Oct 30, 2005

Rosa Parks Provided us With a Legacy. What's Our Duty Today?

A Simple Act of Great Consequence

Sometimes it takes a simple act--like standing up for your rights by sitting down--to change a country. Fifty years ago, Rosa Parks had the courage to change America. Unfortunately, racism still has an appeal in these United States of America in the 21st century.

"Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race be permitted to attend a school of the other race."

Over the last week, I've been watching the politicians paying respect to the legacy of Rosa Parks. Congress is honoring this civil rights matriarch by having her body lie in the Rotunda of the US Capitol; the first woman to receive such an honor. This is good and well. I do appreciate gestures of gratitude and sincere appreciation of a person's contributions to the betterment of our society. However, I would like to see more.

I would like to see our country a place where no one is discriminated because of race, gender, religious beliefs (or the absence thereof), ethnic background, and sexual orientation. I would like to see positive action when it makes a difference, not some kind of vague promise, in the undetermined future, and not when it's too late.

I would like to see a society where our citizens have opportunity to succeed regardless of their financial means, and that everyone gets equal treatment under the law. I would like to see every American has the right to healthcare and education. I would like to see tolerance, respect of privacy and individual choice is exercised along with personal and civic responsibility. I'd like to see that Americans begin to define patriotism not by the size of their flags but, themselves, being informed and engaged in the affairs of our nation.

Nobody likes to hear unpleasantries, but we must confront those unpleasant realities if we are to change them for the better. Social change often proceeds at a glacial speed, and often it takes a couple new generations to replace the old ones in order to see real change. Sometimes the law--as in anti-discrimination and racial issues--is ahead of the mood of large chunks of society which are too conservative to change their "tried & true" ways. Mark Twain once said that the power over cultural norms is stronger than the power to make laws.

It took the Supreme Court and federal troops to implement legal change in the South. Racism, sadly, is not gone yet. The lunatic fringe is not marginal anymore, as it has found representation in the current president and the Republican leadership. Bush has long lost the Democrats and the Independents; he now has only the support the fanatical theocrats and the powerlogs who want to turn this country back to Dark Ages. When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he joked that "here goes the South for a generation!" Well, it has been longer than that! The unfortunate reality is that although the country moved to end the horrible Jim Crow laws in the South, many Americans never changed their views. This reality is perhaps too harsh for many people to bear.

The quote in italics above is in the state constitution of Alabama. Obviously, it's a moot law, invalidated by the Supreme Court, but I want to ask you this: do you think that, if the people of Alabama had the option to decide on segregation today, would they keep that provision or repeal it from their constitution? I know what I would do if given the choice--I would vote to strike this abomination from the constitution and any law or regulation. Apparently, the majority of the people in Alabama that went to the polls last year and overwhelmingly voted for G.W. Bush failed to repeal this moot but symbolic statute from their constitution! Draw your own conclusions.

We have a long way to go, friends. We have to do a lot more maturing as a nation. We are still debating whether to embrace modernity, the scientific method, and safeguard privacy & civil rights. We should keep being inquisitive, truly brave, that is, able to handle the truth. I find that too many people among us don't have the courage to think for themselves deferring their choices to the ..Guardians. Bushco and all the other elected representatives work for us! We do the hiring, thus, we have a responsibility. Immaturity is the condition when a mentally capable adult refuses to act responsibly, exercise his full intellectual potential.
As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, adult immaturity is dangerous because of the people it produces! This self-imposed immaturity can lead to bigotry and erodes the conditions of freedom. I am hopeful, but not entirely confident that the road ahead will be without much strife.

I do think that every progressive person in this country has a duty to be involved in the struggle to take back America from the lunatic fringe. Rosa Parks did her duty. We have to do ours, in which every way we're presented with the challenge. Every effort, small or big, counts. Fifty years from now we may be considered the people who prevented the US from slipping backwards and rather helping our country remain at the forefront of freedom, tolerance, and a good place to experience all the thrills life can offer.

