Sunday, April 09, 2017
Washington Post: Put credibility back into American power.
With all due respect, dropping bombs does not make someone presidential, in and of itself says nothing about credibility, and, even in the most justifiable circumstance, is never, ever, beautiful. It is a violent and destructive act that inflicts damage, pain and suffering which, even in the most defensible of situations, simply should not be celebrated.
I know there are many who would argue those points and they have that right. I have friends who would argue those points. But the above refers to the most defensible of situations, and unfortunately no one, and I mean not a single person, can even clearly articulate the goals of this decision, much less predict the repurcussions.
So media, please stop falling all over yourselves propping up an act of war, praising the decision maker, or failing to provide even a modicum of journalistic integrity. This act in and of itself will accomplish nothing positive; it is merely an opening salvo. This path could lead, after much suffering and anguish, to Assad's removal and a stable post-Assad Syria. It could lead to an end to chemical weapon attacks, or even to an end to the Syrian refugee crisis. And if so, we can discuss the merits and decide whether the journey justified the destination.
Because ends don't necessarily justify means. But let's assume for a moment that the ends, in this case, do end up justifying whatever means unfold as a result of this bombing. In that case, military might has achieved its objective and it could be argued that its deployment was the best among a list of really unpalatable options. Fair enough. Even as an avowed pacifist who believes that violence begets more violence and that it is almost never the right answer, I must acknowledge that almost never is not the same as always never.
And I'll reluctantly write that I was wrong, that this decision was indeed presidential, re-established the credibility of American military intervention, and was the correct thing to do. But I will never call it beautiful.
There are many dramatically negative consequences that could stem from this decision, quite possibly on the global level. The United States is quite aware of what Middle East state-making looks like these days: endless war. Maybe we'll get lucky this time or the future will look back and decide this was the right decision.
But until that time comes, let's not only hold the media accountable. Let's hold ourselves accountable- to watch closely, to question our leaders, to challenge, and to constantly question our comfort with how this unfolds. Most of all, let's refuse to celebrate until we are sure it was the right decision.
And either way, regardless of what happens, let's never forget:
War is never beautiful.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Black lives matter is not rhetoric, not an empty promise that fades from our collective consciousness like a piece of candy, or like an ad for one more product our already over consumptive material world needs like another bullet hole.
Saturday, July 09, 2016
The frequency with which unarmed black men are getting shot by police is a symptom, not a cause. Homelessness, a lack of good paying middle class jobs, and the reality that the only promise we are willing to make is that we will house and feed and clothe every single American as long as they commit a crime. Otherwise, they are on their own. Then add eviction, brutality, and endemic societal racism. Focus your lens on these problems, these every day occurrences that are happening on our streets and in our cities; the brutal reality that faces literally countless families in our country. Then zoom the lens out, to the macro level, and focus on the unarmed black man who was killed last week, the one killed yesterday, and the one killed today. Or the steady stream of verdicts, one after another that mirror each unnecessary and unjust killing: not guilty, not guilty, not guilty.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Sunday, April 05, 2015
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Like the US, Israel holds itself to a higher standard. But innocent civilians keep dying and the perception of blame continues to shift. And if July 23rd becomes a common theme rather than a solitary event, maybe Israel will start looking at other solutions and finally find a way to lead the way to a lasting peace.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
However, if that is not sufficient to convince you, I offer you this.
There are some minor differences, but in general, Hillary and Barack are fairly close on policy issues. They are both smart, driven, committed to their cause, and solid, if not splendid, representatives of their party’s philosophical ideal. As has every political candidate in history, both offer a plethora of ideas, suggestions, platforms, policy suggestions, and recommendations on where they’d like to take the country. But let’s be realistic. Governance in this country is not about recommendations in the end. It is not about saying you will get things done. It is not about making promises that we all know will have to go through a long process of vetting and compromise before becoming reality.
The ideas are out there and, honestly, being President is not all that hard. There are a number of tough decisions and the current President has mostly made the wrong ones. Both Hillary and Barack will both make the right decisions with far more regularity. So if their decisionmaking capabilities and policy positions are about the same, how do we decide?We decide based on this: the reality in this country is that relationships, compromise, and the ability to work with others, build consensus, and bring people along with you are by far the biggest indicators of political – and Presidential -- success. This is where Obama excels and how he differentiates himself from Hillary and most other people on earth.
