Leader with Specifics, with Dignity, with Persistence,
New Comment: Oprah Winfrey has replaced Al Sharpton as the leader of black America, and while Barack Obama is a rising star and has already earned my vote, Al Sharpton is still, in my view, an essential voice and spirit. See links below for why.
Black Commentator noted in November that Al Sharpton has assumed the mantle of leadership for black America, and that it is highly likely that he will receive a majority of the black votes, at least in the South. For that reason alone, this book is *must reading* for every Democratic and non-Republican voter.
Below I summarize a few highlights from this rich book that took an afternoon to absorb:
1) Reverend Sharpton is strongest in his articulation of the hypocrisy of America, its lip service to slogans. I take him at face value when he speaks of the need to unite the country again around its values, and when he speaks of the emerging black/Latino coalition that resonates on the street level.
2) He lists some of his role models, and it merits comment that three of the four are pioneers of non-violence: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Ghandi. Later on the in book Reverend Sharpton discusses James Brown and Adam Clayton Powell as length, and I found his account of their merits and his lessons drawn from them to be compelling and credible.
3) Fidel Castro comes in for special mention, as do Ronald Reagan and Minister Louis Frarakhan, and I have to give Reverend Sharpton very high marks for directness and accuracy. Others, those with less integrity, might have left Fidel Castro out for fear of the kind of unethical attacks it might unleash against him from the extremist Republicans. I for one agree with Reverend Sharpton, as I agree with his view that the embargo against Cuba should be ended immediately.
4) He is powerful and convincing when he addresses the prison-industrial complex, a complex as threatening to America's long-term security and prosperity as the more well known military-industrial complex. As he points out, prisons are big business, and politicians on pay-offs have every incentive to keep pumping out contracts for major construction and related services including guard employment.
5) Reverend Sharpton is intellectual and emotional dynamite when he describes the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) as an anti-Rainbow Coalition organization, and Bill Clinton (and by extension, Joe Lieberman) as rich boys eager to stay to the right and reap the benefits, rather than true Democrats committed to delivering people from poverty. In brief, Al Sharpton has to run for President precisely because neither the DLC nor Dean are unwilling to reach out to and represent black America in the truest sense of the word. On this basis, I see Ralph Nader's 2000 campaign in a different light–Nader was campaigning for those that the DLC had shut out of the Democratic Process, and Al Gore was too slow to understand that he was leaving a very big crowd out of the big tent.
6) Reverend Sharpton impresses me on the foreign policy front. Although his experience is limited to foreign travels and specific interviews, his intellect and his gut instincts are totally consistent with the 430+ books I have reviewed on national security and international relations. Reverend Sharpton gets it: America has made many deals with the devil, with dictators like Saddam Hussein, with terrorists like bin Laden, and the American people do not realize that 9-11 is in fact the beginning of payback for decades of official US hypocrisy in its international relations.
7) Although very short on the topic, in my special area of interest, intelligence qua spies and secrecy, I give Reverend Sharpton the highest marks. He is the only Democratic candidate to really understand that we need “an intelligence unit that would allow us to really know what's going on out there in the world.” Reverend Sharpton is also committed to allies, investments in nation-building, and strong relationships nurtured over time. He also understands that you cannot threaten those who are not afraid to die suicidally, and that whipping out a bigger gun against them is precisely the wrong thing to do.
8) He focuses correctly on the internal dynamics of America as its greatest area of vulnerability, as the area most in need of attention if America is to be strong and prosperous. He correctly notes that the 30 percent increase in the US military budget in 2002 was *not* about making America safer, but about buying all the things that could not be rationalized before, and at the expense of domestic priorities such as health and education.
9) There are several chapters that offer up specific lists of initiatives that he would support, across many policy areas, and I find them all sensible. This is a man I could work for and follow.
10) I am satisfied that he puts the Tawana Brawley matter to rest with a chapter.
11) His chapters on black leadership, Jessie Jackson, why anti-Semitism is strongest in the Billy Graham-Richard Nixon crowd, and how the hip-hop movement is both wrong to be obscene and yet a major power in waiting, a power that can mobilize youth toward a more Christian vision, are quite fascinating, words that are not to be found anywhere else.
Bottom line, and I say this with the utmost respect, being scornful of most beltway politicians and bandits: Al Sharpton may have baggage and be a spendthrift in some ways, but when all is said and done, his voice absolutely must be fully and consistently heard as America charts its course into the future. Like Pat Buchanan, Sam Nunn, and a few others great voices that may never be President, Rev Sharpton has a depth of intuition, understanding, and experience that he has ably articulated in this book. We need to read it and we need to ask for his views in all major future decisions bearing on the security and prosperity of American's core black community and constituency, a community and constituency that too often in the past has been over-shadowed by new immigrant communities–Asians and Hispanics, for example. America cannot be great if its black community is not itself great. Rev Shapton stamds for this.
See also, with reviews:
Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas
War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War onthe American Dream and How to Fight Back
State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
I notice from the tags that those who do not like this review appear to be literate but ignorant whites. As Michael Moore notes, it is the whites that have done the most damage to our economy and our society, and in my view, the Wall Street whites have finally realized the error of their ways, and Reverend Sharpton's views will receive a more respectful hearing, especially if we can all come together to elect Barack Obama as President in 2008.