Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Fire This Time

A building explodes in Harlem, leaving four dead so badly burned they cannot be identified, but we know they are not white.

At the same time, a leading GOP thinker Paul Ryan, who has been on government payrolls since college, proclaims that young “inner city” men are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work” because they rely on government assistance to survive.

In 1963, my high-school classmate James Baldwin wrote in “The Fire Next Time”  that “one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

The Harlem explosion brings back years of commuting through those streets with their decaying buildings that had stood for a century and still stand today, as symptoms of Americans inability to love one another as brothers.

In his lifetime, Baldwin was a brilliant writer who happened to be both gay and black, half a century before most Americans accepted him as fully human, but even with a biracial President in the White House, those Harlem tenements and Ryan’s clueless ignorance are still acceptable as part of normal life today.

After all the official backside-covering in New York and backpedaling in Washington, will we be any closer to facing the real pain in American life today or simply putting, to borrow Sarah Palin’s eloquence, more “lipstick on a pig?”

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