And why, in the end, he’ll be a more successful president, regardless of what he says, or doesn’t say, now.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
DMI’s process was among the very best in which I’ve participated. The questions were sent in advance, but I wasn’t required to submit written responses. I showed up at the agreed-upon time and found three DMI members and their president, Susan Schmitz, awaiting my arrival. It was more discussion than interview, more joint learning experience than one way interrogation. All four members of the panel were positive, responsive, and exceptionally professional. The questions were right on point and focused on real issues that matter to the vitality of downtown Madison.
I do not always agree with DMI but wholeheartedly support their mission to protect and enhance the central city of Madison -- the economic, cultural, and social hub of all south central Wisconsin. A vibrant inner city benefits the entire region, regardless of whether we live in Madison’s suburbs, in Middleton or Sun Prairie, or even if we live in Mount Horeb or Cambridge. That’s why I’m disappointed that DMI was unable to support Mayor Dave despite his hard work and effectiveness on many downtown issues important to the entire region.
However, DMI’s endorsement process, like that of other organizations, is democratic among its members. Its members should voice their concerns and vote their conscience, and there is little that an “organization” can do if its members are unable to generate the votes necessary to make an endorsement. Obviously, I can speak only to one aspect of the DMI endorsement process (my interview), and on that part, DMI definitely got it right.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Our small station wagon was hopelessly claustrophobic as the four of us, surrounded by the scores of keep-the-children-fed-and-entertained-at-all-costs supplies, wound our way through the six-and-one-half-hour journey southward. Other than two straight hours of screaming by our three-year-old in a not-so-subtle attempt to wake the one year old, it was a relatively pleasant, albeit challenging, drive.
Like most things in our 21st century American lives, our holidays have changed. Other than Christmas, Thanksgiving has arguably undergone the most significant metamorphosis. Christmas has changed from a celebration of the birth of Christ into, for many, a consumer driven abyss. Thanksgiving has little to do, sadly, with giving thanks, and much more to do with the voracious consumption of an unlucky pig, turkey, duck, or some grisly combination of all three. And, of course, watching football and preparing for Black Friday (otherwise known as “The Biggest Shopping Day of the Year”).
One needn’t look far, regardless of where one lives, to witness the devastating horror of hunger. There are the well-known statistics: Almost a billion people on earth are hungry. Sixteen thousand children die from hunger related causes every single day (6 million per year). There are the less known statistics: 54 nations (most in sub-Saharan Africa) do not produce enough food to feed their population. In the United States, almost 40 million Americans, including 14 million children, are insecure about sufficient food at any given time.
We have seen the media-provided images of starvation from other countries; we have read the news about huge increases in food pantry usage in the U.S. over the last several years (America’s Second Harvest reports that emergency food assistance increased 8% between 2001 and 2004, up to 25 million people per year). In the most resource-rich, open-market, global-community based existence in human history, one must wonder how it is possible we have made so little progress.
I am a vegetarian, and have been for almost seventeen years. I am a vegetarian for a number of reasons, but as the holiday season rolls around, it gives me pause to stop and remember some of the bigger ones: those pertaining to equality, hunger, and sustainability.
Animals raised for food are fed more than 70% of the grains that the U.S. produces. It takes 22 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. The Earth’s meat animals, alone, consume food equivalent to the caloric needs of nine billion people. Some studies estimate that the world produces, currently, enough vegetarian food to feed 15 billion people. 1.4 billion people could be fed with the grain and soybeans we feed U.S. cattle alone.
Food distribution logistics and political in-fighting can explain a portion of this problem, but cannot be held solely responsible. In fact, as we move more quickly toward a free-trade, open-market, the-world-is-flat economy, where most experts agree that the old barriers to the movement of goods and services no longer exist, it is increasingly misleading, or at least ignorant, to use this argument.
Or, perhaps, it is merely more convenient.
I enjoyed two days at home sandwiched between my trip to Minneapolis and St Louis. On the second of them, the day before leaving, I received an email from one.org, an organization dedicated to the eradication of hunger, poverty, and AIDS. I am a member because, while this global plight often seems so astonishingly overwhelming that many of us choose to ignore it, there is simply no excuse, given the vast quantity of resources currently consumed and wasted on this planet, that humans have yet to attack this issue with the vigor applied to war, weapons development, or the search for oil.
