July 8, 2014

Why Presbyterians took up the 'Palestinian Cause'

The church of the old WASP establishment and many U.S. presidents now embraces an odd mix of Christianity, Marxism, and the work of Edward Said

Originally published at FrontPage Magazine

By David Paulin
What has happened to America's Presbyterians? Leaders of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have joined ranks with the radical left in recent years. They vilify Israel, apologize for Islamic terrorists, and cheer on the Palestinian cause.

Now, these leftist elites are savoring an important victory, having pushed through a resolution to divest from U.S. companies operating in Israel: Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard. The contentious vote in the church's general assembly passed by a narrow 310-to-303, and was a long-time goal of leftist Presbyterians, who since 2006 had submitted four divestiture resolutions that failed to muster sufficient votes.

Divestiture is largely symbolic: The companies in the portfolio of America's largest Presbyterian denomination represented a pittance of its investments, about $21 million. But leftist Presbyterians saw divestiture as a way to shame the companies and ostracize Israel over what they believe is its humiliation of Palestinian Arabs and illegal occupation of their lands – a situation they claim begets terrorism. They conveniently forget that Israel has been ready to trade land for peace since its birth in 1948. As for the companies they vilify: Caterpillar's bulldozers are used in anti-terror operations; and Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard provide electronic security systems.

More than a few rank-and-file Presbyterians were outraged over the June 20th divestiture vote; tens of thousands have left the church in recent years as it drifted left. “We stand in full support of Israel's right to protect its citizens and of all American companies to engage in honest free enterprise,” said Rev. Paul deJong, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers, the oldest Presbyterian church in Lee County, Florida.

“The church has been infected,” a Presbyterian seminary student in Texas once told me, a women in her 30s who became a minister. She was referring to a pro-Palestinian conference hosted several years ago by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). At the time, leftist Presbyterians were calling for a divestiture resolution.

Israel is not perfect, of course; no country is. But the venom of Israel-bashing Presbyterians has been troubling because of how it negates anything positive about the Middle East’s only democracy. Israel is singled out as a rights abuser.

What accounts for this moral confusion?

Israel-bashing didn't used to be fashionable, including among Presbyterians. Indeed, Israel was widely admired in the years after its birth and miraculous growth. Upbeat news articles spoke of those “plucky Jews.” But no more. Now Israeli Jews are denied credit for their nation’s economic and democratic miracle, growing out of a region that American writer Mark Twain – passing through as a travel writer in 1867 – had described as an unpopulated and “desolate country.”

Now, Israel’s story has a new twist, one put forth by left-leaning Presbyterians and fellow-travelers in other Christian denominations. Jews achieved what they did because they exploited somebody else: Palestinian Arabs. In this view Palestinian Arabs, not Jews, are now the chosen people.

This Israel-bashing narrative also bristles with anti-Americanism, and over the years it has become popular in America's universities. That's an old story. But what's less well known is that this same narrative has gained currency at many Christian seminaries. Many seminary professors have adopted a world view similar to the post-modern left; what for them is a strange hybrid of Christianity, Marxism, and the word of Edward Said. (Said, of course, was the high-profile Columbia University professor who popularized the idea of Palestinian victim hood within an anti-Western context.) At some Presbyterian seminaries, students in their early 20s –  future ministers and church leaders – have been indoctrinated for years with the ideological poison of the post-modern left, albeit within a Christian context.

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

One Presbyterian seminary that I'm familiar with is in Texas: a 112-year-old institution whose idyllic grounds are near the University of Texas campus in Austin, the state capital. I'm not a Presbyterian, incidentally. I’m not even a regular church-goer, although I regularly attended a mainline Protestant church as a youngster. Eight years ago, however, I took a greater than usual interest in religion, after noticing  Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary was hosting a thought-provoking conference: “American Churches and the Palestinians.” The theme of the two-day event was inspired by a line from Isaiah 58:6: “To Loose the Chains of Injustice…”

I briefly visited the conference, and that passage’s subordination to a political view quickly became clear: Israeli Jews were colonial oppressors; and Palestinian Arabs were their victims. The event’s main sponsors were hardly friendly toward Israel: The Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights; Friends of Sabeel-North America; and Pax Christi USA. Hundreds of religious leaders from around the country, representing various denominations, attended along with seminary faculty.

