All Commentary
Monday, December 1, 1997

Pick a Better Country by Ken Hamblin

Each of Us Must Decide if We Will Be Winners or Losers

Simon & Schuster • 1997 • 251 pages • $23.00

Reviewed by James A. Woehlke

James Woehlke is a CPA and freelance writer.

The plot is now familiar: a youth spent courting liberal utopia morphing into a conservative middle age. Ken Hamblin’s book is a patriotic romp, as he shares his faith in the enduring vibrancy of the American Dream. Along the way, a lot of leftist myths and cliches crash and burn.

Hamblin was raised on welfare by his mother, a first-generation immigrant from Barbados. He didn’t relish public assistance; in fact, he hated it. He hated his mother’s need to mooch off relatives, to beg credit from the local grocer, and to move frequently. He especially hated being forced to wear his mother’s shoes to school one winter because there wasn’t money to get him his own shoes. Unlike so many of today’s urban poor, however, Hamblin’s mother wanted not to be on welfare and instilled this desperation in her son.

His first escape from poverty was courtesy of 1950s radio. Besides being entertained by “The Lone Ranger” and
“The Shadow,” Hamblin was moved by Jean Shepherd’s inspirational stories of life throughout America. He dreamed of living outside his native Brooklyn. At 17, Hamblin joined the military, and got his first taste of life outside of New York–and his first exposure to overt racism. He didn’t permit himself to be victimized, but laughed off the racist pettiness and moved on.

Hamblin’s first jobs after the service were affirmative action opportunities, but he was driven to succeed on his own merits, first as a journalistic photographer, then a documentary producer, and ultimately a successful talk show host and columnist. (Some call him the black Rush Limbaugh.)

Readers are cautioned. As an “unassuming colored guy,” Hamblin, who is known for his brash approach to social issues, has the luxury of callin’ ‘em as he sees ‘em. He has little patience for people of color who claim to purvey authentic black culture while espousing hatred, disrespect for women, and glorification of drug culture. Harsh epithets are also reserved for those who make welfare their lifestyle and those who reap huge political benefit from championing the welfare dependency of others.

He saves the strongest vitriol, however, for the white intelligentsia who collaborate to preserve the “Myth of the Hobbled Black,” the idea that inner-city social conditions hobble poor people of color the way chains hobbled black slaves 150 years ago. He accuses them of waging a “War on Prosperity.” Modern liberals, Hamblin maintains, need proof that America doesn’t work, so they actively acculturated people of color to see themselves as victims of an evil capitalist system. The liberals’ social experimentation and their unwillingness to hold inner-city sociopaths responsible for their antisocial behavior  have left a bloody trail of murdered and maimed, inner-city victims. This is a racism of the most insidious kind!

Hamblin’s message, for blacks, whites, everyone, is that in a free environment, each of us must decide if we will be winners or losers. “Once they decide they’re not going to be losers, nothing–not the KKK, not the white citizens council, not any group of bigots, not the old laws of apartheid in South Africa–nothing will stop them because they will be able to dig deep in their souls to acquire the strength to carry on. Welfare and liberal indulgence can never offer that kind of can-do attitude. ” May we all take these words to heart.