The email called for a Thanksgiving fast to raise awareness and consciousness of this reality. If 20 people attended Thanksgiving dinner, three were to sit comfortably at the table feasting on everything. Six were to sit in uncomfortable chairs, eating rice and beans with a spoon. And nine were to sit on mats, eating rice with their fingers. I needn’t explain the symbolism behind this approach.
I perform a water-fast twice a year, for four to seven days each, in order to remind myself how fortunate I am to have enjoyed a lifetime of worry-free access to unlimited food. One in six people on earth, approximately one billion people, do not. Because of this experience, I immediately appreciate the significance of this simple idea from one.org.
At the same time, I knew that the idea was unlikely to be embraced warmly by my family, despite their very real understanding and concern about all of these issues. Instead of trying to persuade them, I decided to conjure an alternative. My semi-annual fast is usually a quiet event, practiced with little fanfare unless it cannot be avoided. It is an internal act more than an external statement. More like deep breathing, less like full-bore protest. But it works for me. Despite being in my tenth year of fasting, I do not ever break fast without a renewed appreciation for food, a simple thing that most of us, including myself, often take for granted.
This time, however, a water fast seemed insufficient. So, somewhere in the midst of this six-hour drive to St. Louis, I decided what I was going to do. I would spend the entire day with my family cooking and serving and watching football. And I’d not eat or drink a single thing – between dinner the night before and breakfast the morning after (a morning, by the way, my family prefers to celebrate as buy-nothing day rather than Black Friday).
I knew my grandmother would appreciate what I was doing but would not be happy about it. So, on Thanksgiving morning, I asked my parents and wife to not mention anything to my grandmother. I wasn’t sure how I’d break the news, but wanted to stall for as long as humanly possible.
Somehow, I managed to get through breakfast unscathed. Perhaps it was the ridiculous feast that was rolling towards us like a slow avalanche, but breakfast was eaten on the fly. No one even noticed that I didn’t partake. There was no such thing as lunch, in the traditional sense. In the modern holiday sense, it was exactly what one would expect. Lunch consisted of 15 mini-courses scattered throughout the afternoon: a handful of this, a piece of that, a couple bites of this, a quick snack of that. Again, it was relatively simple to slip through this world unnoticed.
Meanwhile, throughout it all, we cooked. It was already decided that this Thanksgiving would be a vegetarian one. I was very proud of my turkey-craving family for their sacrifice. Going vegetarian, of course, is quite different than going hungry. We had green bean casserole, a tofurkey, gravy, potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade stuffing, salad, pumpkin pie, wine, beer, and lots of other goodies. I was in the kitchen the entire time – cooking, stirring, preparing, baking, mixing, and smelling. Everything the holiday cook would normally do, except tasting.
Despite all my experience, this wasn’t easy. Football was on in the background, snacks were everywhere, and it was Thanksgiving. Parts of me I forgot existed were screaming, “Eat! Eat! Eat!” Eventually, they got desperate: “At least drink some water!” The fast crystallized the magnitude of a reality I was sad, but forced to acknowledge: Thanksgiving really was about food. That was it. Everything else came in a distant second.
Finally, the table was set and the food was being carted in, platter after platter. My mother let it slip, and the secret was out.
I asked my grandmother if she was upset. “How can I be mad when I know why you are doing this? I wish you were eating, but I understand and am proud of you.”
The next day, my mother and I were in the car together. “It was really hard to eat last night with you fasting. I know you are doing this for yourself, but you really should think about the impact your actions have on others.”
“Mom, I told you to just pretend I was eating.”
“I know, but that didn’t really work. I kept looking at you and seeing your empty plate. And it made it really hard to eat. I still managed to do it, but it was hard.”
“Well, maybe there’s something to that, mom. Maybe it’s okay that it was hard. Because Thanksgiving isn’t really about going without, it’s about appreciating what you have. If you struggled to eat, maybe you thought a little harder about how lucky you were to have the food that you did have. I’m okay with that.”
And so was she.