Consider three high-profile guest speakers:

Robert Jensen, a radical left-wing University of Texas journalism professor, discussed what he claimed was biased media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – biased, that is, against Palestinian Arabs. Jensen was hardly unbiased himself, however. Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he gained national notoriety for his inflammatory Op-Ed in the Houston Chronicle, “U.S. Just as Guilty of Committing Own Violent Acts.” The attacks, Jensen argued, were “no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism…that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime.”

Two years earlier, Jensen published an Op-Ed in the Houston Chronicle and Palestine Chronicle. Its title and first sentence were the same: “I Helped Kill a Palestinian Today.”

“If you pay taxes to the U.S. government, so did you,” Jensen explained. He went onto to say that “the current Israeli attack on West Bank towns is not a war on terrorism, but part of a long and brutal war against the Palestinian people for land and resources.” He said nothing about billions of U.S. dollars of international aid flowing over the years into the Palestinian territories – only to be squandered, pocketed by corrupt officials, or used to fund terrorism.

At the conference's dinner, the main speakers were Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie. At age 23, Rachel Corrie died when she stood in front of an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer conducting anti-terror operations – clearing tunnels utilized by Palestinian terrorists. The driver failed to see her, and she was run over. Corrie is now a martyr to her supporters – their very own Joan of Arc. But the more accurate description of her would be “terror advocate.” A memorable photo shows her clad in Muslim garb – her face contorted with rage as she holds a burning American flag drawn on a piece of paper.

Corrie's parents head the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, a non-profit “that conducts and supports programs that foster connections between people, that build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities.”

The conference's star speaker was the Rev. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Episcopal priest who founded and directs the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has questioned Israel's right to exist, and like his Presbyterian counterparts apologizes for Islamic terrorists. He distributed a thought-provoking scholarly paper he'd written: “What is theologically and morally wrong with suicide bombings? A Palestinian Christian Perspective.” The subject was timely. Suicide bombings were more common at the time: Israel’s “separation barrier” – which has saved lives by thwarting suicide bombers, but that leftist Presbyterians widely criticized – was not finished at the time.

Ateek’s paper navigated a thicket of theological issues, but its conclusion was fairly simple: Suicide bombers do indeed violate Christian doctrine – but the desperation fueling their misguided actions is understandable: It's Israel’s fault. Neither Ateek nor his Presbyterian supporters, incidentally, have ever given credence to three other “root causes” of Palestinian Arab terrorism: Islamist ideology; the culture of hate permeating Palestinian culture; or an “honor-shame” mentality that undermines efforts for peace which the overwhelmingly majority of Israelis desire.

Visiting the conference, I walked down hallways lined with exhibits outside classrooms where "workshops" were held. The exhibits bristled with pro-Palestinian political literature and books. One focused on Palestinian culture, displaying clothing and other items. (Not included were suicide vests or a replica of the Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing; such an exhibit was displayed by clever Hamas student activists at al-Najah University in Nablus).

Rev. Ateek, of Sabeel, must have felt right at home. He was clearly a favorite speaker -- a veritable celebrity. Conference-goers eagerly repeated his stories of alleged Israeli terrorism against Palestinians, including when, he says, his family was forcibly removed by Israeli troops on May 12, 1948. This, of course, was days before Arab armies tried to wipe Israel off the map. Perhaps Ateek’s personal stories are true; perhaps not. However, what’s clearly false about these stories, revolving around Israel's creation, is that Ateek presents them as normal and everyday occurrences, the result of Israel’s aggression; the defining narrative of what Israel was and became.

The conference was a sold-out event; and no doubt it and similar events in recent years have persuaded increasing numbers of Presbyterians to support divestiture. The conference's main organizer, Whitney S. Bodman, must have been pleased. A high-profile professor at Austin Seminary, he is an expert on Islam. He's an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and holds a doctorate in comparative religion from Harvard University. His research interests, he says, includes “Christian theology in an Islamic context.” Politically active, Bodman has praised terror group Hezbollah as a nation-building organization that fends off Israel's aggression. He has worked closely with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the problematic Muslim group. Above all, he has been a prominent figure on the “inter-faith dialogue” circuit that attempts to bridge differences with Muslims. That effort kicked into high gear after the 9/11 attacks.

Speaking at a “religious diversity” symposium not long after Europe's infamous “cartoon riots,” Bodman belittled the idea that Muslims alone were responsible for Islamic-inspired terrorism and mayhem, and endeavored to smooth over the hurt feelings of Muslims. He explained: "First,remember that no incident happens in a vacuum and the violence and hatred exploding throughout the world today is not really about one event or something as seemingly trivial as a cartoon. It is an accumulation of hurt over months and years. It is Iraq and Palestine, suicide bombings and Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and 9/11 and this whole sense that there really is a clash of civilizations, an insidious danger to our way of life.”

