Sunday, July 16, 2017

Confessions of a Prejudiced Man

This may, or may not, be my last blog for a while.  With that in mind I'm going to write some things which may or may not offend some people.  It is not my goal to offend anyone but I'm not going to hold back either.

Subject: American Flag | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

For years I have spoken out against prejudice.  In college I was one of the only students leaders to give public speeches against ballot measure 9 (an anti-gay bill, which would have made it legal to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation).  I always prided myself in not being racist, sexist or homophobic.  However, this week my own prejudice hit me upside the head.

Last Wednesday I gave a talk to a group of college students.  During the talk, I briefly mentioned that I belonged to a Bible study. After the talk a female student came up to me and asked if I could do bible lessons with her husband at my house.  When I asked about their beliefs, she said they are conservative Christians who take the Bible literally.  My insides reeled upon hearing this.  I instantly labelled her and her husband as naive and ignorant.

I thought about this all the way home and I realized while I am not racist, sexist or homophobic, I am conservative-ist.  I have been labeling all conservatives as the enemy.  That's wrong.  Just because one has a difference of opinion does not necessarily make them the bad guy.  One can believe in zero tolerance for drug use, a strong military, and vouchers for private school without being a bad person.

It's been said that we have more values which unite us than divide us. Most of us want to do an honest days' work for an honest days' pay.  We want our kids to be happy, healthy, productive people.  We don't want to live our lives hurting others.  It's only the details which separate us.

Go to a baseball game and look at the crowd just for a second.  You can't tell who is liberal and who is conservative; who believes in the Bible and who believes the Quran.  We're just all there to enjoy baseball and eat popcorn.  We have that in common.

I will always believe that the government should take care of the least among us.  I will always believe that the Bible is a book of metaphors designed to teach us about the values of God, rather than being a historical document.  However, I need to learn to respect those who don't agree with me. I don't believe I am alone though.  Pundits on both sides can stand to tone down the partisan rhetoric so people can come together to solve our country's problems.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A short lived win

Floor proceedings of the U.S. Senate | According to C-SPAN Video Library, "Video coverage of the debates originating from the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is in the public domain and as such, may be used without restriction or attribution."
In my last blog I wrote about a possible upcoming vote on the Senate healthcare bill.  Two days after I wrote the blog Republicans pulled the bill from the floor.  This seemed like a win at the time.

However, we were only able to breathe easy for a moment.  Shortly after the bill was pulled, Trump and Republicans shifted their focus from "repeal and replace" to "repeal".

The former repeal and replace approach would have cost 23 million Americans their health coverage.  The new repeal approach ups that to 32 million Americans losing their coverage.  On June 30th Rachel Maddow equated the loss to the entire populations of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Maine losing their health coverage.  This number is nothing short of insane.

After 9/11 it was estimated that 1 out of every 5 Americans knew someone whose life was altered by the falling of the towers.  That was two towers worth of people.  Now we're talking about 14 states worth of people. Unless you live in an ivy tower, YOU WILL know someone who loses their access to healthcare.  They may lose access to prescription medication, chemotherapy, dialysis, or any one of a number of other treatments keeping them alive and healthy.

I'm not making the argument that Obamacare is ideal.  I know a woman who was kicked off Obamacare when her daughter turned 18 years old.  This woman, who works forty hours a week, can no longer afford doctor visits or her prescriptions.  As a result, her back hurts all the time and she is only able to sleep three hours a night.

Now imagine 32 million more people being put into the same boat.  We would be reducing our country to a population of sick, helpless wretches.  Not only would we be unhealthy, many of the people who are now employed to keep us healthy would lose their jobs.  Unemployment would skyrocket.  It's no exaggeration to say that America would be thrown into chaos.

There are two kinds of people in the world; those who want to be good people and those who don't mind being good as long as it's convenient.  Unfortunately, I fear we are being governed by the latter category.  Those of us who belong to the former category have a responsibility, now more than ever, to make our voices heard.  We need to blog, protest, and keep pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing. We need to make it politically advantageous to do good instead of evil.  We need to pressure lawmakers to repair the holes in ObamaCare instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and leaving millions of people uninsured.

