Say No to military intervention in Syria


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President George W. Obama? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The Syrian civil war is ugly and brutal but that’s the nature of war. The US can seek UN sanctions and supply the Free Syrian Army but military action against the Assad regime is inappropriate. Should poison gas or other chemical weapons be used against America or our allies, we should retaliate with overwhelming, destructive force. But that is not the case today.

Say No More War to President G W Obama.

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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One Response to Say No to military intervention in Syria

  1. Dale Benjamin Drakeford says:

    100% agree and love your characterization. Let us march for something better than war.
    THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR JOBS AND FREEDOM 2013
    Dale Benjamin Drakeford
    August 24-28, 2013

    Roped morning sun dips
    In special afternoon wear
    Disrepair repair

    The title sounds more like political poetry than an actual happening, but happen it did with greater numbers than a typical Roman Coliseum packed to see the brutality of enslaved Gladiators prepared to butcher each other or the WWE in the modern commercialized blood quest to satisfy the civilized homo sapient. With at least one thousand people for each of the fifty progressive years since 1963, for any given fifty minutes at the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom that brings us ceremoniously to now, in attendance, I am stagnated as metaphor when the natural rate of human inflation and social justice is factored in.

    The crowds were politically charged and morally impregnated with much to argue and even more to infuriate as veterans of the first effort, armored with gray hair and long tooth, comfortably bumped elbows with the current generation with uncertain prospects and a couple of other generations in-between in more ways than age or nostalgia can confabulate.

    I was there in my rally garb and best belly bello ready to make noise and merry with my community of fellow involved and disenchanted, evolved and reinvented. I loudly participated in the call and response, the applause for stirring words, the tears of unfulfilled dreams and thinking food for what must happen next. Mostly I fumed the banal fuel of the numbers not there in body, spirit or inclination to be informed and passionate about something other than bargain bikinis and water balloons guaranteed to not pop in the pool.

    I was there with niece LaVern and her children Taylor, Myles and Jalen of the Wi-Fi generation off to Rutgers University and public schools of merit, who can easily have all the advantages of jobs and freedom, education and health, opportunity and security, prosperity and individual license to pursue happiness and personal fulfillment because they are lucky enough to have a parent that would not have it any other way. I was there with others of my kind and their kind from every walk of life as citizens of the world. My brother Bernard and my sister-in-law Helen was somewhere in the self-directed delegation (and we were determined to meander the obstacles to find each other, press the flesh and cherish seconds in part together, but to no satisfaction as is the case with many dreams) and many professional friends seeking to breathe the moment for all time as citizens of a larger calling and longer standing.

    A world [first class] citizen
    Respect knows no [has no] boundary
    Prudence molds [elects] the clay

    Absent from attendance were the others: Some because of work obligations, guardian obligations, freedom nudges to be elsewhere where they were more needed. Then there were those absent for the liberty to watch “blatant pornography” on television, experience the blood bathed boardwalks of America, afford the banality of alcohol infused gambling or luxury to just do nothing but let the sun burn their pinky toe. We have arrived to this high station of choice that our elders of fifty years ago marched towards.

    Teachers vested in historical moments were well represented. Skilled laborers with social conscience made their presence felt. Professionals from law, medicine and business had a larger than per capita body count. Students were tugged on backs and strollers for photo finishes and journal jargon they will marvel at in fifty years.

    Fifty years ago competitors for the peoples time looked more like The Donna Reed Show than Breaking Bad and the favorite back to school “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation” essay was less likely to muse Bayard Rustin than Mickey Mantle, but all else was similar.

    Signs of mutual allegiance to the concept of liberty and discourse; the semblance of decent engagement of issues and concerns were all around. A contingent of soldiers walked next to peace poets, a troop of scouts next to a bevy of beautiful models. The disabled and religious, elderly and gender challenged all came and made it known that they were here. One sign spoke well to my agenda, “Peace!“ it encouraged. It punctuated the cooperative company squeezing into a capital well acquainted with popular pop and circumstance.