What must the learned professor have thought about an Islamic terror plot in Canada that made headlines around this time – one involving 17 young Muslim men and youths? Their roots were not in the Middle East but Canada – home to anti-Americanism, multiculturalism, and unlimited tolerance. Yet they wanted to blow up Canada’s landmarks and behead the prime minister.

In their eagerness to appease Muslims, some Presbyterians have put themselves in even more compromising positions. In October, 2004, Ronald Stone, a retired professor of Christian and social ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (affiliated with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), met in southern Lebanon with Hezbollah commander Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, while on an official “fact-finding mission” to the Middle East.

Stone caused a furor when he told an Arab television channel that “relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.”

“We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people,” he added. It was an odd way to describe Hezbollah, which Washington has designated a terror group for killing hundreds of Israeli and Americans. This included 200 U.S. Marines in the 1983 suicide bombing of their Beirut barracks and deadly attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Stone was part of the lead group of the church’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. The church repudiated his remarks. But the controversy didn't stop the head of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the Chicago area, Rev. Robert Reynolds, from meeting nearly one year later with a Hezbollah commander, much to the outrage of Chicago-area Jewish leaders.

Subtle Indoctrination

It's hardly coincidental that these Presbyterian leaders and activist echo the political and theological line that's promoted at more than a few Presbyterian seminaries. Sometimes, the political indoctrination of young seminary students can be insidious.

A few weeks before its pro-Palestinian conference, Austin Seminary hosted a photography exhibition related to the conference’s theme: Palestinians as victims; Jews as their exploiters. Dozens of heart-rending photos adorned hallway walls outside classrooms. For future ministers and religious leaders, the photos were there to see, ponder, and absorb. The exhibit was from left-leaning documentary photographer Alan Pogue, a Vietnam War-veteran specializing in political and social issues from a “social justice” angle.

The exhibition’s theme was unmistakable: European Jews displaced by World War 2 had created Israel – and ejected Palestinians from their ancestral homes. In fact, this was the caption of one photo. There were no positive photos of Israel or Israeli-Jews.

Two photos arranged side by side impressed me for the subtle anti-Americanism and moral equivalence suggested by their juxtaposition. One was a photo from New York City after the September 11 attacks – a poignant scene of a make-shift sidewalk memorial. It was a still life of sorts: flowers, photos, and mementos left by friends and family members.

Beside it was a strikingly similar photo – one of a Baghdad sidewalk memorial. It remembered the approximately 300 mostly women and children killed by a U.S. precision-guided bomb during the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq. They died in an underground shelter that U.S. military planners presumed was one of Saddam Hussein's command-and-control centers. Just before the war, however, it was converted into an air-raid shelter – one Saddam’s military men avoided. This of course is a common tactic among Middle Eastern terrorists and “insurgents” – putting civilians in harms way, and then when they are killed blaming and shaming the enemy.

Pogue saw things differently. His caption referred to the photos “similarities.” The subtle impression was that Americans now knew the same horrors their government had visited upon foreign lands.
Curiously, the photo exhibit was removed the day before a rare event at the seminary: a colloquium of Presbyterian ministers and rabbis held two weeks after the pro-Palestinian conference. The event’s title: “A Difficult Friendship: Divestment, Dialogue, and Hope.”

It was a revealing title. Seminary professors have gone out of their way in recent years to bridge “differences” with Palestinian Arabs and Muslims – even to the extent of excusing Islamic terrorism or apologizing for Judeo-Christian culture and history. Yet their “difficult relationship” is with Jews – not Muslims.

No wonder that a generation of seminary students has been infected with the poison of the postmodern left: a poison that vilifies Israel, America, and even the West. In casual conversations I had with young and idealistic seminary students, I noticed a common thread: They couldn't bring themselves to condemn other cultures -- especially those they considered underdogs. You've heard of self-hating Jews. They were self-hating Christians.

One Austin Seminary student in her early 20s, an honor student, told me about participating in an “interfaith” function with Muslim men at Austin Seminary; and after the Muslims broke their fast she offered to shake hands with one man in a flowing robe. Yet he only reluctantly grasped her hand, she recalled.

She wasn't shocked or put off. 

