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Violence in the Streets

Following the Kennedy assassination the disheartened and confused American public demanded to know what really happened, to settle the public mind that we understood the attack on our nation and we would maintain the political order. President Lyndon Johnson appointed the Warren Commission, under the leadership of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to investigate and settle the nation's collective mindset regarding the meaning of the tragic events that unsettled our nation and threatened our national cohesion.

After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the subsequent riots in America's streets, President Johnson again commissioned a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. They, too, after the tragedy of more violence and a sense that American society was disintegrating before our eyes, issued a report of the origins and impact of the civil disorder that threatened the social fabric of our nation.

The time has arrived for President Barack Obama to commission the leading minds of the legal, civil rights and law enforcement communities, along with other highly respected Americans, to examine the impact of violence on our society. With the killing of African Americans by police, the proliferation of violence in the streets, and the threat of foreign and domestic terrorism, Americans again sense and fear the disintegration of the our national cohesion.

The chairperson of the Commission should not be a member of the Eastern Establishment or the same Ivy League universities as so frequently are represented in our ruling institutions. That person must reflect the concerns of the common citizen. We watch disquietly as religion is set against religion, race against race, and social/economic class against social/economic class. The President must seize this opportunity, as Lyndon Johnson did in a time of similar disruption and violence, to penetrate to the root of the causes of violence and the dismantling of American society, before the polarization of America fractures our nation so badly that the body politic can no longer be mended.

Rabbi Mark H. Levin, DHL

Founding Rabbi: Congregation Beth Torah

Overland Park, KS

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