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The Politics of Transparency

Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry


Wallace Mabry

Wallace Mabry

First, let me state, in no uncertain terms, politics and transparency have nothing in common. They never have, and they never will in American politics.

Politics is a booming business that embodies a competitive spirit between groups and individuals, sometimes thought of as rivals, for power and leadership.

Transparency, on the other hand, is a quality or state of transmitting light (insight), into a designated problem area, so that issues and concerns not normally discernible may be clearly exposed and highlighted. This is so that even the unsophisticated can understand what the problem entails, and the means by which it can be extirpated.

Having said that, it is fair, then, to state that, when a politician or a proponent speaks of being transparent, one expects that the politician and the proponent will have been retrospective, and cognizant of the parameters of which they speak.

Because, at the end of the day, no one wants to hear of the complexity of the problem, and that the resources needed to bring to bear to eradicate the problem are simply too vast, and not immediately available, due to budget restraints and governmental shifts in priorities.

While it is not gainsaid that there must be motivation on the parts of the poor and the impoverished, to take advantage of every legitimate opportunity made available to them, and to leverage themselves out of their economic mires, their expectancy to be fulfilled and rewarded by that which has been promoted for their benefit must be honored.

As most of us know, however, political rhetoric, con games, and stunts are essential gambit in the arsenal of the consummate and neophyte politician who uses them, shrewdly, to preserve his or her professional position, and to bolster his or her future opportunities in the political arena.

Business leaders thrive on such political rousing because it, usually, results in millions and billions of dollars in profits for them.

The spirit in which these political cons and stunts are improvised and implemented, while not considered imprudent, impudent, or mean-spirited in some circles, have the unfortunate results of creating, for the poor and the impoverished, a continuing downward spiral of social and economic woes.

And, the moment those woes trigger a spark in even a single individual to strike back, not at another black person, but at the world in microcosm, and the forces of injustice (police) that have heretofore prevented them from being wholly human; people take to the streets, looting and destroying properties, challenging, in their own ways, the very system that is denying them their full humanities and the basics, not for their survival, but for them to be able to live full expressive lives.

It is then that politicians and proponents alike convene, and the cry goes out for “law and order.”

The problem here is that those who cry for law and order do not recognize the term (or maybe they do) for what it is. It is a euphemism for the total suppression, and possible slaughter, of those in the society who cry out for justice where there is little justice to be found.

Similarly, there are those who rise up and brand the looters and property-destroyers as thugs, and sundry miscreants, who ought to be shot on sight.

Meanwhile, white-collar thugs and sundry miscreants dressed in suits and ties, shiny shoes, and carrying briefcases full of dollar profits from failed anti-poverty enterprises, wander off into the sunset, unmolested by police, the National Guard, or criminal courts.

Consider the 1960s, and then President Lyndon Johnson’s “unconditional war on poverty.”

Johnson’s task force, under the auspices of OEO, was led by Labor Assistant Secretary Daniel P. Moynihan, deputy under Secretary of Agriculture James Sundquist, Peace Corps Latin America regional director Frank Mankiewicz, and second in command to Shriver, Adam Yarmolinsky, and Special Assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

Included on the task force were private industry’s C. Virgil Martin, of Carson, Pirie, Scott, and Co. department store; Donald Petrie, of Avis Rent A Car; and Litton Industries’ Charles B. (Tex) Thornton. It also included authors Michael Harrington (The Other America) and Edgar May (The Wasted Americans), and professional liberal Hyman Bookbinder. All of whom are white.

There were no blacks, or poor representatives, on the task force.

Blacks who were chosen to be a part of the task force’s working agenda were chosen to provide color credibility where credibility was crucial to selling the vision. Outspoken blacks were bought off with job opportunities, to quiet any criticism they may have had.

Blacks were also put in strategic positions to take responsibility for anti-black policies and decisions, usually made exclusively by whites, without the black appointees’ knowledge, consent, or ability to change.

What the black poor gained from the war were not jobs, but employability training. Whites walked away with the greater share of the money provided for the war.

What the Rochester community expects is not a recapitulation of the 1960s war on poverty. Of that, we need to be clear.