I am so appalled by the attacks on teachers, teachers' unions, the right for public employees to collectively bargain, to say nothing of the assault on the Health Care Reform Bill, that I am left nearly speechless. If not for Jon Stewart, I would be in a bad way. What's important, though, is that our country is in a bad way, and every time I sense some improvement it only gets worse.
The Blogosphere is an important social force these days, and I encourage everyone who has a blog, is on Facebook, or has an email contact list to proclaim loudly and clearly that Americans are fed up with the Right's efforts to subvert our values of liberty, justice, equality, and social responsibility.
Issue by issue:
Gun Control: some liberals may prefer a society without private gun ownership, but they are not, as a block, calling for nationwide disarmament. I don't like guns, but I grudgingly accept that Americans who are not criminal or insane should be free to own them. I would like a sensible system of gun registration and better oversight of the gun industry. No one needs an automatic weapon whose only purpose is to kill or maim human beings. No one has a right to stockpile a cache of weapons that poses a threat to unwitting neighbors. The Right acts as if there were a plot to make all guns illegal. There isn't. The real conspiracy is the gun lobby's own propaganda machine. As with most things, follow the money.
Gay Marriage: Freedom means, in part, not denying other people the chance to live as they wish and do as they want so long as it doesn't hurt you. Simply by itself, being gay does not hurt anyone. Denying gay couples the same rights, including marriage and its benefits, does hurt those who are being denied. Homosexuality does not threaten marriage, and no religious group has the right to dictate how those outside its own community should live. Racial equality before the law has not brought America to its knees, quite the opposite. Sexual equality can only strengthen our nation, our families, and our own self-respect. Live and let live--not a bad thing to remember.
Access to Health Care: government has an obligation to provide citizens with the necessities they cannot (or should not) provide for themselves, ie. police and fire protection, safe roads and bridges, effective drugs, uncontaminated food, education for all, and affordable health care. Our system of health care delivery has been neither affordable nor accessible to every citizen. We may have the best health care system in the world, for those who can pay, but it is a failure if people are shut out of it--for any reason. I had a "phone call" yesterday from Mike Huckabee urging me to help repeal "Obamacare." Why would any rational person want to do that, unless she were invested in the insurance industry or were in the pocket of "big pharma?" Does anyone really want to drop their 24 yr. old, unemployed son or daughter from their health care plan? Does anyone really want to deny coverage to children simply because they are sick? Does anyone want insurance companies to be able to drop a customer when that customer comes down with cancer or chronic mental illness? I'm sick of hearing "we can't afford it" or "eliminate the budget deficit first." Let's start with what we NEED. Then let's find ways to pay for it. That brings me to my next issue:
Increased Taxes: We are grossly undertaxed as a nation, but more significantly the richest (let's be generous) 5% are making more money than ever and paying less in taxes than they did under Reagan. Income redistribution is anathema to many Americans, but we're not talking about income equality, which would be impractical and counter-productive. And we're not talking about removing the incentive of healthy competition. A stable, fair society benefits everyone, even the rich. One thing I have always admired about America is that our neighborhoods (for the most part) are wide open. In many parts of the world the norm is for everyone with anything, from the lower-middle class on up, to live behind gates and walls. Living in a compound is tantamount to living in a medieval fortress, with the hungry on the outside and the threatened elite on the inside. No threat, no walls. A picket fence is not a wall. A fair society doesn't need them.
Collective Bargaining: Americans have short memories. Very short. Other cultures hold on to their past, sometimes to the point of desperation and madness. Re-fighting the battles of the ninth century or the fourteenth is to cripple oneself in the present. After a suitable interval, it is time to readjust one's outlook. Our world has prospered because America, Japan, and Germany were able to lay enmity aside and get on with business. This happened remarkably fast. A short memory served in that instance, but our historical memory shouldn't be so truncated as to blot out events that still have an impact on us today. The nineteen century provides plenty of examples of worker exploitation. A factory worker in England in 1840 was no better than a slave. Today, where workers are at the mercy of their employers (think Mexico or indeed any third-world country), people, including children, suffer. The reason America has had a vibrant middle class is due in large measure to the rise of labor unions and collective bargaining that dispersed power. I wonder how many revolutions might have been prevented if labor unions had been a force to contend with. The attacks on teachers and public employee unions is an attack on the very thing that gave us a standard of living that has been the envy of the world. More and more we are becoming a nation of the elite few and the struggling many. If this continues, we will continue our decline. We no longer own the ball, and when we go home to our gated communities and cadillac health insurance plans, the game won't stop. We lived a Marie-Antoinette life for far too long. She lost her head; we lost our economy, our security, our world reputation. Now we must move beyond an "I've got mine; you get yours" mentality or our losses are only just beginning. You heard it here.