She made excuses for him, explaining it was important to “understand” his culture. Yet this was in a Christian seminary -- and a Muslim holy day was being celebrated there.
In explaining Arab rage against the West, this same student mentioned the “crusades” – no matter that quite a few Jews had their heads lopped off by crusaders; or that the crusades were a delayed response to Muslim aggression. Now, Islamic aggression is on the march again – and some of its religious underpinnings are making inroads into the Christian faith, judging by what's being taught at more than a few Christian seminaries.

One seminary student even spoke of terror master Yasar Arafat as a freedom fighter. “You know, he won a Nobel Peace Prize,” he reminded me.

Recently, Austin Seminary got a new dean, a long-time theology professor at the seminary named David H. Jensen. One of his more interesting scholarly articles pondered the cultural imperialism fostered by America’s most famous hamburger: the Big Mac. In "The Big Mac and the Lord's Prayer,” Jensen argued that McDonald's and its all-American mean were emblematic of the dark underbelly of globalization -- and even at odds with Christian values. “The McMeal is…a parody of the Eucharist, extending an invitation to all, but embodying only one culture,” he wrote. Interestingly, McDonald's strongest sales at the time were in none other than anti-American France and former Cold War enemies China and Russia. All of which underscores the perception gap that exists between leftist elites and ordinary people – a gap now reflected in the battle between rank-and-file Presbyterians and leftist elites in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Years ago, the Presbyterian church was part of the venerable WASP establishment. It had produced many presidents over the years. Its parishioners were well-heeled, well-educated, and very successful. They believed in America. Those days are gone.

Now that divestiture is finally a reality, the soul of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may have been lost forever to the left. Decent Presbyterians, like those at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers, will face an uphill battle to reclaim it.

The left is in charge, for now. 

June 22, 2014

George Bush’s Prediction of the Iraq Meltdown

Originally published at Frontpage Magazine and The American Thinker blog

By David Paulin

Former President George W. Bush is remaining mum on the tragedy unfolding in Iraq. But as an army of bloodthirsty Islamists rampages across Iraq with the goal of establishing a 7th century religious tyranny — a caliphate — it’s worth recalling who years ago had predicted this would happen if the Democrats got their way.

It was President George W. Bush and his top officials.

They warned early on that Iraq was ripe for the rise of an Islamic caliphate — either in a failed state created by Saddam Hussein or, they later contended, if the U.S.-led coalition bugged out without leaving behind a stable Iraq. For instance, two years into the U.S.-led occupation, in 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld warned that a premature withdrawal would be disastrous — and he foresaw what has in fact happened. He explained, “Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia.”

Vice President Dick Cheney also warned of the rise of a caliphate if the U.S. withdrew before Iraq was capable of governing and defending itself. “They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate” to be “governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran,” he said.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, then America’s top commander in the Middle East, also offered prescient testimony in 2005 to the House Armed Services Committee, forseeing what the terror masters would do in a weak Iraqi state. “They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’ we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words.”

Liberals jeered such dire predictions — and especially at the repeated use of the word “caliphate.”

The New York Times, for instance, ran a piece on December 12, 2005, that mocked the forgoing Bush-administration officials for their warnings of a “caliphate” — portraying them as foreign-policy amateurs peddling an alarmist view of the Middle East. Wrote reporter Elisabeth Bumiller: "A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq."

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, obviously don’t believe what’s printed in The New York Times. ISIS, incidentally, has reportedly been preparing to make its move for several years — right under the radar of the Obama administration. Were they emboldened by President Obama’s endless apologies to the Muslim world? Or the deadlines he’d set for leaving Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably all of the above. But what no doubt really energized them was President Obama’s failure to negotiate a deal with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have left sufficient U.S. troops in Iraq.

President Bush, for his part, issued a prophetic warning in 2007 when vetoing a Democratic bill that would have withdrawn U.S. troops. “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States,” he said. "It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous."

A little history is worth recalling. Saddam’s failure to account for his weapons of mass destruction, including remnants of his toxic arsenal (some of which was in fact found), gave the Bush administration legal cover for going into Iraq. But only a fool would believe weapons of mass destruction were the only reason for the war. The U.S.-led invasion, or liberation, was in fact part of a vision to remake the Middle East: a long-term project to liberate millions in Iraq; nudge the region toward modernity; and above all make America safer in a post-9/11 world — all by correctly defining who the enemy was and taking the war on terror to them.

The Bush administration certainly encountered setbacks in Iraq and made mistakes; the fog of war invariably upsets the best-laid plans of politicians and generals. But Iraq only plunged into utter chaos after President Obama brought home U.S. troops, despite warnings that Iraq was not ready to govern or defend itself. The blood and treasure that America spent in Iraq has been squandered.

