Paul Kusuda’s column
Aging might not be mellowing me
By Paul Kusuda
Age probably isn’t mellowing me much, if at all. I don’t get as riled up about some things as in the past, but I do
get bothered. That might be good; that might be bad. But, what the heck! Any change might be better or worse,
depending on which side of my rile one faces.
About two years ago, I read a column in a local weekly newspaper that includes news articles primarily focused
on topics about or relating to interests of African American readership. Articles about other people of color are also
included, but the focus is on non-White news not usually covered in larger news media.
One regularly-included opinion column bothered me, probably because I’m not single-race conscious. I’m aware
that I’m Japanese American — Asian — but I don’t want that to be completely central to how I view life and life
around me. That article challenged African Americans to contribute more to NAACP because “... the NAACP and
many of its local chapters would go out of business if they did not receive money from non-Black corporations and
individuals whose ‘controlling interests’ have reduced the NAACP to paper-tiger status in many of our communities.”
That made a lot of sense to me because a similar situation faces politicians who, to survive elections, must get
contributions from a variety of sources in addition to individuals who support them.
The columnist then wrote, “We just celebrated Kwanzaa, one of the principles of which is Kujichagulia, which
means self-determination. How can we be self-determined if we have to rely on the whimsical notions of folks who
could not care less about our aspirations and goals ...?”
That statement bothered me because despite the fact that challenging contributors is important, it shouldn’t
deride those who happen to be non-Black who contribute; they believe the overall efforts to be worthwhile not only for
Blacks but for others as well. Many who support NAACP, the Urban League, ACLU, JACL, Amnesty International,
churches and many other organizations do not do so out of “whimsical notions.” They just might care about
“aspirations and goals” of the groups they support.
I wrote a letter to the Editor — it was published. However, I received no response from the columnist. I was
blowing in the wind. So, I expressed my opinion, and life went on with no one supporting or opposing my viewpoint.
Recently, a columnist of color (non-Black) wrote in a monthly magazine about the result of the presidential election.
clearly, he was not particularly pleased with the outcome. He wrote, “If Obama’s agenda is enacted into law, it will
lead to less liberty (more government), higher spending and taxes (again less liberty) and turmoil for years to come.
The main reason for this will be that his proposals inject government into areas where it should not interfere and are
unconstitutional. Even today, the federal government has injected itself into areas where the constitution says it
should not tread ... As human beings we tend to take the path of least resistance and leave things alone.”
My point of view is not coincident nor parallel with the author whose writing revealed little feeling for people who
struggle just to get by, who know how it is not to be free, who experience racism on a first-hand basis, who cherish the
principle that civil rights should not be cast aside on the pretext that security concerns trump the Bill of Rights. U.S.
citizenship is so precious and yet too often taken for granted. The majority of the people in the U.S. are not rich, but
they have hopes for themselves and for their children’s future.
I believe President Obama will move ahead with plans to spend more federal dollars and will review tax policies
taking care to consider financial concerns of middle- and lower-income people. I believe President Obama will make
effective use of his concern for civil liberties and freedom issues. As he said in his inaugural address, “The question we
ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find
jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.”
I believe he will deal compassionately and wisely in the area of foreign affairs. As he stated, “We are a nation of
Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers ... we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and
segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger, and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old
hatreds shall someday pass; ... that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that
America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
I grew up during the Great Depression and was old enough to be aware of what was happening. I remember the
unemployment and poor economic status in which we lived in the United States. All of the families I knew were poor,
but in school we kids didn’t know that. We figured all of us didn’t have rich parents. In those days, the word “poverty”
wasn’t used. The fact is, that concept didn’t develop until decades later.
I saw how use of federal dollars resulted in the relieving of financial stress. I saw help being given not only to non-
skilled, non-experienced, outdoor, and other workers (e.g., artists, musicians, writers, actors, and students). I saw how
spending of federal funds led to increase in self-esteem and independence. I also saw the beginning reduction of the
turmoil that had gone on for years from the onset of the Great Depression.
Probably, the magazine columnist had no first-hand knowledge of how Hooverism and antecedent fiscal policies
affected those who lived through the aftermath. Perhaps, he never experienced being poor and what that means to
parents and caregivers. At any rate, our viewpoints are not compatible and probably converge very little. So, as I wrote
at the start of this, “What the heck!”