Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tea Party

After President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, there was the traditional response by the opposition. But, there was a seconded response made by The Tea Party. The person speaking on behalf of The Tea Party was Republican Michele Bachmann. So, for the first time, there were two replies to The State of the Union by the opposition, one from The Republican Party and one from the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party.
Odd isn't it that there was coverage of a rebuttal of a Constitutionally-mandated Presidential statement by a group that is not a political party. It is especially intriguing when legitimate political parties and organizations are not accorded the same privilge. After all The Social Party has been around since 1901 and it can claim a current U.S. Senator. And, The Green Party is not even accorded the privilege of even participating in candidate's debates. But, The Tea Party is given national coverage and the ability to answer the President. It is a sad commentary on the state of the American media.
Did you know:
1. The Tea Party movement was started by Trevor Leach, an upstate New York resident who objected to then Governor Patterson's call for an "obesity tax" on foods that made you fat. Tea Party favorite, Sarah Palin, in her reality television show "Sarah Palin's Alaska" picked up this theme saying that attempts to make people less fat was social engineering and an intrusion in personal liberties.
2. One of the founders and contributors of The Tea Party was Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Virginia Thomas failed to pay taxes for at least 5 years. Her "strict constructionist" Republican husband who filled out the joint tax return knowingly violated the Federal Law and that is an impeachable offence.
3. Fox News, particularly Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, was responsible for publicizing The Tea Party's existence.
4. 80% of Tea Party members are registered Republicans; the rest claim to be "independents".
5. The Bloomberg National Poll indicated that in the group 40% are 55 or older, 79% are white, 61% are men and 44% identify themselves as "born again" or fundamentalist Christians. The group's members are also more conservative, more likely to be married, more likely to own a gun, wealthier, and better educated than the national average.
6. Both Verizon and ATT are among the heavy contributors to The Tea Party as is the energy giant, Koch Industries. So, if you use ATT, Verizon or Koch chemical or petroleum products, you are indirectly paying for The Tea Party.
7. Rupert Murdoch was granted U.S. citizenship by the special act of a Republican-dominated Congress in 1985 so he could purchase a TV station in New York. Every time you watch a Fox news, entertainment or sports program or cable channel, every time you watch a Twentieth Century Fox or Fox Searchlight movie, and every time you purchase The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal or any other Murdoch-owned publication, you enable Rupert Murdoch to not only get wealthier, but also enable him to financially support The Tea Party.
8. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the President of the United States rules by "the will of God". In saying so, he invokes "The Divine Right of Kings", indirectly maintains that to challenge The President is to challenge God's will, and knowingly ignores the idea that all American politicians are in office only "with the consent of the governed." He should be impeached for those views, yet he was one of The Gang of Five who installed George W. Bush who clearly lost the popular vote and the election in 2000. He also ignored that The Constitution says that elections are a state matter. But, Scalia, a strict constructionist and literalist knew better than The Founding Fathers. (Apparently, Scalia, a Catholic Republican right-wing ideologue, thought God whispered in his ear "appoint Bush". He was just doing the will of his Almighty Republican God.) Scalia has also aligned himself with Tea Party objectives and recently spoke before Tea Party gathering.
So, why did The Tea Party have an opportunity to rebut Obama's The State of the Union address? It is because the large corporations, the power-brokers, today's "Robber Barons", the corporate media, and their Republican allies have no problem with Fascism.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An American Tragedy: The Matthew Shepard Story