Speaking of life, I believe that the way we treat the young & the elderly, the sick & the invalid, all those who need & deserve our help says a great deal about our society today. Rosa Parks is being honored, and rightly so, but I'd like to know why this elderly person couldn't afford to pay her rent? [New York Times article ] She had to rely on a local church for support, until last year when her landlord stopped charging her rent. I think if we use common human decency as our guide we can truly make the world a better place to live; and, we should start from our own backyard; they're a whole bunch of forgotten people back there, behind the sunny porch and the shining city on the hill.

"I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die--the dream of freedom and peace." Rosa Parks

Oct 20, 2005

A Reminder: Rules for Being a Good Republican

It's been stormy lately.
I was going through my notes and I found a list of the golden rules for being a good Republican. This is a public service reminder to those Repubs who are shaken by the incompetence and the corruption of their leadership, and, given the latest developments, confusion may have set in. Stay on the message folks, show who you really are.

* You have to believe that those privileged by birth achieve success all on their own.
* You have to believe that a drug addict is a moral failing and a criminal. Unless you're a multi-millionaire radio blabber--then it's an "illness" and you need our prayers for recovery.
* You have to believe that the US should get out the UN and that our foreign policy has a priority to enforce the UN resolutions against Iraq.
* You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a good profit.
* You have to believe that prayer in school is mandatory, as long as you don't pray to "false gods" like Budha, Allah, and ..Zeus.
* You have to believe that patriotism is waving a big American flag, talking big about sacrifice (by others), while you move your corporation off shore, firing American workers and moving their jobs overseas.
* You have to believe that the government should stay out of people's lives but it needs to punish anyone who's having "immoral sex" in the privacy of their own home.
* You have to believe that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but corporations can make decisions affecting everybody with no regulation.
* You have to believe that not only you talk to Jesus but Jesus talks back to you and tells you that he loves you, that God punishes the feminists, the gays, the hedonists, and all "stray" people en mass. Did I mention that God loves Bush and hates Hillary?
* You have to believe that the ACLU does the devil's work, unless it represents convicted felons, Oliver North, fundie Xtians, etc.
* You have to believe that sex education and condoms should stay out of school because everybody knows without them teenages won't have sex.
* You have to believe that talking big about our armed forces is good enough, while you commit our precious resources on a pack of lies, cut VA benefits, sending troops to Iraq without proper armor, and trick young people (mostly drawn from impoverished sects of society) to sign up & re-up on false promises about future benefits.
* You have to believe that the best way to fight terrorism is to divide our friends and unite our enemies.
* You have to believe that government exists to help the corporate world, even helping monopolies, and by giving the corporation more rights than a citizen. Education, care for the environment, and health insurance should be decided by market forces.
* You have to believe that any movement is "progress" even if you're going backwards. Global warming, evolution, tobacco's link to cancer, are all "junk science" but creationism should be taught in schools as science.
* You have to believe that "compassionate conservatism" means that you care. You care about your own selfish world while you do little to affect positive social & economic change. You show that you care by forcibly trying to convert others to your own divinely-revealed truth. You care because you're afraid that God may hurt you inadvertendly when he unleashes his wrath on the sinners.

Please be free to add to this list; I'm sure I left lots out.

Oct 8, 2005

God's Gift to Kansas & Bush's Gift to America

It was three years ago this time when the Bush regime began to sell the war in Iraq on a pack of lies and deceptions. [click on the link to refresh your memory on what grounds the war was sold] There’s a buyer’s remorse in the country today, but back then, the national corporate media, the US Congress, and many Americans failed in their duty to question the rulers and check up on the facts before agreeing to commit our precious resources of blood, sweat, tears, and tons of money. What have we learned from this experience and how have we changed our ways? It’s hard to say really. A year ago, the depth of Bush’s failures, domestically and internationally, was quite evident. Yet, the majority of Americans opted to re-elect him. When it clearly matters—like national elections-- too many of our fellow citizens don’t take the proper care in making those crucial decisions. It’s one thing to vote for someone because you agree with most of his agenda and another thing to be fooled by him, especially when only some minimal critical skills and some reasonable effort is all that’s required for someone to be an active and informed citizen.

