Archive for July, 2012

A “climate of consent” for gun violence via policy or practice is a dangerous game

July 24, 2012

A nation cannot create a climate of consent for gun violence via policy or practice and not expect a culture to emerge that finds sustenance in such a climate.  The shooter in Colorado did not create the climate; he simply took advantage of it. Like the hijackers on “9/11” he did not commit a crime until he entered the theater and pulled the triggers.

He did not use a fake name to purchase his ticket, or his arsenal, and the hijackers did not use fake names to buy their tickets, or box cutters. The shooter in Colorado took advantage of access to a side door that should have been un-accessible to patrons except in case of an emergency. The hijackers took advantage cock pit doors that should have been hardened. And,  like the hijackers who literally died on the scene, the killer in Colorado also died on the scene because who he was before he began his carnage died the moment he pulled the trigger on the first weapon in the theater. I would bet there is no law against releasing chemical aerosol irritants with the intent to create mass hysteria in theaters in Aurora, or any place else in America for that matter before this incident.

It is important for us to remember that in the history of warfare, and of the world there has never been but one successful defense against suicide attackers which is …identification, isolation, and elimination.

An Open Letter to the people of Aurora from a “9/11” survivor

July 23, 2012

I lost my fiancée Sarah Miller Clark on flight #77 that crashed into the Pentagon; her son lives in Aurora.  One of my first calls on that fateful day in 2001 was to him in Aurora. Of course one of my first calls after learning of the incident at the Century Theater was to check on Sarah’s son, and my aunt who also lives in Aurora. I am happy to report both are well and safe.

 I offer my prayers and condolences to the victims and their families, and forgiveness to the shooter. I know it is difficult in these days immediately after such an event to contemplate “forgiveness” however I  attribute my ability to get on with the business of attending to all of the various issues the families will have to tend with to my decision immediately offer forgiveness to the perpetrators and their families. It freed me to get on with the business of jumpstarting my own healing process, and it freed me to make the necessary plans to bring positive closure to the immediate experience of losing my loved one, and to consciously use every opportunity to speak about the experience to highlight the “life” qualities Sarah exhibited so that even in her death she could be a beacon to others.

 In the days ahead there will be much to parse; decisions on a memorial service, handling the deceased bills, mail, phone service, automobiles, clothes, keepsakes, estates, the list goes on. Add to this the constant television coverage, the replays, the comments of friends who want to say something but are at a loss for words,,, the moments when the horror grips your entire being; the days when a “big cry” lingers constantly  just below the surface and seems constantly stuck in your throat.

 There will be days when you will stare at your loved one’s belongings; the places they once slept, or ate, or danced, their toothbrush, clothes, shoes, (one of the hardest things to deal with will be what to do with their shoes, for some reason many “9/11” survivors remembered more about their loved ones shoes, than other items) of the places they loved and the fact that they are no longer with you on this plane will seem overwhelming. My advice is that you allow these feelings to flow over you, and if necessary, cry, you will find it very helpful. In many case I gave Sarah’s work suits, dresses, blouses etc. to organizations providing assistance to women returning to work. I gave most of her shoes to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

 Expect the experience to be surreal. It is. Be mindful of your need to eat, although you will not want food. Work out, as exercise is important to relieve the stress; Pray for it is true that God not only answers prayers, but also “Pray-ers.”

 Finally, use every opportunity to assure children you come in contact with in your City, and elsewhere to encourage them to live without fear, love and pray without ceasing, and to continue to believe that despite events such as this America is till the best country in the world to be a citizen of, and that your city Aurora will emerge stronger, more unified and that you are assured of your own healing and renewal.

I wish you healing and the power to forgive.

 John Milton Wesley

John Milton Wesley lost his former fiancée Sarah Miller Clark a Washington, DC middle school teacher and one of her students 11 year old Asia Cottom on flight #77 that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11’01.