The terror masters were energized in Syria, thanks to the Obama administration’s tepid support of moderate rebels there. Now they are on the march, just as President Bush and his top officials had predicted. After they establish their regional caliphate in Iraq and Syria, expect them to next turn their attention toward their real enemies: America, Israel, and the West. Oil prices are bound to go through the roof, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

President Obama and his foreign-policy advisers have blood on their hands. But if Obama remains in character, he’ll do what he usually does — blame it all on George Bush.

June 14, 2014

At a 9/11 ceremony, a little girl asks why her father died

"I'd like someone to really, really explain why this happened."

 Originally published on September 11, 2013, at the American Thinker blog and FrontPage Magazine

By David Paulin

It has been a heartbreaking scene at 9/11 ceremonies in recent years: children honoring mothers or fathers they can't remember - yet desperately want to know.

Emma Kathryn Hunt is one of them. On Tuesday, she attended a 9/11 ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut -- near where hundreds of horrified onlookers gathered 12 years ago and watched smoke billowing from the Twin Towers, some 50 miles away.

Emma, a middle-school student, joined her mother, grandparents and hundreds of others at the state park, the site of a 9/11 memorial that includes 154 stone plaques on the manicured grounds. Each bears the name of a 9/11 victim who had ties to Connecticut. One is Emma's father: William Christopher Hunt. Emma was 15 months old when her dad died with nearly 3,000 others at the World Trade Center. A 32-year-old vice president of Eurobrokers, he had worked on the 84th floor of the South Tower.

"What do I remember about my dad? Nothing. Absolutely nothing," Emma told a reporter covering the event. Even so, Emma said that when she goes to bed at night, she gazes at a photo of both her and her dad taken on her first birthday. "It's on my bedside table. It's the last thing I look at night. And I tell him, 'Good night, daddy. I love you. I love you always.'"

She explained, "Everything I know about my dad I know because someone in my family tells me things about him. Mostly, it's my grandma. She tells me stories about him when he was a kid. Or how I'm like him. But I don't really know, because I can't remember him."

Emma remained composed during the first part of Tuesday's ceremony, according to Marian Gail Brown's article in the Westport News. Emma, Brown wrote, "tucked her bright orange-red hair away from her freckled face" as she listened to each speaker: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman; and a local minister and rabbi. But "then came the reading of the names of the 161 victims of 9/11 with Connecticut connections in alphabetical order. 'Laurence Abel'... 'Allen Patrick Boyle'...'Sandra Campbell'...'Judith Florence Hofmiller'...Emma grabbed her mother by the knee and squeezed. Two more names before the 71st name. Emma leaned into her mom. Her shoulders shook. 'William Christopher Hunt.' Her body convulsed. And the tears poured out. Her mom rubbed her back and pulled her adolescent half-girl, half-woman body toward her, whispering to Emma."

As heartbreaking as that moment was, it wasn't as heartbreaking as other things that Emma revealed; specifically, that her teachers don't talk much about 9/11. Emma, however, said she wishes they did discuss the terror attack -- even though she worries about what might be said about why her father died.

It's a troubling revelation. Does she perhaps worry she might be taught the version of 9/11 told by the anti-American left; by people like Ward Churchill, the former ethnic studies professor who infamously called people like her father "little Eichmanns"? That characterization delighted the left, whose members believed that America got what it deserved on 9/11 because of the evils it had visited on foreign lands.

Emma is perhaps too young to learn about the nuances of why they hate us; yet a question she asks goes to the heart of the matter: "I'd like someone to really, really explain why this happened."

Why hasn't anybody told her?

Connecticut's 9/11 ceremony was indeed sad -- though not in the way that those who didn't talk to Emma might have thought.

May 10, 2014

Dr. King's Legacy Betrayed

By David Paulin

It's one of the saddest legacies of  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In American's gritty urban centers, many streets and avenues that were named for him, following his murder on April 4, 1968, are now awash in violence. Black-on-black violence.

One example occurred on Wednesday in a neighborhood of southeast Houston. That's where Demarkus Harrison, a 20-year-old black man, was killed by gunfire -- allegedly fired by an 18-year-old black man named Louis Dante Anthony IV. He is being sought by police but has not been charged.

