Obama’s Legacy: Urban Pathologies on Display
President Obama is concerned with burnishing his legacy during this second term of his presidency. One major part of his legacy will be the way his “divider and conqueror” political tactics have highlighted the many pathologies plaguing black urban culture in this country, and have brought about a massive deterioration in “race relations.”
These pathologies did not originate with Obama. They have been half a century in the making, and may be traced to the mid-1960s when the legitimate civil rights movement was co-opted by the Left under the twin rubrics of the “War on Poverty” and the “Great Society.” If indeed we have been engaged in a “war on poverty,” it is long past time for us to acknowledge that poverty has been winning.
The most recent manifestations of this to shock the nation are the riots in Baltimore, and the multifarious excuses for them made by Baltimore Mayor (and secretary of the Democratic National Committee) Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Yet, despite her posturings and those of other Democratic apologists, the one thing clear beyond doubt in the case of the Baltimore disturbances is that “white racism” has little or nothing to do with the problem.
Begin with the fact that Rawlings-Blake is herself black, like her police chief and her city attorney. Also, over 50% of Baltimore’s police force is non-white. And yet, as The Economist reports in its issue of May 2:
Crime is rife. In 2013, 233 people were murdered in Baltimore, giving the city a higher murder rate than South Africa. Even as thousands of cops in riot gear enforced a curfew on April 28, police scanners reported carjackings, robberies, and one murder -- none of them connected to the protests. Gangs are common and visible.
The Economist goes on to argue that this sorry state of affairs “has its roots in a previous Era,” painting a picture of a surging black population in the 1950s and 1960s from further south, in search of industrial jobs which were then “sucked away” by “deindustrialization”:
“[I]n the 1980s, heroin and crack cocaine filled their place. As police adopted tough tactics to try to stop the drugs trade, violent crime instead flourished.”
Surely the industrial decline did not help the situation, but the evident ardent desire of people desperate to anaesthetize themselves and escape the circumstances of their lives through the abuse of alcohol and various drugs points to a much deeper problem than mere economic poverty; it points to a poverty of the spirit, an existential angst whose true cause must surely be sought elsewhere.
The Jewish tradition records that there are seven basic, fundamental laws which were commanded to, and are incumbent upon all mankind. However, I should like to precede a discussion of these laws with a passage which will be familiar to anyone who regularly recites the morning prayer service. The passage, excerpted from the Talmud (Megilla 28b), reads: “It was taught in the school of Elijah [the prophet]: Whoever studies halachoth every day is assured of being a participant in the world to come, for it is said: Halichoth ‘olam lo (‘the ways of the universe are His’; Habakkuk III,6); read not, halichoth, but halachoth”.
Halachoth are the laws of the Torah; the slightly anomalous spelling of halichoth in the original Hebrew text so that it resembles the word halachoth gives rise to this reading. Among the implications of the passage, which are profound, is the concept that what we are accustomed to consider “laws of nature,” halichoth ‘olam, are, in fact, halachoth established by the Creator, the same authority who granted the Torah, and also vice versa, that halachoth are actually laws of nature.
With that in mind, here are the seven: