I want to offer Cherise Wilson and the Memphis Flyer a heartfelt thank-you for having the willingness and courage to begin an honest and frank discussion of the most vexing public policy issue facing this community (Letters, March 11th issue). The culture of violence and criminality that has grown exponentially over the past two decades has consumed thousands of black male youths in this city and has not been adequately addressed by our local civic and political leaders. As Wilson points out in her letter, the problem lies in an inability and/or unwillingness to adequately determine the root causes of this problem.
As a 43-year-old African-American male who grew up impoverished and fatherless in Memphis, I recognize how these two difficult childhood circumstances can be detrimental to positive youth development. Yet, I can unequivocally state that not having a father in my life was much more debilitating to my sense of self-worth than the poverty I experienced. During my childhood, I searched for powerful male figures to demonstrate to me what it meant to be strong and courageous. Fortunately, I grew up during the first two decades following the victorious civil rights movement, and, as a result, my heroes were Charles Drew, Thurgood Marshall, and Robert Kennedy.
Sadly, many young men today who are growing up as I did find masculine role models in gangster rappers, bad-boy athletes, and street criminals whose negative lifestyle choices are all too easy to find and emulate. How we as a society reverse this destructive trend is a crucial first step in solving the black male crime problem.
Guns in Bars
Regarding the latest "guns in bars" proposal in the Tennessee state legislature: I have owned guns for 40 years and was an NRA member for many of those years. I stopped being a member when their lobbying became extreme. While I understand the legislators' take on what the Founding Fathers meant by a "well-armed militia," I doubt our forefathers could have envisioned the high-powered weapons of today.
I say, if you want to allow the kind of weapons that were used in the 1700s — fine! But a well-armed militia doesn't mean citizens should be allowed to arm themselves with machine guns, rocket launchers, and anti-tank weapons.
Another point I fail to understand is why the legislative supporters of guns in bars don't want to include allowing them where they work. If all permit holders are law-abiding, well-trained, and responsible citizens, why not allow them to carry guns into the capitol and other government buildings? When these NRA toadies allow that to happen, the rest of us will believe they really believe in and practice what they legislate.
Conservatives are complaining that Democrats are shoving health care down America's throat through a budgetary process called reconciliation, which requires a majority vote — 50 percent plus one. When did majority rule become a controversial tactic in America (Editorial, March 4th issue)? Some say it started in 1917 when, at President Woodrow Wilson's request, the Senate adopted Rule 22, which created cloture, a super-majority vote used to end a filibuster.
With the advent of cloture, if a party was unable to garner enough votes, then a filibustered bill essentially died. Our Constitution, however, only enumerates super-majority votes in specific instances, such as impeachment or treaties. All other Senate votes are supposed to be simple majority rule. Super-majority clotures are unconstitutional. However, Rule 22 has never been formally challenged.
The conservative argument that 60 votes are necessary to pass anything through the Senate is confusing, because our Constitution and founders intended otherwise. The reconciliation process was created in response to Rule 22 as a shield protecting the budget from filibusters and cloture votes. We need to correct Wilson's mistake and once again make America a Democratic Republic, one that values majority rule.
Brandon Chase Goldsmith
Two weeks ago (March 4th issue), the Flyer covered the financial woes of the Memphis Redbirds. Last week (March 11th issue), you reported on the disastrous Horizon building development. Both were excellent reporting jobs. I'm pleased to see the Flyer picking up the slack in the dearth of local business reporting. Keep it up.