06/01/2011 02:51 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2011

The Answer May Be Blowin' in the Wind

Last week was the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan, a.k.a. Bobby Zimmerman. His lyrics to "Blowin' in The Wind," like those from the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," were the signature cultural statements of the Peace and Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s:

How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

The messages in the lyrics of these songs remain timeless.

I thought of this when I was reflecting on the results of the special Congressional election in New York State's 26th Congressional District. The Democratic candidate won in a district that has for many decades been Republican, with an almost 2-to-1 Republican voter registration.

I also thought about "Blowin in The Wind" as I listened to and watched President Obama's speech on the Middle East and Israel at the State Department and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel's subsequent speech to a Joint Session of Congress.

Additionally, recent comments by Dr. Cornel West, my friend and colleague, critical of President Obama, often crossed my mind.

And, now we have further confirmation of the continued deterioration in the housing market, continued significant unemployment, and Congress and the White House in a standoff over needed budget reductions and the constraints of our debt ceiling.

Democratic leadership should be measured in celebrating their "victory for Medicare" in the special election in upstate New York. Apparently, Kathy Hochul is a respected political figure in her community and conducted a superb campaign, focusing on other bread-and-butter issues in addition to preserving the best of Medicare. Any political leader who doesn't believe the current costs of Medicare need to be contained and reduced is deficient in elementary arithmetic.

Congressman Paul Ryan's voucher proposal for controlling costs may not be the answer. But, prudent courageous leadership is needed more than ever among Democrats and progressive Independents to confront the reality that the current revenue expense model of Medicare is inconsistent with current budget deficit realities.

President Obama was eloquent in his speech on the seismic changes occurring in the Middle East.

However, it may be that both his and Netanyahu's statements about resolving the Israel-Palestinian dispute are out of sync; historically, too little too late. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may no longer be capable of resolution on the basis of what now is probably an outdated paradigm. Negotiations of negotiations. More probable than not, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine dispute will be achieved by a younger generation of mass nonviolent protest in the streets of Israel and Palestine, not by Netanyahu and Obama.

"Never Again" will no longer be limited to referring only to the Holocaust. It will include an added reference to the repetitive squandering of lost opportunities by the former and current leaders of Israel and Palestine. The torrential streams of protest from the "Arab Spring" are unlikely to be contained by the same wall of continued failures and intransigence of current Palestinian and Israeli leadership. A new generation in the West Bank, Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem is living their reality of "Blowin in the Wind." Deep in their hearts, they do believe they "shall overcome someday."

On March 30th, 2009, in an article on The Huffington Post titled "The Challenges to Black Media Under President Obama", I wrote the following:

Magazine, newspaper, radio and TV reporters of the "Black Media" continue to appear uncertain, still searching for balance between their celebration and constructive criticism of this country's first African-American president. To date, adulation and celebration seem to be the dominant themes. However, adulation and celebration are no substitute for clinical, objective evaluation as to whether or not one or more of the prominent policies developed and proposed by President Obama are in the near- and long-term interest of the African-American community...

Critical and constructive analysis of President Obama's policies and their impact on those issues most affecting the African-American community is more important than ever, and certainly more useful than our Black Media's continued uncritical celebration of our new president.

An African-American president of the United States is an unprecedented, unfamiliar, and new "playbook" for African-American intellectuals. One may not agree with all of Dr. Cornel West's words of criticism of Obama. His outspokenness, however, is in the tradition of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Lorraine Hansberry. Dr.West shares the passion and commitment for full unadulterated, unequivocal, immediate freedom and justice, and protection against the violence of war and economic injustice; not just against African-Africans, but against all disadvantaged people in our nation.

Dr. West is a tuning fork for justice. I and others may not always be in tune. Sometimes, it may sound as if he is singing "off-key." It may be that other political "vocalists" around him are out of tune when they sing the same or similar songs before listening to the purity of his vibrations.