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a short, lanky and pleasant 21 year-old university student, was offered a ride home by two young men whom he was met in a Laramie, Wyoming, bar. On the way home, Shepard told them he was gay. The two men pistol-whipped him causing head fractures, multiple lacerations, and brain-stem damage. In addition, the two men tortured him and left him tied to a fence-post to die. When Shepard was found, he was in a coma. He never regained consciousness and died two days later. The two murderers, Henderson and McKinney, proclaimed their innocence and tried to persuade their girlfriends to provide them with an alibi. But, the police found the bloody pistol and Shepard's shoes and wallet in the killer's truck.
Both murders faced the death penalty. But, Henderson was allowed to plea-bargained for a sentence of life imprisonment if he agreed to testify against the other. McKinney's defense was at first Shepard had made sexual advances. Then, the story changed to a robbery that had gone wrong. Finally, Henderson, McKinney and their lawyer maintained after the convictions that Shepard was HIV positive and that he was drug-involved. (The prosecuting attorney said that there was not one shred of evidence to support such a claim.) Finally, the two girlfriends of the murderers said during the trial that they had planned to attack and rob a gay man. McKinney was convicted of felony murder, the penalty for which is death. However, the Shepard family intervened and brokered a deal whereby the second murderer would serve two consecutive life sentences. Their motivation was that both Matthew and his parents were opposed to the death penalty.
Matthew Shepard's funeral was picketed by the radical Kansas Westboro Baptist Church carrying posters saying "God Hates Fags" and that the victim would burn in hell. A friend of Shepard's heard of the impending demonstration and to shield the grieving family and friends from the protesters organize a way to shield those in attendance from witnessing the demonstration. The Republican majority on The Supreme Court maintained the church's right to protest at funeral and said that to prevent it was a violation of free speech. The organization that was created to shield the grieved family and friends continues its activities as is now called Angels of Peace and Angel Action. Both Westboro Baptist Church and Angel Action were at the funeral of the nine year-old girl who was killed in Tucson. The Baptist Church members carried signs saying "God Hates Catholics".
Henderson and McKinney were never charged with a hate crime because no Wyoming criminal statute provided for such a charge. The Shepard murder led to many calls to the Wyoming state legislation address hate crimes. The Republican dominated Wyoming legislature took up a hate bill in 1999; however, the measure failed because of a 30-30 tie. There has been no attempt to pass it since.
At the Federal level, then-President Clinton attempted to extend Federal hate crime legislation to include gays, lesbians, women, and the disabled. These efforts were rejected by the Republican dominated Congress in 1999. In September, 2000, The House and Senate passed anti-hate crime legislation; however , homosexuals were eliminated from coverage in the bill.
On March 20, 2007, the The Matthew Shepard Act was introduced in The Congress by Democrat John Conyers (Michigan) with bipartisan support and with 171 co-sponsor. Shepard's parents were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill easily passed the heavily Democratic House of Representatives and narrowly Democratic Senate. That meant because of differences in the house and Senate passed bills, it had to go to conference. However the bill was dropped by the Democratic leadership because of opposition from conservative groups and then-President George W. Bush who said he would veto it. There were not enough votes to over-ride a veto.
Following his election as President Obama stated that he was committed to passing the Act. The U.S. House of Representatives debated expansion of hate crimes legislation on April 29, 2009. During the debate, Republican Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina called the "hate crime" labeling of Shepard's murder a "hoax". The House passed the act by a vote of 249 to 175; most of the opposition came from Republicans, including the at large Republican from Wyoming. The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28 by Senators Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and a bipartisan coalition. The Matthew Shepard Act was passed October 22, 2009, by the Senate by a vote of 68-29. President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.
Wyoming's sole Congressman, a Republican, and its two Republican Senators voted "no".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Proposed 28th Amendment to The Constitution

There is a message floating around the web concerning a proposed 28th Amendment to The Constitution. The unsigned message says in part, "I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around." It concerns the so-called Congressional Reform Act of 2011. At first glance it looks like a logical, intelligent and reasonable attempt to solve a problem. But, upon closer inspection it is inaccurate and may make a bad situation even worse.

