Tuesday, April 17, 2012

UNDERSTANDING OBAMA By Charles Ogletree (Harvard Lecture)

In February of 2011, Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree gave a three-part lecture at the W.E.B. Du Boise Institute for African and African American Research.  The title of the lecture series was "Understanding Obama" - focusing on Obama's life from Hawaii to the White House. You may recognize the setting; that's because this is the series of lectures from which Breitbart.com unveiled the video of Obama embracing Professor Derrick Bell after which Professor Ogletree admits to hiding the video during the 2008 election. You can see that portion of the lecture in its entirety in Part 1 below. Evidently, Professor Ogletree will be teaching a new course at Harvard entitled, "Understanding Obama." He is also set to publish a book about Obama, which he will not release until after the 2012 election.

Because each lecture is roughly 90 minutes long, I have clipped portions that I think people will find interesting. You can, however, see the lectures in their entirety here and I would encourage you to do so.  You can also click the headings to see my individual posts about each lecture.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Open Letter To Senator Harry Reid Re: Attacks On Mormonism

Senator Harry Reid
Office of Senator Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
An Open Letter to Senator Harry Reid Re: Attacks on Mormonism
Dear Senator Reid,
I, like you, am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, I was a member of a Gospel Doctrine class you taught as a lay Sunday School teacher in Washington, DC in the summer of 2001. I didn’t agree with your politics then, and I still don’t, but I appreciated your devotion to teaching.
As members of the LDS church, we are not obligated to support any particular candidate or political position. But, as you know, one of the articles of our faith is that “[w]e claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (11th Article of Faith). This obviously does not mean that everyone will afford us the same privilege and respect, but we certainly should seek to protect others’ rights to practice their religion and come to their defense when they are attacked, no matter what their religious affiliation. Is it not our duty to defend this right?
I remind you that the LDS church and its members have suffered severe persecution in their brief history. Early church members were driven from state to state by mobs, militias and hostile communities; deprived of property; slandered; tortured, raped and murdered...all because of their beliefs. Seeking protection of the rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Joseph Smith traveled to Washington, DC to supplicate President Martin Van Buren for assistance. As you may recall, President Van Buren punted, saying, “...your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. If I take up for you, I shall lose the vote in Missouri” (Documentary History of the Church, 4:80).
Senator Reid, as the 2012 General Election approaches, it appears that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President. It goes without saying that there are legitimate attacks against Mr. Romney and not every attack will be based on religion, but actual attacks on Mormonism related to Mr. Romney have already begun. Lawrence O’Donnell, of MSNBC, recently launched a baseless smear against Mormonism and in all likelihood President Obama and his political allies (of which you are clearly one) will launch vicious attacks on Mormonism for political gain.  Putting aside the obvious hypocrisy of their remaining silent on your Mormonism while attacking Mr. Romney’s, isn’t it despicable and beyond even the realm of political smears to launch such attacks?
Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution states that: “...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I don’t expect you to support and defend Mr. Romney’s political positions, associations, decisions, actions or background, but will you not defend his religion; your religion? Will you honor your oath of office by supporting and defending the Constitution? I would hope that you would do so for a Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist or any other denomination or religion, but your silence would be all the more glaring if maintained in the face of attacks on your own faith. Will you stand silently as your political friends trample the Constitution and smear your religion? Are political points that important?
The First Amendment to our divinely-inspired Constitution (D&C 101:80) protects the rights of the free exercise of religion. It also protects freedom of speech. I acknowledge that those who baselessly attack religions - Mormonism in this case - are free to do so and you and I are free to stay silent or speak. My question is: How will you exercise your freedom of speech? Will you follow in President Van Buren’s footsteps or will you be courageous, even if it means losing the vote? Is the cause just? Can you do something? Will you do something...anything?
                                                                Your brother in the gospel,
                                                                        Garrett R. Hall

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trayvon Martin Case: What Would Atticus Finch Do?

In the classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch represents Tom Robinson, an African American accused of raping a white woman, in a criminal trial. The trial takes place in Maycomb, Alabama - a town essentially ruled by an angry white, racist mob. Despite threats from the townspeople, Atticus Finch agrees to represent Tom and at one point faces down the town mob, which is intent on lynching Mr. Robinson. As the trial unfolds, it becomes obvious that Tom Robinson is innocent, but the all-white jury still convicts him.

Throughout the novel and the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus takes time and great effort to explain to his children, Scout and Jem, that they should avoid prejudice, hatred and a rush to judgment. He scolds Scout for trying to solve disagreements with physical violence and provides the ultimate example when he himself is challenged to fight, but walks away. Atticus tries to teach his children that they have to try to understand people and their motives before judging. He famously tells Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." 

Now, it would be easy to assume that, because Atticus represented a black man in the deep South, that he would side with the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson today to decry the kind of racism Tom Robinson faced in Maycomb and Trayvon Martin allegedly faced in Sanford. But, it is important to also note that Atticus took time to warn the children against judging Boo Radley, a white recluse and town weirdo living in Maycomb. Does Finch's message go beyond race?

I have always admired the character of Atticus Finch because he stands for restraint, equality, patience, understanding, civility, due process and the rule of law. I admit this is speculation, but I don't believe Atticus represented Tom Robinson because he was black; but because it was the right thing to do. I can't speculate what Atticus Finch would do or say in the Trayvon Martin case, but I think it's safe to say he wouldn't side with the group/mob now seeking to capture George Zimmerman, escalate the situation, convict Zimmerman without all the facts, judge him without due process and put a bounty on his head. Atticus Finch, I think, would advocate restraint, civility, due process and the rule of law. And, if necessary, I think he would stare down the angry mob that is seeking to destroy George Zimmerman.

The case of Trayvon Benjamin Martin is a terrible tragedy. A young boy - a son, sibling and friend - was prematurely killed. A man, George Zimmerman, whether guilty of manslaughter, murder or anything else, took the boy's life and will have to live with that the rest of his life. A community was rocked over the incident and a Nation is now partially divided over it. One or both of them resorted to violence to solve a disagreement. We simply don't know what happened and why, but we would do well to remember the words of Atticus Finch when thinking about Trayvon and Zimmerman: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." This leads to few clear answers but at least it ensures that we proceed with fairness, understanding and dignity.

Where are the Atticus Finches of yesteryear?