Despite the Obama administration using airstrikes in Iraq, an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown of Missouri shot to death by police, extreme poverty, random acts of violence and homelessness that burden Oakland, as well as other issues that afflict this city, this nation and this world; apathy and futility have continued to pervade our political dialogue so much that the public has forgotten the duties and obligations of citizenship.

The outcome in the words of former Sen. Robert Kennedy: "We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear -- only a common desire to retreat from each other -- only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers."

Indeed, there is no final absolute answer despite the promises by policymakers and political figures. A lack of sense of community isn't the concern of policy, though policy is needed. Nor is it the concern of money, though money is needed to be coupled with new policy. Rather, it is a shared sense of social justice toward each other to which we are obligated.

A change in mindset, the idea that we each have the burden of risking our own happiness, our own personal ambition and success for that of others and for the greater good. A shared belief of personal sacrifice for the greater good and of moral obligations to social justice is what Oakland needs today.


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The Oakland struggle is the nation's struggle. For Oakland is a microcosm of the nation, a caricature of modern-day American with all of its problems that burden the soul of this city and this nation.

So when we allow apathy and futility to poison our minds and our hearts, the struggle will only get worse. Whether we like it or not, apathy does not have a place in our future. Whether we like it or not, patience will be key in achieving social justice. Passion, reason, imagination and, above all, courage are the vital and essential qualities that are needed to enter into the moral conflicts of our time.

This type of politick seems, indeed, impossible to achieve, but we need only look to our past for inspiration and direction, and have the courage and imagination in creating a new order of things. Specifically the '60s, for all of the tragedy and bloodshed that has stained that decade comes wisdom for whomever wishes to tap into it.

It was words and ideas that took hold of the hearts and minds of the many Americans during that time. Ideas and words of compassion, citizenship, duty, love and of moral courage.

It wasn't dogmatic ideology that poisons the imagination that made people take to the streets to protest nonviolently. No, rather a shared belief in a better politick, a better community and a better nation. I hope that the people of Oakland will look inward to find that moral courage within all of us so that social justice and peace will not be such strange aspirations.

Matthew Chavez is an Oakland resident.