The amendment proposes the following:
1.Term Limits. : A maximum of two six-year Senate terms; or six two-year House terms; or one six-year Senate term and three two-Year House terms
2. No Tenure / No Pension. In other words, a Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
3. Congress (past, present & future) must participate in Social Security.
4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

I have seen efforts like this before, and on the surface, they look constructive and logical. But, I think that that it is more a show of frustration than a real solution to an enormous political problem face this country.
1. It smacks of "save me from myself". There are already term limits. Every two years for Congress and every 6 years for Senator. If you are dissatisfied with either, vote them out! Mind you, give gerrymandering of districts and state party preferences, in most cases, you would be trading in one Republican or Democrat for another. Also, knowing American politics, it will create round-robin office holders: mayor, then congressman, then senator, then governor, then TV commenter, then....
2. If you do not give politicians pensions or medical care, you virtually guarantee that only the wealthy can serve because they are the only ones who can afford to- and that will be even worse than we have now.
3. Congress participates in Social Security and has done so since 1984.
4. Members of Congress currently make $174,000 and are entitled to a COLA (cost of living increase) every year based on the Cost of Living Index- the same index which is the basis for Social Security increases. Congress cannot vote itself a pay-raise. It can only vote for a pay raise for the next Congress. And remember, members of Congressmen/women must maintain two homes, travel between two places, etc.
5. The Congress is insured for medical expenses as are all Federal employees. It is workplace fringe benefit similar to what others get. Individual members can also buy additional coverage or have co-insurance from a working spouse. The coverage is the proto-type for parts of the new health care law.
6. Void all contracts? All? Why?

The proposed amendment not only does not make sense, it also does not solve the problem. If the American people want real change, they have to start by insisting on rules changes for both The House and Senate, the end of life-time appointments to the courts, limits on campaign spending, re-instatement of The Fairness Doctrine (equal access on the media for all candidates for any political office), equal access to media by minor party candidates, requiring every winning candidate for office to get at least 50% of the vote (or there is a run-off), and limiting campaign season to six months.

In a more general sense, the American people have to be more responsible too. They have to stop fearing government, respect education and intelligence, start to pay attention, vote and vote in their own self-interests, insist on strong anti-political-corruption legislation, insist on regulating banks and corporations, install tariffs and a moratorium on immigration, understand that taxes provide services, and increase taxes on the obscenely wealthy.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Censorship

When I was in high school in the early 1960s, in my sophomore year, we were required to read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The English teacher skipped over parts of the play which she deemed "inappropriate" and explained why she deleted them. A whole section early in the play when the nurse is taking to Juliet's mother is sexual and bawdy, and when Romeo is banished and goes to Friar Lawrence's cell, he starts to cry. The first scene was censored because of sexual content and the use of the word "maidenhead". The second scene was eliminated explained the female teacher because Romeo starts to cry and crying was "unmanly behavior". Meantime, the underground book that was all the rage on campus was The Catcher in the Rye because it contained the forbidden word, "fuck". Today, the war on "fuck" continues and censorship is just about the only thing on which both liberals and conservatives agree but for different reasons.

Alan Gribban, a professor at Auburn University in Alabama has produced a new politically correct, sanitize and "improved" edition of the Mark Twain classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In it, he replaces the word "nigger" (which appears in the novel more than 200 times) with the word "slave". Never mind that Twain was not only not a racist, but was a leading advocate of equal rights for the former slaves. Never mind that Twain was attempting to accurately reflect the use of language of that time and the use of the vernacular with his characters. Never mind that Finn conquers his prejudice and is willing to "burn in hell" rather than turn against Jim. And, never mind that word "nigger" is used more by black teen-agers in reciting hip-hop lyrics than in the white population as a whole. The high school student must be "protected" from vulgarity and prejudicial words, as if these words and attitudes don't exist.

What is worse than the deliberate manipulation of a classic for reasons of taste and misguided language manipulation, and political correctness. is that Gribban, an educator, is denying teachers of a "teachable moment". A classroom discussion could take place about what the vernacular is, word denotation and connotation, ethnic labeling, hurtful words, ethnic slander, stereotypes, prejudicial language, and political correctness. And in the end, whether the individuals approve of the use of the word "nigger" or not, at least they will understand more about the historical context and the author's intent about the word's use. To my mind, that is preferable to word suppression and censorship because that is what analyzing a book and education is all about.