But really, it’s not just Thanksgiving. It’s every day. Because it is easy to think about a billion people going hungry and decide there’s nothing we can do about it. But the reality is that we can. We can eat lower down the food chain and demand more sustainable agriculture. We can demand that our elected officials take this humanitarian crisis seriously. And we can stop, even for a second, and think about how fortunate we are to live in a time where we don’t have to worry about access to food, and where we can actually do something to help those who do.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
It was hard to have anything but good feelings for this guy. One can certainly argue the merits of a minimum wage increase or mandated sick leave for workers. But one cannot argue, as a January 3rd editorial in the State Journal did, that Austin King has been “ineffective… steering the council into draining and needless fights.”
It may indeed be draining, but it is never “needless” to advance the agenda of poverty, injustice, and inequality. The State Journal editorial argued that state and federal leaders should control these issues, not local alderman. The key word is “leaders.” Because, in an absence of leadership, there are only two paths. The first path is one in which everyone says this is not my problem and effortlessly transfers accountability, and its resultant inaction, to someone else. The second path requires someone, somewhere, to vocalize that there is a problem, demand action, and actually advance an agenda for resolution.
I hope it is mere coincidence that, two weeks before our national celebration of Martin Luther King's desire for a more just world, an editorial would call the advancement of such an agenda "needless."
There are too many excuses in our world. When a solution is offered at the local level, critics counter we are “creating an island.” When a solution is offered at the state level, “unlevel playing field” charges are asserted. When a solution is offered at the national level, it is nothing more than isolationism, protectionism, and standing in the way of free trade and advancement of the global economy. It is so easy to tolerate injustice, because it is so easy to shift blame elsewhere.
Levels of government don’t matter, nor do excuses. When someone stands up and offers solutions, it is never needless. Do you want to honor Martin Luther King's legacy? This is how we do it. Austin King will likely go to law school, graduate, and get elected Senator. If we’re lucky, it’ll be from Wisconsin. Until then, may we be fortunate enough to have strong, passionate voices for those who normally have none.
There is relatively little question that the recently passed amendment is unconstitutional and that it is inevitable it will be overturned. In the meantime, it is a shame that Ms. Appling is more concerned with a non-binding, supplementary statement that Madisonians can voluntarily choose to include following their oath of office, than with taking action on her eloquently stated desire to uphold the Constitution.
I never imagined that she and I could work together toward a common goal, but I now find myself prepared to do so. "Uphold the Constitution." Sign me up: it sounds like a really good idea.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Support is dwindling, and it's only a matter of time before we all wake up and realize that the death penalty and restrictions on marriage both blatantly violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. Recent polls suggest that about 53% of Wisconsinites support both a ban on gay marriage and reinstatement of the death penalty. One wonders if they are the same 53%.
I am so proud that Wisconsin was the first state to create unemployment compensation, create workers compensation, and outlaw discrimination against women. This historical record is one of the primary reasons I moved here from the east coast. We have the rarest of opportunities on November 7th to lead again. To show the world that Wisconsin is fair, just, and stands boldly as a leader in the fight against discrimination. It is such an exciting, once in a generation opportunity, I can barely contain my enthusiasm.
Fifty three percent. It almost makes me want to take a leave of absence from my job and family and go door to door. To shake some sense back into the Wisconsinites who've let rhetoric and fear drown out what they know is right.
Homosexuality is not illegal. We have committed, loving, same sex couples living right now in our state. Paying taxes, working, raising children. This is a fact. How could anyone, anyone, not want to support such families, support their children, and ensure that they have the same rights conferred upon the rest of us? It's not like passage of this referendum is going to break apart these families, though I'm not sure that's what anyone would want anyway. Are we really feeling that threatened? If we pass this referendum, nothing will have changed, nothing, other than our constitutional confirmation of the second class status of thousands of families throughout our state. What will we say on the night of November 7th, as we tuck our own children into bed? "Yeah! We did it. We just ensured that two loving, committed members of a family can't visit each other in the hospital. We just ensured that, should one of the parents die, the other will have a difficult time raising her own children." Is this really going to make us feel better? Is this really supportive of family values?