Shooting in Colorado could cause fear in children

July 21, 2012
It is important that adults do not overlook the impact of the Colorado tragedy on the psyche of young children. The round the clock television coverage showing the wanton disregard for age by the shooter could be frightening for children. I suggest limiting their access to the ongoing coverage, and be prepared to engage them in conversation should they bring up the event, or a similar subject. Be mindful to end all conversations with children about such tragic events with assurances of love and protection, and reminders to always remain alert.

July 20, 2012

If the Obama administration convened a high-level meeting this morning following the shooting in Colorado and did not include the Secretary of Health and Human Services,(HHS)  they are showing a blatant lack of understanding of the nation’s state of affairs. This crisis is not one to be parsed by “the big guns” exclusively (the president, vice-president, heads of Justice, FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, the National Security Council, ATF, etc.) ;on the contrary HHS’s role in our homeland security must be redefined if we are to reduce the climate of consent for mass violence. The shooting of congresswoman Gifford and others, and this shooting speaks volumes about our collective mental health.

Johnmiltonwesley's Weblog

If the Obama administration convened a high-level meeting this morning following the shooting in Colorado and did not include the Secretary of Health and Human Services,(HHS)  they are showing a blatant lack of understanding of nation’s state of affairs. This crisis is not one to be parsed by “the big guns” exclusively (the president, vice-president, heads of Justice, FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, the National Security Council, ATF, etc.) ;on the contrary HHS’s role in our homeland security must be redefined if we are to reduce the climate of consent for mass violence. The shooting of congresswoman Gifford and others, and this shooting speaks volumes about our collective mental health.

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It’s time for HHS to be invited to the “Homeland Security” table

July 20, 2012

If the Obama administration convened a high-level meeting this morning following the shooting in Colorado and did not include the Secretary of Health and Human Services,(HHS)  they are showing a blatant lack of understanding of nation’s state of affairs. This crisis is not one to be parsed by “the big guns” exclusively (the president, vice-president, heads of Justice, FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, the National Security Council, ATF, etc.) ;on the contrary HHS’s role in our homeland security must be redefined if we are to reduce the climate of consent for mass violence. The shooting of congresswoman Gifford and others, and this shooting speaks volumes about our collective mental health.

St. John Barrett: Thanks I love you man.

July 19, 2012
ImageAt age 14 I stood on a “turn row” in a cotton field in the delta of Mississippi listening intently to a small transistor radio as attorney St. John Barrett accompanied James Meredith to his forced enrollment in Oxford, MS at Ole Miss. In that moment he was one of the most hated “White Men” in the civil rights movement. I will never for get the expressions on their faces, as I will never forget the tension in Mississippi at the time. Ole Miss was considered “sacred ground” to be defended from integration at all costs. This man St. John Barrett had stepped forward to challenge the “status quo.”

Later as the media covered the riots that followed Meredith’s enrollment, ( people were killed, he was charged as a result) I was amazed at the calm and cool of John Doar (who would a year later defuse an escalating potentially violent confrontation during the march following Medgar Evers’s funeral in 1963 Jackson,) and St. John Barrett who was always by Meredith’s side.

Then in 1963, after my “Godmother” Fannie Lou Hamer and another of her colleagues were beaten severely while trying to register to vote in Winona, MS I realize the same guy I had seen with Meredith was now representing Mrs. Hamer in the case presented to the Justice Dept. Now after Mrs. Hamer was beaten (she and the other females with her were forced to lay on the floor, raise their dresses exposing their rears, and were beaten with metal pipes covered with leather) she came home to our little community in Ruleville, where she lived (our families share-cropped together) and the talk of the town (Black community) was the extent of the bruises, the fact that the sheriff had ordered two Black prisoners to do the beating, and the amount of blood on the women’s underwear. St. John Barrett had them bring the clothes to Washington in plastic bags to give the lawmakers a “first hand” look at the brutality of segregation. The clothes were exhibit “B”, the fact that Ms. Hamer and her colleagues could barely walk was Exhibit “A”.

I would later learn that the reason I no longer had to sit behind a piece of “white tape” on Greyhound and Trailways buses (as I traveled up and down highway 49w) was because St. John Barrett had called for the enforcement of the Interstate Commerce Commission laws during the same period of time he was helping Meredith, and Mrs. Hamer.

I always wanted to say “thank you” to St. John Barrett, and I never got the chance. I just kept the intent in my mind and heart. I had no idea he had moved less than ten miles from me, to Ellicott City, MD, or that he was in the hospital (Howard County General) less than ten minutes from my front door. I never even told any one how much I wanted to thank this “slim” “lanky” “White Man” for risking his life to help me and people I loved.

Then one day one of my church colleagues sends me an article, and says …”I work with the sons of the man who represented your “God Mother” after she was beaten in Winona! I first stared in disbelief; the great organizing intelligence was at it again.

So finally, I get to say “Thank you to Mrs. Barrett, and her children for loaning him to us, and to St. John…”Thanks. I love you man.” I have re-opened his guest book for 30 days. My hope is that others (especially African Americans) will reflect, visit the guest book and leave a message for Mrs. Barrett and family.

Romney gives the NAACP a piece of his Mind:

July 13, 2012

 

So Mr. Romney goes to Houston where my sister (a retired Air Force Nurse I might add) is attending her first national NAACP convention and tells her and others in attendance he will “get rid of Obama Care”.   The audience responded with a sustained “boo” which Romney ignored, or pretended not to hear. The delegates were unaware they had been “knee jerked” into a starring role in Mr. Romney’s plan to move further to the “Right” to win in November. His calculated “baiting” prompted an anticipated response that elevated his image as being the direct opposite of President Obama, and set the stage for his speech that followed in which he touted his “On Message Consistency”. Needless to say my sister was awed, and couldn’t wait to share her awe with me.

Later in the day Mr. Romney is quoted using the word “they” in referring to the NAACP audience, and having a series of talking points to buttress his decision to go to the convention and “speak his mind”. I admire his team’s “gall”.

However, I hope they are aware that they are not playing the best team the NAACP, or Africa Americans has had on the field, or have to put on the field.  That team is made up of “Black voters”.  They also fail to realize that many of us who studied under, and worked for NAACP CEOs like Dr. Benjamin Hooks, as I did, and others who knew Dr. Roy Wilkins, as I did and walked with him at the funeral of Medgar Evers in Jackson, MS in 1963, as I did, or former NAACP presidents like Kivi Kaplan (who was Jewish) and a member of my HBCU’s  (Tougaloo College) board of trustees and who gave me my first summer job in Boston in 1967; are still alive! And though we were absent, we aren’t afraid of the ghosts of what Roland Martin so aptly labeled “code words”. Nor are we ignorant of “soft prejudice.”

I cast no dispersions on Ben Jealous and the current NAACP national Board; they are still finding their way. To suspect Romney to use the invitation to address the national organization and stage a “defining moment of defiance” and not stick to a “common ground” theme would have smacked of political paranoia. To have “read the tea leaves” before hand and using the convention caucuses to alert the delegates that such a thing could be planned for a national television audience by the Republican candidate would have been to Machiavellian. To have armed the delegates with a planned “pregnant pause” for Romney’s antics would have been too “old school”; too Bayard Rustin, too Bruce Gordon, too Lillie Carol Jackson, too Thurgood Marshall, too Enolia McMillan.

So Romney took his shot. He stood before NAACP convention delegates from across the nation and told them what he knew they did not want to hear and cashed in on the “gimmick” hours later before an audience “more like him”.

The mostly Black delegates gave Romney a standing ovation at the end of his speech; by then they had wiped the surprised looks from their faces. Romney having pulled off his first real showing of “back bone” on national television during the campaign darted off to his next campaign stop claiming the Right’s “high ground”. Mean time the nation’s premier African American civil rights organization’s delegates will return to their communities to share the historical moment with their friends and neighbors and (hopefully) to ask Mr. Romney in November when they vote “do you hear me now?”