    Upon the nail
    The troubled wail
    On sights unseen
    With pets to prod

    Centuries later, the species still have not learned the graphic lesson of Actaeon. We sniff at the wrong flower, listen to the base rhyme, touch the off-limits treasure, taste the polluted waters and look in the wrong direction to have our own inequities grow in ulcers and migraines. Temptation is much at home with the intestines. Darwinian dogma and Trojan trinkets much at ease in our commonplace. How else can it be when so many thousands were present and tens of thousands more were not.

    Actaeon feasts
    Upon the eats
    Of his own bread
    For his own wine

    So many people and so many causes coming to one end: Social fairness and civil integrity. Papers reported “Tens of thousands of people,” likely eclipsing the 250,000 of the original and so we have to ask: Where were all the rest? So many people that the city was crowded up and down, but why not so many that it collapsed from the weight? What were the other millions of Americans doing that was more important than social fairness and civil integrity? In the original James Farmer (of CORE) did not make his scheduled appearance because he was already busy being jailed in Plaquemine, Louisiana for his voter drive activism days before. He elected not to take a bond and remain with his sugar-cane hopeful contingent to epitomize that change was coming. I think we can agree he had a good reason to be absent from Washington DC in 1963. In 2013 he is no longer alive, but what of those that were. Are they in jail somewhere else protesting the inequality of the rich that legally shelter their money so they don’t pay taxes?

    “I came here to learn something,” one banner read and I took it as invitation to facilitate what I wanted my next generation blood to understand: prudent and resilient advocacy of social participation with tolerance, if not appreciation, for differing views peacefully assembled. “Old lesbian ladies for liberal love,” was a stone throw away from a conservative church group bussed in to define a more confined expression of affection. “We march for love,” stood next to “We don’t need civil rights, we need a revolution,” from the American Communist Party armed with drawing a connection of how the unequal nightmare has continued over more than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation from Dred Scott to Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. The proofs on their propaganda did not mention billionaire communists from Russia and China defining a new capitalism across the new world. The “Veterans For Obama,” were next to “Jobs Not War,” and there was a clear message that the low paying wage of the unknown in-harms-way foot soldier was not what they had in mind. The signs for “Voting Rights,” and “Immigration Rights,” had the sub-text of working yourself into a state of material well-being, not merely social fitness to survive the daily struggle. Regardless of the particular sign, banner or specific group, the message in general was a united people linking freedom to jobs and jobs to fair citizenship. It was, more accurately, a testimonial for peace, justice, jobs and freedom where no one need agree on anything accept that the current structure wasn’t getting it done well enough. This was best boosted by environmentalists parading the perils of climate change to fracking and world citizen activists soliciting support for the homeless and disabled representing the great diversity and divide, ills and promises of this great day for the republic.

    As with all mass publicized gatherings, excesses from the far corners of beliefs and fiction facts (e.g., Black History In A Nutshell, “The Planet Earth was a world of all black people from the beginning of 66 trillion BC to 4000 BC…when the first white man was made from black albinos”) was for sell. The slights of old were not on sell. 1963 had the single famous out-spoken, public spoken Malcolm X criticizing “A march of farce,” but 2013 had legions of common workers demanding a march that matters. The “Peace and Justice” offspring that “Jobs and Freedom” has produced rose to equal billing because lowly jobs fail to provide the physical and mental security one now expects, and freedom to be spied on or harmed because of another’s convoluted idea of self- preservation is unjust and unacceptable. This is one contrast to 1963 and another was the transparency of differing opinions, endorsements and immediate agendas (a far cry from the closed meetings between the NAACP, CORE, SCLC, SNCC and Pullman’s Union five decades ago).

    Danny Glover was there for the March 24th version of 50th anniversary, authentic and real. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. was there, humble but forceful just two days after filing suit against Texas for unreasonable ID voter registration requirements. Tom Joyner was there speaking on the stamina of social backbone, gracious and giving as were 1963 alumni Charles and Miriam James, fellow “Cracker Barrel” stars determined to beat the discounting nightmare down for many years to come. AFLAC, UAW, AFL-CIO, UFT, AFT and NEA by convoy busloads were there in insignia T-shirts and enthusiasm that could only suggest that this was not a party but a referendum that patience was running out.

    Bumpy Big Barrel
    Crack’in from the weight of self
    Rolls holy through time

    I imagine if Malcolm X was alive today, he would change his 1963 public discourse to, “it was a march of form,” because of its endurance and capacity to redesign itself as a remarkable few successfully represented a remarkable many—and more to the point, formed an idea that would continue to do so for half a century. Rarely, if ever quoted—certainly often overlooked in the middle of his great oratory, MLK said, as foreseer and warner, “Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.” In a matter of months LBJ put might behind his “Great Society” and a few years later Richard M. Nixon signed off on affirmative action, and the newly formed African-American reaped rewards for a check suddenly made good. Progress stalled because the passion stagnated and the energy waned. It was a quiet decent into business as usual with the occasional big noise (e.g., Reagan’s dismantling of union pride, Clinton’s de-regulation so the 1% could do whatever they wanted, Bush’s new economy based on war industries, Obama’s spearheading revolution within a political climate where polarization ruled on education, immigration, health care and all matters relating to his platform as a confused middle-class worked for welfare wages). Blame this not on 1963, but on settling for less as the working class got comfortable with doing less and getting the same once they had more—it was simple complacency that is only occasionally being challenged.

    On August 24, 2013 a single stroke artist sketched conscious raising scenes for the new draftees of destiny and Chinese drummers danced the cultural collective into a one-people-one mutually assured constructive frenzy. The participants browsed, listened, fielded questions and were both entertained and deferred from immobile political predisposition. As they fortified with chocolate, raisins, cola in fudge brownies and plastic water, they equally fortified with a theme of one world citizen and all people purpose for mutually assured “Intolerance of the intolerable,” as one colorfully displayed.

    The march at 50 looked a lot like the original with Hollywood stars, labor leaders, activists, change agents and ordinary people taking pivotal places. Politicians played down their attendance just as they did 50 years ago. Bill Thompson echoed my thoughts, “This is almost like a reset,” the Daily News (p. 28-29) quoted him the next day in their Sunday edition that featured a beautiful multi-page retrospective. He didn’t say that it was a reset because America is again in the crosshairs on defining what is fair and what is free. The New York Times reported that the current march was “Less a commemorative…than an effort to inject fresh energy” and close “stubborn gaps,” (p.A18). This is what made this gathering different than your everyday street festival (i.e., the delightful Allerton Avenue affair on Aug. 25 where a seven foot cut-out of Shaq O’Neill wanted to sell you a car and local politicians wanted to sell you a promise). The street festival is infused with tasty food and neighborhood family fermented fun. There is a sprinkle of individual care (i.e., the blood pressure test and the local college that is going to change your life) but the street festival is about the festive feel good moment, while the march is about a national and even international message for the ages. The street festival is about merchant cooperation for happier customers where we sang and dance “My Girl” and “Get Ready,” but the march offers “This Little Light Of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome” so that we can prepare our little girls and make ready our next generation of young men. At the Allerton Festival I pressed cheerful flesh and at the march I endeavored to press serious mines.

    The August 28, 2013 affair was not a festival, but it was more commemorative. To his credit, Obama admitted “as some of us worked for change, we lost our way.” He finished the work of a long list of speakers with a call for “courage…to imagine better…marching…to take on the mantel of citizenship…” but after our imagination we are left with lacking policy, practice and legislation that would equally qualify and validate citizenship. Fifty years ago speakers made demands for laws that would guarantee fair-play and workfare, but the speakers of 2013 on August 28th offered little in demands and much on social demotion, loss progress and failure as if taking their lead from the still waters of the reflection pool. Obama correctly opined that “Because of the march of 1963 America is more free and more fair…even the White House has changed…” but with the Supreme Court making corporations people and making it easier for states to make voting harder, 2013 (it can be argued) is less free and less fair.

