the population is younger and doesn’t know their history, another development is thriving despite it being named “Axis Apartments.”  Obviously, there are few, if any veterans of World War Two in Wellington.
Jack Lippman


Putting Ferguson Into Context

Ferguson, Missouri, isn’t the only place in America where questionable police behavior in Black neighborhoods, particularly involving young Black males, occurs.  Actually, much of the crime law enforcement deals with in many urban areas is carried out by young Black males.  The nation’s large prison population reflects this.  Without excusing the actions of any particular police officer, we should be addressing the cause of this problem.  Ferguson is just a manifestation of what happens when it blossoms forth uncontrollably.  It has happened elsewhere in this country over the years.


On the surface, crime among young Black men is often attributed to a breakdown in Black family structure, the inability of such young men particularly if they have a record of arrests to secure good jobs and finally, the failure of our educational system to develop the strategies needed to give them the tools necessary to get such jobs and succeed in today’s world.  All of these causes are overlapping and intertwined.  And finding solutions is not made any easier by those who stubbornly claim that providing the Black community with the resources to overcome these problems only serves to perpetuate them.  And at the other extreme, demonstrations and rioting over perceived grievances does not serve as a solution either.

Until the end of the Civil War, a century and a half ago, slavery was legal in the southern part of the United States.   But with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, an enormous Black population was added to the citizenry of our country.  Unfortunately, for at least a century before that, there were extreme restrictions on the family structure of slaves, who of course had no individual choices in their employment and finally, were denied educational opportunities.  

Family Life for Slaves in the South Before the Fourteenth Amendment

And in the South where most Blacks lived, even after the war, state and local laws, and most importantly, the attitudes of the White population, prevented real steps from being taken to improve Black family structure, job opportunities and education. Whatever transitional steps that were needed were thereby inadequate and delayed.

A scant 70 years later, by which time the South’s Black population had to some extent spread northward, these problems still persisted.  World War Two provided jobs but family structure was still weak.  Because a male slave could have been sold off and never again be seen, his “family” was maternally-based; this role of the Black male in the family, particularly when he doesn’t have a good job, was diminished and this problem persists today.  “Separate but equal” schooling, which certainly was not equal, existed until just 60 years ago, and school districts throughout the country are still trying to find ways to provide education for an entire community, including Blacks, which is not diluted from what it was before Brown vs. Board of Education made school segregation illegal in 1954.
Linda Brown, who brought the case against the Topeka Board of Education
Some of the attitudes of Southerners during the last third of the Nineteenth Century followed Blacks to other parts of the country.  While there weren’t laws which discriminated, integration of Blacks into the general population was, and continues to be, hampered by the one great tool of segregation, that is, where


people choose to live. There are black neighborhoods and there are white neighborhoods and it is impossible, legislatively, to prevent this from happening.  Chiefly, this kind of segregation affects the quality of education in Black areas.

It is in this context that situations such as that in Ferguson, Missouri, must be viewed.  I feel that education is the key to enabling young Black males to get good jobs.  Once they do, they will be able to assume a role in their families’ structure which will go a long way toward righting the social and economic wrongs which the United States inherited from the days when slavery was legal.  The resources of the United States, on all governmental levels, should be directed toward accomplishing this. Enriched vocational education in the STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) areas as well as at the college level are needed for young Black males to make sure their future will be in the job market instead of in some part of the penal system.  And yes, there remains a place in these efforts for affirmative action as well, despite accusations of its being "reverse discrimination." 

And until that time when such educational goals are reached, and young Black males are able to get better jobs and assume a fuller role in Black family life, further resources, in terms of welfare, nutritional benefits and subsidized child care should be devoted to strengthening Black family structure as it exists todayDespite accusations that doing so only perpetuates generation after generation dependent upon the government, these measures are necessary.  No one likes being on the "dole" and the tales of fraud we hear are the exceptions, not the rules.

Undeniably, these steps will be very costly but they must be taken.  Rightfully, these costs should be borne by the States which comprised the Confederacy, for it were these States which profited from centuries of slavery and it was there that opposition to the reforms which the Fourteenth Amendment was supposed to bring about flourished.


But this is not realistic in the Twenty-first century, particularly since the founding fathers, in framing the Constitution, united the thirteen colonies into one nation only by making a great compromise which permitted the existence of slavery.  So we all must pay the priceBlame Thomas Jefferson and James Madison if you must.

A lot has been accomplished over the past 150 years, but we must recognize that a century and a half is really a short period when the extent of the damage done to Black people by slavery in this country is considered.  There is much more to accomplish, including a mending of some deeply engrained attitudes on the part of many American citizens throughout this land, and not just in the South.   


After ISIS (or ISIL) is Defeated and Degraded

We will, in some manner, with or without American troops, ultimately manage to degrade and destroy the vile Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL).  Whether we can degrade and destroy what ISIS stands for, however, is another question entirely.

Centuries of intertwined tribal, religious, political and social conflict have created a vacuum in the Middle East into which those offering solutions drift.  ISIS with its Islamic State/Caliphate approach, the Ottoman Empire, as well as colonial powers such as England and France have at times tried to fill that role.  And the one thing they have in common is that they are not democratic solutions.  ISIS is worse than some of the others since its plans include ultimate domination far beyond the borders of the Middle East.

So, when that international conference finally takes place to determine the fate of the Middle East, it will have to be decided who will be in charge there.  Will countries continue to be ruled by individual despots such as Syria’s Assad and Iraq’s late Saddam Hussein?  Will countries be broken up into small homogenous tribal and religious parcels, and if so, who will keep the peace between them?  Or will the entire area fall under the domination of one county, such as Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, to the great distress of those who do not follow that particular nation’s often inseparable political and religious leanings?  And who will control the petroleum which is the single great source of wealth, spread over that region?

I envision two dominant entities in the post-ISIS Middle East.  One will be Shi’ite Iran, extending its influence over parts of what we now call Iraq.  The other will be the oil-rich Gulf states along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Mostly Sunni, they will serve as a counterweight to Iran. And quietly, they will be willing to accept Israel as a quasi-partner. 

Areas where both dominant entities seek influence, such as Syria and Lebanon, will continue to be points of conflict, but I believe peace in the Middle East can be maintained between these the two sides. They well remember the eight year Iraqi-Iranian War in the Eighties which accomplished nothing, other than killing half a million troops on both sides. 

The one thing they will not have, however, will be democracy because once that is present, the entire structure will collapse, re-opening the “vacuum” mentioned above to another ISIS-like group.  The Middle East will never welcome democracy. 

What role the United States will play in this scenario cannot be predicted, other than attempting to remain conciliatory with both of these dominant entities, but at a minimum, we must make certain that whatever national structures evolve in the Middle East are not a threat to our country.  

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Jack Lippman