The death penalty has been illegal in Wisconsin for 153 years. For one and a half centuries, we've had the good sense to realize that we as a society must rise above heinous acts of violence while simultaneously deploring those same acts. We have talked the talk (violence is wrong) and we have walked the walk (we will thus not engage in it). We know for a fact that a black man is four times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white man. We know for a fact that a poor man is infinitely more likely than a rich man. We know that the death penalty is more expensive (two to six times) and does not serve as a deterrent. So we reinstate the death penalty. Do we feel better? We haven't helped anything - haven't saved any dollars, prevented more crime, or instituted some new radical reform. Only two things will have changed. First, we will have validated that an eye for an eye is a just solution in an advanced democracy. Second, we will have appropriated authority to decide when to apply the sixth commandment, that we shalt not kill.
I find myself growing increasingly depressed with each passing day. On November 7th, Wisconsin has the chance to lead, to demonstrate its commitment to equality, justice, and non-violence. To demonstrate its commitment to family values and moral leadership. To make me proud to be here and proud to raise my children here. I wish I could communicate with the fifty three percent... I wish I could beg them to think about this, to really think about it, and please not make November 7th a day we regret. Terrorism will still exist. Our air will still be dirty. Our schools will still have insufficient resources. We'll still worry about morals, values, equality, school shootings, and too much violence in our culture. And we'll all wake up on November 8th and continue to share our collective sadness that the world doesn't seem to be going in the right direction. The problem is, we will have just taken two pretty big steps further away from the world we really want.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
"It's not my problem."
"What can I do?"
"It's none of my business."
We use statements like these to justify our consistent lack of action. We close our eyes to a theftoccuring in front of us, silence our ears to the domestic abuse going on in the upstairs apartment, and seal our hearts to a billion impoverished people. Every single day, we wall ourselves off from that which occurs around us and hope, somewhere deep inside, that by ignoring the problem, it will somehow work itself out or disappear.
We employed a similar strategy as Hitler rose to power throughout Europe and didn't actually decide it was our issue until we were attacked on December 7th, 1941. We repeated the mistake with Saudi Arabia and all our other oil producing, communist fighting friends, until we were forced to act differently on September 11th, 2001.
I have read with great interest and admiration those who believe that ignoring the Nazi rally at the Capitol this Saturday is the appropriate strategy. Those who advocate for this solution are not dispassionate, uncaring, or disinterested. Many of them have spent every day of their lives actively fighting that which the Nazis promote. They have decided to stay home because one thing is certain: protesting will not change a Nazi's mind and in all likelihood, does nothing more than make them cling more tightly to that which they believe. In that regard, ignoring them achieves something powerful.
But I have also read with equal interest the opinions of those who would counter hate with an alternative message. There is something lost in this strategy, as increased attention is brought to a message that deserves none. But there is a reality regarding reaction -- the reaction of humans to those actions, behaviors, or statements that we know with absolute certainty are wrong. And that reality is messy, but it demands involvement. It demands a stand - a powerful, forceful, demonstration that says this horrible thing cannot be ignored, that it is our business, and that it is our problem.
Martin Niemoeller said it best: "When they came for the communists, I was silent, because I was not a communist; When they came for the socialists, I was silent, because I was not a socialist; When they came for the trade unionists, I did not protest, because I was not a trade unionist; When they came for the Jews, I did not protest, because I was not a Jew; When they came for me, there was no one left to protest on my behalf."
We cannot sit on the sidelines. It is only by releasing the water that we can drown out the voices of injustice and hate. This is not the easy path, and it comes frought with peril. But silence is unaccceptable. I will not hide in the corner as abuse, poverty, AIDS, and injustice ravages millions of people. And I will not stay home when messages of hate are blared through loudspeakers. I will stand, I will fight, I will protest, and I will cry out with the strength of all the blood in my veins: this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong. There is only one way for you to truly know what I believe: you must hear me speak it.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Most of us, of course, identify ourselves as Republicans, Democrats or independents, but the reality is that our two main parties can seldom encapsulate who we are and what we believe. I have Republican friends who can't stand the current state of affairs and are sage enough to blame their own party instead of nation-hating liberals.
I consider myself a progressive, but am often mystified at the proposals that come from liberal elitist factions within the Democratic Party.
