Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the interfaith service that took place in Boston; the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings; President Obama’s task of dealing with terrorism and violence.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Rosa Clemente, former Green Party candidate for Vice President; Joshua Dubois, former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama White House; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and Leila McDowell, Washington correspondent for ASPiRE TV, which is Magic Johnson’s new cable network.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Joining me here in the roundtable: Rosa Clemente, former Green Party candidate for Vice President; Joshua Dubois, former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama White House; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and Leila McDowell, Washington correspondent for ASPiRE TV, which is Magic Johnson’s new cable network.
Folks, welcome to the show.
MS. ROSA CLEMENTE: Thanks for having us.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Let’s begin with the terror attack at the Boston Marathon this week, driving lots of the attention all week; and, of course, it is still raw for most Americans – what actually took place there.
And there was a[n] interfaith service in Boston on Thursday, and President Barack Obama spoke. Here’s what he had to say.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
PRES. OBAMA: Our prayers are with the injured, so many wounded, some gravely. As you begin this long journey of recovery, we will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt you will run again.
PRES. OBAMA: And that’s what the perpetrators of such senseless violence, these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build and think somehow that makes them important – that’s what they don’t understand. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love, and we raise our kids to do the same, and we come together to celebrate life and to walk our cities and to cheer for our teams. When the Sox and Celtics and Patriots, or Bruins are champions again – to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans – the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. [Applause.] And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: You know, what was interesting [was] you had very sustained applause there, and this reminded me of the speech that took place in Arizona after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. And a lot of people said, you know, “This is supposed to be a solemn occasion, but in many ways, that turned into sort of this call to action. I mean I won’t[?] say a pep rally, but I think even in a moment of pain, of grief, folks also want to think forward to the moment when you say, “No, we’re going to rise again.”
MR. JOSHUA DUBOIS: That’s right. You know, Roland, I think the tendency after situations like this is for us to kind of retreat into our own corners because we’re afraid. And so what we need from our leaders at those points is to call people together, to say that if we lock arm in arm and walk through this together, we’ll be able to sustain ourselves through this tragedy. And I think we saw the President call people to that sense of collective spirit in this speech, as he did in Newtown and as he did in Aurora and other instances as well.
MS. CLEMENTE: Yeah, I mean –
MS. LEILA MCDOWELL: So –
MS. CLEMENTE: — I think what’s interesting is that the President has had to have the task, for over 18 months, of dealing with violence and terrorism, you know. And I’m from Massachusetts. I’m currently at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. One of my friends was waiting for her cousin across the finish line, and when she came back, you know, there’s a lot of reaction of vengeance. And I think in a time like this, we have to stay very humane. We also have to maybe sometimes think about terror that’s inflicted on other people throughout the world that showed their sympathy while they’re being subjected to violence as well by some of our policies. I know that’s not a popular thing to say, but the young man that did die, Martin, you know, the picture that they show of him is a picture of him holding up a sign because his teacher had just told him about Trayvon Martin.
MR. MARTIN: Um-hum.
MS. CLEMENTE: And I think that’s where we have to really try to move as a people – that this is an inhumane act. Unfortunately, other people feel these type[s] of inhumane acts, but at that moment that we all come together as humanity and say that this is unacceptable and, you know, we have to push back on that.
MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS: It’s also an uncivilized act. I mean to sit down and think about “how am I going to put together a mechanical emblem that can go out and hurt and kill as many people as I can,” there’s something disjointed in anybody. And the mental health angle of the gun legislation —
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. SIMMONS: — that’s still being debated, of course, points to that.
But the other thing is … do we have these Newtowns. We have Sandy Hook. We have what happened in Boston. Colorado. We can traipse around the country, but some of the most devastating violence has been the day-to-day violence that we as journalists have to face and weigh in [on]: “Is this worth covering?” Whether it’s happening in Chicago, where we know our babies and our brothers and sisters are dropping –
OFF CAMERA: Yeah.
MS. SIMMONS: — every day.
MR. MARTIN: Because, in fact, last weekend there were 26 shot –
MS. SIMMONS: Right!
MR. MARTIN: — four killed in Chicago, which is – actually, it equals the number of people who were killed –
MS. SIMMONS: Up in Boston.
MR. MARTIN: — in Boston.
MS. SIMMONS: Yeah, exactly.
OFF CAMERA: Yeah.
MS. SIMMONS: But for some reason – and I’m not disparaging what Obama did. He had to do what he did as President of the United States. I think we all fully understand that. But why didn’t he mention what was going on in Chicago to keep us all on alert? You know, we’ve been told since Monday, “See something, say something.” But that’s not what’s going on if –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. SIMMONS: — it’s a non-mass massacre.
MR. MARTIN: And, Leila, isn’t part of the problem, though, that we are so used to the dramatic moment? Because you think about what took place in West, Texas – okay? [A] fertilizer plant blows up. Fifteen, 20 – whatever the number is – killed. You look at the Boston Marathon – as opposed to, if you look at the actual numbers, again – I talked about just last weekend, four killed in Chicago, 26 shot. Then we could probably go to New Orleans and go to some other different city. And so we have similar tragedies every day, but they don’t seem to garner the level of attention, outrage and focus as something like this.
MS. MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right, Roland. And I think, piggybacking on what Rose has said, it’s also the dehumanization of certain sectors of our society. So, poor, young, African-American men are not humanized enough to get that kind of attention. People who are not American citizens – you know, whether they’re Palestinians, or Iraqis, or whatever – are not humanized –
MR. MARTIN: I mean –
MS. MCDOWELL: — enough.
MR. MARTIN: — on that point, keep –
MS. MCDOWELL: Africans –
MR. MARTIN: — keep in mind on Monday – on Monday, you had this bomb that took place in Boston. That morning in Iraq, there were 20 simultaneous bombs that went off. Sixty-three were killed. And I think what happens when you see that story, here in America we go, “Oh. Okay, there were” –
OFF CAMERA: “Oh, really?”
MR. MARTIN: — “20 bombs, 63 dead. Okay.” You keep moving.
But then when you think of Boston, there were two bombs, four killed, and all of a sudden it’s a totally different reaction.
MS. MCDOWELL: [Crosstalk] –
MS. CLEMENTE: And a drone str- —
MR. DUBOIS: [Crosstalk] –
MS. CLEMENTE: — and a drone strike that killed 34 at an Afghan wedding that night.
MS. MCDOWELL: — or, what’s happening –
MS. SIMMONS: So, have we become [anesthetized] to all the – I mean the daily bump and grind –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. SIMMONS: — of the violence? Have we become [anesthetized] to that?
MR. MARTIN: Hold tight one second. I[’ve] got to go to a break. I want you to pick up that point, Josh, when we come back.