    Today we can feel good about Merrill Lynch (the bailout subsidiary of BOA and with whom in full disclosure I have a significant portfolio) settling with workers of color they discriminated against, but we cannot feel good about a minimum wage that is one-half of the 1963 equivalent. A checklist measurable in one year time should have included a national minimum wage two-hundred and forty cents higher than the equivalent in 1963 economics (to at least symbolically address the disparity of the top 1% increasing wealth by 240% in the last 50 years). A checklist was absent from the speakers and this should have been as noticeable has absent Republican Party members (given the abundance of their counterparts). That said, the prospects of deadly deed over dutiful employment hovered over the humid air and contradicted the 50 year old message of watchful founders such as Dorothy Height (concerned about the part women would have) Roy Wilkins (suspicious that charisma and chaos may supplant careful legal deliberation) Whitney Young (who was suspicious of radicalism and riotous indiscreet rhetoric for its own sake) and Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers (who at a time when the auto industry ran America (was concerned that the hunt for the better paycheck would be lost to the agenda of leaders over the needs of followers). Initiator A. Phillip Randolph, I further imagine, would not have been happy with the 2013 presenters, for he had called the 1963 delegation “an advance guard of a moral revolution.”

    The guard that followed the 1963 social battalion has fallen far short of producing a moral revolution. Obama touched on Randolph’s projection, but what was most unfulfilling was the commentary of the speakers on what “They” (as in the founders) did and wanted as opposed to what the current generation must do and demand. The platoon of politicians (all democrats) with the threat of a 2nd First Strike (assuming one does not consider the alleged cyber attack on The New York Times as first blood) looming against Syria signals a priority of war over jobs. Spike Lee one of the hooded wounded on the idea changing and daring Ebony Magazine September cover has a ranting deacon character in his Red Hook Summer. Out of the rage of this disturbed soul comes some verbal clarity: “Wall Street got their bailout Barack Hussein Obama. Where is mine!” In his first threat of a march, Randolph got not a bailout but a concession from FDR that resulted in jobs for people that wanted to work. FDR followed that up with social security for all—literally all. Just as with the quick turn-around in 1963 with civil, voting, Medicaid and Medicare rights and services, marchers in 2013 must have expectations for as Obama said to echo Randolph, “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice but it does not bend on its own.” The reason is the moral universe is greatly disputed. To end with some fire, our president voiced what will likely rest on his monument or library wall one day, “To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance.” He should have added and action. Then he should have listed the action steps with measureable dates of completion. All the speakers then were beautiful, but they lacked the beastly gladiator work ethic of the 1963 crew.

    The labor leaders of 2013 matched their predecessors after and before the fact with specific goals (although I was disappointed that with the 120th Labor Day anniversary coming up in 2014 no leader spoke of a schedule to make it more than just a national commemorative festival and an excuse to grill dead animal instead of deadpan service providers). Labor Day 2014 (if not for the trivialities of tradition too dear to dismiss) would have been a perfect target date to ascertain hard fought gains and redress what the power prejudice pontiffs would wrestle away—
    -seniority
    -grievance
    -pension
    -unemployment insurance
    -sick leave
    -paternity leave
    -paid health care
    -social security
    -anti-nepotism (or “Sons & Daughters” to entice the financial international elite) policy
    -vacation
    -training.
    It is time like these that I am not surprised to learn that the human species has only 2/3 the information bits of a naked mole rat even when at the height of winter when some are informed enough to wear long johns and overcoat.

    The church leaders and civil rights leaders of 2013 did not match their predecessors. They were not equipped to lead a moral revolution or cultural economic demarcation. The reason for that is that they were no longer what their predecessors always remained. Once mayor hopeful Al Sharpton (on the 24th and 28th) is more politician than reverend or activist. MLK III was more interested in speaking about his father as a daddy than himself as a daddy of the eternal soul needing a national dowry for the poor. Twice presidential candidate Jessie Jackson required careful management of his rhyme because his congressperson namesake junior misappropriated funds (and will be doing jail time along with his wife for non-moral revolution reasons—in effect dishonoring the bedrock of MLK’s primary concern—the compromising of the content of character) and is a politician of selfish intention not public service. If that sounds repetitious look also to Bill Clinton the lifelong politician who after scandalizing the oval office retired to $100,000 speeches and a namesake foundation that is constantly under investigation for improper use of funds. Look not to John Lewis in this regard, but he was not the same John Lewis. 50 years later he didn’t have to be calmed down. The politician in him did that for him without the help of others. He dwelled on the past both days in 2013 instead of propositioning the future with a demand (e.g., that the AG prosecute Zimmerman with the same vigor the nation may prosecute Syria for chemical warfare). These speakers departed from MLK’s “creative protest” and “Dignity and discipline” as it pertains to institutional bias. They would not even call it out by name, policy by policy and practice by practice; and when they did in citing NYC’s policing they failed to distinguish between “racial profiling” and the productive work of describing, detecting and detaining. Once upon a time we could differentiate between the two without prejudice and it is grim commentary that we can no longer as we descend further into a nip/tuck competition that cuts deep into the quality of life of the timid, intimidating without cause, unsuspecting, uninvolved and non-intrusive citizen. By whatever adverb or qualifying pronoun, it is the one most in need that will be most injured by the blurring lines between pears and peaches.

    In fifty years when I attend the centennial I trust the march will be able to list in a mater-of-fact fashion what 2013 reaped, but more important it must list what 2063 has yet to fill. 1963 had heft. It not only inspired action it ballooned motivation diagonally up and down the nation from Seattle to Honolulu and Dover to Dallas. August 24, 2013 had beef for attendees, but lacked the legs to mushroom new numbers beyond those already committed and those the committed could directly lead into enrollment. August 28, 2013 limped in as if it would take five days of attention to accomplish what five hours did 50 years ago. It was like Breyers Ice-Cream reduced from a 64 ounce container to 56 and then 48, lean even when presented as Turkey Hill or Blue Bunny. Too lean to hop assertively into action and gain the weight of the majority so the labor leadership and legitimate service industry (e.g., Jimmy and Rose Carter Fund) must persevere to drag others along with them. I notice how Weight Watchers has reduced my favorite Lasagna from 16 ounces to 10 in an identical package. It is amazing that America is an obese nation when one considers how effective the power elite is at selling us trimmed down paths to upward mobility. We buy tour packages and resorts instead of work visas with Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders and local non-profits needing monitoring of their tax exempt tax dollars assigned services we really need. We buy pornography and popcorn instead of programs and proven paths to progress. We buy lies and propaganda instead of interest rates that guarantee a fair return on investment. We buy quick fix on-line that takes off off-line for long term independent success, because we do have the freedom to exhibit greater disinterest and vulnerability as if it is liberating instead of jeopardizing in favor of the elaborate, handsome and beautiful con. We buy too much from false prophets of desperation and too little from purveyors of plans that are tangible and readable. We buy too little of the benefit heavy job, neighbor assured sense of justice or a sense of peace that is self-assured even when attacked by the school bully, cheating investment broker or leader leading only in disappointment. We still buy fast food when our blood strikes for decent wages. We still buy tech toys from companies that pay overseas workers (working in conditions unlawful in the states) less than what our father made in 1963. As Congress sleeps, we buy into attacking another country as some superior mandate and intellect that war is how we (as leaders of the free world) are to lead humanity.

    The world is full of spectators that are not watchful. “Do not assume it was left by mistake,” a bus ad states. Have you noticed that the same 16ounce box of pasta is now 13.5? Do not assume that when given less it is by mistake. Do not assume you expecting or even demanding less is not by design. Do not assume you being tricked into thinking the wrong way, is not the work of spin master genius. In fifty years when I attend the centennial I hope that the march will list that we started buying, working, grieving, training and doing differently.

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