Left or right, we are often able to come together in our desire for more choices. Many of us find ourselves, regardless of which candidate we support, voting for the lesser of two evils every November and wishing it weren't so. Is that really a democracy? One of the principle tenets of democracy is full information - without it, we are unable to make informed choices. This peripheral participation only increases our frustration and weakens our desire to partake in the process.
We disagree on how to handle the problem, but we all know that it comes down to money. Candidates in major parties are able to raise large sums of money. This allows them to get their message out, which makes them viable, increases their media coverage, which then amplifies their fundraising, which leads to events, which leads to more press, and so on and so on. It is a victory cycle for the established party candidate; a vicious cycle for the independent. In the end, it is the voters who lose.
Thank you, Judy Ettenhofer and The Capital Times, for breaking the cycle and running a story on Green Party candidate Rae Vogeler and her campaign for U.S. Senate. She may not win and not all of your readers may vote for her. But we learned that she has compassion, political skill, and experience. We learned that she is a caring wife, mother, worker and organizer who believes in quality education and tackling our health care crisis - real issues about which we all care. We learned that she is a quality candidate who deserves a chance to lock horns with our current senator for the chance to represent us.
The open and honest debate we all deserve may not happen, but the political process is richer, and we as citizens more engaged, when we have the opportunity to learn more about those who offer us the alternatives we crave, but seldom have the resources to make us aware of their presence.
(Article published, The Capital Times, 4/25/06)
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I drop my bag off in my hotel room and come back downstairs. There is a clothing store in the hotel; I walk in to check it out. Mens shirts are $140 each. I walk out disgusted. Onto the street and I'm immediately asked for change by a respectful man, back to the wall, cup in hand, with probably less than $140 to his name.
I walk toward the White House, the most powerful place on the planet, and see hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese protesting the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners being imprisoned and reportedly harvested for their internal organs in their native land. Dozens upon dozens of Chinese, sitting quietly cross legged, with their right arms bent in front of their chests, palms out and fingers facing skyward. Barely moving, they are the personification of peace and calm. Asking the White House to care about the gruesome inhumanities occurring within the borders of our number one trading partner.
A block further, a woman sits by the anti-nuclear signage that, for over twenty years, has passionately made its point and been dispassionately ignored.
I wonder how our government, with its vast resources, can quietly endure such suffering. I wonder how the President can look out his windows at what I am currently seeing, and not be outraged.
This city is a cathedral to freedom, a celebration of democracy. It is marble halls of exquisite beauty, parks of unparalled number, and tourists of unimaginable awe. But it is also walled gates that say, "do not enter." And it is fenced homes and mansion filled suburbs, looking inward at inescapable poverty, crumbling schools, struggling families, and, perhaps worst of all, a black hole sized vacuum of hope.
When hope is lost, freedom is a thing of the past. And as I stare at the White House, with hundreds of beautiful people of all different shapes and colors standing beside me, soccer and softball games going on all around, street vendors selling hot dogs, and protestors calmly beseeching change, I wonder why we are trying to build democracy in some foreign land when we seem so close to losing it at home.
I look at the White House and loathe the injustice it cannot or will not end. I peel my eyes away, and look at everything else, and fall back in love again.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- From spiritual faith to great courage;
- From courage to liberty;
- From liberty to abundance;
- From abundance to complacency;
- From complacency to apathy;
- From apathy to dependence;
- From dependence back into bondage."
I began to consider this quote. Our inception as a nation most certainly included a great deal of bondage, spiritual faith, courage, liberty, and abundance. Were one required to choose a single item from the above list, I'd say it should be liberty. I'd proceed from liberty to bondage.
Additionally, our age of complacency and apathy came far after the beginning of our age of dependence. Meanwhile, the author seems to be defining dependence as a welfare state. The only way I can see bondage stemming from dependence would be if the dependence era were part of an increasing gap between rich and poor, where those with power placed those without into a state of bondage. That doesn't seem to be the point of our welfare state which, following the passage of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), truly doesn't even exist anymore (see below).
As for spiritual faith, it is clearly more dominant in decisionmaking (e.g., politics) now than it has ever been. We often hear rhetoric to the contrary, but that is what it is: rhetoric. The Constitution, written by Christian - even Protestant - men, does not mention "God" one single time. Not once. If is simply specious, if not a downright untruth, to claim the founders intended a government based on Christianity, when they failed to include a single reference to such in the document that would guide said government.
