Point of View Columns

The Republican Plan to Destroy America

It should be clear to all that Republicans actually mean what they say. They said that they would block progressives being appointed to the Supreme Court until they got a neoconservative super majority on the most important bench in the country. And they did just that.

Trump and the Republicans said that they would withdraw America from the nuclear treaty with Iran which would immediately drive the entire Middle East closer to the brink of some unthinkable Armageddon. And they did just that.

Republicans said that they would expand mineral exploration and drilling rights into nature conservancies all over the United States. And they did just that.

And now, the Republicans have discarded any veneer of decency or a fig leaf of concern for American human beings.

Enter Senator Rick Scott from Florida, the Sunshine State.

Before he was a United States Senator he was the governor of Florida. And before he was governor he was the co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA, at one point the largest healthcare company in the United States. And at another point it was adjudged to be the platform for the largest Medicare fraud case in American history – close to $2 billion of fraudulent business practices.

The company was ultimately liquidated after paying enormous fines. Scott has always claimed to be unaware of any fraud, an interesting defense from the CEO of the company that he had founded.

In a rational and just world Scott might just be getting out of prison instead of being the chair of the Republican Senate Election Committee which is charged with supporting the senatorial campaigns of Republicans all over America. And being the innovative and creative person that he is, Scott developed a platform which he is urging all Republican Senate candidates to incorporate into their campaign.

This is a platform that sounds like the Six Commandments from Hell:

  1. Slash Social Security funding and require the entire program to be renewed by Congress every five years. Given the sludge like pace of Congress in doing anything, this would be a death penalty for Social Security.
  2. Require all families, even the poorest, homeless and hungry families to pay a federal income tax. How someone is supposed to pay income taxes without income is a mystery.
  3. A national ban on abortion. There is no mention of exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. That is probably not an oversight.
  4. Ending birthright citizenship. This would require the repeal of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which states that anyone born in the United States is a citizen. It is not clear that this proposal would have some retroactive feature.
  5. Expanded gun rights is another plank in the platform. Considering that there are already more guns than people in this country, and that over 40,000 Americans die of death by gun every year, it is not clear how much more expanded gun rights could be.
  6. Reverse climate change initiatives. Considering that this country is already the largest producer of carbon emissions on the planet, this sounds like an order from a highly intelligent alien life form that wants to clear humans from the planet so that it can be converted into a huge farm for far more intelligent beings from another galaxy.

Not every Republican senatorial candidate is totally wedded to this platform. But the fact that, in the third decade of the twenty first century, we have a major political party advocating a return to the time of famine, plagues and the workhouse as a reasonable political strategy.

It is to be expected that many Americans will not take these proposals as being serious. We should be clear; the Republicans and their billionaire class neoconservative supporters are serious.

And, as Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them.

It is time to stop wishing that it isn’t true. It is time to believe and to act.

Point of View Columns

Hate Begets Hate

Despite the lofty ideals set forth in founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the United States has always harbored hate as a very real part of its cultural DNA. So it should really not be a surprise that a particularly odious perversion of religious freedom has resulted in legislation in the state of Indiana that will make it legal to hate.

While there will always be those who argue that America is exceptional in every way, in one very way, the reality is that the United States is just like every other country in the world. Humans act out hatred of other humans for reasons ranging from race to gender to nationality to religion. And even a cursory overview of American history reveals organized and institutional hatred directed against Americans of African origin through slavery and beyond, Native Americans through genocide, Jews, Irish immigrants, Italian immigrants, women who wanted to vote or the right to choose control over their bodies, Chinese immigrants, Japanese Americans through concentration camps and gay men and women through continuing bigotry, discrimination and prejudice.

It would be nice to think that America has evolved to the point where hatred is no longer celebrated, much less legislated. But that thinking would not be fact based. Too many Americans hate President Obama because he is an American of African origin. Too many Americans, descendants of immigrants themselves, hate 21st century immigrants because they are not white. Too many Americans hate men and women simply because their gender preference does not conform to their own stated or presumed preference.

This hatred is sometimes celebrated with homophobic slurs or asinine racist songs on college campuses. This hatred is sometimes celebrated in dog whistle political rhetoric. But make no mistake, this hatred is indeed celebrated.

And now the state of Indiana joins twenty other states in legislating hate under the guise of protecting religious freedom. The Indiana “Restoration of Religious Freedom Act” is a politically inspired fig leaf covering the naked loins of homophobia and racism. The Act claims to protect “people of faith” (as distinguished from “people of no faith”?) from laws which prevent them from staying true to their religious principles.

Cutting through the verbiage and rhetorical prestidigitation, the Act will allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against individuals if their sexual preference, race or general appearance somehow offends their religious principles. What this Act does is continue to roll back the liberation of Americans that was brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 along with the 14th Amendment of 1868. This brazen effort to deny Americans of their constitutional rights with the ruse of protecting constitutional rights is transparent and obvious.

