Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

LWB: Living While Black…No Matter Gender or Age

In democracy, racism, tea party on August 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm

What’s the formula for success in the United States?


Graduate from high school………………check

Graduate from college…………………….check

Marry, raise your children…………………check

Raise your children after a divorce…………check

Work at a career………………………………………..check

Stay with the same employer over 25 years……..check

Return to school for additional education………….check

What happens if you do all the right things, according to the American dream? Shouldn’t you be able to take a walk during your work break and head back to work after that exercise?

Not if you’re a nearly 60 year old black woman.

My sister has accomplished all of those things. And more.

She was taking a walk near her workplace in Omaha when a grocery store nearby was robbed by a black woman. You can already guess what happened next.

My sister was stopped, questioned, detained, put in a police car and taken back to the store. Thank goodness the clerk was honest and told the police that my sister was not the thief.

My sister, who couldn’t work the remainder of the day, went home and cried.

Some of us, ironically, satirically, laughingly, call traveling in these United States DWB (driving while black).

I see it as broader… as LWB (living while black).

I also call it a symptom of the deeply embedded racism that has permeated this country since the Reagan area began nearly 34 years ago, multi-national corporations have tightened their control over our politicians and the tea party and its vitrolic attempts to promote one group (primarily white males) to power have stripped our nation of its future as a spiritual, caring, country that welcomes all Americans. A scholar recently called it white rage….because things aren’t the way they used to be when nearly all white men were considered unquestionably right, especially as contrasted against people of color.

I’m angry, dismayed, disheartened and frustrated.

LWB denies us, black folks, the right to live our lives in dignity. It also challenges us/me to look at police not as law-enforcing but as life-endangering bullies.

I’ve mentioned in a radio spot how I’d taught my sons, especially, when they were young, to defer to the police. I’d taught them that they couldn’t be normal kids if the police were to drive by–or stop them–they were to be polite, not assert their rights [at least not at that time] and to “bow” to police authority or they could be wrongfully detained, jailed or–in the worst possible scenario–killed. My strategy worked–none of my now adult sons have been murdered by police like Michael Brown was or by vigilantes like Trayvon Martin was. My heart aches for their mothers, fathers, families and friends.

Now, I’m afraid that I must teach my 3 year old granddaughter the same cautions about the police that I’d taught my sons. She’s smart and polite and very independent. I must caution her that the police aren’t necessarily around to help her; that she must be cautious. And that she must maintain that caution throughout her life….

As a country, we have a long way to go to to fulfill the promise of the Statue of Liberty; a promise which welcomed voluntary immigrants to the United States and which has been forgotten in the current climate.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!””
–Emily Lazarus

Beautiful words. Ignored in the current political and social environment in the United States.

So, what is the formula for success in the United States?

If you’re white, the sky’s the limit. If you’re black you want to try to make a difference for future generations. And formula for success is still under advisement.

Health Care and Stuff…

In ACA, democracy on April 3, 2014 at 10:19 am

During the past few months, I have assigned my students to discuss the Affordable Care Act and whether it is a good thing or not.  Typically, when I give an assignment, I don’t give students my perspective at the beginning, because I want students to discuss unaffected by knowledge of how I view the issue. However, I am not using that particular assignment any more (I’ve moved on to other current issues!), so I wanted to discuss my view of it. The following is an adaptation of an email I sent to a student in response to her question about my viewpoint.

First, I’m a humanist and very spiritual. I believe that each individual, once born, has the right to certain things as a human being. Those things are required, to my mind, so that each individual can start to reach his/her maximum potential to live a fulfilled life.

Classroom Clipart

So what are those things? Those are things that ensure that the individual can exist in a way that at least basic physical needs are satisfied. That means that food, clothing, shelter and health care, are the very minimums to which each individual is entitled as a human being.

I believe human beings are entitled to those things regardless of their “worth” to society. So much of the discussion has tied entitlement to the basics to whether someone works hard, or doesn’t work hard (or doesn’t work hard enough) or does or does not contribute to society. Usually, that means we determine the value of the person by how much money they can make for someone else. We don’t do enough to value the contributions individuals make to the arts, music or science unless their contributions are quantified by monetary value. However, I believe that everyone, regardless of their “contribution” or lack thereof, should be able to eat, sleep, be warm and have physical health.

I'm working!

I’m working!

One key question is who pays for those basics. And my answer is that we do-which means we pay through our contributions to government–our taxes. My perspective–placing priority on providing the basics to maximize human potential– also means that our government spending priorities are wrong and should be completely refocused.

First, government should spend in a way that ensures everyone access to the basics. Government should spend money to make sure that everyone has access to food, shelter, clothing and healthcare. We can discuss what amount/level that means (i.e. does government buy a certain minimum amount of food and deliver it, does government employ health care providers or use the private sector, etc.) but it is very shortsighted to ignore providing for the basic level of needs for everyone.

How can we have a successful, healthy society if we’re busy assessing how much someone contributes in order to determine whether they’re entitled to have their basic needs fulfilled?

(The second priority–but not a far second–should be giving everyone a chance to fulfill their potential through access to education, the arts, the internet, liveable wage and other things, but that’s a different question.)

After those priorities, then government can spend money, as it feels appropriate, on other things, including subsidizing corporations. Government priorities are currently the Man and moneyopposite: the focus is on what can be done to help businesses make as much money as possible. (And I strongly endorse the right to make a profit- I just don’t endorse profit making as the overriding priority so that it sacrifices the basic needs of human beings).

Government no longer acts in the public’s interest-our elected representatives are beholden to those who can contribute the most to their re-election campaigns and thus the public gets short shrift.

The recent Supreme Court Decision in  McCutcheon exacerbates that problem  (although see here a more measured view of that decision).

Money out of politics through publicly funded elections is the only solution.

So, as for the Affordable Care Act, what is my take? My take that it’s a small step in the right direction. President Obama catered too much to what objectors to universal health care said, instead of taking a humanist approach that everyone should have a minimum level of health care. However, it’s better than the alternative (allowing people to remain sick and/or even die because they don’t have the money for health care).

My perspective, which has always been in favor of universal health care,  has been colored even more by the deaths of two people very close to me.

One died because, as an entrepreneur who was self-employed, she did not have money for health insurance and when she began feeling ill she just tried her own home Medicine Bottleremedies. She refused to go to the doctor (except for one basic health exam which cost her nearly $300). She finally used the emergency room as her doctor (and even then she had to go twice in two days in order to get the tests she needed. Those tests identified that she had cancer that had metastasized and she was given 6 months to live). She died within 4 months of that diagnosis. Had she had access to health care at low/no cost several years prior, it’s possible the cancer could have been identified earlier and treated.

The other was my mother who was “kicked out” of a nursing home after the long-term insurance she had purchased expired (based on a formula that there was a limit on time for ongoing health conditions and that the different symptoms she had experienced were all part of the same health condition) and sent to state-run nursing home whhappyere she died less than a year later. She lived a long life but could probably have lived longer had she had access to better health care.

So that’s my take on the ACA and the background on why I feel a universal health care system is absolutely essential if we’re to be a democratic nation of people who have the opportunity to reach their full potential without worrying about whether they can fulfill their basic, human needs.