James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Back from Bombingham

Posted by James McPherson on October 15, 2009

Spending most of last week in Birmingham, Ala., center of several key events in the Civil Rights movement, was a good reminder of how far we’ve come in the struggle for fairness in America. For someone who spends most of his time in the Pacific Northwest, the visit–and several of the papers and panels presented at the American Journalism Historians Association convention–also provided a good reminder of how far we haven’t come in dealing with race issues. (The ongoing health care debate also serves as a reminder of American inequities, of course.)

Known for a time as “Bombingham,” the city saw several church bombings during the 1960s. The most famous explosion killed four girls in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (which I visited last Friday). And though I knew much of the story of the four girls, until Friday I never knew that two African American boys had been killed–one by a police officer–in race-related attacks on the same day.

Still, as LZ Granderson reminds us, the issue of equality is complicated and goes far beyond race. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (which will inevitably be killed, eventually) and the issue of gay marriage (which eventually will be approved in most, if not all, of the United States) provide current examples.

There is no denying that much remains to be done, and sometimes it may seem that the nation is becoming more polarized in the discussion of difficult issues. Thankfully, despite our many differences, we seem to keep working on it. Nowadays the most important race-baiting bombthrowers such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh typically lob their explosives figuratively, out in the open, rather than burying them beneath church steps.

Below is an interesting student-produced video history of the 1963 bombing. And lest you think race problems are behind us, note the most recent ignorant comment, “black people are dumb lol.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

‘Unbearable’ Japanese gay marriage experiment fails

Posted by James McPherson on November 26, 2008

Japanese experts have encountered a sex problem that can’t be cured by Viagra or Cialis, nor is it caused by repeated watching of commercials for those products. It can’t even be blamed on the “arranged marriage,” which is common for these types of relationships.

The funniest story on CNN today states that Japanese zookeepers have finally figured out they keep failing in their attempts to mate a couple of polar bears: Both bears (along with the “brother” of one) are female.

Aside from the fact that the zookeepers apparently were chosen by the same method George W. Bush used in naming key members of his administration, the failed experiment might provide a valuable reminder to politicians, religious leaders and voters who base their arguments against gay marriage on their own religious principles or on the the belief that homosexuality is a “choice.”

I have no idea what makes someone gay, any more than I know what makes a Japanese polar bear straight. Nor do I care. I do notice that the key figures involved in both relationships apparently pay more attention to a multitude of issues other than their sexuality, even if outsiders keep trying to interfere with their sex lives. Nonetheless, as bears and even Utah legislators might point out, the tide is moving against the anti-gay forces. The military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may be on the way out (and not just because we’re running out of “straight” soldiers). Many Americans, including politicians, now favor non-discriminatory civil unions.

Some also argue that churches should not be quasi-governmental agencies that “legalize” any marriage, gay or straight. Those critics point out that modern marriage laws violate the separation between church and state favored by early Americans. If legal marriage becomes simply a civil requirement (with churches allowed to add or withhold any religious blessing they choose), some of the arguments against gay marriage probably will fade.

Thanksgiving Day will mark 30 years since gay activist (and Korean War veteran) Harvey Milk (the topic of Sean Penn’s new film) was assassinated. Thirty years from now, I predict that my committed gay friends will be able to marry, and that very more Americans will consider such unions to be more a sign of “family values” than they are “unbearable.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Warku #16

Posted by James McPherson on September 27, 2008

This is the 16th of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10#11#12, #13#14, and #15.


Watch for terrorists

Those who’d offer civil rights

Must be communists


Posted in History, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »