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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

Perhaps it was inevitable. After all, even the greatest of empires such as the Roman Empire or the British Empire – upon whose lands the sun never set – eventually collapsed. Their laws, values, and customs disintegrated as the people of the empire no longer cared enough to fight for them – as their ancestors had. Now the United States of America, an unacknowledged empire, but one nonetheless, is beginning to crumble, bit by bit. The barbarians are at the gates, held back only by a mostly mercenary army, lured into military service by steady wages, health and education benefits, college education benefits, and the promise of a secure, paid retirement. Meanwhile, the common people lead their lives as consumers of industrial agriculture, imported energy, and the goods of foreign lands. It is not the America envisioned by its founders; indeed, it is far from it. Gone are the citizen soldiers, the Minutemen. Gone are the self-sufficient family farms. Gone is the town meeting form of government where the citizens of a town met and agreed upon the town’s budget (except for a few anachronisms in New England). Now, an insidious erosion of American justice is underway, and as in the corruption of our economic system, the transformation of our military into a paid professional force, and export of American jobs to overseas sources of cheap labor and materials, the American people once again simply turn over on their sofas and click their remotes to see what is on the other channels.

However, this time it is different. This time, changes are happening that can undermine the very foundation of America and its ideals. The nation is threatened, not from external enemies, but from within. It didn’t begin today or yesterday. It started in earnest perhaps with the administration of George W Bush, although its roots go back at least to Ronald Reagan and the insidious replacement of pension plans with 401k accounts. It was the attacks on 9/11 that opened the doors of opportunity for Bush and Cheney, certainly the most despicable people to ever lead our government. Using the excuse of the necessities of war Bush and Cheney obliterated the rights of citizens to have private conversations without the government eavesdropping on their every word without a court order. Using the excuse that the country was in dire danger – more so that the threats that had come in a previous era  from Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan – Bush and Cheney developed a consistent policy of torturing prisoners, and in doing so became neo-Nazis themselves. These two individuals, entirely bereft of America’s sacred ideals, established a policy of indefinite confinement without trial for suspected terrorists, i.e. people who the U.S. government thought might be guilty – but for whom they had no proof of guilt. It was not a reasonable or sane policy. It is a senseless, literally insane policy, worthy only of a scene from Alice in Wonderland, “Sentence first – verdict afterwards!”

When President Obama campaigned for the Presidency of the United States he promised to end the indefinite detection of suspected terrorists in Cuba and have civilian trails for these people in the United States. They would be found guilty or innocent based upon American justice. However, it seems that it became apparent that virtually none of these people would be found guilty in an American court because their was insufficient evidence to prove their guilt. Under the rules of American justice they would have to be set free. So, like George Bush, Obama agreed to indefinite imprisonment and military trials for these people in Cuba. So much for the promises of Barack Obama.

Now, President Obama has signed into law a new act of a seditious Congress that will eliminate more rights of American citizens. This law will allow the detention, by the military, of American citizens who are suspected of being terrorists. No proof required. No rights of the citizen to a fair trial by his peers. No resort to the system of American justice. Instead, we citizens of the United States of America can be imprisoned without trial indefinitely by our own military. It will happen simply by having some official say, “I think he’s a terrorist.” We are witnessing the fall of the American Empire, we are seeing the rotting from within – a cancer on the Presidency, a corruption of the Congress, and a Supreme Court that has become nothing more than the begging servant of industry. And what do we do? We turn aside, grab a can of beer, and see what else is on TV.

We are no different from the empires of Rome and Greece and Egypt and Great Britain and so many more. These all had one thing in common. The people stopped believing in their ideals, the empires collapsed from within, and the barbarians tore down the gates of the cities while a complacent people drank wine and watched the circus.

It is a sad day for America.

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A long time ago, when my first child was born, I found to my surprise and consternation that my employer-provided Blue Cross Blue Shield policy did not cover normal childbirth expenses in a hospital. I guess they rationalized that by thinking that normal childbirth wasn’t a disease, so why should health insurance  pay for it? Fortunately, credit cards had just been invented. I put the balance due on my BankAmericard.  When I returned to work, a couple of days later, I complained to my coworkers about our lousy health care insurance. One of the older men, probably only a year or two away from retirement, spoke up and said, “Who cares? I don’t want to pay for your babies.”

I was taken aback by the his total and complete lack of concern about my plight, but somehow I was able to quickly retort, “Yes, and I don’t want to pay for your heart attack either!” The old man stood there speechless for a minute and slowly turned and walked back into his office without saying another word.

Today, as Congress struggles with the question of just slightly improving the U.S. health care system – certainly they’re not considering anything close to the health care that is provided in the civilized world – we find that we have become a polarized population. The Republicans are uniformly against the proposals at hand while the Democrats, true to form, are disunited but bumbling forward,kicking and screaming – not to mention dealing secretly.  It looks like the House Dems might actually vote “yes” at this time – but who knows, it’s not like all of our members of Congress are motivated by what is best for the country.

If one just steps back for a moment it’s easy to see what divides us. There are three groups of people, generally speaking, in this country. One group has no health care or very little health care and basically no voice in our government because they are the poor disenfranchised.  A second group has health care but is concerned about the people who don’t have it. The third group also has health care but doesn’t care about the first group in the least.  If they had their way the first group would just go away. The third group, of course, is the Republican Party. It is the party of “every man for himself” or “you’re on your own”.  It’s the party of “I’ve got mine and I don’t care about your problems. Take care of yourself.” They are the Party that aligns itself with the ” Christians” of America.

OK. Fair enough. The Democrats basically represent the method of living that mankind adopted a very long time ago in order to survive. It used to be called tribalism. Everyone was a member of the tribe and everyone contributed to the welfare of the tribe.  In turn the tribe took care of its members because every member was important. The Republicans, on the other hand, represent a newer, more modern point of view. They are the rugged individualists, the go it alone types. The can take care of themselves.  They are the philosophical descendants of the Calvinists who founded our original colonies  – people like the Pilgrims.  It was the early “pioneers” in this country who struck out on their own, with guns of course, and took the land from the Native Americans.  It was relatively easy to be on your own, living off the land, when you had all the firepower you needed and the American landscape lay there, ripe for the taking. And they took it.

Today, 95% of America’s wealth belongs to 1% of the population.  You can bet most of that 1% is Republican and Calvinist.  The question is this: why are so many other Americans also Republican when they have virtually no chance in sharing in the immense fortunes of the Elect?  Sadly, a big part of the answer lies in history.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he predicted what would happen: the “Solid South” that had always been the most dependable segment of the Democratic Party would turn Republican. And they did. The old Confederacy just couldn’t accept racial equality for blacks. That was half a century ago and much progress has been made in the old Confederate states, yet they are still the heart of Republican sentiment. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the cowboy states of the West – they are the rest of the Republican Party.

If one looks at the demographic of those poor people who have no health care there is one thing that stands out: they are mostly minorities.  They are largely blacks and Hispanics.  The message of the Republicans is clear: they already have theirs – and they have no interest in helping anyone else, and certainly not the blacks and Hispanics.  In the end, the health care debate in America is actually a debate about Civil Rights and ironically the Republican Party, the Party of Abraham Lincoln, is against the right of all the American people to have health care.

The right to health care is now recognized throughout the civilized world. It is only America that does not recognize this right.  The time has come for America to grant its people the same rights that are granted to the citizens of France and Ireland and Canada and Russia and Malaysia and England and Norway and Denmark and Germany and pretty much anywhere else you can name.  It is only the Republican Party that is united in denying this right to the American people because,  after all, they’ve already got theirs, and they certainly don’t want to pay for yours.

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