CityWatch Today: Civil Rights on MLK Day? More Like Civil War! Civility, Please!

GUEST COMMENTARY--Today is a holiday, a hallowed day, and what should be a hopeful day. 

On the day that celebrates the coming together of all Americans, many will find hope in the announcement that Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), a child of Indian and Jamaican immigrants is running for the presidency in 2020. Others will react with disdain and mockery for a woman they view as corrupt, divisive, and non-presidential (with some of them supporting our current president, who many consider just as corrupt, divisive, and non-presidential). 

We're in a civil war--bloodless, for the most part, and thank God for that. But the rancor and incivility suggest that both sides are in a "race to the bottom" with respect to adult, respectful, civil behavior. 

The good news is that diversity is being sought by both parties. Very, very few will have any doubt that a 2020 Democratic presidential field of contenders that includes Senator Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro presages a diversity of political opportunities for both genders and all ethnicities within America. The number of Republican women and minorities in Congress is also higher, and both political parties appear to be focused on outreach. 

1) Yet there are overall two sources of information for Americans to be kept up to date of modern events--one liberal/Democratic, and one conservative/Republican. Reading multiple sources of information every day to figure out what's really going on is a hardship few but not enough must embrace (my own concoction is AOL/Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, Yahoo, Breitbart, MSN.com, and Fox News). 

Separating fact from opinion is a full-time job, and it's doggone hard to conclude that any of us know much of anything anymore. While President Trump's declaration that "the press is the enemy of the people" might be too hard to swallow, it doesn't appear that the press is their friend, either. A desperate emphasis on advertising and clickbait to attract viewers leaves most cable news channels and websites pretty much favoring one group of Americans while telling the rest "you're not welcome here". 

(And as late-night television's and various movies' ratings and viewership goes down, it appears that Hollywood's collective middle finger to a large hunk of America confirms that they are no more civil than the president they decry.) 

2) Accuracy and appropriate reporting are fueling the fire, with "fake news" being bandied about by both sides. While the president goes back and forth in his statements and policies (the latter of which are often impossible to truly pin down), the majority of our nation's media is as one-sided as is any "pro-Trump" website. 

The recent Buzzfeed story is a classic example. The reporting that President Trump had ordered his former lawyer Cohen to lie to Congress was leaped on by a small army of media and political personalities as if it were fact...until Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller himself unexpectedly declared the whole story to be entirely false

And as much of America (whether they're convinced that President Trump is guilty of SOMETHING, or others who are convinced that President Trump is guilty of NOTHING) stepped back and asked themselves why anyone would put their faith in either Cohen, an avowed liar and weasel-extraordinaire, or in Buzzfeed's reporter, who has a history of less-than-honest reporting, the questions are louder than ever: 

Can't the media focus on anything that's proven, or has journalism degenerated into "The National Enquirer" being the new standard? Hasn't President Trump said and done enough things to legitimately anger much of America that we can ignore things that he didn't say or do? 

3) The cries of racism too often have allowed a man or woman to "cry wolf" before it, too, is verified...to the point that the "civil rights movement" has become a growth industry rather than a moral imperative to do better as a nation or world.  

Over ten years after the Duke Lacrosse case where a group of white lacrosse players were falsely accused of raping a black woman and whose lives were subsequently destroyed, and which led Prosecutor Mike Nifong, who was eager and willing to smear and besmirch these young men, to a prison sentence, we're right back to where we started! 

How many of you just saw and "know" that a group of young white males wearing "MAGA" hats cruelly mocked and racially taunted a Native American Vietnam veteran? OK. Now how many of you just saw the WHOLE video (LINK: ), where they were attending a pro-life rally (which is legal, last I checked) and wearing MAGA hats (also legal, last I checked), and were themselves first taunted and approached and threatened by several black men... 

...and with the "victim" actually being the one who walked up to and got in the face of a young man of faith who smiled, said nothing and was guilty of nothing more than holding his ground? 

Here's a thought: perhaps the presumption that a group of white males are up to no good is just as abhorrent as the presumption that a group of black males is up to no good. 

Here's another thought: perhaps the emphasis on "white privilege" is as disgusting and racist as those who entirely disrespect the need for some sort of affirmative action to ensure diversity. Racial and gender outreach is exemplary, but CNN analyst Areva Martin's false characterization of David Webb (a black radio host) as having "white privilege" speaks not to her sophomoric presumption that he was white but to her own disgusting racism. 

After my own mugging at age 12 by four Latino youths who informed me they "hated white people", and after being told by several professors that I couldn't attend a white medical school despite graduating summa cum laude from UCSD because "I was a white male", I can assure you that this Jewish male has been bullied by left and right, white Christians and black Muslims. Being white and male is no picnic, but I assure you that among my greatest professional joys as a physician has been outreach to all races and both genders. 

The late Martin Luther King was absolutely right about that "judging others by the content of one's character instead of the color of one's skin". 

4) There is GOOD NEWS, however, in our civil war. 

President Trump and both parties and houses of Congress were entirely united in the prison reform bill initiated and just signed by President Trump, and it's hoped that inappropriately- and over-incarcerated men and women of color are treated more fairly and humanely in the future. 

For all his rhetoric, President Trump has higher approval ratings among blacks and Latinos than most Republican presidents, and more white Americans than ever are flocking to Democratic and other causes to promote the rights and dignity of people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientations. 

Republican Steve King (R-IA) comments defending white supremacy, which were truly inappropriate, has led to him being stripped by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) of all committee assignments, King himself voted to join the near-unanimous vote rebuking his comments. From the era of one King to another King, we appear to be united in tolerating no old school white racism. 

Ditto as well for those in the Women's March leadership rejecting the leaders among them who are anti-Semitic (such as Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory), and that bodes well for a nation that needs no new sources of "acceptable racism". 

It's ridiculous if not offensive to suggest that Louis Farrakhan is any more acceptable and appropriate a leader than David Duke. Both loved Hitler, and that's that. 

Controversies persist. Should the NFL football players stop kneeling and support the police while also finding a better, more uniting and dignified way to protest police violence? Should President Trump stop using the word "wall" (kinda conjures up the Berlin Wall, doesn't it?) and use "ICE leaders' recommendations" to avoid offending those who are otherwise in support of a better border security plan? 

Yet just as virtually all of the nation supports and agrees with the proposal of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) of revoking Congressional pay and locking Congress up in a room until they reach a budget compromise, most educated Americans still know nonsense when they see it...but too many of us are willing to engage in that nonsense while decrying the SAME nonsense in others! 

We're in a civil war, and it's about the definitions and ramifications of civil rights, and it's about the future of our nation. But it will end when we take the time to listen to other Americans and get to know them...as the late Reverend Dr. King would certainly have wanted. 


(CityWatch Guest Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of both its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure and Planning Committees. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)