Friday, October 9, 2009

The Prize and the Pride - Or the Lack Thereof

I'll continue looking at the ways to deal with youth violence next week. Its an important subject given the circumstances of the death of young Derrion Albert, the Chicago youth who lost his life in a fight between neighborhood gangs.

But today two different issues claim my attention.

The President of the United States has won the Nobel Peace Prize! As far as I can figure out, he's only the third sitting U.S. President to win the prestigious award. And America's reaction? Profound - ambivalence?!

Let me state from the outset - I am surprised!

Let's face it, he's been in office for only nine months and his body of work is far from complete. Not only that, but he has been charged to bring an end to wars which have sapped the country both emotionally and economically. Having said all of that, the ambivalence (and believe me, that is more on the progressive side than conservatives - I just don't believe its possible for them to hate him any more than they do), is shocking!

How about the idea that there is something to be proud that the Nobel committee actually thinks that the goal of bringing peace to a world that is war torn, poverty riddled and talking more about the number of nuclear weapons a nation can have versus how to actually live without them, is laudatory? How about the idea that in looking at world leaders across the globe Obama has been considered worthy of the award by those who actually give the award? And how about the idea that it is particularly strange that there are those who believe that supporting war is more patriotic than supporting the nation's leader when a Nobel prize committee looks to encourage our nation's leader to bring peace?

The facts are that there is something seriously wrong with cheering the president for failing to persuade the world to give award this country the Olympic Games and 'booing' (either figuratively or literally) when that same president wins the Nobel Peace prize! Is there something wrong with some of us in this country or what?!

When opponents of the president's policy cry about how unfair it is to brand them as hateful because they carry signs that depict him as Hitler, or the menacing Joker. Or when they whine about how terrible it is that calls for harm to come to him, or refer to him as a Nazi or socialist are their 'rights' as Americans and that to refer to that as 'hate speech' is over reacting and 'reverse racism'' - then we have to ask, what category is vilifying the president for winning the Nobel Peace Prize fall under?

How about if we looked at this as encouragement to - I don't know - bring peace wherever America's global footprint?

How about remembering the words of another president, "The greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker." That was Richard Nixon, by the way. The Republican president who never won a...oh never mind, you get the picture.


Larry James, our CEO and President at CDM has an interesting post on his blog. It has to do with the need for low income housing, of some type, in every neighborhood. Its a great challenge. All of us who own property are challenged by this idea. The nicer we consider our neighborhood, the harder we struggle with the prospect of this in our back yard. Larry's honest enough to admit his conflict, I know I admit mine as well. However, at the end of the day, we cannot quarantine the poor in neighborhoods of whatever kind, without expecting more of the same. I grew up in a neighborhood that included the working class, the poor, doctors, teachers and pastors all within walking distance. Nearly all of us grew up with a healthy perspective on life, exposed to good values and a reasonable hope that through hard work we could live a better life than our parents.

Not all of us made it. Some of us went to colleges and universities. Some of us went to prison. Some died young due to violence and drugs. There are no guarantees, other than you lessen excuses and increase chances, when you expose children and youth to a broad spectrum of life challenges and choices.
That's not the reason for this section of the post though...
Some thoughtful respondents to Larry's post raised the question of poor neighbors and their inability to keep their properties neat and tidy. I pastored for more than 20 years in one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Dallas and I admit it can be a problem. One respondent mentioned that hordes of volunteers come annually, into poor neighborhoods to keep these neighborhoods neat and tidy. Correction: not annually - monthly, if not weekly! It used to happen, almost weekly until we decided to do something about housing and the neighborhood association actually began doing code enforcements job for them.

You see most of those properties that we stereotypically think of as being owned by 'those people' aren't actually owned by 'those' people. The vacant lots, with the overgrown weeds, beer bottles, debris and other litter, are owned by people who don't live in those communities. As a matter of fact they live in neighborhoods of people who wouldn't want low income people living in their community. I know its true, because when we started looking at where to build infill housing in the neighborhoods we would check the tax roles.

But you need another example? Check this out. It's Tod Robertson's excellent post on who owns property in South Dallas.

Looks like 'those people' might have to be more concerned with the people from 'nice neighborhoods'....

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