To quote Abraham Lincoln, "The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the last generation. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, our last best hope..." 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Most Vulnerable Among Us


Subject: Disabled Americans "Die In" To Protest Trumpcare
It's has been said that "the measure of a nation is the way it cares for its most vulnerable citizens." If that's true, then we are about to fail the test.

As I write this Republican Senators are busy drafting a bill which will cut 800 billion dollars from Medicaid while giving 7 million dollar tax cuts to the wealthiest families in America.

One might argue that these cuts will not hurt anyone.  POPPYCOCK! Historically speaking, few noble acts have been planned behind locked doors.  When Michael Corleone shut his wife out of his office, he was not hatching philanthropic schemes. Usually, if you need to hide what you do, you know you're doing something evil.

Last Thursday when the details of the bill were finally made public, sixty disabled people parked their wheelchairs in the Senate halls and in Mitch McConnell's office to protest the deep cuts to disability services, child health care, prenatal care, elder care, addiction treatment and other services that millions of people depend on for their survival.  Rather than coming out to talk to them and directly addressing their issues, McConnell had them hauled off to jail.

Newscasters have said that such actions towards the weak or the disabled are unprecedented.  However this is not the case, they're simply not going back far enough.  These actions were common back in Sparta, where strong ruled and the weak and the disabled were cast into a large pit to die.  Before you say that this is a bad analogy, consider the fact that cancer patients without access to treatment, handicapped people without money for caregivers, and elderly people without money for nursing homes will all be made helpless to the whims of fate.  Many of these people WILL die without the proper help.

Next week we will celebrate America's birthday.  What will we be celebrating the birthday of?  Will we be celebrating the birthday of a country that comes together and supports each other or will we be celebrating the birthday of a country which is willing to sacrifice the lives of the weak in order to pad the pockets of the rich?  Only time will tell.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Thought We'd Always Have Paris


Subject: The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the center of the place Charles de Gaulle, Paris | Date: 10/21/2007 | Photographer: Benh LIEU SONG |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." ~ W. Durant

For the last two weeks the news has been dominated by reports of the of the Russian scandal.  As a result we have all but forgotten the image of Donald Trump on the White House lawn proudly announcing our withdrawal from the Paris Accord.  His justification for the withdrawal was that it would save the country billions of dollars.

Again Trump's facts are a bit askew.  The Accord is basically a gentlemen's agreement between countries to limit carbon emissions in order to slow climate change. While goals for lower emissions are set for each country, there are no enforceable financial consequences for not meeting those goals.

Trump also claims that the withdrawal from the Accord will create American coal jobs, however, the clean energy industry promises to create more jobs than coal or oil.

I believe the real reason for the withdrawal is that Donald Trump doesn't believe in climate change, so he doesn't see the value of any environmental regulation.  In 2017 it's baffling for anyone to not believe in climate change.

Not long ago, the North Pole recorded temperatures of 36 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time ever.  While that still sounds cold, it's above freezing.  If the pole is above freezing, ice melts.  If too much ice melts the ocean rises and Boise, Idaho becomes a coastal town.

When I was young, I used to watch George Reeves as Superman.  At the beginning of every episode, the announcer says "Superman stands for truth, justice and the American way."  We all knew what the term "American way" meant.  It carried with it images of nobility and global leadership.  When we pulled out the Accord that brand was damaged, if not destroyed.  We literally had the President of France shaming us on YouTube asking Trump to "Make the world great again."

We've become a joke in the eyes of the world.  Don't forget that while he was pulling us out the Accord, he was also chomping at the bit to take medical coverage away from 23 million Americans, making us the only civilized nation in the world not to have universal healthcare.

Given the number of destructive proposals coming from the White House it would be easy to agree with Shakespeare by seeing us as "a selfish brooding lot."  I don't believe that's entirely fair.  While our leaders are misguided at best, evil at worst, I believe most Americans are still good.  Millions of Americans volunteer their time at churches, schools, hospitals, soup kitchens and programs for the elderly and the handicapped in order to make their country a better place.

If our leaders have become unwilling to do what's right, it's up to us to make our voices heard and keep them accountable.  Otherwise Russia won’t need to attack our elections, America will destroy itself from within.