Equally wrong is conservative and religious censorship. Until the mid-1900s, books were banned in Boston for indecency. Works by Sophocles, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Melville, Whitman, Sartre, Burroughs, Bradbury, Camus, Henry Miller, and Rowlings have been burned, banned or censored. Even sexual and violent portions of The Bible have not escaped "re-interpretation" and censorship by religious fanatics and fundamentalist. The Catholic Church maintains a list of "banned books", and the list reads like a Who's Who in classic and contemporary literature and in both religious and political thinking.

To the Ancient Greeks, anything about being human or the human condition was not only examined in writing but also in their religious festival performances which subsequently became the roots of modern theater. They examined such topics as incest, patricide, regicide, victimization of women during war, etc. Almost nothing was off limits. Because of this attitude, they gave the world democracy, some of the world's greatest thinkers, magnificent artwork, the concept of logic, and the seeds of modern science. That was 2500 years ago. We still don't get it and have not caught up.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Politics of Miracles

Miracles apparently are a reward for being Catholic. The religion that touts itself as "the one true faith" has recognized one of its own as a "miracle-worker". Pope Benedict XVI has accepted that a miracle took place when a Catholic nun in Arles, France, together with every nun in her order as she says "prayed incessantly" to the former Pope John Paul II to cure her of Parkinson's Disease. And, the shaking stopped. But, many questions arise about this so-called miracle. But, before you accuse me of still another case of Catholic-bashing, hear me out.

The Vatican has admitted that it has circumvented the process because of public opinion. There is a five year rule concerning beautification which states that The Church must wait at least five years after the death of an individual before start of the sainthood process begins. John-Paul II was dead for only three years when the former Nazi who became the current Pope started the process. Similar public pressure exists concerning Mother Teresa who died thirteen years ago, but her beatification was not sped up. Why? Could it possibly be that a Pope takes priority over a nun? Could it be that Benedict XVI is concerned about Papal authority, the declining church attendance in both Poland and France, and that he understands that there is no net gain in canonizing a woman who was born in Moslem Albania and became a citizen of Hindu India? And, could it be that Benedict is more concerned about Papal authority and politics than is motivated by religion?

In case you think that all of this is far-fetched, look at recent history. During World War I, the French were under siege. Seizing an opportunity, The Vatican reversed itself on Joan of Arc. The woman who resisted an English invasion was burned at the stake as a witch for hearing voices. But as a French symbol of resistance, she became a useful symbolic tool in the Vatican's attempt to side with Catholic France as opposed to predominately Lutheran Germany. And in more recent history, it is no accident that The Catholic Church has recognized "miracles" and has canonized deceased clergy from places where it confronts scandal or declining membership, like Latin America, Australia, and the U.S.

This sainthood game is being played by a Church that sided with oppressive wealthy landowners against the peasants in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, waged a 500 year war against science and humanism, objected when the Nazis exterminated the mentally retarded but did not utter a word when over 8,000,000 Jews, Gypsies, and gays were killed, and constantly attempts to re-write history. This is from a Pope who said that even thinking about female clergy would result in eternal damnation. And, Benedict (like his predecessor, the would-be saint John Paul II) was in the thick of the cover-up of the pedophile priest scandal.

Finally, isn't it odd that the miracle-workers restrict their miracles to Catholics? Logically, why perform a "miracle" concerning the elimination of Parkinson's in an already-believing nun? Instead, if the "miracle" were performed on a non-believer or if it involved the elimination of the disease for believers and non-believers alike, wouldn't it make believers out of many non-believers ?

Underlying this discussion is a fundamental question. It is, do miracles ever occur? The atheist George Bernard Shaw said "We have not lost faith, but we have transferred from God to the medical profession." He implies that the more science discovers, the fewer the number of things occur that we call miracles. But, I think that is too simplistic a position to take.

