Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy; Acknowledging the Road Ahead

I wish everyone a very peaceful, reflective Martin Luther King Day and hope that his dream of civility for all people (even women, a noble and dignified goal even in the face of King’s own womanizing).

This is the first MLK day that I’ve had a “blog,” and as such it seems only fitting to pay special attention to the civil rights victories and defeats we’ve celebrated and suffered as a nation and a species this past year. In typical cynical style, I’ll start with what we still need to do, then remind myself of the truly wonderful strides we can make as a people.

As always, my first concern is the anti-choice and, frankly, anti-citizen, Congress. They intend to vote on the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” After having faced the embarrassing truth that the health care law doesn’t kill babies, or old people, they had to scramble to find something else for Obamacare to do wrong. They focused on jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office report (pdf) doesn’t actually say that the health care bill kills (nor destroys, nor ruins, nor gets rid of, nor dissuades people from working) jobs, but merely that it will reduce labor. It doesn’t mean employers will be forced to fire workers; it means that future/potential workers will be able to retire sooner in their careers. According to the report, “[t]he expansion of Medicaid and the availability of subsidies through the exchanges will effectively increase beneficiaries’ financial resources. Those additional resources will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market.” Similarly, people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage nor dropped from their plans due to an emergent health issue under this bill. Prices can only vary so much based on age or health, meaning older workers would have the option to retire and buy coverage individually. Like I’ve been saying since the beginning of the health care debate two years ago, not having to worry about a trip to the ER wiping out your entire life’s savings means you’ll be able to save money for retirement in a different way and retire earlier. Not only that, but it would increase the quality of life for everyone in a similar boat of not having to worry about losing their livelihood to a broken leg. Also, P.S., repeal would cost over $230 million, while keeping it in place will save $143 million over the first ten years.

In other news, the Tea Party, heartened by its inexplicable success in the November elections, has begun pressuring lawmakers to be racist. What fun!

In Raleigh, N.C. segregation is the new black. The Republican school-board has abolished their nationally-celebrated integration policy, promising to “say no to the social engineers.” From the Washington Post article on the subject, we see that “…as the board moves toward a system in which students attend neighborhood schools, some members are embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools could have merits.” We tried this already. Remember how that ended? But maybe the board is right. “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated,” said John Tedesco, a new board member. “We need new paradigms.” What paradigm are you hoping to achieve? One in which the people who don’t have the good sense to be white are neither seen, nor heard? What would you have us do? Write them out of textbooks? Surely you can’t think you have a decent case for something so —

The Tea Party of Tennessee wants slavery removed from textbooks. Only days after the newly-elected Republicans read their “cleaned up” version of the Constitution, a group of about two dozen Tennessee teabaggers decided they wanted slavery written out of textbooks, saying it would “besmirch the image of the Founding Fathers.” Their list of “priorities and demands” included state laws governing textbooks’ criteria ensure that “no portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” That’s right, including those uppity minorities that get elected to the presidency.

2011 is new and I’m optimistic for the time being. At least until the 17th, anyway.

2010 saw the half-assed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which is still being appealed and bitched about). That was good news.

Relatedly, Maryland is hopeful that it will be the sixth state to green-light gay marriage. Even the Republican opposition favors civil unions which, while not an acceptable long-term goal, are a good springboard in the meantime. Nevertheless, I intend to keep my fingers crossed (when they aren’t typing) and campaign for full marriage rights of gay Marylanders.

Though the inflammatory rhetoric of the Right (and some of the Left, when they bother to speak) may not be directly to blame for the tragedy in Arizona, it certainly did not help create a serene environment in which crazies are best dealt with. The little girl who died, Christina Green, had her organs donated to a girl in Boston and subsequently saved her life. When the Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest her funeral, the city of Tuscon was able to set aside petty party squabbling long enough to protect her family’s right to mourn in peace. Even had the lawmakers failed, there were already groups of all creeds ready to take up arms in peaceful counter-protest.

Despite Sarah Palin’s unwillingness to admit any wrongdoing, or even to remove her crosshairs image from her website and replace it with something more appropriate to the Republican Party (say, elephant heads?), other members of the GOP have turned it down a notch. John Boehner was good enough to refer to “Obamacare” as merely job-destroying in a recent blog post, which is all I think I can ask of him. John McCain, on the other hand, really floored me.

Senator McCain recently called President Obama a true “patriot” whose ideals are not contrary to those of “our nation or its founding.” I heard this on the radio today and nearly had to pull over. He went on to say that he himself was partially responsible for the recent trend of hateful speech. I am not a fan of John McCain and I’m still pretty sure that he’s crazy, but this was a class act and I thank him for it.

It’s going to be a really difficult year for people opposed to, you know, evil, but there’s no harm in raising some hell together.

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