Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 16, 2010

Some thoughts as the summer simmers and the second decade of the twenty first century moves inexorably towards its appointed rounds:
Justice Denied
This weekend some sports aficionados may have seen the ironic news announcement that the Iroquois national lacrosse team was denied entry to the United Kingdom and would not be able to compete in the 2010 lacrosse world championships that are taking place in that country. The reason for the absence of the team representing the people who literally invented lacrosse is that they wished to travel using their Iroquois national passports – not United States passports. And the United States government and the British government felt that these documents would not be sufficient for the Iroquois team to travel even though for 27 years, the team representing the Iroquois – the confederacy of Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations – has been the only Native American team to compete internationally, using Iroquois passports for all of that time.
What bureaucratic epiphany enveloped the civil servants in London and Washington to decide that now was the time to deny these Native Americans this small modicum of sovereignty is unknowable. We do know that an entire continent was taken from the ancestors of the Native Americans, with the British and Americans (along with the Spanish, French and Dutch) were complicit in this historical heist. And clearly the irony of the British and the Americans colluding in this additional indignity is lost on the perpetrators.
But it is sad and it is a shame that the other teams that are in the tournament did not perceive this reiteration of historical injustice. There are 29 other teams participating and, at the time of this writing, not one team, not one athlete has refused to participate. The beat has gone on without protest or pause or some recognition that justice has been denied to Native Americans – again. The bureaucrats and athletes are safely insulated from the reality of their participation in the continuation of injustice against a people who invented the sport that they are now playing. It is hard to see how the winners in England can call themselves “champions”. Not this time.

The Price of Victory
The last few decades have not been kind to the liberal/progressive cohort of the American body politic. After Nixon there was Ford. Then there was the all too brief Carter presidency followed by Reagan followed by Bush – a full dozen years of continual shifting to the right. Through “triangulation” there were eight years of Bill Clinton, still the rightward shift persisted. And then, of course, thanks to a purloined election sanctioned by the right wing of the United States Supreme Court, eight more years of a President named Bush.
With the election of Barack Obama, there was a widely held belief in the liberal/progressive cohort that a cessation and reversal of the rightward shift was at hand. And any objective appraisal of the first 18 months of the Obama Administration would lead to the conclusion that this country is indeed moving in a more progressive and enlightened direction. But any objective appraisal of the prevailing mood of politicians and commentators from the liberal/progressive wing would lead to the conclusion that many Obama supporters are profoundly disappointed with the results of his presidency to date.
Somehow the passage of the historic healthcare bill is now seen as inevitable. The tireless rehabilitation of America’s international stature is viewed as sideshow of a sideshow. The bold and aggressive stimulus package which almost certainly saved this country from a reprise of the Great Depression of the last century is characterized as inadequate because it has not fully solved the institutional rot that has permeated the financial marketplace turned casino. Indeed, even the historic financial reform bill passed this week has been criticized as being too little too late.
There is every reason for every one of us to have high expectations of the Obama Administration. And there is every reason for sane and rational supporters of progressive change in this country to understand that President Obama is practicing the art of the possible rather than immolating his presidency on the altar of the perfect. And while his record of achieving the possible has been truly remarkable and the stuff of real history, it is amazing that so many expressions of disappointment and defeatism have emanated from the liberal/progressive cohort. We should consider the consequences.
Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, by howling to “kill the bill” referring to the healthcare bill, came incredibly close to doing just that. That would have meant the virtual end of any possibility of healthcare reform for a generation. And by his howling, Dr. Dean empowered the ubiquitous right wing of the right wing to not only continue their passionate denial of the importance of healthcare, even after its passage, but it also gave aid and comfort to the yahoo bizarros who now are running for office and whose Neanderthal approaches to governance would prove to be the ruination of this country.
Consider that, in Nevada, Sharron Angle is the Republican nominee for the United States Senate and she is on the record as being in favor of the dismantling of Social Security and the Departments of Energy and Education. In Kentucky, Dr. Rand Paul is the Republican nominee for the United States Senate and he has openly questioned the validity of the Civil Right Bill. In Connecticut, the Republican nominee for Senate, Linda McMahon, the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, controls a company whose trail to success is littered with the broken and bruised and discarded bodies of wrestlers who receive no healthcare, insurance or pensions. She proposes to bring her “good business practices” to the halls of Congress.
Please read the preceding paragraph again and realize that these candidacies represent the first wave of the reaction of the right wing of the right wing to the prospects of even modest change. It is not necessary to pledge allegiance to the United States of Obama. But the challenges of the time do require us to measure our criticism of the Obama presidency and balance it against the very real danger of regressive conservatism that threatens us all.
It may be time to focus on the proponents of regressive conservatism who publicly promise to dismantle a governmental apparatus that has sustained every American and has allowed many to prosper. It may be time to engage in more constructive and supportive criticism of an Obama Administration that is clearly our best home for the progressive and innovative change in this country.
As in all political decisions it is important to consider the alternative. What would President John McCain have done with the national financial meltdown during the past 18 months. What would President Sarah Palin do when faced with the BP oil crisis? How would President Hank Huckabee handle the much needed reformation of the American educational system? What would President Mitt Romney say to the Muslim world community? What would Senator Rand Paul say to the jobless and homeless and hopeless Americans who need compassion and support, not neo-conservative psychobabble that makes points but solves nothing?
We can consider the alternatives and make decisions in our best interests for today and tomorrow. It would seem that the choice is clear.

Have a great weekend!