I think miracles do occur. And, you do not need the verification of a man who claims to be the Vicar (substitute) of Christ to verify it. After all, every time a child is born, every time a woman survives breast cancer against the odds, every time a person bounces back from a catastrophe, every time we see the extraordinary in the ordinary, every time we make a new friend, it is a miracle. Because life itself is the ultimate miracle. And, The Pope's stamp of approval is unnecessary.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Shootings in Tucson

America has become a very sick nation. Between right-wing hate speech, it's a long history of violence, its misplaced priorities, and its gun-culture nurtured by the political right, we are in serious trouble. I predicted that a Democratic Congressman would be shot more than a year ago when the Tea Party started to disrupt constituent meetings. And, yes, the killer in Tucson is mentally ill, but it is again being used by the conservatives and the gun advocates as the sole reason for the massacre. But, the fact remains that it was very easy for him to get a gun and that the incident was in incendiary Arizona. Also, the killings were at a constituent gathering, a Democrat was the target, and the Representative was a woman and a Jew who was "targeted" by Palin and right-wing media. And, unless level-headed people and the Democrats start to have the courage to go on the attack about it all, mark my words, there will be more shooting. It is all out of control and one great speech by Obama and the killing of a 9 year-old will not resolve anything. We have allowed the nut-fringe to be in charge and to create their own agenda for America- an agenda of hate, violence, arrogance, religious fundamentalism, bigotry, and no-nothingism. Finally, a recent international poll indicated that world-wide people have more respect for the Chinese than for Americans. The moral authority of the U.S. is waning. And, unless we get our priorities straight and get our house order, we will be seen as the largest "banana republic" in the Americas.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Co-conspirators

English King Henry II had a problem. At the King's insistence, his friend, and his former Chancellor, Thomas a Beckett, was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by The Pope. But, Beckett turned against the king because he felt that his primary loyalty was to The Church and The Pope, rather than to his Sovereign. Henry uttered the famous phrase, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Taking their cue from the King's words, three knights killed Beckett at the main alter of Canterbury Cathedral. Henry's insistence that he had no part in the murder, that his words were not responsible for his own knight's behavior, and that the assassins acted alone. However, Henry's words had their intended effect and The King was rid of his "meddlesome priest." But, history blames Henry for Beckett's death because words have consequences.

The Tucson, Arizona, massacre which claimed eight lives and nearly took the life of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was not the work of a lone and unhinged gun-man. No matter how much certain people object to hearing the truth, it is as plain as day that there were many co-conspirators who are as equally guilty for the killings and attempted killings. That is because words and images have consequences.

Among the most guilty are:

The Republican Party: The Party of the Gun has used and has condoned inflammatory and hateful rhetoric in its lust for power. It has willfully misstated facts and fed the flames of bigotry ad hate. Various elements in that party have called Democrats Communists, traitors and Godless. Often, it uses its mouthpiece Fox News to disseminate its incendiary message.

The Tea Party: The nut-fringe of The Republican Party that disrupts peaceful assemblies and meeting, sometimes showing up with guns.

Sarah Palin: The darling of The Tea Party set uses target-practice photos of Democrats. She is also have been known to say that if people don't take the government back by the ballot, there is always the gun.

The Supreme Court: The Republican and Catholic majority of The Court ruled in its last session that any restraint on guns is unconstitutional. It deliberately ignored the first-half of The Second Amendment of The Constitution clearly states , "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." So, where is the "well-regulated militia" Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito? But, The Court did create a gun restriction. You cannot carry a gun in a courtroom because…why is that again?

The Media: What passes for news and commentary is a national disgrace. It is driven by ratings and advertising. It thrives on sound-bites, confrontation, sensationalism and a cult of personality. It also gives a forum to anyone with something to say, whether it is a lie or the truth. Typical of this is amount of exposure given to the "birthers" (those who refuse to accept the fact that Obama was born in the U.S.) and their Republican supporters. Also, typical of lousy news coverage is the appearance of Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona on CNN voicing how shocked he was after the shooting of Giffords. Shocked? Franks is a Tea Party favorite who has vociferously attacked Giffords, liberals, Democrats and has even called Obama "an enemy of humanity". Did he seriously think that his hateful speech would have no effect, particularly in a state where guns are readily available and with a Governor who disguised her bigotry and hatred of Democrats with rhetoric about illegal immigration?

