Columbia Expands Harlem Pays

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Should New York workers or Obama fail, it’s goodbye to equal opportunity or equal treatment; it's so long, to E Pluribus Unum.





Notwithstanding fashion’s dictates, even decorated with elephants, some flip-flops are decidedly un-cool.


Seeking by turns to enflame and terrify, led by the divisive rants of an exceedingly snarky Rudolph Giuliani, the Republican’s Convention amounted to little else. It was an exercise in the most creative but terribly clichéd, story-telling possible to imagine.


Watching them, one might easily have believed, that the Presidential election had turned out differently 8 years ago, that the Grand Old Party’s members hadn’t really held power during one of America’s greatest debacles.


One might also have thought, that over his generation in congress, their contender for chief executive had defied his party and President Bush’s every endeavor.


Only, Senator John McCain, after first denouncing the President s tax cuts, as “irresponsible”, a boon for the rich, at the expense of the middle class, after voting against them, now thinks they’re just marvelous, that they ought to be made permanent!


No different was his professed opposition to torture. Calling it not merely cruel but counterproductive, Senator McCain ultimately voted to sanction “tactical persuasion techniques”, like water-boarding. Remember?


Please explain, just how does any of this, make him either a “maverick or a “crusader”? Frantically, he’s attempting to reposition himself, as the “true” change agent . Though it’s his household, with too many houses to recall, that’s worth $200 millions, he’s equally desperate to belittle his opponent as an effete elitist. Turned cynical to a fault, can John McCain seriously claim to be a “straight talker?”


We now know that what most confirms the Senator’s “bad-ass” status, is his choice of the Governor of Alaska, the self-styled, “ Pit-Bull in lipstick”, as his running20mate. Whatever else one thinks, it has to be admitted, that for a Christian-conservative, as a world class obfuscator, she is rather unorthodox.


“Family members of candidates are out-of-bounds: kids are especially off limits”, insist Senator Barack Obama.


He refuses otherwise to comment on the pregnancy of Republican Vice P residential nominee, Governor Sarah Palin’s 17 year old daughter Bristol. Obama adds only to this polite code of silence, “ my own mother was only 18 when I was born.”


Thus Obama avoids the mire of an apparent contradiction. The avowed Evangelical, abstinence only, right to life-office-seeker  daughter’s out of wedlock conception, is deemed unworthy of comment.


This certainly seems commendable. However the Senator’s reasoning, concerning the circumstances of his own birth, not only fails to validate his stance, it actually undercuts his position.


Child of a single parent, w ho was once on welfare, Obama grew up to go to Harvard and become the first person of color with a serious shot at the White House. This makes him a shinning example of the undervalued worth of all our children.


But ironically, with half of the unions in the country today ending in divorce, his parent’s unlikely marriage, even with shared passions to recommend it, like many similar early betrothals, was probably ill-advised. Dead for over 2 decades, it’ s fair to say that Obama’s father still haunts his son. Only it’s not his father’s actual demise, so much as his physic departure, absence due to early abandonment, that‘s been so long and so bitterly mourned.


When  attracted and attracting youth, who’s character is still evolving, become tied-down together, through matrimony and an infant, what are the real odds of them staying together? Youngsters are bound to fall in love. Sex, is bound to be viewed as a paramount expression that affirms devotion. This is at the root of the crisis of paternal responsibility decried in relation to Blacks, by Obama and others.


Desperate for self-realization, poor Black kids and other young people, too often discover, that the most reliable outlet to being loved and validated, is “hooking up”. Resulting in both intended and unwanted offspring, these nascent relationships are frequently all that kids have to assert their importance and even their very reason  being.


It might be fine to ask such particularly unprepared parents to be responsible. It may even be fair to expect them to bear, keep and care for their children. But, can it ever really be an act of love or support, pressuring such a couple to marry?


Whoever we are, no matter how favorable the circumstances of our love, getting married,

staying together and being happy, is tough work.


While abortion is seldom a lightly chosen solution to an unwanted pregnancy, being born, sometimes, into a world with no advantages and limited possibilities, can be a living hell. The “sins” of one’s parents; recklessness, poverty and inadequate training, get passed on to perpetuate a cycle of hopelessness.


Little else is so traumatizing as the implicit rejection, when a child finds that they weren’t even at all desired in the first place.


If one is Black, Latino or merely working class, it’s quite easy these days, to feel utterly unwanted in today’s rapidly changing Harlem. Last week, preparatory to ColumbiaUniversity’s widely contested plans to expand over 17 acres in Harlem’s Manhattanville neighborhood, the Empire State Development Corporation held a public hearing.


If the Holocaust and several centuries of persecution, justify a Jewish homeland in the state of Israel, having undergone “holocaust” of our own, are not the op pressed poor, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, also entitled to a protected place in our longtime home, in threatened Harlem?


Much like Governor Patterson, the smug staff of the state agency were quite complacent. Each is secure and comfortably housed in affordable abodes. So they showed little empathy or concern for the dire implications of their findings. Nor did the absurdity of their declaring an area “blighted”, that’s attracted fine restaurants and Fairway, the city’s top supermarket, seem to impress them much.


Whether through Spanish interpreters or in their own loud clear voices, several among the diverse crowd of 125 who came to testify, conceded that the process was rigged and the hearing, only a matter of form.


And, they were right: through eminent domain, New York Statewill soon seize the few parcels of Columbia’s projected campus not yet already acquired under pressure by university authorities. Clearing the entire site, except for 2 old buildings, Columbia will erect an enfilade of identical steel and glass, bio-tech laboratory towers. Designed to facilitate Homeland Security and Defense Department contracts for tomorrow’s biological WMD, despite a fault line and the Hudson’s flood plain, these structures will sit above a contiguous underground staging area: 10 blocks square and 7 stories deep. Think of the worst excesses of Robert Moses, a vision of Soviet Russia or of Orwell’s 1984.


Even promising to hasten the end of Harlem as America’s foremost Black community, Columbia’s efforts are supported by local politicians, like Congressman Charles B. Rangel . Indeed, seeking to eliminate the discomforting presence of the working class, irrespective of color, government at every level has coalesced to make this historic industrial community, into yet another of Manhattan’s affluent and sterile new enclaves.


As intent on the enrichment of their special interest supporters as McCain is, Columbiaclaims that their land grab will mean jobs and a “cure for cancer”. In reality, their intentions, are part and parcel with the Republican’s diabolical scheming to retain control


That grand gentleman of letters, Lewis Lapham, explained what’s at stake. In his quarterly he warned how privileged Americans have decided to give up on our democracy. Grown afraid of the future, they seek to further manipulate government to amass as much as possible. Their aim ? It’s to have such riches, that come what may, they might be insulated from any potential harm.


Should they prevail, should New York workers or Obama fail, it’s goodbye to either equal opportunity or equal treatment; it's so long, to E Pluribus Unum.

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