What is troubling is that the outrage directed at Indiana, with Arkansas on deck, does not seem to focus on the fact that twenty other states have already passed similar legislation. What is troubling is the fact that almost half the states in this nation have already moved to restore the freedom to hate, not only celebrating hate but also legislating the free expression of hate.

It is ironic that the United States, the first nation on earth to codify principles of personal freedom, is becoming the first nation on earth to voluntarily withdraw those freedoms.

It has been said……the end will come with not with a bang…but with one last whimper.

Point of View Columns

The Good Pig

In these times of tremendous challenge, and therefore awesome opportunity (we hope!), a bit of humor might be in order.

A resident of New York City goes to visit his friend who lives on a farm in the country. Upon greeting his buddy he is taken for a tour of the farm and sees a three-legged pig limping along in the distance. Being totally unfamiliar with rural ways, the city dweller inquires about the pig.

“That’s one great pig”, is the reply. “That pig has saved my life on two separate occasions and he also saved my little boy from drowning.”

“Well then”, our city dweller inquires, what happened to his leg?”

“Well, with a pig that good, you don’t eat him all at once!”

The Constitution has been a remarkably durable and flexible governing document. Its preamble has been a relevant mission statement before “mission statements” became management tools. Its ability to be amended has given it the ability to adapt to the need for fundamental changes but the amendment process has been necessarily arduous in order to preclude spurious and frivolous changes.

Like the good pig served the farmer and his family, the Constitution has served the people of the United States well. Unlike the good pig, the Constitution has been safeguarded from most rash, self-serving and short-sighted behavior with a few exceptions (Prohibition comes to mind, and that misbegotten amendment was rightfully repealed).

But now we are faced with yet another foray into mindlessness by the right wing of the right wing as their yahoo cohorts call for a repeal of the 14th amendment to the Constitution. This amendment, along with the 13th and 15th amendments did much to begin to heal the gaping wound in the credibility of American claims to freedom and equality that was slavery, a wound that is still not fully healed. But it also codified the notion of citizenship in a unique and historic manner.

The 14th amendment grants full rights of citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the United States. There are no gradations of citizenship in this country and that principle has been crucial in granting equal rights to all men and women regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual preference or physical disability.

The anti-immigrant motives of this bogus constitutional strategy are gossamer thin and fully transparent. With the singular exception of the descendants of full-blooded Native Americans, every American citizen is descended from someone who is from somewhere other than America. And, not surprisingly, American history is full of efforts by more established descendants of immigrants to claim superiority over more recent immigrants.

The Scotch-Irish and German Americans treated the Irish cruelly and ranked them below dogs when they first came to this country in large numbers. And then as the Irish became more “American” they joined in the condemnation of the huge numbers of Chinese who came to this country as laborers in the 19th century. The Chinese remained notably silent in attacking future immigrants, but that was not the case with the less recent immigrant Americans who rallied against the influx of Italians. And then the Eastern Europeans and Russians and more Germans came, and so on.

Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, however, the flow of immigration which has been this nation’s life’s blood starting getting darker and less familiar to “real” Americans. They came from Puerto Rico (technically a part of America but enough to fuel the anti-immigrant fires – see “West Side Story”), the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana and Mexico. These dreaded and darker immigrants have come in the millions and multiplied before the horrified eyes of the right wing of the right and their yahoo cohorts and their wholly-owned Tea Party subsidiaries.

And in the thought-deprived intelligentsia of the right wing of the right wing, this bright idea was born like Aphrodite strolling full grown from the brow of Zeus. Abolish the 14th amendment and the children of illegal immigrants will no longer be granted citizenship. Of course, the children of actual citizens would also have to have additional documentation aside from a birth certificate in order to claim citizenship, but the right wing of the right wing has never concerned itself with details or logic.

We have been witness to the “birthers” claiming that Barack Obama is not President of the United States because he was not born in America. With the abolition of the 14th amendment it is a safe bet that a faction of the “birthers” would claim that President Obama’s father was not legally in the United States and the “birther” farce would continue. With the abolition of the 14th amendment the Roberts-Thomas-Alito-Scalia wing of the United States Supreme Court will endeavor to more strictly circumscribe the rights that should be granted to all citizens and everything from the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Voting Rights Acts will be in serious jeopardy.

For a long time it has been time for the progressive aspects of American body politic to comprehend the very real jeopardy that the right wing of the right wing represents. This is not an issue of conservative versus liberal – that is a useful and constructive discussion that invigorates the rational exchange of ideas and concepts. What we see now are mean, nihilist and mindless avatars of injustice seeking to impose their small-minded vision of this planet on those of us who remain silent or inactive.

Clearly, now is not the time for silence or inaction.