The NRA: I have one question for the NRA. A car in the wrong hands is a lethal weapon. So, if we license drivers because driving a car involves understanding the rules, following precautions, using skill, etc., what exactly is wrong with doing the same with guns? Oh, I forgot. Guns don't kill people; people kill people.

The Culture of Violence: We are a nation founded with violence, glorify the violent past, use euphemisms of a genocide, and even have a National Anthem that talks about war and not peace. We settle disputes using violence and even see entertainment value in violence.

Finally, few outside his home state of Arizona have ever heard of Sheriff Clarence W Dupnik. But largely because of him, world reaction to the Tucson shootings has focused on inflammatory right-wing rhetoric.

A local law enforcement officer for more than 50 years, Dupnik, it seems, no longer feels a need to mince his words. On Saturday he condemned "the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country". The next day he called Arizona the "tombstone of The United States" because of its lax gun laws. He also berated those who "try to inflame the public 24 hours a day" with "rhetoric about hatred, mistrust, paranoia of how government operates"
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For some on the left, the sheriff is the hero of the hour, daring to say what many believe. For others on the right, he is an un-American villain who is trying to exploit a mass murder for notoriety and political gain.

Among others, a nine year-old girl is dead because she dared to be in the same place as her Representative in Congress. And yet, the hateful divisive rhetoric that contributed to this child's death continues. When will the adults who contributed to this child's death start to act like they really give a damn?

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Senator Rand Paul

In his stealth campaign to be a Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul scarcely opened his mouth. Such is the politics of Kentucky that even tobacco blight could win an election if it ran as a Republican. And, Rand Paul did win big. However, in one of his rare campaign appearances, Paul said that the Americans with Disabilities Act should be repealed. His apparent reason is that the ADA is that it is an unfair business mandate, costs millions of unnecessary dollars to be spent, the market-place should determine what polices should be applied to the handicapped, and it is social engineering on the part of The Federal Government.

The ADA was passed in 1990 with bi-partisan support. And, since then it has been a God-sent to an ever increasing number of disabled Americans. From handicapped parking, to broken side-walk curbs, to ramps and elevators at entrance and within building, it has allowed the blind and those in wheel-chair greater access and participation. And, when it comes to employment, the law states that merely by having a disability, an individual cannot be excluded from getting a job which does not involve the handicap.

What is ironic about Paul's attack on the ADA is that before the act was passed, the marketplace did not address the issue of discrimination against the handicapped and many towns and businesses took the Paul position. But now 21 years after the ADA enactment, there is virtually no opposition to the mandates because access by the disabled has been good for business. Furthermore, few people want to be seen as prejudiced against the handicapped and the structural mandates are accepted by most Americans to the point where many people prefer to use ramps and elevators rather than steps. Finally, with an aging population increasingly prone to handicapping conditions, handicapped parking needs to be increased and not eliminated.

So why does the Senator want to repeal a popular law and one which both helps the handicapped and business? The reason is that Paul, like so many of his party and the Tea Party fringe which endorsed him, believes in the old mantra, "Government which governs best, governs least". And, the Senator has joined the government to push an anti-government agenda and to fight against the interests of many Americans while he avails himself of free medical care, under-the-table-cash, and the perks of office to push an anti-government agenda. He is so locked in to his libertarian views that he really does not care about the environment, the human condition, or the general good. He really believes that people control their own fate, and if they are dealt a raw deal, they must suffer the consequences. It is a philosophy as old as mankind. It maintains that I am a self-made man, and the only person who matters is me, ME. ME!

