Friday, May 28, 2010

Remember To Thank the Republicans

The U.S. economy continues to struggle and unemployment remains right around 10%. The job market really hasn't begun to improve yet. Despite this more than a million Americans are about to lose their unemployment insurance benefits. The House passed the bill to extend unemployment but a combination of all the Republicans and a handful of moderate or conservative Democrats have stalled things in the Senate.

So, come Wednesday, if you've been unemployed for a while you may have real problems paying the rent or buying groceries. Others may not be able to make mortgage payments and run the risk of losing their homes. If you are one of those people please remember who is responsible for this and give those Republicans and conservative Democrats the thanks they deserve come November.

Oh, remember that stimulus bill to boost the economy? You know, the one that the Republicans claim did nothing at all. Well... it may have paid for teachers in your local school system. It turns out states would have had to layoff huge numbers of teachers last year but didn't have to thanks to the stimulus bill. Of course, Republicans tell us this was terrible for the budget deficit and no matter how bad the economy still is, well.... no more stimulus for you. The net result is that close to 100,000 teachers are expected to or already have received pink slips as stimulus funds run out. Of course, this is fine with right-wing Republicans who have been trying to undermine the public school system for decades. If you can't afford private schools for your kids that's your problem.

So, if come the fall some excellent teachers are no longer at your child's school, class sizes are simply huge and the quality of instruction declines please be sure to thank the Republicans the way they deserve to be thanked in November. If you or your spouse or a member of your family is now going to join the ranks of the unemployed be sure to thank the Republicans for it as well.

I listened to both news stories on NPR this afternoon with absolute disgust. Right now there is an insane "throw the rascals out" mentality in this country, with the far right and the Tea Party crazies leading the call to defeat all incumbents. By all means, throw out those incumbents who ignore the needs of ordinary citizens. Those would be the conservatives. Let's keep the ones who have actually looked out for the American people, particularly those who are hurting in this economy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Hypocrisy Behind Religious Justifications of Prejudice and Discrimination

Following up on my post about The Rising Tide of Intolerance In America I'm going to pick on one of the most popular targets of bigotry and discrimination in our society today. When people from the Christian right and also some in the Orthodox Jewish community argue against equal protection under the law for the gay community they often seek to justify their prejudices with the Bible. In order to do so they have to pick and choose selected texts to believe in and follow and others, the ones which are inconvenient, are often ignored.

This was amply demonstrated some years ago in an open letter to radio personality Dr. Laura Schlesinger, an observant Jew, who railed against homosexuality and used "G-d's word" as her justification. Fortunately some people have actually read the Bible, and the link I provided above annotates the letter with the actual scripture. Here is the well-known letter once again:
Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
So... when I see the religious right protesting outside of Red Lobster against the abomination of eating shellfish I'll start believing they are truly sincere about "G-d's word" and not just hypocritically justifying their own bigotry. After all, they once used the Bible to justify institutionalized racism in America as well.

The Rising Tide of Intolerance in America

This past week we've had Rand Paul, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky and a Tea Party favorite, call for businesses to have the right to discminate against, well, anyone they want. Yesterday John Stossel on Fox News was defending Paul's call for repealing part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the "right to discriminate." To me that is defending the absolutely indefensible. I'm watching the rising tide of racism and all sorts of intolerance with disgust. In the wake of current right wing efforts to justify and legalize discrimination of all sorts I thought it was time for me to take a stand.

I believe in equal rights and equal protection under the law for all Americans. I really don't care where you or your family or ancestors are from. It doesn't matter what religion you believe in or if you believe at all. I don't care what color your skin is. I don't care if you are male or female. I certainly don't care about your private life or who you are attracted to. When it comes to the law we should all be equal.

Politicians like Rand Paul or Tom Tancredo, who called for a return to Jim Crow era literacy tests at the Tea Party Convention earlier this year, strike me as more than a bit phony when they claim they aren't racists. When you defend racism or call for undoing the laws that ended institutionalized de jure racism in this country then what are you if not a racist? Tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism.

The Tea Party movement isn't "beautiful" as Sarah Palin would have us believe. The radical libertarianism of Ron and Rand Paul would turn back the clock on civil rights 50 years or more. I have studied history and know full well that during times of economic difficulty there is a growth of fringe political movements, especially those on the far right. That phenomenon isn't unique to the United States. What is unique to our country is the fear raised among the ignorant and small minded on the far right by the election of an African-American President. It has magnified and multiplied the growth of the far right to something far beyond the fringe into something truly dangerous to American freedoms as we have known and enjoyed them.

Am I accusing all Tea Party supporters of racism? Consider the enthusiastic applause former Congressman Tancredo received in Nashville for a speech that David Duke would have been proud of. Consider the defense of Rand Paul. If Tea Party supporters aren't racist they are at least tolerant of the racism in their midst. Once again, tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism. So, yes, I am most certainly making that accusation. I will repeat it often between now and the November elections as well. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it isn't popular at all. There is a truly ugly undercurrent of racism and intolerance in the Tea Party movement that keeps rising to the surface.

Some friends have suggested I shouldn't speak out. Doing so, they say, might hurt my business or my chances of going back into a corporate job rather than working freelance. I shouldn't "limit" my opportunities. Frankly, if someone would discriminate against me because I believe in equality and tolerance then I really don't need their business and don't want to work to promote theirs.