As the philosopher Immanuel Kant observed, laziness, cowardice and inability to employ one’s intelligence leads many grown people to happily remain immature throughout their lives! However, this political immaturity is dangerous, not only because unchecked rulers may lead the country to disaster but also because of the kind of people this prolonged immaturity produces!

Bush’s approval rating is extremely low for a US president, currently hovering in the mid 30s! He’s getting negative numbers on all important issues except the so-called war on terror, where it’s an even split. Can you see a repeat of the color-coded alert scheme next year before the elections? I don’t know if NYC mayor Bloomberg borrowed a page from Homeland Security’s book a month before the election in NYC, but the fact we have to question the motives shows that they tried to fool us before! [Tom Ridge, former head of the Dept. of Homeland has admitted that many times the federal government elevated the risk just for political gain--and it worked!] Fear is a great motivator, and the politicos aren’t shy in engaging the politics of fear. As a matter of fact this is the only card Bush and his Republican cohorts can still play. Look at the indictments of House majority leader Tom Delay, the looming criminal investigations of Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, the treasonous conduct of high White House officials—in both offices of the President and Vice President.

It’s no wonder that Bush chose Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Perhaps he couldn’t stomach another fight, though it seems that he wasn’t prepared to hear grumblings from his most conservative and trusted base, but he has. Not that Ms. Miers is a great find, mind you. She has said that Bush was “the most brilliant man” she had ever met! To me this alone is a disqualifier, unless Bush was the only man she had ever met when she made that statement. I do hope there has been some evolution in her thought since.

Bush continues to talk to us as best as he can: in a childlike manner. The problem is that not all of us are children. We want to be treated as responsible adults. Many of us are able to think critically, evaluate the facts and the arguments and happily take the responsibility of making the decisions that affect our lives. Bush’s trite statements like, “I’ve looked into her eyes,” and, “she’s got a great soul,” and, “she’s a fine woman,” don’t satisfy our inquiries into her judicial and political philosophy. And, the absence of any judicial trail makes the matter more urgent.

Thanks to David Sirota who dug up this gem in Federalist Paper #76 regarding the obligation of the Senate to closely scrutinize the president's appointments, as Alexander Hamilton writes, "It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment..." This must be a indigestable nugget for the cons and the Repubs.

The only fancy word Bush has ever used, “strict constructionist,” as a desired quality for a conservative judge, is almost never elaborated upon. The cons argue that judges shouldn’t make law from the bench and that the Constitution should be interpreted literally. This is a bag of hot air. The cons do want conservative judges on the federal bench actively pushing their ideology on the rest of us. As for the literal interpretation, and of relying on the ..intentions of the founding fathers (emphasis on the male gender), this is another distraction. The brilliant minds that forged the United States of America had their limitations. The same group of people responsible for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution wrote about the “rights of men” while they owned slaves! If Ms. Miers believes in the original intent of the Founders and the strict interpretation of the Constitution, I would like to ask her, “is it your opinion that when the Founding Fathers wrote the provision in the Constitution of the establishment of the Supreme Court really believed that a woman should sit on that bench?” ...

Hopefully, there is an evolution in thought and political practice taking into account contemporary realities and a more educated and responsible citizenry. For example, the reality of the frontier and the War of Independence dictated that every man should have the right to keep arms—like a musket and a knife. Today, most of us recognize that this doesn’t include the right to a bazooka, an F-16 fighter plane, or a nuclear device. But, of course, since the lunatic fringe got access to power via Bushco, we can’t hold a reasonable national dialogue about the important matters. When the other advanced countries have settled on the scientific method, tolerance, civil and human rights, we are still debating them here. Why? Because too many of us are afraid of terrorism and of burning in hell. And, when we surrender our minds to anything else other than love, we become a ship of fools skippered by charlatans full of incompetence and personal greed. Shedding our responsibilities only leads to perpetual immaturity, an unexamined life, and a mother load of troubles.

As Richard Dawkins recently said of those who oppose enlightenment, “bring us your mysteries for we can use them...don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away… Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.” Sadly, it's not only Kansas that's looking for the gift of ignorance.

Where do you fit in this scheme?