The only problem is Paul is not a self-made man. His father is a Congressman from Texas (where else), he was handed a safe Republican seat for The Senate in spite of the fact that had he never held political office. His father is both influential and wealthy. Rand Paul managed to attended both Baylor and Duke (medical school) on his father's money and has amassed considerable wealth himself. He said it was "un-American" to blame PB (a British company) for the Gulf oil spill, said that discrimination in housing is acceptable because it involves "private property", objects to Title 2 of The Civil Rights Act which outlaws discrimination based on ethnicity or religion in public accommodations, and is an ophthalmologist who was never certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Instead was certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology, an organization founded by himself. (Its address is a UPS store.) This is the Senator who wants to get rid of the ADA.
Perhaps more astonishing than the idiocy of Rand Paul is the idiocy of the sizable number of people who voted for him. But, then again, maybe there are no disabled Americans living in Kentucky. Perhaps, tobacco poisoning and lung cancer get them first.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Prejudice

The is a song in the musical Godspell which contains the line, "someone's got to be oppressed." It appears so, at least in the U.S. At one time or another, there has been oppression or prejudice against Indians, Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Moslems, Blacks, the Irish, the French, the Poles, the Germans, the Chinese, the Japanese, Southerners, Northerners, Italians, Mexicans, the wealthy, the poor, pacifists, fat people, short people, homely-looking people, stutterers, women, and gays. And, most of these prejudices still survive today, though many have gone underground.

Oppression is rooted in attitudes which see groups as different, inferior or un-Godly. And, prejudice and oppression go hand-in-hand. The irony in all of this is that once the oppressed gain in respectably, enter the mainstream, and become part of the dominant culture, all too often they adopt the prejudices of the majority.

Everyone has prejudices. From the first time we are aware of differences, we develop preferences . And, an outgrowth of these preferences is prejudice. But, prejudice is different. from mere preference. It is literally "pre-judging", that is, taking one sample or an example and forming an opinion about an entire group. So, prejudice is irrational because it is discrimination based on a irrational generalization which does not take into consideration differences. In simpler terms, it is to judge all fruit based on having once eaten a pear and an apple. Likewise, to assume all Turks or Frenchmen are alike because you were told to hate or like them or because you have met one or two is also prejudice.

Anyone who says that he or she is not prejudiced is either deluding him or herself or is a liar. But for many people, the knowledge that prejudice is an evil to be fought is part of that person's self-awareness and a reality. Unfortunately, this is not true for everybody. And, although prejudice has gone out of fashion, many people have devised clever ways to be prejudiced but not appear to be so.

The first technique is using the disclaimer "I am not prejudiced, but…." This is followed by a statement that rationalizes a prejudice. For instance, "You know I am not prejudiced but those Jewish bankers really stick together and control the world". Fact: Most banking tycoons are not Jewish.

The second technique is to say, "Everyone knows…." The advantage to this pre-statement is that if you see through it or object to it, you are placing yourself in opposition to the common wisdom and what supposedly everybody accepts as the truth. For instance, "Everyone knows that all Muslims are out for world domination and are a bunch of terrorists." Fact: Most Muslims are not out for world-domination and are not terrorists or even terrorist sympathizers.

The third technique is seeming-intellectualism. For example: "Statistics point out that there are more blacks on death row than whites." The implication is clear; blacks cause more crime and/or more violent crimes than whites, so being anti-black is not only logical but a good thing. Fact: Statistically, 49% of death row men are white as opposed to only 40% of black men according to a CNN and Gallop poll. In addition, whites cause more crimes than blacks. But, a jury is more likely to give the death penalty to a black than a white by 18% for the same or similar crime. And 98% percent of prosecutors who ask for the death penalty are white as opposed to only 1% who are black.

The fourth technique is to cite personal experience. For example: "I went to Catholic school and I know from experience that the nuns were sadistic." Fact: Well, I went to Catholic school and I can tell you that a many nuns were cruel, sexist and sadistic, but not all of them.

The fifth technique is code. For example: "Barak Obama was not born in Hawaii." Fact: Obama was born in Hawaii. The statement is code for, "He is black, and a black man should not occupy The White House."

Finally, the sixth technique is the defiant statement and name-calling. It is up-front in-your-face prejudice which wants to be accepted and rewarded for its honesty. It also literally dares you to object. For example: "Those God-damn queers are all alike. And if you defend them, you are nothing but a cock-sucking faggot yourself!" Fact: It is futile to argue or rationally deal with such a statement or individual.