This shooting was notable because of what Anthony's father did after an angry bystander tossed a bicycle at his car as he sat at the wheel. Louis Dante Anthony III, age 38, gunned his accelerator pedal and, as numerous police officers and reporters watched, barreled his car through a crowd of screaming onlookers. TV news cameras recorded the mayhem at the Belarbor Apartments at Belarbor Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Incredibly, no injuries were reported as a result of the vehicular mayhem. 
Aside from watching the shocking scene of bystanders running for their lives, take note of the neighborhood where the mayhem occurred. The apartments look comfortable and well maintained. Streets are landscaped and orderly. Late-model cars, pick-ups, and SUVs line the streets and fill parking lots. This is no ghetto. It's what might be called lower-middle class. Yet in many low-income foreign countries, this neighborhood would be occupied by people who are dazzlingly rich, and who behave with a refinement and possess values befitting their wealth.

Yet in this neighborhood, material wealth has not translated into what might be called middle-class manners and values; a lifestyle once idealized in television sitcoms like "Father Knows Best" or "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Bill Cosby Show."

TV news reports of this incident offer a truly sad glimpse into a certain segment of black America; what might be called a black subculture -- with all its pathologies on display. This is news and social commentary. It underscores how a cornerstone of Dr. King's dream -- the betterment of black Americans through non-violent protests and racial equality -- has turned into a nightmare for some. It may come as surprise to liberals, but material wealth is not necessarily enough to erase the pathologies of a culture that Dr. King probably never envisioned would exist nearly a half century after his death.

The news segment from KHOU 11 in Houston says it all.

Originally published at The American Thinker blog

April 29, 2014

A version of 'knockout game' stirs outrage in Austin, Texas

This is a version of an article originally published at The American Thinker blog

By David Paulin

 A YouTube video has gone viral that shows a black youth slapping a black Wendy's cashier in the face and then running away -- part of a little-known trend called "smack cam." The incident provides an unsettling glimpse into black-on-black violence -- and black thug culture.

The incident in Austin, Texas, is being investigated by the local police. It is especially disturbing because of who was involved: not only two black teens or pre-teens but a black adult female who appears to be a guardian or role model. Identified as "CB," she drives the get-away car; it's not clear if she also narrates the video. Referring to the hapless cashier as the video starts, she or an unseen narrator cheerfully explains that they are "gonna do the smack cam on this niggah." Next, a young teen identified as "Lil Rick" shyly approaches the counter  -- then suddenly slaps the unsuspecting cashier, 16-year-old Calaybra Jones. Another teen records the incident with his smart phone.

Their video briefly popped up on the YouTube site of Austin rapper Kade Fresco. But after news reports of the incident stirred public outrage, the video disappeared -- only to be quickly reposted by an outraged resident.

 “I'm sad. I'm angry," Jones told a local news outlet. "It’s just shocking that they would do that to someone that they don't even know.”

Police have identified the suspects and expect to make arrests in what is the first case of "smack cam" in Austin to draw wide attention. The game, however, is a little-known national trend that has been around for a while and that involves mostly black participants. In recent months, however, it has been overshadowed by the more violent knockout game that involves black-on-white violence. The goal there is to knock out a random white victim with a sucker punch.

The Wendy's assault, to be sure, is hardly the first case of black thug violence in Austin -- a hip college town, hi-tech Mecca, and the state's capital. Last October, Austin residents were stunned when hundreds of rampaging black youths converged by a shopping mall one evening. They walked atop parked cars, fought among themselves, and hurled rocks at scores of police officers arriving from other parts of the city. Police called it a full-blown riot but never figured out what set it off. Highland Mall was an upscale mall in its heyday, but it has been in decline as it increasingly became a gathering spot for sometimes rowdy black youths.

And at Austin's recent South By Southwest music and film festival, a 21-year-old black rapper named Rashad Owens plowed his car through barricades and raced down a crowd -- killing four festival goers and injuring 20. Owens, whose rap sheet included criminal mischief and drunken driving arrests, had been eluding a police officer attempting to stop him for an illegal turn and driving with his headlights off.

And in another incident at the festival, a 23-year old rapper named Tyler Gregory Okonma ( "Tyler, the Creator") was charged with inciting a riot. He had exhorted his fans to push past security at a downtown club. 

To date, no black leaders have stepped up to denounce what has been happening, and that is hardly surprising in Austin. A politically liberal Mecca in a red state, it is governed by guilt-ridden liberal Democrats. They are proud of Austin's diversity; the fact that it's no longer a "whitopia" -- as it was during the bad old days of Jim Crow, and before they turned it into a sanctuary city whose white population is slipping toward minority status. Segregation and racial injustice are long gone: good riddance.  Unfortunately, the apparent emergence of a black thug culture may be a harbinger of things to come.