The email continues by quoting Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, who points out that: "In aggregate, the map of the territory Bush won was mostly the land owned by the tax-paying citizens of this great country. Gore's territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off government welfare..." Oson believes the United States is now somewhere between the "complacency and apathy" phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some 40 percent of the nation's population already having reached the "governmental dependency" phase.
How does one define government dependency? As elderly people having the security blanket of Social Security? As low income citizens having the safety net of Medicaid? Or is he referring to the couple thousand people left on welfare? Perhaps he's referring to the vast majority of citizens that "depend" on the government, through public schools, to educate our children? Or maybe he's referring to that nation-jeopardizing practice of "depending" on fire, police, and the military for public safety?
I would argue that a government that strives toward the common good, toward equal rights and equal access for all of its citizens, is certainly one that is likely to continue existing into the foreseeable future.
A quite perplexing piece of spam. However, there are two incredibly relevant points to be drawn from this email.
The first is this: this email is very likely an urban myth. Snopes.com indicates that the Tyler quote is likely fictitious and that Professor Olson is the source of nothing contained in this email. A friendly reminder we shouldn't believe everything we read, regardless of how intelligent it might sound.
The second is this: mythical as it is, the email nonetheless contains a solid conclusion. Apathy is, without question, the greatest danger to our democracy. On that point, it was dead-on.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
There is some truth to both sides. There seems to be little question that if the majority of immigrants were educated, white, English speakers, that this issue would be less prominent. However, there is a complex reality that must be faced. A great number of Mexicans are in fact entering the US illegally. This is only possible because of our shared border. What of the countless Mexicans, other Latinos, Africans, Indians, Chinese, and Eastern Europeans who try to enter the United States legally?
There is the arduous and time consuming process of obtaining a green card. Only 50,000 green cards are awarded per year, via lottery. This requires an application fee, filling out dozens of forms, and a fair amount of luck. There is also the H-1B work visa process. This is difficult as well, with only 65,000 issued - at most - each year. Sadly, these are only for college educated professionals who can make a contribution to the US economy. Then there's citizenship itself. An expensive and time consuming process, one must maintain a period of permanent presence in the United States -- the date of which doesn't even begin until one has permanent legal resident status.
For better or worse, this is our process and our law. When some immigrants circumvent said law, what message does that send to other immigrants who endeavor to go through the almost unimaginable difficulty of doing it legally? Also, when immigrants circumvent the law and remain illegal, they become part of a permanent underclass from which they simply cannot escape.
At the same time, the United States has always stood as the beacon of freedom. "Give us your tired, your poor." Most Latinos are coming here to work and provide a better life for their families. In most cases, they are doing jobs that most Americans are unwilling to do, for wages we'd consider ludicrous.
This is not an easy problem and like most, there is no easy solution. One thing that will not solve the problem: the left screaming "racism" at the right, while the right screams "illegals" at the left. The solution will require several elements:
(1) An avenue to legal status and citizenship for the illegal immigrants already living and working here. Any other solution does nothing but drive the problem underground and create a police state where neighbors spy on neighbors.
(2) A new temporary work visa that belongs to the worker, not the employer, and enables a wider range of migrants with job offers to enter the U.S. legally. The vast majority of immigrants come here to work. Let's create a system that allows them to come legally, work with dignity, and maneuver their way into our economic mainstream.
(3) An improved family unification system, which would reduce the delays experienced by immigrants seeking to rejoin their family members in the U.S. This is simply essential in any nation that purports to care about family values.
(4) Possibly most importantly, we need to recognize that the vast majority of us are descendents of immigrants. Our grandfathers and grandmothers often faced the same scorn upon entering this country. It is the 21st century and it is time to evolve our thinking. We are rapidly becoming the most multi-cultural nation on earth. Assimilation is no longer the answer. Instead, we must guarantee equal opportunity for all, celebrate the diverse traditions and cultures that add so much value to our nation, and welcome our new neighbors with open arms.
There is great complexity here, but answers do exist. We need to focus on solutions, not rhetoric... and we can begin to solve the immigration problem in a way that is both fair and dignified.