Saturday, January 15, 2011

Common Good vs Special Interests

When blogging I don’t have to meet an editor’s strict one-item agenda et al. So, I may wander a little today as I chase some thoughts about current events …

David Kirkpatrick earlier described the unrest in Tunisia. Next day the president was gone, and today nobody knows where. Thursday Kirkpatrick wrote, “President Ben Ali gave a hastily scheduled televised address on Thursday night, his second in the past week, and this time he appeared rattled. He no longer blamed foreign terrorists or vowed to crack down on protesters. Instead, he pledged to give in to many of the protesters’ demands, including an end to the government’s notoriously tight censorship, but rejecting calls for an immediate end to his 23-year rule.

“I am telling you I understand you, yes, I understand you,” Mr. Ben Ali, 74, declared. “And I decided: total freedom for the media with all its channels and no shutting down Internet sites and rejecting any form of monitoring of it” (New York Times)

I read stories like this and think what we currently see in Tunisia is not so much different from America, more a matter of degrees. We have more freedom et al, and a far better system, but I have watched our dribble-down politics for the past thirty years, known as Reaganomics and conservative (so-called) politics.

I see little that is conservative and conserving about them. They tend to enforce unlimited marketing, inconsistent anti-government politics, and a socio-economic political system increasingly slanted to the prosperity of Wall Street, controlled by greedy speculators, and self-serving politicians.

Some have prospered under this, but when a working girl like Emma ended up with a divorce and a house to pay for, she found herself rejected for credit because she was a female (in our chauvinistic culture). She watched her house creditors sell and re-sell her paperwork as if she were common property. While they profited and re-profited et al, she ended up deeper in the hole. Such has been the spiral of Wall Street investors and we've all paid the price.

Life in America has become increasingly miserable over the past 30 years for the elderly, much less hopeful for the middle class and those more vulnerable, and impossible for peacemakers and reformers. Since retiring from the job market, after working until 70, I find “the system” increasingly squeezes me tighter and tighter from every side.

Watching this political process has caused me to reevaluate the politics of my father and my tradition and harmonize them closer to biblical views I espoused throughout my years as a caring and thoughtful pastor. Thus, my thoughts extend to Tunisia and back to the America I have loved and served faithfully.

Another reader of the Tunisia article wrote, “Tunisia, a former colony of France, and Ben Ali, a well-known despot and self-appointed president for life have long had the support of European nations and the US because of beneficial economic ties. Ben Ali's major accomplishment has been to cover up his dictatorial ways and project the impression beyond the country's borders that all Tunisians enjoyed freedom and shared in the country's wealth. This of course was and is a lie, all the wealth is in the hands of the president, his relatives and his cronies.

“When will the US rise above its well-known naiveté and hypocrisy in foreign affairs and apply the same sanctions to Ben Ali and his entourage as it has to North Korea and Iran.”

Well … I have questioned our diplomatic alliances with foreign despots et al, as we cozied up to them for the military alliances (and bases) they allowed, and felt sick. Yes, I candidly question our policies that allow and foster the growing gap between haves and have not’s. It is hard to deny that our politics-as-usual is pro-business, pro wealthy, pro-white. It is even harder to deny that we maintain laws favoring the corporately wealthy and we increasingly disenfranchise the more vulnerable, the minorities, and the elderly. Yes, we measure our success by our Wall Street casino, that institution that speculates out of their wealth rather than help produce a sound economy.

I frankly wonder now and then … how long will we allow special interests to delegitimize our President. I received so many mails from special interests calling him a socialist because he opposed the dominance of the wealthy, and dared support a government health plan that would have been more efficient and less costly than for-profit private interests.

I cringed at their cravenness when they called him a closet Muslim because he inherited his name from a Kenyan father, he scarcely knew. I was subjected to their charges of illegitimacy as a president, and I knew it was because he did not conform to “their” standard and was born outside the “lower 48.” He broke the mold and I was delighted.

I’m encouraged when Kevin Drum writes, “What's remarkable about all this is that Obama is, patently, not anti-business, (10-29-10 / Kevin Drum “Coddling the Rich” ) … but “When Obama puts a tax break in the stimulus bill, it's aimed mainly at the middle class, not the rich. When he hires a labor secretary, it's someone who actually thinks labor laws should be enforced. When he says he wants to pass a healthcare reform bill, he actually does it. (Its impact on big business is close to zero, but no matter.)”

I know that is hard for unfettered Capitalists to sweallow, but Capitalism cannot thrive without the peons who help produce the profits for them, so they need to 'fess up and become more socially responsible.

There's no evidence that Obama wants to punish big business, but at the same time it's quite plain that he cares much more about the middle class than he does about the rich.” And that's pretty hard for them to accept.

We tolerate a divided Congress that protects its health insurance above standard and struggles with politicians that want to eliminate public health benefits as it protects sits own interests and plays all manner of partisan politics with the people’s business.

I can only wonder with the Prophets of old, “How long, O Lord, how long?” will we tolerate such partisan divisions in America. How long before the anger on Main Street turns to the demagogue for relief, as happened in Socialist Germany pre-WWII? How long before anger and demagoguery transform into the people’s resistance, as in Tunisia? If and when it happens here, will we be crushed by tanks protecting the Washington Mall like the tanks protected Tienimen Square and the Tunisian soldiers crush their hopeful citizenry?

What I am most sure of is that it is time for Christians to become more of a unifying force and less politically divisive. I am also certain that even in America democracy and the rights of the common good are not to be taken for granted, but must be constantly upheld. Freedom and political rights for the common good are to be highly valued.

From Warner’s World, this is

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